It had only been a few short weeks since Ambrose had rejoined his body and DG had spent the time getting to know the other half of her friend. Glitch reunited with Ambrose was a bit different from Glitch on his own, he was more prone to quiet brooding and introspection instead of announcing his every little thought out loud. DG had to work harder to retrieve his thoughts, to understand what he was feeling. She didn't mind, though. DG had grown fond of him, in all his manifestations. She knew just as she had told him before, he was still the same man. And she knew that even changed as he was, she still loved him just as much. Though, she could never voice those words aloud without suffering some mortification. All the same, DG had an inkling that Ambrose may have felt the same, especially considering how he rarely could be found far from her side.
And together they were, as they travelled back to the castle in ice, the place where she had known Ambrose in her childhood. The rest of the royal family had already gone on to the palace two weeks earlier, leaving DG and Ambrose behind while he healed further. Once he was well enough to travel, they were seated in the back of a royal car and began the journey back to the palace.
They spent the time lost in conversation, about anything and everything. Sharing old memories together as they slowly came to the surface. Telling tales of the OZ of old, before Azkedellia had taken control. Sharing stories about life on the other side with all its technology and marvels. Ambrose was especially interested in those stories, eager for the knowledge of things and places beyond those he knew so well, but also because he wanted so much to understand DG better any way he could.
She had grown up in a world far different from the one he inhabited and it had clearly made its mark on her. When he had known her last, DG was a young child, and even with his vivid imagination, he could never have imagined what she would become. He had believed she would have grown up to be beautiful – she did. And that she'd be fair and just, like her mother – she was. But the way she dressed, and the way she did things, her caring attitude and willingness to get her hands dirty really set her apart from many of the denizens of the OZ. It made Ambrose's heart beat twice as loudly whenever he thought of her. No, she wasn’t anything quite like he had imagined, she was so much more.
Ambrose was pulled from his reverie by a gentle touch on his arm. He glanced up from the fabric covered seat of the vehicle to meet DG's impossible blue eyes. Her gaze was questioning, curious. "What were you thinking about?" She asked softly when their eyes met.
Ambrose felt heat rise to his cheeks. He couldn't dare reveal that his mind had been entirely preoccupied with thoughts of her and only her. "N-nnn-nothing," he finally said with some difficulty. As much as he was Ambrose again, a very large part of him was still Glitch. That part always made itself known to him in times of stress and nervousness.
DG laughed, leaning closer to Ambrose. "That didn't seem like nothing. You looked like you were concentrating. I could practically see gears turning in your skull."
"But I don't have gears in my noggin," Ambrose said, confusion clear in his voice. "I'm not part tik-tok."
DG couldn't help but laugh. She wrapped her arms around Ambrose. "It's a turn of phrase," she said, nuzzling close to him. "It just means that you appeared to be deep in thought."
Ambrose's confusion cleared and he managed to return DG's smile, an arm sliding around her slim frame as he held her close.
"Was it important?" DG asked from his shoulder.
"Hm?" He asked, uncertain as to what she was referring.
"What you were thinking about. Was it important?"
Ambrose nodded, watching the trees of the forest pass them by. "The most important thing I know."
It was some hours later, twilight had crept up on them, the sky beyond the trees fading from a deep rosy red to a pale dusky blue. And a certain crispness in the air assured DG they were nearing their destination. Ambrose had drifted asleep somewhere past Central City. He may be well enough to travel, but he was still slowly recovering from the surgery that put him back together. At some point, in his sleep, he had curled up on the seat, resting his head on her lap. DG found herself stroking her fingers lightly over his close-shorn hair, remembering how surprised she had been when she had first saw him on the recovery table with his hair all but gone and in the place of the familiar zipper, stitches and an angry red scar. Her fingers moved over the scar now, the stitches gone, only a pink seam remaining where his hair refused to grow. DG wasn't sure why, but she missed his zipper. As her fingers ran over the smooth, new skin, she remembered the way the zipper would feel beneath her touch, rough and cool, both a part of him and apart from him.
In his sleep, Ambrose squirmed and talked. He often had nightmares. Reunited with all of his memories, the scared part of him would take over and he'd relive those memories in his sleep. They'd come out in the form of clenched fists, frightened cries, and sometimes the occasional plea for mercy. DG tried her best to help him through the nightmares, holding him when he cried out, running her fingers gently over his hair, his arm, whispering soothing things to him as he shook and whimpered. DG could only imagine what he had gone through, but if these nightmares were any indication, it was something she wouldn't wish on her worst enemy.
He was in the surgical room, on the table, surrounded by alchemists. The look in their eyes was both familiar and frightening. Ambrose knew it well, it was the look he often had when he was building his inventions, when he was creating new things or taking old things apart to learn how they worked. Something told him their intentions weren't quite so noble.
The lead alchemist had stepped up beside him and started counting back from 100. Ambrose watched as he spoke, wanting both to fall asleep instantly and to stay awake to fight despite the straps holding him down. He knew he was supposed to be drifting off, but his mind was still active, his body jerking against the straps. When the alchemist reached 50, he could see a concerned look flit through his eyes. Something was wrong. Ambrose knew it was that he wasn't asleep. He should've been out by now. The sedative wasn't working. And with that knowledge, he felt a panic grip his chest, his pulse racing as he cried and moved to do all he could to get them to stop. He struggled with every ounce of energy and conviction that possessed him as he heard the alchemist's countdown reach the teens. His voice was hoarse from screaming as one of the alchemists began shouting his name, attempting to silence him. He moved and arched his back one last time as he heard the final number. Ambrose shot up, moving freely in a dark small space, a woman's voice calling his name, her hands on his arms, keeping him still.
Ambrose blinked, realizing he was no longer in the bright, sterile, white room. He was in the car, beside DG who was doing her best to calm the hysterical man down. His breathing was coming out in ragged gasps as he tried to gather his wits. DG's hands had moved from his arms and were now cupping his jaw, her thumbs brushing over his cheeks, her voice was low, but insistent as she shhed and told him it'd be okay.
Ambrose nodded, feeling himself beginning to calm down. He could feel his heartbeat slowing, no longer pounding out of his chest. But even as he knew he was safe in the vehicle, in DG's arms, the fear from his dream still raced along his veins, settling deep within his mind. He knew that wasn't how the events played out, but still something about the dream made him question what he knew. He was back together, but he felt more scattered than ever.
DG's hands moved carefully over Ambrose, brushing back over his hair, down his arms, over his back. She whispered as she did so, trying her best to bring Ambrose back from the ledge he had perched himself on. She had watched him through many nightmares, but none quite as bad as this had been. She was practically screaming his name and shaking his body to pull him out of it. For several long moments, she had wondered if he was ever going to wake or just cry and shake in his sleep forever. When he finally woke, DG could feel relief flood her body, even as Ambrose took several minutes to calm himself back down again, at least he was finally out of the nightmare.
After several minutes with the only sound in the vehicle being the steady noise of the aged engine and Ambrose's gasping while DG whispered to him. Ambrose finally moved. He curled his body against DG's, resting his head on her shoulder as she held him. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Ambrose shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'd rather not. Not right now." He had some things to sort out for himself.
DG nodded, feeling hurt well up in her chest, unbidden. It was unfair to feel that way, but she hated that Ambrose could be so different from Glitch sometimes. More guarded and occasionally more distant. It jarred when he did things so Glitch-like, like how he curled up against her when he was sleeping or scared.
"It's okay, Ambrose," she said, swallowing down the hurt. "You can tell me another time, when you're ready."
They rode like that in silence for the remainder of the trip. When the vehicle finally stopped in front of the palace, Ambrose straightened up, looking at DG gratefully. DG took his hand and squeezed lightly, smiling in return before leaning forward and kissing him softly on the lips. "Don't worry, nothing will hurt you now," she said, pulling back.
Ambrose pressed his lips together, like he was holding back from saying something, before letting it escape. "What makes you so sure?"
DG's breath caught. The vulnerability on his face just then was pure Glitch. "Because," she responded regaining her voice, "I won't let it."