OZ

Sleep came to Cain a bit easier these days with the palace back under the control of the royal family and their guard, to which he and Jeb had both been appointed. He had elected to continue his protection of DG and his son had been assigned the task of watching over Azkadellia who, now no longer possessed by the evil witch, was surprisingly one of the sweetest, most caring people he knew. It was much more believable seeing her these days that she and DG were sisters.

The world of the OZ was healing with surprising speed now that the seat of its power had been restored. One by one the magical parts of the land were coming back to life of their own accord, like flowers in spring all reaching toward the warmth of the sun.

The Queen and her consort were in Finaqua, and would be for at least the next few weeks, upon DG's insistence that they take a "honey-moon" to catch up after so many years apart. The Queen had spent days insisting that it was not necessary, but no amount of argument could spur DG once she'd made her mind up about something. He knew she blamed herself for her parents' prolonged separation, and had been relieved when her mother finally acquiesced.

DG was sleeping peacefully across the hall, lending to his own piece of mind. She was close enough for him to protect her from, if nothing else, her own curious nature. A silence had settled over the palace and for once he actually found it relaxing. His breathing was slow and shallow; he had even dared to remove his shirt and hat before falling to sleep for the first time since DG had freed him.

The sound of his bedroom door swinging open fast enough to ricochet off the wall behind it sent him to a sitting position before his eyes were even opened. Gun drawn, he only caught the moonlight on her stricken face and recognized her in the fraction of a second before he had pulled the trigger.

"DG, what--" He started to demand but she was already on him, pouncing hard enough to force his back against the headboard and leaving him with a look of astonishment frozen on his face and his arms up as if surrendering.

He didn't move, didn't know what to do or how to react. She wasn't saying a word as she clutched at him, her tear-streaked face buried against his chest and her entire body trembling uncontrollably. It took an awkwardly silent few seconds for him to process what was going on.

"Umm…DG?" He whispered with his eyes locked on the blackness beyond his open door, had he seen movement there? "Are you alright?" She just shook her head against his chest. He swallowed hard, his mind racing. "Do I need to shoot anybody?" He asked slowly and clearly, leaving no room for misinterpretation, and was relieved when she responded with another hard shake of her head.

Despite his awkwardness over having her soft, porcelain form pressed against his bare chest, his uncertainty over the feeling that their close proximity was stirring deep inside his stomach, his body relaxed slightly at the knowledge that there wouldn't be some unknown assailant barreling in behind her in hot pursuit. He slowly passed his gun from one hand to the other over her head and placed it on the nightstand. Letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding he tilted his head back to try and get a look at her face. It was no use, she was like glue. He rolled his eyes and accepted defeat.

His tongue darted out, wetting his lips in a nervous habit as he slowly brought his arms down around her; unsure of this sudden and indecently intimate position she had placed them in. She was, after all, the princess. If someone walked in at that moment he would have a hell of a lot of explaining to do. His jaw flexed at the thought of trying to convince the Queen that he'd just been minding his own business, sleeping all by his little lonesome when DG the tornado had knocked down his door and plastered herself to him against his will.

"I won't let it happen…" She whimpered through sobs, snapping him out of his thoughts and his brow furrowed, his arms instinctively drawing her closer in response to the desperation in her voice. She sounded terrified; weak even…was this really DG? The scent of her hair told him it was so, but he had a hard time believing his ears.

"Shhh…you won't let what happen, kiddo?" He asked in a soft and reassuring tone, his hand rubbing her back as parts of him tried to ignore the fact that her shoulders were bare in her satin nightgown. She only sobbed harder in response to the question…or the sound of his voice; he wasn't sure…and pressed herself closer to him. Any closer and she'd be inside of him, he thought sarcastically. He sighed and caught himself a moment before kissing the top of her head, his scarred brow arching defiantly as he stuffed the impulse back into whatever corner of his brain it had just broken free from. "Alright…it's alright…so you had a nightmare?" He asked, and waited as the quaking in her body slowed to a steady tremble.

She pulled away from him slowly and brought her tear filled baby blues to meet his eyes, "It was worse…it was so much worse…" She said with such a haunted expression on her face that it disturbed him.

"What was it about?" He asked, his eyes searching hers for answers, but by her reaction of charging into his room he knew it involved him in some way.

Her eyes darted away from the scrutiny of his gaze and she chewed her bottom lip, staring out the window at the moonlight. It took her a moment to answer him. Finally she whispered. "I don't want to talk about it."

They sat there like that for what felt like hours, her in haunted silence as he idly ran his hand over her back in reassurance, so involved in the war raging within his thoughts that he forgot to stop the act of comfort. There were more urges following the first…more racing to board them up before he acted on them. It felt like trying to bail water out of a sinking ship with a teacup.

Then all at once, she put an end to it.

She stood from the bed and kept her eyes from his at all costs. "I'm really sorry for bothering you. It was wrong to come in here unannounced like that." She whispered. "It's just that…." Her voice began to break and she trailed off. "I'm sorry. Goodnight, Cain."

Without another word she was gone, leaving him to stare at the closing door in utter confusion and making it impossible for him to fall back to sleep.