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New Fic: Sum / Parts

This is a strange one, folks. Took three months and is the result of one story devouring another in a show of cannibalistic desperation. Yet, I'm strangely proud of it. Enjoy.

Title: Sum / Parts
Rating: R (implied m/m sex)
Characters: Glitch/Cain, most everyone else and a couple OCs.
Words: ~11,000
Summary: Glitch, as befitting his self-bestowed moniker, was broken.
Notes and Warnings: The title implies "the sum divided by its parts." Highlight for spoilers, but keep in mind it’s me and there is always a happy ending, in some form: Violence, mental instability, permanent disability.




Glitch, as befitting his self-bestowed moniker, was broken.

As much as everyone hoped and wished and gave one another fragile smiles that never went below the surface, the whole lot of them were fractured and unstable in their own special ways.

DG, from her annuals of separation and being suddenly thrust back into a life she was so forcefully torn from as a child – this after she was murdered in her sleep by her older sister. The sister she loved more than anything in the ‘zone.

The sister who was hollowed out and silent, flitting around the palace silently in her black gowns and messy hair that she perpetually tugged at with skeletal fingers.

Parents who eyed each other uneasily over the breakfast table, splitting their attention between their newly found daughters and one another. None of the serving staff made mention of the mostly untouched plates they cleared from the dining room at each meal.

Haunting the halls was Raw, the viewer who saw too much and hadn’t the slightest clue how to repair all the cracks in the foundation. His skin felt tender and full of splinters, making him pull further away from the other people inhabiting the echoing corridors. But still he stayed – he had promised he would, promised Jeb and DG and Cain and Glitch.

Cain spent more time tending the garden grounds than those paid to do this service. It was his way of dealing with having nowhere and no one to go home to, no more vengeance to dole out, no more tin box to claw at until his fingers bled. Now his fingers bled from rose thorns and cuts from the blades of grass, though the thick scar tissue at his fingertips didn’t allow the pain to register.

The seventh time Cain stumbled back inside after a long day of tending the plants, chased inside by the onset of a heavy rainstorm that had been brewing for days, he found himself at a loss for what to do with himself. The halls were empty, save for the occasional fluttering of activity that surrounded the staff. The thought of seeking out company brought a sharp, bitter taste to his mouth and he immediately discarded the idea.

Instead, he wandered the vacant labyrinth of a structure for over an hour, not bothering to look into half-open doors, afraid he may catch sight of another lonely being.

A distant thumping caught his ear and he paused, somewhere between the second and third floors, frowning. He tilted his head, wondering where the sound was coming from. In his mind, he drew a map of the place, placing little markers where he knew people should be. Keeping this picture in mind, he followed the dull thumping up the stairs and down a long hallway, all the way to the end.

To where he remembered Glitch’s private suite to be, the one that overlooked the old road out of the city.

The pounding pulse of something was louder here, so much so that it shook the thick wooden door and the frame around it. He knew there was no point in knocking, as Glitch would never hear it over the noise. Rather, he tested the handle and found it unlocked.

Pushing the door open, Cain winced at the deep, vibrating rhythm that assaulted his ears and made him feel slightly nauseous. He opened his mouth to protest the ruckus but froze in his tracks, jaw hanging open, at what he saw.

Glitch was in the center of the main room, the furniture having been roughly shoved to the perimeter. His back was to the door, fingers clasped together behind his head and his whole body was bouncing up and down to the beat of whatever was causing the noise. Cain’s eyes drifted down the length of Glitch’s body, taking in the bare skin of his back, arms, legs, all the way to the bare feet that left the safety of the hardwood floor with each deafening pulse.

It finally registered that this was music, something primal and heavy and obscene, and Glitch was living it – naked and mouthing the barely decipherable words soundlessly, dancing with his eyes closed and with every ounce of his being. He looked lost and in pain and terrified, and the only thing keeping him on his feet was the music driving through him.

Unwilling to disturb this moment, absolutely certain that if he broke Glitch’s rhythm, Glitch himself would break, Cain instead silently made his way back to the door, closing it behind him.

~*~

Shaken by what he had witnessed, the sight of his closest friend so vulnerable and exposed, Cain sought out the only people he trusted to understand his concern.

He found them both in the same place and he somehow knew that was not by accident. Closing DG’s door behind him, he made his way over and took a seat on the edge of DG’s bed. The majority of the bed was taken up by DG and Raw, the two of them sprawled out and comfortably entangled, lying on their stomachs. “You two talked to Glitch lately?”

Raw stiffened but didn’t move. His hand drifted up to stroke DG’s hair absently. “Glitch...stays in room. Doesn’t answer door.”

Cain cleared his throat, embarrassed by what he was about to admit. Feeling as if he were giving up secrets not his own to share. “I didn’t knock – the, the music he had on was too loud, I figured he’d never hear me. Where did he get that?” The question was aimed at DG.

“One of the shops in the Underground carries black market goods smuggled from the Other Side,” DG mumbled, her jaw resting on her clasped hands. “Music included.”

“He been making a lot of trips down there?” Cain frowned, his fist tightening on the duvet. “Alone?”

DG sighed. “He won’t let anyone go with him,” she said sadly, turning her head to rest her cheek against the back of one hand. “I don’t know what to do – we’ve all been so preoccupied, no one knows what to say to anyone else.” Her eyes slipped closed and she shivered as Raw’s hand caressed her back gently.

“Glitch is broken,” Raw announced in a low voice.

“I thought he was getting better, being around the people and places he knew...before,” Cain argued, fighting the truth behind Raw’s words. “What went wrong?”

Raw gave a deep hum, drawing strength from within. “Will always be damaged,” he replied enigmatically. “Gained strength from finding home, friends. Stability.“

“But all of us are lost now,” DG continued softly, propping her chin up on one fist. “It’s like – we all feed off one another. When we found each other, little by little, it gave us all focus. But now that the dust has settled and we don’t know what to do with ourselves, we’re falling apart. Glitch more than anyone else, because of what was taken from him.”

Cain sat back with a shuddering sigh, rubbing a weary hand over his face and feeling the scratch of stubble. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Neither do we,” DG replied, closing her eyes as Raw’s hand found its way to the crown of her head once again.

~*~

The next time Cain saw him, Glitch was sitting on the landing between the first and second floor. He wondered if anyone else had come by, how long Glitch had been sitting here – if anyone had even noticed.

The very idea of Glitch being so alone made Cain stop and crouch down next to Glitch, one hesitant hand resting on a bony shoulder. Glitch was dressed casually, just a dress shirt with no jacket, untucked at the waist and unbuttoned at the collar. His head was bowed down between drawn up legs, forearms resting on knees and hands clasped together. “Hey, Glitch,” Cain said, grimacing when he was unable to think of anything else to say.

Glitch raised his head, his eyes looking past Cain but unfocused. “Cain?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Cain assured him, frowning when Glitch turned toward his voice but didn’t quite look at him. “You okay?”

“I – no,” Glitch gave a weak laugh, reaching up for Cain’s face but missing badly. “Halfway down the stairs – it just went dark.”

Cain straightened in alarm, taking a moment to get a good look at Glitch. “Did you fall?”

Glitch shook his head, his drifting hand setting on his own temple distractedly. “No. I stumbled but got down to the landing.”

Closing his eyes in momentary relief, Cain shifted so he was sitting next to Glitch, back to the wall. “Brain thing?”

“Yeah, pretty sure,” Glitch sighed, leaning a bit into Cain’s side. Cain took the hint, wrapping an arm around Glitch’s shoulders.

They sat there for a long time, neither was certain exactly how long. About the time Cain was going to look to see if Glitch had fallen asleep, Glitch jerked sharply under his arm, startling him. “Whoa,” Glitch reached over and touched Cain’s cheek, his eyes clear and dark. “The old synapses found the right path, I guess.”

Cain tightened his hold briefly, a tiny smile escaping. “Back to normal?”

“Yeah,” Glitch nodded, testing his renewed vision by waving his hand in front of his face.

“This happen before? Where you lose your sight?”

“No,” Glitch released a shaky breath, rubbing his damp palms against his thighs. “First time that particular excitement happened.”

Cain shifted and stood, holding a hand out to Glitch. “Want to go see Raw?”

“No point,” Glitch shrugged but took up Cain’s offer and pulled himself to his feet. He glanced down the stairs then back up the set he had come down. “Thanks,” he said softly, mustering a weak smile. “But I think I’m just going to go back to my room.”

Hesitant to let Glitch go after such a frightening experience, Cain wrapped a hand around Glitch’s wrist. “Glitch, if something like this happens again, you’ve got to tell us.”

“Tell who?” Glitch asked in a flat tone, eyes fixed on the steps leading up.

Cain didn’t have an answer to that. He knew he was a coward but he couldn’t think of a thing. All he could do was watch as Glitch climbed the stairs to the second floor on his way back to his sanctuary.

~*~

Cain’s fist hovered inches from the pale paneling of DG’s door but never made contact. It had been two days since he had found Glitch in the stairwell. Two days of his gut gnawing at him from the inside out, worry tearing at him. His fingers were scratched ragged from hours spent in the garden, trying to forget what he had seen. Trying to forget that his friend was slowly losing his mind and there was nothing Cain knew of to help.

Two days spent passing by Glitch’s secluded hallway, hearing the pounding pulse of the music that didn’t belong in their world; knowing Glitch was in there, dancing for all he was worth. Absorbing the music and letting it fill him, inexplicably providing him with some kind of grounding force.

With a sharp sigh, Cain dropped his hand and walked away. There were no words to describe what he was seeing in Glitch, and no way for him to ask the others for their help.

~*~

When Cain began seeing the royal family converging more frequently, at meal times and throughout the day, he found himself filling with hope. Perhaps the healing process was slow on the uptake but had finally decided to commence after all. And with it, Cain prayed, would come Glitch’s healing as well.

The family was talking, but the newly formed group that had found one another along the road had yet to reconnect. It was as if the sedentary existence had sent them scattering to four separate corners. Cain knew that Raw and DG had been spending some time together, but there was little other contact between them.

So Cain once again found himself at Glitch’s door, hand raised but knowing Glitch would never hear the knock over the resounding pulse of the music, stomach rolling with dread. It had been over a week since the last time he had seen Glitch, since the stairwell. He hadn’t told anyone about finding Glitch blind and alone, but had been terrified of what kind of game Glitch’s brain was going to play next.

Knowing it was an invasion of privacy but with his gut telling him to go in, Cain lowered his hand and turned the handle instead.

Grimacing as the pounding rhythm once again pushed against him with an almost physical force, Cain searched the darkness for Glitch. Spotted him in the center of the room, jumping to the music. Barely able to stay on his feet, which were still bare and reddened from endless dancing. He wasn’t nude this time, but was wearing a pair of loose, silky sleep pants that were such a deep purple they were nearly black. Still naked from the waist up, though, and covered in a thin sheen of sweat; his growing hair sticking loosely to his neck and shoulders.

Cain couldn’t stand to see him like this, driven to a state of such disarray and despair and so incredibly lonely that it broke Cain’s heart all over again. Unwilling to walk away this time, Cain tracked down the source of the music and went over. The silver box vibrated where it rested on the rug and Cain traced the black cord to the wall. When he found the end he gripped it tightly and pulled it out from where it was plugged in.

The silence that followed was shocking. Cain straightened and turned around, his eyes meeting Glitch’s immediately. The look of sheer, complete loss in Glitch’s eyes sent Cain across the floor in an instant, reaching Glitch just in time to catch him when Glitch’s legs suddenly gave out.

~*~

“What’s wrong with me?” Glitch’s soft voice broke the silence of the room a while later and Cain looked down from where he sat on the bed next to the body curled on its side.

Resting his hand on Glitch’s leg, Cain replied. “We have a theory,” he started. “Well, Raw has a theory. He thinks it’s us.”

Glitch frowned, shifting his head to look at Cain directly. “Us? ‘Us’ as in, ‘us’ or ‘us’ as in, everyone else besides me? And by ‘us’ – “

“Glitch,” Cain cut in, bringing Glitch back to focus. “You’re like the glue that holds all of us together. When everyone you care about, whether from your past or more recent acquaintance, began to reconnect and come together, you became more stable. You had fewer glitches, you began to remember things better. Your brain just worked better.”

“And now?”

“That stability is falling apart,” Cain said in a rough voice, his hand tightening on Glitch’s leg. “No one’s talking. We’re all just – living in our own heads right now. After everything we went through on our own, none of us knows quite how to deal with suddenly being surrounded by so many people we’re supposed to care about.”

One pale hand snuck out from under the covers and scratched absently at unruly dark hair. “So you’re saying I’m a mess because no one knows what to say to one another?”

“I don’t know,” Cain sighed sharply, climbing to his feet and pacing in a tight loop. “I don’t know what is going on but it’s got to stop. I can’t just stand by and watch you – “

“What?” Glitch struggled to sit up, the covers pooling in his lap to reveal the well-worn black t-shirt Cain had helped him into earlier. “You can’t watch me lose my mind? Because I gotta tell you, I’m not seeing a lot of options here.” He gave a broken, self-depreciating laugh that tore at Cain’s heart.

“I’m not going to let that happen,” Cain turned sharply and pressed both fists into the bed, his face inches from Glitch’s. “You hear me?”

Glitch met his eyes steadily, emotions Cain couldn’t identify barely suppressed in his weary gaze. After a long moment, he finally spoke in a broken whisper. “Help me.”

“I promise,” Cain told him firmly, his hand coming up to cup Glitch’s jaw. His thumb stroked the soft stubble he found there. “You have my word that we will fix this. Listen, I don’t want you to be alone right now but I’ve got a duty assignment tonight. The princesses have an appearance to make at city hall and it’s my turn in the rotation. I want you to stay with Raw until I get back.”

There was a brief hesitation as Glitch fought his instinct to deny the need for a nursemaid but he knew it was pointless. Besides, the idea of company was, for once, very appealing. He gave a short nod and pushed the bedding aside.

Cain straightened and took a step back so Glitch could stand, but when he saw Glitch pause and frown in confusion, he realized the earlier problem had apparently not reset itself yet. “Glitch?”

“Yeah,” Glitch sighed, giving up and leaning back on straight arms instead. “Legs still don’t work.”

“Right,” Cain grimaced, giving Glitch’s head an affectionate stroke before he went in search of the room’s in-house telephone. “I’ll just have Raw come to you, then. Maybe he can help you with that.”

~*~

Glitch woke up alone, sprawled awkwardly across his bed with the remains of a half-finished game of gin rummy spread over the comforter. He winced as his elbow make a loud pop when he sat up, then he scratched his head with a frown. Raw would never have left him alone, not when Cain had asked him to stay.

With a glance at the wall clock, Glitch was startled to see that it was nearly eleven o’clock at night. Cain and the girls had left before six and should have been back by now.

A tendril of something resembling trepidation fluttered in the back of his mind and he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, realizing belatedly that they once again were cooperating. “Huh,” he muttered, moving to stand. Glancing around the room, he wondered where Raw had gotten off to. For a while there, with Cain and then with Raw, Glitch had begun to feel some semblance of normality creeping into his mind. A few strands of connectivity between himself and his friends were starting to solidify once again. But now, at this moment, alone in his room, he felt adrift. The thread holding him to Cain had become far too thin; Raw’s was there but it too was fading fast.

Looking down at his attire, the black shirt and pomegranate pants, he figured a wrap may be in order if he intended to venture out into the halls. He quickly slipped on his ankle-length black robe on over his clothes and stuck his bare feet into the soft leather slippers next to his bed.

The halls of the second floor were silent and no one answered his knock on the doors he recognized. Once again, the cold feeling of being a forgotten ghost crept into his bones and he pulled his robe closer. He made his way to the main staircase and drifted downstairs to the ground floor. The faint sounds of hushed and frantic voices, floorboards creaking and doors opening drew him toward the eastern wing in search of answers.

As he made his way through the hurrying staff and lost-looking guardsmen, Glitch had the same feeling of being invisible as no one seemed to notice his presence. When he finally spotted a familiar face, he started to approach until he took in the other two behind her. The Queen was bustling both of her daughters quickly down the hall, the two girls looking shell-shocked and both spattered with blood, the front of DG’s dress heavily soaked.

The sight stopped Glitch in his track and he fought to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him. For a moment, he was unaware of anything but the redness that stood in stark contrast to the otherwise pale clothing, even as it rapidly moved away from him and into another room down the corridor.

Glitch turned back to the room they had emerged from and despite his trepidation and the increasingly nauseating sense of dread threatening his curiosity, he stepped forward and peered around the corner.

What he saw nearly destroyed him.

Though partially blocked by Raw’s large frame, Glitch could clearly see Cain lying on a long, metal examination table. His body was so still, it was impossible to tell if he was even breathing. As Glitch watched in horror. Raw slid one of his hands under Cain’s neck and tilted the weight of his head back slightly, causing the light to catch Cain’s white visage, contrasted only by dark streaks and dabs of blood on his throat, jaw and cheek.

He looks dead, Glitch thought hysterically, unaware of anything but that shocking sight. Cain’s dead.

A hand on his arm made him jump and spin around, and he knew his fear and bewilderment was clear as he came face-to-face with Ahamo. “Cain,” he whispered, shaking his head in denial. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”

“No,” Ahamo gripped his shoulder tightly, his voice firm but calming. “He’s still with us and they’re doing everything they can to save him.”

Glitch fought the urge to look back, to see for himself that his closest companion was really there and living, if by only a thread. He closed his eyes, searching deep inside himself for that tendril of connection, for confirmation that Cain was still with him and he found it, along with Raw’s. When he opened his eyes again, he was met by Ahamo’s worried expression. “What happened?” he rasped, pulling himself together the best he could.

Ahamo studied him for a long moment, then gave a quick jerk of his head. “Come on, let’s go to the sitting room down the hall. The nurses know to come find me when there’s news.”

“What about Her Majesty – and DG – “ Glitch hesitated, but allowed himself to be led away from the slowly diminishing bedlam. “Are they all right?”

“I’ll tell you what I know, just as soon as we’re settled.”

~*~

Glitch bit mindlessly on his thumbnail as he sat in silence, only half-listening as Ahamo explained the events of the evening that led to Cain being returned to the mansion on a stretcher. If asked later, Glitch doubted he would be able to recall the details of the story, but he did catch something about an attack on Azkadellia. How DG had pulled her sister back and Cain had stepped forward, prepared to arrest the assailant. How no one knew the attacker had a partner and while Cain’s backup guard was taking over custody, a second man stepped up behind them. Struck Cain on the back of the head with a steel pipe.

“Glitch?”

Shaking off his daze and looking up, Glitch once again caught Ahamo’s concern. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I was just – asking if you were all right,” Ahamo shifted uncomfortably, elbows on his knees as he leaned forward in his seat on a small sofa. “I haven’t seen you much lately and to be honest, I was beginning to worry. Have you not been feeling well?”

Glitch gave a sharp laugh and looked over at the ever-present fire in the fireplace. I’ve been slowly losing my mind because you refuse to talk to your wife and children, he thought bitterly. “It’s been rough,” he finally answered, mostly honest. “Cain’s been the only person who...”

“Talks to you?” Ahamo finished for him, quiet and ashamed.

“Yeah.”

Ahamo didn’t say anything for a long time, but he eventually stood and moved to the other side of the short table that separated them. Sitting on the edge of it facing Glitch, he spoke from his heart. “We’ve all had a tough time dealing with the fallout. Of all people, Meghan and I should have noticed how withdrawn you’d become. You’ve been part of our family since before the girls were born; you’ve been with us through everything and no matter what, you’ve always been the strong one.”

Glitch looked at him, the intangible connection he felt growing more solid with each word. “That’s what Cain said,” he managed, his conversation with Cain earlier in the day coming back to him. The feeling of loss was powerful, knowing that just a few doors down, Cain was struggling to survive. “He said – that I was holding everyone together and – and that the further you all pulled away from one another, the worse I was getting.”

“Worse?” Ahamo straightened, sweeping Glitch with a critical eye. “Glitch, what’s going on?”

“I’ve been having problems,” Glitch admitted, plucking at the tie to his robe. “Some new glitches. Cain said – today, earlier. He said when he got back that we would talk. That he would get everyone together and find out how to fix me.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Ahamo told him resolutely. He was distracted from adding anything further by the arrival of the Queen, known to her family as Meghan, and the sisters. Both girls had changed into clean clothes and all traces of blood were gone. Glitch found comfort in that fact, though his insides still churned with fear and anxiety, waiting on news.

DG came in looking ashen and Glitch stood automatically, his arms open in invitation. He was caught breathless and relieved beyond measure when she instantly took him up on the offer and embraced him tightly. Pressing his lips to the side of her head, he closed his eyes and felt that much more whole.

“He’ll be okay, you’ll see,” he whispered roughly, then led her to sit with him on the couch. He caught Azkadellia and Meghan moving to join Ahamo, who took his daughter in his arms when she sat and held her close.

Time slowed to a crawl and the family sat together in silence. Tea and cookies appeared out of nowhere and were for the most part left untouched, save for a single sugar cookie reduced to crumbs by DG. Finally, at nearly a quarter of one in the morning, one of the nurses came in escorting a barely functional Raw. Glitch stood quickly and gave Raw his seat; Raw immediately tipped over and curled up with his head in DG’s lap. She stroked his soft hair as he succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep right there.

“Mr. Cain is resting,” the nurse told them quietly, her expression giving away her fatigue and worry. “He took quite a hard blow to the back of his head and Mr. Raw was able to fix the damage, though it took a huge amount of energy on his part. He’ll no doubt sleep through most of tomorrow.” She paused for a deep breath, looking at the expectant faces. “Mr. Cain hasn’t woken yet and though the injury has been repaired, Mr. Raw expressed concern that something still wasn’t right. He couldn’t figure out what was eluding him, but he was certain there was some part that he could not mend. I’m afraid we won’t know how well Mr. Cain has healed until he wakes up.”

Glitch shifted on his feet, exchanging looks with those in the room before turning back to the nurse. “May I sit with him?”

“Of course,” she replied, giving a fragile smile. “I’m sure he will appreciate the company. We’ve moved him to a recovery room so he’ll be more comfortable.”

And so began the longest three days of Glitch’s life (that he could clearly remember).

~*~

The day after the attack, Glitch spent most of his time sitting on the edge of Cain’s bed. The night before, they had transferred him to his own room upstairs, as no one was certain how long it would be before he woke. The doctor thought it best to place him in familiar surroundings, where he would be more comfortable. Glitch hoped for any sign that Cain would wake up, would smile at him and tell him he was fine. Knowing in his heart it was wishful thinking.

Ahamo stopped in first thing in the morning, followed soon after by Meghan. Both spent several moments simply watching Cain sleep, silently thanking him for saving their daughters’ lives the previous evening. While the Queen only stayed for a short time, returning to her duties after reassuring herself that her captain of the guard was well-cared for, it was Ahamo who spent nearly half the day with Glitch. He ensured that Glitch took time to clean up and change (exchanging his pomegranate silk and black cotton for teal silk and more black cotton, just as worn and soft). Made sure Glitch ate something here and there, even just tea and biscuits.

Late afternoon came and with it, a slightly more functional Raw and subdued, pale DG who didn’t appear to have slept much the previous night. Glitch knew it was because she spent the whole night watching over Raw. As they came in, Glitch stood and hugged them both in turn, letting the warmth fill him and rebuild their battered connections. He could see it in Raw’s eyes, the fact that Raw knew how much that simple bit of human contact meant to Glitch; he could also see the flash of guilt for having taken so long to figure it out.

Glitch was determined to put the past few months behind him, to move on and focus on more important matters. Such as getting Cain well.

The next morning was a bit like the previous one, with the usual heads popping in to the recovery suite to check on both the current occupants. As Cain slept through the ministrations of the doctor and nurse, Glitch stood near the window and watched. After they left, Azkadellia entered.

Sitting once again on the foot of Cain’s bed, Glitch rested one hand on Cain’s covered ankle and gave the elder princess a small smile. “Morning, Azkadee.”

Rather than a just simple spoken response, Glitch was surprised when she came around and laid a hand on his shoulder, her fingers strong and sure. “How are you doing, Mr. Glitch?”

“He still hasn’t woken up,” Glitch answered with a small sigh, giving in to his growing restlessness and absently rubbing Cain’s leg.

“That’s not what I asked,” Azkadellia pointed out softly.

Glitch looked up at her and gave a tiny nod of acknowledgement. “I know.”

Azkadellia knew then that his first answer was the only one that mattered to Glitch.

~*~

As the sun rose on the third morning, Cain woke to darkness.

~*~

It was the sound of soft, steady breathing that drew him from his slumber and he struggled to open his eyes. When the shadows revealed no answers to his muddled and haze-filled mind, he turned his head in search of the only sound in the room. Someone was sleeping next to him, their head close to his ear.

Cain lifted one arm up, the effort to do so far more than he was expecting. It came down by his head with an uncontrolled thump and his fingers brushed a stubbled chin. There was a snort and the breath sounds turned into a questioning grunt, the owner no longer in any doubt. “Glitch?” His voice sounded rough, disused and rusty. He licked at dry lips and twitched his fingers.

The bed next to him shifted and tilted, sending him into a disorienting spiral. A warm hand grasping his own searching one grounded him. “Cain! Oh, thank the gods,” Glitch’s voice drifted to him, sounding shaky and tired and more relieved than Cain had ever heard. “Hang on, don’t move. I’ve got to get the doctor – and Raw – “

“Wait,” Cain told him, his eyes searching the darkness. “Can you turn on the light?”

There was a very long moment of silence, the only sound Glitch’s suddenly shallow breathing. Then, very soft words followed. “Cain, the curtains are open and the suns are shining though the window. Tell me you can see that.”

Cain’s eyes moved automatically, his face feeling the warmth but the lingering gloom surrounding him was suffocating. His grip on Glitch’s hand tightened and he blinked rapidly. “Glitch.”

“Just – lie still, I’m getting help,” Glitch’s voice carried a tremor that sent Cain’s heart racing.

“Glitch, don’t – “ Cain closed his eyes, useless as they were, and fought to keep his grip on Glitch’s hand even as the other man moved off the bed. “What happened to me?”

Glitch’s voice was suddenly very close, a warm hand touching Cain’s cheek. “You were hurt in a fight, a few days ago. Saving the girls. I’m not going to leave you alone, I promise. I’m just going to use your phone to call downstairs to the infirmary. You’ll be able to hear me the whole time.”

Cain released the breath he had been holding and gave a jerk of a nod against the pillow under his head. “Yeah, okay.” He immediately regretted his agreement as he felt Glitch pull away and lost the physical contact that had been grounding him. Cain let his hand fall back and his fingers gripped the pillow near his head, squeezing his eyes shut as his mind whirled with confusion and faint tendrils of pain.

Voices and the sound of movement around him drew Cain back from the fog and he turned his head toward it, opening his eyes instinctively. Only to be confronted with the same consuming darkness as before. “Glitch?”

The familiar hand wrapped around his and he breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of Glitch’s voice. “I’m here,” Glitch assured him steadily. “Dr. Casey – Amelia, she’s on her way up. Raw’s here, though, he came up to check on you when I went to call. Is it okay if he touches you?”

Cain turned his head but grimaced as he realized how pointless that was. “Raw?”

“Here,” Raw’s voice came from the other side, the one Cain remembered was closer to the door. The side of the bed dipped and Cain felt the brush of thick fingers against his empty hand, but only for a second. Not enough to be anything but an accident, so Cain knew Raw was waiting for his permission.

“Go ahead,” Cain consented. As Raw’s hand came to rest on Cain’s forehead, Cain gasped at the wash of warmth and light that enveloped his mind. He lost track of time and the world around him dissolved as he floated in the comforting oblivion. The traces of pain he had felt upon waking were suddenly gone.

When Raw’s hand finally slid from his skin Cain returned to the present with a clearer head than before. But when he slowly opened his eyes, the same darkness remained. “Raw? Glitch?”

“Yeah,” Glitch’s voice, rough and sad, came from the side closest to the window. “Cain...” But his words trailed off, if they even existed to begin with.

“I can’t see,” Cain declared in a low, flat tone. And he knew then, with Raw’s hand gripping his on one side and Glitch doing the same on the other, that there was nothing to be done to fix it.

He was blind.

~*~

Cain sat patiently through Amelia’s examinations, her poking and prodding and questions that he simply grunted replies to. It had taken him several disorienting moments to regain his equilibrium when he first sat up with the help of his friends, but he was beginning to get used to his new condition. That thought alone made him feel ill.

When Amelia pronounced him physically healed, Cain resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Think you missed something, doc.”

“And as Mr. Raw explained to you already, this is not a physical injury that can be repaired,” Amelia replied in her usual curt tone, but that too quickly shifted to a softer one. “I’m sorry, Wyatt. This – it’s something that happens when the brain suffers traumatic damage. You’re a remarkably lucky man as it is. Raw saved your life. For that alone, we’re all extremely grateful.”

“And we’re all grateful to you, Cain, for saving the lives of the princesses,” Glitch added, his hand returning to its spot on Cain’s back, where it had been before Amelia began her exam.

Cain swallowed hard, nodding silently in response. Of course he was relieved that he had done his job, had protected the princesses that night. But since he had woken up a few hours ago, everything had happened too fast. There was no moment when he had been alone, had a chance to simply think about what his life would be like from now on. What he would do. With his – his disability, his career was over. His whole life would be vastly different and he didn’t even know where to begin to adapt.

“Wyatt,” Glitch’s voice came from very close by and Cain turned, realizing the bed had dipped once again and Glitch was sitting at his side. The warmth of his body was comforting. “I know what you’re thinking and you’d better not be thinking you’ll be going through this alone. You know better than to think like that.”

“Glitch – “ Cain choked on the name and suddenly it was too much. He felt Glitch’s arms slip around him and he leaned into the embrace, letting his head rest on one strong shoulder. Everything else faded into the distance and he didn’t know when or if Raw and Amelia left to give him some privacy in his breakdown.

Closing his useless eyes, he let the tears slip down his face, knowing instinctually that Glitch would be there when he came back.

~*~

“How’re you doing?”

Glitch startled at the question and looked up from his reading. It was mid-morning and Wyatt was sitting up in bed, restlessly plucking at the duvet. “What?”

Cain leaned his head back against the headboard, eyes moving restlessly though unseeing. “It’s – things from before I got hurt are a bit mixed up, but I could have sworn when I left you were having a pretty nasty glitch. What happened?”

“Oh,” Glitch sat up, closing his book with one finger marking his place. He reached up and tugged at a stray curl, brow furrowed in memory. “You know, it’s funny. I mean, not that I’d been half paralyzed for the good part of a day. But I remember waking up that night and getting up, not realizing that my legs were working again until I went to stand up. Anyway, I remember thinking that you were supposed to be there and I went looking for you. I ended up downstairs and saw – “ He stopped, unable to describe the way he had found Cain, the center of so much activity while lying so white and still and soaked with blood.

“What happened then?” Cain’s voice prompted him, soft and knowing. Somehow Glitch suspected that Cain knew what he’d been thinking.

“Ahamo found me,” Glitch went on, voice distant with memory. “We went to wait in the sitting room and we talked. I mean, really talked, for the first time since the reunification.”

Cain looked at him then, a curious expression on his face. “Glitch?”

“You were right,” Glitch stated, hearing the disbelief in his own voice. “After Ahamo, there was DG and Az and Meghan and Raw and all of them – we reconnected. I could feel it, whatever it is that keeps us together. That keeps me together.”

“You have any problems since I’ve been – occupied?”

Glitch snorted at the understatement, then smiled. “No, none,” he admitted, his smile growing at the knowledge. “I mean, the memory thing is still hinky. But glitches? Now that I’ve got my focus back and the people I care about are noticing my existence, things have been looking better. You know, it’s just like you to do something like this just to make sure I get taken care of. Though leave it to you to take it to the extreme.”

“Yeah, this was all part of my plan,” Cain waved his hand and closed his eyes.

Setting his book down and moving over to the bed, Glitch sat down. He laid his hand on Cain’s leg, only to let go when Cain suddenly startled at the touch. “Oh! I’m sorry!”

“It’s – okay,” Cain assured him shakily, reaching out in search of Glitch’s hand. “I just – I’m not used to it yet. Being touched and not knowing it’s coming.”

“I’ll try to remember to ask from now on,” Glitch told him. “Can I take your hand?”

“Yeah.”

Glitch did just that, wrapping his fingers around Cain’s. “Look, I just want to say thank you. I know this isn’t what you had in mind when you said you wanted to bring everyone back together but it’s what we’ve got to work with. You’ve kept your promise. I’m better than I’ve been in a very long time and that’s thanks to you. This isn’t the way I would have liked it to happen, but now we’ve got to deal with it. Now it’s my turn to get you back on track.”

Cain felt a surge of warmth in his chest. He was still struggling with the knowledge that his whole life was about to change, that he would have to learn how to adapt to his condition. But as he had sat quietly with Glitch all morning, it had gradually dawned on him that he could not be with a better person in this situation.

There was no one Cain would rather have see him through such a drastic life change than someone who has gone through something similar not once, but twice. It was humbling, to say the least. And he knew it would be a long, hard road ahead. One that he and Glitch have faced together before and one that he was not going to let break him.

~*~

While Cain was busy with his occupational therapist, learning how to use his new leading stick, Glitch was directing traffic as a couple of palace staff brought Cain’s few belongings downstairs into a new ground floor bedroom suite. It was a unanimous decision, as no one wanted Cain to have to deal with the large staircases.

What Cain didn’t know yet was that Glitch had moved his own belongings into the room connected to the suite. While they still had their own separate, private quarters, Glitch knew that Cain would feel better if Glitch was close by. And Glitch felt better knowing he would be nearby. The last week had been tough and Glitch had spent little time in his own room, instead spending the night watching over Cain from the window seat. A couple of nights he had fallen asleep on the bed with Cain, neither man thinking twice about the arrangement. They were best friends and inseparable at the time being. And if Glitch had anything to say about it, they would remain that way indefinitely.

By the time Glitch went to collect Cain, he could see that the therapy session was clearly over. Cain was tight-lipped, jaw twitching and eyes fixed on the ground. The stick was on the other side of the room.

The therapist, Abigail, was leaning against the wall near the door of the room she had chosen, a neat little room containing only a few chairs and one table. Simple enough to navigate, but her expression and tightly crossed arms told Glitch that the lesson had not gone smoothly.

“Well!” Glitch clapped his hands together cheerfully, startling Cain into taking a step back. Glitch winced at his own thoughtlessness; sudden, loud noises were another thing to avoid. “Sorry. Cain, your room is ready. I made sure they set it up exactly like your room upstairs was, so you don’t have to learn your way around again.” He walked over and picked up the long, thin wood stick, bringing it over to where Cain still stood. “Here’s your stick,” he said. “Right hand, a foot in front of you.”

Cain reached out and swiped his hand angrily, gripping the wood until it creaked. “Fine.”

Glitch gave Abigail an apologetic smile. “Thank you, Abigail,” he said out loud, his voice carrying a slightly leading quality.

“Thank you, Abigail,” Cain echoed moodily, though he did manage to find a tight smile for her.

Nodding to both men, Abigail straightened. “You’re welcome, Mr. Cain. I trust that tomorrow’s session will be better?” Her tone made it clear that it was not a question.

“Yes, ma’am,” Cain told her, his shoulders slumping wearily.

“How many?” Abigail asked suddenly.

“Twelve from the door to the soft chair. Six from there to the wood one. Two from each chair to the table. Eight from the wood chair to the door. Eighteen from the door to the window.” Cain recited automatically, his face slowly relaxing as he spoke. By the end, he had an oddly satisfied expression.

Abigail gave a pleased nod and turned to go. “Good boy. See you tomorrow.”

After she was gone, Glitch turned back to Cain. “What was that about?”

Cain gave a small laugh and shook his head. “How many steps between landmarks in the room,” he answered. “She’s a pain in the ass and demanding as eight kinds of hell, but you’ve got to admire the results.”

Glitch grinned and stepped closer. “Can I take your arm?”

“Yes,” Cain held up his elbow obediently, allowing Glitch to guide him out the door.

They stopped at the entrance from the main foyer to the wing containing their new rooms. “Okay,” Glitch led Cain to one side. “Touch your stick to the right, find the corner.” He watched as Cain did as he was told. “Good. That’s where you start counting. I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Okay,” Cain set his feet under him and made his first step, counting silently to himself as they made their way down the corridor. Occasionally, he would tap his stick against a small decorative table or doorframe, but he didn’t let the distractions make him lose count.

When they reached the right door, Glitch slowed down. “And – stop,” he brought them to a stop. “The door’s directly in front of you. Hand me your stick for a second and reach up, about nose level.”

Cain blinked and transferred the lead stick to Glitch’s hand. He reached up, his fingertips drawing across smooth wood before running into cold metal, mostly flat but with a section of bumps near the bottom of the first piece. Tracing over the shape, he recognized the numbers“2 0” on the door. “Room number twenty?” he guessed.

“You got it,” Glitch praised easily.

“What is this section here?” Cain inquired, fingering the rough patch on the bottom of the two.

“It’s the number twenty written in the point system,” Glitch explained anxiously. “Mrs. Hayward thinks it’s about time you start learning to read it. She left some books for us to work on.”

Cain didn’t say anything for a long moment but eventually just gave a single nod, reaching for the doorknob and entering his new room.

~*~

Three weeks after Cain woke up to darkness, his world was beginning to fall apart.

There was no single, big, horrible incident that sent him reeling. It was just the little things: tripping over a carelessly place throw rug, bumping his shoulder into a corner as he turned too sharply, jamming his fingers in the bathroom door. Getting thrown off by a loud noise and losing count of his steps.

That was how Glitch found him one day, sitting at the dead end of their hallway with his back against the wall, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around them. The leading stick was on the floor next to him.

Glitch made his footsteps heavier as he approached. “Hey, Cain, it’s me,” he said in a smooth, soft voice. “You okay?”

Cain’s head came up and he swiped angrily at his face, agitated. “No, I’m not,” he snapped turning his head to face the opposite corner. “You want to know why? Because I’m blind and I can’t even find my room without someone holding my hand.”

“Cain – “

“No!” Cain shouted, his hand slapping hard against the floor next to him. “I don’t want to hear it. You have no idea how frustrating this is and I’m tired of hearing how much you understand. Because you don’t.”

Glitch held his breath to keep his anger in check. He counted to ten in his head and then slowly sat down next to Cain’s legs, facing him. “I’m taking your hand,” he informed Cain out of habit, picking up Cain’s hand where it rested on the dark marble. Lifting it, unresisting, Glitch placed it on top of his own head. He made sure Cain’s fingers were touching the metal of zipper. “I know you’re angry. I know you’re in pain. But don’t insult me. I think I do know something about permanent brain damage.” With that, he removed Cain’s hand gingerly and moved to stand up again.

Before he could decide whether or not to leave Cain there, if only to brood for a while longer, Glitch felt a brush of a hand against his own and he looked down to see Cain reaching for him. Glitch instantly wound his fingers together with Cain.

“Glitch?” Cain whispered.

It was all the apology that Glitch needed and he pulled Cain to his feet. Bending down to retrieve the stick, Glitch pressed it into Cain’s other hand. “Come on. You can do this. End of the hall to your room, how many steps?”

~*~

The thing that no one wanted to admit but was hanging over them like a dark cloud was the knowledge that Cain couldn’t live in the palace anymore.

It wasn’t that he was unwelcome; far from it. He was a hero, after all, and a de facto part of the family thanks to his friendship with DG and Glitch. But the harsh reality was that the interior of the building was not designed for a blind person. There were too many hallways, too many doorways, too much furniture littering the rooms and corridors, too many stairs and steps. Too much noise and too many people who didn’t know to ask before touching, who forgot to announce themselves. It was all just too stressful and more than Cain could take, despite Glitch’s near-constant guidance.

After two months of therapy, of learning how to move and how to listen, Cain was ready to move on. He felt like an invalid, people talking too loudly as if his hearing had gone as well; staff members treating him like he couldn’t fend for himself. While he had learned to ask for help, he was frustrated with the feeling of dependence.

So when Glitch mentioned one day over lunch that the Queen had offered one of the visitors’ bungalows that sat on the property, Cain was intrigued.

“It’s not far from the west entrance near the dining hall, about a hundred yards along a clear, paved path. We can walk it together and see, but my count was around two hundred steps,” Glitch described eagerly, stuffing a chunk of warm hard roll into his mouth. “Not that you’d have to count; there are several landmarks along the way to use as guides. The house itself is just the right size – two bedrooms with their own bathrooms and an open floor plan for the kitchen and living space. No walls or doorways to worry about, just the ones for our own rooms.”

Cain chewed thoughtfully as he listened, imagining what it would be like to live in a place of his own again. Then he reconsidered Glitch’s last sentence and lifted his chin up sharply. “Our? You mean...”

“Oh,” Glitch’s voice faltered, suddenly uncertain. “I just – I’m sorry, I thought...”

“No,” Cain dropped his fork, reaching out until he found Glitch’s hand. “That’s not what I meant. I’d...you’d do that? For me?”

“What, you think I was planning to leave you to your own devices?” Glitch asked incredulously. “Are you mad?”

Cain chuckled sharply, shaking his head. “I know, I should know better.” He took a moment to consider the shift in his mental image, visualizing himself and Glitch sharing the living space. They already moved together with a natural ease and he really had no trouble picturing them continuing to do so. “I should just say thank you and leave it there, shouldn’t I?”

“No need to thank me, you know that,” Glitch scoffed gently, his words softened further by the brush of his thumb over the back of Cain’s hand. “Did I mention there’s a perfect space in the front of the house for a garden?”

~*~

The first night they spent in their new accommodations, they managed to fall asleep together on Glitch’s bed.

Hours had been spent walking the house, counting steps and touching everything. Cain had been awed at the level of detail Glitch had put in to the house; how everything was labeled with the little bumps Cain was becoming more and more comfortable reading, how so many of the appliances were designed for Cain’s touch. Glitch had worked with another scientist to adapt things like the cooking stove and fireplace to be sensitive to human touch, so that Cain wouldn’t burn himself by accident while feeling around for the controls. The few corners leading from room to room were rounded slightly and Cain could feel the artistry in the craftsmanship.

Cain understood, after spending the day learning his new home, that this was not a spur-of-the-moment offer by the Queen. This house was the result of weeks of refurbishment and innovation. He also knew that Glitch was the one behind everything, that Glitch had overseen the renovation and made certain that it was all just right. The other person behind the project, Cain knew, was his own son. Jeb had been a frequent visitor, especially since the attack, and Cain knew Jeb would have been thrilled with a carpentry job of this scale. He made a mental note to thank his boy again for all of his help.

“You awake?” Glitch’s hushed voice came from close by and Cain cleared his throat, rolling toward the voice and opening his eyes. Though the prevailing darkness told him nothing, the chill of the room made it clear that it was pre-dawn; there was no warmth from the suns coming through the window he knew was at his back.

“Yeah,” Cain answered and rubbed at his eye sleepily with the base of one palm. “It’s early.”

Glitch sighed, a warm gust of air gracing Cain’s collarbone. “Yeah.” He was silent for a moment, then spoke again. “Okay to touch?”

Cain nodded, grateful that Glitch always remembered to ask. His eyes drifted shut at the soft touch to his head, long fingers scratching lightly through his hair. “Feels good.”

“You’re hair’s getting long,” Glitch informed him casually. He stilled his movement when Cain stiffened slightly. Then he drew a sharp breath as memory flashed, the image of Cain at the side of a pond with a knife, cutting away overgrown hair. “You’ve always cut your own hair, haven’t you?”

“Used to, yeah,” Cain confirmed roughly. “Never trusted anyone else to get it right.”

Glitch thought about that for a while, his chest aching at the reminder of yet another thing Cain had lost control of. “I know someone who gives fantastic haircuts. He’s the only person I trust to tame this mop of mine. How about we go see him together and I’ll make sure he does it just the way you want?”

As Cain gave that some thought, he felt Glitch’s fingers start to move in his hair again, gently painting lines over his scalp. “I’ll think about it,” he finally answered honestly. Though the thought of a stranger’s hands on his head was extremely unappealing, he knew with a deep certainty that Glitch would be right there with him, talking him through the whole process.

Suddenly overwhelmed by the absolute dedication shown to him by Glitch, Cain lifted a searching hand until he found Glitch’s chin. He thumbed the soft stubble there and then leaned in, pressing his lips to Glitch’s forehead. “Thank you. I can’t believe you did all of this. You didn’t have to.”

Cain could feel Glitch’s smile, could hear it in his reply. “I know. I wanted to.”

“Why?” Cain wished he could see Glitch’s face right now, wanted so badly to know what Glitch was thinking, his expression always so open and honest.

“If you haven’t figured that out yet, then I’m doing something wrong,” Glitch answered with a faint trace humor in his tone.

And Cain found that he couldn’t deny the truth in that statement. “When did you get so good at being subtle?”

Glitch chuckled softly and slid his hand to the back of Cain’s head, cupping his neck. “I’ve always been good at it, when it comes to the important stuff. And being in love with you is rather important to me. You’re rather important to me.”

Cain swallowed hard as the words were finally out in the open. “You really mean that, don’t you?”

There was a sound of shifting fabric as Glitch slid closer and Cain gasped as warm, soft lips touched his own. It was just the barest of touches but it was the most intimate kiss he had ever been gifted with. When he could breath again, his heart stuttering, Cain sighed and slipped one hand under Glitch’s shirt to rest on the bare skin of his side. “I think you’re all right, too, I suppose.”

That earned him a snort and a smack on the leg. Eventually, they both fell back asleep and by the time the suns rose, they had ended up tangled together under the covers.

~*~

Ahamo had been the one to find Shamira.

She was a quiet dog, a mutt of a thing that reached mid-thigh on Cain and had the softest fur Cain had ever felt. Her trainers told them that her name meant ‘guardian, protector,’ a fitting moniker as she proved from her first day how very much she would come to help Cain.

Shamira’s training as a guiding animal had been extensive, her first two years spent learning how to keep her human safe. But what made the type of training unique was that she did her job without any kind of restraint, giving both her and her human a sense of freedom and independence.

The fact that Ahamo had made such a specific and appropriate selection reminded Cain just how far everyone had come from the early days of disillusionment and uncertainty. Ahamo had considered Cain’s needs and his personality, had taken time to really understand who Cain was and what would be in his best interests. For that, Cain was humbled and astonished.

Walking from the house to the palace for the occasional dinner no longer became an awkward test of counting landmarks and unexpected pitfalls. Shamira would use her large body to ensure Cain’s path was true: a slight nudge to straighten the steps, a nuzzle of his hand to remind him of a step. Should their trail hold any hazardous obstacles, such as running children or unaware staff crossing an intersecting hallway in the main building, Shamira would simply place herself in front of Cain’s legs to prevent him from continuing until the danger passed.

And if she happened to catch a few “accidental” table scraps now and then from any number of hands, no one said a word about it.

~*~

The one hobby Cain had had in his life was woodworking. The weight of the knife in his hand, the feel of the soft wood giving way under his skilled hands – it was incredibly satisfying.

Without his sight to guide him, the razor-sharp knife became his worst enemy. There was no way he could keep from slipping on an unseen knot and cutting himself. It was just too dangerous and he knew it. And though he never argued the logic of having to give it up, Glitch could see the disappointment sketched clearly on Cain’s face.

It was Glitch who had come up with the idea of the garden. Even before they moved into their house, he had ensured that a healthy, fertile plot of land to work with. It had taken weeks of study and practice for Cain to learn to identify the different flowers, herbs and vegetables by feel, smell and taste. The garden itself consisted of neat, orderly rows of flowers, chosen for their shape and tactile appeal rather than their color.

Every time Cain raised his head with a pleased grin, holding up the correct selection of thyme for Glitch to add to dinner, it brought a smile to Glitch’s face as well. And when Cain came inside from an afternoon of tending his flowers, holding a perfectly formed winter rose, Glitch would accept the gift with a brush of his fingers on Cain’s chest and a tender kiss on the lips.

~*~

Glitch looked down at the big dog at his hip, her nose bumping his hip even as she gave another urgent wuff. “Cain?” he guessed, hurriedly wiping the soap suds from his hands and abandoning the dishtowel next to the sink of half-finished dishes. He followed her lead out to the front, to where he had left Cain to his gardening.

His last few steps were rushed in alarm and he stumbled, ending up on his knees in the soil next to Cain, who was hunched over holding his head in agony. “I’m here,” Glitch said quietly, resting his hand on Cain’s back. “Head?”

“Gods, it hurts,” Cain answered brokenly, groping for Glitch’s other hand until he found it, claiming it in a painfully tight grip. “Came on so fast...”

“I know, they do that,” Glitch rubbed Cain’s back in small, steady circles. “Take deep breaths, slow and easy. We’ll go in when you’re ready.” He gave Cain some time to breathe through the migraine, steadying him with his touch and his words.

When Cain finally gave a tight nod, Glitch stood and helped Cain to his feet. They made it to the long sofa and Cain neatly collapsed onto its soft cushions, curling on his side in misery. Glitch took a moment to cover him in the throw from the back of the sofa, then went to retrieve the pill bottle from the medicine cabinet as well as a glass of water.

Shamira was sitting next to the couch, resting her long face on Cain’s bent knee protectively. She looked at Glitch and gave a little snuffle of permission.

After seeing to it that Cain took his headache pill and was as comfortable as possible, Glitch settled down on the floor and stroked his fingers over Cain’s head in the even, familiar rhythm of massage. By the time Cain fell asleep, Glitch’s legs were numb and his wrist was cramped but he didn’t even notice.

Pressing a kiss to Cain’s forehead, Glitch leaned against the side of the sofa and stretched his legs out. Shamira settled down next to him and rested her head on his knee, both of them content to remain there until Cain was ready to wake up.

~*~

Eight months after Cain woke to a dark world, his life had changed in so many ways he would not have thought possible.

There was nothing more welcome in his day than the loving stroke of Glitch’s hand in his hair as he passed, a simple touch that told Cain when Glitch was coming and going without words. The sound of Shamira’s claws clicking excitedly on the wood entryway told him Glitch was nearly home from an advisory meeting in the main building. Tiny patterned bumps informed him of the contents of drawers and storage containers.

The smell of Glitch’s soap on his skin deep in the night. The intimate slide of skin and muscle and bone, the harsh sound of their breathing as they moved together effortlessly.

Glitch inhaled sharply, his head jerking back hard into the pillow. One hand was flung behind him, gripping a wood bar of the headboard while the other rested on the back of Cain’s head, trembling as he struggled for control. Cain’s mouth on him was blissful torture, the soft sounds Cain made and the wet heat engulfing him rhythmically nearly drove him out of his mind.

A tiny part of his mind was in awe of Cain’s trust. And Glitch knew how much it meant that he had earned that trust. That the two of them had come so very far and had done so much to repair one another, had seen the other through the worst times of their lives and come through it alive and shockingly well, was simply more than Glitch could ever have asked for.

An overwhelming shudder ran through him and he moaned harshly, moving his hand to touch Cain’s shoulder urgently. “Now,” he managed, his eyes shutting tightly. Cain rubbed Glitch’s hip in acknowledgement as he drew back far enough to swallow.

Glitch breathed heavily as he lay there, drained and boneless. Cain crawled up next to him and draped one arm over Glitch’s chest, pleased and already sated from earlier. He pressed his lips to Glitch’s collarbone, tasting salt and feeling utterly content. “I still think you’re all right, ya know.”

There was a snort and a soft thump to the back of Cain’s head before Glitch replied. “I guess we’ll just have to make due, huh?”

“If we have to.”

~*~

End

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Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
avari_maethor
Dec. 9th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
Can I just say that this was extraordinary? All the emotions and just... everything.
surranndie
Dec. 10th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D
archon_mentha
Dec. 9th, 2009 07:55 am (UTC)
This is absolutely wonderful. I love the warmth that builds through the whole piece.
surranndie
Dec. 10th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
kseda
Dec. 9th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
...masterpiece, dear, masterpiece. You're so good at putting people through absolute HELL and then making it all right again. I know how hard this one was (these two were :D) but it was worth it. Thank you for pulling through!

♥ !!
surranndie
Dec. 10th, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
Bwah! I know right? It's a reflection of reality - considering the hell I put YOU through as I was working on it/them. *grin* I'm glad that the resulting angst and comfort were satisfying!
lionille
Dec. 9th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
This was absolutely magnificent. Mag.Ni.Fique. (starting with the summary... the idea that the former inventor gave himself the name Glitch is inspired.)

Details.... Cain's scarred fingertips... Raw petting DG's hair.... Cain jumping the first time Glitch touched him after he was blind.... Glitch putting Cain's hand on his zippered scalp.... Glitch's fingers riffling about in Cain's hair... the dog's soft fur...the whole thing was just a tactile marvel. Of course Glitch's loyalty through this whole thing was incredible... you know one of my favorite moments was when he and Shamira settle in together to wait while Cain sleeps.

Yeah, and this one made me cry...when Raw embraced Glitch, and knew how much the contact had meant to him.
I loved the specially modified cabin, too, with all the little labels, and the garden flowers and herbs chosen for their scents and shapes, and Cain choosing the thyme, and bringing Glitch a winter rose.

Awesome.
surranndie
Dec. 10th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Oooh thank you, sweetie!! *HUGS*

Yes, yes - the tactile thing. It was absolutely necessary for this piece, especially the parts from Cain's perspective. Trying to imagine his worldview in those scenes, relying on all his other senses to piece together his surroundings. I've always been a big fan of touch anyway, but this scenario was an excellent excuse to really explore it.

I'm so happy that you enjoyed it and of course, you always manage to pinpoint the most important bits! :D
amedia
Dec. 12th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
I had a thoroughly rotten day at work today and I came home and began reading this ... and I was completely transported. You took me out of myself into another world and made me believe it was real until I lived and breathed and sorrowed and rejoiced with the characters. Thank you so very, very much.
surranndie
Dec. 12th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
Oh, man. *hugs* That is such a beautiful compliment and it completely made my day. I can't tell you how much it pleases me that I was able to provide something so entertaining, even for just a short while. You're very welcome - after all, it's you guys who keep me going and who I keep writing for! :D

Thank you so much for this wonderful comment!!!
twilight_angel
Dec. 15th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Absolutely wonderful. I love the idea that, now that everyone's physically together, they're even further apart emotionally and don't know how to come together. It makes sense that they don't know how to be together anymore after everything that's happened to them. And Glitch, well, glitching more because of the people lost around him is fantastic. The story enveloped me from the very beginning, and it was a lovely journey to the end. Thanks so much for sharing! :)
surranndie
Dec. 15th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you very much for your kind words! I'm truly glad you enjoyed this story and I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know! :D It was a strange idea from the start and I wasn't certain how people would react to it, so it's great to know it worked.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )