|Releasing the Chains
Author: Caitriona3 PM
Companion piece to Ready to Run - please read that first. We've seen Jeb's opinion - now let's take a look at Azkadelia's. What does she think about the memorable quartet?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Humor - Azkadellia & Jeb - Words: 2,151 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-30-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7133035
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thank you for the lovely reception of "Ready to Run" – my first Tin Man fic. I enjoyed that one quite a bit. I was making notes for my upcoming update of "Students in Underland" and the first scene of this new fic popped into my head. I wanted to get it down while I remembered it – part of it is similar to the previous fic, more Az's take. I'm not sure why I keep channeling these two, but it's kind of fun! I'd like to dedicate this one to "oresteia" from LiveJournal who inspired the first one and is struggling with issues of her own. Disclaimer – I still don't own!
Flowers grew, twisting and making shapes as she moved her hands. Her dark eyes glowed with joy as the many-colored blossoms danced. A tiny giggle escaped her lips as a quartet of butterflies fluttered around and through her elaborate structure before flying off towards the western skies. The late afternoon breeze teased the locks of hair that had escaped the control of her ribbons.
A shadow fell across her and she turned her face up with an impish grin for the man towering over her where she sat in the family's private garden. The young man smiled back and crouched down beside her to look over the floral sculpture she had designed. Despite its youth, his face held lines of experience and difficulties normally reserved for more mature men. He always had a smile for her, but she knew he did not smile enough, knew the losses of his past were always present in the shadows of his mind.
His face had fallen back into an expression of serious contemplation. Reaching out a delicate hand, she touched his cheek, her eyes wide with concern and curiosity.
"Major?" she prompted. "You don't usually seek out the garden."
His shoulders dropped just a hair before he turned to give her a slight, sad smile. Shifting to a seated position next to her, he shrugged.
"I'm sorry, Princess, I just needed somewhere to…think for a moment," he replied.
"Oh," she said, beginning to shift around to stand up. "Shall I go? I only came out here to relax for a bit. You are welcome to have…"
"No, please," he interrupted, placing one hand on her arm. "It's all right. I'd…really…like it if you stayed. You're very relaxing to be around."
Giving him a small smile, she sat back down, smoothing her skirt as she settled. Tilting her head, she watched as he looked back at her flowers and his gaze grew distant once more. Allowing the blossoms to slowly dance and sway, she sat quietly, letting him rest and gather himself. Long moments passed before he gave a deep sigh and brought his light gaze back to hers. She did not speak, simply gave him a smile.
"Thank you," he said, smiling back. "Everybody out there keeps talking and filling up the silence. It gets difficult to think."
He started to speak and then his attention diverted to a point somewhere above her head. Turning to look, she saw two figures standing on one of the lower balconies of the palace, both staring towards the west. A slight figure with long dark hair actually leaned on the balustrade while a taller, more muscular figure stood guard. Neither DG nor her Tin Man realized they were under observation. As the two silent onlookers continued to watch, DG rested her forehead on the arms she had draped over the balustrade. With a single stride, Cain drew up to her side and placed one hand on her shoulder before moving it in a circular pattern, visibly expressing both comfort and support.
"They're going to be leaving soon, aren't they?" Azkadelia asked.
Jeb looked back at her, but did not speak. She gave a sad, half-smile.
"Central City and the local area are as recovered as they are likely to be in the short-term. Everything else, crops and trade, will have to grow from here, but they don't require too much interference any more. You are settled, and firmly in control of the Royal Guard, with the people loyal to you. Mother is comfortable on the throne once more. All they had left to worry about was me."
He closed his eyes, and turned his face up to the sky. Leaning back on his forearms, he stayed silent for a long moment. With a deep breath, he looked up at her.
"Are you ready?" he asked. "Are you ready to let them go?"
She frowned, and looked down at her hands, wringing them gently as she considered his question.
"I don't know," she answered quietly, not looking up. "I'm frightened."
He sat up and turned to her. Placing one hand over hers, he used the other to gently grasp her chin and lift her gaze up to meet his concerned one. Sure enough, fear crouched in the depths of her dark eyes.
"What is it?" he urged. "What's the matter?"
She tried to look away, but he would not let her. Tears pooled in her eyes, but only one escaped to slip down her cheek. Without releasing her chin, he shifted his hand to allow his thumb to gently wipe away the tear. She gave a tiny sniffle.
"DG," she started, her voice breaking just a bit. "DG is the only one who still treats me like Az. Not Azkadelia, not the Princess, but just Az. Even Mother and Daddy consider me Azkadelia…which I get, I do. I'm their daughter, but I'm DG's sister, her friend. The others put me somewhere in the middle – they…almost follow DG's lead, but I'm still the princess, so they toe the line between friend and follower. At least they joke with me though, kind of like you do. When they leave…"
Another tear fell down to be wiped away. He gave her a tiny smile, letting go of her chin but keeping hold of her hands.
"They won't leave until you're ready. You know that," he said soothingly.
"I know, but they're not happy here. They don't really belong here – maybe to visit, to stay for a week or two, but they belong out there."
She pulled one of her hands free to gesture towards the western wall.
"They're not meant to be in the palace," she continued. "With everything they've been through, they need open space around them, not defensive walls. Here, they cannot really talk or be together without the nobles being…"
She waved her hand around in a vague circle, trying to find the right word to express the behavior of the nobles. She had watched as they had subtly tried to tear the quartet apart. In addition to making little comments about the lack of dignity exhibited by Glitch, the unsuitability of Raw as a companion, and the scandalous behavior of Cain, they complained about DG's inability to fit into the role of a Royal. It never seemed to dawn on the brood of vipers that their every attempt backfired.
Glitch no longer bothered trying to regain Ambrose's airs and attitudes – he had three friends who preferred the fun and flawed self he now possessed. DG enjoyed testing new inventions with him even though Cain swore he would get an ulcer from worrying about the two of them. In addition, his confidence had grown by leaps when he realized that he was the only other one Cain really trusted to guard DG during a fight. Both he and Raw worked to give DG some private time, running interference with the nobles, attendants, and even the Royals when necessary.
Raw just watched everything in silence. Despite the pain of the emotions that weighed upon him, he had found a shielding of sorts from his three friends, as well as a place to belong. As DG's confidante, he was able to comfort and nurture the protective spirit of the young woman. He had also found a place as Cain's sounding board; he was the one person (other than glimpses given to DG and Glitch) that Cain allowed himself to show his vulnerable side with. Glitch of course was his partner in protecting the other two from interference – although Glitch did not quite realize they were giving the couple some private space.
Wyatt Cain ignored the whole conglomeration of nobles, merchants, attendants and various individuals that looked down their noses at him. He had a fairly simple world view – there was "us" and "them". She felt rather proud of the fact that she was considered one of "us" – at least enough to hold them in the City until she was ready to stand on her own. Even her parents were "them" – in Cain's mind, his protection had a very definite order of priority: DG, Jeb, Glitch, Raw, and Az. In that, his son was much like him – though the list was a bit different.
Jeb gave a small snort.
"I know," he sighed. "They keep pushing and pushing, and he ignores them. Sooner or later, one of them is going to try something and he'll react…badly."
She moved her hands restlessly; he tightened his in response. Glancing at him from under her lashes, she sighed.
"I think I'm about ready," she said.
He tilted his head in question, eyes trained intently on her face.
"To let them go," she answered, looking back to the balcony. "We found the recording of the Eclipse ceremony, so everyone could see the Witch as separate from me. The Emerald chose me as heiress to the throne of Ozma, and we've had the Oath-swearing. Even my nightmares are finally decreasing."
"If that's all true, what are you frightened of?" he asked.
She went to pull away from him, but he kept her still. Taking her chin in his hand once again, he turned her back to face him. Gazes locked and solid, he could see the sheen of tears still present, but she had more control now. She had thought the situation through and was calmer about everything.
"I'm afraid they won't come back," she said. "Once they leave, I'm not sure they'll want to return to the city."
He gave her a crooked grin, eyes crinkling in amusement.
"I think you underestimate your importance to your sister. Yes, she wants out of the city, and away from this Royal world that she doesn't fit into, but she doesn't want to give you up. She loves you…she'll be back, if just to check on you."
She stared at him, eyes wide and questioning. He repressed the flash of anger – she didn't need to see that. No matter how much he hated the Witch and what she had done in this woman's body, she had suffered so much more. Half of her life stolen; brutal acts ordered in her voice; unthinkable acts done by her body – who could even begin to guess at what dark shadows haunted her nightmares? He tilted his head forward in a half-nod.
"I promise…I just know they'll be back."
She bit her lip, and looked back up at the balcony one more time before turning to him. A peaceful, though sad look settled on her face. Giving her hands one more squeeze, he released her and stood. Reaching down, he helped her to her feet. As they turned towards the palace, he leaned towards her just slightly.
"I'll help keep the nightmares at bay," he whispered.
She gave him a rare blinding smile and took his arm.
"Well, I guess I should be getting ready for the court dinner this evening. I'm sure it will be…fun," she said, mischief in every word.
"What are you planning?" he asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Well, I was just thinking, if Lord Lejuant tries to get too familiar yet again, maybe I could turn him blue?" she giggled.
"Why blue?" he asked, both amused and wanting to keep her smiling. He would have to start accepting his invitations to court dinner as head of the Royal guard to keep an eye on her, especially if men were bothering her so much she planned on playing pranks on them.
"Well," she said, "his family's traditional colors are orange and white. I thought it might be appropriate."
He burst out laughing at the image that painted in his head; her giggle blended in harmony. The two of them continued out of the garden and into the palace, never noticing the two gazes watching them in approval from the balcony above.