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Toto, Too

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The Witch has the tin man dumped in a rocky ravine, the scarecrow's stuffing torn out and scattered in the forest, and the lion caged in her courtyard. But she doesn't lock up Toto, not even after he sinks his teeth into her leg for threatening Dorothy one time too many.

She's like a dead thing. She doesn't bleed.

When they first landed in this strange country and Toto felt human language reorganizing his thoughts, he kept his mouth shut out of pride. He could communicate with Dorothy just fine already, thank you. Now it's a desperate survival strategy. The Witch won't feel any need to tear him away from his little mistress if she thinks he wouldn't understand why.

Toto keeps an eye on the Witch's servants. If the whole of Winkie Country is enslaved, there has to be an underground rebellion happening somewhere. Maybe they're good enough to have a mole in the Witch's own palace. If he finds any rebels, he vows to talk to them as much as he needs.

Back home Toto mostly thought of moles as something to bark at. How times change!

But he can't find any rebels, just a bunch of slaves who are completely terrified and completely cowed. Toto wonders if the Munchkins were the same way, before he and Dorothy landed on their witch. He wonders why the Great Wizard hasn't done anything to help these people.

He also wonders why the Great Wizard's throne room had such a strong smell of paste, but that's probably not important right now.

In the night Dorothy huddles under her sheets and tries not to cry. She did chores on the farm, but never until her arms were stiff and her knees scraped. And she's so little. Four years older than Toto, but in human terms that still makes her just a puppy.

Toto jumps up on the bed and wriggles into her arms. He whines. He licks her face. It means I know you're hurting, and I hate it, but don't forget that I'm here and will do anything for you.

He doesn't need to say it in words for Dorothy to understand.

o0o

For a few years Dorothy stays home on the farm, safe and sound.

When she and her uncle take a trip down south for the sake of his health, Toto makes it obvious — without words, of course, because here in Kansas he's lost them again — that he wants to go. Dorothy's guardians, in turn, make it obvious that he won't be allowed. Toto decides not to press the point.

Of course she goes missing a week into the journey. Washed overboard in a storm in the middle of the Pacific.

Most of it is obvious in Em's body language when she opens Henry's letter: all the fear and grief she must have felt after the cyclone, compounded by the surety that they can't be lucky enough to miraculously get Dorothy back twice. For the next few weeks Toto is never far from Em's heels: partly to comfort her, partly to get any news of Dorothy as soon as it arrives.

"Ah, Toto!" she exclaims one day, "it's almost as if you know she's gone."

Toto stares up at her with bright eyes.

"Maybe she never really came back from the cyclone," adds Em, half to herself. "Maybe I've been imagining her all this time."

"Woof!" says Toto, meaning stop that right now.

"No, that's right. You came back too, didn't you." Em gets down on her knees, a slower motion now than it was only a few years ago, and pets Toto as if to reassure herself that he's solid and present. "Where did you go, huh, boy? I know where Dorothy imagines she went, but you must've seen the real thing. Oh, I wish you could talk!"

Toto butts his head against her hand and grumbles deep in his throat, meaning something like good grief, maybe if I could, you'd believe her.

When Dorothy gets back, he's never leaving her side again.

o0o

So of course Dorothy can't get home before going missing again. One morning she's shaking Henry awake in Australia — the letter says she has another fairy story to tell, and it's as good an explanation as any for why she's in a nice new dress that isn't even damp — and the next she's disappeared in California, taking her cousin and an entire horse-and-buggy with her.

Em takes the whole thing in a kind of shell-shocked stride. Sure, perhaps Dorothy has been crushed to death in an earthquake, but who knows? Maybe she's fine. Best not to start grieving until they've given her a few weeks to turn up, just in case.

Toto mostly thinks how fortunate the children are. Wherever they've landed, they won't have to walk.

o0o

Dorothy eagerly shares the details of her new fairy adventures with the family. Her aunt and uncle do a lot of smiling, and nodding, and concerned whispering to each other when no other humans are around.

She's healthy and well and nothing comes of it, so Toto has nothing to warn his little mistress about.

And there are in turn some things Dorothy only talks about when there's nobody around but Toto. Things nobody else in America, perhaps, has the experience to understand.

Hanging the laundry, out behind the new house in the baking-hot sun: "I don't want Aunt Em and Uncle Henry worrying over how much I was held prisoner. Some of them were easy enough, like Princess Langwidere — I almost feel sorry for her now. I 'spect she's lonely, deep down. But the vegetable people, ooh, they were frightful. And the Nome King! He turned out to be even more horrid than the Wicked Witch. I was glad you were safe at home, Toto. I missed you terribly, but I hate to think what kind of ornament he would've turned you into."

Riding on the back of a cart into town, with the rattle of wheels on cobbles keeping her voice from reaching the front seat: "Princess Ozma promised to look in on me every Saturday, and if I'm in trouble all I have to do is make a sign, and she'll wish me to her side. It'll be any minute now. I won't make the sign, but I'm going to wave, and you must do your best to look smart and handsome."

Scrubbing the plates after dinner, while her relatives go to bed early with the latest humbug tonics for their aches and pains: "Ozma must be the dearest, sweetest, most beautiful girl in the whole world. She wears the loveliest flowers in her hair, always fresh and blooming, and even when she takes it down there's still the most delightful fragrance in her long silky curls..."

In bed, on a lumpy mattress with Toto curled protectively next to her pillow: "I didn't want to leave. If I hadn't seen how much everyone here was worrying about me...I wouldn't have come back."

o0o

When a talking fox-captain announces that they're prisoners, Toto goes straight for the leg. This time around, he's taking no chances. Nobody is going to lock up his little mistress ever again.

To his astonishment, Dorothy grabs him back. "Stop, Toto!" she orders. "These are our friends."

Friends don't take friends captive! thinks Toto, and is almost furious enough to say the words out loud. He settles for wriggling and barking in Dorothy's arms as the fox-soldiers march them into the fox-city, along with the lovable shaggy man and the useless little boy.

When the fox-king announces how honored they are to have "little Dorothy" visit their kingdom, Toto is shocked barkless.

It's only his second queer adventure, but Dorothy is an old hand at this by now. She shows no fear, no matter how much danger they appear to be in. She guides and protects the frightened human boy, much like the scarecrow and the tin man once protected her, then becomes a calming presence for the lost fairy girl (who likes to pet Toto and leave him all drippy). She is gracious and friendly toward the complete strangers who keep professing their admiration...and asking if she can get Ozma to extend them an invitation to her birthday party.

By the second time someone asks that question, Toto has figured it out. This whole adventure is Ozma's invitation to Dorothy. Certainly she has the power, if she's half so magical and wonderful as Dorothy claims.

Has the girl drawn the same conclusion, and that's why she's so confident, because she knows Ozma will summon them in the twinkling of an eye before any real harm comes to them? Or is it just her nature by now to be calm in the face of impossible strangeness?

Toto has been at Dorothy's side for years, and somehow he never noticed how much she was growing up.

o0o

Either this is the Winkie Country or somewhere much like it, with yellow flowers and yellow-green grass and a familiar yellow brick road. Toto remembers trees like these, all bare and withered under the shadow of the Wicked Witch's castle. Now they're in full bloom.

A brass-yellow metal man and a yellow-feathered hen greet them on the road. Dorothy is delighted — but the hen flies into her arms and suddenly Toto is growling, remembering a torrent of crows descending on them out of the night, shrieking and cawing until the scarecrow had twisted all their necks and their bodies littered the path.

He barely hears the conversation, and leaps at her the instant he gets a chance. Dorothy yells again, grabs at him and slaps his ears, orders him to behave.

When he's had a chance to calm down, she shakes a finger at him and orders, "You've got to understand that Billina is one of my dearest friends, and musn't be hurt — now or ever."

Of course she isn't one of the Witch's birds. Toto, ashamed of himself, wags his tail to show that he'll behave.

"The miserable thing can't talk," says the hen, with a sneer.

"Yes, he can," replies Dorothy; "he talks with his tail, and I know everything he says. If you could wag your tail, Billina, you wouldn't need words to talk with."

"Nonsense!" says the hen.

"It isn't nonsense at all. Just now Toto says he's sorry, and that he'll try to love you for my sake. Don't you, Toto?"

Toto wags his tail again, and adds "Bow-wow!", to mean yes, really.

o0o

The party only grows larger as they make their way toward the city. They pick up the tin man and scarecrow in the Winkie country, and the lion on the outskirts of the city, along with a tiger who shakes Toto's paw quite politely.

Dorothy has her own set of rooms in the palace now, full of frocks and ornaments in exactly her size and style. There's even a pretty chest full of collars and ribbons. She ties a green one in a neat bow around Toto's neck, so he's presentable when they reach the throne room.

Ozma smells like pure magic, not even a whiff of paste, and is just as beautiful as Dorothy built her up to be. If Toto hadn't recognized her immediately from her crown or her fairy-princess glow, he would have known her by the way Dorothy runs to her side, throwing her arms around the princess and hugging and kissing her.

Toto barks his approval.

o0o

He sniffs his way through the courtyards of Ozma's palace and finds Billina, along with the kitten Eureka sunning herself on the path. Billina flutters hastily to a higher perch on one of the garden statues and turns up her beak. "Hmph! Careful, Eureka, it's that beast who doesn't know how to behave."

Eureka, sprawled across the flagstones like a melted spill of strawberry ice cream, blinks lazily at Toto. "Oh, yes, Dorothy's pet. Hello, you."

"He can't talk," sniffs Billina. "He's just a common Kansas dog."

"And you're a common farm hen," drawls Eureka, rolling over and sitting up, "and that Jim was a common California horse, and if there was any such thing as a common cat I suppose I would be one of those. He's in Oz, he ought to be able to talk."

"Nonsense," says Billina, though now she's looking at Toto as if she isn't sure. "Dorothy would have said—"

"I haven't told Dorothy," says Toto.

The yellow hen squawks in astonishment. The kitten keeps quiet, but her ears prick up.

"I'm very sorry for how I treated you, Miss Hen," adds Toto, with a short doggy bow to Billina. "The last time Dorothy and I were in that country, she was attacked by birds, so when you flew at her, I reacted without thinking. It was quite unfair to you. I know you protected her in my absence while she was in Ev, and for that I am eternally grateful."

"Oh," stammers Billina. "Well. It was nothing. Gracious me, you can speak perfectly well — why ever don't you?"

"Dorothy's right that I can say everything I need to without words."

"And you like it when people underestimate you, am I right?" purrs Eureka, having gone from startled to smug in the space of a few moments. "Ooh, the look on Dorothy's face when I tell her..."

"I wish you wouldn't," says Toto frankly.

Still flustered, Billina says she quite understands, and will keep Toto's secret. Eureka isn't nearly as accommodating. "What's in it for me?"

Toto remembers Dorothy's story about this same kitten going on trial, how she had proof of her innocence the whole time, but kept it under wraps in order to cause some interesting chaos. "You'll have a secret that only two other people share, and every time you see someone treat me like a common non-talking dog, you will get the delight of knowing how wrong they are."

Eureka purrs again. "I like this dog. He gets me."

o0o

After the party, when the magic tricks are over and the royals and celebrities have gone home, Dorothy and Ozma retire to Dorothy's balcony for a talk. Their smiles are bright, eyes soft. Their fingers brush together.

"I don't even really know when my birthday is," says Ozma with a self-conscious laugh. "I certainly wasn't raised by anyone who cared to celebrate it. So I decided it would be now, and then I could invite you. You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not!" says Dorothy earnestly. "Everyone ought to have a birthday. If you lose it, why, you've just got to make up a new one."

Toto retires to one of the inner rooms. They won't know he can eavesdrop, but he feels he ought not to, just the same.

At last Dorothy goes to change for bed, and Ozma comes back through her suite toward the halls, pausing to sit on the green-velvet couch next to Toto. "I've asked her to stay again. And you too, of course. She said no."

She scratches absently between Toto's ears.

"I do rather love her, you know."

Toto wags his tail once, to mean I approve.

"And I think she has warm feelings for me, only...only perhaps it's not the same. I'm a bit...strange, you know. I was raised by a witch, as a prisoner, so the Wizard could rule the Emerald City with the true heir out of the way...and they knew anyone would be looking for a girl, so they hid me in a boy's body. I grew up as a boy. Perhaps Dorothy doesn't know what to make of it."

"Whuff," says Toto dismissively, to say We've seen a lot of humans pass through the farm. I remember Zeke and Hunk kissing in the hayloft after hours. I remember the one who smelled like a female but wanted to be called Hickory, who would get laid up and ask Dorothy to fetch hot water bottles about once a month. Humans are complicated. Dorothy knows that. Also, she's quite obviously mad about you. Of course she doesn't mind.

Is it any wonder Toto doesn't bother with language? You can pack a single whuff with all the meaning you need.