The characters and setting are owned by the Sci-Fi channel and L. Frank Baum.

Here is the last installment of this story. It was where I had hoped to go in the end and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Let me know if you want to hear more from this story line… I was thinking of doing a sequel to take care of the many unanswered questions. Keep an eye out for new postings. I'm hoping to start a new tale in a few days, so… Stay Tuned!

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have reviewed and continued to read. I never considered myself a good writer, science and math were always my strong suit, but you have kept my spirits up and my fingers typing. Thank you!

Let me know what you think. I hope you're not too disappointed.

As always, thank you for reading!

Chapter 15: Twist of Fate

Her senses began to return. The humming in her ears was subsiding and the scent of leather filled her nose. Her back was on solid, hard, ground with the exception of something soft supporting her neck and head. DG could hear voices surrounding her and was starting to understand the words.

"Princess," someone said. It was so soft, so far away. "Are you alright?" louder and clearer were the words. DG knew it was Cain talking and had the vague feeling that she had been in this predicament before. Slowly she opened her eyes.

There he was, staring down at her, holding her in his arms. She stared up at him in confusion and as she glanced at her surroundings she was acutely aware that this had indeed happened before. She was in the fitting room where she had passed out eons ago. Looking down the length of her sprawled out body she realized that she was wearing the very dress that had caused her the traumatic fall in the first place.

Raising her hand to her head she rubbed the large bump protruding from its back. "What happened?" DG asked, closing her eyes and shaking her head slightly to try to rid herself of the bewilderment that took hold. She was trying to force herself out of this repeat experience, wondering if she was dreaming, or worse… dead?

This was all wrong, terribly wrong.

'I'm so sorry, Princess," the tailor on her left apologized, the same way she had done months earlier. "The corset must have been too tight." The woman, looking just as terrified as the last time, fidgeted with her hands and danced from foot to foot.

Then it dawned on her. No matter what was playing through her mind she knew this was reality, as painful as it was to accept. She wasn't dreaming, wasn't dead. DG had no idea where this knowledge came from, but it was there none-the-less.

Springing up into a seated position, DG's eyes grew wide and garnered a deer in headlights look. She had to get away. After promptly regaining her feet, DG exited the room as quickly as her legs would carry her, ignoring all pleas and pardons in the process.

When she reached the corridor she leaned her forehead heavily on the wall, fingers splaying against the cool marble.

This had already happened; this was where it all began. What could this mean? Was she having a second chance to get things right from the start? Had she completely lost her marbles? Had it all been a terrible dream? Whatever it was, it had encompassed everything she feared; everything that frightened her on so many levels.

It was how she expected things to happen if she was tentative, not really admitting anything and praying for him to take the risk all on his own. She knew it would cause her to lose her mind and run away in the end. – hadn't that happened?

It was how she thought things would go if she was too forceful, communicating her feelings and leaving no room for a friendship if turned down. – She had screamed at him to come to his senses, told him that she couldn't be friends anymore.

Then if she was injured, she fully expected him to be too proud and full of pity to come clean. – She had been tortured by Zero and had to deal with the subsequent humiliation.

It showed her expectations if it turned out that the tin suit had truly scarred him for life and he ended up being damaged beyond repair. – As shown by his tirade about Adora.

If she aimed at making him jealous, she foresaw a resigned acceptance. – The congratulations Jeb received after informing his father of their upcoming nuptials.

This depicted every one of the scenarios exactly as she anticipated they would end, if only a little more harshly. And just as it finally let go to permit DG her happiness, it forced her into wakefulness.

Her eyes closed tight, she breathed slow and deep. DG was trying to ease the uncertainty in her mind. This was absurd, absolutely absurd. How could someone live for months in fantasy land? A fantasy land that had practically no fantasy to it!

"Princess?" Cain prodded, "You aren't going to pass out on me again?" His breath was so close to her ear, just as before.

A response, she needed a response. Should she say something similar to her previous experience? Should she try a new tactic? Deciding that anything had to be better than the last time, she opted for a new strategy, knowing that her sanity would be called into question if she mentioned this illogical dilemma. There had to be a better time and place to broach the subject.

The corset really was painful. "Not if I can loosen this damn thing," she huffed as she curled her arm behind her attempting to undo the laces painfully constricting her airway. DG had barely brushed her fingertips against the ribbon when she realized that other fingers had already undone the fastenings and were working deftly on loosening the bindings.

Smiling inwardly, the first since 'waking,' she took careful note that not only did she not have to ask this time, but he didn't shy away either. It was an encouraging thought.

"Thanks, Mr. Cain," she wheezed out when she was finally able to take a long, steadying breath and turned to face the Tin Man. He looked happier than he had in her… whatever it was, dream, nightmare, alternate reality… and she was grateful to see that crooked grin of his. Her stomach churned when the thought of it being a premonition filled her mind, but she squashed it like a bug, if only for the present.

Holding out his arm to her, she snaked hers inside. Hadn't she been the one to grab hold of him the last time? So far, so good, she thought.

"What's with the Mr. Cain business?" he asked suddenly, raising an eyebrow in suspicion, but not turning his head to fully look at her. "You haven't called me that since the night of the eclipse."

Damn. She had forgotten to stop the formalities. She had to think of a way to cover her tracks. "Well," she paused. "You keep calling me, Princess, so it's only fair." DG raised an eyebrow in retaliation, but also smiled.

"Very well, DG," he responded, playfully pretending to surrender.

"Glad you see it my way, Wyatt," she chided and was pleased to see him completely turn his head in surprise.

He smirked at her audacity. "I didn't realize how dangerous corsets can be to the safety of a princess." There was that friendly sarcasm she had desperately missed and she loved the fact that he let the use of his first name slide.

Grinning ear to ear, she hadn't felt this happy in ages. "I swear these were invented by a man," she said, fingering the stiff material around her abdomen, "to keep his woman from talking too much." It was great to be able to kid with him again.

He poked her gently in the ribs with his free hand, "It still wouldn't work on you." Although he kept his eyes trained on the route ahead and his voice serious, DG could still make out hints of laughter bouncing around his baby blues. It warmed her heart so.

"True," was her only reply.

They continued their walk in a comfortable silence. When they reached the door to her quarters he, once again, graciously opened the door with his free arm and led her into the room. It looked the same as it ever had, prior to the addition of the dinner table that is.

DG released his arm only to grab hold of his hand in both of hers, gently pulling him into the sitting area. She wasn't going to let him get away on this occasion. "You're going to stay," she told him. It wasn't meant as a command and she could tell he understood that. "I have some stories to tell you." She figured her tale would peak his interest enough to stick around for an hour or two.

Cain arched an eyebrow again. "If you insist, Your Majesty," he said as he mock bowed before her, eliciting a giggle from the young lady. While he moved over to take a seat on the sofa she went to close and lock the door. There was no way she would allow this moment to be interrupted by anyone or anything.

Grabbing some logs she began making a stack in the fireplace.

"I could do that for you," Cain offered.

She shook her head, frowning slightly. "I am capable of doing things for myself, you know." DG still hated that he babied her and was hard pressed to hide it. "I did many things while I lived in Kansas."

"I never said you couldn't," Cain insisted. "I was just trying to be a gentleman."

This was taking a bad turn and if she didn't head it off at the pass it could turn into just as much of a fiasco as it had before. "I know, sorry."

Cain just shrugged in response.

DG knew she had to say something but didn't know quite how to start. Assuming the truth was as good a place as any, she began her tale. "I had a very interesting dream, or dreamlike experience back there," she began and felt her heart flutter in her chest. She still wasn't sure it had been a simple dream. A hmmm was all she heard in response. "It felt so real, I swore I lived months in that place."

"It was just a dream, DG," Cain finally vocalized.

"No," she said thoughtfully, "it wasn't." About that much she was sure. "It was much more than that," she whispered, more to herself than to him. "Much of this," she said gesturing to nothing in particular, "was the same."

This elicited another hmmm.

"Yeah," answered DG. "Only that time our trip here ended in a fight."

"Really?" asked Cain, amusement and curiosity evident in his voice. He was probably wondering why she let this specific delusion affect her so dramatically. It was hard to articulate without sounding both childish and completely ridiculous.

Once the logs were in place she snapped her fingers and allowed her magic to start the blaze. When she turned away from the hearth DG knew she had come to a crossroads. She could sit on one of the chairs, the opposite side of the sofa, or directly next to Cain. This was all about chances, and she wasn't going to miss hers.

"Really," she mimicked as she sat down beside Cain, curling her legs beneath her and snuggling up against his side. His arm was draped over the back of the couch.

"Uh, DG," Cain started. "You know you have the whole couch, right?"

"Yeah," DG countered. "But we were so mad at each other. It's nice to be able to be this close again."

"DG," Cain groaned. "It was just a dream," he repeated for the second time.

Sighing, DG nuzzled in closer, taking long breaths and wrapping her right arm snuggly around his waist. "You don't understand, it really wasn't a dream to me," she said pushing back the tears that surged up in her eyes. It still felt so vivid, so true. "We fought for so long, it tore at my heart that we weren't friends."

"I would've hated that, too," he divulged after a prolonged silence. She felt the hand that had been on the back of the couch rest heavily on her shoulder, holding her to him. "Want to tell me the rest?" he asked.

"Most of it I'd rather forget," DG confessed. Her face flushed as the memories of Zero swept through her mind. It was the truth; she could live with never having to see his face again, much less talk about him.

She commanded her mind to skip ahead to happier thoughts. "Except for the end, from which I was so rudely interrupted," she added, digging a finger into his side. She watched him jump slightly as it came in contact with sensitive muscles.

"Care to elaborate?" he urged. To her amazement he seemed enthralled with her little tale.

This was it. She could let it be, or she could step from the frying pan into the fire. Well, she had come this far; might as well go all the way.

"You wrapped your arms around me," she whispered and hugged him tighter. This was embarrassing. "Played with my hair and kissed my neck." Her face was burning and she could see the image of it being as red as an apple floating before her, but she pushed it aside and barreled on. "And you told me you couldn't hide your feelings anymore." She paused for a moment to let it sink in before the real test. "You told me that you cared for me."

DG felt his hand stiffen on her arm. Had she gone too far? Said too much? It was too late to go back now. The damage was done. Her breathing became more and more erratic as the silence stretched on.

"It was just a dream," she heard him say quietly above her ear. It was as if he were a parrot and those were the only five words he knew. Three times he reminded her that it wasn't real, but she kept ignoring him. She would ignore him this time as well.

Lifting herself off his side, DG looked straight into Cain's eyes for any sign that he felt the same way. He was as impassive as ever. Feeling emboldened, she reached out her hand, cupping his jaw and running her thumb along his cheek.

"Tell me you don't care for me and we can go back to the way things were before we walked into this room tonight," she stated more calmly than she felt, giving him an out. "Tell me you don't care for me and I'll walk away and never bring it up again."

Her heart pounded out of control behind her ribs but she put on a front of utter restraint. "Tell me you don't care for me and you can have you're freedom back, you can go back to being a Tin Man." Stomach in knots, DG managed to keep her eyes locked with Cain's. "Go ahead, Wyatt," she prodded, "Tell me you don't care for me."

The silence stretched on for what seemed like an eternity. Her heart was on her sleeve and the ball was in his court. He could let her ace this serve or send it back, soaring out of her reach, leaving her the loser in this game. A lump formed in her throat.

"I don't care for you," Cain finally told her. His voice was strong and steady, no inclination that he was hesitant in the least, and his eyes remained fixed with her own.

Her eyes grew wide with shock. She had truly thought he shared her feelings. How could she have been so wrong? Mouth instantly going dry, the lump in her throat was hard to dislodge. It felt as if blisters were forming on the palm of the hand that still cupped Cain's cheek, but she refused to flinch. Gradually DG dropped her arm back to her side, turned her gaze to the blazing fireplace and scooted across to the other side of the couch. An "oh," escaped her lips.

Five words, five little words and her world shattered. What she wouldn't have given for him to have remained that parrot, telling her it was just a dream. Even that would have been better than this harsh reality.

She had tried a second time, only to gain another strike. She couldn't imagine getting up the courage to swing again. There would be no third times a charm for this girl. If she awoke to that fitting room another time, knowing perfectly well that she wouldn't, she would never allow herself to get so emotional.

The fight in her was all but gone. The tears welling up in her eyes could not be dammed any longer and they rushed forward, streaming over her glowing cheeks. If this wasn't hell, she couldn't imagine one existed.

"DG."

She heard his voice say her name with more tenderness than she thought possible and her heart clenched even more. He was going to apologize. DG didn't think she could take it. Her gaze lingered on the slowly dying fire, pointedly ignoring her name being spoken.

"DG."

He tried again, but she would have none of it. If he so much as said an "I'm sorry," she knew she would scream. It was bad enough that he broke her heart; she didn't want to hear the anguish in his voice for causing her that pain.

"DG, look at me."

Cain wouldn't give in, and he had the track record to back it up. She would have to acquiesce at some point; he was, in spite of everything, her bodyguard. She had made it clear they could go back to how things were. DG could never go back on her word, as much as it wounded her in the process.

Wiping her flooded cheeks with her palms she turned her red, puffy eyes on the man she would have to relinquish. He was closer than she expected; face mere inches from her own. Cain had silently crossed the distance to sit at her side. Her jaw sagged slightly in her surprise.

Reaching up he mimicked her earlier display, hand cupping her jaw and thumb rubbing circles across her cheek. She was struck dumb at the touch. Involuntarily her eyes fluttered closed. Her brain was reeling and she knew this had to be too good to be true.

With that thought her eyes flew back open, wide and misty. He had told her he didn't care for her so what was he doing touching her so intimately. "Mr. Cain," she wheezed, her breath still struggling to return to normal. DG opened her mouth again only to close it. Repeating the same thing a few more times she looked like a fish out of water. Words escaped her.

"I thought it was Wyatt now." He was teasing her and she struggled to regain her sanity.

"You, you, you…" she stuttered, knowing how silly she sounded. Leaning back, she tried to pull her cheek away from his palm, to no avail. His hand and body followed. "Don't care for me," she finished lamely.

Cain smiled at her. It wasn't his usual smirk, or that crooked grin she loved, it was the first real smile she ever saw grace his lips. "I know that, Darlin'," he practically purred.

There was that endearing name from her make-believe world. He had said it, in conjunction with such a distressing statement. What more would he inflict upon her?

"It goes well beyond that now," he whispered. She didn't understand what he was getting at. The confusion in her mind had doubled and could be plainly seen written across her face.

"I'm in love with you, DG," he confessed.

Her brain exploded, her eyes closed, she was dying; she had to be to have heard that declaration. She felt his other hand lay on her opposite cheek causing her eyes to flicker open once more. The intensity and love she saw in his baby blues was more intimidating than anything she had ever seen before. His thumbs worked magic on her skin, sensitizing it to every movement, every brush.

DG watched as he leaned forward, his lips just grazing over her own and felt electricity rip though her spine. It was the best feeling in the universe. When he leaned back he dropped his hands from their perch and a wave of nausea suddenly swept over her at the thought of him leaving at such an inopportune time.

Reaching out swiftly, she grabbed hold of his hand intertwining their fingers in the process. "Stay," was the only thing she could push out of her nearly frozen mouth.

"I'm not going anywhere, Princess," he affirmed, pulling her into an embrace. For once she didn't berate him for the dreaded title; in actuality, her stomach lurched at the usage knowing that is was made affectionately this time around. Cain lay back on the couch pulling her with him. She nuzzled into his chest, his one arm draped over her back and his fingers running up and down the bare skin of her arm. The other lay on his stomach, his fingers still entangled with hers.

She felt her loneliness and longing ebbing away while she lay there in his soothing embrace.

DG was finally content.

Cain had finally stayed.

-------- fin --------