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Tin Man Fic: Tangible, Chapters 16-30



16. Blue

Glitch leaned back against the sturdy body holding him tightly in place, feeling every bump of the ride send a new, burning spike of pain through his shoulder. He let himself drift knowing Cain was out of harm's way and that Cain was getting him to safety as well.

With a slight roll of his neck he pressed his forehead against the cool skin of Cain’s throat. Glitch was too warm, wrapped up in the other man’s blanket and secured in his arms. The cool breeze speeding past made him shiver at the contrasting temperatures.

Cain looked down at Glitch, a worried frown creasing his brow. “You holding up okay, Sweetheart?” he asked, shifting his hold a bit.

Tilting his head back to look up at Cain’s face. “Oh, wow,” Glitch breathed in awe. “Your eyes are so blue.”

Pulling up next to them, Zero glanced over. “He still breathing?”

Cain glared at him. “I’m not talking to you.”

Zero snorted. “I can see now why you were such a great resistance leader. Your maturity knows no bounds.”

Ignoring Zero’s sarcasm, Cain turned his gaze forward again. “He’s shivering and his eyes are too dark,” he answered instead. “I think the venom is starting to affect his mind, he’s got a fever.”

“Not much further to go,” Zero reassured him, earning an odd look from Cain. “There’s a good doctor in town, plus you’ve got your viewer to help heal him. I’d say Ambrose is in good hands.”

Cain cleared his throat uncomfortably. “He doesn’t go by Ambrose. He prefers Glitch.”

Zero ducked his head. “I’ll try to remember that.”

“Why?” Cain snapped suddenly, tired of pretending.

“What?”

“Why do you care, if this isn’t just some sick game of yours? What do you want from me, from any of us?”

A long silence stretched between them as Zero stared at the ground in front of them, considering his answer. “The same as everyone else after all of this. Same as you, and Glitch there, and the Princess. A second chance.” He twisted his head away. “There’s so much you don’t know yet, Cain. But I don’t expect you to believe me, so it’ll have to wait until we get to Milltown.”

Wyatt adjusted his hold on Glitch and said nothing.


17. Other Side

Cain felt a surge of relief course through him as he spotted the rising smoke in the distance. It had taken them nearly half an hour to reach this point and the sound of Glitch’s progressively growing struggle to draw breath had torn at Cain’s heart.

At the edge of the town he could see a small group waiting for their approach. He could make out Raw and DG easily, while the other two looked vaguely familiar. Just on the other side of that clearing was the help Glitch so desperately needed.

“Zero, stay behind me and don’t say a word,” Cain said sharply. He put his lips close to Glitch’s ear and whispered, “Hold on just a little longer, we’re almost there.”

Pressing a hand to Glitch’s chest, he waited for the answering intake of breath. It didn’t come.

“No. No, no, no,” he spat anxiously, looking down at his friend. Glitch was limp against him, eyes closed with long lashes dark against the too-pale skin of his face. “He’s not breathing,” Cain bellowed in Zero’s direction. He tightened his hold on the advisor’s body and gave the horse a sharp kick, making it break into a run.

DG and Raw led the charge to meet them as Cain jerked on the reigns to pull the horse to an ungraceful halt. He leapt from the horse with his hands still on Glitch’s waist and he motioned to Raw. “Help me get him down,” he panted anxiously. Cain vaguely heard DG’s sharp gasp at seeing Glitch’s condition, but he was focused intently on saving his friend’s life.

Pulling the unresponsive advisor to the ground, Cain sat them both on the cold soil and tugged impatiently at the blanket holding Glitch’s arm. He cringed at the still-wet blood soaking through the thick material as he pulled it back to expose the damaged shoulder and arm. “Raw,” he looked pleadingly at the viewer kneeling next to them, his question unspoken.

Raw gasped in sympathy at the sight and feel of so much pain. He quickly placed his hands over the worst of it, the deep bite marks in Glitch’s shoulder. Cain held Glitch against his chest, turned so the uninjured right side was pressed against him. Bringing his left hand up he rested it gently on the side of Glitch’s head.

Eyes closed tight, Cain bowed his head to rest his lips against the top of Glitch’s head. He ignored the cold bite of metal as he whispered prayers into the tangle of hair brushing his lips.

Cain felt a sharp jolt as Glitch jerked alongside his body and Cain’s eyes flew open. Glitch drew a harsh, shallow breath and then another. The Tin Man released a shuddering sigh of his own at the welcome sound.

The viewer frowned deeply as he worked, sliding his hands over Glitch’s arm and back as the numerous cuts were healed. When he finally opened his eyes, they were dark with concern. “Too much poison,” he said regretfully. “Glitch need cure. Doctor can help.”

Looking down at the resting man, Wyatt nodded.

Cain became aware that the group around them had grown oddly silent. He reluctantly raised his head to see why. DG had stepped back slightly and Raw suddenly produced a rumbling growl.

It was then that Cain felt the unfamiliar hand resting supportively on his shoulder and he glanced back to see Zero crouched beside him, oblivious to the stir he was causing. The former Longcoat was focused on Glitch with a pleased look on his face. “Hey, look at that!” he said softly, giving a squeeze to Cain’s shoulder. “We made it.”

Wyatt couldn’t help but return the relieved grin with one of his own and a near-hysterical bark of laughter escaped. He turned back to the very confused faces of his friends. “I can explain.”

He glanced over his shoulder again to see Zero’s raised eyebrows. “Okay, maybe not.”


18. Twilight

It turned out DG’s robot parents were named Emily and Hank. Cain remembered meeting them once, briefly, before he knew who the Princess was.

Hours after the hectic rush to save Glitch, Emily had settled them into spare rooms in their own home. The local doctor had come and gone, leaving instructions on how often to wake Glitch and make him drink the herbal tea that would rid his body of the Papay’s poisonous venom.

Outside the house, twilight fell and cast strange shadows across the small room Cain and Glitch had been given. Cain had used his razor to cut away the layers of torn and ruined shirts from Glitch, the material stiff with dried blood. He had smoothed a trembling hand over the newly healed pink skin, faint white lines the only sign of recent trauma. Those too would fade in time.

He and Emily fussed over the thankfully alive but exhausted advisor, doing most of the work of getting him into the clean set of spare clothes from Glitch’s bag. Cain stood back while Emily, the nurture unit, carefully tucked blankets around Glitch before moving to stand next to the Tin Man.

“You did good getting him here as quick as you did,” she told him quietly. Looking at him sharply, she nodded her head toward the door. “Come on. He’s going to be sleeping for hours, and I think we all need an explanation about that man you brought into our town.”

With a deep sigh, he looked at the bundled figure on the bed one last time. “Let’s go make sure the others haven’t tied him to a chair yet.”

Just outside of the room Raw and DG waited for them, giving Glitch some illusion of privacy. Emily continued down the hallway toward the front room to give the three friends a moment. DG threw her arms around Cain’s neck and hugged him tight. “Oh, Cain,” she said into the folds of his jacket. “You two have got to stop scaring me like this!”

He held the young woman for a moment before replying. “He was trying to save me,” he said roughly. “If Zero hadn’t shown up when he did, we never would have made it back.”

Raw’s warm hand came to rest on Cain’s shoulder. “Glitch safe now,” he assured Cain.

Cain let go of the Princess and placed his hand over the top of Raw’s. “Yeah, he is,” he agreed with a smile. “Thanks to you.”

A proud smile graced Raw’s lips and he gave a deep sigh. “Zero,” he said meaningfully.

“Right,” Wyatt replied with a noisy exhalation. “Let’s go find out what his story is.”

In the main room sitting around the dining table were Zero, Hank, and Emily. Cain was strangely relieved to note that Zero was not in fact tied to a chair.

Sitting heavily in an empty chair close to the man in question, Cain started. “You’ve kept your word so far so I’ll keep mine. Talk.”

Zero shifted uncomfortably in his seat but held up to Cain’s intense gaze. “When your son and his fighters captured my men and I, do you remember noticing a tattoo on my arm? An outline of a mobat?”

Cain frowned, unsure where Zero was going with an odd start like this. He thought back to that endless night when he was reunited with his stranger of a son, the way the young man had tricked their prisoner into confessing. Zero’s leather coat had been removed and he was left in just a sleeveless black undershirt.

When the Tin Man came to Zero in the middle of the night, he had a vague memory of seeing a dark stain on the Longcoat’s upper arm. It had seemed to glow in the faint moonlight.

“Yeah,” he nodded slowly and waited for Zero to continue.

“That was how the witch controlled us,” Zero told him frankly. “Her army, all the Longcoats – we were prisoners, as much as anyone else in the O.Z.”


19. Indecent

Looking across the room, Zero locked eyes with Raw. “Can you show them?”

Raw glanced at Cain, who gave him a nod. The viewer moved to stand between Zero and the mirror resting on the mantle. He hesitated, remembering that the last time he tried to read Zero he got nothing but a dark, disturbing cloud.

Placing one hand on Zero’s head and the other on the glass of the mirror, Raw searched for whatever it was the soldier had wanted them to see. Flashing past his mind were images of horses, trees, men and women in leather coats and others in handcuffs, pictures rushing by until he felt the pull of a specific memory.

On the mirror a blurry-edged and discolored scene appeared for everyone to see. A dozen young soldiers were led from their barracks, still in their Queen’s royal forces uniforms. Chained together, they walked in a line between armed Longcoats.

The angle changed and suddenly the clear view of a few of the hostages came into focus. One of the men looked up and to his left, and the group watching recognized him as a much younger Zero.

Just before the connection blurred and broke away they could see on the edge of the glass the unmistakable outline of the Sorceress Azkadellia with her trusted alchemist at her side.

Zero shuddered and opened his eyes as Raw let his hand drop from the glass. Raw’s other hand slid down to rest on Zero’s shoulder, keeping the connection alive but muted.

“She took the officers first, those who showed the most loyalty to command,” Zero continued the story with his own voice. “Enlisted men were next, that’s when they came for us.

“Her alchemist branded us on site, some kind of magical compound in the ink that messed with our minds, drew us to her. It wasn’t mind control, not like the vapors. We simply saw her as the proper Queen.”

Cain narrowed his eyes as he absorbed the flood of information. “You acted on her behalf but had your own free will, then,” he said slowly, trying to understand what Zero was saying.

Zero blew out a frustrated sigh, running a hand through his hair. “It’s – hard to describe. I knew what I was doing, could make decisions and choices. But it was always in Azkadellia’s best interest, everything came down to how we could please her.”

Glaring at the man whose name he had cursed for years, Cain raised his chin stiffly. “You came to my home. You and your men destroyed my family, beat my wife, my son, and locked me up,” he hissed. “Why? You had a choice. I was the only one you had a reason to hurt. Why did you go after my family?”

Jaw clenched tight, Zero shot a look of pure rage at him. “I hated you, Cain. Azkadellia knew the Tin Men were too loyal to the former Queen to be turned. She let you go on with your lives, with your homes and families, until you finally made a mistake and we had an excuse to come for you.” He squeezed his eyes shut hard and seemed to deflate. “I had a family. A little girl. After I joined the Longcoats, I never saw her again.”

Across the table, Hank shook his head in disbelief. “It’s positively indecent, what Azkadellia did to those men,” he said sorrowfully. Emily rested her chin on his shoulder, her hand coming up to stroke his other arm. She remembered being used in the same way, twisted and reprogrammed for the Witch’s desires.

Wyatt considered what he had heard so far. He remembered the glazed look of devastation on Azkadellia’s face after she was separated from the Witch and literally everything she had done had struck the young woman. When the Witch died, so did her power over her prisoners.

Jerking his head up to stare at Zero, he gaped for a moment in stunned realization. “How long where you in the suit?” he ground out.

Zero looked back at him and Cain knew he had hit the mark. The former Longcoat swallowed hard and turned his gaze to the floor. “Five months.”

Cain’s breath caught in his throat.

“My men all felt it, that moment when we were freed from the Witch. It took them five months to find me,” he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. He looked up at Cain, eyes burning with a look of betrayal. “You knew I was out there, you and your son were the only ones who knew.”

Feeling sick, Wyatt shot to his feet and turned away from the others. He remembered making a promise to his son, to come back for Zero if they survived. In all the chaos following the battle at the tower and the fallout of the change in rule, retrieving a prisoner had never been a priority.

“We didn’t know,” Cain whispered roughly. “After the fight, all the Longcoats just disappeared; we assumed they went underground. There was too much to do. No one came forward; no one knew any of this, Zero. How could we?”

“Why haven’t they come forward?” DG asked.

“They’re afraid,” Zero answered. “If they make it public which side they’d been on, they’d be arrested or killed outright. They’d been searching for me from the moment they realized what had changed. I’m their General, it’s my job to speak for these men.”

Cain turned back around and met Raw’s eyes. The viewer gave him a single nod, hand still sitting on Zero’s shoulder. Everything Zero had said was true.

It was too much. Wyatt pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes hard. “I’ve got to go check on Glitch.” He turned sharply and walked down the hall without waiting for a reply.


20. Layers

Cain leaned back against the headboard wearily. His coat was draped across the chair next to the door, where he had carelessly flung it earlier when he was getting Glitch settled. Boots were lying on the floor where he’d toed them off before climbing onto the bed next to the sleeping man. The only light he turned on was the small lamp on the bedside table.

He rested his hand on Glitch’s shoulder, the one that had been so horribly torn apart mere hours ago. Through the layers of shirts and blankets he could feel the warmth of fever seeping into his palm.

A sigh escaped as he moved his restless hand up to absently toy with Glitch’s hair, careful not to wake him.

It was impossible to clear his mind of everything Zero had told them. There was so much to consider and Wyatt had very little idea where they were supposed to go from there. He knew what Zero had been asking him; the former Longcoat had a responsibility to his men. Zero needed an audience with the Queen, to ask her to pardon the innocent men.

The person Zero needed to ask for that audience was currently sleeping next to Cain’s leg.

Glitch shifted in his sleep and Cain’s hand was dragged freely across the back of the advisor’s head. A tiny metallic click drew his attention and he saw that his fingers had grazed the end of the zipper, flipping the loose end up. He gently moved the tag down to its previous spot and went back to stroking the knotted tufts of dark hair.

Cain was thankful that Zero hadn’t tried to apologize for any of his actions. The cop suspected that Zero knew he could never be forgiven. There was one more question on Cain’s mind, one that deserved an answer but it would keep for now.

This moment was reserved for being with Glitch.


21. Daydream

Wyatt was roused from his mindless petting a while later by a soft knock on the door. Emily poked her head in, holding a cup on a saucer. “Don’t mean to interrupt,” she smiled. “It’s time for his medicine.”

“Of course, please come in,” Cain sat up and dragged a tired hand over his face. “Just keeping him company,” he said wryly.

Giving Glitch a careful shake, Cain leaned down close to his ear. “Time to wake up, Sweetheart.”

Glitch moaned pathetically and tried to burrow under the pillow.

Laughing softly, Cain slipped his arm under Glitch’s head and maneuvered him into a sitting position, supported against Cain’s chest. Glitch cracked his eyes open to glare balefully up at the man who disturbed his slumber and elbowed Cain in the stomach. By accident, of course.

Emily sat on the bed in front of them, grinning at their antics. She handed Wyatt the teacup, then pressed the back of her hand to Glitch’s forehead. “He feels a bit cooler,” she said casually. “At this rate he’ll be well enough to head home with you all tomorrow.”

“He’ll be riding with me either way,” Cain said firmly, holding the cup while Glitch took a tired sip.

Glitch hummed quietly and rested his head against Cain’s collarbone. He reached up and tried to take the cup in his own shaking hand but Cain held firm. Grumbling, Glitch took a deep swallow of tea.

Blinking thoughtfully, Glitch asked, “Did I have some crazy, heroics-induced daydream or did Zero save our butts?”


22. Morning

Cain smiled at the question. “No dream.”

“Huh,” Glitch replied, followed by a yawn. “You’ll have to tell me what happened, I can’t really remember.” He rested heavily against Cain and settled down comfortably with half-closed eyes.

“Maybe tomorrow. Finish your tea before you fall asleep,” Cain held it up and let Glitch drink the last bit of liquid. Setting the empty cup on the side table, he leaned his back on the headboard and sighed.

He met Emily’s eyes over the top of Glitch’s head but spoke to the man lying on him. “You’re still warm,” he said quietly, touching his hand to Glitch’s cheek.

Glitch nodded and turned his head sideways to rest on Cain’s chest, closing his eyes. “So are you,” he mumbled. His breathing slowly evened out as he slipped back into sleep.

Emily smiled when she saw Cain reach up and stroke the side of Glitch’s neck tenderly. “You care a lot about him,” she observed softly.

Looking up, Cain saw something in this woman that drew the words out of him. “I love him,” he admitted shyly.

“Does he know?”

“I’m not sure. I think so,” Cain answered uncertainly. “He knows I have feelings for him, and he seems to feel something too. It’s just so new for both of us.” He swallowed hard. “He almost died today. It terrifies me to think he could have died and I never got the chance to tell him how special he is.”

Placing a hand lightly on Glitch’s blanket covered leg, Emily smiled softly at the sleeping advisor. “He certainly is a very special man,” she said wistfully. “Mr. Ambrose was the kindest, bravest, and most gentle soul I’d ever met.”

Cain gave her a curious look. As far as he knew, Glitch had never truly met or spoken to Emily or Hank before today; their last visit had been very short and they had stayed outside watching for Longcoats while DG spoke to her pseudo-parents. At that point, they hadn’t even learned Glitch’s real name yet.

Catching Cain’s expression, Emily realized that Glitch had most likely forgotten the events of fifteen annuals past. “Ambrose was with the Queen when she brought DG to us for safekeeping,” she recalled. “In fact, he wrote our programming. He was so scared of what was coming, but would do anything to protect that little girl.”

“Still would,” Cain assured her when she paused.

Emily beamed at him. “Before he and her mother left, Ambrose knelt down in front of DG and gave her the most loving embrace. He told her he was proud of her for being so brave.”

“Sounds like Glitch,” Wyatt smiled proudly. He carded his hand lightly over Glitch’s hair.

“He’s a good man, Wyatt,” she said confidently. “He deserves someone like you, who can love every part of him without question.”

Cain squeezed his eyes shut. His hand moved to stroke down Glitch’s arm, taking the limp, pale hand in his own. “Glitch is the strongest man I’ve ever known, but sometimes I feel like he could shatter with just one wrong word,” he confessed. “How can I trust myself with his heart, knowing how easily I could break it?”

“Maybe when he’s well enough, that’s something you need to talk about,” she advised him. “You might be surprised, perhaps he feels the same is true of you.”

With that, Emily stood and smiled warmly at the pair. “You want some help getting him back in bed?”

“I think he’s good where he is,” Cain told her without pause. He tugged at the blanket bunched up in Glitch’s lap and tucked it around the lax body the best he could before settling in for a long night.

Emily retrieved a folded spare blanket from the foot of the bed, shook it out and spread it over Wyatt. “See you in the morning, then,” she said softly as she left them to rest.


23. Blankets

Cain had only gone to the front room for a few moments. He gave a groggy ‘good morning’ to the others gathered for breakfast and with help from Emily was fetching a small, light meal for Glitch and himself when he heard a soft shuffling sound and a hesitant, “Hello?” from behind him.

Looking up quickly, he spotted Glitch standing in the hallway, wrapped in two blankets and leaning against the wall.

Before he could stop her, Emily had started toward the advisor. “Oh, honey, you shouldn’t be on your feet,” she chided him gently, reaching out.

Glitch faltered, taking a stumbling step back in surprise. “Do I know you?”

Emily pulled her hand back and covered her mouth. She turned to Cain, who had caught up with her and gave him a concerned look.

“It’s okay,” Cain assured her. He slid past her and approached Glitch. “Good morning, Sweetheart,” he said with a knowing grin and was pleased to see the moment of recognition cross Glitch’s face.

“Cain,” the advisor smiled and tilted his head to the side, tugging his cocoon of blankets tighter around him.

“How did you do that?” Emily eyed the Tin Man admiringly.

Cain shrugged and glanced at her over his shoulder while he moved in to help Glitch back to bed. “Don’t know, just know it works.” He turned Glitch around and led him on the short walk to the bedroom. “Come on. I’ll bring you breakfast in bed,” he promised with a light squeeze.

When he returned to the kitchen he saw that Emily had already prepared Glitch’s medicinal tea. “Thank you,” he said with grateful smile. “Most of the time when he wakes up he’s forgotten where he is. It takes some kind of trigger to reset his brain.”

“And you’re that trigger,” Emily teased him gently.

“Not necessarily. He functioned all right without me for the last fifteen annuals,” he reasoned.

After a moment of silence, Emily asked very quietly, “Will it be like that for the rest of his life?”

Cain glanced at her for a split second. “Yes,” he answered simply before picking up the teacup and plate of food to bring to his friend.


24. Underground

Carrying Glitch’s bag as well as his own, lighter now without the blanket he’d sacrificed for a greater good, Cain walked outside to secure the parcels to the horse they would be sharing for the ride home. It would take most of the day to get back to the palace in Central and he was anxious to get on the road home.

He hesitated for a moment when he saw Zero already with the horses, the soldier tying his own pack down securely. They made eye contact briefly then went on with their tasks.

The Tin Man broke the silence with the question that had kept him awake most of the night. “Did you kill Adora?”

Zero paled at the direct inquiry but his answer was firm. “No.”

Cain clenched his jaw. “Then what happened to my family?”

“I don’t know all the details,” Zero snarled at him, jerking roughly on the rope he was knotting. “After we locked you up, we took them to Central, stuck them in a hostel with the rest of the women and children of resistance fighters we’d caught. They tend to disappear after that, it’s not our job to keep track of ‘em.

“Probably headed underground, got involved with the resistance themselves from there. Next time I found them was in a cabin. Locked up your boy but the woman was already dead. Found the grave marker with her name carved in it.”

Wyatt was disappointed and unsettled by the lack of answers, but knew that was all he would get out of Zero. His eyes stung at the thought of his wife dying without him there to protect her, or ease her pain.

And he marveled at his own willingness to do it all again, to start a life with someone new, a man he was drawn to unerringly.

The two men finished their preparations in uneasy silence.


25.Tender

When the arrangements were made and everyone was ready to go Cain made his way back to the now familiar bedroom to collect Glitch.

Already dressed, the advisor was sitting on the edge of the bed fussing with the buttons on his shirt. His jacket had been a complete loss, torn to shreds and soaked with his blood. Luckily the weather was pleasantly warm for their trip.

“Hey,” Cain greeted him with a warm smile. “Raw’s got the horses waiting, DG is being all girlish and emotional with her parents and Zero is moping on the porch. Guess that means its time to leave.”

Glitch threw his head back and laughed, enjoying Cain’s playful mood.

Warmed immensely by the bright, welcome sound Cain wandered over and sat on the bed facing Glitch. He ran a critical eye over the man who had literally died in his arms less than a day before. Cain couldn’t have been more delighted by Glitch’s improvement. Though he was still weak from the massive loss of blood and tired easily, Glitch looked like he was just as ready to go home as the rest of them.

“You look so much better,” Cain told him happily, reaching up to curl a hand against the side of Glitch’s neck. His thumb stroked behind Glitch’s ear absently.

Glitch leaned into the touch and hummed contentedly, a dreamy grin parting his lips. “Does that mean you’ll let me drive?”

“Not a chance, zipperhead,” Cain teased him affectionately. “I’d like for us to get back to Central this week.” He bowed to touch his forehead against Glitch’s. “You can take it easy today and just enjoy the ride.”

“Oh, believe me, I will,” Glitch grinned mischievously.

Cain felt the unexpected hot prick of tears and he shut his eyes tight. He heaved a shaky sigh and surged forward blindly, impulsively, to press his lips against the other man’s smiling mouth.

Glitch inhaled sharply at the sudden, unexpected motion. It was awkward and clumsy and the most tender, loving kiss he could imagine. He pushed past his stunned amazement and returned the kiss enthusiastically, bringing his hand up to clutch at Cain’s neck.

Pulling back to catch his breath, Cain swallowed thickly. He opened his eyes, unsure of what he would see.

Glitch’s brilliant smile and shining eyes told him everything he needed. The promise in that intense gaze made Cain shiver. The advisor slowly draped his arms around Cain’s neck, resting his chin on the Tin Man’s shoulder. Cain folded Glitch in his own tight embrace and held on, afraid he might fall apart without this support. They stayed that way, breathing together, for a long moment.

Reluctantly, Cain forced himself to relax his grip and he sighed heavily. He knew the others were waiting and if he and Glitch didn’t show up soon, they might send someone in after them.

“Come on,” Cain stood on unsteady legs, holding his hand out to Glitch. “Let’s go home.”


26. Forest

The early afternoon sun shone through the dense branches of the trees surrounding the riders. They rode together closely, but very little was said. It had been an incredibly long few days and emotions had run high, leaving them all weary and more than ready to get back to the palace.

Cain was vigilant, splitting his attention between the forest around them and the precious cargo perched on the saddle in front of him.

When they had finally joined the others to take their leave of Hank and Emily’s home, they were both given firm hugs from their hostess. Cain wasn’t able to hear what she whispered in Glitch’s ear that made him blush and grin shyly, but he suspected it was somehow related to her own words to Cain, along the lines of ‘take care of him or answer to me.’

At the start of the ride, Glitch had been his usual animated self, frequently bumping his expressive limbs into Cain as he talked to whoever was nearby.

By now, Cain could feel the strain of the long journey taking its toll on Glitch. The advisor was sagging against him, hugging his arms to his chest. Cain kept one arm securely wrapped around him, which is how he noticed how heavily Glitch was breathing.

“How’re you feeling?” Cain asked quietly, resting his chin on Glitch’s shoulder.

“Tired,” Glitch mumbled almost inaudibly. “The shadows and bumps are making me dizzy.”

“Okay, hold on a second,” Wyatt told him, slowing their horse gradually. He lifted his head and raised his voice so the others could hear him. “Let’s take a break for a few minutes,” he announced casually, not wanting the others to think something was wrong and get them upset. Glitch didn’t need the extra attention; he was self-conscious enough as it was.

Cain climbed down along with the others, then reached up to help guide Glitch down to the ground. He’d pulled their horse to a stop near a patch of fallen trees, the logs making a good resting place.

While the others secured their steeds to low branches and headed in different directions through the trees to take care of things of a private nature, Cain led Glitch to a log to rest. They sat together, Glitch hunched over with his arms crossed and tucked in around his stomach.

Wyatt smoothed his hand in slow circles over the advisor’s back, sensing the faint trembling through his touch. “You feel sick?” he asked softly, leaning forward to study Glitch’s face.

Glitch shook his head minutely, eyes still closed. “No, just needed to stop moving for a bit,” he answered. He puffed out a breath and sat up, bracing his hands on his knees. Looking at Cain, he nodded once. “I’m fine,” he assured him with a tiny smile. “I need to, uh, you know,” Glitch waved his hand absently toward the trees.

“Can you make it by yourself?” Cain asked when Glitch stood to go take care of his needs.

“I’ll make sure to yell if I need another hand,” Glitch winked at him and carefully made his way to a more private place. Cain watched for a moment then headed off himself.

When Glitch returned he saw Raw and DG sitting together talking quietly while Zero hovered a short distance away. He sat at DG’s other side and grinned when she gave him a lopsided one-armed hug.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she said, letting him go but leaving her hand resting on his back comfortably. “You were sleeping every time I looked in to check on you, so I didn’t get a chance to tell you that yet.”

Glitch ducked his head and smiled thankfully. Glancing over at the odd member of their party, he asked, “So, he must have one heck of a story for him to still be alive and with us.”

DG sighed deeply and nodded her head vaguely. “It’s a really complicated story, that’s for sure. We’ll have to fill you in on the details later, when we’re back and can meet with Mother. The short version is: Az marked the Longcoats to make them do her bidding, they were members of the army that got taken prisoner.” She shook her head sadly. “They’re all innocent, Glitch. We need to make this right, let them come out of hiding and get back to their lives as best they can.”

Looking at the ground with a distant gaze, Glitch released a breathy “Oh...” He tilted his head, an odd flash of memory sparking in his brain. “I remember that, at least I think I do,” he said in an odd, detached voice. “Before they took my marbles, I was kept in the tower where the alchemists were working. They were experimenting with magical amalgams. Your mother fixed it so magic couldn’t make me betray any of our plans. That’s when they went with plan B,” he raised a hand to indicate his zipper.

While he was talking, Cain had silently rejoined them. He stood behind Glitch, resting his hands on the seated man’s shoulders. “Zero has something to ask you, Glitch.”

“Me?” Glitch squeaked, glancing at the former Longcoat warily.

Cain raised his voice. “Zero,” he called the man over.

Zero flinched, startled at the sound of his name. He saw that the foursome was complete, looking at him expectantly. Realizing that Cain was giving him his chance, he walked over and deferentially knelt in front of Glitch.

Stunned, Glitch looked down at the man. “Zero?” he asked hesitantly. “Was there something you needed from me?”

“Advisor Glitch,” Zero said formally, head dutifully down. “I respectfully ask for your permission to hold an audience with her Majesty and her advisors. I represent hundreds of innocent men and request the opportunity to argue on their behalf for an official pardon.”


27. Time

Glitch listened, mouth slightly open in astonishment at the carefully worded appeal. He realized after a long moment of silence that Zero had stopped talking and it was now his turn to respond.

He lifted a shaking hand, he reached forward to touch the tips of his fingers to Zero’s downward tilted jaw.

Zero blinked, confused, then raised his head to meet Glitch’s eye.

“You’ll have your audience with the Queen,” Glitch told him kindly. “All the time you need.”

**

The first sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon when the travelers approached the front entrance to the royal palace.

“Oh, thank the gods we’re home,” Glitch moaned and straightened his back. He’d fallen asleep against the sturdy warmth of Cain sometime after they got back on the trail and had been jostled awake by the rising sounds of the city as they approached.

At the end of the path stable attendants ready to take their horses met them. The woman in charge of the task gave Cain an odd look and asked, “Where’s the one you were riding?”

“Papay runners ate him,” he answered bluntly.

She gaped at him, horrified. “Oh, dear,” she muttered, shaking her head as she joined the other attendants and the remaining horses.

Cain kept close to Glitch as the group of five climbed the steps to meet the waiting Queen and Ahamo. DG charged up the stairs ahead of them to give her parents huge hugs.

“DG, my angel, it’s so good to have you home,” her mother crowed happily, then pulled back when she saw that DG had apparently added to her collection of odd men. “What is that man doing here and why is he not shackled?” she asked coldly.

“Mother, it’s all right,” DG raised her hands to calm the powerful woman. “We’ve got a lot to talk about, but first I think we should let Mr. Cain take Glitch to his room to rest.”

The Queen’s face instantly went from cold malice to concerned puzzlement. “Are you not well, Mr. Glitch?” she asked him, stepping forward to run an appraising eye over her most trusted friend.

“Majesty,” Glitch bowed his head automatically. “I’m well enough now, but had a bit of an accident yesterday,” he glanced at Cain with a restrained grimace.

“He was attacked by a Papay runner while trying to save me, your Majesty,” Cain informed her. “It was Zero here who rescued us. Raw was thankfully able to heal Glitch and we were lucky to have the aid of a doctor in Milltown.” He stopped, letting her absorb his words.

“Oh, my poor dear,” the monarch fussed, reaching out to gently stroke Glitch’s cheek. “Of course, you must rest. Mr. Cain, please, escort him to his chambers.”

“Highness,” they said together. Exchanging childish grins, they made their way inside, leaving DG and Raw to find a place to put Zero until the official meetings could be arranged.


28. Naked

After Cain saw Glitch to his room, he went back down to the kitchen to find some food to bring back. He could tell Glitch wasn’t up to a formal sit-down dinner with the rest of the regular crowd.

With the help of a very understanding cook, Cain was able to wrangle together a few sandwiches, assorted green vegetables and what promised to be a juicy apple. Along with a small pot of hot water (for the tea they’d brought back from Milltown), an empty teacup, and a cup of coffee for himself, he made his way back to Glitch’s room.

The door was not completely latched so he pushed it open without knocking. He looked around and froze, the air stuck in his throat.

Glitch was standing next to the bed, silhouetted by the fading light of early evening coming in through the balcony doors. His back was to Cain, but the cop could see every movement as clearly as if he were standing within reach.

Naked from the waist up, the advisor was slowly moving his right hand over his left arm, delicate fingers tracing the fine white scars sprawling over the pale skin. The restless hand moved up and Glitch’s head turned to inspect his shoulder, touching the blemishes marring his otherwise smooth skin.

Cain cleared his throat and feeling like a voyeur, kicked the door closed behind him and continued into the room.

Glitch twisted around to look at him, blushing at being caught. He quickly forgot his embarrassment and turned back to his scrutiny. “I can’t see all of them,” he said in a disquietingly faraway voice.

Setting the tray in his hands down on the bedside table, Wyatt moved to stand behind Glitch, just off his left shoulder. He lifted his own hand to trace the faint marks that were liberally scattered across the expanse of bare back. “They’ll fade eventually,” Cain said, not sure if it was meant to be reassuring. “Raw does good work.”

“Mmhmm,” Glitch agreed absently, still following the lines on his upper arm with his fingers like they were roads on a map. Perhaps in his mind, they were.

Cain caught the wandering hands within his own and slid his arms around the man’s wiry frame, tangling their arms together across Glitch’s chest. “They don’t make you any less beautiful,” he promised.


29. Remember

Wyatt found a clean, loose nightshirt for Glitch while the advisor was sitting under the covers in bed, munching on his dinner. He wandered over to sit in front of Glitch.

Stuffing a piece of celery halfway into his mouth, Glitch raised his arms obediently for Cain to pull it over his head. Wyatt rolled his eyes but gave in easily to the good-natured teasing. “Don’t expect me to fuss over you once you get your strength back,” he grumbled.

“Oh, you know you love it,” Glitch waved a hand absentmindedly and finished his tea.

Cain ensnared the wayward hand and brought it into his lap. He waited until Glitch looked up to speak earnestly. “I love you.”

Jaw dropping open in disbelief, Glitch stared at him for an infinite moment. “Oh, Wyatt,” he whispered, tipping his head to the side. “Come here.” He scooted forward with the blankets bunched on his lap and reached for Cain.

“I love you too, so much,” Glitch confessed, folding his arms across the back of Cain’s shoulders. His cheek rubbed against the short-cropped hair and he closed his eyes at the soft feel of it. “And when I can remember what to do with all of your fun bits, you’ll be the first to know.”

Wyatt nearly fell off the bed, howling with appalled laughter.

When he recovered enough to speak he wiped his eyes and stood up. “What am I going to do with you, Sweetheart?”

“Sleep with me?” Glitch asked, offering a welcoming hand.

“I wasn’t planning to leave,” Cain smiled fondly and set about preparing for bed.

**

A strange, unfamiliar sound dragged Cain out of his sleep. Blinking up at the ceiling sleepily, he listened to see if it came again.

He heard it, an unmistakable sound that chilled him. Next to him Glitch shuddered violently, one arm wrapped around his head with long fingers tugging at the tab of his zipper, slowly unfastening it in his sleep.

Breaking out of his stupor, he reached up and stopped the movement of the hand. He leaned down and spoke sharply into Glitch’s ear. “Glitch, wake up.”

With a sharp gasp, Glitch jerked back against him and looked around with wild eyes. “Who are you?” he asked brusquely while pushing himself up against the headboard.

Cain held up his hands in a submissive posture. “Glitch, it’s me. You’re home, in your own bed.”

Glitch blinked as his memory returned and he relaxed instantly. His hand automatically reached up to his head and with a fierce blush, he pulled the zipper closed again. “I’m so sorry,” he buried his face in his hands, words muffled.

“No, it’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Cain rushed to ease Glitch’s obvious humiliation while still trying to process what it was he had witnessed. He reached a tentative hand out to touch Glitch’s shoulder, unsure if it was welcome.

The shoulder under his hand shrugged but not in an effort to push him away. Glitch stared down at the mussed blankets, hands plucking restlessly at them. “I wake up sometimes and it – for some reason, it’s open. That’s why I always check.”

Wyatt swallowed thickly, examining the words. “Do you remember dreaming about something that would make you do that?”

Glitch sniffed and looked away. “I don’t remember,” he mumbled with a shake of his head. He shifted down and pulled the blankets back over his shoulder, facing away from Cain. “I don’t remember.”

Cain knew it wasn’t a lie but he also knew that somewhere in Glitch’s mind, or in his past, was the repressed answer to his question.


30. Beginnings

Glitch was the first to wake when the morning light came streaking across their bed.

Turning over, he leaned his head against his fist and looked at the man next to him. He remembered: this was Wyatt Cain. This beautiful man loved him.

He watched as Cain woke up reluctantly, the Tin Man lifting an arm to rub the back of his wrist against his eye. Cain turned his head and saw he was being studied.

“What are you grinning at?” Wyatt squinted at him.

“You’re Wyatt Cain,” Glitch announced proudly, poking him in the nose.

“This is new?” Cain asked him, confused.

With a smug grin, Glitch scratched at his tangled hair. “I remembered you when I woke up,” he explained.

Eyes wide, Wyatt rolled to face the grinning man as he caught up with what the advisor was implying. He practically pounced, giving Glitch an elated kiss. Drawing back with a grin of his own Cain said, “Well, that will certainly save us some time in the future.”

**

End.

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
slashybits
Jan. 2nd, 2009 01:50 am (UTC)
Wow, this was just *flails*

You had me making riduculously sappy noises and faces at Glitch steered his horse close enough to reach across and take Cain’s hand in his own. He ducked his head down and held the hand for a long moment without saying anything, then slowly brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it. and then it got even better! Zero! What a brilliant idea having the longcoats being prisoners as well. And then the end with Glitch remembering. I <3 this so much.
surranndie
Jan. 2nd, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
*squee and flail* Oh, thank you so much! :D This story is one of my prouder creations - I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed it! The whole thing was based around the idea of Zero's redemption and grew from there into something I really enjoyed writing. Yay!

Thank you again! \o/

Edited at 2009-01-02 05:13 am (UTC)
ciara__mist
Jan. 25th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
this has made me incredibly happy. My second ever Tin Man fic (first one also being yours, Wallpaper of Broadway) Love both so very much. And if my own brain was a little less alcohol induced I totally would be gushing more about this and its wonderfulness and Cain and Glitch! Lots of sappy aws but all in the name of good and love of this! :D *huggles*
surranndie
Jan. 25th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Awww!!! *hugs!!* Thank you so much for reading my stories! :D I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed them! Also - welcome to Tin Man! *GRIN*
ciara__mist
Jan. 25th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
have discovered your master list. you'll be hearing from me. ;D
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )