A.N.: This story is dedicated to GabbyCB, thank you so much for your wonderful message! Here's to hoping they call for a second ten-episode season for Emerald City! Until then, this is what I imagine should happen!
Eye of the Storm
Sometime during the storm, their hands met, and Dorothy woke with a splitting headache and Lucas' fingers interwoven with hers, the only source of warmth as cold penetrated her lungs like icy knives.
He was panting, hard, beside her, and as he disentangled his hand from hers, Dorothy suddenly realised that the pressure in her head was from hanging upside-down. The blown-out windows showed whiteness; snow. Icicles, glittering in meagre sunlight, and barren trees. She groaned, and started fidgeting, fighting the nausea in her stomach that was quickly threatening to choke her. Toto grumbled beneath her, licking her neck and ears, unharmed.
Lucas grunted in pain as he undid his seatbelt, the arm he'd pressed to the roof of the truck - now the floor - crumpling beneath his weight.
"Toto, out," Dorothy groaned, and the dog grumbled, but did as he was told. "Lucas?"
"I'm here," he panted, rolling around, orienting himself, and she shuddered, in the cold and in pain, and in the realisation that she had seen her parents' house swept up in the tornado just before it had taken her.
"Henry," she said urgently.
"Let's get out of here first," Lucas said, with muted urgency. "Can you put your arms up, push against the roof…?" She tried, and cried out in pain as something tore at her left arm. But she still pushed, and tensed her muscles as Lucas unbuckled her seatbelt. He guided her into his arms instead of the glass-strewn roof of the cab. There was no sign of Toto, only blood-spattered snow. Was he hurt? He had been tucked under Lucas' legs.
Dorothy rested in Lucas' arms as her head thundered, pain burned in her upper-arm, and the nausea subsided, and he held onto her, arms threaded around her middle, panting in her ear, and shaking. This time wasn't like his first journey from Oz, she could tell. West's magic had to have gentled the ride; she could taste copper and managed to glance up, seeing a trickle of blood streaking his forehead from a sharp, clean cut.
Toto had dug his way out of the cab, out the broken windows, through snow two-feet deep, and Lucas followed first, taking his sword with him, the blade partly revealed from the scabbard - so it wouldn't freeze in place. Even in magical Oz, metal weapons were vulnerable to the ravages of nature, damp and rust and freezing temperatures.
"Dorothy, you can come up." Lucas' voice was muffled, but she followed it, choking on a scream of pain as she went down on her forearms to crawl through the tunnel of snow, her left arm burning with savage pain that made her arms buckle. She forced herself up, refusing to be smothered by snow, and kept going; huge hands appeared, taking hold of her under her shoulders, and pulled her the rest of the way out of the blind whiteness of snow. Behind her, a smeared trail of blood made her nausea bubble up, and she shuddered as Lucas let her down gently on the snowbank, catching their breaths.
The pain saved her life. Otherwise the cold would have seeped into her body and stolen the life from her, sapped her of all energy to just drift into the deceptive, beguiling warmth of true cold.
"Where are we?" she whispered, and her breath plumed above her as she cracked her eyes open. Cold light greeted her, barren branches, and ice sparkled in the air like something pure and magical and deceptively beautiful, so cold the moisture in the air had frozen. Everything was still, that breathless stillness of cold and winter and snow. Peaceful and pure.
She was reminded of Glinda, deceptively pure and cold, and anger burned in the pit of her stomach, reminding her anew of the Witch of the North and her husband who lay panting beside her, his expression pained, hand clamped around his sword-hilt. She forced herself to sit up, was struck in wonder at the scene that she met.
A sea of unblemished white snow, the crystalline-blue sky - no hint of a tornado to be seen - sparkling as particles of frozen moisture glittered in the pure dazzling sunlight of winter. It was…breathtakingly beautiful.
Toto sat on the snow, panting, his red tongue lolling. When she sat up, wincing at what she guessed was whiplash, he stood and padded over to her side, licking her face and neck again, his warmth searing her cold body.
"Lucas," she murmured, wincing in pain as she glanced around. He was a slash of dark against the startling whiteness, and beyond him, she saw were huge barren trees. She panted, but pushed herself to her feet. If they didn't move now, they'd never move again. She knew she was shaking not just from the cold and shock but also from pain; she had left another smear of blood on the snow, vibrant against the pure whiteness, and she kicked snow over the blood to conceal it, not wanting to show any vulnerability, least of all in front of him.
Lucas held out an arm, preventing her from moving ahead, and glanced down at her, his expression solemn.
"Dorothy," he said quietly, and she glanced down. Her breath stole from her lungs. And not even Lucas' considerable strength could stop her flinging herself down the snowbank, to the figure sprawled there. Even as she approached, she knew there was no chance. He wouldn't have survived the tornado, let alone the impact of the fall. His body was too broken.
Common sense told her that Uncle Henry was dead.
But the irrational hope and tenacity of a daughter determined to save her dad pushed her to attempt CPR and chest-compressions, even as tears burned her face and blurred her vision, the pain in her arm forgotten as she sobbed and choked and cried for her dad to wake up. Glassy eyes gazed up at her, not a trace of pain or fear to be found.
She kept trying. She kept trying to resuscitate her Uncle Henry long after she had broken his ribs. She kept trying, even as her sight blurred from tears and red glittered on her hands - not from Henry's blood, or even her own, but the ruby gauntlets of gold filigree that glittered and shone, called upon by the innate power throbbing in her veins.
Even they were powerless to affect any change, but they glittered and shone, taunting her.
Lucas pulled her away, one arm around her waist, his nose nestled in her hair as she shook and cried and struggled against his grip. "He's gone, Dorothy… He's gone."
She shuddered and cried and buried her face in his broad chest, his warmth seeping through her chilled body, making her arm smart in pain.
"We should move," Lucas said eventually, as she panted and gasped for breath, calming herself down.
"I'm not leaving him," she choked.
"You won't have to," Lucas said ominously, and she glanced up, seeing movement at the treeline. She groaned, Not again.
Fur and feathers, and a good deal of both. Splashes of turquoise paint startling against the drab sameness of the animal hides. Spears and crude, lethal weapons at the ready, more suited to the cold than Lucas' sword, but he didn't draw it, and they didn't attack. Their eyes lingered on the ruby gauntlets glittering on her hands.
She recognised Ojo, even from this distance, even with her blurry eyesight; he had another scar, now, across his forehead, jagged and uglier than the first. His expression was sombre as he led the Munja'kin warriors through the snow. Surprising Dorothy, he exchanged a few words in their native language with Lucas, who answered quietly and sombrely. Ojo sighed heavily, and he said something to his men: Uncle Henry was laid out on a stretcher of saplings and animal hide, and carried before them through the snow, through the barren woods.
In a daze, Dorothy followed. Hard-working, earnest, calm Uncle Henry, who never hurt a person in his life, had taught her to drive and how to nurture, to patiently await the fruit of her labours, was dead. Gone. He had only ever wanted the best for her, had given up a lot to take her in as his own and raise her. Her dad.
Toto walked by her side, a moving space-heater as he bumped against her legs to stop her from veering from the grooves in the snow made by the men. She kept her eyes on the stretcher, on Uncle Henry's weathered, tired, now lifeless body.
The barn, the house, Uncle Henry…
How long she walked, she didn't know; but it was Lucas who drew her aside as they reached the village of animal-hide tents, the place where it had all begun, the place she had seen East on a pyre, and been tortured by Ojo as a witch who had killed the Witch of the Eastern Woods, Most Merciful and Stern. Feathers and turquoise paint, water-torture and cesspools of mirror-eyed witches… At least it was familiar, and with her world thrown off its axis with the acknowledgement of Uncle Henry's death, she needed something familiar. Toto bumped against her leg, and Lucas pressed a hand at the small of her back, as if sensing her knees were about to buckle. The tiniest gesture helped her put one foot in front of the other, as her vision started to swim and nausea built up again, her limbs heavy, sweat dotting her brow.
"Dorothy…your Aunt Em is here," Lucas said, his expression so serious that the pinching sensation in her stomach was unnecessary. The looks on the faces of the Munja'kin villagers, behind the vibrant paint, told her everything, and they were ushered into one of the larger tents, where several women were gathered around a low cot.
The face was a sickly ash-white and sweaty, not the fair-skinned Em she knew. Her mousy brown hair, always neatly braided away from her face, was dotted with blood and matted. She shivered on the cot in spite of furs and heavy wool blankets, and her hand shook as she tried to raise it, panting.
Uncle Henry…now Em. Dorothy fell to her knees beside the cot, burst into tears, and buried her face in Em's chest. A hand sifted through her dark curls, the way it had thousands of times before, soothing her even as Em lay dying.
"You're okay," Em choked, crying, and Dorothy cried harder. She lifted her head, clasping Em's hand in hers, her lips trembling as she tried to force herself to stop crying, and nodded. She leaned over, pressing her forehead to Em's, just wanting to share their bond one last time, their nearness, tenderly stroking her thumb against Em's cheek.
Em died as peacefully and quietly as she had lived, the same tender smile on her face that Dorothy knew by heart after seeing it for twenty years, no matter what hardships their family went through, even as she had told Dorothy that she had not given birth to her, that she belonged to another woman, another family.
Em and Henry. The house, the farm. All gone. There was nothing left to return to in Kansas. She now understood what the Wizard had meant. Return? To what life?
She collapsed, all energy draining from her as the Munja'kin villagers hummed a gentle dirge full of grief and hope and serenity and peace, her vision swimming, and someone caught her up in in strong arms before she blacked out.
Dorothy woke hissing in pain, suddenly hyper-aware of her exposed skin, and the pain in her arm. A deep sigh sounded as she twitched and thrashed and her eyes burst open, firelight burning her sore eyes as she looked around, her body aching, especially her neck and her ribs, where her exposed skin showed a flourishing blackish-purple bruise. She grimaced, panting, and fidgeted, aware that she was sweating in the heat of a small tent, a shadow hulking over her.
"Easy - easy! Dorothy, it's me, it's Lucas," a low voice said, and in spite of everything, she collapsed on the cot mounded with furs and blankets. She had been stripped to her panties - by Lucas, who had also stripped down to his undershirt and leather pants and boots, his sleeves pushed up to his elbows, sweating in the heat. He looked tense.
"Where'm…I clothes?" she slurred, suddenly feeling as vulnerable and shaken as that afternoon in the little house.
"Some of the women are mending them," Lucas said gently, perching on the edge of the cot. She frowned, unseeing, panting in the heat and in her pain. "I'd hoped you'd stay unconscious for a little longer."
"Why?" she asked, hissing in pain.
"I have to treat your arm," he said quietly, and she shuddered, glancing down. A wash of red, and angry, torn skin, from her outer elbow, twisting up under her arm and out the other side at her back, almost to her shoulder-blade. She could feel it, deep and angry and painful, but the bone wasn't broken; at least the fluid seeping from it was clear. She groaned, panting, and collapsed back on the cot.
"One of the Munja'kin must be a healer," she panted, refusing to give in, but too exhausted to fight him.
"They have a witch, yes. She is afraid of you. Of the power you wield with those gauntlets."
"You didn't tell her I'm useless with them as a baby with a sword?"
"Those gauntlets are the difference between life and death, and have been ever since the Witch of the East bequeathed them to you in her death."
"She didn't bequeath me anything; I murdered her," Dorothy countered. "They just appeared."
"They passed to you because her power willed it so… Magic is intuitive," Lucas told her, moving just out of her eyesight. "I'll need your help…your arm, the angle, I can't easily get to the wound."
Slowly, fighting nausea and weakness, the memory of loss in the tightness of her eyes and her tearstained cheeks, she adjusted her position on the cot, wincing at the pressure on her ribs.
And Lucas set to work, with the same kind of tender, precise nursing that she had used on him often enough. Half-delirious, grinding her teeth against the pain, she marvelled as he removed the last traces of glass with delicate tweezers cleaned in boiling water, cleaned the wound with hot water boiled with herbs and roots, daubed with some kind of base alcohol, and unfurled a leather roll full of small jars and bottles and delicate instruments she might have found at Lucas Memorial, clamps and delicate scissors, tweezers, a thermometer, something like a horn that she recognised as an antique stethoscope made of wood, fragile syringes of glass and surgical steel, and an array of curved needles. Her stomach turned, and she caught Lucas' eye.
"I have to, Dorothy. If I thought there was another way, I'd do it," Lucas told her earnestly. He turned his back, and returned with a small skin of something she might have thought was bourbon if she was anywhere but Oz, and, of all things, a sugar-cube.
Alcohol to ease the pain; sugar to combat shock.
One last thing. A stick, six-inches long, an inch thick, clamped between her teeth, as he threaded one of the curved needles with alcohol-soaked thread. The scent of witch-hazel and comfrey made her nose twitch, and her body shuddered, her eyes streaming, choking on her screams, as Lucas quietly, tenderly, but determinedly sewed her arm up, from outer elbow, adjusting her arm so he could get the tender underside. As she stifled her screams and panted, he helped her move to her right side, so he could get the awkward, tender back of her arm, the gouged laceration across her shoulder-blade. Her entire world turned into the heat of the tent, Lucas' careful, diligent care, and the pain.
"Three more," Lucas advised her, and she whimpered, but adjusted the stick between her teeth. Three…two…one… She heard the tiniest snip of a delicate pair of silver scissors, and startled as a huge hand rested tenderly on her head, his thumb stroking her ear, her cheekbone, before lifting again. But not before she felt the tiny tremble in his fingers. Treating her had affected him, maybe more than him attacking her had.
Once more, Lucas doused her wounds with alcohol, a quick wash over the stitched skin, and she whimpered as it stung and smarted.
Warm water soothed her as Lucas gave her a wash-down, removing all traces of blood and sweat, the same way she had cared for him the afternoon she lifted him down from the cross at Nimbo.
Finally, something cool and sticky was brushed over her treated wound, and she contorted to watch, surprised again, as Lucas spread honey over her skin, carefully smoothing a clean bandage over the stitches, the honey a naturally antiseptic adhesive. He wrapped her upper-arm in another layer of bandages, and caught her eye only as he reached up to take the stick from between her teeth.
Perched on the side of the cot again, he helped her sit up, propping her awkwardly against the furs, so he could raise a cup of icy water to her lips and help her drink. It went down a treat, glacial and invigorating, waking her up a little. From a small pocket in the leather roll, he pulled a delicate wooden box. Opening the tiny hinged lid, she watched blearily as he counted out two tiny little white pills.
"What are those?"
He glanced up at her, so close, so like the Lucas she desperately wanted to remember. "Penicillin." It was obviously an alien word to him.
But she blinked, and parted her lips automatically when his gaze lowered to them. He popped the two pills in her mouth, and raised the wooden cup to her lips again. She gazed up at him, exhausted, in pain, but too tired to remember why she was afraid of the size and strength of the body that had brought her such intense pleasure.
"Where did you learn all that?" she asked sleepily.
He held her eye as he answered, "Your mother."
It woke her, a little, and she used her remaining strength to sit up on her own, her arm feeling alien but well-tended and wrapped up neatly in pristine bandages. She blinked the exhaustion and pain from her eyes, gazing at the leather roll of instruments, the neat wooden spools of silk thread, the jars of honey and herbs, the scissors and clamps and curved needles.
"She made this for you?"
He shook his head gently, his gaze never leaving hers. "She made it for you."
"When we met, she asked how I knew you… I told her about our time together. I told her you saved my life…that you were a healer, a nurse…" Lucas said, and a smile lifted the corners of his lips, made his eyes seem gentler, younger. He looked like her Lucas. "She was proud, Dorothy…"
"Proud," she murmured, exhaustion creeping up on her. He offered her another, smaller cup, this one steaming, and only as she swallowed a gulp of it did she remember the unusual scent that wafted around West like a haze. Opium tea.
"Sleep, Dorothy," Lucas told her, helping her lie down comfortably, tucking the furs and blankets around her carefully. She didn't hear him tidying up, was asleep before the Munja'kin started singing a song of grief and loss, and she slept for a good while, shedding exhaustion, blissfully dreamless.
But something in her marrow told her to enjoy the dreamless abyss of deep, healing sleep: She wasn't likely to get much rest going forward.
Pain had weakened her resolve, lowered her defences.
When she woke, she would be as strong and as dangerous as she ever had been. More so: Em and Henry and Karen Chapman were dead.
All she had left in the world was a man who had tried to murder her.
A.N.: Please review!