Laughter in the Wind

Disclaimer: I don't own jack or jill or DG or Az or anybody else in the Tin Man world. But I do love playing in their sandbox.

No one dies in this story, I promise. I know my last tale was a bit dark so I promised the next one would be light and even a bit fluffy.

Laughter in the Wind

The sound of squeaking rubber echoed down the hallway as DG's sneakers struck the marble palace floor. Spying Raw and Kalm at the far end of the hall she sprinted toward them. "Have you guys seen, Az?"

"She was in library earlier." Answered Raw.

"Thanks." Barely breaking stride she raced by them. As she slid around a corner Kalm looked up at Raw. "Why DG so happy?"

"DG learned something very important, wants to share it with Azkadellia."

"Do you think it will make, Azkadellia happy?"

"Raw, hope so."

Satisfied with the answer the young viewer followed the older one down the hall.

Sliding to a stop before the ornate library doors DG barely paused as she threw herself against them. As they swung open she charged forward reaching the center of the room before spying her sister.

Seated by the window for the light and a pleasant view of the Central City palace gardens, Azkadellia looked up from her book and arched an eyebrow at her sister. "Deeg, what are you doing?"

"Az! I've been looking everywhere for you."

"I've been here most of the morning. Are you alright?" She noticed her sister's cheeks were flushed and she was winded.

"I'm fine, come on." She grabbed her sister's hand and tried to pull her from the chair, but Azkadellia refused to budge.

"Where are we going?"

"To the garage."

"Why?"

"I want to show you something."

"Why can't you show it to me here?"

"Cause I think Mother would be a little pissed if I brought it into the palace. Come on, you haven't been outside in days, the fresh air will do you good."

Shaking her head slowly Azkadellia turned her gaze to the floor. "DG, I don't think..."

"Please. It won't take long, besides your book will be here when you get back."

Azkadellia rolled her eyes at the begging puppy dog look her sister had mastered. "Fine." Sitting her book aside she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.

With a squeal of delight DG pulled Az toward the doors. While Azkadellia allowed herself to be drug through the palace she refused to run. Try as DG might she could not coax her sister to better than a fast walk.

Secretly Az was enjoying watching her sister's unconstrained excitement. It was one of the many things Azkadellia had learned to love about the young woman since she reentered her life. DG's wonder and joy often gave her hope of a better life even after all the darkness the witch had forced upon them. In the months since the eclipse Azkadellia had learned how easily DG became excited and she had grown comfortable enough to tease with the girl. This was one of those moments, it was enjoyable to see the girl fighting to show some control.

As they approached the garage DG's excitement boiled over and she practically skipped through the garage bay door. "Come on, slow poke."

Arching a brow to mask a smile Azkadellia stepped into the garage. "Alright what did you want to show me?"

Moving behind a large tarp covered object DG was smiling from ear to ear. Grabbing the tarp she jerked it clear in a quick motion. "Ta da!"

A frown settled over Azkadellia's face. "You drug me down here for this?"

"Don't you know what this is?"

"Yes, it's a motorbike." Tilting her head to one side the frowned deepened. "It looks like one the Longcoats were issued minus the sidecar."

"You really know how to kill a moment." DG tossed the tarp aside and placed her hands on her hips. "It did belong to a group of Longcoats who were captured several weeks ago."

"So what is it doing here?"

"It was brought in with several other vehicles to be used as surplus, but I talked the motor pool chief into letting me have it." A twinkle of excitement entered DG's eyes as she ran a hand over the shiny black fuel tank.

"What do you plan to do with?" Azkadellia asked folding her arms across her chest.

"Ride it, of course."

"DG, I don't think that's a good idea, besides how do you even know it works?"

"Oh it works." A broad smile crossed DG's face as she ran her fingers over the shiny black gas tank. "I completely rebuilt the engine, reupholstered the seats, worked out the dents and painted the main body black."

Moving closer Azkadellia ran her fingers over the chrome of the handle bars. "You did all of that?" There was a hint of pride as she spoke.

"Yep, sure did."

"It's beautiful, Deeg." The seriousness in her voice made DG's smile broadened.

"I rode it around the palace this morning to make sure it was running right, but I want to take it out for spin on the open road."

There was a flicker of fear in the brown eyes as they locked with blue eyes ones. "DG, I don't think that's a good idea. You shouldn't leave the palace alone."

"That's why I want you to go with me."

"What?" Azkadellia unconsciously took a step back. "No, no I can't."

"Why not? You've been locked up in that palace for nearly two weeks, you won't even go for walks in the gardens anymore. Please Az, you need this as much as I do."

Turning away Azkadellia wrapped her arms around herself. "I can't."

"Yes, you can."

"You know what happened last time I left the palace."

Closing her eyes DG tried to force away the image of the little girl who have stopped them on the sidewalk. At first, she hadn't thought anything of it then the girl had accused Az of killing her family and before anyone could stop her she had spit in the older woman's face. The guards had drug the girl away as she screamed for Az's blood. Azkadellia had just stood there not saying a word.

DG had wiped her sister's face clean with Cain's handkerchief and still she said nothing. The entire trip back she had remained silent, disappearing into her room for two days. Finally after much persuration she began joining the family for meals but she still refused to leave the castle. "I promise Az nothing bad will happen."

Shaking her head Azkadellia refused to face her. "I'm sorry, DG. Why don't you ask, Mr. Cain?"

Moving toward her sister DG stopped short of touching her. "Because I don't want to ride with Cain I want to ride with you." She drew a deep breath and chose her words carefully. "This is a very important moment for me and I want to share it with you."

Turning to face her sister Azkadellia brushed the back of one hand over her face. A nervous laugh slipped from her lips. "oh, Deeg, I love you little sister and I appreciate what you're trying to do but I'm not ready for this."

"Az, if you wait till you think you're ready you'll never do it."

She studied the younger woman for a moment then slowly shook her head. "I'm sorry, DG. I can't." She started to turn away.

"Wait." DG leapt forward catching her arm. "Please don't go."

"Deeg, I'm sorry I can't..."

"While I was riding around the palace this morning one of my memories uncloaked. It surprised me so much I almost crashed the bike." She chuckled nervously.

Intrigued over took fear and Azkadellia watched her sister. "What did you remember?"

"Horses."

"Horses?"

"Yes, I remembered you riding a horse and I keep pestering Ahamo to let me ride but he said I was to small. Finally, you said I could ride with you. So he placed me on the saddle in front of you."

As she spoke a smile worked it's way onto Azkadellia's face. "I remember, you were so upset because you thought I was going to leave you behind. You wanted so much to ride with me."

A nervous laugh slipped from DG's lips. "So you do remember."

"Yes, I remember." answered Az softly, then she chuckled. "After all of your begging and pleading once you were on the horse you got scared because it was so tall."

"That's right." DG laughed, then she grew serious. "But you put your arm around my waist and told me it would be alright, that you wouldn't let me fall."

Caught up in the memory Azkadellia's smile broadened. "You latched onto my arm and squeezed till it was numb."

"We rode to a meadow and the whole way there you would only let the horse walk. But I begged you to go faster."

A heartfelt laugh shook Azkadellia and DG couldn't help smiling at the sound. "You kept telling me you wanted to feel the wind in your hair."

"Finally, you kicked the horse into a trot."

"And you kept screaming faster."

"Then we broke into a full out gallop."

A distance look entered dark eyes as the memory unfolded. "I still had an arm around your waist and you were hanging on for dear life. But you were laughing like it was the most wonderful thing you'd ever done."

"It was." answered DG softly.

Az raised a brow in question to her sister. "What do you mean?"

"Az, I remember how wonderful I felt that day. With the wind blowing through my hair and you holding me I felt so safe and so happy. I knew you wouldn't let anything happen to me."

Azkadellia snorted shaking her head. "It was a stupid thing to do. I wasn't experienced enough to be riding that fast, especially with you. We were lucky nothing happened."

Placing a hand on Az's arm DG waited for her to meet her gaze. "Az, you don't understand when I ride a bike I have the same feeling. It was like being on that horse again with the wind blowing through my hair. The first time I rode a bike I fell in love with it, it was like I had found something that had missing from my life. I realized this morning it was you. Riding the bike reminded me of you only I didn't know it at the time."

Azkadellia blinked several times letting the words sink in. "You remembered me?"

"I remembered the feeling of being with you and how happy it made me. Every time I rode I had that feeling." Moving back to the bike DG removed an item from her jacket pocket. Slipping a leg over the seat she straddled the bike with one hand on the handlebars, the other reached out to Az. A set of goggles rested in the outstretched hand as blue eyes met brown ones. "Please, sis. Ride with me."

Eying the goggles Azkadellia hesitated part of her screamed to jump on and ride as far as it would take them. But her other side begged to return to the safety of the library and lock out the rest of the world.

Watching her sister's slender hands wring nervously DG knew the war raging within her. As much as she wanted to throw her on the bike and ride away she waited for Az to settle the silent battle.

"I'm not dressed for this."

The corners of DG's lips rose it was a lame attempt to escape and one she could easily counter. "I can fix that." With a wave of her hand Azkadellia was bathed in a bright light and when it faded her attire had changed. A dark blue gown had been replaced with a beige long sleeved shirt, riding beeches and knee high riding boots.

As the light faded Azkadellia jumped running a hand along her new attire. "Damn it, DG! How many times must I tell you not to do that without asking first?"

"Oh come on, Az. You didn't even like that old dress."

"I 'do' like that dress and you'd better be able to bring it back." She wagged a threatening finger in her sister's face.

A sly smile spread over DG's face. "I will, when we get back."

Azkadellia's face softened and DG caught the twinkle in her eye.

For a moment DG thought she had her but just as quickly the twinkle disappeared and DG felt her start to slip away. "Az." She waited till their eyes locked. "It will be okay, I won't let you fall."

A smile struggled to make its way onto Azkadellia's face. Taking the goggles she slipped them over her head. "Alright, but you still owe me a dress."

"Deal." Not allowing for her sister to change her mind DG flipped a switch in the center of the handlebars. Then she placed a foot on the kick start and jumped down on it with all her weight. The engine roared to life.

Watching her sister start the infernal machine Azkadellia could not help but smile. As it came to life the smile on DG's face reminded Az why she put up with her sister's crazy ideas. Even as children she had allowed herself to suffer all forms of trouble and discomfort just to see that smile.

"Come on." DG called pulling her goggles into place.

Climbing onto the seat behind her little sister Az placed her hands on DG's waist.

"Hold on." Not waiting for a reply DG squeezed the clutch and tapped the motor into first gear. Twisting back on the throttle she released the clutch and the bike leapt forward.

Losing her balance Az caught DG's jacket, righting herself. Leaning against the leather clad back she wrapped her arms tightly around her sister's waist.

As they moved through the palace grounds Az relaxed a little but once they reached the street she was convince DG would kill them both. As DG darted through the crowded streets Azkadellia buried her face in DG's back closing her eyes tight.

"Come on, Az you have to look around."

"No." came the muffled reply.

Gunning the throttle DG laughed as they whipped around a truck parked in the street. In a few minutes they were clear of the city and cruising along the dirt road. Slowing down DG tilted her head back. "I'm slowing down Az, you can look now."

Cautiously Azkadellia raised her head and glanced around. To one side was dense forest and to the other the river which ran into Central City. With the flowers and trees in full bloom it was a beautiful sight.

As the bike cruised along the road she began to relax. Away from the prying eyes of the city she felt free for the first time in a long time. No one watching her every move or frightened whispers from servants as she passed in the hallway. The sun warmed her face as the wind whipped her hair and for a moment it was just her and DG exploring the woods together. The memory was strong and it made her realize how much she had missed her little sister. Leaning forward she rested her chin on DG's shoulder and gave her an affectionate squeeze.

Grinning from ear to ear DG called to her. "You okay?"

She heard a yes but something else followed only to be pulled back by the wind. "What?"

"Faster!" cried Az.

Chuckling DG gunned the throttle and the bike sprang forward, a cheerful shriek came from Azkadellia followed by laughter. As the bike buzzed along the worn road the woodland creatures paused to study the strange creature. The creatures weren't sure which was more usual the roaring beast or the two figures seated atop it who's laughter drifted on the wind as they passed.

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Royal Guardian against hostile lawn nomes.