Title: I Can't Hate You If We Die
Characters: Linksano, Insano, SOI
Summary: Insano and Linksano's very existences are in jeopardy when something screwy happens in the multiverse that causes them to begin fading out of dimensional stability, forcing the pair to work together before times runs out and they disappear for good.
Warnings: Angst, Dark Themes, Character Suffering, Language
Word Count: 4,231
Linksano was no stranger to bizarre bodily mishaps thanks to his life as scientist. In the course of his short lifetime he had been punctured, fractured, concussed, burned by both flame and acid, electrocuted more times than he could recall, and rendered violently ill by ingesting improperly prepared chemical solutions. Almost every incident had left a mark on him of some sort, either physical or mental (at times both), and none of these injuries had been in any way pleasurable.
And yet, on that day, Linksano would have gladly suffered any prior punishment he’d faced, even all of them simultaneously, in lieu of experiencing that ominous feeling which told him something was gravely wrong.
It struck Linksano without warning. A mild headache and slightly elevated temperature were but trifle matters to a man in Linksano’s line of work, but a slow-acting spasm which started in his fingertips, causing them to shake intensely enough that the beaker once held between his digits slipped from his grasp and shattered into a thousand shards of glass, was a matter of another kind.
Linksano looked at his still-trembling hand in utter perplexion, as if it had somehow betrayed him by acting of its own accord, before he was overwhelmed with a sensation that terrified him in every way imaginable. It was as if he had stepped onto an elevator that was rapidly descending, plummeting downward at faster and faster speeds into someplace cold and dark, where the air was thin and difficult to breathe.
Linksano’s body bent forward automatically as he gasped for breath, his vision going dark which was perhaps most petrifying of all. Linksano depended on his eyes more than most, having even installed multiple devices into his goggles to allow for every mode of sight possible. If he lost his vision, it would be as if he’d lost himself, a thought which felt terrifyingly possible at the moment.
Then, as if a flip had been switched, it was gone. The spasm, the loss of vision, the sensation of falling, all of it had vanished, leaving Linksano with only one thought.
“I am wrong.”
Linksano couldn’t explain how or why he had come to this conclusion, but it was the only logical explanation for a very illogical set of circumstances. He was wrong. His life, his physical being, his very existence was not correct. To be or not be was the infamous question, and on that day, Linksano knew that for him, the answer was not to be.
Terrified by what such an answer could mean, Linksano scrambled back to his feet as quickly as he could, ignoring the dull flash of pain in his knee from where a shard of glass had dug into it, before he dashed about the room, grabbing all manner of papers, chemical bottles, and science textbooks he could, and then dropping them onto his work desk.
“Nimue!” he cried, looking upwards toward the AI’s monitor as he still had a habit of doing when addressing her.
“How can this unit be of assistance, Dr. Linksano?”
“I-I need information-all the information you have!”
“Information regarding what subject?”
“All of them! Information on new enemies that are targeting Linkara, status updates on this ship’s shielding and defense systems, physical and mental scans of myself as well as Linkara and his compatriots, recent signs of temporal paradoxes, the frigging weather reports-anything that can potentially help me figure out what is wrong with me!”
Following Linksano’s orders was a complicated and taxing job, but Nimue did everything she could to help the scientist in his quest for knowledge. After a few grueling hours, peppered with short breaks where he stopped to watch as his fingers shook with tremors that, while fleeting, grew stronger with each occurrence, Linksano had his answer.
There was no spell he was under, no attacking monster to be fought. Linksano wasn’t hallucinating, nor was he in any way sick or injured. His body and mind were in perfect condition, as much as that could be true of an overweight mad scientist. No, the problem had nothing to do with Linksano directly; it was the universe in which he was currently residing.
It was rejecting Linksano, mind, body, and soul.
Somehow, in one of the other universes where genius minds strove to make time and space their playthings, one of the ‘Sano counterparts had forgotten to carry the 2 in an equation and caused a multi-dimensional error to spread out across every universe in existence. This error was shaking the stability of every dimension it came across and subsequently shaking the being of every ‘Sano it came across as well in an attempt to erase them from all from existence.
“Damn it all,” Linksano growled, curling his presently motionless fingers into tight fists. “If only I’d figured this out sooner, I’d have had more time to work on creating the solution! As it stands now, the timeframe for erasing this error before it erases me is-”
Linksano cut himself off as he felt himself being sucked back into that void of nothingness. He managed to collapse into a chair before his knees gave out this time, and lowered his head onto the desk to stop the dizzying sensations from causing him to become physically ill.
“Wrong, you’re wrong, should not be here, should not be anywhere, should not be!”
Linksano moaned and tried to clutch at his head, but the tremors were strong enough now to prevent him from retaining full control of his motor skills. He was forced to ride the small seizure out until he was left panting and shaking, though this time mainly from fear.
“No time… there’s no time,” he mumbled, his mind racing as he attempted to come up with a plan. “No, there isn’t one. There’s nothing. I can’t do it. I can’t do this. I’m… I’m all alone and I… I can’t do this alone…”
Never in his right mind would Linksano have envisioned himself approaching the door to the nondescript Chicago home and swallowing his pride to ask him for anything, but Linksano had never truly considered himself in his right mind anyway.
He held up one hand, studying it for any potential tremors, before he gave a sharp rap upon the frame.
Linksano had expected a prompt response, because if his hypothesis was accurate, then they both would be in dire need of help very soon, but even he was surprised with how quickly the door swung open. He narrowed his eyes, waiting for whatever sharp barb was sure to be flung his way, before his expression grew confused as he stared at seemingly no one.
Linksano looked down to where the small, pink ball of tendrils was peering up at him with wide eyes.
“Oh.” Linksano hadn’t expected this, so he took a moment to try and think of something to say to the orb child, before lamely asking, “Is your father home?”
“Riki!” Linksano took that as a yes and quickly followed SOI inside, watching with fascination as the ball of tendrils bounced at unbelievable heights as he traveled across the living room and over to a door leading down to what had once been a basement.
Without bothering to knock, SOI opened the door and hopped down the stairs, all the while trilling for Linksano to follow along in a rather inviting manner.
Linksano descended into the lab slowly. Although time was of the essence, a part of him was still reluctant to enter the lair of the man he considered his nemesis.
“I’m already admitting weakness by approaching him like this, no need to seem desperate,” his irrational mind rationalized.
However, by the time Linksano’s foot landed on the bottom step, most thoughts, rational or not, had completely vanished from his mind as he took sight of his enemy.
Insano was curled into a small ball in the corner of the room, his body drenched in sweat and shaking with an intensity Linksano hadn’t yet experienced. He was a disturbing sight to behold, what with his damp hair positively dripping liquid, flecks of saliva flinging from his parted lips, and his arms tangled up in a halfway-removed lab coat. As Insano shook, SOI huddled by his side, mewling in such a pitiful way that even Linksano’s twisted heart was warmed. Without thinking he started to cross the room, a strange desire of wanting to hold Insano still, of wanting to place a reassuring hand on the child’s head rising inside him.
Then Insano stopped moving and Linksano instantly did the same.
Insano groaned and grunted as he sat up, peering around with bleary eyes for a moment until he realized his arms were caught in a prison of cotton.
“Damn it,” Insano hissed, tugging on the fabric until it tore and he was able to free his limbs. “That’s the third one today.”
“Riki-tee,” SOI cooed, nuzzling against his father’s leg.
“Yes, yes, I’m really alright,” Insano replied in a tired tone, as if he’d been answering this question for hours on end, which was very likely. “Daddy’s just feeling a little sick today. There’s no reason for you to… worry…”
Insano, having finally noticed Linksano’s presence in the room, trailed off and stared at him without an expression.
Linksano, who realized that when he’d frozen in place he’d left one arm extended out toward the other man, quickly retracted it.
“Um, I… sorry to interrupt.”
For a second, Linksano expected Insano to demand he explain why he was there before launching into a barrage of insults regarding everything from Linksano’s skills in the field of science to his taste in ice cream toppings. For a second, he expected things-he expected them-to be normal.
Once that second had passed, and both men remembered how nothing about their lives could ever be classified as ‘normal’, especially not when they were on the verge of being deleted from the universe, their goggled gazes met and they came to an understanding. They may not like each other, but survival was the only important issue right now.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” Insano stated, rubbing the back of his sleeve against his mouth to wipe away the remnants of drool. Linksano looked away and pretended that nothing of particular interest was happening. “If my calculations are correct and a universe-spanning mistake which hurts only ‘Sanos has been unleashed, then of course you wouldn’t be able to correct it on your own.”
“Oh yes, because you were doing a bang-up job over in your corner there,” Linksano couldn’t help but snark.
“I have been doing a bang-up job at controlling my seizures so as to avoid serious injury,” Insano agreed.
“I’m not injured-” Linksano cut himself off when he felt a warm nuzzling sensation upon his knee. He looked down to find SOI tenderly patting down a pink Band-Aid dotted with hearts over the blood-matted wound, which was visible thanks to the tear in Linksano’s slacks. “Oh. Uh, thank you.”
“He enjoys playing doctor,” Insano informed him while SOI happily stuck a few more colorful bandages across the ends of his father’s coat.
“He wants to be like his dad. Cute,” Linksano said, his words genuine enough to earn a surprised eyebrow arch from Insano.
“Anyway, I suppose you won’t leave until I relent to letting you help me solve this issue, so you might as well start making yourself useful.” Insano gestured toward a table in the back of his lab which was covered by a number of metal pieces, computers, and green-glowing elements in tightly sealed glass jars that were certainly radioactive. “I’ve already called in my SCIENCE people and had all this delivered, so we should be able to build what we need before we end up as two flesh-colored stains on the windshield of this universe.”
While Linksano’s stomach squirmed uncomfortably at the thought, Insano bent down to pet his son’s head.
“Be a good boy and watch the second-rate scientist until Daddy gets out of the shower, okay?”
“What? Do you really think that’s a good idea?” Linksano asked, uncertain if he was more concerned about being left alone with the orb for any length of time or for the other man’s well-being if left on his own.
“I think all my ideas are good ideas,” Insano quipped, provoking an eye roll from Linksano. “And in this case, it’s an especially good one, since Spoony isn’t home and I’ll be able to use as much hot water as I like! Besides, the next spasm shouldn’t hit me for another twenty three minutes, so you really don’t have to worry so much about me.”
“It’s not like I want to,” Linksano muttered, still uncertain of how truthful he was being. He took a quick look around the lab, wanting to familiarize himself with his surroundings a little, and noticed an array of white boards, each completely filled with numbers and scribblings that only made sense to Insano. Linksano turned to the closest one, studying its text silently, until he heard the awkward sound of Insano clearing his throat.
“Over in that corner I… have an extra white board.” Insano gestured to some spot over Linksano’s left shoulder.
Linksano’s expression grew curios. “Have you… what have you come up with so far?”
He had almost foolishly asked if Insano had come up with a solution yet, but it was obvious from the way their conversation had unfolded that he hadn’t. Insano took a step toward him and Linksano tensed, but ultimately remained still, watching silently as Insano moved past without sparing him another glance. It was a foreign concept, letting his guard down around the scientist, but one that Linksano could admit he enjoyed.
“According to my calculations, this mistake is causing the universe to lose stability, so something must be created to stabilize it. I’m going to create something akin to a dimensional defibrillator which can produce an energy pulse strong enough to shock not only this world, but all connecting worlds, back into their usual evil genius-tolerant rhythms.”
Linksano nodded. Of course he would be the first to crack the solution. It was an admission that was both annoying and comforting to him. “So, I’ll begin working on this device in your absence then.”
Insano’s lips twitched. “Are you sure you can handle that?” he couldn’t resist asking.
“Of course I can,” Linksano replied, holding back the annoyance which threatened to spill out of him with all his might. “As brilliant as you are, and I’ll admit that you are brilliant, you’re lacking in areas where I thrive, so we’re going to have to combine our brilliance and work together this time if we don’t wish to die. So will you kindly shut the hell up and let me practice my SCIENCE in peace?”
As strange as it was to both compliment and belittle Insano like this, the words felt oddly natural when slipping past Linksano’s lips. Insano seemed to agree, since he picked up a marker and tossed it Linksano’s way.
“While I’m gone, you can check my math for me.” Insano sounded suddenly hesitant. “I… wrote it in between bodily spasms so I’m not certain it’s entirely accurate and I’d hate to fuck up this dimension even more than it already is. It is where I keep my son, after all.”
Linksano was speechless for a moment, not at all prepared to gain this level of trust so quickly, before internally vowing not to let anything happen which would cause it to be revoked.
“I’ll take care of it all,” he promised. Insano nodded and headed for the stairs before he paused and called his son to him. Linksano couldn’t hear what he was murmuring into the area that must have constituted the orb’s ears, but he could see just how gently
Insano brushed his fingers through his son’s tendrils.
No, nothing more could be allowed to happen to this dimension or any of the ‘Sanos inhabiting it.
Many hours later, after grueling over Insano’s workbench and creating failed device after failed device, Linksano awoke with a start. He didn’t know for how long he’d dozed off, although the pain in his neck and back assured him that his cat nap had lasted much longer than expected. But it wasn’t the pain which alarmed Linksano, it was the sound of crying and thumping from not ten feet away.
Insano was experiencing a full-body seizure, almost exactly like a grand-mal type, characterized by unconsciousness and cycles of violent jerking followed by periods of body stiffening. While he lay on the floor and suffered through multiple spasms, SOI tried desperately to cling to his father’s leg.
This time Linksano didn’t hesitate in acting. He pulled off his coat and moved closer to Insano, pushing him onto his side so that it would be easier for him to breathe, before slipping the coat under his head as a cushion.
Linksano looked to SOI then, who had been flung back a few feet thanks to the intense shaking of his father’s body. “Are you hurt?”
“Thank Tesla for that.” Linksano didn’t know what he’d be able to tell Insano if he awoke to find his son injured. If he awoke at all, that is.
It was a horribly morbid thought, one which Linksano quickly banished from his brain, but the moment after it crossed his mind, Insano fell still. So still that he didn’t even seem to be breathing.
Panic flooded Linksano’s body. “What are you doing? You can’t do this!” He tried searching Insano’s neck for a pulse, but his damned gloves were just too insulating for the task. In frustration Linksano ripped them off before finally pressing bare fingers to skin that was much too cold.
“Damn it,” he muttered, his head shaking slightly in disbelief. “Damn it all, you can’t do this. You can’t do this to me!”
Remembering that he was in a room filled with all manner of science equipment, Linksano scanned the area for anything that could be used for revival purposes, when to his shock Insano jerked upright and coughed rather violently.
“Gah! W-what… what happened…?” His voice was rather hoarse and his complexion still pale, but behind those goggles Linksano knew his eyes were alert as he thirsted for knowledge.
“It hit you earlier than predicted,” Linksano replied, glancing over at the timetable written up on one of the white boards. “The effects seem to be accelerating. I don’t know how much time-”
“There’s enough time to finish this damned thing!” Insano snapped, completely back to his senses now. He pulled himself to his feet, shrugging off the assistance Linksano tried to offer, and staggered over to where the latest version of the dimensional-stabilizing pulse machine awaited. While Linksano found his spirit admirable, he was a realist when times called for it, so he quickly snatched the surprisingly tiny device from Insano’s still-shaking hands and began to assemble the final pieces himself.
“What the-give me that?”
“You need time to calm down or you might hurt yourself!”
“I don’t have time to calm down! As you already pointed out, we don’t know how much time-”
“Would you just shut up for once in your life and let me do this?!”
“Do you honestly think you are capable of doing this?!”
If it had been a day earlier, a question as insulting as this would raise Linksano’s hackles enough for him to completely abandon whatever he was doing so that he could wrap his hands around Insano’s neck, but this time he could hear genuine fear in the other man’s voice. He kept his hands steady as he continued to work although the same could not be said of his voice.
“I suppose we’ll find out.”
Linksano didn’t look back from his work again, though when he heard warm mewls of happiness and murmured expressions of affection, his lips did quiver upward for a few seconds.
Minutes later the device was finished. Linksano turned back toward Insano, ready to call him over for testing, when his mind and his vision went completely blank.
He didn’t know for how long he’d passed out nor how severe his seizure had been. When Linksano opened his eyes, all he could see was a thin layer of darkness hovering over his eyes like curtains.
“Wrong, wrong, should die, just give up and die…”
“Insano,” he croaked, wincing as he tried to sit up before quickly abandoning that notion. Every movement produced a surge of fire in his body and his mind screamed for relief, when it wasn’t screaming for death that is to say.
“Die, just die, just lay down, shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t want to be here…”
“Insano… are you…?”
“It’s done… Turn it on…”
Linksano screamed as he forced his neck in the direction of Insano’s voice. Though his vision was dim, he could just make out Insano once again over in the corner, lying almost completely limp on the floor, his face dotted this time with droplets of crimson.
“DIE JUST DIE LET GO GIVE UP AND DIE…”
“Where… is… it?”
“Beside you… to the right… side of you…”
Linksano’s breathing grew to a fever pitch as he gathered up every ounce of courage he possessed before he flung his right arm a few inches out from his body. It was as if hot needles were piercing every inch of skin on his arm, and Linksano almost passed out from the pain, but he forced his hand to keep moving until he found the switch that would activate the device.
As the machine whirred to life and started to send waves of plutonium-fueled energy throughout the room, Linksano noticed a flash of motion from the corner. Insano’s hand was reaching outward, mimicking the pose Linksano had displayed during their earlier meeting. His mind being rather fuzzy thanks to the agony of movement and constant chants of demise circling through it, Linksano couldn’t quite understand why Insano might be doing this, but he felt it might be nice if perhaps he did the same.
Ignoring the pain, which had been reduced to more of a dull ache in his muscles whenever he moved now, Linksano once again lifted his right arm and extended it forward toward Insano. Although they were a bit too far to actually allow their hands to meet, each scientist was certain they had felt a warm, gentle grip at that moment before they both fell unconscious.
Linksano groaned. “Oh… not so loud please… my head is killing me.”
“Sorry about that. SOI tends to be very chipper in the morning.”
Linksano’s eyes snapped open at the realization of where he was and found himself staring eye-to-enormous eye with Insano’s son.
“Riki!” he cried, happily nuzzling against Linksano’s cheek, before he was scooped up into the arms of his father.
“Now, now, son, remember our talk about consensual nuzzling?”
“Tee.” Insano kissed SOI before offering a small white bottle to Linksano. “For your head.”
Linksano gratefully swallowed a few aspirin before handing the bottle back. As he did, he noticed that he was lying on a cot that had somehow appeared in Insano’s lab instead of the floor. “Did you do this?”
“SOI insisted he couldn’t give his patient the care he needed without a bed,” Insano dismissed. It was then that Linksano noticed the array of colorful bandages all over his arms, legs, and chest.
“Thank Tesla I was planning on tossing these clothes anyway,” he muttered as he gingerly tested his legs by pressing them against the floor. Feeling no pain in any of his movements now, Linksano stood, his eyes quickly landing on the dimensional defibrillator.
“So it… it worked?”
“We’re both here, aren’t we?”
“Yes, yes we are.”
Silence hung awkwardly between them and Linksano struggled for what he should say to the other man. Although they had both worked to solve the problem, Linksano knew he would have been doomed without Insano’s help and he wanted to convey that sentiment without it sounding as pathetic or corny as it did in his head.
“Insano I…” Insano stared at him without expression. “Thank you. For everything.” They were the only words that felt correct so Linksano decided to leave it at that. “I suppose I should be going then. There’s really no reason to stay any longer.”
Insano remained silent so Linksano turned and started to walk to the stairs.
“Spoony’s going out of town again next weekend,” Insano suddenly blurted out. Linksano paused and looked back at him curiously. “Normally I use that time to restock my supplies and check on the progress of my latest batch of rage monkeys, but I could put that off for few days. There’s this new documentary on supermassive black holes that I’ve been meaning to watch and this would be the perfect opportunity…”
He seemed too flustered to finish which made Linksano smile. Perhaps all of that pain, suffering, and anguish had left a mark that for the first time he would be proud to bear.
“Shall I bring anything?”
“Chocolate chocolate chip ice cream! And if you don’t bring chocolate chocolate chip, I will make you rue the day you ever stepped foot on this planet, you second-rate scientist!”
“I’ll see you then, you narcissistic jackass.”
- I Can't Hate You If We Die