Author: Bad Faery PM
Glitch reflects on the sacrifices he's made.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst - Glitch & DG - Chapters: 4 - Words: 3,738 - Reviews: 39 - Favs: 33 - Follows: 39 - Updated: 12-13-07 - Published: 12-04-07 - id: 3928642
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Getting the new lab organized was an arduous task. He spent months trying to get the equipment arranged and functioning properly, and by the time he was finally comfortable, it was even more of a mess than the original. He'd forgotten more than one important component and designing work- arounds, although possible, added weeks to several projects.
He didn't regret it for an instant.
As he gently tossed a snowball at DG, getting hit himself by a solidly- thrown projectile from Azkadellia's direction, he decided there was something rather odd about his life. He lived in the midst of a frozen wilderness. He spent all of his time inventing machines to do impossible things, and his best friend in the entire O.Z. was a two year old girl. Odd. But wonderful.
Four years passed with ludicrous speed. His friendship with DG, far from angering the queen, seemed to have increased her trust in him, and he found himself being drawn more and more into the innermost workings of the realm, discovering to his surprise that if he pictured the O.Z. as one large machine, it was easy to see patterns and predict problems that could be solved before they became crises.
He marked time by small milestones. DG's birthdays, obviously, were one of the most important if only because of the sheer number of hours he spent constructing her presents. The Queen once teasingly accused him of starting on her present for the next year before he'd finished the current one, and she wasn't exactly wrong. Yet it was worth the sleepless nights and eyestrain to see the look of delight on his princess's face.
There were other moments that indicated the passing years. There was the first time DG helped with an experiment instead of just playing while he worked. At first she simply handed him tools, then they discovered that her tiny hands were exactly the right size to attach some of the more dainty components of the machines. Later, when she'd outgrown the task, they found that her magic could do the job as well as her fingers could. For the first time in his life, he had a partner.
The first time DG managed to pronounce both syllables of his name had overjoyed him at the same moment it broke his heart. When she was two, he'd started out as 'bose, and she'd gradually added letters until finally, five days after her fourth birthday he was officially Ambrose to her. She'd been so proud of herself for finally saying it right, and he'd been delighted for her even as he mourned the loss of the childish nickname. His princess was growing up, and even though he grew to love her more each day as her personality developed, he couldn't help but worry that someday she'd outgrow him.
For the time being, that dreadful day was a long way off. At age six, DG spent more time in his lab than she did anywhere else to the occasional despair of her tutor who would've liked her to spend more time practicing her magic than tinkering with the odd bits and pieces around Ambrose's lab. Queen Lavender refused to intervene, saying only that any knowledge was valuable, and perhaps one day DG would need the mechanical ability she was picking up from him every bit as much as she'd need her magic.
He'd never been happier.
Together they danced through life- inventing, experimenting, playing, pretending. The sun always shone; the winds were brisk without being bitter, and the icy walls of the palace glittered like diamonds. Life was blissfully, impossibly perfect. Even the genuine annoyances- an invention that stubbornly refused to work or Azkadellia's early slide into sullen teenage angst- were somehow remote. It was impossible to believe that anything could ever truly go wrong.
He should have known better than to tempt the gods.
They'd just returned to Central City, and he was spending the afternoon puzzling over the issue of how to extend the growing season, while DG was in the gardens with her governess, Gilly, running off some excess energy before her magic lesson. The sharp knock at the door that preceded a summons to attend on the queen was hardly unusual, but the pallor in the page's face was. There was an edge of barely-concealed panic in the boy's face, but he would answer none of Ambrose's questions, only hurry him on his way to the throne room.
"She's gone, Ambrose," were the first words out of the queen's mouth, and simple as they were, it took him an eternity to process them. Only one person's loss could put that look of despair on the queen's face. "Someone took her."
The blood drained from his face, leaving him alarmingly light- headed. "That's impossible," he managed to murmur. The man for whom 'impossible' was merely a temporary irritation now clung to it like a lifeline. It was impossible that DG was gone. He was nearly finished with her birthday present, he thought irrelevantly. She'd like it; he knew she would. She had to be there so he could give it to her.
"Gilly... she says someone struck her from behind. She heard DG screaming... then she was just... gone." The queen's halting explanation dragged his mind back to the present moment, and none of this made any sense. The palace grounds were extensive, but they weren't that large and DG had a positive gift for making herself heard. Someone would have heard her screams and come running. No one could simply take her. Why would anyone?
"We have to find her," he announced as though she wouldn't have thought of it herself, striding toward the main hall without waiting to be dismissed. He'd scour every inch of the city, crawl on his knees if he had to until she was found and safe once more. She had to be safe. Nothing else bore thinking about.
"Ambrose!" The queen's sharp voice halted him in his tracks, long years of answering to that voice making it impossible to ignore now. "Every tin man in the city is already looking for her," she said more gently, once he'd turned to face her.
It wasn't good enough. They didn't know her like he did, wouldn't recognize her as quickly. She'd be frightened, taken from one stranger by another. She needed him, not some faceless lawman she'd never met. "There must be something you can make, some way to trace her," Queen Lavender pleaded, and for the first time he managed to look past his own pain long enough to see the anguish in her eyes. He'd lost his best friend, but she'd lost her daughter. He wasn't the only one suffering right now.
"Yes, majesty," he bowed slightly, forcing himself away from the doorway as he withdrew one of his ever- present notebooks, riffling through the pages until he found a blank one, willing his mind to come up with an idea- any idea- anything he could use to find his princess.
The queen sank stiffly into her throne, as though utter stillness was the only thing keeping her from flying apart, and Ambrose reluctantly took a seat himself, his brilliant mind for once not answering his demands. There had to be something; there simply had to be. He just couldn't think. An idea occurred to him and he looked up sharply, "Majesty, your magic-"
"I can't," she whispered, not letting him finish, "It's as though... something's blocking me."
Chagrined, he turned his attention back to his notebook, willing the random lines he'd absentmindedly drawn to come together, to reveal their mystery, to help him find her.
In the end his efforts were as unnecessary as they were fruitless. Less than fifteen minutes after his world stopped turning, it lurched back into motion with a wild cry from the main hall.
"Majesty! Come quickly!" At the page's call, they looked at each other wordlessly for a long moment before leaping to their feet and breaking into a run, Ambrose unable to stay the requisite, respectful two paces behind her. He matched her step for step, terrified of what he'd discover in the main hall. Surely he'd know if anything had happened to DG. Surely the entire world would go dark if her light had been snuffed out.
Sheer, unadulterated relief nearly drove him to his knees at the sight of DG- ruffled, frightened, crying, but alive, thank Ozma, she was still alive and apparently unhurt- held in the arms of a tin man. It was only with effort that he managed to let the queen get to her first, struggling to pay attention to the lawman's account of hearing a child's cries and finding the princess fighting like a tiger to escape her captor less than half a mile outside the palace grounds.
"That's one brave little girl you've got," the tin man smiled down at the still-sobbing DG, now held safe in the queen's arms. Ambrose nodded, fidgeting anxiously just behind them, barely restraining himself from snatching DG out of her mother's embrace so he could hug her himself, verify that she was safe and truly back where she belonged.
As though sensing his desperation, DG's eyes blinked open, her tear-stained face brightening a little at the sight of him. "'brose!" she called his name, reverting to the childish nickname he hadn't heard in ages, as she held her hands out to him, struggling in the queen's arms. Reluctantly, she let her daughter go, and DG launched herself at him.
"I've got you, DG, I've got you," he murmured over and over, running his hands over her small body to check for injuries and finding none. Not hurt then, the tin man was right, they always were, just frightened, "You're safe. Nothing can hurt you now. I won't let anything hurt you."
"Mother? What happened?" Azkadellia's calm voice floated into the hall just ahead of the girl herself. He was too busy soothing DG's tears to pay much attention to the queen's explanation, but as her tale came to an end, he mentally prepared himself to release the now-calm girl so her sister could welcome her back. Glancing down at Azkadellia, he was surprised to see not shock or relief in her face, only that sulky expression she always seemed to wear now with a hint of- was that anger?- in her eyes.
A moment later the odd look was gone, and Azkadellia reached up to squeeze DG's hand, murmuring, "Welcome back, little sister. I'm glad you're safe."
Ambrose shook his head, dismissing the moment from his mind. As he carried DG off to bed, he half-heard the tin man's description of the man who'd taken his princess, "...strangest thing really... like he didn't even know he'd taken her or why... seemed to have no idea what had happened... like he'd been under a spell..."
Vapors, he decided as he tucked DG in. Even in the O.Z. there were malcontents, people who sought relief from their real or imagined problems through drugs. At the palace, they'd been overconfident, careless, too assured of the realm's peacefulness to anticipate anything like this.
Ambrose spent the rest of the night on the floor of her bedroom, leaning against her bed and listening to her breathe, waiting to soothe her nightmares, ready to protect her if it happened again, although Ozma alone knew what he of all people could do in the face of an attack. Bore someone to death, maybe?
The next morning he presented himself to the head of the castle guard for training.