Through the poorly lit corridors something slithered, consuming the small amount of light left with thick tendrils of shadow. The darkened form lacked any particular shape as it meandered through the underground tinging everything in its path with a feeling that wasn't quite death, but a lack of life. It eventually made its way to the Mystic Man's feet, seemingly curling into a comfortable pose as the old man grinned and reached down to stroke what one could only assume was the creature's head.


Neither Cain nor Ambrose were able to sleep well throughout the night. It pained Cain to think that while the night had brought nothing but fitful slumber and tears for Ambrose, it was most likely the best sleep the man had gotten since the operation. As Wyatt lay next to the advisor, he stared at the ceiling watching the approaching morning as it began to light the room bit by bit.

Ambrose had been asleep for almost two hours without incident and during that time had rolled over onto Cain's arm which he had unconsciously been laid out across the bed at some point during the night. This had effectively pinned Cain to the mattress (unless it was his intention to awaken the other man, which he did not plan to do any time soon). Cain watched Ambrose's chest rise and fall with each breath and slowly drifted off into his own world of dreams.


A low scratching noise, metal on metal. The taste of time lingers on tongue and gums. Stench of darkness is rancid. Something crawling, clawing, trying to break in.

One and one is two, two and two is four, four and four is eight, eight and eight is... sixteen, sixteen and sixteen is... is... sixteen and sixteen is... damn. One and one is two, two and two is four, four and five, six, seven, eight, nine kittens in a tree, one climbs down and scratches me... scratches, something is scratching outside. It wants to eat me, boil and broil, skin alive and pick apart my limbs.

I'm hungry. Ah no, what else? What else? Horses, running in a field. Running running running, green grass and a picket fence. Had a horse once as a kid, her name was Pistol, beautiful creature... strong and big... would have been good smoked over a... no...

One and one is two, two and two is...


Cain woke up from his nightmare with a start, hand quickly darting to his brow to wipe off a bit of sweat. After taking a moment to recall his surroundings it occurred to him that the hand had originally been beneath something, or rather someone. Ambrose was no where to be seen and Cain became more alert in hopes of finding hint of where the other man may have gone off to. Still a bit groggy from sleep Cain nearly missed the sound of the main door clicking open as Ambrose walked in with an expressionless face and a tray filled with food and drinks. He placed the tray on a desk before walking out the door again and entering seconds after with another similarly full tray.

"Apparently someone thought that we may be hungry. The servant that brought the food put it in front of the door, knocked and scrambled away." Ambrose lightly sniffed the tray of food and crinkled his nose in disgust before setting the tray down next to the first. He did however take the cup of tea from the tray and prepared it to his tastes, which Cain noticed was two and a half teaspoons of sugar and a drop of honey.

"How kind of them. Do I even want to know how they knew where I was?"

"You mumble in your sleep, you know. I tried to wake you but the door... did you know dreams are longer in our unconscious minds than in conscious time?" Ambrose looked as if he had meant to apologize for leaving Cain to wake up alone, but failed.

"Mm, the taste was horrible." Cain sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"What? They say that you're not supposed to be able to taste in your dreams."

"First of all, that makes no sense. How would any one else be able to tell me what I can and can't do in my dreams. Second of all, I have many times. Oh, and that thing about dying in real life if you die in your sleep, really not true." Standing up, Cain went straight to his breakfast, grabbed a fork and knife and started shoveling eggs and ham into his mouth.

Ambrose frowned. "I wonder, if you die in real life than do you die in your dreams?".

Wyatt caught himself before attempting to even contemplate the question, knowing that it would most likely lead to his eyes becoming crossed in confusion. "Let's not experiment with that one please."

"You know what they say, curiosity killed the cat." Ambrose grinned.

Cain rolled his eyes. "My point exactly."

"Me-ow." Ambrose didn't bother to look up from the cup of his tea he held as he clawed the air with his free hand. He let a full minute pass before looking up at Cain and soaked in the utter look of befuddlement on the blond's face and in return grinned with childish glee.

Wyatt shook his head in what appeared to be an attempt to rattle his brain into prompting basic motor functions.


Zero glared at the shadowed beast as it seemed to rhythmically hump his leg. "I think it likes me. I'm... not really sure if I should be grateful or not."

"If it helps in the least, its particular species eats its mate after procreating." The Mystic Man continued to walk down the corridor, not allowing the distraction to hinder his steps and causing the man he spoke with to struggle to keep up.

"So... it either wants to mate with me and kill me or it wants to... well... kill me. Am I getting this correct?" Zero was positive that neither of the two options appealed to his liking.

"Pretty much, yes. I advise not pissing it off." The warning itself was sincere.

"Shit. I don't suppose you'd be kind enough to tell it to... oh, I don't know... not kill me?" Zero tried to concentrate on keeping his stride rather than attempting to shake the thing off of him.



They had packed as much as they could carry without hindering their travel. Now it was time to say their goodbyes. Both men shook hand with Ahamo, both gave a warm hug to DG, Cain removed his hat and bowed to Azkadellia and Ambrose lightly kissed her hand. The Queen, on the other hand, had different plans for her farewell. Grabbing her advisor by the collar, she pulled him close and whispered into his ear for what seemed to be a few minutes. He responded every once in a while with a nod or a grin and towards the end a look of slight confusion that resulted in a hissing whisper of his own. By the end of their conversation the Queen looked absolutely content with herself and Ambrose continued to eye her warily with one brow raised.

The majestic woman then turned towards Wyatt. As he raised his hand to remove his hat to recreate his previous gesture to the oldest princess, the Queen raised her hand to stop him. "Come now, it's your turn Mister Cain."

Cain froze for a moment before looking to Ambrose and then to the rest of the royal family and back to Ambrose. None of them were able to offer any help. Wyatt stepped forward and allowed the woman to take hold of his hand, pulling him slightly farther away from the group than she had Ambrose.

"Your majesty?" He hoped that this was some sort of pep-talk and not a "Don't get my Ambrose Killed" speech.

"Dearest Cain, I'm trusting you not to get yourself killed. Ambrose has taken to you and it's just so hard to find decent friends for him these days." Cain attempted to protest but was quickly silenced. "Hush child, don't argue with your queen. I know what you're thinking. You think that the man that you had originally met as a head case is in dire need of protecting. I'll have you know, he's been protecting much more than you could ever imagine and he has been doing it for quite some time now." She paused and seemed to be waiting for a response.

"I know he's made sacrifices and he's done a lot to protect the Outer Zone and your family. He's just been through a lot recently. He's strong, but he's not invulnerable." Wyatt wasn't sure if he should have added a 'pardon' in there somewhere, but he never was the one to talk to royalty.

"My dear, the man did more than make a few sacrifices, he gave up everything. He could have killed himself you know. Would have saved himself a lot of misery and it would have kept the Sun Seeder out of the hands of the Witch. He didn't because he knew there would be a better chance of fixing everything if he just kept himself alive. Consider this, it takes a lot more effort to keep yourself alive than it does to let yourself die. He could have had a peaceful death with his brain and sanity still whole. None of us would have thought worse of him. He refused to give up."

Cain had been constantly trying to avoid this exact line of thought. The fact that the Queen herself had decided to bring it up made him aware of how important of a piece of Ambrose's personality he'd been blocking from himself. As he was lost in his thoughts his attention was abruptly brought back to the woman before him as she coughed politely.

"I have one last bit of advice for you before you go Wyatt Cain. When you have a moment to yourself you should really take the time to analyze just which one of you has been saving the other."

At those final words she ushered Cain back towards Ambrose. The advisor watched him with a gentle look of concern. Cain pursed his lips and glared, causing Ambrose to give an abrupt laugh and a strong pat on Cain's shoulder. "Come on, Tin Man. It's time to go."


"I think it laid eggs in my boot. While I was wearing it." Zero's nose crinkled in disgust.

"It's a male... I don't think that those are eggs..." The Mystic Man looked on with amusement as Zero's upper lip curled even closer towards flaring nostrils.