Brought this over from my Livejournal community. I own nothing -- I am merely a humble fangirl. Let the epic begin in its original format, free of commercial interruptions! -bow-
This began as general, then mutated into Cain/Glitch. Features everyone from Ahamo to Zero. Woo!
Had to re-format this for FF, because I am a tech-tard and didn't do it right the first time.
"What happens next?" DG's voice filled the chamber, breaking the relieved silence which had settled over all of them, as the twin suns of the O.Z. cast a dazzling glow over the panorama far beyond the tower in which they stood. She glanced questioningly towards the others around her, family and friends alike, for an answer.
"There's still a fight going on downstairs, kiddo." This came from Cain, who immediately pointed out the next step towards their victory. "We need to make sure the witch's people know that she's gone, and that it's time to surrender. I should get down to Jeb and his people."
"I'll help!" Glitch piped up brightly from where he stood near the tin man, nodding decisively as he jerked a thumb back towards the doors. "Let's go beat up some Longcoats, Cain."
The tin man's hand lurched out, catching a grip on a frayed sleeve just in time to yank the lank man to a stop before Glitch could rush out into the chaos down below. "Hold on there, headcase. You'd do better staying up here with these guys. I'll go by myself."
Cain found himself the focus of wide brown eyes, Glitch saddened by the prospect that he'd be left out. "But, Cain.. You're practically hopeless without me!"
"He's right, Glitch." DG agreed, bobbing her head in a sage nod when the absent-minded fellow looked her way. "You should stay up here with us. Cain can take care of himself just fine. Come here." With a small brimming smile, she held her hand out towards Glitch.
As if a switch had been thrown, Glitch's face lit up with a beaming smile, as he ambled over to take hold of DG's outstretched hand. The young woman's eyes shifted briefly to Cain, tipping him a wink to send him off to his task. She noted his look of relief as Glitch was successfully distracted from going into danger, the tin man nodding respectfully to the other members of the royal family before he left the room with a whisper of his duster.
Raw came over to stand nearby, the Viewer casting uncertain glances between the faces familiar to him and the faces which were not. The Queen and Ahamo stood together, arms loosely held around each other. He felt the range of emotions between them, bittersweet but warm. Azkadellia seemed dazed, still absorbing the situation, looking utterly lost standing by herself. Gently, Raw gave a subtle nudge to DG's elbow, nodding in that direction to direct her attention to her sister.
Casting her eyes in that direction, DG reached over her other hand, curling her fingers around Azkadellia's and delivering a comforting squeeze. "It's going to be okay, Az. We just have some adjusting to do. We'll manage it together."
The reassurance earned a smile out of the other woman, as Azkadellia echoed quietly. "Together." Her faint smile wavered tremulously, though it quickly changed as confusion washed over her lovely features, as the former dictator found her other hand being clasped and companionably shaken by the raggedy man standing at DG's side.
"Hi, I'm Glitch."
DG chuckled quietly, watching as Az's confusion softened back into a smile. It was nearly impossible to resist that sunny smile which lingered ever nearby on Glitch's mouth. Azkadellia's mouth opened, prepared to respond to the introduction, when a sudden thunderous sound exploded somewhere beneath them, accompanied by the distant sound of men shouting. As one, the group ran for the balcony outside, moving to look down and see what had developed.
One of the lower levels of the tower was billowing smoke, the sheer force of an explosion having ripped through the thick walls of the structure. Ahamo frowned down at the sight, twisting to look to the others. "What do you suppose caused this to happen?"
"Something just blew up." DG said in disbelief, wide eyes blinking down to where the hole belched out a fresh wave of flame and smoke.
"Was machine." Raw stated simply, his growling timbre tinged with his own slice of surprise. "Witch's machine. Sun machine."
DG blinked, then frowned darkly. Slowly, her and Raw turned their heads to look beside them, staring intently at the amazed headcase peering down at the spectacle below in wonder. The seconds ticked away, before Glitch's brown eyes swung up to blink back at them. "...Yes?"
"Your machine just blew up." DG pointed his attention back down to the smoke.
Glitch's mouth tugged down, forming a confused frown. "Did it? I wondered what all that commotion was. I thought it might have been Cain raising a ruckus."
The Queen caught their attention, her voice soft. DG noticed that her mother's lavender eyes had locked upon Glitch, as if becoming aware of him for the first time. "What machine are you speaking of?"
"The Sun Shiner." Glitch answered automatically, before pausing. "Sun Flower?"
"Sun Seeder." Raw inserted, trying to prompt their absent-minded friend.
Glitch's hand swung up in a snap, pointing at Raw. "That's what it is! Yes, the Sun Seeder. That sounds impress-"
"Ambrose?" The Queen had drifted away from Ahamo's side, placing a hand on the frayed sleeve of the headcase. Her pale eyes were studying him intently. That gaze lifted and settled on the metallic gleam of the zipper on the crown of his head.
Glitch's expression was polite, peering down at the other woman without recognition. Automatically, a brilliant smile stretched itself across his mouth. "Hi. I'm Glitch! On account that my synap-"
"It is you." The Queen murmured, eyes widening in shock. "My old friend... I feared what had happened to you, dear Ambrose. I did not expect... this."
With a darting gaze, Glitch looked quickly away from the Queen, focusing on DG. His smile had vanished completely, replaced instead by a mild desperation. It was clear that he knew that he should have some grasp of the situation, but was lacking that final thread of clarity to tie it all together. DG's gaze was solemn, reaching up a hand to his shoulder. "Glitch, this is my mother. The Queen. You were her advisor once, remember?"
"Oh." Glitch mumbled absently, instinctively accepting this as truth. There was a sudden shift in his eyes, before he focused more sharply, and DG saw the lucid sheen creep into his gaze as Glitch looked back to the Queen. He stared at her thoughtfully, his voice slipping out of him careful and soft. "Oh. Your Majesty... My apologies. It's all a bit foggy."
A sad yet understanding smile graced the Queen's features, as she curled her arm gingerly through his. "We have much to talk about, all of us. But let us see to the progress of our friends fighting below, and leave this place for a better environment." A shudder coursed through the structure around them, as the queen added more promptly, "And before the tower collapses around us, I should hope." Her other hand reached blindly behind her, taken automatically in Ahamo's grasp, who nodded his agreement.
"We have to make a detour first." Glitch reminded them, pulling away from the queen slightly to turn to DG. "We have to get my brain out of here. I don't want to dig me out of rubble later, or anything like that. If I were a genius inventor, I'd have made certain to include a fail-safe in the event of power failure. Backup generator or.. something." His hands waved airily around him.
"Sounds like a good idea to me." DG agreed hurriedly, waving an arm briskly through the air in the direction of the doors. "Let's rescue the grey matter and then hit the road home."
Communications went out immediately to Central City, ahead of their procession. The progress of their group was slow, considering the sheer number of rebels, royal family members and a brain in a tank that made the trip. By far, the last was the most delicate to transport, considering the frantic reaction of Glitch every time that tank even bubbled. It was nearly impossible to pry the man away from its side, so they allowed him to ride in the large covered cart that held their supplies and that important cargo.
They arrived at the gates late into the next evening, only to discover that the denizens of Central City were waiting for them. It seemed that they had come just in time for a celebration, as their arrival delivered the proof of their victory over the evil sorceress. There was more life to the city than DG could remember previously, and the shadow of the Longcoats were absent, leaving instead a vibrant spirit that was greatly infectious.
The Queen and her family were escorted directly to the capitol of the city, to convene with the officials there who found themselves abruptly freed of the witch's reign. There were politics to iron out, a world to rebuild, and the ashes of victory were still freshly settled over the land. But those caught up in the whirlwind took things as they had before; one foot in front of the other, a step at a time.
Cain took his turn in checking on Glitch, reaching up to pull himself into the back of the wagon. He took a moment to find his bearings, blinking around in the dim interior. His eyes swept around, dismissing the stacks of boxes, until landing on the very headcase that he'd been looking for.
Glitch was settled on the floor of the wagon next to the familiar large tank which housed his brain, having dozed off at some point in time during the trip. His limbs were splayed with an awkward grace, as if they'd come to rest without his control. The headcase was nestled close to the base, propped comfortably there, the metallic gleam of the zipper glinting with the rhythmic pattern of Glitch's slumbering breaths.
Unable to help a small smile, Cain stepped carefully around the obstacles of boxes as he approached the other man. He bent down, reaching a hand to clutch at Glitch's shoulder, shaking him gently awake. "Glitch. Glitch? Time to wake up."
Brown eyes fluttered open. Cain was able to watch the mental processes of Glitch as the man came to awareness. First came that initial flash, a glimmer of lucid light, that minute preview of the brilliant man that Glitch had once been. All too quickly did that shift, as the headcase languidly blinked himself awake, and there was nothing but confusion. Cain felt his face immediately soften, patiently waiting for the other to come around.
"Are we there?" Glitch asked at length, easing himself further upright with a lazy stretch of unfurling limbs. He didn't bother to stifle a yawn, which distorted his words as he continued to speak. "Did we get to the city yet, Cain?"
"Yeah, Glitch. We made it just fine." Cain answered with a nod, before raising his eyes up to the brain drifting in the tank. "Guess we better hurry up and get this secured somewhere."
Shifting his hand, he took a grip on Glitch's upper arm, pulling the man up to his feet just as Glitch turned his head to smile in the direction of the tank. "Yes. The tank's mobile independent generator should still function for at least another day or two, but I'd feel better getting it hooked back up to a stationary power source."
Cain responded with a grunt. "I'll get some of the men together to get it inside. Competent ones. I would hate for it to have traveled all this way only to get broken now."
A hand fluttered up to the tank, Glitch brushing the pads of his long fingers against the glass. He laughed, carefree. "That would make a mess of things. It would scatter my marbles even further!" Glitch laughed once again, as if something about this struck him as terribly funny, and patted the smooth surface of the tank like it would understand his joke.
Cain could have sworn that he saw the brain twitch, just barely. A bit disturbed, Cain pulled the smaller man along, drawing him away from the tank. If he allowed it, they probably would have stayed in there all night while Glitch shared jokes with his brain. "Come on, headcase. We need to go check in with the others. And try not to fall out of the wagon this t-"
The tin man could not even finish delivering the warning before Glitch went tumbling, treacherous feet not having stopped walking even when there was no more surface to walk on. Glitch squawked, arms pinwheeling, and Cain watched as the other spilled out of the wagon's opening to land in a graceless heap on the ground below. The impact made the tin man wince, before he gingerly climbed down to judge the amount of damage the headcase had done to himself this time.
Glitch's head popped up, face set in a frown. The look that he gave to Cain when the tin man pulled him up was mildly accusing, while Cain sheepishly brushed him off. "Gravity, Glitch. Gets ya everytime."
The celebrations of Central City stretched on for nearly a week, people pouring back in from all over the O.Z. once the news of the witch's downfall had spread across the kingdom. It was a festive time that had not been seen in several long annuals. None would have even dreamed of seeing such a celebratory era again. It ended with a large feast and ball, the unexpected gala thrown together last minute, and leaving its most honored guests scrambling to suit themselves appropriately.
DG made a face in the mirror, reaching down to clasp her hands against the front of her dress, the rich emerald satin falling in graceful waves around her. "Tell me that this dress doesn't show off too much cleavage. It's not like I'm a platter on display here. Couldn't they have gotten me something a little more.. I dunno.. not like this?" The woman turned in a whisper of swirling fabric, annoyed gaze seeking out her companions.
They were victims to formality, waiting idly by while the politicians and restored court members acted out their local traditions, which for some reason meant that each and every individual from the lowest point of government to the highest was announced to the masses gathered outside. Considering their current station as the heroes of the O.Z., they had already been waiting for over an hour now just to hear their names.
Raw shifted, uncomfortable. They'd put some silly laced vest on him, the material pale against the shining surface of his furred attire. Clean for the first time in a long while, the fur looked actually quite lovely in the lights that surrounded them. He murmured quietly, "DG must impress subjects. Many do not believe that you are truly here, and alive. They are excited. They are happy." He shrugged lightly, with a tiny smile, as if dismissing it all with amusement.
"I would think they could get a look at me without getting an eyeful." DG responded, tone of voice dour. She stalked in the direction of the doors, then had to stop as her foot came down on a fold of fabric. With an exasperated sigh, the young woman reached down and hitched the dress up out of her way, before shouldering the door open as far as it would go, considering that there was someone standing outside blocking it. "Psst! Cain! Are they past the town mayors?"
One blue eye twisted back, as Cain looked back to the princess over his shoulder. The tin man had stationed himself outside, keeping the masses of curious onlookers from coming inside to steal glances of the famous princess. Though the court dressers had made a valiant effort, they could not get the stubborn ex-cop into anything more fanciful than his own sturdy slacks and shirt. Cain reached up to his hat, tilting it further down over his eyes as he leaned back towards the door to whisper quietly to DG. "I think they're finally up to governors. Still got time. Those harpies return Glitch yet?"
DG couldn't help a smirk at Cain's title for the royal clothiers. "Not yet. We may need to send out a search party in the next five minutes. Or maybe they just decided to keep him."
Cain's arms slid into a fold, the shadow of his hat concealing some of his scowl in response to her words. He had made his opinion of those clothiers apparent when they had tried to swamp him with lace and velvet, his adamant refusal to let them put him in that "frilly trash" had nearly led to violence between the stoic tin man and the flamboyant dressers. DG's intervention and Glitch's charm had succeeded in preventing the clash of bullets and scissors, before the clothiers turned their attention to the matter of the former advisor. Of course, for whatever reason, their intent focus and handling of Glitch had managed to rile Cain's temper back up, so the operation of getting Glitch into presentable attire had been taken to an adjoining room. Upon hearing that the headcase was still at the mercy of the clothiers, Cain looked ready to abandon his post and go see exactly what was taking so long.
Fortunately, the side door clicked softly open, Glitch's head sticking through the opening to blink in at the others. "Are they ready for us?"
"No, Glitch. Come on in, though." DG beckoned him inside from where she stood at the door, Cain stepping on into the room and shutting them all inside. She ignored his dirty look as she added teasingly. "Cain was worried about you, so you better show him that all your limbs are intact."
"Everything is accounted for, Cain!" Glitch volunteered cheerfully, as he slipped into the room with them. He raised both hands up, lengthy fingers wriggling to show that all of his inventory appeared to be there. It was surprising to see him in something that wasn't frayed or patched. They had fit him in clothes similar to the raggedy old uniform familiar to them, the silver braiding and black fabric looking far too fine for their absent-minded friend. "Though I nearly got my fingers into knots trying to tie these. They helped me get everything put in place, though."
"I'll bet they did." Cain said gruffly, grunting as Glitch pounced onto his left arm with a broad grin. "Wonder how long it'll take for you to get all those fancy buttons and ties all messed up."
Raw chuckled softly from his place nearby, coming to stand with DG. He gently prodded at the intact shoulder of Glitch's jacket, testing the fabric for himself. "Glitch look more like old self. Look like portrait in ice palace."
"You think so?" Glitch asked, releasing his absent hold on Cain in order to stretch both hands up to dance his fingers over the buttons. He became absorbed in staring at their shiny surfaces, transfixed. Then something fired internally, as he blurted abruptly. "I didn't let them cut my hair, Cain."
Cain nodded approvingly. "That's good, Glitch."
The double doors quietly opened, a uniformed attendant stepping tentatively inside, bowing stiffly at the waist before addressing them. "Your highness, excellency and honored guests, we will be needing you shortly for your introductions."
"It's about time." DG drawled, reaching up both hands to adjust the corset of her dress with less than ladylike grace. "Let's get this over with so I can take this thing off. I don't know how the hell Az does it everyday."
"Let's go party!" Glitch bounded ahead of them, getting swept up in his excitement. "I wonder if they'll have dancing? I hope there will be dancing! Do you think we're invited?" The headcase swung the doors open wide, and when he turned back, DG saw that the neat braids of his jacket were already unsettled. She opened her mouth to mention it, yet they found themselves having to hurry to catch up, since the energetic man had already vanished.
"...and so she says, 'If that's a bullweavel, then I'm a raging kerpellin!'" Glitch finished with a cheerful flourish, laughing merrily at his joke.
DG and Cain exchanged a look between them, before the former murmured pleasantly to the headcase. "Great punchline, Glitch, but.. ah.. how does it start?"
"How does what start?" Glitch asked her curiously, twisting back and forth within the cluster of people who were gathered around them. They were drinking nervously from the delicate crystal glasses in their hands, a few of them clearing their throats.
The response of these strangers to Glitch was mild. It was hard to get used to the disjointed behavior of the headcase, though his charming mannerisms had won a few of them over to him by now. DG dealt diplomatically with the rest, prompting Glitch gently. "The joke you just told. How does it start? You said the punchline, but didn't set up the joke."
Glitch lowered his glass away from his mouth. He'd been intending to drink from it all evening since they'd put it in his grasp, but it seemed that something was always distracting him away. "Did I?" He thought about it, the effort clearly etched over his features. "Hm. I honestly don't remember. But it must have been a good one, if I can recall the punchline!"
DG found her attention pulled away, the Queen beckoning to her out of the corner of her eye. She smiled politely to the crowd, eyes touching last on Glitch and Cain. "Excuse me, if you would. My mom's calling me over. You boys behave yourselves." With a parting wink, the princess swept over towards where the Queen, Ahamo and Azkadellia stood amongst a cluster of courtiers.
With her departure, a few of those gathered around them parted from their company, though the more admiring female courtiers lingered close at hand, one in particular taking interest in chatting up Wyatt Cain. "So is it true that you were a Tin Man, Mister Cain?"
Another girl piped up, excitedly. "Did you ever have to fire a gun?"
Cain took a heavy swig of the contents in his glass, trying to maintain his composure amongst the barrage of questions. "Ah, yeah. Er, yes to both questions."
As he stood there, stiff and uncomfortable, Glitch had already begun to shift his weight against the larger man, easing into a lazy lean against Cain's shoulder. "He shot a mobat once, right out of the air. And I think he wrestled with a frenzied mountain lion during our travels, or maybe I just think that he should have." The headcase smiled to himself, fingers coming up to stroke at his chin as he tried to puzzle out which it was. "He snores like a bear."
"Thanks, Glitch." Cain rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
Soft music swelled up to fill the room, an orchestra having indeed been brought in to play. The crowd shifted automatically in response, clearing off the dance floor at the signal of the waltz. Stepping out onto the open space, the Queen and Ahamo moved together, first to grace the floor with their dance. They moved perfectly in time, gazes locked, through the steps of the waltz, while the crowd around them looked on. Up on the dias, DG and Azkadellia stood together, watching their parents dance with warm smiles, the hands of the young women entwined.
As the music continued, more couples began to fill the floor, joining the dancing pair. The dance floor came alive with the bright fabrics of dresses, and the fine attire of their gentlemen partners. Cain had little interest in their dancing, though the sight of the Queen and Ahamo together made something twist inside him. He tried to ignore it, turning his focus instead towards the one beside him, as Glitch began to hum along with the music of the waltz, bumping shoulders with Cain as he swayed in time with the song. "Why don't you ask one of these nice ladies to dance, Glitch?"
The women who lingered nearby exchanged glances, before looking from Cain to Glitch. A pretty redhead thinned her lips, Cain not missing the passing of her eyes up to the telltale zipper. The tin man clapped his friend on the back, as Glitch warmed up to the idea with a sweet smile. "You think, Cain?"
"Of course." The tin man insisted. "Glitch here is a remarkable dancer, ladies. Better try him out before he disappears." Cain gestured the redhead over, as Glitch stuck his hand out to her. "Hi. I'm Glitch."
Smiling tentatively, she put her hand carefully into Glitch's, casting a last look to her friends. "Er, hello. My name is Rose. We're second cousins twice-removed."
"How wonderful!" Glitch declared with a nod, guiding her in the direction of the floor. "We have something in common already."
Cain watched as they moved out to join the dancers. Glitch was radiant with delight, guiding his reluctant partner into the waltz without missing a step. Never having been one to dance, Cain could only guess that he did well, comparing him to the others that moved around the floor. A hand settled on his arm, tearing away his attention from where Glitch was dancing. Cain blinked at the young woman who had touched him, a pale eyebrow lifting quizzically. "Yes?"
"Would you care to dance with me, Mister Cain?" She asked sweetly, the attempt to win him over with a smile quite obvious.
"Sorry, ma'am. I don't dance." Cain said with an apologetic smile. He tipped his hat politely to her, before murmuring. "Excuse me, ladies, if you would."
Then the tin man bid a quick retreat, slipping through the crowd of those not participating in the dancing. He found Raw seated at a table and steered himself in that direction. "Hey, Raw. Not going to dance with the pretty ladies?"
"Raw not dance." The viewer shook his head. "Dance would put Raw too close to others. Might touch too many people. Might see too much at once. Raw eat food instead." He pointed Cain's attention down the table, where several plates sat, piled high with different meats, vegetables and sweets. Raw's smile was indulgent. "Much better than dancing."
"I believe it." Cain nodded. "If anyone comes looking for me, let them know that I stepped out for some fresh air. I'll check back in soon."
Raw stuffed a handful of grapes into his mouth, winking up at the man. "Will tell DG and Glitch after dinner."
With a look of gratitude, Cain's icy gaze moved over the crowd, before the tin man turned and headed in the direction of the doors, and hopefully five minutes without anyone else pestering him to dance.
Cain was reluctant to return inside, finding the quiet of the outside much more to his liking than the crowded ballroom. So he made slow progress in getting back. Opening the door to step in, the tin man found himself abruptly collided into as the exit unleashed a flash of shining buttons and black fabric. Cain grunted as they impacted, hands rising automatically to catch hold of Glitch as the headcase stumbled backwards, Cain's chest bouncing the lanky man off-balance. "Woah there, Glitch! Easy."
"S-s-sorry. Ss-sorry, Cain." Glitch stammered.
"Lucky you didn't trip over yourself." Cain murmured, ignoring the unnecessary apology. He frowned, blinking. "Glitch? You okay?"
The man nodded his head quickly, then shook it just as violently. Cain's fingers absorbed the sensation of Glitch trembling, and it occurred to the tin man quite abruptly that his friend was crying. Glitch swallowed thickly, his voice struggling to stay light even when choked on tears. "What makes you think that anything's wrong?" He attempted a laugh, but that was also strained by emotion. "Sorry, Cain. I have to go. Have to go. Have to--" He'd managed to work himself into glitching, a sharp shake of his head forcing him to clear. "Sorry."
Cain found his hands abruptly emptied, as Glitch lithely twisted free of his grasp, taking off quickly across the courtyard. Cain blinked after him. What the hell had just happened?
The doors opened again, shortly after Glitch had disappeared, DG rushing out with Raw close behind. Her face was flushed red, knuckles white where she had her dress held in fists. Cain could see that she was furious, eyes burning. He wondered, vaguely, if Glitch had done something horrible. "Where's Glitch?"
"Easy, princess." Cain held his hands up in the air, trying to calm her down. If DG's wrath were directed at the headcase, he couldn't give an answer out of loyalty to the man. "What did Glitch do that got you in such a fit?"
"Not Glitch." Raw said with a shake of his head.
"No," DG agreed, her head shaking roughly in her anger, "not Glitch. Glitch didn't do anything wrong. It was those... those... those people!" She spat out, stamping her foot in frustration. "Some of Ambrose's stuffy old pals. They made poor Glitch feel like a fool, tearing him down like that."
"Ambrose's friends insulted Glitch?" Cain scowled.
"They came over when he joined Raw at his table." DG explained. "Apparently they wanted to catch up on old times. They got all offended when Glitch couldn't remember them. They laughed at him, Cain. Those snotty royal pains in the asses! He got so upset that it made him start to misfire like crazy. By the time I got over there, Glitch was already worked up. He took off before I could stop him. Raw and I figured that he came this way."
"DG yelled very loud at friends of Ambrose." Raw was looking at the girl with awe as he said it. "Raw think that Ambrose friends not come around her again."
"Not if they know what's good for them." DG huffed.
Cain sighed. "DG, you calm down, go back inside, and do your princess duties. The Queen will be looking for you. Raw and I will go find Glitch."
"But--!" DG's protest was cut off with a sweep of his hand, the tin man's face firming up. "Get back in there, kiddo. We'll find him. I promise."
Though it looked like she would have preferred to do anything but go back, DG relented with a resigned sigh. Grumbling under her breath, the young woman spun around and stomped through the opened doors, returning inside. Raw watched her go, then peered up into Cain's face. "DG worried for Glitch. Raw worried for Glitch, too."
Cain was already moving in the direction that Glitch had disappeared, hoping that the headcase hadn't gotten too far ahead of them. If his luck was any good -- and Cain found that his luck was sometimes pretty damn good -- then Glitch had probably already gotten lost, so there wouldn't be much progress made. "Glitch'll be okay. He has been through worse and come out of it just fine."
Raw followed closely behind him, hands winding together absently. "Not sure. Hard to tell with Glitch. Glitch resourceful. Glitch survivor. But Glitch most fragile."
"I've seen Glitch put down Longcoats like they were swamp reeds." Cain argued, eyes searching the area as they crossed the courtyard. "He is the least fragile guy I know, Raw."
"Not physical. Fragile heart." Raw's words came slowly, trying to express himself as clearly as he could in his broken language. "Cain think with brain, like DG and Raw. Brain help keep our hearts safe. We think, more than we feel. Glitch not protected. Glitch cannot think, so Glitch feels. He feels and feels, and does not know to turn off his heart. Glitch feel so much that it sometimes hurts Raw to be near him." The viewer was also searching, and Cain guessed it was probably with senses far sharper than his own. Raw's gift would help him find the headcase if their eyes could not.
Cain reluctantly agreed that there was some truth to Raw's insight. He recalled the few times that he'd insulted Glitch, or barked too sharply, or treated him too gruffly. Cain could clearly picture the headcase's face in his head during those moments, when those big brown eyes would turn deep with sadness, like an abused animal, making Cain always regret whatever he had done to make them look that way. Glitch, who expressed every range of emotion without keeping them in check. Glitch laughing uncontrollably at the play of sunlight on leaves, or flailing dramatically with irritation, or smiling in that way of his which spoke entirely of inner peace, of love for the world around him, with an understanding and appreciation of its beauty that the jaded minds of those with full brains were too poisoned to relish. Lastly, Cain's mind pulled up the image of Glitch, hovering inches above his face, as pale and somber as Cain had ever seen him, those eyes reflecting concern and the ghosted fragments of a sharp intelligence which had saved Cain's life, looking desperate for someone to tell him that everything was going to be okay.
It brought Cain's strides to a stop, as he regarded Raw behind him. "You know, Raw.. You might be right."
Raw's face was solemn but understanding, as he lifted a hand up to Cain's shoulder. His other hand stretched past the tin man, pointing in the direction of the storage house nearby. "Cain will be able to help him. Glitch understand Cain."
"He's in there?" Cain thumbed towards the doors. "Are you coming with me?"
Raw shook his head, hands clasping together in front of his stomach. "Right now, Glitch feeling too much. Raw will be of no help. Will wait here for you."
Cain let out a long breath, reaching for the door. Out of all the people who could walk in there and set Glitch right, they expected him to do it? They were definitely sending the wrong guy for the mission.
Cain's voice echoed back to him in the wide space of the warehouse, as the tin man made his way further inside. He still could not fathom why Raw had decided he was best to handle the headcase's emotional condition. Out of them all, Cain figured he was the least suited to matters of the heart. Or, in Glitch's case, complete momentary emotional breakdown, as it usually went.
He gravitated naturally towards the glowing green light in the room, where the alchemists had attached the tank with Glitch's brain inside the warehouse until there could be some conclusion as to whether it could find a permanent residence back in its rightful brain pan. Cain's instincts guided him to the location of the device, certain that he'd find Glitch there.
Instinct had never failed him before. It didn't now, either.
Cain found Glitch standing in front of the tank, focused upon the contents. Both of Glitch's palms were pressed flat to the glass, and as Cain looked on, that zippered head lowered forward, Glitch pushing his forehead up to the smooth surface, as if willing that brain to return back into his head like magic. Glitch's fingers splayed, before curling loosely into fists. He did not turn back to Cain, but the tin man realized that the other man knew he was there, especially when Glitch's voice floated back to him. "I didn't expect it to become so complicated, you know."
"With getting your brain back?" Cain came to stand nearby, eyes fixed on the headcase. Looking at the brain for too long made him jittery, so he did his best to ignore its presence.
"Yeah." Glitch responded softly, the zipper scraping against the glass as he nodded. "I mean, really. The Queen wants it, and the kingdom needs it, and it's the most logical step towards getting things back to how they used to be before the bad times, but I.." He shook his head, scraping the glass again with the motion. "I didn't expect to ever find it, and most of the time it never occurred to me that I SHOULD try to find it since I was having so much fun at being me, and the rest of the time I just... just..." Dark eyes slid open, Glitch raising his head from the glass to blink over at Cain in surprise. "Cain! Fancy meeting you here!" His eyes locked back ahead of him, as the man realized that he was standing in front of his brain, and Glitch laughed. "Fancy meeting me here, too, I guess. Was I lost again?"
Cain shook his head in answer. "Do you remember Ambrose's friends from the gala?" Cain's fingers clenched and unclenched at his sides. Part of him hoped that Glitch at least remembered their faces for later, when they got back to the party.
"Friends...?" Glitch echoed vaguely, before he huffed sharply. "They were no friends of Ambrose. More like rivals. Ambrose didn't have friends -- but he sure did have a lot of enemies. I guess being super smart and highly important put him in a lonely position." He patted the glass reassuringly. "That, and the fact that he was a bit of a snob. Couldn't help it, though, I'm sure. Trained to be like that from birth. Like sharks."
"No doubt." Cain said. Sensing that the other was about to drift away on a tangent, he prompted Glitch back on subject. "Those people who knew Ambrose upset you, then? You came tearing outside like a papay was on your heels. DG and Raw are pretty worried."
Glitch reached a hand up, scratching at the back of his head with a frown. "I didn't mean to worry them. Were you worried, too?" His eyes searched Cain's face.
The question was unexpected. Cain took it with a stammering grace. "Me, what? Oh. Ah, yeah. Yeah, guess I was worried. I worry about you the most. You get into trouble more than you get out of it. Running around the city in a fit probably would have ended up in a major catastrophe."
Cain wondered why his half-comfort, half-insult won such a smile out of the headcase. Glitch's eyes were still red-rimmed, but now they were warm as if sadness had never touched them. The next second, Cain found himself getting jumped at, as Glitch threw deceptively scrawny arms around his neck in a clumsy embrace. "Er.."
"You worry about me most? That makes me so happy, Cain. I like that you worry about me." Glitch gushed, words rushing out hurriedly. "I don't worry for me half as often as I should, you know."
As the hug continued, Cain moved stiffly, trying to figure out what exactly he should do in this position. Sure, it was one thing to get hugs from DG, and another to exchange hugs with Jeb. Yet Cain could not for the life of him recall any time where he had been embraced by a man that wasn't kin. He reached both hands up, awkwardly patting at Glitch's back, while the headcase cooed delightedly.
Finally, Cain decided that it was probably okay for Glitch to hug him. After all, Glitch behaved not too far off from a child at times, so Cain reasoned that being clutched at by Glitch was like how he used to be hugged by Jeb when his son was a little boy. He shifted his hold, bringing Glitch closer to his chest, giving him a more proper embrace, feeling the tensions play through the flighty muscles of the headcase. Glitch clung to him as Jeb had when the boy had been afraid, fingers flexing themselves in the fabric of Cain's shirt, or like Adora had, during those tense days before the Longcoats raided their cabin.
When Glitch started kissing him, that was just like Adora, too. Tentative and sweet, lips softer than the downy feathers of their blank--wait, what? Cain's mind swam back to the present, as he came to realize that he currently had Glitch's mouth locked to his, and the headcase was practically purring. Shifting his grip, Cain quickly took hold of the other man and pushed him back a bit, frowning in confusion and more than a little shock.
Glitch blinked as well, looking just as surprised by it as Cain. The headcase's lips, a little redder than before, worked silently as they tried to shape words, yet nothing came out. A hand reached up to cover Glitch's mouth, as he broke his paralyzed silence, speaking that word that had been skipping out of him all night long. "Sorry. I'm sorry, Cain. I didn't mean to.. Please don't kill me."
"I'm... not going to kill you, Glitch." Cain spoke slowly, the words dragging out of him as his mind tried to twist around what just happened.
The headcase stepped backwards, leaving Cain's hands emptied, as Glitch continued talking, slapping at the tops of his hands as he berated himself. "I won't blame you if you decide to knock my head off. That was rude of me, terribly inappropriate! Sometimes my body gets ahead of my brain and I do silly, silly things."
Cain grew exasperated. "Glitch. I said that I wasn't going to kill you, and I am not going to hurt you. You said that you didn't mean to do it." He cleared his throat, turning away from the tank. "Let's... just get back inside. DG'll be a mess until she sees that you're okay."
Glitch nodded in relief, hurrying to catch up as the ex-cop began to leave him behind, hand clumsily saluting. "Of course, Cain. Whatever you say."
They went outside to find Raw lingering nearby, the viewer greeting them both with a smile. Glitch bounded out ahead of Cain, then allowed them to take the lead as Cain headed their trio in the direction of the celebration. Glitch immediately fell into conversation with Raw, which suited Cain just fine. He was still stuck on minutes before, when he found himself getting kissed by a headcase, and was trying desperately to shake the nagging feeling in his brain which told him that it had felt pretty damn good. Cain needed to do something to ground himself back to reality. When all else failed, there was always violence. "Hey, Glitch? Think you could remember those guys that were harassing you earlier? I think I'd like to talk to them.."
The royal family received the news from Central City's alchemists nearly a week later. They were firmly convinced that they could restore Ambrose's brain to his head with only a minor chance for complications. It was welcomed news to the Queen, considering that the efforts to restore the kingdom were moving at a slow pace without the brilliant, effortless coordination that had been weilded by the kingdom's genius in the past. DG announced the news to Glitch over breakfast when they were all gathered together.
"Wonderful news." Glitch had responded cheerfully as he smeared butter onto his toast. He spoke jovially for the remainder of the meal, regaling Ahamo and the Queen with half-remembered stories of their travels, and sending most of them into fits of laughter before finally excusing himself from the table.
Cain, observant as ever, was the only one to notice that Glitch had not eaten one bite of the food on his plate. The cold slice of toast sat, untouched and thick with butter, where Glitch had abandoned it after DG's announcement.
He considered tailing after the headcase to ask Glitch about it. However, there were duties to perform, a kingdom to rebuild, and despite that itching feeling which told him he should have pried, Cain became too thoroughly swept up in the waves of restoration.