A.N.: I'm not the only one who fell in love with Oliver Jackson-Cohen in Haunting of Hill House and voraciously consumed Emerald City because he's in it?
You never get a concrete answer on Dorothy's parentage, so that's going to be explored in this fic - Glinda's comment that 'only a witch can kill another witch', re Dorothy had to be a witch to be able to kill East… I did think some of the plots were a bit superfluous to the rest of the story, like the Princess of Ev etc.; there would've been plenty of tension between Jane and the Wizard if she'd been working in Emerald City, and they could've still done the Jack story-arc as the Tin Man…
Also, Lucas… The finale cliff-hanger was just rude.
Eye of the Storm
"…No, I didn't think so…" she smiled sadly to herself, scratching the dog's ears. He must've gotten loose from the…from the police cruiser. Sucked up into a twister and spit out, maybe he'd had the same luck she had, able to stand up and dust themselves off with a few bruises and minor scratches. It had been barely ten minutes since the eye touched down and she was sucked inside the wind-tunnel and woke up amid the wreckage.
Her mind had overwritten what happened to her in that tornado with a fairy-tale story of amnesiac swordsmen, lunatic dictators, drug-addled witches, a child struggling to find their identity, a haunting prison of mirror-eyed women and flayed men, and oppression… Science versus magic. Her mind receding into itself to protect her from reality, her nonsensical adventures, her yearning to belong, for answers, for home, protecting her from something even worse that her mind wouldn't recover from. Science and magic. A fugue state. To help her mind recover from trauma there was no coming back from, her mind rewired itself briefly, inventing something to replace it.
The odyssey her mind had sent her on through Oz, unbelievable as it seemed, had stuck with her, unable to shake the total…reality of her memories, as if she really had journeyed to another land. She still couldn't shake the memory of snow, as if she had just walked inside from a winter's day into the house crackling with a fire in the hearth; she could still taste the humble seeded bread from Nimbo; felt the ache in her bones from West's torments, her belly pooling like Jell-O; Pink Floyd playing in Emerald City's palace; Silvie, unable to meet her eye, as she made her choice, the choice Dorothy never would have believed she would make. She had thought they had bonded…
She closed her eyes, dizziness sweeping through her for a second as she remembered… Lucas.
How could this be Toto, anyway?
He had been hurt, protecting her from Lucas - or Roan - or whoever he thought he was. Whoever her mind had imagined he truly was, if he had ever been anyone at all.
If she'd been a Psych student she would have paid serious consideration to what her subconscious was telling her - about Karen and Jane, about Silvie…about Lucas.
She wondered what would have happened, in her dream, if they'd stayed in that quaint little house, just the four of them. One soldier, the woman allowing herself to love him, the little girl they chose to call their own, and their loyal guard-dog.
But she had headed straight for the door at the first opportunity, the way she always had, regardless of who was depending on her. Even in the recesses of her mind, she didn't give herself any breaks. Lucas and Silvie - or Roan and Silvie, whoever they were… A man she could never bear to give herself to wholly for fear of abandonment, and the children who would never be because of her dread of it.
She stroked the dog's ears. The K9 unit had to be missing him. She sighed to herself, realising…hadn't Toto been hurt, anyways? Protecting her? He had run into the woods, and no amount of calling or searching brought him back to her.
With no alternative, she had left him behind, too.
Maybe she hadn't needed a guard-dog anymore; with those gauntlets she had been more than capable enough of looking after herself. But then, hadn't she always? Resourceful, tough, loyal, kind, hard-working…words that had followed her throughout her life to describe her, from her playground days to her last talk with her supervisor at the hospital.
She'd call herself isolated.
Even the characters she created to cope with her trauma had abandoned her.
And that wasn't her fault. People had a right to choose. Karen, Jane…whether it had been either of them, or another woman, her mother had had the right to choose to give her up in the hopes of giving her a better life… She was grateful Em and Henry had been worlds more than some fantastical witch all in white, without a flicker or warmth or compassion or selflessness in her body…
Her stomach hurt, her insides cramped, and the sun glared into her eyes, making them smart.
She scoffed softly to herself. Hurt by her own imagination! Maybe Em was right; maybe she did need some time off before she went back to work. She had been sucked into a tornado, after all. And she couldn't go back to the hospital without getting her head screwed on straight; she'd be no help to anyone.
Dorothy supposed she could take the dog back to the precinct when she made her statement about Karen Chapman's attack.
The Wizard told her he'd sent men to kill her. And yet that had all happened in a dream; who had attacked Karen? She knew she hadn't imagined that cop pulling his gun on her before the eye touched down. She lay struggling in the ICU with a punctured lung, hooked up to transfusions and IV drips. Someone had attacked her, and only the tornado had saved her life - ironic as that was.
"How's that for irony?" she murmured to the dog - not Toto. Just a dog. Her Toto had run away into the wilderness of her imagination, entangled with Lucas and Silvie and the yearning for another life she wished she could forget.
She straightened up, turned, stumbled in shock.
Her heart stopped.
The scar on his cheek, the solemn eyes with those beautiful lashes, long nose and broad shoulders, the slightly hunched way he stood to make himself seem less imposing…
She took a half-step back, her heart in her mouth, thundering blood through her body, with the hypersensitivity to his nearness and the memory of those firm lips…the weight of him as she stabbed him, those large talented hands - so instinctual about killing, so tender and patient while making love - wrapped around her throat. She felt the lingering burn of them on her skin.
"I'm just dreaming," she murmured, trying to convince herself. Just dreaming. He was exactly as she remembered, scarred and wounded but conflicted and earnest and goose-bumps rose on her arms as she stumbled back.
The cop had been confused, raising his gun at her in the chaos of the storm; Aunt Em's hands were discoloured from cracking walnuts, not drinking opium tea; the dog had survived the tornado the same way she had, inside that car.
Lucas wasn't real.
Maybe she had slipped away again…one adventure had ended, maybe her mind had made up another… That had to be it: One adventure ended, her mind, perhaps comatose, had created another to keep herself entertained, locked inside her own body…
Everything she had told herself, walking through the snow in Oz, she now repeated, as Lucas, or Roan, stared sadly down at her, looking as exhausted and lonely as she rarely admitted to herself she was.
Was she so desperate for the bond she had created inside her own mind that she had dredged him out of her subconscious, planting him here in the middle of a barren Kansas crop-field, to torment herself? A reminder of everything she wanted, everything she was afraid of, everything she had yearned for and had run from?
"It's just a dream," she whispered, keeping her eyes fixed on Lucas as the wind stung her eyes and she stumbled backwards over the uneven earth, the dog startling her as it bumped against her leg, warmth searing through her jeans. "It's just a dream."
Those long eyelashes fluttered, firm lips twitching toward one of Lucas' heartbreakingly earnest smiles. Lucas… Lucas is dead, she reminded herself. She had strung up his body at the safe-house, their safe-house, where for a few hours they had stolen the idea that they were a tiny family, whole, and happy. The safe-house where he had betrayed that last memory she had of them together.
"Dorothy," he said softly, his lips lifting into a smile; she saw a flash of white teeth and didn't dare let herself notice his rare, pretty smile. Just a dream… He had to be. He reached for her, and she jerked away, her eyes flitting from his hand to his face, trying to read his intent. But even as an amnesiac he had been good about hiding what was going on behind those gorgeous eyes.
Her fear of him made him stop: She wondered how he could even think she'd be happy to see him - but this was her creation, her mind's way of coping with yet another loss…even one of her own imagining.
If he was real, Toto would've attacked him already. As he had at the safe-house when Roan tried to kill her.
How dare he stand in front of her, half-smiling, as if he was…delighted to see her. As if he had been missing the sight of her. Just a dream…
He was here, smiling, looking so much like Lucas, because she wanted him there…? Because the only thing worse than her mind creating those people, those adventures, was knowing they weren't real, and missing them anyway. As if she had lost her heart, her soul. The most important parts of herself.
She had left them in Oz, as if, somehow, the tornado had ripped them from her on the way out. The way back - to consciousness.
A sort of hopeful sadness flickered across his face, and he stopped. Adjusted his posture almost subconsciously as if to make himself less threatening. At well over six foot with shoulders made to wreck doorframes, that wasn't possible.
His brows drew together, and he said softly, "Have you been dreaming of me, Dorothy?"
"You're gone and you're everywhere," she whispered hoarsely, her throat burning. Her Bill Withers CD in the truck; Aunt Em's stained fingertips; even the scarecrow standing beside her, Uncle Henry's old shirt flapping sadly in the breeze. There wasn't a place she could look without being reminded; even as she slept, she dreamed of Oz.
A touch of…hope in his eyes, as those long lashes fluttered, a carefully concealed smile turning into a bite on his lip, and though she was a foot shorter, he somehow managed to look up through those lashes at her.
"I have not been sent through the sky to bring you harm, Dorothy," he said softly, frowning at her as if trying to work something out.
"Then what?" she asked tensely, watching his every movement, the flap of his overcoat in the wind, the way the dying sun shimmered off his closely-cropped beard.
"The Witch of the West sent me," he said softly, and her mind went back to the messy-haired witch with uncanny, wild blue eyes and mesmerising gowns, full of power she felt humming in her bones sometimes. West. The only sister to mourn the witch Dorothy had murdered by omission.
East. Most merciful and stern.
West. Wicked and wild. A wounded animal. Messy, cynical, and drenched in sorrow. She grieved - she felt the loss of her sisters, twenty years after their slaughter.
A far cry from North, Glinda the self-named Good Witch. As perfect and brilliant as an ice-sculpture - and as warm as one. Creating child-witches only to send them to slaughter. She remembered the mist-shrouded meadow full of fallen girls in bloodstained smocks, saw them rise, whispering Mistress as if her nearness comforted them. As if they knew and had not a care in the world that they had been born merely to be sent to their deaths by the woman who cared nothing for them.
She frowned. What was he doing with…? "West?"
Her improbable ally. First her jailer, her torturer. A woman maddened by grief and power and memories. Fierce in her love - and devastated by her loss, and by her part in her sisters' deaths. Dorothy remembered West's grief every time the rubies of East's gauntlets glittered on her hands, even now, when a trick of the light made her hands shimmer, her stomach pinched with sorrow for the wild, sad woman.
Fleeing Glinda's keep in the North, Dorothy had followed her gut and somehow found herself with West, clear-minded through her compassion, her sense of right and wrong, her devotion to the idea of the child-witches they had unlocked inside Lucas' mind, protecting them… Defending them from their sisters' fates…
They had freed captive witches; unveiled transgender orphan Tip as the unlikely inheritor of the throne of Oz; and Dorothy had brought the Stone Giants to life.
Jane had killed the farce of a Wizard…after Dorothy had stopped Glinda and her hive of little witches.
He nodded solemnly, as thunder rumbled softly in the distance. "Why?"
"It's your mother."
"My mother?" she asked, frowning. She had none… Karen Chapman lay in the hospital, clinging to life. Dorothy hadn't been able to donate blood; they weren't a match… Her mother… The doctor. She whispered, "Jane." He nodded subtly. "What's happened to her?"
Reluctant, he still answered her. "She's been taken prisoner."
"By Glinda?" Her stomach pinched, turning to lead, hatred seeping through her veins. The white endless walls, the muffled footsteps, the drone of the little girls, and their moans, their whimpers, their broken minds and wasting bodies, cast aside like dolls Glinda had lost all interest in. And him, carrying them to that chamber where the broken things were set aside, to be forgotten about, telling himself that the girls had exhausted themselves, pushed themselves too hard…when it was Glinda, forcing the girls to go beyond what she knew with absolute certainty were their limits. Because she would not deign to sully her pure white hands and reputation and destroy the Wizard herself.
He loved a woman like that!
"We're not sure."
"How - ?"
"I have not seen Glinda for a good long while," he said softly, daring to look her in the eye. And she remembered, West had sent him. Not Glinda. And yet…a good long while? She had just left -just woken up from her dreams. She had been out maybe ten minutes; it was nearly two weeks since she had ridden in the ambulance with Karen to the hospital, avoiding another twister on the horizon and debris all over the roads.
"Why would West send you here?"
"She…thought I'd be most likely able to convince you to return with me."
"You've come to take me back."
"I've come to take you home." He said it solemnly and sadly, and her stomach hurt with a sudden ache of longing.
Her lips parted, ignoring it. "I am home."
"Lucas," he said softly, raising his head to gaze across the endless fields, the hazy shimmer of sunset burning like old gold on the horizon, making the dust glow and the fields turn to copper.
"Lucas is home," Dorothy said, and she felt like she had been sucker-punched as he caught her eye, and she remembered the afternoon she had given him his name. Lucas. Lucas is home.
In Lucas' arms was the only place she had ever felt at home, as if she belonged there.
In the same house where he had then tried to murder her.
Because he loved her too much.
Because he couldn't love her and have Glinda at the same time.
He had hurt her; she had stabbed him. She had crucified him.
"You should have known better than to come after me," she said darkly, thunder rumbling, and stalked toward the house, realising she had likely just been having a conversation with, at best, the scarecrow, and at worst, thin-air. He wasn't here. He couldn't be here. Just dreaming…
She'd wake up and realise she needed to get to the station to give her statement, and head to the hospital to check on Karen. Maybe she was in the waiting-room, had fallen into a doze?
Up the front-steps, she knocked the sides of her boots against the boot-scraper and smiled tersely at Aunt Em in the kitchen, heading for the stairs.
"Dorothy, you didn't tell me we were expecting anyone," Aunt Em said, with a kind smile, her eyes lingering beyond Dorothy, who skidded to a halt.
"I'm sorry?" she murmured, awareness prickling all over her skin despite her layers, shivering, and slowly turned, her heart in her mouth and dread curdling in her stomach. Aunt Em's shoes sounded softly on the worn hall rug and she wiped her hands on a dishcloth as she smiled at the visitor on her doorstep.
A German shepherd, and a soldier from another world, sword and all.
Dorothy stared from her aunt to the man lingering at the threshold. Aunt Em could see him? If there was ever a no-nonsense person, it was Aunt Em. Diligent, hard-working and kind, Em wasn't prone to daydreaming - or in believing that Dorothy's weird dreams were trying to tell her something.
Even as she noticed his sword was missing from his belt, where it had been buckled minutes before, Dorothy felt herself drawn forward, to the dog, who was licking Aunt Em's hand, to Lucas, whose eyes never strayed from her face as Aunt Em greeted him.
"Oh, Dorothy, this must be the dog you told me about, from the back of the police-cruiser. Hello," Aunt Em smiled, completely misreading Dorothy's shock, as she turned to Lucas. "Where did you find him?"
"Quite a way from here," Lucas said, holding Dorothy's eye, and only she caught the irony. "I…was on my way here…to see Dorothy."
"Oh," Aunt Em said, and Dorothy barely smoothed the glare from her face before Em turned, her expression surprised. "You must've heard about the tornado. Picked her up and threw her around something good. Only a few scratches, though, and some bruising. It'd take more than a tornado to knock her down. She's one strong girl."
Em. Always so proud of her. The gun-shot rang through her, startling her, the back of East's head exploding… Only a witch can kill another witch, Glinda had bragged on that misty battlefield. Dorothy had killed East with a gun, before she had earned the gauntlets. Her stomach cramped. Would Em still be proud of her when she learned Dorothy had tricked a woman into killing herself - even if it was in self-defence…and defence of the man looming in the doorway, looking handsome and unassuming and contrite. The man who had betrayed her, tried to murder her.
She wondered where Uncle Henry kept his shotgun.
Lucas' smile was earnest. The one she remembered.
"She's the strongest woman I have ever met," he said richly, his eyes on her. And that wasn't fair. He looked at her the way Lucas used to, before he could remember being anything but a man fuelled by protective instinct.
Dorothy was still reeling as Aunt Em invited him into their home, the German shepherd stalking close by his side, as if he needed protecting. As if the dog had forgotten…
If Lucas was here, was it truly Toto? How could he not remember Lucas attacking her?
"So how do you know Dorothy?" Aunt Em asked, and Dorothy sent him a warning look.
He didn't break eye-contact even as she glared, flushed, and glanced away, clearing her throat awkwardly. "She saved my life."
"Ah, from the hospital," Aunt Em smiled knowingly. "Well, it's kind of you to visit. Dorothy's been cooped up on the farm for days, except to see a friend who wasn't so lucky during the storm. It'll do her good to have some company."
Dorothy disagreed about this particular company. She'd take the dog. Maybe she'd keep him. Did animals get PTSD? Maybe she could persuade the police department to retire the German shepherd?
"I'm so sorry, I've forgotten my manners. I didn't even ask your name," Aunt Em laughed softly. His eyes caught Dorothy's sharply.
"Lucas." He said it softly, and something blistered through her, as if he had struck her. He gave a shy smile to Aunt Em, and elaborated: "Lucas Roan."
Aunt Em pottered about, making hot tea, talking in her soft, wise voice about the damage the tornado had done, ripping across the county. They were lucky the harvest had already been brought in from the fields, or that would be almost a year's income lost, income they couldn't afford to lose. She gave the dog some cold-cuts from the refrigerator that made Lucas' lips part in wonder, as Aunt Em set about making sandwiches for them all, her go-to for unfamiliar guests and awkward situations, and Em was subtle enough to pick up on things, like the body-language of the twenty-year-old she had raised since infancy. She was still rattled from Dorothy's recent brush with death; maybe she attributed Dorothy's tension to that.
Dorothy stood with her back to the corner, noticing that Lucas' eyes lingered on Aunt Em's walnut-stained fingertips as she poured the tea. But he thanked her, accepting the steaming cup, and drank without hesitation. He had to be remembering West, with her blackened fingertips and glazed eyes, erratic behaviour and outbursts.
She almost missed them.
At least life in Oz was never boring. It was always unexpected. Dorothy was a glutton for self-punishment: She almost missed it.
But it wasn't real.
Aunt Em bustled about, handed Lucas a sandwich stacked with pastrami, homemade coleslaw and Russian dressing on seeded rye, presented on her old but immaculate service with the orange poppies painted on, bringing out a big bag of Lay's and some fresh fruit from the refrigerator, gave Dorothy a warm smile, and left the room to get on with some of her evening chores. At least, that was what she told them. The dog huffed, not believing her any more than Dorothy did, and settled across Lucas' feet.
"So… Lucas. I had a friend called Lucas. He died," Dorothy said sharply, accusingly.
"He didn't die," he said quietly, his eyes downcast, resting on the shining apples Aunt Em had left on the table for them. They had shared an apple as she had named him, his arms too sore to raise after being crucified…the first time… "Only lost…for a little while."
"That's what you call it?" Dorothy scoffed, startled. Lost… The Lucas she had known was lost, murdered by a monster named Roan.
He raised his eyes to hers, and she saw…confusion, and sadness. Longing. Perhaps that was only what she wanted to see. Because it still hurt. The ghost of the Lucas she remembered, flickering beneath this Roan mask.
"Will you join me?" Lucas asked hesitantly, glancing at the chair across from him at the little table that seemed even smaller with him crowded at it. A simple invitation; but loaded with meaning.
"Maybe for a bite," Dorothy said coolly, fully prepared to bite him if he tried anything. He had tried to kill her. How dare he sit there, half-smiling, trying not to look at everything unfamiliar in the old-fashioned and rather modest kitchen, the radio and the microwave and the potato-peeler on the draining-board, as if he hadn't wrapped his large hands around her all-too-delicate throat and squeezed, kept squeezing until she sank a knife into him.
As if she hadn't crucified him and left him to die at that little farmhouse of shattered illusions. She had left him for the crows, and not looked back.
Yet here he was.
Not even a rope-burn on his wrists where she had bound him.
No contrition in his eyes, only…an odd hunger that made her insides warm.
Slowly, she sank into the chair opposite him, fiddling with her fingers as she watched him try not to notice the alien-ness of the room, or at least let on that it had affected him.
Native tribesmen had water-boarded Dorothy when she fell from the sky. He got a pastrami sandwich and fresh apples.
Carefully, he pushed the plate toward her; she frowned, sighed, but took half the sandwich, and he watched her take a bite. Those long gold-tipped eyelashes fluttered, the only indication he was doing some quick thinking.
"Dorothy, you have to come back to Oz with me."
"I'm not going anywhere with you. I just got home. Karen Chapman is unconscious in the hospital."
"Dorothy - "
The phone rang, and he jumped, startled, his hand going to his belt on instinct, finding his sword missing.
Dorothy stood and reached for the phone, glad that for the first time since meeting him, she had the advantage of familiar surroundings.
"Gale house," she answered, the way she had since childhood.
A.N.: Please review!