Tin Horses and Paper Planes

Chapter 2 - Where Things Are Lost, and Found, and Lost Again

"It wasn't a regular glitch." Wyatt exhaled, frustrated, and tried to remember that this man was a guest of the Queen and that thumping him in the ear wasn't the kind of behaviour they encouraged at the palace. "I've seen enough of 'em to know. Sure, he's forgetful, and he couldn't find his way out of a room with one door. And there's the pally... whatever you called it-"

"Palilalia," the doctor interjected smoothly, although the ex-Tin Man's manner was beginning to disrupt his carefully-manufactured display of unruffled calm. "The involuntary repetition of a word or sent-"

"Glitches." Wyatt cut him off firmly. "That's what he calls them, so let's stick with that. The point is, I've seen it happen a hundred times, and maybe he doesn't always laugh it off, but he doesn't get rattled the way he was last night." You didn't see him. He was lost "Just take a look at him, will you? Maybe he'll be fine this morning, but if his head's still hurting him you could at least give him something to help. That's what you're here for, isn't it?"

"Actually, I was invited as a representative of the Medical branch of the Centr-" Wyatt ignored him, striding ahead towards Glitch's door, where he knocked gently. As far as he was concerned, a doctor was a doctor, and they didn't get to dictate when people needed them. When there was no answer, he pushed the door open and peered inside.

"Glitch... you still asleep?" Which was a silly question, now he came to think about it, but he wanted to give the zipperhead a chance to gather his scattered wits before the doctor caught up. Receiving neither a 'no' or - and with Glitch, it seemed equally likely - a 'yes', Wyatt entered cautiously and pulled the curtains back; the comfortable little parlour was just as he'd left it and there was no sound from the room beyond. Still sleeping, he told himself, but without conviction. He'd learned to trust his intuition and right now it was telling him things were not as they should be. With a growing sense of misgiving, he went through the carved wooden arch.

He hadn't closed the bedroom curtains the night before, and now early morning light was gleaming on the windowpanes, hazing the still-cool air outside, and presenting him with an unrivalled view of an empty bed. There were signs Glitch had moved around in the night; the bedclothes had been stirred up and now occupied the centre of the bed in a tangled nest of pillows and counterpane, a single half-eaten apple core lurking like a hidden treasure amidst the swirl of linen and silk.

"Seems as if he's up and about, then." Wyatt didn't jump, but he turned sharply, scowling at the doctor's tone of unconcern. His foot brushed against something and he looked down, then crouched, searching the floor beneath the bed.

"With just one shoe?" He held up the footwear, bereft of its sibling. "The Gl- the Ambrose that I know might be addled, but he knows how to dress himself. Come on, we need to find him."

The doctor drew himself up, disgruntled. "Now just hold on a minute. I came to see this headcase of yours as a favour to the queen. I'm not heading off on some wild goose cha-" He faltered as Wyatt took a step closer.

"We need to find him. You're gonna help me." He held the doctor's gaze, suppressing a desire to shake him. "You can go complain to the queen later if you want." And see where that gets you, you jumped-up little sawbones.

The search was over sooner than Wyatt had expected. Large though the palace was, a zipperhead wandering around in a single shoe was unlikely to escape notice for long, and it was only five minutes after he and the doctor had parted company - Wyatt to follow the servants' stairs down the kitchens in case Glitch had gone searching for breakfast, and the doctor to investigate the more opulent surroundings of the palace proper - that a guard hurried up to him.

"You're looking for the h- for the queen's advisor, aren't you?" Wyatt nodded. "He's outside, just down by the drop-off from the East wall. By the water, you know?"

"Show me."

He followed the guard down a flight of stairs, which were neither grand nor ornate, but well-lit and warm, and out through a side door. Here, a short path ran the length of a walled herb garden and out onto a walkway overlooking the lake. A little further ahead, he could see a lawn edged with white stones, the edge dropping away several feet to the water. It was hard to believe that this had all been hidden beneath a thick carpet of snow only a year before; the manicured areas of grass, artfully mixed with careless patches of wildflowers, looked unreal in the bright sunslight, like a stage waiting for the actors to arrive. And there, a few feet from the pale stones, was Glitch.

He was barefoot, a shoe clutched in his hand as if it was a letter he was going to deliver. Slowly, he criss-crossed the same small patch of grass over and over again, his gaze fixed on the ground.

Wyatt edged a little closer, ready to dart forward should Glitch look as if he was veering too close to the edge. "Hello," he murmured, then suppressed a sharp gasp of dismay as Glitch looked round at him blankly, pain written clearly in the huge, dark circles that bruised the skin under his eyes, darker still against his ghastly pallor. He pointed at the ground beside him.

“This was where I found it. I-I know it was.”

Found what? But it didn't take a Tin Man to see the significance of the spot. Wyatt glanced up at the palace windows, wondering exactly which one he'd crashed through a year ago. There were no signs of the damage now, of course. A window was easily fixed - it was people that were the problem. A flicker of colour and self-importance in the periphery of his vision heralded the arrival of the doctor. He gestured at the man to stay back, taking another cautious step towards Glitch.

"What have you lost? Can you remember?" Glitch frowned, then sank to one knee, brushing his hand carefully over the ground, as if he might find whatever he'd lost amidst the lush grass.

"Something. Something important. It was here and -" He shook his head, then moaned softly, digging his fingers into his hair to massage his scalp. "I have to find it. I have to." Rising, still holding his head, he looked imploringly at Wyatt. "Can you help me?"

"It's okay, Ambrose." The name still felt cumbersome and unfamiliar on his lips, but somehow it was easier than calling him Glitch. The man he remembered had always been fractured, but never this broken, and it hurt Wyatt in ways he didn't completely understand. I stayed away too long. He took the last few steps to Glitch's side, smiling reassuringly. "I can help you."

Glitch regarded him with an expression of faint hope, the shoe dangling, forgotten, from his hand. "You can? I-I-I don't know how I got here. I think I'm lost." He glanced down at the grass, apparently hoping that the missing valuable would miraculously reappear. "It's so dark."

The tight knot of concern that had set up home in Wyatt's chest blossomed suddenly, spreading in a dark, chilly stain that made his stomach clench. The doctor was still hovering nearby, and Wyatt shot him a meaningful look, inclining his head towards a short flight of steps set into the gentle slope of the lawn. "Come on. Let's go and sit over there, where it's nice and quiet, and we'll have a talk with the d-" He cut himself off, mid-word. "With a friend of mine," he amended smoothly. "You can tell me about this thing you've lost, and we'll come back and take another look when it's lighter." He took Glitch's elbow, meaning to walk him to the steps, and the zipperhead looked around indecisively, the slight movement enough to elicit a faint whimper. Glitch was trembling, the vibrations running through his body so fast and fine as to be unnoticeable except to the touch, not so much a tremor as a resonance.

"I'm - I'm sorry. Where are my manners? My name..." He staggered, then righted himself, steadied by the other man's light grip. "...my name..."

"Glitch," Wyatt answered without thinking, then shook his head. So much for not wanting to confuse him. "It's Ambrose. Your name is Ambrose, but your closest friends call you Glitch. We're old friends, you and I." There had to be something he could do - something Glitch could catch hold of, the way Wyatt had clung to the comforting sound of his voice in the shivering darkness. Inspiration sent him delving inside his coat, and he pulled out the battered tin horse, its flank flattened and distorted where a bullet had embedded itself into the metal. "Is this what you were looking for?"

Slowly, wonderingly, Glitch reached out for the little horse, touching its dented surface with shaking fingers. "So familiar..." His face lit up, a momentary look of joy replacing the haggard expression. "Tin Man..." he whispered, then his eyes rolled back into his head, and he dropped as though his legs had been cut from under him.


Wyatt lunged forward and threw his arms around Glitch, catching him in an awkward hug as he collapsed. The tin horse fell from his hand, forgotten. Glitch arched, briefly rigid in his arms, and cried out - a hoarse, meaningless bark of air forced from his lungs - then he began to thresh like a stranded fish, his muscles jerking and jittering wildly, breathing in ragged, choking, random gasps.

"Set him down - take off your jacket and put it under his head." The doctor was at his side suddenly, or perhaps he had been there all along; Wyatt doubted he'd have noticed the man's approach if he'd had cymbals strapped to his knees. As gently as he could, he lowered Glitch to the grass, fighting the urge to reach out and try to still his flailing limbs. While he quickly shrugged out of his coat so that he could bundle it into a loose roll to slip beneath Glitch's head, he shot the doctor an incredulous look.

"Aren't you gonna help him?"

The doctor recoiled slightly under the force of Wyatt's glare, but didn't retreat. "He's having a seizure. If you hold him, you'll hurt him," he snapped, "When it stops, I'll take a look at him." Between them, Glitch's convulsions continued, a bluish tinge creeping over his lips as the breath hitched weakly in and out of his chest.

Wyatt was vaguely aware of a dull pain in his knee, but it hardly registered. He clenched his fists against his thighs, his heart hurling itself angrily against his ribs. "There's got to be something you can do," he insisted, watching helplessly. "Something to bring him out of it." The doctor shook his head, tight-lipped, and leaned over so that he could look more closely at Glitch.

"If it doesn't stop, I have drugs that may help." He winced as Glitch kicked him in the ankle. "Stay with him - I'm going to send for my bag. Don't try to restrain him. Don't try to rouse him. If he starts to choke, turn him onto his side and cushion his head."

His matter-of-fact tone was at once reassuring and irritating. At least sound concerned, damn it. The doctor, however, seemed unflappable, and set off towards the palace at a brisk walk that was all too slow for Wyatt. Another breathless minute passed, then, mercifully, the spasms grew weaker, then stopped altogether. Glitch lay still, sprawled like a rag doll, the hint of blue slowly easing from his skin. Mindful of the doctor's warning, Wyatt kept his hands in his lap, but he couldn't just sit in silent inactivity. "It's okay. It's okay, now. Just lie still - help's on its way."

At first it seemed that Glitch must be unconscious. Then he sighed drowsily, and mumbled something, barely more than a series of slurred syllables. "'nt l'em tay br'n..." And then his breathing grew slower, softer, and he seemed to sleep.

Don't let them take... It took Wyatt a moment to translate the words, then - warning or no warning - he couldn't prevent himself from reaching forward to set his hand lightly on Glitch's shoulder. "I promise. I won't let anyone hurt you any more."




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