“We three kings of orient are,” DG sang as she hung ornaments from the tree in her sitting room. “Bearing gifts, we traveled afar.” She smiled at the three men who had helped her haul the tree through the palace, despite the amusement of the place guards. “Westward leading, still proceeding, following yonder star ...”
“I don't understand how a tree inside make it winter,” Glitch asked quizzically as he hung another odd ornament that DG had created.
“DG happy,” Raw said from his spot curled on the fire hearth.
“Exactly,” DG replied, spinning around the room to lean over and kiss her viewer friend on the cheek.
A snort was audible from the shadowed corner where Wyatt Cain lurked.
“Problem, Mr Cain?” DG asked, hands on her hips.
“Not in the slightest,” the tin man said, stepping out from the shadows with a smirk visible from under the brim of his hat. He wrapped his arms around the princess and began waltzing her around the room.
“DG happy?” he whispered teasingly into her ear. DG just grinned and rested her cheek on his shoulder as they waltzed to the music in her mind.
* * *
She knew it was a dream from the beginning. That was the only way she ever saw the fields of Kansas any more. Oh, there were fields of grain in the O.Z., but they had a tendency to be shades other than the golds of Kansas in the fall.
Dream or not, she savored the familiar view, the scent of ripening wheat, and the familiar glow of the sun on her skin. As much as she hated being there, she sometimes missed the world she grew up in. It was hard to let go, in the end.
The wind picked up, tugging at her skirt, at her hair, and finally pulling a ribbon lose. She reached out, trying to grasp it before the wind carried the length of blue silk beyond her reach.
But it was another hand that caught the ribbon, a hand framed by a coat the same gold as the fields around her, and attached to a pair of blue eyes the color of the ribbon. Eyes that called to her waking and sleeping.
* * *
DG didn't often have time for a quiet get together with her friends, those brave men who carried her through her journey to save the O.Z. She would have liked to have one this afternoon, had scheduled one, but Tutor had come along to drag her off for more lessons.
By rights she should have either protested vociferously and walked off or quickly acquiesced and gone with him. However, oddly enough, she'd been with Can and Raw when Tudor came by and their protests had somehow turned into a growling contest and a stare down. Since the competitors consisted of a man who could turn into a dog, a viewer with rather lion like tendencies, and a crotchety old tin man, they were rather well matched.
Though she thought Cain was winning.
* * *
“All right, enough you three,” DG finally interrupted before the urge to giggle at the three of them became to strong. “I cleared an afternoon off with Mother, so why are you here, Toto?”
“It's Tutor,” snapped the shape shifter. DG just smirked at his irritation. “You can't just go gallivanting about and neglect your training. You have years of catching up to do.”
“Not my fault,” she replied dryly. “Will it really destroy all my progress to have one short holiday?”
“Come on, Toto,” Cain chimed in. “We're heading down to the lake for the afternoon. Come along. I'll even throw a stick for you.”
That did it. DG started snickering, and when she couldn't stop laughing she ended up hanging off Raw's arm to try and keep her balance.
Apparently, that was the last straw for Tutor as well. He stalked off, calling over his shoulder, “One short holiday. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow.”
“Come on, Princess,” Cain said, throwing DG's arm over his shoulder. “Better get you out of here before the dress maker catches us too.”
* * *
“I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,” DG sang, dancing about her room, enjoying the swish of her new dress' skirts even as she struggled with the corset. “Just like the ones I used to know ...”
A knock at the door interrupted her song, but not her dream. This was a dress she would have liked to go to the prom in, but you'd never find its like in Kansas.
“Come in,” she called, settling before her vanity to finish putting her hair up. In the mirror, she saw her visitor, and could not resist the grin that crossed her face. Now that was a man she would never have found in Kansas either, but he would have made a hell of a prom date.
“Almost time for your big entrance, Princess,” Cain said from the doorway.
“It's DG,” she said firmly, glaring at his reflection in the mirror. He smirked back. It was almost becoming a game between them.
* * *
She sat up with a gasp, snapping from nightmare to wakefulness in a split second of terror. She quickly pulled herself from the suffocating blankets and looming canopy of the bed, dragging only one light blanket with her to the window seat. Wrapping the blanket lightly around herself, she settled on the cushions and leaned against the cold glass.
Here it wasn't warm, it wasn't suffocating, it wasn't enclosed. Here she could see, could hear, could feel the world continuing around her. Her mother didn't understand why she'd had every scrap of green marble removed from her rooms. Az just gave her a sorrowful and apologetic look from time to time, and always suggested the way through the palace that used the larger passageways.
The door cracked open a few minutes later, and the one person who really understood slipped in. She didn't know who always sent him up after the worst nightmares, but she was always grateful for his presence on the other end of the window seat. Wyatt Cain probably appreciated Az's directions as much as DG did. After eight years in a tin suit ...
* * *
DG, princess of the O.Z., heir to the throne, burst from the ball room. “I'm going to turn him into a toad,” she snarled.
“Don't you think that's a little extreme?” Glitch asked, right on her heels.
“I've dealt with truckers more subtitle than that ass,” she snapped, stalking back and forth in the hall. “I've been pinched, groped, ... but none would dare ... ”
It was the sound of a cocking gun that finally caught her attention. “Who?” was the soft question that followed as she looked into the icy eyes of Wyatt Cain.
“A minor lordling with too much to drink,” Glitch tried to intervene.
“What did he do?” snarled the angry guard.
“It was that blasted prince,” DG snapped. “And put that gun away before you start an international incident.”
“Did he hurt you?” Cain asked, putting the gun away but not relaxing in the slightest.
“No, and once I talk to Mother he likely won't be hurting anyone in the O.Z. ever again,” DG assured him. “Just,” she added hesitantly. “Just, stick close and glare a lot for a bit, would you?”
He just nodded, and fell into step behind her as she walked back to the ball.
* * *
When she walked out of the council chamber, DG felt like Carter had fried up her brains on a hot skillet and served them extra crispy. Her head hurt, her eyes ached, and she was completely confused.
Half way to her rooms, she gave up walking and just sank down the wall to bury her head against her knees. How was she supposed to help, if she didn't even know what was normal around the O.Z? Her every suggestion got horrified looks, which Glitch sometimes was able to explain when her mother's back was turned. But even so ...
How on Earth had her ancestress managed to unite the O.Z. if she'd been from Earth? She couldn't have understood any more than DG did, but somehow she'd done alright.
A warm arm around her shoulder should have startled her, but she'd smelled that mixture of metal and leather too many times no to recognize Cain's arrival.
“It'll get easier, Princess,” he said, slipping another arm under her knees and lifting her off the cold marble of the hallway floor. “You'll see.”
* * *
“I hate to say it, Az, but that witch had no fashion sense,” DG said, wrapping her arm around her sister's shoulders.
Azkadellia looked down at her silver chain mail dress and snorted. “You have a point, little sister,” she said, slipping her arm around her sister's waist. “Though I can't say much for the state of your other side clothes either.”
“Hey, you get chased around the O.Z. for days on end and see how well your cloths hold up,” DG protested playfully, bumping her sister's hip with her own.
Az looked down, tears filling her eyes. “I'm sorry,” she began to sob, but DG cut her off.
“None of that,” she insisted, pressing a finger to her sister's lips. “I'm sorry I let go fifteen years ago. You're sorry the witch tried to kill me. We're even.”
“But,” Az tried to say, but DG wasn't going to let it go.
“No buts. You ditch the bad the fashion no no, I'll take a bath, and we start over. No more sorrys.”
The sister's smiled at each other, and nodded.
* * *
“He did what?” DG asked, eyes wide with amazement and disbelief.
“Completely flattened several Long Coats,” Cain repeated. “He's clearly a well trained fighter.”
“Hand to hand combat skills were required of all those close to the Queen,” Glitch said as he turned the spit wit their meager dinner over the fire.
“You remember that?” DG asked, awe still present in her voice.
“Remember what?” Glitch asked, looking up, his childlike voice showing his complete lack of comprehension.
“Muscle memory,” Cain commented. “He's just so well trained his body remembers what his brain forgot.”
“What are you talking about?” Glitch asked quizzically.
“You're rhythm,” Cain said, which completely confused DG.
“Ah, rhythm comes from the soul. They can't take that from you,” Glitch replied gleefully.
* * *
“You know, you don't make the slightest bit of sense rather often,” Glitch said with a shake of his zippered head.
“Sorry,” DG said sadly. “There's just things you think are universal, like hating Britney Spears and drooling over Johnny Depp...”
“Until you realize no all worlds are the same,” Cain interrupted. “You'll get to understand the standards of the O.Z. in time.”
“That, or you all will come to understand what I mean when I say deadlier than the Terminator or crazy as Jack Sparrow,” DG countered.
“Captain Jack Sparrow,” Glitch said insistently, to the amusement of those listening.
“See,” DG said gleefully.
“He doesn't have a clue what he's saying,” Cain countered.
“Of course I do,” Glitch insisted. “What was I saying?”
* * *
“Bloody hell,” DG hissed as she stepped from the tree line. She couldn't even begin to take in the plain before her, short grass interspersed with gray tomb stones.
“Good description,” Cain said, resting a hand on her shoulder for comfort as if he could sense the tears building up in her eyes.
“That's war for you,” Glitch said, dancing up. “Bloody, hellish, and leaves bodies everywhere.”
Tears began to stream down DG's face. This was all her fault. The Witch would never have taken over the O.Z, never directed the Long Coats, never tortured and killed, nothing if it hadn't been for DG letting go.
“Az ... I let go and she fell.” The memory of those childhood words still haunted her waking and sleeping. Sure, she'd saved her sister, but who saved all the people who suffered or died because of what she did?
* * *
DG sang to herself most day. She wasn't the best singer, but it was something that let her hold onto the world she'd lost. So walking down the halls between meetings and training and meals, in her rooms, while the seamstress fitted her for cloths, she sang everything. Folk songs, pop songs, bits of lullabies and the latest Broadway hits. The guards and servants mostly ignored it after the first week or so. Except for Cain.
Wyatt Cain, hard nosed tin man, rebel, and now her personal body guard. She'd long since decided he was like a diamond. The more pressure you put him under, the stronger he became. The man actually spent eight or ten years inside of a tin suit and came out ... well, not quite sane, not at first, but functional and motivated. And protective.
But one day she learned there was more to Wyatt Cain than being a hard headed guard. She must have been repeating herself too much, because one day her songs developed a descant, a soft tenor line under her shaky soprano. It was one of the sweetest things she'd ever heard, even if it was “Hit me baby, one more time.”
* * *
He was her hero, her protector, her knight in shinning armor.
Ok, maybe not shining armor so much as sinfully tight pants, great coat, and snazzy hat.
Either way, he was the saving grace of life in the O.Z. She was quite convinced that without him she would have gone nuts by now. Oh, not because of the whole witch thing. She actually weathered that rather well. But because she wasn't used to the whole princess thing. He stayed close, her personal guard and sanity assurer. Who else understood the strangeness of going from being a nobody to being the center of attention? With him she could laugh, tell off color jokes, or reminisce about simpler times. He would pass her notes in dull meetings, make faces over the seamstress' head, and sneak her out of the palace when she just need to get away from being a princess for a bit.
He was her hero.