Breadcrumbs for the Soul
Summary: There's no place like home, but where is home exactly?
This story deals with the transition the OZ goes through, the problems it creates for our heroes, and will deal with quite a lot of the plot bunnies they left mucking around. Some, including one large plot turn towards the end, I take no credit for. Noble Mira, my beta put me up to it.
Rating: T to be safe. There's a kiss and some hard topics.
Characters: Jeb, DG, and Cain, but honestly the whole cast is along for the ride.
Pairings: DG/Cain. Az/Ambrose. Character drama-angst, lots of Jeb/Cain bonding until we near the end, then somehow the romance took over.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I take no responsibility for the non-ending of the series. Oh and occasional Star Wars and Disney references. Included because I think they are funny, but I don't own them either.
Thanks: To my beta Noble Mira and Matt for reading this before it was beta-ed for content.
Warning: This will be long.
Jeb sat back with his men, crouched on a protected side of the lookout, watching the beam lighting up in the sky. It made its way from the tallest peak of the tower towards the eclipse. He wiped a hand across his eyes, trying to keep awake and unaware the hand was no more clean than his face had been. His part of the battle had been won. The men still on the ground with a pulse were his own. His father hadn't asked for the area to be cleared, but Jeb wasn't willing to risk just a distraction, not when so much was on the line. He wasn't willing to risk men running up and killing his father. He'd explain the bloodshed later. He'd take a bath later.
The beam flickered for an instance, setting his heart beating erratically, more so than it had ever in combat. Someone handed him a pair of field glasses, he held the glasses up to his eyes, trying to get any sign of how the battle was going. Someone was over the ledge, he prayed to the stars it wasn't one of their own. The device started up again, beam at full power, groans and sighs circulating around his small camp. Jeb raised a hand to hush them, still peering at the figure making its way back up onto the balcony.
Then more waiting, he dropped the glasses and took a glance back at his men. Muddied, bloody and tired lot that they were. More had been lost than he had remembered. Jeb closed his eyes, counting and adding to the loss, hoping it would be the last time. He opened his eyes and looked back at the tower, knowing they would have no chance trying a full offensive against the Sorceress' stronghold. His father was in there. Jeb bit back the fear, not allowing any of it to reach his face.
Without warning, the beam vanished. He shot to his feet before he even had a chance to think of the implications. Was it over? Perfect silence came over the camp. A door from the base of the tower creaked open, a lone figure emerging. Jeb peered through the glasses, a smile breaking across his face as he recognized his inside man.
"The Sorceress is defeated! Long live Queen Lurline restored to her rightful throne! May she forever rule!"
The man's giddy voice broke through just as the eclipse ended. Sunlight bathed over the once darkened kingdom. It was over. Jeb stood still as his men cheered and hollered, not able to move or think. It was over.
Cain wove in and out of the group of men, trying not to push and shove them away, but knowing he was. Where was his son? Finally common sense dawned and Cain turned to the man his arm had almost pushed away.
"Jeb Cain? Have you seen him?"
The man nodded, pointing towards the back of the crowd of revelers. It made sense, once Cain's mind took a rest to think, that his son would let his men go first to see the Queen. Raw had been right. Finally, at the end of the crowed hall he caught sight of him. Time slowed as he grabbed his son into a tight embrace. Hugging after battle, he comforted himself, was an entirely different thing.
The two stood side by side in line, moving slowly back up to the dais where the Queen was greeting and thanking the resistance soldiers. He couldn't think of what to say after so many years, with no battle to rush off to they could catch up on all the lost years. Later, he supposed, knowing that there'd be pain in the exchange and now was a time for celebration. Still, he kept an arm around Jeb, wanting to make sure he wouldn't disappear.
After what seemed like another age, the royal family came into view. Ahamo, the Queen's consort stood with both his hands firmly on his eldest's shoulders. DG standing protectively in front of her. The Queen to the right with Glitch and Raw looking on.
"We are very grateful for you service and sacrifice, Martin."
"It was nothing your majesty." The bowed man trembled slightly as he spoke, casting a sideways view at Azkadellia. The Queen followed his eye line, smiling graciously as Azkadellia.
"My two daughters also owe you their thanks. You have helped free my eldest from the wicked witch of the west and helped re-grant my youngest's right to the throne."
DG's face contorted in confusion. "My right to the…" Her mother waved a slight hand in her direction. DG nearly took a step toward her mother, but Az reached out and took DG's hand. The two girls looked at each other in slight confusion, before Az offered DG what Cain could only describe as a genuine smile. Poor Martin, whomever he was, overcome with the discomfort of the moment took this as his opportunity to offer a quick bow and leave.
"Mr. Cain. Jeb." DG motioned to them with her free hand, before turning to look at her mother. "Jeb was the resistance leader of the north. He's also Mr. Cain's son." The Queen's face lit up at her words.
"We owe you both a debt of gratitude."
Jeb smiled awkwardly at the Queen, forcing a quick stiff bow before looking back at his father. Cain, having been to court more times than he could count, took his hat off and offered the Queen a more formal bow. Being on the Mystic Man's security force for all those years was finally coming in handy. The Queen smiled and clasped her hands together, his bow seeming to have reminded her of something.
"This is an informal expression of our gratitude of course. We will have a formal ceremony to honour you and all your men as soon as can be arranged."
Great. Pomp and circumstance. Cain forced a smile, while Jeb did nothing to contain his confusion at her words. The poor boy had most of his childhood through war; Cain thought with a sigh, it would take a lot of getting used to for him and his men. The old ways were different. The old O.Z. had been different. He could tell the Queen had every intention of returning it to the way it had been. The group stood around awkwardly, even the incandescent Queen not sure what say. DG was the first to break the silence.
"What you said earlier, about the rightful ruling thing?"
DG's eyes darted to look at Cain. She was perplexed by the whole thing, he could tell. He had expected it. The kid he'd been guarding and guiding would be Queen and probably soon. He smiled back reassuringly at her, placing his hat back on his head and adjusting the brim. She'd do a fine job. He was sure.
"Later, dearest. Now we have other things to attend to. Ambrose must be restored to his full self. We have people in the tower to free. Your darling sister to care for and a kingdom to restore." The Queen placed a gentle hand on DG's cheek. "But I promise we will discuss this all. Just not yet."
"But it's not fair!"
DG's arms flung around dramatically as she spoke, before plopping on a couch opposite the one her parents, her real parents, were sitting so picture perfectly on. Her mother looked at her father mournfully for a moment, before returned her gaze to their clutched hands. Her father turned to respond to her.
"Your sister needs time to recover. Popular opinion is against her, thanks to the witch. She can't possibly rule."
DG's hands flew up in the air. "Who said she'd be ruling alone?"
Both of their faces flew up to look over at Glitch, now a restored and pain in the proper neck Ambrose, who was standing in a nearby corner. DG's eyebrows lowered as she strained to see what they were looking at. She looked back over at them confused as Ambrose continued to shake his head apologetically.
"Umm… I think we're having two different conversations here." DG paused to gather her thoughts. "Look, there was this prophecy right? About the emerald." She gestured vaguely as her parents looked on. "Az held the emerald, not me. According to that shouldn't she be Queen?"
They both nodded reluctantly, still with clasped hands. DG watched as they had some sort of silent conversation, hoping that her parents were not in fact mind readers. The past two weeks were odd enough without having to worry about having her mind invaded as well.
"DG" Her mother finally spoke. "I am too weak to rule. All the power I once had was used to bring you back to life. I am sorry." Her head dipped slightly as she spoke, giving the impression that she was delicate enough to be blown away with the slightest breeze.
"You were with her at the time of the eclipse. Together you two held the emerald." Ambrose came out of the shadows as he spoke, a brilliant idea forming in his now completed mind. His tone softened to the Glitch she knew as he walked over to her. "DG, your highness, your people will need your leadership as well. Just as you brought your sister back from the darkness, so must your kingdom be brought back."
DG's blue eyes went wide at the thought. Her kingdom. She stared at him and then looked back at her now hopeful parents. "You think it would help Az?" Ambrose nodded, a smile forming on his face. She thought about it for a moment before nodding herself. She looked down at the armrest, before raising her head to look back up at her parents. "I do want this all to be set right. I have so much to make up for."
Her mother's voice quickly cut her off. "Oh my angel. This wasn't your fault."
"No, it was mine." Azkadellia's voice cut into the argument. Her bare feet padding on the marble floor as she entered. DG offered her sister a small smile, gesturing at the open seat next to her. Az sat down next to her, gathering her robe up as she sat. Their voices were different too, DG mused. Az's voice nearly as soft and light as their mother's while the witch's deep tone growled out every syllable. Once settled Az offered her a shy smile back, turning to see Ambrose standing back in his corner.
"You highness, the sun-seeder was my idea. I am responsible for the current situation."
Az winced as she held back tears with a sad smile. "And the deaths, Ambrose? Those I tortured? You were among them. How can… how can anyone here forgive me?" Az paused trying to calm herself from near hysterics, fidgeting with the ends of her robe. "I can't even forgive myself yet."
Without warning, the Queen's frail appearance vanished and she strode over to kneel beside Az. Clasping Az's hand firmly in her own, she looked up at her eldest daughter, fiery purple eyes locking steadfast onto deep brown.
"Azkadellia you are my daughter. It was my duty to protect you." The Queen looked over at DG, extending her free hand and clasping DGs as well. "It was my job to protect both of my children." The Queen closed her eyes firmly, taking in a deep breath before continuing, "At that I failed. I and I alone shall bear the responsibility for what has transpired. There is to be no further discussion of blame for what innocent children should or should not have done." The Queen turned to look at Ambrose. "No further discussion of what secrets were revealed during torture." Her gaze turned back down to the pair of clasped hands. "We are family. I hope that we all can come together again in spite of my mistake."
"Mother" The name sounded odd coming off DG's tongue. She winced slightly, before continuing, "You can't possibly blame yourself for all of this."
"I can and I do. The witch and I had met in my lifetime and I had vanquished her." She paused pursing her lip slightly, before continuing on deliberately. "I knew what darkness was there and I did not think to warn you both, to keep you near enough."
DG blinked at the revelation, her eyes flitting vaguely across the room as it sunk in. Her father looked extremely pained, Ambrose had shut his eyes at the news, Az's face was stuck in shock.
"You knew?" DG's voice warbled not sure if it was accusatory or sympathetic, looking to her mother for an answer. Her mother nodded soberly, her eyes still gazing downward. Silence fell over the room for what seemed like an age. DG let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and sunk down to embrace her mother. Az followed suit as their father made his way over to complete the embrace. They were family and they'd find a way to come out of this mess together. Tears were finally shed as they clung to each other. Each smiled and laughed at bit, as their heads rose one by one.
"So you will rule together then?" Their mother spoke, her hands softly griping their shoulders as she slowly retreated back into her fragile state. Az tentatively looked over at DG before the two let out a nervous giggle as they clasped hands. "Good. May you both be wiser than I was." Their mother rose slowly to plant a kiss on both of their foreheads, before turning to be steadied by her husband. Ambrose offered her an approving nod as she was helped back to the opposing couch. They better not be mind readers, DG mused, cause if they were they would know just how terrified she was.
Jeb stood wide-eyed at the Captain. Rules. He couldn't believe it. If they had used these "rules" back when he was leading the north resistance nothing would have gotten done.
"This citizen says you," the Captain looked down at his written report, "threatened him with torture if he didn't reveal the location of the longcoats' hide-out."
Jeb nodded in agreement, yes he had threatened. No actual torture being done, he wasn't sure what the Captain's point was. The Captain dropped the report and sighed. "Officer Cain. This is not how we run things in Central City. We are officers and agents of the Queen's good will."
Jeb ran a hand nervously across his face, unsure how to respond to the Captain. "But I got the location." The job was done. The longcoats were found, most apprehended. If one of his men had accomplished this deed he would have…
"But at what cost. We are not agents of fear." The old man's tone broke in anger, before closing his eyes and calming himself. A wind made its way through the old station, rippling through old still dust covered documents, half uncovered machines and musty desks. Taking in the smell and sight of the place Jeb realized he wouldn't fit in with the new ways. He days were done and he would have to make himself a new way in a new world.
"I won't report this to the Queen. I know what you've been through kid. My own son grew up in this mess, no idea of order. I don't want to ruin your big ceremony." Jeb nodded slowly in thanks, offering a silent apology and will to never again break the Captain's trust. "Go see you father, kid. It's about that time." The Captain turned back to look at the relic of a station, wondering if he could restore all that had been lost.
Jeb took a step out of the station, straightening his collar and adjusting his new badge. It was about that time. The suns hanging high in the sky, nearly forming one. Although his father was stuck at the Queen's "request" guarding the younger princess, they still saw much of each other. The Ice palace only about an hour's ride to the south-west, and the younger princess apparently not minding him leaving for a three hour mid-meal.
There in the heart of Central City he awaited the arrival of his father. It was in quiet moments like this that Jeb wished for the release of ink and paper. So many things he wanted to say and explain, but his mind wouldn't allow. And questions, the endless questions of where his father had been. What would happen to them now. What of the longcoats who would stand trial, one in particular. One that should have died, had he not been weak enough to be talked out of it. One that would only cause more pain. He kicked the loose gravel with the toe of his boot as he pondered, knowing all his courage would be eaten up as soon as his father appeared.
"Jeb." His father dismounted the horse and tied it to the post, before joining his son. The two silently ended the old bar, sitting in a table in the far corner, one they had practically claimed as their own for the past week. His father set his hat down on the windowsill; his eyes fixed on the tin badge pinned on his coat. "So, how goes it?"
"Good." Jeb grunted somewhat as the barkeep placed two mugs down on the table. Only his father's containing anything that would drown away the sorrows. Before all this law and order you could be served at eighteen annuals. "We've secured the longcoat's main hideout. Taken them into custody." Jeb took a sip of whatever it was and grimaced. Terrible, terrible stuff that it was. Good thing the food here made up for it. Jeb took a look around the old place once more. It had been his father's favourite place to hang out, so he had been told, when the Mystic Man was in town.
"Great. That's good news." Cain squirmed in his seat as he spoke, seeming to wish to dive right out into the action as he spoke. He too took a sip, but his drink didn't require a grimace. "How's the cleanup work here going?"
"Very well. The Captain has it all underhand." Cain nodded, the answer seeming satisfactory. "He's a good man. Tells stories about you sometimes."
Jeb's tone had taken a mischievous turn; Cain sank back in his seat. "Well don't believe everything he tells you."
"Oh, I don't." Jeb chucked slightly, his eyes turning to follow the food as it was placed on the table. It smelled like his mother's old cooking. The two quickly dug in, eating as fast as any man in the midst of a battle. "So," Jeb swallowed and took another bite as he spoke. "How's princess duty?"
Cain sighed, taking in another sip of his drink. "Nothing exciting there, son. Lots of politics." Jeb watched him as he ate, noticing a flickered of some emotion as his father sank back into silence. It didn't sound that bad to Jeb. Sitting around, three square meals, nice place to sleep, hot water, no real rules. Well other than making sure the Princess doesn't get hurt, but he couldn't see that being any real challenge. His father looked bored or whatever he couldn't put his finger on. Jeb finished up his food and his terrible drink wondering what it would be like to live in one place and have only one person to protect. Sounded better than what he was doing, pretending to be a tin man when he was really a retired resistance leader.