"I've come to take you home."
Her brows rose in a look of incredulity, "And what, you think I'm just going to go with you?"
The fear behind her eyes when she looked at him cut far deeper than any battle wound he'd endured. He didn't dare reach for her, didn't dare speak her name. She took an uncertain step backwards, putting another foot of space between them, and he swallowed down the apology that stuck in his throat.
There weren't words enough to make right what he'd done. Even if she found it in her heart to forgive him he would never again be granted passage into the fortress she'd erected around her heart. She'd thrown her walls up so high they were nearly impenetrable. The warmth had evaporated from her soft brown eyes, replaced by suspicion and doubt.
It wasn't until that moment that he realized with bitter longing just how deeply he'd missed her. He would never again be privy to those thoughtful, lingering glances, the quiet looks of amusement, and the teasing glint that appeared when she made a joke she knew he wouldn't understand. It nearly made him drop to his knees in despair. He'd known that seeing her again would be difficult, but he hadn't expected it to overwhelm him with such a profound sense of tragedy. He'd lost something truly special in her, and it wasn't until this moment that he understood just what he'd given up.
In that cottage, lying in his arms, she'd come so close to letting him in. She'd begun to dismantle that fortress around her heart, pulling it down one brick at a time. He'd pushed too hard, too fast; foolishly promising her a life he couldn't deliver with a happy ending they both knew had no hope of being fulfilled. But he'd wanted it. He'd wanted that life more than he'd ever wanted anything. Even after his memories returned. Even after reuniting with Glinda. Even then… God help him, even then he longed for that glimpse he'd seen of a future at her side. The promise of Kansas. The promise of home.
Fate had chosen to intervene, and it'd torn them apart like a butcher cleaving flesh from bone. The thought of living the rest of his life without her while his heart constantly yearned for the one woman he could not have had driven him mad. He'd lost his mind that day, and along with it every part of him that resembled something good. The man she'd met at Nimbo, the one she'd trusted, befriended, and fought for, the man she'd grown to care for, he'd murdered him the very moment he wrapped his hands around her throat. It still felt surreal, a vivid nightmare he couldn't seem to wake from.
But it was no dream. What he'd done to her, what he'd almost succeeded at doing, was something he'd never thought himself capable of. Not a night had passed since where he wasn't wrenched from his sleep in a cold sweat, his heart still screaming inside his chest. He could feel the impression of his hands around her throat, the memory seared into the flesh of his palms. There was no merciful deliverance this time, no ignorant bliss. He had no choice but to live with what he'd done. It was a powerful reminder of what he was capable of, of the sort of monster that lurked underneath.
There was no future for them, the cool detachment in her eyes made that much clear. And there would be no future for Oz either if he couldn't find a way to convince her to return. There was far too much at stake for him to fail now.
"You've got no reason to trust me," he admitted, his voice grave, "but Oz needs you. Jane needs you."
She crouched low next to Toto and gave him a scratch behind the ears. The big dog leaned his head into her hand and panted approvingly.
"Why'd they send you?" she asked after a pregnant pause. Her expression betrayed only detached curiosity and he resisted the urge to reach for her.
"Did Glinda put you up to this, too?" she wondered and stood upright. She didn't wait for him to answer before calling Toto with a quick slap of her hand against her thigh and retreating towards the house.
He jogged after her, pleading with her to listen, "There isn't much time. If you don't come back with me now there won't be an Oz to go back to."
"Good riddance," she muttered and pulled open the door of her metal carriage. Toto jumped inside without hesitation and sat patiently atop one of the seats. He caught the door with his hand, preventing her from pulling it shut.
"You don't mean that. What about Jane? And Sylvie? Are you just going to let them die?"
Her expression hardened, her jaw clenched tight around a torrent of unspoken words. With a shake of her head she jammed her keys into the carriage lock and turned. The engine roared to life and he jumped back. Dorothy used the temporary distraction to her advantage and slammed the carriage door shut.
"Good-bye, Roan," she said with a sense of finality and quickly drove off.
He stood there feeling lost as he watched the dust curl up behind her carriage. He waited until it was out of sight before exhaling a heavy sigh. With a weary shake of his head he turned back in the direction of her house and made his way towards it.
It was after dark by the time she returned. He rose slowly from the wooden steps of her porch where he'd been sitting. She stared at him from inside the truck for a long moment before turning it off. The lights went dark, leaving him illuminated in the faint glow of the lantern hung by the stairs. Dorothy exited the carriage and shut the door firmly behind her. She walked slowly around the vehicle, her eyes never wavering from him.
"What are you still doing here?"
"Waiting for you," he answered. "Where did you go?"
"To see Karen Chapman." She looked out toward the horizon, eyeing a storm brewing in the distance. Lightening flashed and a roll of thunder lumbered towards them across the plain.
"Was she able to tell you anything?"
"She's dead," she announced with a calm sort of detachment. "About an hour ago. Her kidneys went into renal failure and they couldn't bring her back."
"I'm sorry," he told her sincerely. "I know how important she was to you."
Her head slowly turned towards him, her gaze sharp and unflinching, "You don't know anything about me, Roan."
The harsh bite of that last syllable of his name on her lips made him wince. It sounded wrong, utterly false coming from her. It was his name from birth, but in that moment he would have willingly cast it aside. He would have given anything to become Lucas again, a place she felt safe, a place she felt at home. But Lucas was dead, and all that was remained was him.
"You're right," he said and slowly lifted his gaze to hers, "I don't. I don't know how to convince you. I don't know what to say to you to…" His words faltered and he shook his head, finding himself utterly at a loss.
"I have no right to ask anything of you, I know that. If there were another way I wouldn't have come to you like this, but there isn't. Without you Oz dies. Jane and Sylvie die. Can you live with that on your conscience?"
"Can you?" she fired back.
She brushed past him, her boots stomping up the porch steps. She flung screened door open and let it slam shut behind her, leaving him standing in the dark. After a few minutes she reappeared with a bag slung over her shoulder.
"Let's go," she ordered, and marched past him. Toto followed with an excited bark and he fell in step behind them. She walked far enough into the field to be unseen from the house and then turned her face skyward.
"What made you change your mind?" he asked.
"I've got a lot of questions," she replied evenly, "and Oz is the only place I'll get any answers to them."
He watched amazed as she used her gauntlets to effortlessly summon the storm that would bring them back to Oz. He was as much in awe of her now as the first moment he'd met her, hanging on that cross in Nimbo. Hurting her would forever be his greatest regret. The rain began to fall, pelting his face with icy cool drops. Her hand grabbed hold of his and she called over her shoulder to command Toto to 'Stay'.
"Hold on," she warned him and turned her face towards the sky.
A funnel descended from the clouds, its howling wind whipping up the dusty earth around them. He hazarded a glance at spot where their hands remained intertwined and felt his heart clench tight in his chest. It wasn't much. It wasn't anything at all, really. But it was a start.