Disclaimer: I own nothing, not Tin Man or the song that the title is take from
Making Memories Of Us
Ch 1 – Aftermath
I'm gonna be here for you baby
I'm a man of my word – Making Memories Of Us by Keith Urban
Two Princesses stood side-by-side, in the dark of a double eclipse. Their hands were tightly clasped as magic grew and flowed between them. The light they created was great enough to kill the Wicked Witch and set the O.Z free of her evil….
And then they all lived happily ever after…..
….Or that was how it should have been, if it was a fairytale, DG thought. But sadly, they were smack dab in the middle of real life.
The younger Princess looked around the high-ceiled, stone room and shivered. The battle she and her sister had fought to defeat the Witch had depleted her magic and ever since, she was unable to stay warm. It was as if something deep inside her had turned to ice. She was also discovering that one of the after effects of almost dying of suffocation while locked in an emerald marble coffin was claustrophobia. Small spaces had never bothered her before but now it took all of her control to keep panic at bay in the cramped windowless Tower room.
Tears sparkled in DG's eyes as she pushed her physical problems aside. It felt selfish to worry about such paltry things, when her sister Azkadellia writhed in pain and guilt on a bed five feet away. Queen Lavender Eyes and two healers attempted to calm her, but were having little success. The door opened and the Prince Consort came in leading a hesitant Glitch by the arm.
"Ambrose!" Az hiccupped and fresh tears ran down her face when she saw him peering over her father's shoulder. "I'm so sorry…" She bit her lip trying to gain some control. "I'm so very sorry I hurt you."
"Hello, my name is Glitch." The frightened young man looked around the room uncertainly. "Do I know you?" He gazed at each person quizzically. "Hello, my name is…" his voice froze in his throat when his eyes met Azkadellia's. He tilted his head, as a very old memory slipped along the edges of what was left of his mind.
DG reached out to him but before she could make contact, his face cleared and his lips turned up in a warm sad smile. "Oh, Azzy," he whispered and moved to her bed. "It wasn't you, it was her." He gripped the ex-Sorceress's hand and kissed it. "It wasn't you…Did I say that already?" But something in the older Princess's dark eyes made him start over, despite his misfiring synapses. "It wasn't you, it was her."
Deeg didn't understand what had happened and she wasn't sure she wanted to. The man with half a brain was tenderly comforting Azkadellia as she cried in his arms. In a daze DG turned and made a hasty escape from the room. At least in the wide long hall it didn't feel as if the air was being sucked away and the walls closing in. Maybe things would make more sense once she was able to breathe freely again.
"Princess, I've been looked for you." Wyatt Cain found her leaning against the wall beside her sister's door. She had her eyes closed and her face was pinched and pale.
"Did you see a healer about your shoulder?" She blinked but kept her eyes glued to the coat slung over his left arm and his hands as they lightly toyed with his hat. She didn't need to see the bloody torn patch of shirt over his right deltoid to be reminded he'd been recently shot.
"It was only a scratch but Raw seemed to think you were overly worried about it, so he took care of it." He rotated his arm to show off the Viewer's work. "See, good as new."
"You're sure?" Her eyes were wide and very blue as she ran her fingers gently over the gaping hole in his shirtsleeve and touched scar-free skin, covering well defined muscle. For one moment she felt again what it had been like on the balcony of the Tower, with the Witch melted and dead at her feet. She should have felt joy, but instead pain had lanced through her as her three friends spilled through the door. Cain had been in the lead, his gun drawn and blood had seeped from a bullet wound, Raw was attempting to cure.
"Princess, are you all right?" He reached for her arm and felt her shiver when his hand cupped her shoulder. "You're freezing."
"Just a little cold." She shook her head refusing to admit the whole truth. "The Queen – my…ah…mother - says it's because my magic is depleted. It could be worse." She grinned impishly. "Az gets uncontrollable hiccups when hers is exhausted. She said they can go on for hours because sleep is the only thing that will cure them, but hiccupping keeps her awake. That must have driven the Wicked Witch nuts."
"I bet." Cain's mouth twitched into a half smile as he pictured the evil Sorceress plagued by such a common human irritation. But all thoughts of humor fled when he saw DG shiver again. "You need to take better care of yourself," he grumbled as he wrapped his duster around her shoulders.
"I can't take your coat." But even as she said it, he put his arm around her, keeping it securely in place. The warmth radiating off his body made her want to melt against him.
"Sure you can, besides it's only until I can get you to your room." With her held securely at his side, he plunked his hat on his head and they walked down the hall. "It's time you got some rest."
"That's not going to happen. My mind is racing a mile a minute…" Her nerves were jumping and she was riding an adrenaline high that made her blood sing. "Besides, there are a million things to do."
"They can wait until tomorrow. You're shivering so hard from exhaustion; I can feel your bones rattle," he argued as they stopped in front of a large wooden door.
"That's the magic, not me!" she wanted to fume at him, but he felt so deliciously warm it drained the fight out of her.
"Princess, the magic is part of who you are." Cain brushed her bangs back so he could look her in the eyes.
"I'm not going to be able to sleep. There's really no…" The sound of weapon's fire in the distance caught her off guard. "You told me the fighting was over," she accused.
"The main battle is, but snipers have taken up positions beyond the range of our guns. It seems the Witch supplied them with some new type of artillery." He looked away quickly and deliberately changed the subject. "You'll be safe inside the Tower. The Resistance has swept it from top to bottom, twice." He didn't add that he'd done his own personal search. He fished in his pants pocked and pulled out a large old-fashioned iron key. "This is for your room, unless you want to go back and stay with your sister."
"No, I just seem to make Azkadellia cry harder." She shivered again, but this time it wasn't from the cold. It was the memory of her sister's despair and the room, which had seemed to grow smaller and smaller every second she'd been in there.
"Princess?" Cain scowled. She was hiding something from him and he didn't have time to dig it out of her. "You'll be perfectly safe. I did the security check on your room to be sure. Keep it locked and don't open it for anyone but Raw or me."
"But…" Something was wrong. She could read it in his cold grim expression. It only took a moment for her tired mind to put the pieces together, "You're going out after the snipers!"
"It has to be done. Jeb is picking men right now. He's leading one group and I'll take the other."
"You can't. You were wounded less than an hour ago!" She grabbed at the collar of his shirt, as if she could physically restrain him.
"Even if Raw hadn't healed it, I'd be going, Kiddo." One of his hands was making slow circles on her back in an attempt to keep her warm, but the other covered hers where it held onto his shirt. "They're shooting at a building where the Royal family is in residence. To allow that would be a show of weakness and the Queen can not afford to appear weak, especially now."
"Please, Tin Man, don't go," her voice cracked and it was almost his undoing, especially when she called him Tin Man. He'd discovered she only did it in moments of vulnerability or sass and it didn't take a Viewer to tell which she was feeling.
"Their first target was the field hospital. We had to evacuate the wounded to the lower level of the Tower." His thumb ran gently over the back of her fingers. He kept telling himself he did it to calm her. The fact that it calmed him, as well, had nothing to do with it. "They did a hell of a lot of damage."
"Oh…" She digested the information, hearing the words he wasn't saying. "Well, then we better get going." She tried to brush past him, heading for the steps. Her intent to go along was written clearly on her face.
"Oh, no ya don't." He looped his left arm around her waist and pulled her against his side. "DG, listen to me." When her large blue eyes were looking directly into his he continued. "I'm going hunting and men are going to die tonight." There was a time when he wouldn't have told her the gristly truth, but hours earlier she'd killed the greatest evil he'd ever known, so he knew she would understand.
Time stood still as DG looked up into his stormy blue eyes. She wasn't stupid. She knew almost nothing about firearms. With her power depleted, she would be a liability, one that could easily cost others their lives. "You will be careful? This is the one time I won't be there to help." It was what he'd asked of her hours earlier, before they went their separate ways, to fight their separate fights, to win back the O.Z. "I don't even have any magic left to send with you."
"You've already helped me, Princess." Cain almost smiled when he remembered her saying the same thing to him and wondered if she realized she'd already helped him in ways that had nothing to do with magic.
"I'm serious!" Her eyes snapped, no longer playing along. "Don't go out there and be one of the men who die."
"Nothing to worry about, Kiddo, I promised the Mystic Man I'd keep you safe and this Queendom is a long way from being secured." He didn't bother to offer to shake her hand; he simply swept her up in a fierce hug. When he put her feet back on the ground he turned quickly, unlocked the door and gave her a gentle shove into the room. "Lock the door!" he ordered as he took his coat from her shoulders and shrugged into it. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Once she'd turned the key in the lock, DG slid to the ground, her legs unable to hold her. What had just happened? She couldn't focus and was colder than ever. When had the attraction she'd felt for Wyatt Cain grown into a full blown crush? She refused to call it anything other than that. He was a widower grieving for the loss of his beloved wife. If she gave the feelings she was developing for him any real substance, it made her feel soiled, as if she was trespassing on something intimate and sacred.
"Get it together," she lectured herself. "He's a good looking man and he's been there for you every step of the way, whether you needed him to be or not. What girl wouldn't find that attractive?" She nodded with determination and tried not to wonder where exactly Cain was in the mourning process. To take her mind off the inappropriate subject, she looked up to survey her accommodations.
Her stomach flipped over and her breath caught in her throat. She was in a room even smaller than the one where Az had been. "Well, DG, what were you expecting?" she muttered, as she clawed at the door and quickly opened it. "The man went out hunting snipers. He wasn't going to leave you in a room with windows so you could watch and get shot at!"
She grabbed a blanket off the stack on the bed and headed out the door, taking special care to lock it as she'd promised.
"Let's go over this one more time." Wyatt Cain looked at the anxious faces of the men who'd gathered around him. "The snipers are dug in here and here." He pointed to the appropriate places on the map. "They've got the Tower caught in the middle. We need to do this quickly and quietly, before they can bring in reinforcements. Any last questions?" He straightened and took the measure of each man as he looked them directly in the eyes.
"What do we do 'bout prisoners, Sir?" The young man standing beside Jeb coughed to cover the crack in his voice.
"We're not taking any." Cain pulled his hat down so the brim shadowed his eyes. It was an order he hated to give. It went against all his tin man training. But he wasn't a lawman anymore. Tonight he was acting as a soldier of the Queen. "The mission is too dangerous and our numbers too few. Can you handle that?"
"Yes…yes, Sir! I been fightin' Longcoats since I could hold a rifle."
"All right, let's get this over with." He pulled his pistol from the holster and checked his ammo for the last time.
"Good hunting, father," Jeb added quietly as he shook the older man's hand.
"Good hunting, son," Cain stumbled on the words. He hated that he was taking his child into battle.
Moments later, when a wayward Princess entered the lower level hall, it was empty. Eleven resistance fighters and one ex-tin man had melted into the inky black night beyond the Tower. She'd arrived too late to see them on their way.