It had been roughly three months since Rick had moved in. Three months since he'd tried to overthrow the council. Three months since he and Rick had formed into the makeshift family unit they'd both always wanted. Nothing could go wrong... right?
Well, it seemed that something had. The robotic eye that Morty's old Rick had given him was giving him trouble (along with a splitting headache), occasionally sending a film of static across his vision. Morty had panicked earlier when the eye went dark for a few seconds, but after a moment of frantically whacking it, it came back online, albeit fuzzier than normal.
He had no idea what to do. He considered looking in a mirror with a screwdriver and giving it his all, but he didn't want to create even worse problems or irreparable damage. So, he decided to cover it with his eyepatch, ignore the now throbbing pain in his head, and hope for the best.
So, eye covered, he went out into the living space that had been created to watch tv with Rick. He tried to focus on the sitcom about talking couches, but was distracted by the faint fuzziness caused by the static interferences that showed up slightly in the blackness of his eyepatch.
Morty admitted that he had been rubbing at his eye, but he must have been doing it more than he thought, because eventually Rick said, "hey, you okay, Morty?"
He jumped and pulled his hand away. "Yes," he said automatically. He hadn't considered Rick as an option- he wasn't in the mood for excrutiating pain, and didn't think this Rick would know how to fix his eye.
"Are you sure?" Rick scooted toward Morty and gently reached out, putting one hand on his face and turning his head toward him. "H-hey, you're wearing your patch again."
"s-so?!" He demanded, pulling away as his heartbeat quickened.
"Well, I mean, you stopped wearing it for a long time, and... I just thought maybe something was wrong with your eye."
He felt blood drain from his face; for somebody that everyone called Doofus Rick, he had a habit of hitting the nail on the head shockingly often.
Taking the silence as confirmation, Rick continued, "why don't we go into the lab and take a look?" He smiled and stood up, gently tugging on Morty's hand to signal to him to do the same.
Morty froze upon hearing the words, his visible eye widening as he found he was unable to bring himself to follow the gentle pressure of Rick's hand. He had been trained for years to simply do what Rick wanted, that whatever disgusting, inhuman, unbearably painful experiment would be over quicker if Rick didn't get a fight. Yet he felt the muscles in his limbs contracting as Rick continued his oblivious attempts to lead Morty to the lab.
"Come on, it'll be really quick," he insisted, flicking off the TV. "Promise." Somehow, he managed to pull Morty into a standing position and began leading him toward the lab.
At this, Morty finally broke out of his freeze response and pulled away from Rick. "N-no!" He almost shrieked, stumbling backward until he fell over the table. Doofus or not, different or not, caring or not, he'd sooner gouge out his other eye than allow a Rick to go near his mechanical one. "No way!"
Rick's expression changed to one of confusion as he reached for Morty, who curled up in a ball. Then it slowly shifted to vague understanding. After three months, he was no stranger to Morty's panic attacks, but (as it was dawning upon him now) he'd never seen what would happen if he tried to overhaul Morty's eye. He hadn't confronted the boy with the idea yet. But he had been fairly clear; his eye was in need of repairs that he would not permit.
"Morty?" He knelt down beside him, now slightly sad. "Morty, it's okay. I'm not going to hurt you. I promise. Really, anything I do you shouldn't feel. You don't have any sensors in your eye, right?"
"No," Morty repeated into his knees, not in response to the question, sounding as though he were crying with fear. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no..." he continued mumbling, until thick, tense silence settled over the room.
Okay, so Morty was in too much of a panic to pull out of it with sheer logic. So, Rick thought as hard as he could. How could he convince Morty to allow him to examine the eye? What could he possibly do to get Morty to concede to lying completely defenceless on the table in the lab as Rick repaired the mechanisms in the ocular device?
But then it hit him.
"Morty," he said to the wadded up teenager, childlike joy and cheerfulness returning in his voice. "If you let me take a look at your eye, I'll show you how to make ovenless brownies."
He tilted his head so he was looking at Rick with his good eye. "You... you're not serious," he mumbled into his knees.
"I'm about as serious as a laser to the head," said Rick, grateful to be getting somewhere. "All you gotta do is lie on the table for awhile and stay still while I fix your eye. You do that, and I'll show you how to make ovenless brownies. Deal?"
Morty drew air shakily; the doofus knew his weaknesses all too well already. Why did he show his desperation for more ovenless brownies?
".... okay," he finally agreed, forcing himself to unfurl and stand up.
Rick smiled. "Thank you, Morty." So, he gently took Morty by the hand and led him to the laboratory.
The smell of motor oil just about knocked him out. If you've ever associated a smell, sound, sight or taste with something traumatic, then you know exactly how Morty felt. If you haven't, then you can't possibly imagine what it's like. Morty caught the smell of motor oil and the sight of the laboratory, and all he could feel was the phantom pain in where his left eye was and of the old Rick digging out his eye with a scalpel. Clutching his robot eye, Morty stopped momentarily, then forced himself to draw a deep breath and continue.
"okeydoke, Morty, just lie on the table and this won't take long at all." Said Rick, turning on the lights and revealing all the glinting, dangerous looking tools, both mechanical and medical. Trying desperately to pretend he was just following an order for That Rick helped as he climbed onto the cold metal and lay with his fists clenched tightly at his sides, trying to draw air into seemingly constricted lungs. The tightness of his lungs and pounding of his heart only increased as Rick tightened straps around his head, wrists and ankles.
"These are just to keep you still, Morty," explained Rick, gently patting Morty's head. "If you move too much, you could hurt yourself, or cause damage to your eye that im not prepared to fix."
The explanation was reasonable, to be honest. If Morty caused severe damage to the eye, it could be permanently broken, or worse, require more Ricks to come here and assist in its repair. Nonetheless, Morty began panicking harder, straining against the straps as Rick went to get whatever tool he needed and his damned eye flickered with static yet again. He was softly whimpering and whining, desperately fighting against the leather binds that restrained him to the scientific platform of nightmares that cost him an eye.
"Morty?" His grandfather's concerned voice cut through the blind panic. "Morty, calm down, just- just look at me, okay?"
He tried, but found that made it worse, as Rick now had a flathead screwdriver in his hand. Christ almighty, he could already see his mouth curling into that familiar sadistic smirk, excited for whatever new experiment he had in mind.
okay, thought Rick, now utterly lost as to what to do. So that didn't help. What do I do now? He's gotta calm down...
He thought frantically, almost as frantically as poor Morty was trying to escape his restraints. He thought, and the first coherent thought he could grasp was the one he went with.
"Morty?" He began, setting the screwdriver aside and out of view. "Morty, do you want to stop feeling like this?"
He did, he realized at the same time he was nodding. Feeling like this sucked and he wanted it to end.
"okay, then just follow along what I say, alright?"
Another frantic nod, tears springing to his natural eye.
"Great. Now, I want you to breathe in through your nose, hold it for three seconds, then breathe out. H-here, give it a try with me..." he demonstrated the instructions, slowing down his own breathing so Morty had something to go off of.
Desperate to calm himself by any means necessary, Morty shut his eyes and obeyed the instructions, sucking air into his tight lungs, restraining it for a moment, then blowing out and repeating the process. He felt Rick touch one of his balled fists, and found that as he drew air, his lungs were less constricted. There was no doubt about it, Morty was growing calmer.
"That's right," said Rick, clearly pleased as he picked up the screwdriver once again. "Great. Morty, I gotta deactivate your eye for a second. You're gonna see dark out of your left eye, but I'll try to fix whatever it is as fast as I can, okay?"
His breath hitched, but then he exhaled again. "O-okay," he agreed, then drew breath again, continuing the deep breaths as his vision went completely dark. He was now staring up at the ceiling as Rick did whatever he was doing to his eye. the noises of whatever was going on didn't enter into his head in the conventional way, but echoed through his eye socket and directly into his brain.
keep breathing, he told himself. Keep breathing. In... out. Inhale... exhale. Suck... blow. Oxygen... carbon dioxide.
This process continued for an indeterminate amount of time. Rick tinkered with his eye, occasionally saying things like, "wow, this must've been overheating for a while," and "mm, I probably have to overhaul the whole thing," and even, "I'm gonna need a replacement for that," or "be right back, Morty, I'm gonna get the blueprints for this thing." At which points he walked away, leaving dead silence in Morty's brain that would only be filled by noise sharper and louder than before. Drills whirring. Metal squeaking. Wrenches creaking. Things buzzing and fizzing in his skull. It seemed endless.
This, of course, is why it seemed impossible when Rick loosened the straps and said, "Okay, I'll just turn your eye back on and you should be golden."
Light flashed impossibly bright in his vision, and he brought a hand to his left eye. As soon as his vision adjusted to the light, everything came back into sharp focus, the headache gone and his eye once again fully operational.
"How do you feel?" Asked Rick gently, smiling and awaiting his surrogate grandson's answer.
"... Better. Way better, actually," he said, climbing off the table. "Th-Thanks, Rick."
"hey, don't mention it." He ruffled Morty's hair. "Now, how about some brownies?"
Morty's face lit up like his vision, and he trotted beside his grandfather to what they'd affectionately dubbed the 'chemical table.' He once again looked like a child, which Rick would treasure for however brief it was going to last. This cycle was going to repeat itself. Something would go wrong that only Rick could fix, and through much resistance and panic, Rick would have to convince him to let him fix it.
It certainly wasn't going to be easy, thought Rick as he fished out the Titanium nitrate and chlorofied tartrate to make the promised end goal a reality. But thank god for ovenless brownies.