Queen Ozma was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, vevery, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very... actually it would *extremely* difficult to encapsulate just how old Ozma was. But she was.
She'd been a fourteen year old girl for quite a lot of that time. She peered at her reflection in the emeralds that studed the walls of her throne room. Her reflection was green and she wasn’t green, but she suddenly wanted to see or do or be different.
She narrowed her eyes and wished to be Tip.
He looked down at himself and he wasn't all that different. He was just wondering what to do next when Dorothy came into the throne room. "Oh." Dorothy stopped. Her black shoes squared on the reflective floor. "Hello. I was looking for Ozma."
Tip grinned. When he was Ozma, she smiled, but Tip grinned with his thumbs over his black belt. "I was looking for her too. I'm Tippetarius. Tip for short. I've come to ask for her for advice."
Dorothy nodded very seriously and her fingers pleated together in a really busy way. "You've come to the right place then. Ozma is really smart and clever and all around wonderful and she knows about just everything about everything. She'll help you. She helps everyone." She paused and narrowed her eyes. "What do you need help with? Is it dangerous?"
Tip tilted his head and decided that this would be a good way to have an adventure. "Very dangerous. There's a spell on me that I can’t explain, but I have to go beyond the mountains of the Hammer Heads and the forests of the fighting trees to climb the ruby Mountain Atanu and get a feather from the tail of the thunderbird."
Dorothy pursed her lips. "What did you need advice about?"
"Oh, if she could help me. I hear she's really helpful." Tip grinned and winked and pushed his thumbs into his belt. He swayed on this feet.
Dorothy's lips got really straight. Tip wasn’t certain if he’d ever seen them that straight. They could have been used to make lines on a piece of paper. It kind of made him want to do something to make them not quite so straight. He grinned even wider. "So, who are you?"
Dorothy breathed in very loudly through her nose. "I'm Dorothy. I'm a princess of Oz."
"Oh, you must be Ozma's sister." Tip was really enjoying this. It was a lot of fun to be someone else.
An opinion that kind of changed in the next moment when Dorothy said, "No, I'm not her sister." Her voice sounded brittle. Like she was from the land of china people. It hurt to hear her say that, because Ozma had always thought they were as close as sisters. They always walked hand in hand in the gardens and sometimes Dorothy would lean over and kiss Ozma's cheek just because. That's how she'd put it. "Just because," and she'd smile as wide as a rainbow when she said it and squeeze Ozma's hand in hers. Which always felt like she was squeezing Ozma’s heart, which she really liked.
To cover the hurt, he said, "Well, maybe you could put in a good word for me." He grinned and if it was a little forced, that was okay. He made sure to pull his teeth back good and wide and grin. "I hear she's really pretty." He said that because he wanted to hear Dorothy say nice things about himself again.
Instead Dorothy got really straight and her shoulders were really square. She said, "We don't need to bother Ozma. I'll go with you. I'm a princess of Oz and I've been all over Oz."
Tip really did want to go see the ruby Mountain Atanu in Quadlingland, and he really enjoyed when he and Dorothy went on adventures together. She could always be depended on to grab his hand when things became really dangerous and pull him to safety. Except, that was Ozma and not Tip, but it was all the same.
He had an idea that this was getting a little out of hand. But he hadn't gotten this *very* old by standing back. "Let's go."
So they went.
Now, a great many interesting things happened on this journey. There was the swamp of the forgotten blub, where Tip had to write a note to himself on his own arm or he'd have forgotten his own name. Which since it wasn't his everyday name would have been really awkward. There were the rodents of unusually tiny size, who had formed an acting troop and put on theatre in the round. The round being a mushroom cap. There were the garden gnomes in the garden of the stone woman. That was just creepy, but Dorothy solved it by narrowing her eyes really narrow and saying in a very calm voice, "Stop that right now."
It made Tip want to stop whatever he was doing and he wasn't doing anything.
Which was kind of the problem. He hadn't realized how often he held Dorothy's hands when they went on adventures until he was Tip and not Ozma. The first time he grabbed her hand they'd been running from a blub and Dorothy hadn't said anything other than, "It's behind you." But the second time, they'd just been walking along the path. Dorothy had stopped and said, "Tip, I don't like you that way. I like someone else." She'd pulled her hand out of Tip’s and walked very quickly down the yellow brick road.
Tip had had to run to catch up because he was so surprised. Then he was kind of mad. Who could Dorothy possibly like and why hadn't she told him about it when he was Ozma? But Tip hadn't gotten this *very* old without learning one or two things.
That night over their camp fire, he'd said, "I'm sorry I held your hand earlier. Why don't you tell me about the person you like." Tip really wanted to know who it was and he had a vague sense that even though he believed very strongly in kindness and helping people that he might just have a mean thought about whoever it was.
Dorothy sighed like a kettle. Really, it was amazing. Her breath came out and her shoulders slumped and she bent forward until her hair was over her face. She said, "This person, they’re just amazing. Just the smartest, best, kindest, sweetest person I've ever met." She looked up. "And I'm nothing like that. I know nothing will happen for a lot of reasons. I kind of have a temper."
Tip was about to agree when he realized that Tip hadn't seen Dorothy do anything that showed she had a temper. He grunted. It felt like the right sound.
Dorothy laughed and it wasn't a very funny ha-ha-ha laugh. It sounded bitter. "I look like a girl, but I'm not." She held out her hands, which had soot under the finger nails from making the fire. "I don't even know how old I am, but I'm not a girl."
"You look like a girl," said Tip, because he getting a little lost in this conversation.
Dorothy shot him a look that said don't be a complete moron. "I mean age. I don't age. None of us do here. And I guess I'm lucky. I know Munchkins that have been babies for decades, but," She shook her head. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this. It's just," she sighed like a kettle again. "We should go to sleep."
Tip had a hard time going to sleep. He picked and picked at what Dorothy had said.
He asked Dorothy again the next day, but she shrugged and wouldn't answer. She said, "It's none of your business," and stomped on down the yellow brick road, which was Dorothy all over.
After that, Tip couldn't take her hand and she was kind of distant, but it was still fun. Having an adventure with Dorothy. The problem was he wasn't under a curse and they arrived at the base of the ruby Mountain Atanu far sooner than he would have expected. Dorothy looked up at the mountain . "We'll free you from your curse tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," agreed Tip, who put his hands in his pockets and did some serious thinking. He decided to tell Dorothy everything, which unfortunately came out of his mouth as, "Night, Dorothy," which really wasn't much in the way of telling her anything.
They climbed up the sharp cutting peaks of the ruby mountain. Tip almost fell twice, but Dorothy caught him. She pulled him up back onto the trail and said, "Are you okay?"
If Tip were Ozma, Dorothy would have hugged her and kissed her cheek. But Tip wasn't Ozma. They kept going. Finally they reached the top and there was the nest of the thunderbird, which was both a bird and thunder.
Now, if Tip or Ozma were quite as clever as Dorothy thought Ozma was, or knew as much as Dorothy thought she did, she'd have known what the feather from the tail of thunderbird did. As it was, the idea of it had been the first thing that had popped in Tip's mind.
They crept up to the empty nest and Dorothy whispered, "Tip, there's a feather at the bottom of the nest." Which there was, green and gold and flashing, among the eggs. Tip crawled carefully over to it and picked it up.
It flashed in his hands and he was Ozma in a pretty dress.
Dorothy stared at her open mouthed. She said, "Oh, it's, it's you. I thought, and, were you under a curse? Couldn‘t you say anything? Is that why?"
Ozma really wanted to say yes, but she had to say, "Not exactly. I was just, I was Tip once and thought I'd be Tip again, and then you came in and I thought this would be fun." She twisted one hand in the other.
Which was when Dorothy's temper made an appearance in the form of one hand slapping Ozma across the face hard enough to really hurt. "How could you lie to me like that? I thought we were friends."
"Well, I thought we were like sisters." The hurt bubbled up in Ozma's voice and she hadn't even realized that she still hurt over that. "You like someone and haven't even told me."
Dorothy stared at her with wide eyes. Her hands opened and closed. She took two steps forward, took Ozma's face in her hands and kissed her. Not a just because kiss on the cheek, but the kiss of an adult on lips and everything. It was a kiss that sucked all the air out of Ozma’s lungs.
It was over much too sudden as Dorothy stepped away. "You're not my sister." She scrambled out of the nest and ran down the mountain.
Ozma called after her, "Wait. Wait." But Dorothy could run really fast when she wanted to.
Of course, Ozma was a fairy Queen. So she had other tools than running really fast. She caught up with Dorothy at their camp from the night before.
Dorothy swallowed when she saw her, but didn't say anything. Ozma didn't say anything either. She sat down next to Dorothy so that their hips were next to each other. She reached out to the fire and was older. She smiled at Dorothy, who was older too.
Then they did things that older people did, and when they got back to the Emerald City, Ozma declared that Oz now had two Queens instead of one.
After that, they often walked in the gardens together and held hands and kissed just because.