“Bye! Try not to fall into paint remover again!”
The little speedster sparkling she had to completely repaint waved at her as he was tugged out by his carrier. He used to be orange and red, but with the needing to be repainted had decided to paint himself blue and purple. Nickel was surprised the carrier was okay with it, wasn’t often she found a parent willing to give into their sparklings impulses on their appearance so easily.
It made Nickel happy to think about. Nickel had always wanted a sparkling, her current life situation made the thought a little unrealistic. It was a lot of factors combining into one big fat no on adopting right now. She kind of wanted to find a femme to make her conjunx before anything else, her job was demanding and took up a lot of her times, her apartment wasn’t very big, and so on and so forth.
She could dream, though, and for now she was fine being able to care for them through her patients. She was a general medic, but specialized in pediatrics, kind of one of the only medics in town that worked that heavily with sparklings. She was pretty good at it, if her reputation had anything to say about it.
Nickel’s commlink ringing snapped her out of her thoughts. She pulled up a datapad and tapped at her audial to answer it.
“Nickel speaking, what’s your ailment?” She chimed in an all-too cheery voice that was pretty uncharacteristic of her normal attitude.
“Hello, my name is Prowl with the police. We got a domestic violence case in and had to seize their sparkling, are you able to come in and look him over? He has some extensive injuries.” Came the monotone voice on the other end, clearly having had made this phone call to a few different clinics. Not a lot of places did house calls, apparently.
And normally Nickel didn’t either, but the idea of an injured bitlet, likely traumatized, having to hang out at a police station made her spark ache. Honestly there was no harm done in doing a quick exam if he needed it. “Sure, might have to bring him back to the clinic but I can come pick him up.”
Prowl on the other end gave a sigh of relief, “Primus you don’t know how glad I am to hear that. See you in a bit?”
“On my way now.” Nickel replied, hanging up and rushing to gather up a small medkit before heading out the door.
When Nickel arrived at the police station she was expecting more of a standard checkup, and perhaps a little bit of patchwork and bandaging. Making sure injuries weren’t too bad, rubbing in numbing agent, painkillers if the bitlet was old enough, the standard routine.
What Nickel wasn’t expecting, was the smallest Empura she’d ever seen.
His orange plating was dull, obviously hadn’t been cleaned in a while, and he had some scratches along his forearms and audial rims. He kept sniffling and crying, large blue optic welled over with tears as he rubbed obsessively at his own wrists with claws that were just the slightest bit too big for him.
“Primus!” Nickel snapped, placing her hand on her chest and looking up to the mech that had introduced himself as Prowl.
Prowl folded his arms over his chest, face unreadably stern. “We can’t get him to talk about what happened to him. Of course parents won’t give up any information either.”
Typical bastard creators, Nickel thought to herself. She wheeled up to the sparkling in the chair, crouching down in front of him to make herself look smaller. Or...smaller than she already was, anyway.
The sparkling stared at her when she kneeled down to his height, vents hitching like he was hyperventilating, “Heyheyhey, I’m not gonna hurt ya. My name is Nickel, I’m here to give you a checkup. Is that okay?”
He didn’t say anything, tucking his claws against his chest like Nickel was going to yank them. He just stared at her, “H...hurts…” he finally squeaked out, but still didn’t move.
Nickel nodded, “I know, must hurt like a bitch, yea? I’m here to help with that. Do you have a name?”
He squinted his optic in thought (never a good sign) for a good long moment before responding, “I think it’s Glitch, uh...sire calls me Glitch.”
Nickel had a sneaking suspicion his sire didn’t call him Glitch because that was his name. But the fact he actually had to think about what his name was made her think it was the only kind of designation he had, she'd have to ask Prowl about that.
“Okay, Glitch. It’s nice to meet you. Can I see your hands?” Nickel smiled and put her own hand out, palm up.
Glitch, as he was called, hesitated, staring at her open palm like he didn’t trust it. Slowly and shakily, he put one of his claws out, putting it down in her servo and ducking his head down. Either out of fear or he didn’t want to look at whatever Nickel was doing. Nickel gently pulled apart the plating around his wrists to get a better look at where the surgery welds would be, they were horribly rushed and sloppily done; like a medic had gone crazy with a laser scalpel while trying to figure out how to attach the new claws. Honestly Nickel didn’t expect any less, the whole procedure was barbaric in her eyes, and definitely never meant to be operated on a sparkling. And yet here she was, trying to make a recovery plan for one.
Glitch looked like he was starting to panic, Nickel figured she should wrap this up as soon as she could. She took a small bottle of numbing agent out of her medkit, rubbing it gently into the surgery welds around his wrists, and for good measure around the larger welds she found around his neck. He wasn’t complaining about a headache but she could figure out that it must've hurt.
“This is going to make you feel better. It’ll feel kind of cold for a minute but then you’ll hurt less.” Nickel explained as she finished up her task, putting the medicine back in her case. “Other than that, I think you’re okay. I have to go talk to Prowl now, I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want something to do? I have a datapad with some games on it.”
Glitch looked at her blankly, tilting his head in question. Nickel was patient, and waited for him to respond to her offer.
“Yes.” He said, reaching his claws out and clicking them a few times until Nickel got out the datapad and set him up with it. Something simple that could be played with his lack of hands.
“Alright, have fun with that. Promise I’ll be back, okay?” Nickel said, getting up and packing her medkit to put back in her subspace.
Glitch didn’t look up, busied with struggling to figure out how to make his claws work with the datapad, but he silently nodded. Which was a good enough answer for Nickel before she wheeled to Prowl’s office to report her findings.
“Empurata victims usually experience chronic pain, he’s no different. Gonna be dealing with a lot of it since he’s too young for painkillers, also too young to get any sort of correction surgery. Primus above he’s too young to even have had the surgery in the first place! Makes me wanna choke out the quack that agreed to do it.” Nickel rambled, Prowl nodded and typed in everything she was telling him, or all of it that was relevant anyway. Maybe he could leave out the threats to the sparkling’s creators and a hypothetical crackpot surgeon. “I’ll probably have to take him back to the clinic for an overnight study to figure out a treatment plan. But Primus what happened to the kid?!”
Prowl shrugged, “Honestly? I can’t say what happened to him. Like I said, he won’t talk. There isn’t even any records on this kid; no birth certificate, nothing. You get a name out of him?”
Nickel sighed, tapping her digit against the table. “Glitch. Said it’s the only name he has.”
Prowl nodded, typing that into his police report. “Glitch, huh? Makes sense he doesn’t have a birth certificate.” He leaned back in his chair, venting a deep sigh, “I’ve seen this kinda thing before. Likely, kid was born in a gutter, or something that wasn’t a hospital, maybe not as morbid as a gutter. Either way, parents didn’t really want him, didn’t get any legal record of him because of it.”
“So what’s going to happen to him, then? Foster home?” Nickel asked, looking out at the sparkling in question. Glitch was getting more and more frustrated with the game Nickel had provided as he couldn’t get his claws to work the datapad properly.
“Soon as we find one, since it’s such short notice, we don’t have one yet. Probably for the best he has to stay overnight with you, it gives us a little more time to find him a new home.” Prowl finished up his police report on his datapad, powering it off and setting it on his desk on a stack of other datapads.
Nickel had the sinking thought of no foster homes taking him, he was pretty bad off...she hoped the little guy would be okay. Or, as okay as he could be. “So that’s it? Anything else before I head out?”
Prowl shook his head, “Should be good to go on your end, tell the kid I said hi.”
The overnight room at the clinic wasn’t the most ideal place to house a scared sparkling, but Nickel hoped it was better than where he had been, and it was definitely the best she could give him right now. Glitch had been allowed to keep the game datapad she had given him, even if he got frustrated when it wouldn’t respond to his clawtips.
Nickel refused to leave his side, there was legitimate medical purposes to it, she had brought him in for study. But there was also the fact she just didn’t want to leave him alone right now. There was also a thing Nickel really wanted an answer on, and tried to present it as gently as she could think of.
“Do you know why they took your hands away?” Then again, there wasn’t really a gentle way to put that.
Glitch paused on his game, staring at it in silence for a long time. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it, and Nickel didn’t want to push him, but she really did need to know to tell Prowl in the morning so he could add it to his report. She was a doctor, not a therapist, unfortunately, and she really didn’t want to risk scaring him more than he already was scared. She could fix Glitch’s wires so he wasn’t constantly in pain, but he’d still be flighty and traumatized. For that? All she could do was try her damn hardest.
“I broke their things.” Glitch mumbled finally, ducking his head down to avoid Nickel’s gaze.
The statement only served to make Nickle more confused. “What did you break? Who’s things?”
“Carrier...and sire.” Glitch continued to mumble. “I-I broke their things. I didn’t mean to!”
While she was glad he opened up about it, Nickel was more confused than ever. That was a very extreme punishment for breaking things, and she didn’t think giving him claws for hands would solve any problems involving that. Honestly, the opposite, he’d probably break more things because of his clumsy claws.
“What did you break?” Nickel said, scooting closer as she began petting his head to keep him as calm as she could.
“Everything I touched. They just...broke. Carrier said I’m cursed. It just...breaks when I-I touch them and I-I don’t mean to a-and-” Glitch’s vents started to hitch in sobs again, and the datapad he was holding started acting strange. The screen whited out, before the entire pad short circuited in a small fit of sparks.
Glitch squeaked in horror when the datapad broke, dropping it to the ground like it had burned him (which Nickel figured it might have. “L-like that! I’msorry!I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry-” He ducked his head down further, covering it with his arms and crying hard.
Definitely...a strange thing, Nickel was more confused than she’d ever been, and had NO idea what happened to cause the datapad to do that. She did think she may have had an idea on how to start helping him now, though. Nickel pushed the long term to the back of her mind; for now, Glitch was upset, and she really needed to calm him down.
“Hey, hey. I’m not going to hurt you. I swear to Primus I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay, it’s just a datapad, I can get a new one.” Nickel kept up her calming strokes to his head, letting them trail down his back instead once he was protecting his head to avoid scaring him.
Glitch peeked out from under his arm shield, optic wet and drippy with tears.
“I don’t care what you broke, I’m sorry they did this to you. You don’t deserve this for breaking material things, your life is worth more than any datapad in the world.” She kept reassuring, “And you aren’t cursed, whatever they said isn’t true. You’re wonderful, and I’m sorry they couldn’t see that.”
Glitch hiccuped, staring at her and nodding, slowly lowering his arms from his head, reaching them forward instead. Did he want her to hug him? Nickel didn’t object to it, gently scooping him up and cradling him against her torso. Nickel continued to pet him and rub circles on his back, moving only slightly to kick the broken datapad under the berth so she wouldn’t step on it later.
“Shh, shh, you’re okay, you’re fine.” Nickel kept mumbling, kissing the side of his head as he cried into her shoulder. “Do you need anything?” Glitch shook his head, “Just want me to keep holding you?” A nod, “Alright, that’s fine. Tell me if you get hungry or anything.”
Glitch just continued to sob, it was about an hour before he finally wore himself out to just hiccuping. Nickel was content to just sit and cuddle him the whole time, she didn’t have anything else that needed immediate attention at the moment. When Glitch started to shift out of her grip, Nickel moved him to perch in her lap. He was rubbing his wrists again, not crying as much as before, but he was clearly in pain.
“Hurts.” Glitch whimpered, rubbing his wrists raw with his little claws. “Nickel, it hurts.”
He shortly moved from rubbing his wrists to digging his claws into the sides of his head, whining high and loud. Well it was no longer a secret where the scratches on his audial rims had come from. Nickel took his claws gently, moving them away from his head so he wouldn’t do any further damage to himself. She pressed her fingers into his little palms to spread the claws and examine them to make sure he hadn’t irritated anything.
“M..my head…” Glitch whined, not making any sort of struggle, just crying and shivering.
Nickel shushed him, pushing the claws back into a fist and kissing them after finding no injuries, "I know, I know, it’s okay. Is it just your head, or do your hands hurt too?”
“Y..yes…” His vocalizer hiccuped, once his claws were freed he tucked them against his chest.
Nickel hummed in acknowledgement, “I can put more of that ointment on. But also, if you’d like, I could set you up an oil bath. It definitely helps with pain.”
Glitch tilted his head at her, “Oil...bath?”
Should’ve expected he’d never heard of such a thing, Nickel tried to think of how to explain it in a way a sparkling would understand. “It’s...hm...why don’t you just let me show you? If you don’t like it, I’ll take you out. Just give the word.”
Glitch stared some more, before nodding a little. Nickel was glad he seemed willing to try. Oil baths were one of the things she usually suggested to mechs with chronic pain, she knew for fact it helped, it was just a matter of Glitch not being afraid of it.
Glitch clung to her arms and whined when he was lowered into the tub of oil, like he was afraid Nickel was going to drop him in, and likely was still delirious with pain. Nickel shushed him, rubbing along his neck to at least get him to stop crying. Glitch perched his little chin pathetically on the rim of the tub, the warm oil did calm him down some, and definitely helped so he ached less. He huffed a squeaky sigh, plating fluffed up to let the oil seep into the nooks and crannies of his frame. He still hurt, but less so, especially as Nickel kept petting him.
“That better?” Nickel asked, wanting to make sure he was comfortable before anything else.
Glitch made a noncommittal noise in return, Nickel figured it was as good as a yes she’d get. He did seem a lot more relaxed, and had stopped crying. She considered that a good sign to push forward.
Ever so gently she pulled plating apart at the seams, making sure the oil got deep down to the surgery scars in his wrists before rubbing healing solvent into it. She did the same with his neck, but splashed the oil onto it instead of dunking his head in. On top of taking care of his injuries, she tried to pull any rust or grime out of his joints and seams, as the stiffness in those could also cause him to ache.
Glitch gave a deep sigh, optic half lit as Nickel worked on cleaning his frame. It was a very different image than when she had met him earlier. There was a lot of gunk trapped in the sparkling’s seams. Primus when was the last time this kid had gotten a bath?
“Did your creators not bathe you?” Nickel asked, making a face at a particularly gross blob of grime she’d pulled out from under the tire kibble on one of his arms.
“I’unno…” Glitch was pretty zoned out, maybe too much to answer her question. Nickel didn’t doubt he knew exactly what he was saying though, and his carriers didn’t bathe him at all. At least she was doing it now, though.
Glitch was purring by time Nickel pulled him out of the tub, wrapping him up in a towel and cradling him against her shoulder. It was getting pretty late, and it had been a pretty stressful day for him, he deserved to get a good night’s sleep.
Wheeling slowly back to the overnight room, she carefully put Glitch down in the berth, making sure he was tucked in warmly before pushing up the guard rails so he didn’t roll out of bed in his sleep. He made a small grunt, curling up in a tight ball with his claws cuddled against his face.
Nickel dimmed the lights in the room, setting herself up in a chair close by. Tomorrow was going to be a long day for him, and she didn’t want him to wake up alone.
Nickel was woken up by her commlink going off, she was still half asleep, but managed to fumble to answer it. “Nickel speaking.”
“Hey, it's Prowl again, is Glitch okay?” Came the voice on the other end, monotone as ever.
Nickel straightened herself up a little, looking over to the sparkling still recharging peacefully where she had left him. “Doing great, didn't have any complications, and have figured out pain management for him without painkillers.”
“Great, cause he might have to stay in your clinic for a while. Having a lot of trouble finding a foster home that will take him.” Prowl said.
That wasn't what Nickel wanted to hear, she thought Glitch would've been sent on his way today. Surrounded by bitlets his age in a loving environment and the potential of eventually being adopted by a nice couple who would treat him right.
“Why won't they take him, what's wrong?” Nickel hoped she didn't sound as panicked as she was. She didn't think it was healthy, mentally, to keep Glitch cooped up in a hospital room for an intederminite period of time, she couldn't sit with him always, she had a clinic to run.
“A lot of them are full, and the ones that aren't say they aren't equipped to deal with extensive medical problems like Empurata. He might have to go to some bigger city to find a new home.”
When Prowl said that, Nickel was forced to look at the situation realistically instead of optimistically. Right...bitlets his age that would pick on him for being different, bitlets his age that would drown him out in his needs because they had been there longer and took priority. No couple would ever want to adopt him, he was an empura, a serious medical condition a lot of people either couldn't or wouldn't deal with, with a reputation to turn mechs violent. Why take the troubled empura when they could adopt a sweet sparkling with no debilitating issues?
It hurt her to think about, Glitch seemed to sweet. She wanted him to be happy, she wanted him to move past this and live a happy life. Nickel wanted him to be loved and cherished like he needed to be. He needed...he needed-
“What if I adopted him?” Nickel blurted out.
Prowl didn't respond for a good second, “I guess...I guess I don't see why not, but why? Don't you have your clinic to take care of?”
“Nobody's going to take him, he was going to stay here until someone could take him anyway. I'm a doctor, and I know how to treat him. Plus, I like the little guy, he's cute.” Nickel had moved closer to the berth while she talked, staring at the sleepy bundle.
There was some noises in the background of the comm Nickel could only interpret as typing before Prowl spoke again, “There's no rules saying you can't, but you'll have to a little paperwork. Nothing I can't email over and have you send back, I mean you're already there. What's the place to send it to?”
Nickel had the paperwork said and done by time Glitch had woken up. He onlined his optic at Nickel, mumbling a tiny good morning to her.
“Good morning, I…have some good news. Really great news.” Nickel was overwhelmed with emotion as she waited for Glitch to wake up enough to register what she was saying. “You're coming home with me.”
Glitch acted like a scared bunny when Nickel brought him back to her apartment, sitting in the middle of the living room, refusing to move. As if he was going to get in trouble if he dared move from the spot Nickel had set him down in.
Nickel wheeled out of the kitchen with a cube of energon for herself, and a pouch of medical grade with a straw for Glitch to drink. Glitch took it slowly, fumbling a minute to line it up with his probiscuis before slurping it up greedily.
“Alright, Glitch, ground rules.” Nickel started, the way Glitch froze she figured she probably could've worded that better. “First off, I'm not going to hurt you. Ever. I don't care what you break, you will never be hurt as long as you're in my care. Second off, you gotta trust me. I won't get mad at you if you ask for food, or if you need me to give you your medicine because you hurt. Please tell me when you hurt. Can you do that for me?”
Glitch just looked at her, and did for a good long minute, before his slurping resumed and he nodded a little.
“Good! Do you have anything you want me to do?” Nickel asked, knowing this wasn't going to work if he didn't take Glitch’s concerns into consideration.
“Hmm...more food?” Glitch asked, showing Nickel his now empty energon pouch.
Nickel smirked, it was a start if nothing else. “That I can do.”