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Waking Up

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"Grasping the concept of instantaneous velocity is central to an understanding of calculus," Ambrose said abruptly.

Cain, who had been dozing in a chair next to Ambrose's hospital bed, awakened suddenly. He's awake and talking, he thought with relief. I just hope he's okay. He was a little bit ashamed of himself for being pleased that Ambrose woke up during his shift rather than DG's or Raw's. He knew the others were deeply fond of Ambrose, but not in quite the same way that Cain was.

Ambrose opened his eyes and addressed Cain earnestly. "Once you can measure the speed of an object frozen in a moment of time, finer than a hair's breadth, you'll be stepping into a whole new world of mathematics."

Cain wondered briefly when hares' breath had become a unit of measurement, then figured out what Ambrose had really said. "Glad to hear it," he said, trying to sound enthusiastic. He may not be lucid when he awakens, the doctors had warned. That's normal. Just be positive and welcoming, that's what he needs.

Ambrose's eyes focused clearly on Cain for the first time. "Wyatt!" he said, smiling.

That one simple word - Ambrose's recognition of him - melted the tight knot of fear in Cain's midsection. He took a deep breath and felt relaxed for the first time in days. "How do you feel?" Cain asked.

Ambrose reflected for a moment. "Discombobulated," he said. "Everything's all rearranged. I feel like it should hurt, but it doesn't."

Cain smiled. "I'm glad to hear it doesn't hurt." Thank goodness for really serious drugs.

"But I suppose that's tangential to the real question of whether the operation was a success," Ambrose said anxiously, reaching up gingerly to feel the bandages wrapped around the top of his head. "Tangential!" he exclaimed, his newly-integrated mind suddenly deriving a new topic. "Oh, Cain, whatever you do, don't become a tangent."

WTF? thought Cain. "I beg your pardon?" he said aloud.

"You see, a tangent touches a circle at one point and one point only. I can't imagine anything sadder." Ambrose looked for a moment as if he might cry for the poor lonely tangent. "Oh, yes I can! An asymptote. It can become infinitely closer to its apparent destination, but it will never reach it. Please don't ever be an asymptote, Wyatt. I couldn't bear it." Ambrose reached out blindly for Cain's hand.

"I promise," Cain said, taking Ambrose's hand in one of his and patting it with the other. "It's okay." He tried to dredge up lessons that were buried deeply in the back of his mind. "We'll be, um ... congruent."

Ambrose's clouded expression cleared instantly, as if both suns had suddenly appeared. "Do you really think so? Of course, of course! Oh, that's wonderful. Give me a couple of postulates and I'll prove it to you."

Cain leaned forward and kissed Ambrose on the forehead, just under the bottom layer of bandages. "I'll take your word for it, sweetheart."