In which someone else wants to marry DG

She'd heard about it in fairy tales and bad romance novels, but it was never something she thought would happen to her. DG wasn't sure whether she was glad for the two months of not-knowing. They gave her time to be DG, to get used to being a princess, then slammed the fact down on her like a stone weighing her back down into ice cold water.

"When exactly did you decide to sell me off to the highest bidder, again?" DG asked, sure that her face was red from embarrassment and anger all at the same time. She didn't care, for the first time, how much of her temper she lost in front of her parents--let alone her Tin Man shadow and her sister, who both stood together by the door to keep DG from bolting. Az and Cain exchanged a short glance and bolstered their defenses, ready for a DG-colored bullet headed for them at any moment.

"When you were of five annuals," Lavender said as calmly as possible. Ahamo crouched by DG's chair, ready to spring up if she shot to her feet. "We were entertaining Duke Norren and his son of the same age as yourself."

"This is the way things work, Sweetheart," Ahamo said comfortingly.

"What, we have one play date when we're five and you think we'd make a good couple?" DG's voice raised a decibel, and Az winced.

"My marriage to your father was a deviation from the norm," Lavender admitted. "Arranged marriage is the preferred practice among the royalty." Her face, however was not strong, and she frowned at herself. "I am sorry, my DG, but you've been betrothed to Duke Norren's son."

"How is that fair?" DG asked, her voice high and thin. "You get to marry whoever you want and I'm expected to sell myself off to this guy I don't even remember?"

"We want what's best for you, DG," Ahamo told her, his hand reaching out to hers. She snatched it away. He looked slightly taken aback, but he continued. "Norren and Valentine have been invited to spend the week with us in preparation for the announcement of your betrothal. From there... It's up to you."

"Hypocrites," DG aid as she finally shot up to her feet. "I'm not gonna marry some poor kid just because you shook hands with someone fifteen years ago." She moved past her father, who had stood to match her, and straight for the door. Az and Cain both moved to block her escape, but with Lavender's "Let her be," they both moved uneasily aside to allow DG to barge out. Her heavy, stomping footsteps echoed back and quickly disappeared.

Cain looked to Azkadellia, and he knew he was wearing concern identical to hers on his face. "You want to, or should I, Highness?"

Az looked back after her sister, sighing. "You're quicker than I am, Mister Cain."

He tried not to smile as he took off at a long-legged jog after the younger princess. Azkadellia moved to sit with her mother and father, looking more worried than the both of them.

She could hear Cain catching up with her, and she was relieved when he didn't say anything. She listened to his steady footsteps behind her, following at a respectful distance. She knew without looking that he had his hands in his pockets, afraid that he would have nothing to do with them otherwise. He was watching her, but not prying. He was the only one who didn't pry.

She finally slowed and stopped, allowing him to step up beside her to continue his silence. Her eyes ticked up to him, and he wasn't surprised to see tears lining them. He tried on a smile for her.

"Want me to shoot him?"

She finally laughed, though it was too short. She wiped at her eyes, glaring back down the hallway to her mother's study.

"It's just stupid," she said, her voice clear of sadness but steeped in anger.

"I'm not saying it isn't," Cain replied, his hands still in his pockets.

"But?" DG asked, expecting it to come.

"No buts, Princess." He shifted his weight once. "I know what they want for you, and what they think is right and good for you. Doesn't mean I have to agree with them."

She shook her head, and he was pleased to find that he'd managed to make her smile, even just a bit. He looked at the ground, the space between them.

"Show up to meet the kid," he said, meeting her eyes assuringly. "I'll be there if you change your mind about shooting him."

DG's eyes smiled back at him. "You're too good to me, Tin Man."

He chuckled back, adjusting his hat superfluously. "Yeah, I know."

Norren and Valentine arrived together, surrounded by an entourage that dwarfed even DG's security staff. The Queen and Consort wondered exactly how Cain had coerced their daughter into the meeting she had been so vehemently against, but they didn't ask any questions. He stood silent and dark at the princess's side, one hand on his gun and the other with a thumb stuck in his belt. His eyes were restless, on everyone at once. DG, by contrast, was calm and still. She was watching only young Valentine, who stood across the reception hall from her.

He wasn't quite as tall as Cain, and not nearly as broad. His hair was a mop of mousy brown atop his head, slightly disheveled from his trek from the eastern territories. His eyes were nearly the same color, and nervously darted from princess to queen to the intimidating bodyguard in the fedora. His nose was long and thin, and he worried his lower lip between his teeth. In his anxiety, his shoulders had hunched up into his neck, and he twiddled his fingers before him.

Norren gave him a slight nudge in the direction of the princess, and Valentine almost stumbled. He adjusted his lapels once and took the first step forward. DG stepped away from Cain's side, and his grip on the butt of his gun went tight.

"Valentine, I assume?" DG asked, pulling on her princess mask and disappearing behind it.

"That's, ah... You can call me Val, Princess DG." He hadn't looked up yet.

Her mask faltered slightly. "Are you okay?"

Val gave a nervous sort of chuckle. "I'm a little nervous. It's been a while since we've seen each other."

"You've got me beat," DG said, something just short of a scoff. "I can't even remember it."

Val smirked, something low and nearly sad. "You were a bit of a show-off. Almost got me lost in the maze."

DG took a short glance over her shoulder to her parents and her Tin Man. Cain's eyebrows went up, and he motioned to his gun with one finger, questioningly. She shook her head with a smirk, then turned back to Valentine.

"Let's get this over with, then."

She tried to avoid him, for the most part. When she was forced into entertaining him, she would acquiesce only by the sad-puppy look in Val's worried brown eyes. And, though she didn't admit it out loud to anyone, because she knew that her Tin Man would be there, hovering just out of sight, ready to shoot on her command. On the odd occasion, between inane conversation and bitter tea, she would look up from under the shadow of her sun hat to see him nearby. Leaning against one of the columns of the garden's rotunda, just barely hidden by the paltry noonday shade, his hat tipped down just right, one hand on his gun and his mouth a worried line. Every so often, she would look up to find his eyes, and she was quick to divert her attention back to Valentine.

She was sure that she would have liked him if she didn't have to marry him. He was shy, but kind and a bit goofy when he let his nervous mask fall away. No matter the shaking in his fingers, he would always manage a cute lopsided smile for her and brush the stubborn messy hair from his eyes. He stuttered a bit when he looked for words, but he nearly always found them. He wasn't the chatty type, and was more interested in hearing about how DG grew up on the Other Side.

"And what's this 'pizza' nonsense you're going on about?" Val asked, looking questioningly into the empty teapot. DG held her hand up to get the attention of the nearby maid, who took Valentine's teapot to refill it. The boy flushed embarrassedly.

"It's a sort of Other Sider food," DG said, swishing the cold remnants of tea around in her own cup. "The most delicious thing ever invented, and no one in the O.Z. can get it just right. I swear, one of these days I'm gonna imagine myself a travel storm and pull Papa John himself over here to whip up a couple pizzas."

Val didn't quite understand, but he smiled anyway. He always had a smile for her. "I could try my hand at it." His smile fell away slowly, and his gaze went unfocused in the distance. "Once we're married."

The silence grew past uncomfortable, but no one wanted to break it. Once the teapot had returned, full and hot, DG stood from the table. Val rose quickly to match her out of respect.

"Sorry, Val, but I've got princess lessons today."

"I understand, Princess DG," he replied, looking crestfallen but hiding it well.

She nodded, somehow awkward, and took the steps necessary to join Cain by his pillar. He offered his arm to her, and she took it without thinking. They stepped away together, out of the hot sun and into the cool of the palace. Val twiddled his thumbs nervously, looked up at the maid beside him, and asked directions back to the quarters he was sharing with his father.

"He's kinda twitchy," Cain remarked, straddling a chair backwards to lean his arms crossed over its back. His eyes hung on DG as she willed the light through her, back and forth, one arm to the other. She looked up at him, and Tutor cleared his throat lightly. She focused her gaze back on her hands, their smooth wave of motion.

"Who?" She asked, although she knew.

"That kid you're supposed to marry." His eyes on her hands, where she focused the ebbing and flowing of light into physical energy. When she looked up at him again, he pointed to his face, where he made a twitch spasm through his eye. "He's got a twitch."

She bit back a smile, knowing that Tutor would clear his throat again if she lost concentration. She curled the light into a ball, rolling it between her palms. His eyes followed the line of her wrists, their slow movement.

"And he's scrawny."

"You don't like him," DG said, snuffing the light out quickly. Tutor nodded, though he didn't look too thoroughly pleased--as if he expected more from her.

Cain straightened his back but looked just as caught as a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. "What makes you think I don't like him?"

"You offered to shoot him about fifteen minutes ago," she reminded him.

"I offer to shoot lots of people," he muttered back, now refusing to meet her eye. "Only difference is this guy wants to marry you."

Her shoulders fell a notch, and he noticed all too well. He opened his mouth to find words absent, and he quickly shut it again with a snap. Then, with that infallible DG perkiness, she pulled a smile out of somewhere and coaxed his hand out from his crossed arms. "C'mon, time to eat."

Tutor was the only one to catch the redness in the Tin Man's face as he allowed himself to be pulled up and away by his princess.

Valentine took Cain's usual seat beside DG at dinner. Cain most definitely didn't like this. He stabbed his food with his fork and chewed with a viciousness known only to greater carnivores. He didn't meet Val's eyes the entire meal, nor did he quail under the assailing glare of the youngest princess. He excused himself early, claiming it was his turn to do guard rounds on the palace grounds.

"Just who is that man?" Valentine asked, watching him go. DG's eyes lingered on his retreating form far longer than they should have.

"He protected me for a week and turned into my best friend. The best Tin Man there ever was." She glanced over to see Val's eyes expectant on her, so she continued. "I found him locked up in a tin suit. He looks out for me. He took the job without anyone having to ask. All he's been through, and he still puts up with me." A brief, humbled pause, and she returned to her food. After only a moment of contemplation, Val followed.

Valentine politely walked DG to her door, where he stood awkwardly for a few good moments before he sputtered: "This is where I'm supposed to kiss you goodnight, isn't it?"

DG shook her head too quickly, and flustered a blush out of nowhere. Val raked a hand through his hair and cursed something under his breath.

"I can't do any of this right," he said, his voice pitiful. "You and I are going to be married, and I can't even stumble over the right things to do."

"I don't want to marry you, Valentine," she said quickly, and she surprisingly didn't regret it.

More surprisingly, it didn't surprise him. His shoulders seemed to relax to reveal his neck, which made him look younger and taller. He very nearly smiled.

"Goodnight, Princess DG." He gave her a little bow and he turned to leave her.

She didn't realize that she had been crying until a strong hand shook at her shoulder and chased the fleeting dream away. She stifled her tears quickly, sitting up in bed and wiping them away with red-hot embarrassment. She was thankful for the calm, steady way his hand worked up and down her back, keeping the tears from coming back.

After a moment of silence, his hand still trailing along her spine, he cleared his throat and murmured: "You all right, Princess?"

She nodded, wiping at her face again. She glanced at him in the darkness: eyes too blue, worried and locked on hers; crouching beside her bed, like he was ready to spring and attack an assailant at any notice; very, very close and warm and everything. "I'm all right, Mister Cain," she said without thinking. She hadn't pulled out that epithet in a month, at least. She bit her lip in chastisement.

He seemed to notice, and his hand twitched away from her back for a brief moment. Then, his fingers brushed again between her shoulder blades, and she gave a light shiver in response.

"Want me to shoot him?" She could tell that he was smiling without even looking up.

She gave one dry laugh. "Not yet."

Another soft, dark pause, and one of his fingers curled under her chin to pull her gaze up. His eyes were sad, and her face went warm.

"Buck up, DG," he demanded.

She smiled--coyly, shyly. "You're too good to me, Tin Man."

He removed his hand with a nervous sort of chuckle. "Yeah, I know."

DG and Valentine kept a respectful distance between them as they walked the rows of the palace orchards. Cain remained far behind, holding a fallen apple in his hand and trying not to stare a hole into Val's back.

"It's wetter in the easter territories," Val said absently, looking at the sky. "It's raining more often than not. We don't get out much." He passed his hand over the trunk of a tree as he passed, looking nostalgic. "There's an old swamp near the villa back home. I used to try to get myself lost in there, but Father always found me."

DG was smirking. "Sounds like me. Here and on the Other Side. Always getting into trouble and coming home more mud than DG."

Val laughed, airy and nearly invisible. "You had your sister to drag along on your misadventures, I hear." He nodded to himself, glancing up at another tree. "I had Lady Lenore. Little Lady Lenore. She wasn't a Lady back then." His face fell. "She was my best friend. Still is."

DG didn't raise her eyes from the ground. "Tell me about her."

She could hear the smile turn up in his voice, and when she looked up, his eyes shone like he'd set a light behind them. "She's a little like you, Princess. Passionate, speaks her mind. She swings a magnificent left-hook--they say she's the toughest brawler in the eastern territories, if she has something to gain by a win. Hair like honey, and eyes to match. And the way she smiles..." He looked to the sky, and his shoulders sagged, giving him the illusion of being taller. "She sets men on fire from the inside and burns them into shells."

"Wow," DG muttered. Val turned to find her smiling. "She sounds fantastic."

Val nodded absently and turned down into silence. They didn't speak again until they had left the orchard.

He excused himself to dress for dinner, and Cain was left to walk alongside his princess, and he surprisingly said nothing for a good stretch of time. He finally did manage to find his voice, and said: "He's sorta gloomy, isn't he?"

She smirked at her feet. "Gloomy how?"

"You know." By his pause, she knew that he was searching his brain for any particular instance. "Sulking around the place, shoulders all hunched up. Makes him look gloomy." His hands were in his pockets.

"You still don't like him." Her smirk grew as her eyes flicked up to his.

After a frustrated pause, he threw one hand up. "Hell, I'm pretty sure you don't like him much either, Princess."

"I'd like to think we might be friends if we didn't have to get married." And her smile fell dead. A long sigh, and her own shoulder sagged. She failed to notice that hard frown that had taken her Tin Man's mouth, and he tugged at his hat to hide his eyes.

When the next day came, DG and Valentine had again been forced to mingle while their parents sat together and planned. The intended sat in the bay window seat of the library, where Cain and DG had spent many days saying nothing. A chess board sat between them. She wasn't sure if Val was letting her win or he was just abysmal at chess. Cain was somewhere with a book. She could smell the hot coffee he carried with him in the early mornings, far off in the stacks--like a beacon. The occasional rustle of pages let her know that her bodyguard was still alive. Maybe she should feign distress to call him away from a fictional world and into hers...

Val sniffled as he moved his rook up two spaces. She looked up to find him wiping piteously at one of his eyes. For some unknown reason, she felt her heart knot in concern.

"Val?" Her pieces were forgotten, and she leaned across the board to squeeze at his hand. "Hey, what's up?"

He tried to laugh, with only caused tears to prick at his eyes. "I don't love you, Princess DG." He laughed again, shaking his head at the odd look she'd taken on. "I should, by all means. You're a lovely girl, and you have a fire in your eyes. You make everyone happy just by walking into a room, and I'm sure there are more people in love with you than you know. Just..." He dug at one of his eyes again. "Just not me."

DG wasn't sure just how she felt about this information. Relief came first and easiest.

"I've always been in love with Lady Lenore. Always. Even when Father told me it was supposed to be you, I always loved her." His voice broke, and his face went pink. "I know I shouldn't--"

"No, no!" She squeezed his hand back, looking bright for once. "I don't love you either! It's completely okay with me."

Val smiled as he watched her through wet eyes. "It's that Cain man, isn't it?"

DG's smile remained on her lips for one confused instant. Then, as her eyebrows drew up in concern, she drew up and away from him.

"You're the only one who manages to make him smile at all." Val was smirking helplessly at himself. "If I could look at Lenore the way you look at him, I'd have won her already."

"I... I don't..." She wasn't sure where she was trying to get herself with words that wouldn't come. How did she look at Cain? Where would Valentine get the idea that she was in love with Wyatt Cain?

She was sure that God had decided to descend from on high to smack her upside the head with a heavy golden brick. Her world reeled for a moment and righted itself with terrifying clarity. Her mouth fell open, and her heart took the opportunity to lodge itself in her throat.

"Oh my God," she managed to squeak around the pulse pounding in her throat. "I do."

She pulled Valentine into a lung-crushing embrace, and he reciprocated with a tight sob he somehow managed to stifle.

Cain remained outside of the Queen's study out of respect, but he still managed to hear every word the princess shouted, even through heavy wood. He winced at her tone, but he couldn't help the swell of pride in her backsassery. Valentine was nowhere to be seen.

"I don't love him!" DG shouted, and Cain just knew that her hackles were up.

He couldn't hear the Queen's response--she was known for her demure, calm response, and he never wanted to hear her more. He was, however, sure that DG did not like it.

"That's... that's... STUPID!" The princess's dam burst, and all the anger flooded out. "You can't make me marry someone I don't love! That's cruel and unusual punishment! And don't you feed me some line about what's best for me! Only I know what's best for me!"

And again, the Queen's retort went unheard. Cain was almost to the point of straining to hear, nearly pressing his ear to the door.

"I'm not letting you make my choices! Screw propriety and formality! I'm not marrying him!"

And Cain took his quick step away from the door just in time for DG to storm out of it. He stood between her retreating back and her mother, who had stood from her seat to stare hard-jawed as her daughter left her. Cain couldn't decide where to keep his eyes, and found that he was walking after DG without even asking his feet to move.

"Mister Cain," Queen Lavender called lightly, enough to pull him out of his thoughtlessness. He turned to her, eyebrows raised inquisitively.

"Yeah, Highness?"

"Please, you seem to be the only one able to talk sense into my daughter. I implore you..." She sighed heavily and looked after DG's stomping, echoing footsteps.

He tipped his hat. "I'll talk to her."

She'd left her door open, and he winced at the sound of tears coming from within. He didn't bother to rap his knuckles even once against the door as he gently pushed it the rest of the way open and stepped inside. She hadn't turned on any of the lights, and the only illumination was provided by the white moon outside the balcony window. DG had curled herself up on a short sofa near the open window that lead out onto the balcony, knees tucked up to her chest and head buried in her hands.

The moon was full, and silver light filled up all the dark and empty spaces in the room. Cain shut the door behind him as quietly as he could, but the latch made a hollow click, and DG looked up with a truncated sniffle.

"Oh God," she wibbled, shoving her face back into her arms. "Don't come in, I'm a wreck."

Cain ignored her warning and stepped across the room to stand in front of her. His hands were shoved deep into his pockets. "You want to talk about it, Princess?" His voice was as low as he could get it, just barely more than a whisper. She shook her head in response, but answered anyway.

"He's got a sweetheart back home," she started. "He doesn't want to marry me anymore than I want to marry him. It's just wrong and sick, tearing up true love. Why can't he be happy without everyone sticking their noses in his business?" She choked back another sob and added in a voice that wasn't meant to be heard: "Why can't I be happy?"

At her last, she heard a new and strange sort of noise from the back of Cain's throat. She raised her eyes up out of her arms, and the moonlight caught in the tear tracks down her cheeks. He was looking right down at her, eyes and face unreadable. Her knees dropped down away from her chest, curled up underneath her as she adjusted her weight self-consciously. Cain opened his mouth twice to no avail.

Then, he shifted closer. He fell awkwardly to one knee in front of her position on the sofa. She tried to coax her heart back down out of her throat, trying to convince herself that this wasn't what she thought it was. He was a little less than level with her, his shoulders straight and his eyes full of moonlight, searching hers over and over.

It took only the briefest of moments for Cain to duck his head up into hers and meet her lips with his own. It was strong, confident, something firm and caring and everything a kiss should be. He brought her heart shuddering to a stop, and it was all she could do to keep her tears from springing back to life.

He broke his lips back, brushing his nose against hers in a way so delicate she wouldn't have imagined her rugged Tin Man capable of it. His voice was warm and close against her cheek when he spoke. She hadn't realized that her eyes had fallen closed.

"Run away with me."

Her eyes definitely opened at this. He was close and watching her, eyes bright and soft in the same moment. At first, she wasn't sure that he'd even said it. Then, he took a breath and started again.

"Run away with me, DG." His fingers swept her hair away from her neck, brushing against her skin. "I'll take care of you."

Her mouth fell open, and she could see all the restraint it took for him not to lean back in and take her lips. Her jaw waggled there for long moments that seemed to drag on endlessly.

He fought back something rough in his throat, and she could feel and hear his struggle against it. "I'd do anything for you, DG. Say the word and it'll happen." His fingers brushed again at her neck, finding a hold there as his thumb moved up and down, over and over. "Just tell me that you want me back."

She didn't know what to do or what to say. She'd been smacked again over the head with that golden brick; everything felt hazy and nothing felt real. She realized after a moment it was the tears coming back into her eyes. Her fingertips pressed tentatively against his cheek, and she softened when his eyes went weak. Then, she gave him a slow, wonderful nod as her eyes slipped back closed.

"I want you." She nodded again, more sure of herself as she said it. "I need you. For a long time." Her hand rested just at his cheek, taking it all in. She took another breath and tested his name with her tongue. "Wyatt."

Like a sunrise through the dark night before it, Cain's eyes lit up slowly, filled with light from the inside until his smile turned up with it. So full of everything she'd always wanted to see, and everything he'd never have to say.

"Then let's do it," he told her, quiet and playful, like a child breaking the rules. "You and me, right now, out the window." His fingers were in her hair, and she was sure that she liked it. "Somewhere they'll never find us."

She was sure that she was crying then, when Cain brushed a thumb over her cheek to rid it of a hot, rolling tear. Smiling shouldn't have hurt so much, but then, she meant this one so much more. "Okay."

It was effortless when he pulled her up off of the sofa and into his arms, holding her against him--two black silhouettes against the full silver moon outside. One arm wrapped tightly, protectively around her middle and the other cradled the back of her head as their lips met again. The world spun around them, and it didn't matter. She belonged completely to him, and she told him in the way she opened her mouth to him, let him have her. The way she burned where he touched her, how much passion the both of them had kept a secret.

Her forehead pressed against his, she fought for breath and smiled helplessly as she said: "You're too good to me, Tin Man."

She felt his smile more than she saw it. "Yeah," he kissed at her cheek, "I know."

One soft sigh, feeling the fabric of his shirt clenched in her fingers and whispered simply: "Love you."

She was sure there was fire in his eyes when they raked across her. The best kind of fire, that burned her up from the inside out and filled her head with smoke. Her mouth fell open again, sharing their panting breaths between them. "Wyatt..."

They never made it out the window. The bed got in the way.

The morning was dark and gray, with light trying desperately to filter through the clouds that had built the night before. Azkadellia walked the hall briskly, shoes gone from her feet to allow her to make it to her sister's room quickly. She clutched a rolled piece of paper in one hand, and she was smiling for the first time in what felt like fifteen annuals. She was only slightly surprised when she didn't see Wyatt Cain standing outside DG's door, as he usually was at this hour. And, as usual, the door was shut but unlocked. It fell open with a twist of the handle, and Az let herself in.

The loud rustle of sheets and the terrifying click of a hammer pulled back on a pistol froze Az in her stride, all the blood gone from her face and her heart thundering away. She didn't dare move, and she stared down the barrel of a familiar silver gun pointed at her heart. This, however, wasn't nearly as shocking as where the gun was aimed from.

Both Cain and DG sitting up under the covers, she pulled protectively to his chest and he with gun arm straight and strong, pointed directly at Azkadellia. They were both completely and absolutely nude, and Az was never more glad for the invention of sheets. All three paled, staring each other down and jaws hanging a notch or two open. DG broke first and felt red heat flush over her face. She'd meant to be dressed and out the window by the time anyone decided to bust into her door. No one was up before dawn in the palace--no one who would bust in on the youngest princess, anyway.

After one more long, awkward moment, DG placed her hand at Cain's wrist. He took the hint and uncocked his pistol, bringing it down to rest at his side. DG swallowed to find her voice.

"What's up, Az?"

The eldest princess shook her head, looking aghast and shocked and everything else in the spectrum of astonishment. All she could manage was to raise the piece of paper in her hand and open her mouth soundlessly.

"Valentine," she said at last. "He's gone."

After Az had turned around to allow her sister and Mister Cain to throw on ample clothing, they joined her to read from the note young Valentine had apparently left tacked to his father's door in the guest wing. Az tried not to notice Cain's shirtlessness and DG's loosely-tied robe as they all leaned together to read Val's note.

Princess DG,

You gave me the hope and strength to defy my supposed destiny. I ride out tonight to find my true lady-love, thanks to your words of encouragement and the strength of your spirit. I wish you the best with your Tin Man, and may you find the love I seek tonight. To my father, I wash myself of my title and my inheritance, if this is what it takes to love whom I wish. If all goes as I plan, we will not meet again. I wish and hope that it goes so well for you, my Princess.

Love strong, live free,


Az caught the combustible look that flashed between DG and Cain, but they thankfully only twined their fingers together at their sides. Once they had finished reading, Az folded the note neatly and cleared her throat.

"They're still asleep. If you pack quietly, no one will hear you go." She smiled sadly. "I'll hold them off for you, Deege."

She suddenly found it very difficult to breathe around her sister's arms squeezing the life out of her. She whispered tearful thanks, over and over in her watery voice. Az somehow found it in herself to accept the warm, tight embrace from Wyatt Cain as well, shirtlessness and all.

With two sparse bags filled with necessities, they headed noiselessly for the back door through the dark kitchens. DG paused for only one moment to hang a note on the door as she went through.


Don't look for me unless you're ready to throw in a fancy wedding for a princess and her Tin Man.

AN: AH! Hi! Long time no write! I had a week of busyness and unfortunately couldn't update as quickly as I wanted. So I worked extra hard on this chapter and made it extra long for y'all! I hope you like, cause I think I really like this one (btw, I totally imagined James McAvoy as Valentine. Think what you will). That's probably all the "suitor" stuff I have in me, so the future chapters will probably be back to old form, what with cuteness and fluff and... no suitors. We'll see. :D Thanks for reading, thanks for all the love you're giving me (it keeps me warm in the bitter cold of Mideastern winter!) and I completely love all of you back!! Let me know what you think, and be honest! Love love love love annnnnd LOVE! Happy weekend, and STAY AWESOME!!