Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, I'm just borrowing them. I'm not even gonna whump on any of them since Cain got plenty of that during the show. I'm not making any money, I just needed to free this plot bunny. Enjoy and review!
A/N: Like a lot of other people, I just thought the series needed an epilouge. Just a one-shot.
"And that's all there is to it! Whaddya think?"
DG drew her attention from her own reflection in the gilded mirror in front of her and tried -really tried- to remember what the heck Glitch-er, Ambrose had been going on about. Unfortunately, she was coming up completely blank. "That's a great idea."
"You really think so?" The gangly man asked excitedly, sitting up straighter beside her.
"Yeah, I really do." DG tried to unwind her fingers from her unruly dark hair and caught a brief, reproachful look from Raw who sat in the corner of her room. Uh-oh. What had she just gotten in to? "Could you explain it to me one more time? Just so I have the details?"
"The bird bath! Remember? I said we should just put it smack in the center of Central City."
"Oh, yeah." How could she forget the birdbath? Since DG's sister, Azkadellia had ordered Glitch's brain returned to its rightful place, the former advisor to the Queen had experienced fits and starts of near maniacal behavior. They had all been assured that once Glitch acclimated and got reacquainted with. . .himself, he would calm down and return to normal. The problem was DG wasn't sure if the MediCoats had meant normal before the brain removal or 'normal' as in the version of Glitch she had met dangling from the ceiling of a munchkin prison.
Her heart ached a bit as he jabbered on about his project. The zipper that ran from his brow to the crown of his head would be a permanent fixture. There was nothing Azkadellia or anyone else could do about that. Her sister had apologized several times in Glitch's more lucid moments. He had smiled in his kind way and told her that he was just thankful to have his brain back. The cosmetic stuff he could deal with.
For the sixth time that morning, her hair flopped to the side and refused to stay where she put it. Quickly, she stole a glance at the chronometer and realized she was running out of time. The brief ceremony her mother, the Queen, had planned was due to start in less than half an hour and still her hair flat-refused to tame itself into one of the gravity-defying quaffs that her mother and sister seemed to favor. She wasn't big on appearances, but this was important. The presentation ceremony was meant to introduce the royal family to the inhabitants of the O.Z. and establish leadership once again.
"You know, I could probably invent a machine that would do that for you." DG's blue eyes went wide as she turned to Glitch. "It wouldn't be hard. Something with a few arms with combs attached that would put it up real nice."
DG had no doubt that once Ambrose had full control over Glitch again, she would welcome such a machine, but at the moment she felt her scalp screaming and threatening to run for cover. "That's all right. I think I better figure this one out for myself. Okay?"
"Yeah." Glitch rubbed his eyes. It seemed this particular episode was passing now and he looked a little pale. "Yeah, maybe I'll start drawing up some plans."
"Maybe you should take it easy. There's plenty of time to draw up plans for hair machines and birdbaths. I don't think you should push it."
"Birdbaths?" Glitch looked confused.
DG smiled and stood up, pulling Glitch off of the ottoman from which he had regaled her with all his fine plans. "Go catch a power-nap, change your clothes, and I'll see you downstairs in a while."
Raw stood as well and not for the first time, DG was glad for the Viewer's presence. Using his healing gifts, Raw had been able to help Glitch get up and around a little faster than the MediCoats had predicted. Plus, he seemed better suited to sit and listen to the lengthier rants when Glitch really got going. He guided Glitch from the room and steered him down the hall as the man asked, "What's a power nap?"
DG closed the door and turned to look out the window. After the ceremony, the plan was to return to Finaqua for the family to get properly reacquainted . For now, they were stationed at the Queen's headquarters in the northern part of the Central City. Since it was more centrally located, the ceremony would be more accessible to anyone that wanted to attend.
The passing of the double eclipse had done wonders for most of the O.Z., but Central City was still, well, a city. It was dirty and dingy, and except for DeMilo's colorful sin-wagon lurking in the streets, it was not unlike Kansas City. There were crimes taking place and homeless children wandering the streets with the prostitutes. Cleaning it up was just one of the many jobs left to her family now that they were overseeing the O.Z. once again.
Which brought her back to the task at hand: making herself presentable for her public debut. She crossed back to the mirror and let out a sigh. She needed a miracle.
Hey! You've got magic, numskull. What can it hurt? Give it a whirl.
DG had continued her lessons with Tutor after the destruction of the Witch and was finding herself pretty capable of using the magic that she had inherited from her mother. At least, she was doing all right when under Tutor's careful, watchful eye.
Eh, what the hell? Closing her eyes, she let the light flow through her as best she could she focused on the mop of hair on her head, trying to imagine it sleek and beautiful. Her hand felt warm for a few seconds and then returned to normal.
I got it! But the triumphant smile only lasted as long as it took to open her eyes. She gave a startled little shriek. Her hair had formed itself into two thick horns that curled up over her head: a hairdo that would have made the possessed-Azkadellia proud. "That'll go over well."
She tried again, feeling her confidence shrinking. She wasn't overly surprised when she opened her eyes to green hair. "You have got to be kidding."
Feeling a knot forming in her stomach, she tried a third time, repeating to herself that she did not want to go find Azkadellia and ask her to fix the problem. Her older sister had fifteen annuals worth of ribbing to make up for and DG had no intention on giving her fuel for the fire. Besides, she could already hear Tutor lecturing her about the proper use of magic. At this point, all she wanted was normal hair. When she looked at the mirror again, her long dark trusses had returned, but they were no better than when she had started.
Frustrated, she flopped down in front of the mirror again, her chin in her hand. She didn't know about this whole princess-gig. Her parents had assured her that pomp and circumstance were not the norm for the O.Z.'s royal family, but this occasion required some sort of observance on their part. DG had pointed out that there were other things much more important to be worrying about beside planning a royal ball. She wasn't sure the Resistance Fighters in the east were aware the dark Witch had be overthrown, the Papay's were still in desperate need of food, and dozens of Viewers needed to be reintroduced to their woodland homes and provided with supplies.
It wasn't until Ahomo pulled her aside that she agreed. "I understand how you feel, Angel, but you have to understand. The Witch used your sister to do her dirty work. There are some that feel she is, at least, partly responsible."
"But that's crazy!" DG had argued. "It wasn't her fault."
"You know that and I know that, but the whole of the O.Z. was not on that tower with us. If the people do not trust her, trust us, it will slow down the rebuilding process immeasurably. They need to see that Azkadellia is normal and just as committed as the rest of us to restoring the O.Z."
And so here she was, about 20 minutes to show time and still looking like a ragamuffin from Kansas. Who was she kidding? A proper princess she would never make.
Raised voices from the hall outside her door distracted her from her problems. She couldn't make them out, but one had a familiar, impatient, and sarcastic edge to it. She crossed the room quickly and stuck her head out.
A man stood with his back to her, holding a staff. He was wearing ruffed white collar bright blue striped pantaloons (which she had decided was just as much fun to say as to look at) and arguing with a tall man with a gray coat and hat to match.
"I don't need you to announce me, she knows who I am." Wyatt Cain was nearly nose-to-nose with the small wispy man assigned to guard DG's door.
"I am sorry, sir, but no one is allowed to see the Princess without being announced." The guard sniffed and seemed nonplussed.
DG decided to intervene before Cain grabbed him by the ruff, beat him with his own stick, or threatened to shoot him. She gave a sharp whistle. "Fred, take five."
The guard turned, highly affronted. Drawing himself up a little straighter, the guard marched down the hall past her. "It is Frederick, miss." He muttered pointedly before leaving.
"Frederick." She repeated pursing her lips and nodding.
She was about to make a crack to Cain about his encounter when he strode forward and grabbed her by the shoulders and fixing her with intense gray eyes. "Are you okay?"
This was confusing. "I'm fine."
"Is it Glitch? Raw?"
"Mr. Cain, everyone's fine." DG said in a measured, perplexed fashion. "Are you okay?"
"The guard downstairs said that you needed to see me as soon as I got back and that it was an emergency."
"Oh." Realization hit DG like a ton of bricks. She cringed back away from Cain a bit, in case he decided to pitch a fit. "I just wanted to talk to you when you got back. I don't think I classified it as an emergency."
Cain relaxed visibly and DG bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. For a guy that hadn't wanted to anything to do with them at the beginning of their little adventure, he sure got wound up when he thought one of them was in trouble. She wondered if he would ever relax or if the cop in him would always keep him on the edge.
"I think that might be Fred's brother down there." DG attempted a joke. "They both seem to take their jobs a little seriously."
"Just keep in mind, you're a princess now. Every word that comes out of your mouth is going to make them jump."
"Sorry. It's really not a matter of national security." She motioned to the room. "Wanna sit for awhile? You're probably pretty beat."
Cain brushed the road dirt from his coat and took off his hat before entering the suite. "Pretty nice digs."
"Yeah, it's not bad. I'd rather be in Finaqua, but this whole crazy mess will be over soon." She said as she followed him in.
Cain settled himself in an armchair and looked out the window. Probably checking for snipers, DG thought.
"Are you ready for the ceremony?" He took in her attire and smiled when he got to her feet, saying pointedly. "Nice outfit."
"What's wrong with it?" She was actually pretty proud of the blue silk dress that just matched her eyes. It was girly and princess-y enough for Court, but not frou-frou enough to make her want to throw up. Then she spotted the toes of her old canvas shoes that had carried her all over the O.Z. peaking from beneath the fabric. "Oh, yeah."
"Tell me you aren't wearing those."
"Well," she turned and picked up a pair of silver glittery shoes with a heel large enough that she was sure they could be used as a weapon. "I wasn't putting these on until I absolutely had to. I'll hurt myself."
"I see." Cain replied. "How's Glitch?"
Again, DG marveled at how close Cain had become to Glitch. It was true, Glitch often irritated him, but Cain seemed to have a lot of respect for what the Royal Advisor had done for his queen. "He's all right. At least he was at 4 a.m. when he ran here to tell me all about this birdbath he wants to build for my mother."
"Okay, it's not really a birdbath. It's more like a Bird Coney Island." The reference was lost on Cain. "It's got pools that are different temperatures, and little streams, and a water purifying system that seems a little extravagant considering what the birds are going to be doing in it. . ."
Cain was laughing at her exasperation. "What were the dimensions on this thing?
"I think about four acres if he decides to add the golf course."
"Don't worry, kiddo, he'll settle back into his head."
DG moved and sat on the vanity bench facing, almost dreading the question she was about to ask. "What did you do with Zero?"
"Brought him back. He's locked up over in the tower." Cain sighed heavily. "Unlike your sister, he wasn't possessed. The things he did he did because he enjoyed it. He needs to pay the price."
"I'm just glad you and Jeb didn't. . .you know. Not that he didn't deserve to be punished." She added quickly. "I just don't think you'd like yourselves after."
He studied her for a second before moving on. "You had something you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Ummmm. . ." Actually, she didn't want to talk to him at all about this. She knew what his answer was going to be and if she was right, it was a good bet her friend was planning on leaving. "Mother wanted me to ask you something."
When she didn't go on, Cain raised his eyebrows. "And?"
"Uh, okay. Just let me get it all out before you answer." His expression turned wary. "Mother was wondering if you would consider heading up the security detail-"
"Is it all out."
"Yes." She deflated a bit.
"Answer's still no." He was looking out the window again, avoiding looking at DG like he always did when he considered a subject closed.
"I kinda knew that's what it was going to be." She tried to sit up straighter. "But why don't you just think about it? I mean who could be better? You kept me alive-"
"Who do you need to be protected from?"
DG stopped, her mouth working but no sound coming out. "I-I don't know."
"There's people all around you now, kid. Plenty of people to look out for you." Cain studied the hat on his lap. "Look, tell your mother thanks for the offer, but no thanks."
"Mr. Cain, please-" She felt like he was leaving her in the middle Central City all alone again. "Everyone else has found something to do. Ambrose will be an advisor again and Raw--"
"I said no. I'm not going to be trapped in another tin box." The words stung DG and for a brief second looked sorry he had said them. "I realize she's trying to give me nice cushy job after what I did for you, but I'm not the type."
"Yeah, I know." DG looked at her hands, willing herself not to cry. Cain didn't handle emotions well.
There was a rustle of fabric as he stood and crossed the room to squat in front of her. "Look, you know I'll always be lookin' out for you, but there's just too much work to do for me to sit around on my butt."
"I understand." She sniffled and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. "It's just--"
"Everything is changing so fast." The feeling was something akin to very bad jet lag, like the last two weeks were finally catching up with her. "You know, it wasn't that long ago I was waiting tables and flunking out of college."
Cain didn't seem to understand all of this, but was sympathetic nonetheless. "I know. It's a lot to take."
"I just hoped you'd hang around awhile."
DG shrugged. "I've gotten used to all of you guys. I've been leaning on all of you. Glitch's humor and smarts, Raw's compassion. And you, well, you were always good for a reality check."
"Glitch calls that bitter cynicism."
"Well, whatever. You always knew what to do." DG sighed. "I'm gonna be a terrible princess."
Cain was trying hard not to smile. "I don't think I can help you there. Never having--"
"— been a princess yourself." She finished with him. She looked back at her reflection. "I can't even do my own hair. It doesn't look a thing like my mother's when I do it."
"Who says it has to?" Cain patted her knee. "You know, there's nothing in the 'Princess Handbook' that says you have to be able to--" he gestured to his own head briefly, "do whatever it is you do with all that hair."
"Is there a handbook?" DG asked hopefully.
"All it says is to be the best person you can and do it your own way." Cain straightened and picked up some engraved silver combs off of the vanity and set them in front of her. "Can't you just do something with those?"
DG contemplated them for a second or two and then swept the hair back from her face on the left, pinning it back with one of the combs. She did likewise on the right and studied her reflection critically. "That's not too bad, is it?"
He smiled. "You look great, kid."
There was a knock on the door jamb. "DG ready?" Raw stuck his head in. "Cain! You back in time!"
"Hm." Cain seemed less than delighted with the prospect of marching down and making a 'spectacle' of himself. "Yeah, I tried to get Jeb to slow up on the way home, but he's too good a commander. He couldn't wait to get back to his troops."
DG stood and was surprised when Cain offered her his arm. "I hear proper princesses are escorted to functions like this."
Playing the part, DG curtsied and took his arm and when they reached Raw in the door, she offered the gentle man her's. When Glitch met them at the end of the white marble hall, he joined them, linking arms with Raw. "Good thing I designed wide halls for this part of the castle."
The castle staff parted for them and smiled at them as they went. It was good to have her friends close. Who knew when they would all be together again? As they went, Cain replaced his hat, setting the brim perfectly straight across his brow. "You ready?"
"Yeah," but something had caught her attention beyond the large dome-shaped windows. They were on the ground level now. Two of the old model Fords flew down the street, swerving recklessly and DG could see a group of young children had darted out of the way just in time. Near the entrance to an alley not far away, two shady looking men were showing each other the inside of their trench coats, undoubtedly swapping prices on stolen merchandise. A thought occurred to her.
She hadn't realized that all of them were stopped and looking out the window with her now. Cain caught sight of the thieves and his eyes narrowed. "A lot of work to do."
"Yeah, Central City needs a lot of help." DG took a deep breath and jumped off of the cliff. "It could probably use a few good Tin Men."
Cain looked down at her. "What are you talking about?"
"No pressure." DG held up her hands in surrender. "It's just you said you wanted to help. You can't do it alone, so what if we recruited Tin Men again?"
Cain seemed to consider this. "It's an idea."
DG tried to remain nonchalant though excitement fluttered. Maybe Cain would be sticking around, even if just for awhile. She shrugged. "Eh, just think about it. I'll talk to Mother, Father, and Azkadellia."
Cain smiled and the four friends continued down the white stone hall. At the end, before two enormous wooden doors, stood Tutor and Azkadellia, waiting for them. She wore a demure pale purple gown that seemed to flow with her movements and her hair was swept up and to the side. Tutor had opted for a cleaner version of his jacket and trousers. The Queen and Ahomo were already inside.
The older sister smiled and embraced DG as she approached. She welcomed the contact, feeling herself calm in her sister's presence, just like it always had when they were children.
Cain greeted Azkadellia and asked. "Is Jeb here yet?"
"He's helping to move some of the wounded into the hall so that they may participate as well."
Behind the doors, DG could hear the murmurs of the crowd. "How many people are in there?"
"Close to a thousand, Your Highness." Tutor gave a small bow.
Her face must have gone white because Azkadellia took her hand. "Don't worry, you'll be fine."
"As long as you don't trip." Glitch put in.
Azkadellia shook her head and smiled. "People won't remember one little trip, I promise."
Glitch opened his mouth to disagree, but Raw nudged him.
"I'll walk with Tutor." Azkadellia looked to the man to concur. "Maybe the four of you can walk in as you did down the hall?"
"Yeah," DG gripped Cain and Raw's arms a bit tighter, looking for and finding comfort and confidence.
Azkadellia turned and took Tutor's arm, winking at DG as she did. The sound of feet came up from behind them as Jeb and his lieutenants moved in behind them. Cain turned to give his son a quick smile of greeting, facing front again as the doors to the Great Hall opened.
And then it hit her. "Oh crap."
Cain looked at her. "What?"
DG plastered a smile on her face as she followed her sister and Tutor. Too late now. She pushed out through clenched teeth. "You let me leave the suite without changing my shoes."
As they continued on, she could feel the Tin Man beside her shaking with silent laughter.