Zipped

Co-written by: Fallacy & IvyAdrena

Chapter One


It had started innocently enough. Friendly, purely compassionate hugs and touches and gentle words had turned slowly, but surely, into a sly sort of flirting.

And where DG's hand had usually rested comfortably on his forearm and stayed there, it now strayed from his forearm to the curve of his bicep, and from his bicep occasionally to the very beginning dip of his collarbone beneath that oddly charming striped shirt he refused to discard, even after he gratefully accepted replacements for the rest of his wardrobe.

And it wasn't all just DG who played the "fondly touching" game.

There were quite a few spare moments when Glitch would let his fingers tickle her lower back just a second too long, when he would pat her knee reassuringly and then rub her thigh in the most consoling of manners.

And it wasn't as if they were being covert about their brief liaisons, either. All too soon, it became blaringly apparent to Miss Lavender Eyes that her daughter and her former vizier were getting along quite nicely. Too nicely, in fact, and the more Glitch thought about it from the queen's perspective, figuratively standing in her high-heeled shoes that clicked warnings on the tile whenever she was near, the more he realized just how wrong it really seemed. From the outside, anyway.

The queen, however, couldn't express her happiness over this more.

Which brought Glitch and DG to the current situation: sitting before the queen--DG's mother and Glitch's former employer and the queen, for goodness' sake, and what had he done--as she smiled and smiled and didn't stop smiling.

Presently, she sighed softly. "I can't tell you both how glad I am that things are working out."

The queerest expression crawled over DG's face at that moment. "What do you mean, mother?"

The queen kept talking, for all intents and purposes appearing to not have heard her youngest daughter's words. "We were so worried at first, but with setting everything to rights, there just wasn't time. Your father said it was best to not interfere, darling, so I held my tongue and hoped you would remember on your own." She leaned forward to take DG's hands in her own, rubbing her thumbs over her daughter's knuckles and smiling that soft, gentle sort of smile that made everyone feel alright. The same smile that DG had inherited, Glitch mused. "I'm so happy for you two."

DG shook her head slowly, brows drawing together in confusion. "Remember what?"

"You're betrothed, darling," the queen said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "You have been for a long, long time."

Their reaction was definitely not the one she had been expecting. Surprise flashed across both their faces, and while Glitch's shoulders sagged and his jaw set into a firm, serious line, DG-- well. DG appeared to be oscillating between consternation and something she couldn't give a name to.

"Betrothed?" she repeated, voice faint.

The queen nodded, her smile dimming slightly. "Yes, of course. It was arranged when you were both still quite young-- are you alright? You've gone pale."

DG suddenly stood, gently but firmly tugging her hand from her mother's grip. "I'm fine, I just-- excuse me. I need some air." With that, she turned on her heel and fled the room.

"...Oh, dear."

And Glitch was quite inclined to agree with the queen.

He turned to her in question, as if she would simply order him to do some task, and all would be well again. Somewhat like the old days, he mused—the old days that he couldn't remember fully for the life of him.

She sighed and folded her hands neatly in her lap, staring down at the table for a few moments. "I'm so sorry, Ambrose. She doesn't seem too fond of the idea."

He huffed gently. "I would assume not. I would be upset if I was forced to marry a stranger, as well."

The queen gave him a rather disproving look, furrowing her brow. "Stranger? Hardly, Ambrose."

"Ah, childhood friend, then?" he asked, and he tried his best to force a smile across his lips; he really did. But it was so hard when his heart was threatening to bottom out his stomach.

"Do you not remember?" She shook her head slowly. "DG was betrothed to you, Glitch. She was betrothed to you since she was just a little girl."

Glitch choked on air. "M—me?"

"Yes, you. I thought you would remember something as important as this."

"No, I don't—I don't even—me?"

The queen took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair. "This will be quite the story."

And so Glitch stood up, and that heart, previously wallowing and thrumming painfully inside of him, was suddenly working quickly and gently. It was more unnerving than it was exciting or pleasant. "I should go and fetch DG. She'll never come inside if someone doesn't tell her to."

He left without saying goodbye, shoulders stiff, back straight, his fingers and toes feeling awfully numb.

He followed the path he assumed she took, through the dining hall, the kitchen, out into the study, and through the backyard to the balcony. And there she stood, face in her hands and leaning against the railing.

He approached her silently, flanking her left and giving a soft sigh. He could tell she knew he was there, but she didn't say anything, and neither did he.

After a while, Glitch smoothed his hands over said marble railing, staring fixedly out at the valley below. "Do you want to call it off?" he asked quietly. Before she could think to answer, he laughed awkwardly and self-consciously touched the silver zipper that held his skull closed. "I understand, really I do. Being married to a half-wit can't be the most attractive prospect—

"Oh, Glitch..."

"--and even then, when the Alchemists are gathered to finally return my brain...if it goes well... Well. Who's to say you'll even like that Ambrose chap? Marriage bonds are unbreakable in the O.Z., you know, and what woman would want to be stuck with a man she can't stand for the rest of her life? Really, I'll just--"

"Glitch."

"--stop talking now. Yes?"

It was then that he discovered that it was difficult to concentrate on being a gentleman and doing the right thing for a lady he cared for when said lady had pressed herself firmly against him from head to hip, face tucked into the crook of his neck and arms wrapped around his waist, fingers slipping beneath his shirt to touch skin.

What else could he do, but return the embrace and enjoy whatever contact she would grant him? He couldn't honestly expect her to want to marry him when she could barely stand to be in the same room at first. Even if he thought he would be the most perfect, caring, loyal husband possible, because DG was a wonderful woman and deserved no less than the absolute best--

"You're thinking too much." DG tightened her arms around him, which rubbed her against him in a very pleasant manner, but finally let go enough to peer up at him seriously. "I'm sorry I ran out like that, Glitch. I was just surprised, and this is such a huge commitment. We haven't even known each other that long, to be fair, at least not for something like this. I mean... marriage. Babies." Her eyes widened, "Do you even want kids? I love them, but I'm still young and shouldn't have to think about that yet and it's not like we've had a chance to talk about anything--" DG groaned and buried her face against his chest, hands clutching at the lapels of his jacket.

Unwilling to release her just yet, Glitch let one hand slide down to rest on her hip, the other smoothing a comforting path up and down her spine.

"I told you before, we don't have to marry if you don't want."

"But mother said--"

"Has that ever stopped you?"

"And it's against the O.Z.'s policies to--"

"That certainly doesn't matter."

She grabbed him tighter by the coat, looking frustrated beyond belief. "But you! What about you?"

He laughed. "My wants and needs aren't going to influence your decision, DG. Come on, listen. If you don't want to marry, if you think you're too young, then don't!" He released her in order to throw up his hands, smiling despite the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. "It's really as simple as that."

Her fists clenched, and her lower lip trembled.

Oh, dear.

"Glitch," she half-whined, and he could see all of those pent up anxieties, emotions, and strain well in her wide blue eyes. "I just don't know what to do!"

And there her head was again, pressed tight against that striped shirt of his. She sniffled and cried and hiccupped, and Glitch felt utterly useless.

His hands stayed hovered over her, his mouth half agape, occasionally stuttering some sentence he couldn't quite finish.

"I don't want to disappoint mother," she said, though she sounded muffled from the fabric of his shirt. "It's a royal ordinance that I marry you, even if it was an agreement made a long time ago. I don't want to violate a rule like that."

He patted her head awkwardly. "Oh, come on..." was really all he could think to manage, and he felt as stupid as ever. "Deege, come...come on..."

"This sucks," she said simply, and Glitch was inclined to agree. "Do you even remember why she was forcing me to marry you anyway?"

He flinched at the word "forced." It sounded so terrible when she put it that way, and really, it wasn't such a bad thought to entertain... "No, I...I can't remember for the life of me. I'm sorry."

She backed away from him, rubbing her eyes and keeping her head down. "I'll have to ask mother, then."

"DG, I told you, you don't have to--I mean--and the babies..." He huffed in disbelief after this.

She abruptly started crying again.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and he grimaced. "Oh...come on... Come on, doll."

Quite articulate, he was.

"Look, you know I would never let anyone f-force you into anything you didn't want, right? Not even the queen herself." Quite suddenly, Glitch started patting his pockets, and a moment later, he triumphantly pulled a soft cloth handkerchief from the breast pocket of his jacket.

"Here--" Grasping her chin gently with his free hand, he tilted her face up to his and clumsily began dabbing at her tear-soaked cheeks. "I never could stand to see you cry. Always broke my heart."

DG sniffled. "Really?"

"Really. Once, when you were five, your favorite doll got lost. Your mother and father were shut up in a meeting, so you came running to me instead. I do believe I almost had a panic attack, thinking you were injured."

A memory flashed, and DG gave a small laugh. "Lydia. You let me drag you around the grounds for half the morning until we finally found her in the orchard."

Encouraged at her lighter expression, Glitch added, "You were so happy."

"She was the best! No other little girl in the O.Z. had a doll that could sing," she replied proudly, finally cracking a smile. "I wonder what happened to her."

"Oh, I put her safely away in--" He cut off abruptly as the location slipped out of his grasp. Frustrated that his faulty memory had chosen that moment to act up, Glitch sighed heavily; just as he'd managed to cheer her up a bit, too...

A light tug on his scalp dragged him from his mental chastening-- DG was fondly twirling one of his frazzled curls around her finger. "I'm sure it'll come to you. I'm just glad you kept her safe for me."

"Here, now. Let's get you something to drink." Glitch tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "And don't worry. We'll think of something."

She smiled weakly, and then nodded her head. "Yeah, I'm sure we will."

"Until then," he continued, taking her by the crook of her arm and leading her back inside the castle, "we should probably get you some water, hmm? You don't look so good."

DG elbowed him gently in the ribs. "Such a charmer."

Glitch stuttered and backtracked, but finally gave up with a smile when she gave a small laugh. In the end, he ended up escorting her to the kitchens for the promised glass of water, and then finally back to her rooms when she pleaded off speaking with her mother again so soon. She needed more time to think it through, she'd said, then gave him a tight hug and a shy kiss on the cheek before darting into her room.

The journey back to his own rooms was mostly a blur, though he realized later that he must have been grinning like an idiot the entire way.


...tbc.