Chapter 1: Chapter One
“That’s the O.Z. I remember.”
With these simple words, and the suns shining over Central City, it seemed as if happily ever after was on the horizon. The royal family was reunited, the witch melted and all seemed taken care of. People all over were rejoicing the end of the dark days and looking forward to the wonderful ones ahead.
All but one.
Azkadellia had moved away from the group gazing out at the suns return. She didn’t deserve to be out there, celebrating when she had been the one to try and doom the city to eternal darkness. She had caused pain to so many, stole so many lives during her reign of terror.
DG on the other hand, was just a yearling compared to Azkadellia. She had been in the O.Z. less than a week and she was thrust into the role of princess. She gained an entire family and wealth of knowledge that for her whole life she thought she had invented in her imagination. Her new friends had helped her more in the past few days then some of her best friends had in years and she felt such a strong bond with them. Each one in turn had saved her at different points in the week. Cain, the strong yet stoic ex-Tin Man became her personal body guard. Glitch, the lobotomized zipperhead, had turned into her personal encyclopedia, as long as his synapses weren’t misfiring. And Raw was her personal doctor, able to heal her emotions as well as physical wounds. But it was all so much for her to take in.
“Deej,” Azkadellia muttered. For the past few days she had found more solace in her sister’s room than even in her own. If it wasn’t their mother peering in to make sure she was recuperating well, it was ladies in waiting and courtiers staring at her in the hall. Everywhere she went, people till eyed her as though it was all a façade and she would return to her wicked ways any second. At least DG still seemed to speak to her like she was a person. “You ever have a day where you wished you were a test bunnybury in the science wing instead of being a person?”
“Boy, do I ever.” DG sighed. “But look on the bright side, you’re back to your old self again.” DG could tell that didn’t make Azkadellia feel any better, but she could try.
“Tests,” She muttered. “As soon Glitch and his brain are reunited, they want to conduct tests, to make sure the witch isn’t merely dormant inside me.” Part of her was thankful that her parents were at least trusting her life to one of DG’s friends and their (former) advisor. He wouldn’t allow harm to come to her.
“You can’t blame them, Az. You’ve been trapped by the witch for so long, most people don’t remember you before... I’ll sit through them with you, if you want.” Only then did DG remember the presence of Cain in the room as he quickly drew in a breath. He was sure to have an opinion on her sitting through dangerous tests with Azkadellia, but then again, he always had something to say about dangerous situations. What was he still doing there anyway? DG wondered to herself.
Azkadellia herself felt a bit tense as she remembered that the former tin man had joined them, possibly because he didn’t trust her. She couldn’t blame him; in his short time with her sister, he had become almost like her personal bodyguard. It was touching, his devotion to protecting her. She looked to him. “What is your opinion on the matter, Mr. Cain?” She asked. A dangerous question, but he would be sure to speak up on his own. Better to ask him right out.
Cain was surprised by the question, however badly he wanted to voice his opinion on the matter. He cleared his throat before stating simply, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, considering they will be testing Azkadellia’s powers, making sure they are purely white-light, no longer dark...” He looked at his boots after speaking, not daring to make eye contact with DG after the daggers he felt in his temple.
“I have powers too, ya know,” DG put her hands on her hips and suddenly felt her face flush. “I can handle a little magic.” DG looked to her sister for support and she hoped it would come.
“A little.” Az reminded her. “There’s no telling what these tests will be like. He may have a point to you just…Waiting. Your safety is important too. Besides, I’m sure that even if they’re terrible, your friend wouldn’t let anything to happen to me.”
DG sighed. There was no way getting around this now, with the two most stubborn people in her life telling her she shouldn’t. “Fine, I won’t come in. But I want to be told the second your tests are done. Where is Glitch anyway?”
“With Raw, trying to get the halls of the palace cleaned of longcoats... we left a few in less then good shape,” Cain explained and DG nodded. She looked at Azkadellia and took her hand.
“I’m glad you’re back to you, sis.”
The other princess beamed. Sis, it felt good to hear that word as well as it felt good to know that DG still considered her a sister, even after all the vile things she had done. “I’m glad to be back.”
“Why don’t you two girls change and then we can talk about what your future holds,” The Queen spoke up and DG looked to Az offering her hand.
“Are you ready to be detoxed, Sis?”
Azkadellia looked at their mother, then at DG before taking her sister‘s hand. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Cain began to follow the two sisters, just as he always had but DG turned around. “No need to follow us anymore Cain.”
“Oh...” He didn’t know what to do with himself. He supposed he had probably go help Jeb round up longcoats but he didn’t budge from his current spot.
“Is everything Ok?” DG noticed the look on his face. His features were not their normal tense expression; his face had softened and there was a questioning look in his eye.
“Everything is just fine,” He lied both to DG and to himself. “I’ll be helping Jeb round up longcoats if you... if anyone needs me.” He corrected himself and offered a bow to the three royal ladies before readjusting his hat to mask his expression and walking swiftly out of the room. DG was puzzled but she was more concerned with getting things straightened out with her family.
“He’s just worried about you. I mean, swept away from everything you ever knew. Everything you’ve found out. You can’t pretend this is an easy adjustment for you, Deej.” Az noted as she watched Cain’s retreating back. She did have to note that he was brave and did a fair job of protecting her sister, even if the only thing he was protecting her from recently was nosy courtiers begging to hear about her ‘adventures’ on the other side. She had a feeling once the suitors began calling, he’d be on her tail like a ravenous papay.
“He’s always following me, Az,” She kept an eye trained on him, but she said it quietly. It wasn’t a complaint as if it annoyed her, it was just true. “I would like some space from men before mother and father throw me into courting.” DG visibly shuddered at the thought of sitting through countless hours of boring princes. She thought about one of Shakespeare’s plays, the Merchant of Venice in which the handsome suitor has to choose between 3 casks; one is filled with gold and a likeness of Portia, the next a skull with a letter stuck through one of the eyes, the last a commedia mask. Whomever chose the cask of gold won the hand of Portia. DG only hoped to find her Bassanio if courtship was really to be her fate. Cain wandered in and out of these thoughts. She was only pulled out of her stupor by the thought of his icy blue eyes.
“Come on, Az, we’ve got to change.” DG sighed.
Az nodded and followed after her sister and mother.
Cain found Raw and Glitch in the throne room. He was in a stupor when he walked in and both off his friends could tell.
“How are they doing?” Glitch asked, though from the look on the other man’s face, something was up.
Cain didn’t respond. He was thinking about how insignificant he felt at that very moment and he removed his hat to scratch his blonde head.
“Guessing that means bad? Good? Mediocre? Just one adjective and we’ll have an answer.” He couldn’t imagine what would have the blonde man so befuddled.
Cain swallowed hard, suppressing his pride and every bit of confusion running through his head. “Fine.” He refused to make eye contact with the zipper-head but he felt Raw’s laser stare in the side of his head. The seer had a way of telling you he knew what you were thinking, and Cain didn’t like it one bit.
Glitch looked between the two. Inside, he had a feeling there was something being left out here, but he shook it away. “Anything worth mentioning? There have been whispering about Az-Princess Azkadellia. DG of course too, but those have been nothing but positive remarks.”
Cain finally got it together and looked up at Glitch. “The Queen wants tests to be run on Azkadellia. They are all meeting in the throne room shortly to talk about the future of the O.Z.” Cain knew he shouldn’t have been so rude to Glitch because that was definitely something worth mentioning.
Glitch and Raw shared a look, a worried one. “They’ll be expecting DG to take over the throne? I mean, I don’t think anyone’s going to trust Azka-D for a while, after being the evil possessed tyrant she was.” The former advisor spoke up.
“DG won’t like that. Azkadellia knows the O.Z. like the back of her hand, possessed or not. DG will feel that she doesn’t deserve it.” Cain’s voice faltered, betraying his feelings which even he didn’t know yet. Raw looked at him sideways.
“Cain cares for DG more than he let on.” Cain’s eyes shot him a look but the seer remained unchanged in his concern for Cain.
“Wait, back up. Cain and the princess?” Glitch asked, feeling like he had missed half that conversation. “He likes her? As in likes her likes her?” He then ignored the question to look at Cain. "DG, not deserve the O.Z? She saved it. She’s not just a princess, she's a hero."
“You’re telling me,” Cain mumbled, pulling his hat further down over his eyes to hide the deep color that had crept into his cheeks. He picked up a leg of a longcoat that was unconscious and dragged him to a chair so he could tie him up, but he could feel Glitch’s eyes on him the whole time. Cain still hadn’t answered Glitch’s inquiry about him and DG.
“So, with that settled, what about you and a certain blue eyed Princess?” The headcase grinned a bit too widely.
Cain shot him a glaring look. Or rather his shoes. Or rather the tile at his feet. “There’s nothing to know.”
Glitch just shrugged some. You didn’t need to be a seer to see that the Princess was attached to him and vice versa. Both seemed too stubborn to speak up.
Cain felt bad for not saying anything to Glitch. He knew he wouldn’t tell DG, or anything, but he didn’t really want to admit... how he felt. He sighed non committedly and rubbed his face, taking off his hat. “Alright. But you have to swear you won’t say a word...”
“Not a soul, not a word. Besides, who’s to say I’ll remember any o this once my brain and I are reunited?”
“Point taken. Ok. I feel something for her, but I don’t know what it is...” He was such a man. He couldn’t really say how he felt or what he thought about her in reality, but that was the jist of it.
“But it’s something. Boy oh boy, I never would have thought. Unless of course you bring into account that you two argue like a married couple. Then it’s obvious.”
“Oh god. Do you think she has any idea…” Cain took off his hat and scratched his head.
“If she doesn’t have some kind of idea by now, She may never figure it out.” Glitch said. “Or maybe she knows and won’t say anything because she’s too shy. Or thinks it will cause a scandal.”
“If I know DG like I think I know her, she doesn’t care about scandal. But if she does know, I can’t say I blame her for not saying anything,” Cain sighed. “My own son is her age anyway.” He said it, as if it could be the reason for anything, but it didn’t sound convincing.
“And that matters? If I know DG like I know her, well, like I think I know her, She won’t care about that either.”
“Oh, just forget it,” Cain didn’t want to talk anymore. He knew he was being stubborn, but he truly thought that DG didn’t feel the same way.
“Right. Less talking about the princess’ and your non existent love life, more getting rid of the trash.” He said. “Focus on clearing out the longcoats.”
Cain almost growled and threw the leg of the longcoat he had been dragging on the floor and huffed down the hall without a word. He shouldn’t have been so frustrated with Glitch but he knew the zipperhead was right and he just couldn’t face reality.
The former advisor winced. “He hates me now, right?” He looked at Raw, smiling weakly.
Raw shook his head. “Cain just confused. Cain needs time to realize it’s ok to love DG.”
"He better realize it soon, before DG figures it out for herself." He remarked. "Otherwise she may have a thing or two to say about him taking his time."
DG was certainly shocked by the decision to make her Queen, but that wasn’t the problem. She had also been informed that not only would she be having an arranged marriage, but a marriage contract was in the works. Walking back to her room with Azkadellia, DG couldn’t speak. She couldn’t decide whether she was angry or in shock.
“An arranged marriage,” Az muttered. “Oh Deej…” Suddenly, the tests everyone wanted done on her seemed to be the minimal problem.
“What am I going to do, Az? I’ve never even been in love before, and now my parents are forcing me to marry a total stranger!” DG sighed heavily. “Being Queen is a job I’m willing to take, but if I have to be married to be Queen, I would rather it be to someone I love.” She sighed again and wondered what she would do.
“Maybe if you convince mother and father to give you time to try and find some one you could love, they’ll call the arrangement off,” She suggested. She’d rather see her sister marry anyone but some one she couldn’t love. Especially if the prospect was some one far from the O.Z.
“Maybe… but how much time does it take a person to find the person they love? Weeks? Months? Years?” DG appreciated the help Az was giving her, but she was wallowing in so much self-pity that she failed to remember the hint of affection she had realized that she felt for someone close to her. Someone who loves her but refuses to admit it.
“I can think of some one who loves you.” She gave a bit of a sly smile.
“What are you talking about Az?” DG opened the door to her room and threw herself on her bed, staring at the ceiling.
"You're telling me you haven't noticed Cain's reaction to your every move? How he's become like your personal body guard? Whenever the courtiers begin to circle, he's right there to keep them in check."
DG closed her eyes. “That’s Cain being Cain, he’s always been that way,” She said, trying to convince not only Azkadellia, but herself, and she wasn’t succeeding.
“Are you so sure? Have you asked him?” Az asked.
“What would I ask him, Az?” DG really didn’t want to face what she knew Azkadellia was going to say. She didn’t even know how to interpret what she herself was feeling, let alone a Tin Man. And yet… She had noticed that he had removed his wedding ring… when they were preparing to enter the tower under the watch of longcoats, he had put his hand on his son’s shoulder… DG shook her head.
"I think you're being stubborn." Her sister said, crossing her arms. "Both of you. I've seen the way you look at each other and it's obvious to anyone. And if you both would stop acting like twelve annuals and tell each other-" she sighed.
“Az, if there’s anything I have learned in my 24 annuals of life, it’s that I can’t count on men… besides, if what you say is really… true, how do I know that he isn’t still in love with his wife? I don’t want to be the second choice, especially if I’m being forced into marriage.” DG sighed. She knew Azkadellia was right… and she knew that she felt something for him.
The other girl sighed. "It's your choice in the end. I only want to make sure you're happy and that you don't have to marry a stranger. But if you go through life worrying, you might miss out on something. All I know is that I've seen the way you look at him and I know you feel something for him."
DG thought about what Azkadellia had said. She thought about how her heart fluttered when he brushed past her, how she lived for just a little smile from him, how when he hugged her, at was if he didn’t want to let go. She also thought about how cliché it all was… she snapped her fingers out of frustration and opened her eyes. A knock came at the door and she sat up, looking at Azkadellia with puzzlement.
Azkadellia looked from her sister to the door, then spoke. “Enter.”
Cain opened the door with a look of puzzlement that matched DG’s. “Is everything okay here? I got a… feeling something was wrong.”
"We were just talking." She said, looking at her sister. "About mom and dad's choices for where to go from here."
“What have they decided?” He asked, looking from DG to Azkadellia. DG sighed and laid back down on her bed and Cain knew exactly what that meant. He looked to Az and spoke in a lower voice. “Does she get any choice in the matter?” He was speaking about being Queen, but he knew that their had to be more to it.
"Not really. Unless she finds some one she's willing to marry. If she can't, then it's to be an arranged marriage." Az reported.
Cain gulped. “Well… that’s… too bad. I’ll leave you ladies to… work things out,” He tipped his hat and closed the door quickly. DG sighed.
“Sounds like I’m not the only one who’s afraid.”
“No, it doesn’t, does it?” She shook her head and sighed. “I’ll work this out. Don’t worry.” She said and walked out of the room. If Cain and DG were being oblivious and wouldn’t say anything, she’d get some help.
DG sighed. If she couldn’t do it, maybe Az could help. DG thought about when Cain had come in. She had snapped her fingers while thinking about him coming to her door and then there he had been… She wondered to herself for a split second if it were magic that caused it, but quickly shook the thought from her head. A few minutes later, she was asleep.
It had taken a bit of work, tracking down Glitch and Raw but Azkadellia found them faster than she thought. “I need your help. The both of you.” She said once she hd them alone, where DG and Cain couldn’t surprise them.
“What is it, Az?” Glitch asked, trying to seem friendly, but he was still wary.
"DG and I spoke with mother and father this morning. If she can't choose a suitable husband for herself, they will arrange a marriage for her." She explained.
“Well then she’s hopeless, Cain won’t say a word.” Glitch sighed, scratching his head as if he were deep in thought. He realized how angry Cain would be for saying something. "But... you didn't hear that from me..."
“Of course not.” She smiled, as she had an idea of what the ex-tin man‘s wrath would be like. “But I will not let my sister be forced to marry some foreign prince because she and Cain are stubborn. We have to do something. ”
“Can you use your magic and force them to fess up?” Glitch asked and then stopped. “Wait… I guess the first thing I should ask is CAN we do something about it?”
“One, trying to cut back on the magic use.” She said. “Two, there has to be something we can do. Not necessarily by ourselves, but as a team.”
“Well… can we… I dunno, guide them or something? Like arrange ways that they run into each other?” Glitch was thinking more than usual.
"That's using your mind, Amb-uh, Glitch." Az said. "Perfect idea. Running into each other so much, they'll have to admit how they feel."
“I agree. And if worse comes to worse, we’ll just have Raw do a reading and tell them how they feel…” Glitch chuckled.
"Back up plans always work well too." She said.
“Well, I know Cain’s schedule because it’s been the same every day since I’ve known him.” He nodded.
“And I know Deej’s because she’s my sister.”
“Okay… Can you get DG to the kitchen for breakfast by 7?”
“You know I can.”
“Okay, then…” Glitch didn’t know what to say. “I guess we just make them meet at breakfast and go from there?”
"That's the plan." She grinned, her first real grin in ages. "Anything you want to add?"
“Hmm… well, Cain always goes for a ride at 10…” Glitch thought aloud.
"And I know my sister could learn to ride."
“It seems DG now has a riding lesson at 10.” Glitch grinned. “We are good.”
"Hey, it's for their own good." She said. "If they had admitted it, we wouldn't be plotting."
“Good point. Well, the doctors would like to test me for this and that, so I’ll be off.” If Glitch had had a hat, he would’ve tipped it.
"Tests?" She sounded more worried then she should have.
Glitch was surprised by her tone; he had never heard her voice falter before. "To see if they can reattach my brain. No biggie." He shrugged. Had he been Ambrose, it would've been a huge biggie, but nothing bothered Glitch much.
“Oh. Well then, of course there’s nothing to worry about.” She said.
“Nope… guess not.” He smiled and saluted and then turned and left the room.
She watched him go, till trying to reason why she was now worried about him, before turning and rushing off to find her sister.
Cain walked alongside his horse, Piston and cursed. He cursed himself, he cursed being a Tin Man, he cursed the Queen and Prince Consort… He put Piston back in his stall and went back to the palace. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself so he just wandered.
“I’ve been looking all over for you.” Azkadellia said, walking towards him in a bit of a huff. “Mother wants you to teach DG to ride.”
“Uh… Okay… Didn’t she grow up on a farm?” Cain was very confused, though he secretly admitted to himself that he wouldn’t mind being with her for a few hours to teach her.
"Her main source of transportation wasn't a horse." She stifled a smile. Her sister had mentioned her beloved motorcycle more than once. The thought of DG on a horse was almost unfathomable.
“What are you talking about…” Cain was absolutely baffled. He raised an eyebrow and removed his hat to scratch his head, which made him look even funnier.
"Ask DG when she has her lessons, she'll be glad to explain." She said. "So, will you be giving her riding lessons?"
“It looks like I have no choice. Have her come to the stables at 10.” Cain replaced his hat, still confused.
“I’m sure mother will be grateful.” She said and turned to go.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
DG tugged at the waist of the riding pants she was wearing which she thought were too tight, even though her mother had informed her that they were fine. She had a riding lesson this morning with Cain, which she didn't know had been arranged. With a sigh, DG pulled on her jacket and headed down to the kitchen to grab some breakfast.
“Morning!” Glitch chirped, grinning at her. Then he took in the outfit. “Riding lessons? Or have the royal seamstresses relented in letting you wear pants and now see fit to torture you?”
"Ha. Ha." She tried to sound exasperated, but that only resulted in a yawn. "Lessons." She grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl that Emily kept on the counter and at it slowly, trying to delay having to do anything for as long as possible.
“Lessons? As in riding? Didn’t you grow up on a farm?” He cocked an eyebrow.
"Yeah..." She sighed. "But I didn't ride horses, I rode motorcycles, and apparently being royalty means learning to ride a horse. Whoopee." She circled her finger in the air and rolled her eyes.
“Motorcycles huh…” You could almost hear the gears turning in his head. “I’m sure if you gave me a proper description…Of course it’d be once I have my position and my brain back…If your mother thinks I’m still suited for my position that is…” He began to mutter a bit.
"Even if she doesn't, she won't have any say, Glitch." She put her hand on his arm in reassurance. "I'm going to be Queen, remember?" She smiled to her self about the irony of asking Glitch if he remembered something. "And I'm going to need a friendly advisor who I trust... you think you'd be up for it?"
“If everything goes according to plan with the surgery, It’d be an honor, DG. Your highness.” He giggled at the last bit. Traveling with her, she had acted regal, given commands and yet, calling her ‘Highness’ was strange as she was his friend. “Your highness.”
"Oh not you too!" DG huffed. "It's DG, Glitch." She shook her head, but smiled. "Well, guess I had better get off to my lesson." She made a hilarious face at Glitch.
“Then I’ll see you later, DG?” He asked. “Wouldn’t want to keep the Tin Man waiting.”
DG had started to walk away, but the comment made her turn around quickly. "What do you mean, 'keep the Tin Man waiting'?"
“I just mean…You know how moody he is. Might lecture you if you show up late for breakfast.” Nice save, Glitch, he complimented himself.
"Yeah, right..." DG was puzzled but she shook her head and left the kitchen, moving swiftly to the stables and trying to contain the butterflies in her stomach.
DG put her hands on her hips. “You really expect me to ride that thing?” Cain had presented her with an enormous horse that looked like it could squish DG under one hoof.
"Your mother expects you to ride this horse, so I expect you to at least try it. You hate it, you take it up with her." Cain stared her down. "You should've learned on the farm."
“Well I didn’t. As for the horse… that thing’s a monster. Can’t I at least start with something smaller?” DG tried to hold her ground.
“Smaller? What were you expecting? A pony?” He demanded. "It's a normal sized horse, DG. What proper princesses ride."
"In case you haven't forgotten, Tin Man, I'm not a proper Princess. I'm not getting on the beast." She said with a finality that could only be rivaled by the icy glare in Cain's eye.
“Bring it up with your mother than, princess.” He knew with DG’s stubbornness, the only way he’d ever get her on the horse was by picking her up and placing her on it himself.
DG raised an eyebrow. "I thought YOU were supposed to be teaching me to ride. I'm a little disappointed that you don't have more fight in you."
"You want a fight?" Cain stepped in front of her and griped her tightly around the waist, lifting her up onto the 'monster' horse.
DG didn't no whether to faint or squeal so she just sat there, sullen.
DG wasn't sure if she'd forgive Cain for putting her on that horse. She needed his help dismounting also and she couldn't walk once she was off. She just grumbled under her breath.
"Same time tomorrow?" He hadn't stopped smirking since he forced her on the horse.
"Oh you... if you weren't... I would just... URGH!" She said, frustrated beyond belief. "Help me inside... please."
“Should I pick you up again?”
"Probably," She sighed. Her cheeks immediately turned pink but she tried to hide it.
Cain scooped her up gently this time, and carried her inside. "You'll get used to it. You rode a hunk of metal back home, you can ride a horse."
DG put her arms around his neck awkwardly. "I guess I'm trading one beast for another."
“Yeah, till Glitch makes you a new hunk of metal. Then you’ll trade in the horse.” He gave her a smile. “I’ll need one to chase after you.”
DG blushed and looked away. "Until I'm forced into an arranged marriage. Then there won't be time for cat and mouse."
"Great Gale help any man that marries you. I believe even that wouldn't stop you from doing things your way." Then he cleared his throat. "That is to say-"
"What?" DG asked softly, looking up at him.
“If you do marry.” Cain went on. “I don’t believe anyone could force you down the aisle.”
"Do you really think I could get away with defying my mother?" DG asked, defeated. "Thank you for your confidence, but I don't think what I want is up for consideration."
He nodded slightly. “Anywhere specific I should set you down, or is bed the only option?”
"I think bed might be the only option," She blushed.
“As you wish,” He turned in the direction of her bedroom, carrying her off.
"Mr. Cain... I'm sorry for being stubborn before... about the horse." DG said softly after a long silence.
“Don’t hold it against you, kid.” He said. “Any one would have been who’s not used to horses.”
"...Not a kid..." She muttered as they reached her room. She was glad they hadn’t run into Glitch or Azkadellia or she might've died of embarrassment to be seen in Cain's arms, temporary cripple or not.
He eased her onto the bed as gently as he could, ignoring her remark about not being a kid. “I’ll let your mother know you need a day or two of recuperation before you have another lesson.”
DG sighed. "That just means time to be waited on by suitors. Last time I checked, no princess ever found her prince in the fairy tales by being courted..." She grumbled to nobody in particular.
Cain gave a small bow, moving to step out. “Your highness,” He meant it as a sort of good bye, marking his exit.
Instead of being angry with him like she usually would have for using the formal title, she just frowned and looked away. She felt the finality in his words resonate.
Azkadellia hovered outside of the door as Cain left, wondering if she should enter. After all, it would be too soon to really tell anything, right?
"Az?" DG asked quietly, sensing her sister's magical signature.
She took a breath and stepped inside. “Lesson didn’t go well?” She mused, by the look of the bedridden DG.
DG shot her a look. "Not exactly."
"Could have been worse, right?" She shrugged slightly. "At least you had some one to talk to."
"Right..." DG sighed. "AFTER I embarrassed the hell out of myself."
"Oh Deej," She moved to her sister's side. "You're a beginner. The next lesson will be better."
"Will that be before or after I'm married off to someone I've never met?" DG asked, looking up at Azkadellia.
"Um, that's kinda why I came to find you." She chewed on her bottom lip. "Mom has a list of suitors that are excited to meet with you."
"You're kidding... when is this so called Rendezvous supposed to take place?"
"You choose the date." Azkadellia gave her sister a sympathetic look. "Deej, I'm so sorry."
"Its... it's fine, Az. Tell Mom I'll see the first round tomorrow... since I'm not sure I'll be able to ride a horse again," DG mused ever so slightly.
"Anything else I can do?"
"Remind Mr. Cain that his duties weren't specifically outlined when it came to saving me from dangerous things..." DG muttered under her breath.
“Were you referring to the horse, or your suitors?” She smiled a bit.
"Both," DG giggled slightly.
Hearing DG admit it made her laugh. “I’ll let mother know. She’ll expect you to be dressed appropriately. No pants. And for you to be on your best behavior. No turning suitors into toads.”
"Yeah yeah, velvet dresses and glass slippers." DG sighed. "Az, thanks for everything."
"If there's anything I can do or you just need to talk, don't hesitate." She urged. "Dealing with princes and lords can be-" Not that she knew, nor would she ever. She was considered damaged goods by most royalty, after being possessed. She'd be lucky if a chimney sweep wanted to marry her.
"Stupid. Stuck up. Snotty. Nothing like Ca-" She stopped herself, blushing furiously. "I'll let you know, Az."
Her sister turned and headed for the door. So, DG had Cain on the brain? Maybe it meant something, maybe nothing. But she knew the tin man wouldn’t enjoy chasing around suitors, making sure they kept their royal hands to themselves.
DG sat back against her pillows and looked up at the ceiling. Why was it so hard for her to admit that she felt SOMETHING more than friendship for Wyatt Cain?
Princess Dorthea-Gale woke up the next morning and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She placed her bare feet down on the cold marble and tentatively stood, testing her morning-after-horseback-riding soreness. Her knees immediately buckled and she had to grab the bed post to keep from falling over.
'Damn...' she thought, going to her wardrobe. She changed and waited for the morning knock on her door.
Sure enough, the knock came and her mother peered in. “Awake yet, dear?” She asked.
"You know," She said, moving further into the room. "If you're still recovering from your riding lessons, we could reschedule this. If you're not up to it."
"If it has to happen eventually, why put it off?" DG asked, standing cautiously.
"Because you're still recovering from your riding lessons." She said.
"Meaning you don't look exactly graceful." Azkadellia muttered from the hall.
"When have I ever looked graceful, Az?" DG asked with a sigh.
"When you're not moving." She teased.
Their mother sighed. "Emily insisted on preparing breakfast this morning. She said you were going to need it."
"She's right," DG agreed. DG followed her mother very slowly out the door, trying not to trip again.
The kitchen was filled with heavenly smells that surely was drifting all over the palace. "Figured with all these young men coming to meet you, you'd need something in your stomach." Emily teased from her spot by the stove. "You always tended to get shy, meeting boys."
"These aren't boys, Momster. These are Princes and Dukes and Lords and a bunch of assholes. Should be interesting." DG sat down at the kitchen table.
“And you shouldn’t judge them just because they are royalty. Some of them may be pleasant.” She set a plate before DG. “Besides, you’ll have Mr. Cain there, if any of them get too annoying. Of course, your dad wanted to get out his pitchfork-”
“But I thought you’d prefer a more subtle way of dealing with them.” The queen spoke up.
"Sure, if pleasant means boring," the young princess mumbled, putting a large bite into her mouth.
"No one said you'd find Prince Charming in this batch." Emily shrugged.
"No one said anything about finding Prince Charming at all." Az muttered.
"Alright, I'll sit there, look pretty, smile, nod, and let them all go home disappointed. Let's do this thing," DG rubbed her palms together deviously.
"DG, please try. Don't ignore them." The queen urged.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
DG yawned in a very unladylike manner though she tried to cover it with her hand. She was listening to the Prince of Doune talk about his 36 thoroughbred horses, trying not to fall asleep. She glanced at Cain for just a second; he was frozen like a statue in the corner, hat conveniently hiding his eyes.
“Don’t have very interesting personalities, do they?” Glitch mused, peering into the room. He had offer to keep Azkadellia company, so that her entrance into the room wouldn’t frighten the visiting royalty.
"No... or Deej wouldn't be yawning like that," Azkadellia whispered back. DG was 'mmhmm'ing methodically in rhythm with the Prince's story, nearly nodding off.
“Must make you feel better.” He mused. “Not having to go through this sort of thing.”
"Not really... I'd go through a hundred times more courtship sessions if it meant being accepted by the people of the OZ again..." Az didn't look at Glitch. She just watched the stuffy Prince scoot closer to DG.
“I didn’t mean…” He looked back at DG himself. “I only meant…You’d be just as bored if that were you out there. It’s not like they’d be winning you over.”
"No, I don't suppose they would," Az agreed softly. She continued watching her sister for only a moment longer, when the guardian in the shadows caught her eye. Cain was made of marble in that corner. She wished there was something she could do to make DG accept the fact that she had feelings for this stone of a man.
"He's still just standing there?" The zipperhead went on. "If they annoy her so much, why doesn't she do something? It's not like she has to pick out of this batch, right? There's still hope for her and Cain, right?"
"No, she doesn't have to pick out of this batch, but she's doing it for mother's sake. If she says no to this group, there'll just be another one. I don't think its our place to say what is and what isn't probable for Cain..." Az saw DG scoot further away from the obnoxious suitor.
“If he just spoke up, said how he was feeling directly to her…” He sighed. “If he only had a heart…”
"He's got a heart... it just needs to be defrosted," Az retorted. She observed the Prince as he put a hand on DG's knee and all of a sudden, the muscles in Cain's jaw tightened.
He moved over swiftly to step between them. “Did the princess tell you, in any way, that it is alright to touch her?” Cain demanded.
"I don't believe she said anything in opposition," The Prince said, looking down his nose at Cain. DG looked away and blushed furiously.
"Just because she doesn't oppose to it doesn't mean you should take that as an invitation." The Tin Man growled.
"I'm sorry... I didn't catch your name. Or your title for that matter." The Prince scoffed, standing so he was nearly nose to nose with Cain.
Cain's eyes narrowed. "I'd step back if I were you."
"Or what?" The prince asked. DG stepped back from the bench so it was between her and the brewing fight.
"Shouldn't some one stop this?" Glitch spun to look at Azkadellia. "If I had half a mind-"
"Let Cain handle it," She whispered. "He is her bodyguard, after all."
“Still,” He sighed and looked back at the scene. Cain’s eyes were narrowed on the haughty prince. “Last chance. Step back and step off.” He warned.
The Prince got the hint. He took a step back hastily, safely out of reach. "Princess DG, its been lovely," He said to the cowering Princess. The Prince of Doune bowed quickly and left the room, nearly colliding with Azkadellia and Glitch.
"You gonna let all of them paw all over you like that?" He demanded, looking at DG. "Or are you going to speak up for yourself?"
"What's it to you?" She spat back. "So what if they all grope me, at least I'm being the good little princess! that's all anybody wants me to be!"
"So being good ultimately implies you keep quiet and let them feel you up all day?" He demanded.
"Yes," DG stormed past him after a deathly glare, headed for anywhere but there.
Glitch winced at their parting. “I’m beginning to think they’re a lost cause.”
"I think SHE may be the lost cause," Azkadellia sighed, waiting to see what Cain's next move would be.
The tin man merely sighed and moved back to his position as a wall ornament.
"This is going to be a LOT harder than I thought," Az observed.
“It was implied that this would be easy?” Glitch gave her a smile. “We’re dealing with two of the most stubborn people in the O.Z.”
"And one of them is magical. Tell you what... The next Prince isn't due for another few hours... want to play matchmaker?" She whispered quietly to Glitch.
"Sure that's a good idea?" He looked between the pair.
"I think its a brilliant idea. We'll send them on errands that will insure they run into one another in the process... I think if DG ticks Cain off enough, we can get him to slip and say something..." Az rubbed her hands together.
“You sure they got rid of that witch?” He smiled. “You sure do plot well.”
"The witch is gone alright. I just happen to be... strategic." She winked. "Mr. Cain?"
"Something I can do, your highness?" Cain asked.
"I need you to alert the cook that his highness the Princess of Doane won't be joining us for lunch," She blinked innocently.
"Gladly. You and the zipperhead can deal with your sister, for now." He said and stormed out.
"Ooh... 'For Now'..." Az snickered at Glitch. "My lovely sister should be getting her mid-afternoon snack from the kitchen right about now."
“One shouting match and they should be confessing their undying affection to each other?” The advisor mused. “If not a queen, you would make a good general.”
"I was one, remember?" Az laughed, taking his arm.
“Ah, but you think so much better ‘un-possessed’. Besides, DG will be grateful.”
"Eventually. Once she forgives me for manipulating her."
“She’ll be so happy she’s not marrying some stuffy prince who feels her up, she’ll be begging you.”
"She better be kissing my feet, all this matchmaking is making me tired," Az sighed but then laughed.
“Sorta makes you long for your own…Match.” He shrugged uselessly.
"Eventually... but I don't want all of this crap that DG's been put through."
“No. Never, not all this ‘arranged marriage’ sort of thing. Looking on your own.”
"Exactly. I'm sure there's someone out there who'd marry an ex-wicked witch." She rolled her eyes.
“You are not an ex-wicked witch. You were possessed. You don’t have a wicked bone in your body.” He tried to soothe her. “Besides, cast aside or not, you’re still royal. You’ll have dukes and lords banging on the door before you know it.”
"I don't want a duke or a lord or a Prince for that matter. I want someone real," She looked at him just a second too long and tore her eyes away, blushing. "I had better see if my master plan has worked in the kitchen, excuse me."
He watched her go and only looked away once she was gone. Some one real. “That doesn’t mean zipperheads.” He chided himself. “Princesses don’t marry zipperheads.”
DG ripped open the door to the refrigerator and reached in for a fizzy water; something that would calm her raging libido. She wasn't mad at Cain but at the same time... how could he possibly understand that she was being courted against her will? If he was so worried about Princes feeling her up, why didn't he... no. She couldn't think that way. She put the bottle to her lips and chugged, causing herself to go into a choking fit.
“Trying to drown yourself?” A voice behind her asked.
"Gah.. ugh... no.. I" DG sat down and practically coughed up a lung.
“Were angry with me and took it out on the drink, trying to chug it?” He ventured.
"Give or take," DG said raspily. "Come to chastise me?"
“No, I came to tell the cook to prepare your snack before you went to deal with another one of these-” He forced a smile. “Royals. But you’re already here.”
"You could be a little more helpful," She shot back.
“I tried helping. You didn’t want it.”
"By yelling at a man who could have you beheaded for sneezing the wrong way? If you were gonna play with fire, you might as well have punched him..."
“That was part of the plan. I told him to back off and he did.” He sighed. “I don’t care if your mother expects you to marry these guys or not. You don’t belong to them and if you don’t want their paws on you, you tell them anyway you can. Turn them into frogs if you have to.”
"I'm not sure I deserve someone better than these guys! What if my mother really does know what's best for me?" DG yelled, on the verge of tears. "How c-could I have possibly earned something better than this?"
“You DO deserve some one better than them. Royal or not.” Cain insisted, taking a hold of her shoulders. “You’re a hero. You saved your sister and the OZ. You deserve nothing less than the best.”
DG burst into tears and tried to pull out of Cain's grasp. All of her emotions that had been building for the past few weeks came bubbling to the surface. She hid her face in her hands.
He raised a hand, as if debating whether or not to comfort her. She had pulled away. “You’ve endured things in the past few weeks that no one should have to go through.” He went on.
DG looked up at him, eyes clear as glass. She saw his momentary flinch to comfort her and it made her eyes run more that he hadn't. "It's my duty." She whispered, not believing it herself.
“Forget duties.” He ordered. “Forget your mother and father, forget Az, forget Emily and Hank. Ask yourself what you want and if you can deal with these stuffy shirted idiots a second longer. Surely, your mother can agree to you waiting longer to find a suitor. You’ve been through a lot and to force this on you now,” Cain shook his head. “It’s wrong. It’s disrespecting you. You thought this place was something you made up, now you’re here and being groomed to be queen. On top of that, being forced to find some one to marry. If you won’t say something to your mother, then I will.”
"Cain... I... know what I want... but I'm not sure my mother would allow me to have it." She was whispering now, afraid someone was listening.
“She can’t stop you from having what you want.” He said. “Even if you have to run away to get it.”
"What if what I want is a person specifically?" DG said quietly.
“Go after them. Tell them how you feel.” He smiled. “No one can stop you.”
She smiled, wiping her tears. DG stepped forward, kissed him square on the lips, and then ran all the way to her room, hardly sure what had happened.
He raised his hand to his lips, shocked himself by what had happened.
"Oh God... I can't believe I just did that!" DG was about to go out to her balcony when a knock came at the door notifying her that her next suitor had arrived. Great. Now she'd get to be in the same room as Cain for another few hours after her idiotic move... She felt her stomach drop as she followed the page to the reception room.
Glitch noticed her face as she flew past them and into the reception room. "Is that supposed to mean things went well?" He looked at Azkadellia.
"If the Tin Man's pink cheeks are any indication, I'd say things went very well..." She whispered as Cain passed.
“Highness,” He gave a slight nod to Az as he moved into the reception room himself.
DG paled and then pinked when she saw him come in the room. She sat with her back to the door, looking out the window. Az nodded to Cain but remained standing with Glitch.
“So they did it,” The court advisor muttered. “They confessed to how they feel. Why avoid each other?”
"We don't know if they confessed a thing... something certainly happened though." Just then the next Prince was brought in and all Az could do was wait.
“Something must have happened.” Glitch said. “Otherwise his cheeks wouldn’t be so pink.”
DG smiled fakely at the new suitor. If she was gonna get through the day, she needed some sort of sign from Cain that he felt something for her too. When the Prince was seated and occupied with pouring a bottle of expensive wine, DG glanced at Cain briefly.
He locked eyes with her and a look crossed his face that said everything.
DG's heart leapt and she bit her lip, biting back every bit of happiness that was coursing through her. She nodded the tiniest bit to Cain before turning her attention back to her needless suitor.
"Prince Henry, how kind of you to come. Unfortunately your services are no longer required."
“No longer-Have I offended you, your grace?” The Prince looked a bit shocked.
"No, you haven't offended me. I'm sure you're a very nice person, but I've found love." She spoke simply, happily.
“Oh.” was all that came out. Cain smirked.
"Sorry for the inconvenience," DG offered him a pat on the arm.
“No inconvenience.” He said and lifted her hand to his lips. “May you be happy.”
"Thank you," She smiled, standing.
Cain tried not to smirk from his spot against the wall. He had expected, being a prince, the other man would demand to know who was her choice and why she had refused him.
DG curtsied respectfully as the Prince graciously left the room. She nodded to her sister and Glitch as she headed for the terrace, hoping Cain would follow.
He did indeed follow and Glitch looked at Azkadellia. “Did you see? Your plotting worked!”
"Oh my Gods... I can't believe that really worked!" Az whispered. DG leaned against the railing and tried to breathe as Cain joined her.
“He took it well.” The Tin Man said. “Your ‘suitor’, I mean.”
"I have a feeling that he took one look at you and decided not to fight me on it," She giggled.
“Frightened him off then, did I? Your mother won’t like that.”
"I don't care," DG turned to face him, leaning backwards on her elbows against the railing. "I just hope that the person I want wants me too."
"And that person is?"
DG looked up at him and smiled, raising an eyebrow.
"Is this gonna be a guessing game?"
"I thought for sure you'd have a clue after this morning..." She trailed off, blushing.
"I think I can guess then." He gave her a smile.
"Can I ask what you think of that...?" She asked softly, taking his smile as a good sign.
“Of you and me?” He asked.
He didn’t speak, just looked away.
"Oh God... I... I guess I thought... I'm sorry, Cain..." She pushed back from the railing and headed for the door, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
Before she could reach the door, he reached out and grabbed her wrist. “Wait,”
She stopped and turned back to face him but she didn't make eye contact. Her heart was on the verge of breaking... if he rejected her she might fall to pieces.
“You’re sure this is what you want?”
"Positive," She said quietly. "I want something real..."
"More than anything."
“Thought so.” He said before capturing her mouth with his own.
DG's heart nearly burst as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She was pretty sure her feet weren't touching the ground anymore, but she didn't care; she kissed him back.
He finally released her and looked her in the eyes.
She had to hold tightly to his arm to keep from falling over; he completely took her by surprise. She bit her lip and smiled.
Slowly, he returned that smile.
"So..." She breathed, taking in his icy blue eyes.
"Does this mean you like the idea of 'us'?" She asked with a glint in her eye.
“If you’ll have me.”
DG wrapped her arms around his neck and held fast. "What did I do to deserve you?" She whispered.
"Saved the OZ," Was his reply. "Saved your world and your family. Heroes get some kind of reward."
"I don't want to think of you as my reward for doing those things... you're more like the one that a girl dreams about but never really finds." She brushed his cheek. "But here you are."
“You dreamt of the OZ before you came here. Did you ever dream of me?”
She blushed. "I didn't dream of you until I came to the OZ... but let's just say, you're usually the subject of my dreams in some form or another."
"Your mother wouldn't think that was a lady like thing to say." He teased.
"She fell in love once, I'm sure she can relate." DG tucked her head into the hollow of his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Please don't let go, I'm afraid that this isn't real and I could wake up at any moment."
“I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
DG closed her eyes with a smile, happier than she thought possible. Az peeked through the window inconspicuously.
"Glitch... it finally happened!"
"Finally!" He grinned. "Of course, without your brilliant plotting-"
"Don't forget your stellar brains," She beamed.
"When they work." He added.
"They work, and that's what matters," Az said gently. She watched as Cain traced lazy circles on her sister's back and a happy ache struck.
“They both look happy.” Glitch smiled.
"Yeah," She smiled also. "I just hope that my mother lets things be... now that everything is perfect."
“If not your mother, your father’s sure to step in and put his foot down.” He said. “After all, he was a commoner too.”
"I know. For now, let's just let them be happy, and let's prepare ourselves to fight for them." Az pulled him away from the window.