They don't belong to me. I'm only playing with them.
Authors Note: This is my first attempt at "Tin Man" fanfiction. This is my idea of what would have happened if the suns never came back out after the witch was destroyed. Everything is the same up until that point.
DG walked into the room. Ahamo was embracing a weakened and stunned Azkadellia and the Queen was standing in the doorway to the balcony. She looked at DG with a mixture of joy and disbelief.
"DG!" The Queen smiled, tears in her eyes as she held out her hands. DG ran to her, their hands joining as they stared at each other in amazement. Lavender kissed her daughter's hands before embracing her. "Oh, I thought I'd never see you again!"
When DG felt her mother's arms around her, an overpowering sense of déjà vu hit her, and her eyes widened in shock. For the first time that she could remember, DG felt as though she belonged.
When they pulled apart, Ahamo and Az joined them, all of them wrapping their arms around each other in a tight group hug.
The doors opened and DG looked up to see her friends walk into the room. She smiled, relieved that they were safe and she made her way towards them.
What do you say to someone who risked their life to help you? What do you say to people who saved your life and protected you? There weren't words that could express that kind of gratitude.
"Thank you." She put all she felt into those two simple words and hoped they understood.
They just smiled back at her and Glitch jumped forward to throw his arms around her. She squeezed him back and couldn't help but laugh as she stepped back and turned to Raw. The sweet, sensitive, brave Viewer lifted her off her feet with his hug, making her laugh again.
Raw set her down and she turned to Cain. Cain, who was holding his fedora out of respect for her, was looking at her with pride in his eyes. DG knew he wasn't an emotional man. He wasn't a huggy kind of man, but she wasn't going to give up her chance for one last Cain hug. She went to him, reaching out with one arm so he wouldn't be uncomfortable with her attack of PDA.
He surprised her, though. With one arm wrapped around her, he held her tightly against him and for a few moments longer than necessary. She took that time to breathe in his scent, to memorize the warmth of his body and the feeling of safety in his embrace. God only knew if she'd ever get the chance to hug him like this again.
The thought left an ache in DG's heart and she couldn't meet his eyes as they parted. Instead, she offered a watery smile to Glitch and Raw and turned to rejoin her family on the balcony.
The four of them stood side by side with her companions behind them, all staring out at the moon, all waiting for the suns to come back out and bathe the O.Z. in light.
But the light never came.
DG's sense of relief vanished when she heard her mother's choked sob. Dread filled her as she turned her head to see Ahamo's look of resignation, her mother's tears of pain, and Az's mask of guilt. Slowly, she looked back up at the moon. The suns were still locked behind it. The O.Z. was as dark as night.
It can't end like this! DG thought wildly, taking a shaky step backwards. Not after everything we've done! The witch is dead! It can't end like this!
She watched as Ahamo wrapped his arms around his wife, consoling her. Lavender sobbed into his chest, her small frame trembling with the force of her grief.
DG turned to look at her companions. Glitch was staring, wide eyed and open mouthed at the darkened realm. Raw was staring at his hands, his sadness showing in his slumped posture. And Cain…Cain just stood there with the same look of resignation as Ahamo. DG's eyes filled with tears and she hung her head in shame.
I failed, she thought painfully, guilt and anguish gripping her like a vice. I was too late and I failed.
She couldn't bear to look at Cain again. She couldn't bear to look at anyone. DG didn't think she could handle the looks of blame and disappointment they were sure to send her way.
An ungodly wail sounded then, raising all the hairs on the back of DG's neck. She whipped around in time to see her sister fall to the floor in a heap.
"Az!" She cried, rushing to her sister's side. DG dropped to her knees, her trembling hands moving frantically over Az's prone body. "Az, what's wrong? Az?"
Her parents moved closer as Cain, Glitch and Raw joined her on the ground. The Viewer placed his hands on the oldest princess, one on her head and the other over her heart. He closed his eyes and DG could physically feel the energy pulsing as he examined Az.
"Is she okay?" DG's voice shook as she looked between her sister and friend. "Raw?"
She felt Glitch's hand on her shoulder and Cain moved a little closer when Raw didn't answer. Fear gripped her heart with its icy fingers at the thought of losing her older sister so soon after getting her back.
Finally, Raw looked up and gave DG a reassuring smile.
"Princess exhausted. Need rest. Be okay soon."
Relief at his words caused her body to go boneless. She started to pitch forward, but Cain reached out and caught her, holding her upright.
"A little rest wouldn't hurt you either, Princess," he said softly, concern evident in his blue eyes.
DG gave a ragged sigh. "The O.Z.'s locked in darkness, Cain. I couldn't possibly go to sleep now."
He looked like he was about to argue, but the Queen stepped forward, interrupting.
"We need to find a room for Az to rest. And Mr.Cain…"
Cain looked up at the sound of his name.
"Would you gather up the Resistance leaders and have them join us here for a meeting." It wasn't a question. "We need to discuss the future of the O.Z. right away."
Cain glanced at DG and at her slight nod, he stood up and faced the Queen. "Yes, your Highness." He bowed awkwardly before replacing the fedora on his head and walking out the door.
"Where can we put Az?" DG was still kneeling beside her sister, running her hands over her arm.
"There are bedchambers at the end of the hallway. We can take her to one of those." At the Queen's words, Ahamo bent down to pick up Az. Raw stood up to follow.
"I sit with Azkadellia. Make sure she okay."
"Thank you, Raw," Lavender managed a tiny smile. Glitch stood behind the Queen as DG went to follow Ahamo out the door. "DG, my angel. Stay here with me. You too, Ambrose."
DG stopped, turning to her mother in surprise. "But I need to go with Az."
Lavender shook her head. "You'll need to be present for the meeting. There is much to do to reverse this new problem."
DG watched as Ahamo and Raw left the room, taking her sister with them. The need to follow was strong. She didn't want Az to wake up and her not be there.
Sensing her youngest daughter's dilemma, Lavender reached out and touched her arm. "Azkadellia will be alright. Raw will see to it."
Anger simmered in DG and she fought to tamp it back down. She didn't understand why her mother wasn't more upset by Azkadellia's collapse. This was her firstborn child, for God's sake! They all needed to be in the room when she woke up. She would be afraid. She would be confused. All she really knew of Raw was that he had been a prisoner in the witch's prison. Az might wake up and think she was in danger!
DG was pulled from her thoughts by the gentle pressure of her mother's hand on her arm. Lavender led her through a set of double doors and into a room with a long conference table. Glitch followed dutifully, his face pale and drawn.
"We need to let the Resistance know that the witch is dead and your sister is no longer a threat," the Queen said, pulling out a chair near the head of the table. With a slight tilt of her head, she indicated that she wanted DG to sit in it. Exhausted, DG did as she was asked, dropping down into the hard straight backed chair with a sigh. She watched as her mother sat down at the head of the table, as regal as she remembered from her few memories. Glitch looked at the empty chairs before pulling one out across from DG and sitting down. For once, he was silent.
"We also need to work together to find a way to bring the suns back out," Lavender continued, wringing her hands. "I'm not quite sure what to do about that."
"Is it even possible?" DG asked quietly.
Weariness settled over her mother's face. "Honestly, my angel, I have no idea. This has never happened before."
DG sighed. There was no reassurance, no comfort coming from her mother. Instead, she turned to Glitch. Her friend was looking back and forth between her face and Lavender's.
"Do I know you?" He asked, looking straight at the Queen. Lavender's eyes softened as she looked at her former friend and advisor.
"We haven't seen each other in a long time, Ambrose," she said quietly. "But we were great friends before."
Glitch blinked and his eyes suddenly widened in recognition. "I remember, your Majesty. I knew I was someone important. I was your advisor."
Lavender nodded, a small smile gracing her lips. "You were the smartest man in the O.Z. And you will be again, my friend."
Glitch nodded rapidly, reminding DG of a bobble head doll. He looked across at the youngest princess and smiled widely. "Did you hear that, DG?"
"You'll always be the smartest guy I know," DG whispered, remembering the pep talk she had given him before they charged into the tower. She knew that eventually, Glitch would have his brain put back in. Part of her was afraid that once that happened, she would lose her beloved Glitch. She didn't remember Ambrose from her childhood, and she was afraid of losing one of the few friends she had.
The sound of footsteps startled them and they all looked toward the open double doors. Ahamo walked in, followed by Cain, Jeb, and three men that DG vaguely remembered as Resistance. Ahamo immediately sat beside his wife as the other men bowed stiffly.
"Your Majesties," they said in unison.
Lavender nodded gracefully. "I thank you for joining us, gentlemen. Please have a seat so we can get started."
They followed her orders silently. Cain automatically sat down beside DG and she was relieved for his close proximity. She didn't even want to think about why she felt comforted by his presence. Too much to think about at the moment.
"Gentlemen, first off, I want you to know that the House of Gale is once again in power," Lavender began, looking each man in the eye. "My daughters have destroyed the witch and I would like for you to spread the word amongst your troops."
The men nodded, wide eyed at the revelation. One of the men, a big, burly giant with a bushel of red hair, cleared his throat.
Lavender nodded at him. "Your name first."
"Garret Roth, your Highness," the man began. He waited for her nod to continue. "You said your daughters. Are you telling us that the Sorceress is still alive?"
Lavender looked him in the eye. "My Azkadellia was possessed by the witch when she was a child. All that has happened in the past fifteen annuals is because of the witch, not my daughter."
Throats cleared uncomfortably as Garret spoke up again.
"Begging your pardon, but nobody is going to believe that. Even if that is true, it was Azkadellia's face that has haunted the Zone all this time. They'll want her head on a platter."
"That is not going to happen, Mr.Roth," the Queen's eyes flashed momentarily. "And I assure you that I speak the truth."
Ahamo reached out and covered his wife's hand with his own. She calmed immediately and straightened in her chair. "I will release a Royal Proclamation letting the people know what has occurred on this night. Unfortunately, this is not our most pressing matter, gentlemen."
Everyone was silent and she continued.
"Before she was destroyed, the witch set out to lock the suns behind the moon and plunge the O.Z. into darkness. Although my daughters were able to kill the witch, they were unable to stop the witch's plan. We need to work together to find a way to break the witch's spell and bring the suns back out."
Stunned silence followed and DG shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Unable to stop the witch's plan flashed through her mind and the guilt increased tenfold. If only she had made it to Az sooner. If only she hadn't let go all those years ago. If only…
A warm hand covered hers under the table and DG was stunned to see Cain staring at her in concern.
"You okay?" He mouthed. She nodded wordlessly and he squeezed her hand tightly before letting go, turning his attention back to the Queen.
Jeb sat up straighter in his seat. "Your Highness, if I may?"
Lavender nodded. "Your name, please."
"Jeb Cain." The Queen glanced at Cain before returning her gaze to his son. "I mean no disrespect, but what makes you think we can even reverse this? The witch had to wait for an eclipse to darken the Zone. The next eclipse won't be for another hundred annuals. We can't wait that long."
"Without the suns, all plant and animal life will die off. The food supplies will be depleted even more," another man spoke up, his brow furrowed. "The people will starve to death if we have to wait very long."
"My apologies, your Highness. Henry Kline."
"Mr.Kline, I assure you that we aren't waiting for the next eclipse. That is why I've called this meeting tonight. We need to find a solution as soon as possible."
"Nate Hawkings," the last leader spoke up, not waiting for a response from the Queen. "Can't you use your magic, your Highness? I mean, you and your daughters all have magic. Can't you combine it to fix the problem?"
"That is not a possibility." Lavender said. They waited for an explanation, but one never came. Ahamo just squeezed her hand again.
They all sat in uncomfortable silence, each one trying to figure out how to solve the problem. Long minutes ticked by and DG squirmed in her seat again.
Suddenly, Glitch leapt forward in his chair, startling everyone present.
"Zipperhead?" Cain asked, his eyebrow raised.
"Sun Seeder!" Glitch declared, smiling proudly. They all just stared at him.
"The machine downstairs is destroyed, Glitch," Cain said quietly. "It self destructed when we keyed in the shut down sequence."
Glitch shook his head excitedly. "No, that was an anti Sun Seeder! It's the complete opposite!"
Everybody leaned forward to listen to the former Advisor. His face was so happy and animated that DG allowed herself a small shard of hope that everything could be fixed. That the O.Z. would be alright.
"It's so simple," Glitch continued. His face froze for a split second and he smiled wider. "It's so simple…it's so simple…"
Ahamo reached out and slapped him on the back. Glitch grunted and blinked before looking around the table in confusion.
"Do I know you?" He asked innocently.
DG slumped in her chair. Everybody seemed to deflate when they realized that Glitch would be of no help at that time.
"This is great," Garret snarled, his face twisted in disgust. "The only one who knows how to fix this mess is a Headcase who can't think straight. The entire Outer Zone is in permanent darkness and the person who caused it is alive and well somewhere in the tower."
DG tensed and resisted the urge to bolt out the door in tears. He was blaming Az for everything when it had been her fault. She had been the one to free the witch. She had been the reason that her mother had lost her magic. She had been the one to run to the safety of the Other Side while everybody else had to stay behind and suffer the consequences of her actions.
She looked around the table, her eyes wet with unshed tears. Her parents, who were still holding hands, had been separated for fifteen annuals and her mother had been overthrown and imprisoned by her own daughter. Glitch had lost his royal position and his cherished brain. Cain had lost his wife and valuable time with his son and eight years…annuals…of freedom. Jeb had lost his mother, his childhood and the chance to grow up with his father around. She didn't even want to think about how the other three men had suffered. So much pain and loss just in that room and there was a whole Outer Zone full of people who had suffered the same fate.
DG shrunk further into her seat as a heated debate blew up around her. Cain and Jeb were growling at Garret while Nate and Henry were defending the redheaded leader. Lavender was silently seething and Ahamo looked ready to throw the loudmouthed man out of a window. Glitch just sat there stunned by the anger and frustration in the air. You could cut the tension with a knife.
"And that one there's got to have some magic to fix this mess! She couldn't have used it all up hiding from reality all those annuals!" Garret growled, pointing his finger accusingly at DG. "Where the hell has she been all this time? While her realm was falling apart, she was off somewhere playing dead."
Lavender opened her mouth to retort at the man's words, but Cain beat her to the punch. He jumped to his feet, his eyes icy blue with murderous rage.
"You will address Princess DG with the respect she deserves," he hissed, pulling the other man up out of his chair by his lapels. "You need to be on your knees thanking her for saving your ass and this entire realm from the witch! She hasn't slept in days while she's trekked across the O.Z. trying to save us all. And she did. And now, she's here trying to help come up with a solution to this problem. You will sit down and shut up unless you have something to say that could actually help us in this matter." He tossed Garret back into the chair, his breath ragged from the fury racing through his veins.
The entire table sat in stunned silence for a minute after witnessing Cain's rage. DG stared at him, her mouth opening to speak only to close again when nothing came out. They watched as Cain sat back down, his face red from exertion.
Lavender tore her gaze away from Cain and glared daggers at Garret. "You will remember that you are speaking about a member of the Royal Family, Mr.Roth. I understand that you have a lot of anger and uncertainty about what's happened, but I will not stand for you speaking about my daughter that way." She turned to face the other men. "Now I understand that emotions are running high right now. I would like to adjourn this meeting until tomorrow morning. Maybe by then we can come up with a solution."
Everyone nodded, some faster than others. Cain and Jeb stood up immediately, cornering the other three Resistance leaders to talk. Lavender and Ahamo only had eyes for each other as husband consoled wife. With Glitch's attention on everybody else, DG silently slipped out of her chair and out the double doors.
Hot tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision as she rushed through the outer room and into the hallway. She ran towards the bedchambers, desperately willing her tears not to fall.
Not out here. Not out here. Not where someone can see me.
She kept chanting to herself, trying to keep herself from falling apart until she was safely locked behind closed doors. DG stopped at the last door on the right, choking back a sob as she slowly opened the door. The room was empty and she slipped inside, quietly closing the door behind her.
The room was dark, the only light coming through the windows from the thin ring around the moon where the suns were hidden. That was enough for DG to see that she was in a large sitting room. There was another door in the far wall that she assumed led to the bedroom.
The tears streamed down her face as she slowly made her way across the room. The corner looked inviting enough, and she walked toward it, leaning her back against the wall. Her head fell back and she closed her eyes, sliding down the wall to the floor, pulling up her knees in the process. Dropping her head down, she finally let out the mournful sob she had been holding back.
Cain turned away from Roth, desperate to keep himself from murdering the Resistance leader with his bare hands. The way the man spoke to DG made him physically see red. He knew that everybody had suffered over the past fifteen annuals. He knew that lives had been lost and families had been torn apart. But none of that had been DG's fault.
Roth's words angered him for another reason. He knew that DG already felt guilty for everything that transpired. Ever since Finaqua, when they found that blasted cave and DG's memories came rushing back, the girl had been a shell of her former self. Of course, she had been just as determined to find the Emerald of the Eclipse and save the O.Z. and her sister, but the spark in her eyes had died. The pain and guilt had shaken her to her very core and it left Cain with an ache in his chest. He missed the brave, spunky girl from before. He missed the girl who told him off right after freeing him from his tin prison. Back then, she didn't carry the guilt of an entire realm. She didn't carry the title of Princess of the O.Z. She was just DG, the slipper who ran into a group of Longcoats wielding a stick to protect his family.
Cain had tried to tell her that what happened hadn't been her fault. He couldn't fault a curious little girl for wanting to help a crying child. And he couldn't fault her for getting scared and running when the witch showed her true colors. And he certainly couldn't fault her for her mother's decision to give up her own magic to bring her daughter back to life. In his opinion, that's what parents were supposed to do. Risk anything and everything to save their child's life.
That had been the hardest part of his eight annual imprisonment. Besides the fate of his wife, he felt the crushing guilt and agony that went along with failing a child. He thought his son had been killed and that had been the most painful feeling that he had ever known. Finding Jeb again had brought that feeling back. Seeing his son grown up and fighting for his land, he once again felt that guilt. His boy had missed out on a carefree childhood because of him. He would have gladly laid down his life to take it all back. To let Jeb run and play and live like a normal child should.
So he couldn't fault the Queen for her decision. He would have done the exact same thing.
And now, DG was suffering for it.
He watched as Jeb led the men out of the room. They would be returning to the camps outside the tower until the morning meeting. Hopefully, by then, a solution would be found.
Cain sighed and ran his hand across his face. He was exhausted, both physically and mentally. He needed a few hours sleep before coming back here. But he needed to make sure DG was tucked in a bed somewhere safe before he could even think about resting.
He turned to her chair only to find it empty. Looking around, he saw the Queen and Ahamo in the corner speaking quietly and Glitch was still sitting in his chair, mumbling to himself and writing in the air with his finger. DG was gone. And nobody seemed to notice her absence.
Without a word, Cain rushed out of the room and through the outer room before bursting into the hallway, his gun drawn. Fear curled in his chest at the idea of DG wandering around, upset and unprotected. As he walked down the hall, checking every room, he silently berated himself for not noticing her departure. Damn it, he was supposed to keep her safe! And here he'd lost her again.
He went through a dozen empty rooms before finding Raw in one sitting beside a sleeping Azkadellia. The oldest princess lay stiff and straight on the huge bed, the massive blankets almost swallowing her. Raw looked up and met his eyes, nodding towards the far wall.
"DG in next room. Upset. Crying hard."
Cain's heart twisted in his chest. He never could handle a crying woman, but DG's tears had an even stronger effect on him. He felt the need to promise her anything just to get her to stop crying and smile again.
"Thanks," he said, turning on his heel. He shut the door quietly behind him and made his way to the last door in the hallway. He reached out for the knob but paused, pressing his ear to the cool wood. Cain could just make out the sound of broken sobs on the other side and he sighed, closing his eyes and sending up a quick prayer to Ozma.
The room was dark and it took a few moments for his eyes to adjust. It saddened him to think that sunlight wouldn't filter in through the windows come morning.
Shaking the thought from his head, he quietly closed the door and made his way across the room. DG was curled up in a corner, sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up to her chest. Her body shook with the force of her sobs and he had a sudden urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her tears away.
The thought stopped him cold. He couldn't be having thoughts like that about her. She was just a kid. She was the Princess of the O.Z. He was almost old enough to be her father. And not just that, his wife had just died less than two months ago.
Admit it. Adora's been dead to you for eight annuals.
No! It didn't matter. DG was a young, beautiful Princess and Cain was just a weathered, old Tin Man. He couldn't think about her like that. It wasn't right!
Another sob pulled him from his silent lecture. And at that moment, he didn't care about age and social status. He didn't care if the Queen and her Consort would have him put in front of a firing squad if they found out. All that mattered was comforting DG and stopping those tears from falling.
Cain quickly removed his duster and fedora, placing them on the sofa before kneeling down beside her.
"DG?" He murmured, reaching out to touch her hair.
DG's head snapped up at the sound of his voice. He sucked in a breath at the sight of her swollen, watery blue eyes and in that instant, he swore that a punch to the gut would be less painful.
"Cain," she choked out, reaching up to wipe her face. "What are you doing here?"
He sat down beside her, pulling her into his arms before she could protest. He was surprised and more than a little pleased when she didn't try to break free. Instead, she settled comfortably on his lap and curled up against his chest.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered, fighting back a fresh wave of tears. "All that you went through to get me here and I failed. I failed you and Glitch and Raw. I failed my family. And I failed the O.Z."
Cain held her tighter, absently brushing his lips over her hair. "You did not fail, DG. You saved us all from the witch and you saved your sister's life. You were amazing."
She sniffled against his chest and breathed in, trying to calm down. "But the suns, Cain. What if we can't find a way to bring them back out?"
"We will," he promised, surprising himself with his words. He was never one to offer up false hope, but he actually felt that everything would turn out okay. After everything that had happened, there had to be some kind of happy ending. "Sleep now, kid. We both need our rest for tomorrow."
DG took a ragged breath and burrowed further into him. "Will you stay with me?"
Cain's eyes drifted shut and he focused on the tiny slip of a girl in his arms. It would cause all sorts of rumors for the Princess if he didn't take his leave now. Besides that, her parents definitely wouldn't be pleased with a strange man sharing a room with their daughter. But when DG cuddled up against him and began to relax, he decided right then that he didn't care about the consequences.
His Princess needed him. And he wasn't going anywhere.