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In the Cold of Winter

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"I'm starting to get the feeling that we didn't get the whole story before we left Central City," Cain muttered.

Glitch glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. "Really?" he asked dryly. "What gave it away? Was it the large crowd of angry villagers? Maybe their extremely dangerous-looking weapons?"

Cain snorted, but he didn't quite meet the other man's gaze. It had been almost an annual since the witch had been defeated, and Glitch's brain had been back in his own head for almost half that time. Still, he wasn't used to the change in personality yet.

It wasn't as if he suddenly was a different person - he was still Glitch, when it came down to it. The only difference was that he was Ambrose as well, with all of the memories and personality quirks that came with him. The two personalities weren't separate, but try as he might Cain couldn't help but see the distinct differences between the man he had known and the one he knew now. Ambrose had quite a few habits that annoyed him more than anything else in the OZ.

Including an annoying tendency to shoot back sarcastic replies in already tense situations.

Glitch pointedly cleared his throat, bringing Cain crashing back to the present. The group of people surrounding them was still growing, each new person looking angrier than the first. "I guess it's safe to assume the rumors that they're still practicing dark magic in the outer areas is true."

Near the back of the crowd, a handful of red sparks suddenly shot up in the air. The light seemed to bounce off the snowflakes that filled the air, lighting up the steadily darkening sky. A pathway started to form in front of whoever was behind the lightshow as the men and women in the mob moved aside to let the mystery person pass through.

"Do you think we should run?" Glitch asked casually, as if he was asking Cain about the weather instead of the approach of a potentially life-threatening magic practitioner.

Cain stared at him for a second. "Yes," he snapped, grabbing Glitch by the arm and yanking hard enough that the queen's advisor and person envoy let out a yelp of pain. "We're running. Now!"

*

"Why do you insist on calling me Glitch?"

Cain stumbled, and he quickly tried to convince himself that it was because of the now knee-deep snow rather than the question he'd just been asked. "DG still calls you Glitch," he pointed out. "You haven't said anything to her about it."

Glitch waved his hand. "Yes, well, you're not a twenty-annual-old girl."

"Something I'm well aware of." Cain chuckled. "And that's not exactly an answer, sweetheart."

To Cain's surprise, Glitch remained silent.

Shaking his head, Cain slowed down enough so that they were walking side by side instead of him leading the way. "Why do you still call me Cain?"

Glitch quirked an eyebrow, and Cain knew before he even opened his mouth that the sarcasm was about to be back. "Because it's your name?"

"Most of the others call me Wyatt," Cain pointed out. "Even DG does from time to time, when she thinks about it. Why do you never call me anything but Cain?"

Despite the almost blinding snow flying around them, Glitch stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Cain. "I . . . I hadn't thought about it. I guess it just seemed odd thinking of you as Wyatt when I'd been calling you Cain for so long."

Cain shrugged before starting forward again. "I think you answered your own question." He hesitated for a second before adding: "Ambrose."

Glitch shuddered, a surprised look appearing on his face when he realized what he was doing. "Glitch works."

Grinning, Cain shook his head as he tried not to let his amusement show too much. His smile faded after a second. He paused, tilting his head as he listened to what sounded almost like chanting echoing in the wind.

"Do you hear that?"

Before Glitch could reply, the world suddenly went white.

*

Cain gasped for breath as he clawed his way out of the snow that had buried him, pulling himself on top of the deep drift. "I hate the cold," he grumbled, painfully pushing himself to his feet. "The next time DG asks me to go north as a favor for the queen, I'm going to tell her exactly what I think of her request."

The chanting sound he'd heard before the avalanche was gone, though Cain couldn't shake the feeling that it hadn't been his imagination. Whoever it was that had been using dark magic back in that village was apparently following them.

Them.

"Glitch!" Cain spun around, searching for any sign of the other man. All he saw was endless white; the snow was unbroken save for where he'd been buried. "Damn it, Glitch, where are you?"

He was just starting to feel a little frantic when a hand burst through the snow no more than two feet in front of him. A few seconds later, a familiar head followed.

Shivering, Cain leaned down and offered Glitch his hand. He eagerly took it, letting Cain pull him up out of the snow. Once he was out, he brushed at his snow-covered clothing and frowned when it didn't improve much.

"I look like a snowman," Glitch said, his lips pushing outward in a pout.

Cain shook his head as he looked down at his own clothes. "You're not the only one."

They stood there a moment, staring at each other. Then Glitch all but doubled over with laughter. At least, Cain assumed that was the case; considering how much the intensity of his shivering had increased in just the past few minutes, there was at least a slight possibility that it was an early sign of hypothermia instead.

"Do I even want to know what's so funny?" Cain asked, his voice sharper than he'd intended. His extremities were starting to feel like solid ice, and his patience was freezing along with them.

After a few seconds, Glitch looked up and met his gaze. "It's just that this brings back some memories," he said, grinning broadly. "Isn't that funny? It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't even remember my own name, and now I can't stop comparing this to our trip to the Northern Island."

Cain rolled his eyes. "Yeah, it's hilarious," he muttered, shooting Glitch an impatient look. "Think we can start moving before it turns into a complete reenactment?"

Glitch's laughter only increased.

After a few seconds, Cain started to feel worried. There was no doubt in his mind that Glitch's laughter had taken on a distinctly hysterical tone, and he quickly grabbed the other man by the shoulders in order to pull him upright again. "That's it," he said firmly, "we're moving."

Glitch started to protest, and Cain quickly pulled him closer. He pressed a quick kiss against Glitch's forehead, almost flinching at how cold he felt. "No argument," he said. "We've got to find shelter."

For a few seconds, Glitch was quiet. "What about tomorrow?"

"We'll try to make it home."