Disclaimer: I own none of the characters. The song 'Give Me A Reason' is the property of The Corrs. Brownie points to those who spot the Firefly reference.
This is a follow on fic to my one-shot 'As Lovers Go'. Please read that first. I promise that it's considerably shorter than this!
Give Me A Reason
So what's a girl like me to do?
Drowning, drowning in you
And who's to save me from the blue?
And carry, carry me through?
'Cause now my body's weak so just give me a reason
And my make up's off so just give me a reason
My defence is down so just give me a reason
I am strong enough
Give me a reason
One Year and Eight months after the Fall of the Witch
DG paused on the edge of the forest at Finaqua. It was mid afternoon and the sun beat down heavily on her and the man behind her shrugged off his heavy coat. She turned and smiled at him.
"Ready to face the music?" He asked, folding his coat and putting it into his backpack.
"You think they'll be angry?" She said quietly.
"You disappear in the dead of night and don't come back for eight months? I reckon they'll have something to say about it."
"And gave them no means to write back." Cain pointed out, hitching the bag onto his back. DG chewed the inside of her cheek.
"Well… I guess we'd better go in."
She took a step but he leaned forward and caught her hand, pulling her back to face him. The intensity of his eyes made her flush as she remembered the night in the forest, not even a week ago.
The night she'd offered him her heart.
She hadn't meant for it to come out like that, so plainly and openly. To her relief (or was it disappointment?) he'd merely kissed the top of her head and told her to go to sleep. But now, with that cool blue gaze on her, she wished they'd had more of a discussion about this before going to Finaqua.
There had been so many times on their journey when she'd suspected their relationship was changing. They'd been good friends when they set off but she'd come to depend on him in a way that she'd never done with anyone else. There had been moments, whilst hiking on mountainsides or crouching under trees in the pouring rain when she'd looked at him and seen his eyes already on her, the corner of his mouth quirking to a smile.
And the drawings… he'd looked almost hurt when she'd tried to explain why she couldn't get his face right. It was because she knew it so well – every line (far too many, each one representing one of those awful periods of his life), even the pattern of his stubble before he shaved it each morning. The way his jaw twitched according to his mood and, most importantly of all, those incredibly concentrated eyes.
Now his hand was wrapped around hers and she felt the familiar calluses, the warmth and strength in his fingers as he spoke.
"Look, DG… I know this is gonna be difficult but I'll be right there."
Her heart sank. Closure was obviously not on the agenda, so she forced a smile and turned back to the palace.
Azkadellia sat beside Glitch in the garden at Finaqua, discussing the mornings meeting with the Eastern Guild representatives. It had gone well and Glitch was enthusiastically thinking of ways to tighten the bonds they had forged that morning.
She adored his enthusiasm for his job. He noticed the look in her eye and paused, smiling.
"Am I boring you, my Azkadee?"
"Not even slightly." He leaned towards her and their lips pressed together chastely. She loved how gentle he was with her – always careful and soft, treating her like an ivory figurine. DG would have loathed this treatment but with so much harshness still haunting her past, Azkadellia welcomed every tentative gesture that Glitch offered. As if to prove her point, he snapped a white rose from the nearest branch and handed it to her.
"Thank you, my love." She murmured, tucking it into her hair.
"If I could grow a flower as beautiful as you, I would." He said, lacing their fingers and tracing the pattern of her engagement ring.
"You charmer." She laughed and he shrugged.
"No one ever said I had a way with words."
They sat, looking out over the lake in peaceful silence. Glitch could see the future here – not literally of course, but the future he envisioned them building together. The image of a faceless child running through the bushes towards the pagoda and swing ran through his head, arms outstretched to adoring parents. It was so clear and for a moment his chest ached for it to be reality.
Suddenly Azkadellia sat up straight, pressing a hand to her heart. He looked at her in anxiety.
"…I'm not sure. I just… I feel like something is coming ." She stood, pale yellow skirts falling into place as she looked around. Glitch stood too.
"Perhaps we should go to your parents." He said. They began to walk through the garden towards the long driveway that went up to the front doors of the palace, but Azkadellia's pace faltered and Glitch turned to see her staring over her shoulder towards the forest.
Two dishevelled figures were strolling towards the palace. One tall, in a light brown shirt and dark trousers, hat at its usual angle. The other was considerably shorter, also in trousers and carrying a backpack that looked ridiculously large, her dark hair tied back.
"Is that…?" Glitch couldn't believe it. Azkadellia took a step towards the approaching figures and then broke into a run, shouting at the top of her voice.
"DG! My DG!"
DG started to run as well, dumping her bag as she went and both Cain and Glitch grinned to see the sister's fall into each other's arms, both shrieking and laughing, trying to talk over each other. The men eventually caught up and shook hands, smiling.
"Good to see you, Tin Man." Glitch said fondly.
"You too, Glitch." DG distracted herself from her sister to hug Glitch tightly.
"I missed you guys so much!" She laughed. Azkadellia smiled up at Cain and, to his surprise, stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek before turning back to her sister.
"DG, you look…" She looked her up and down and DG laughed.
"I know, I look a mess!"
"No, I was going to say," Az took her sister's hands in hers and smiled, "that you look happy."
The rest of the day passed by in a rush of hugs, kisses and one very long bath. DG couldn't remember the last time she'd had used hot water and took full advantage of it. By the time she descended to the dining room for dinner, she was completely clean and perfectly groomed. She'd donned a light blue dress for the meal and her mother smiled.
"You look beautiful, darling."
"Thanks, Mom." To her relief, they'd decided to leave all questions (and possible arguments) to the next day. DG, Cain, Az, Glitch and her parents sat around the small, circular table and tucked into a delicious meal of roast chicken. DG sat between Azkadellia and her father, sipping wine and eating until she was stuffed.
"Ah, this is nice."
"Missed living in the lap of luxury, have you?" Glitch teased and she laughed.
"I don't know. It's been an amazing eight months." She said, glancing across the table at Cain. That small smile was back and she willed her skin to stay blush free as she lowered her eyes to her wine glass.
Lavender caught the gaze and gave a knowing smile to her daughter.
"Where did you go?"
"Just about everyway." DG replied. "We went north first, then down to the west – oh, we ran into Raw there, he sends his best wishes – that was one of the best bits, seeing the Viewer homeland."
"The Quadling mines." Cain reminded her and she sat up.
"You went to the Quadling country?" Ahamo was instantly alert.
"Yes, we actually met a member of their court. They were a little suspicious but they seemed to like us. They gave me this."
She slipped a ring from her finger and passed it to Ahamo.
"This is a ruby…" He and Lavender looked at each other in astonishment. DG hesitated.
"We've been trying to negotiate with the Quadlings for the past six months. Did they know you were the princess?"
"No, we didn't tell anyone."
Glitch cleared his throat.
"DG, you may just have solved an international crisis without realising it."
"Getting practice in already." Cain commented, lifting a piece of chicken to his mouth. She looked across and a tentative smile crossed her lips.
"Well, I suppose I need to get back into those princess shoes."
There was silence around the table and after a moment Ahamo attempted fresh conversation.
"Well, we can't thank you enough for taking care of our DG, Mr Cain."
"It was my pleasure, your Majesty. I enjoy being on the road." Cain replied.
"I don't need looking after." DG huffed, rather affronted. Cain smirked.
"Mercyton in the Vinkus."
"Oh, come on, Cain! I had that situation completely under control!"
"It sure looked like it as we ran for our lives."
"That was a simple misunderstanding-"
"We had to hide out in a cave until sundown and we could sneak past the angry townsmen."
"Well, you weren't exactly prepared to go and reason with them!"
Everyone else at the table watched this exchange in amusement until DG eventually turned to her parents.
"It wasn't as bad as he's making out."
"But inevitable proof that you do need looking after." Cain said firmly. She pulled a face at him before reaching for her wine glass. Ahamo bit back a grin.
"So what will you be doing now, Mr Cain? Eager to get back on the road?"
DG's heart began to pound and she set down her wineglass, wanting desperately to look at him, but was too afraid of what she'd see.
Cain cleared his throat.
"I hadn't thought that far ahead, sir. I expect I'll be… going soon enough."
"Your son is at the palace in Central City, you should stop by and see him." Lavender said and he nodded.
"Yes, I wanted to thank you for letting him have that job."
"He's an excellent captain, he's done you proud." Glitch commented.
Azkadellia had slipped her hand under the table and was squeezing DG's hand, sensing the absolute fear in her sister at Cain's remark about leaving.
The next two days were a whirlwind of explanations, meetings and the filling of DG's social calendar for their return to Central City. It was almost the end of the summer season and the royal family were expected back for the social season to begin.
It was on the third day after her return to Finaqua when DG went down to breakfast to find a certain Tin Man was not present. Lavender and Ahamo were in their private study but Glitch and Azkadellia noticed that her eyes were drawn to Cain's empty seat.
"Has Cain not had breakfast?" She asked, slipping into her chair. They exchanged a look that she did not like.
"DG, Cain left early this morning, for Central City. We thought he'd said goodbye…"
DG simply stared at her sister. Glitch winced at the hurt expression on the younger princess' face.
"Doll, he probably just didn't want to wake you."
"…Yeah." They barely heard her.
"Are you alright?" Azkadellia reached across the table to take DG's hand but she pulled back.
She stood and left the room. The couple looked at each other, Azkadellia's heart aching with the pain she'd felt in her sister.
Three Weeks Later
"All rise for the Queen and Consort!" The court rose from their chairs and there was a spattering of applause as Lavender and Ahamo walked down the centre of the room to their thrones.
"Princess Azkadellia and Advisor Ambrose."
The television cameras followed their progression to the chairs to the left of the thrones, zooming in on the smiling faces, the affectionate touch of Azkadellia's hand on Glitch's arm.
From outside the palace, a distant cheer went up as DG walked to the chair on the right. The cameras whirred excitedly as they zoomed in on the princess' face, her large blue eyes, darting around the room, taking in every single person, smiling fondly as the queen called the session to attention.
Four Hours Later
"Don't get me wrong, I love Mom dearly, but the woman can talk like there's no tomorrow." DG said, sinking onto Azkadellia's bed and tossing her shoes to one side.
"I noticed your attention was waning towards the end." Azkadellia replied, primping her hair back into place as they prepared for dinner, sat in front of the vanity mirror. DG watched her lazily and then stood and crossed bending down to hug her sister from behind, watching her face in the mirror.
"Thanks, Az. I don't think I could have done this without you." She said quietly. Az reached up and stroked her sister's arms.
"You're a wonderful person, DG. Everyone can see that you're going to be a great princess. And perhaps Queen someday."
"Don't say that, Az. It should be you."
"We'll have to see."
The subject was dropped without another word. Instead DG lifted Azkadellia's left hand, examining the diamond ring.
"You're so lucky, Az. You and Glitch are perfect for each other."
"I know." She flushed prettily and DG couldn't help but smile.
"It's not everybody who finds their one-in-a-million."
"I suppose we should thank the Great Gale for our luck."
"I said 'we', DG."
DG gave her sister a look before sitting on the sofa. Az turned in her chair to watch her, a smiling gracing her face.
"Deej, anyone could see that you and Cain had gotten closer. I wouldn't expect you not to, you travelled together for so long-"
"Az, it doesn't matter now." She said quietly.
"Because he left."
"I didn't expect him to stay." DG confessed. "He's got his own life, why would he want to hang around a palace when he could be with his son or out making something of himself."
The words were spoken so lightly, but Azkadellia wasn't fooled for a moment. DG caught her eye and shook her head.
"DG, how do you really feel about him?" She asked. DG started to pace the room, arms folded across her chest, as though trying to contain all her feelings. Eventually she looked at her sister, a lump in her throat.
"He's my best friend. I've never known anyone like him. It's like he's the only person in the world who I can depend on, one hundred percent. He's everything I want to be, he's strong and brave and honest…"
"Do you love him?"
The words struck her like a bullet and DG froze, staring out of the window. For several long moments she didn't speak and Azkadellia began to wonder if she should have asked that question but then, in a tight voice, DG replied.
"A few days before we got to Finaqua we were camping a forest. It was just an ordinary night, nothing unusual happened to make me do it but…"
"What happened?" Az stood and crossed to her sister, taking her cold hands into her own. DG stared up at her and tried to hold back the tears.
"I told him he had my heart."
"What did he do?"
DG looked out of the window, ashamed of her tears.
Two Months Later
Azkadellia rested her head on Glitch's shoulder as they moved gracefully about the dance floor. Ahamo and Lavender were dancing nearby, holding each other in that way that could only be achieved by years of practice. Other couples were moving to the dance floor now and DG quickly moved to stand behind one of the marble pillars to avoid being asked. Dancing was not her forte. She listened to a couple of older women talking as she sipped from her champagne glass.
"Princess Azkadellia looks lovely. And so happy!"
"They both do. I never thought I'd see the day…" DG smiled, looking out of the large windows straight ahead of her as they chattered.
"No, dear, I haven't heard anything about Princess DorothiGale. No suitors as far as I know."
"Well, it'll be a matter of time. Goodness knows they need to get her settled. You heard about her taking off for all that time?"
"Who hasn't? She needs a nice young man to tie her down to her duties. My grandson is-"
She'd heard enough. She stepped out from behind the pillar and walked away, out of the eye line of the two women. It wasn't the first conversation of that kind she'd heard, but the subject was something she didn't want to discuss with anyone. Not even Azkadellia had been able to get anything further out of her since that painful conversation in her bedroom. Instead DG had thrown herself into her duties and organising the wedding. To her pleasure the day had gone off without a hitch. Azkadellia had been the embodiment of the blushing bride; Glitch had looked so proud as he'd walked his wife out of the church to begin the parade around Central City.
DG was wearing an understated gown in pearly grey satin and had acted as maid of honour (which they didn't technically have in the O.Z but Az had wanted her beside her today) and now she looked around the room to ensure that everything was going smoothly. The guests were drinking steadily, delicious food was going around the room and now Jeb Cain stepped beside her.
"No security problems, your Highness."
"Thank you, Captain Cain." It had been hard to meet with the young man again, but they had stayed clear of the most obvious subject by unspoken agreement. Now she smiled at him.
"You're a guest here, Captain, you're not on duty. Have a drink."
"I'd rather not, princess." He looked uncomfortable and she laughed.
"Please, have some champagne. It's a wedding, you're supposed to enjoy yourself."
"I find security operations very enjoyable." He grinned and she laughed again. It was strange, how easily he'd gone from forest-dwelling resistance fighter to smartly dressed Captain of the Royal Guard.
"Well, you can at least do me the honour of dancing. My mother has been throwing me looks all evening. If I do once I might just get away with it." DG said. Jeb nodded.
"If it'll make you happy."
"Deliriously so." She said, taking his arm. Lavender caught her eye and smiled, appeased at last. Jeb and DG stepped into dance, timing themselves with the rest of the company.
"Lord Malcolm Serenity of the Upperlands." The announcer at the top of the stairs declared. DG glanced at the man descending the staircase. The wedding itself had been kept to a small number that afternoon, and whilst the majority of the guests had now arrived, a few latecomers were still making their way in. Traditionally the wedding reception went on until the dawn rising of the second sun, so technically the event was still young. Jeb swept her around and she spun gracefully, coming back into his arms.
"Where did you learn to dance?" She asked in surprise. He grinned.
"There's a young lady in the kitchen who, er… has been giving me lessons."
"Oh, really?" DG smirked at him. "And how long have you been… learning?"
"About four months. I'm a very dedicated student."
"I can see that."
He spun her again and she laughed.
"Absolutely, she's watching and I want her to know her time isn't being wasted." He nodded to a red-haired young woman carrying a tray of champagne who was biting back a smile. DG waved her over and pushed her into Jeb's arms.
"Off you go. Show me a master at work." The young woman looked absolutely affronted but Jeb has whisked her away before she could speak her mind. DG laughed quietly before a hand on her elbow made her look around. It was Glitch, smiling fondly at her.
"Here's my favourite princess."
"I wouldn't let Az hear you say that." DG pointed out. He grinned.
"She's my wife foremost, not a princess. Therefore you must be my favourite."
"I like your reasoning."
"So, do I get a dance with my favourite princess?"
"I thought the deal was that I help to organise and then I don't have to dance?"
Glitch took her hand and began to waltz her around the floor.
"C'mon DG. Captain Jeb gets a dance and I don't?" He glanced at the blonde-haired lad who was now whispering to his young lady as they hung onto each other.
"He was just trying to impress his girlfriend." DG laughed. Glitch shrugged.
"Well, it still seems fair that I get a dance too."
"We are dancing, Glitch." She pointed out.
"You'd better keep her happy, Glitch." DG said a few minutes later as they danced past Azkadellia, who was conversing with one of the old ladies DG had been listening to earlier.
"With every breath in my body." He promised. "I've never known anyone like her and I never will. I'll keep her happy and safe for as long as we live."
"That's all I wanted to hear." DG said, squeezing his hand. "I'm going to miss you guys like crazy when you leave for Finaqua."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll have someone to keep you company." Glitch's face looked suddenly very pleased and for a moment DG couldn't figure out why until she heard the announcer.
"Mr Raw of the Viewers and Mr Wyatt Cain."
They came to a stop and both turned to stare up the large staircase, as did most of the people in the room. Both names were famous as being those of Witch Conquerors and a light round of applause went up as Raw came into view, his furs neatly groomed and standing proudly.
Shortly behind him, dressed in his smartest clothes and his hat noticeably absent, was Cain.
Glitch turned to grin at DG but his face fell. She had gone very pale and as the pair began to come down the stairs, she stepped back. People began to move forward, eager to greet the latest guests. Jeb rushed forward to embrace his father and Raw made straight for DG, wrapping his hairy arms around her. She managed a smile and kissed his cheek.
"Raw, it's been so long! I've missed you so much."
"Missed DG and Glitch." He turned to embrace the groom as well, leaving DG fully exposed as Cain walked towards them. To her relief, Azkadellia stepped beside her and moved forward with a warm smile.
"Mr Cain, we're so glad the both of you could come."
"Wouldn't have missed it for the world, Princess." He bowed his head, but his eyes were still on DG, who was looking pointedly at the floor.
The tension was palpable as they finally looked at each other. The music continued but the cool silence caught most of the guests as they watched the greetings. Az, Glitch and Raw watched, a little nervously as Cain finally spoke.
"Mr Cain." She replied in a flat voice, her eyes still avoiding hers. Nobody spoke for a moment and then Azkadellia said,
"Let's get some drinks for our guests." She waved over a waitress and everyone helped themselves to drinks. In the few seconds that his eyes left her, Cain turned to see DG had vanished. He looked about in confusion to see the back of her pearl grey dress retreating up the stairs.
DG's heart was hammering painfully as she went out into the cool reception room. The front doors were open and a couple of servants looked around in alarm as she passed, heading for the next flight of stairs. She desperately needed somewhere quiet and private, where she could collect her thoughts before facing him.
Unfortunately fate had other ideas.
"DG!" She looked over her shoulder and then quickened her pace to the steps as she saw Cain running along behind her, catching up.
"I don't have anything to say to you, Mr Cain."
"What the hell is this Mr Cain business about?"
"Go back to the party." She spat, reaching the stairs. He caught hold of her wrist and she pulled away angrily.
"You're angry." He made to reach for her again but she stepped back, pressed against the marble banisters.
"Wow, your Tin Man training is astounding. You can see me glaring and yelling and manage to deduce that I'm angry?" She said.
Cain didn't smile or frown. He simply looked at her until she had to tear her gaze away, uncomfortable. After what felt like a lifetime he spoke again.
"DG, we need to talk."
She didn't reply, still staring at the red carpet on the stairs, a frown on her brow. He reached out as though to touch her face and she yearned for that connection but he let his fingers fall to grasp her arm instead.
"Please, DG. Don't act like this."
"Like what?" She finally met his eyes.
"Like I'm a stranger."
DG couldn't breathe. The heat of his hand on her arm was unbelievable, as though all of her senses were on fire just at the proximity to him. His jaw was clenched and she couldn't recognise the look in his eyes. He moistened his lips before forcing himself to speak again.
"DG… I didn't want to leave you at Finaqua-"
"But you did, Cain!" She burst out and pushed his hand away from her, staring up into his face as though she barely recognised it. "You did leave, and what's more, you didn't even have the decency to say goodbye!"
She was shouting now and she could see that the words were hurting him, but she didn't care.
"After all that time we spent travelling together, I thought I'd earned your respect, but apparently I don't even deserve a note, nothing. You just disappear and then expect me to welcome you back with open arms!"
There was a commotion at the door and they glanced over to see Az, Raw and Glitch standing in the doorway to the party, and yet more guests trying to peer past, eager to see the drama unfold.
Cain ignored them and turned back to DG, but she was shaking her head.
"I think we've said enough, Cain."
"I haven't said a damn thing yet, princess." He almost spat the title and she glared up at him. Once again he reached out and took a hold of her shoulders, forcing her to look at him, but she placed her hands on his chest and pushed him back.
"DG, you need to listen." He was pleading with her now, but she didn't know how much longer she could keep the tears in and above all things she didn't want him to see her cry. She wouldn't show weakness in front of this man, not when he was so strong. She turned back to the stairs.
"That night in the forest-" He began but once more she turned back and now her anger was overcoming her sorrow and pride.
"You don't get to talk about that night!"
"You wanted me to make a promise that I couldn't keep!" He half shouted, as though it were the only way to make her listen.
"Cain, you didn't make that promise, so there's no need to bring it up now." She reminded him, stepping back down so they were on the same level.
"Did you mean what you said that night?" He demanded an answer and she felt more trapped than when he was physically holding her in place. She shook her head, not wanting to say anything because he would knew if she lied and telling the truth was unbearable.
"It doesn't matter what I said…" She eventually managed to whisper the words past the lump in her throat, "Because whatever I said obviously doesn't mean a damn thing to you. You never made that promise and even if you had, you obviously never intended to keep it."
She managed to tear herself away, taking a few stumbling steps up the stairs when his voice floated up behind her.
"Do you love me, DG?" He hadn't wanted to say it like this, with all those people watching, with her back turned to him, with his son stood only a few metres away, watching with a confused face. This should have been a private moment, where he could gauge her reactions without her trying to run away every few minutes. But it was his last resort to keep her there.
And it worked. She froze and then turned, coming back down the stairs until they were once again level. And then she spoke in a voice so quiet he had to strain to hear it, but he knew that everyone watching could hear as well.
"All that time, all those months, everything was uncertain. I never knew where we were going, whether we were going to be sleeping or even eating that day – never knew if we were going to be greeted at the next town or attacked by Longcoat supporters." Lavender and Ahamo exchanged an alarmed look – these details had been omitted in the version they'd been told.
DG swallowed hard and to Cain's shock she lifted a hand to his face, cupping his cheek in her small palm.
"The only thing I was sure of was you. I didn't care if we were running for our lives or sleeping in the rain, because you were there. Of course I love you. I offered you my heart that night because I love you. You were everything to me for eight months."
He lifted his hand, wanting to cover her hand with his, to keep her there long enough for him to make sure she wouldn't run anymore. But before he could her hand fell to her side and her eyes filled with unimaginable sorrow and pain that he hated himself for causing.
"And then you were gone."
The words were so soft and calm; they were like a spell holding them all in place. Cain couldn't bring himself to break it, even when she turned and walked up the stairs, leaving him still and broken at the foot.
Three Days Later
Azkadellia and Glitch were leaving for Finaqua that morning. For the first time in three days, DG crawled out of bed, washed her hair, put on a dress and went downstairs. Her parents looked up in surprise as she entered the breakfast room.
"They haven't left yet, have they?" She asked, looking at their empty seats.
"No, they're waiting for the carriage now."
DG turned and darted to the front door. To her relief Az and Glitch were stood on the steps, talking with Raw. All three turned and smiled as she came down the steps.
"I didn't think you were going to say goodbye." Azkadellia said, opening her arms for a hug. DG embraced her sister tightly before hugging her brother-in-law.
"You guys have a great time."
"We will." Glitch promised, smiling at his wife. Raw put a hand on DG's arm and she smiled at him as the carriage drew up.
As she watched her Glitch and Az lead, DG felt overwhelming sadness. Az had been her constant companion since she'd returned to Finaqua; it was awful to think that she wouldn't be around. Raw let out a sad whimper and she turned, scolding herself.
"Raw, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you sad."
"You miss them." The Viewer said, pulling her into a hug. She nodded, pressing her face against his fur.
"You miss him too."
She pulled back and looked up at this hairy face.
"Raw, please don't. It's bad enough that I've been over it a million times in my head."
"DG needs to talk. Raw will listen."
They walked away from the palace to the gardens, surrounded by high brick walls and filled with foliage. DG settled on the edge of a fountain whilst Raw sat cross-legged on the grass, watching her.
"You hurt in your heart." Raw said. She nodded.
"Cain hurts too."
Neither of them spoke. DG wanted to get angry, to say that he deserved to hurt, that he deserved everything that came to him. But she couldn't.
"You forgive him?" Raw asked gently. DG bit her lip and struggled for an answer. Raw leaned forward and his hand touched her knee.
"You can forgive him."
Two Weeks Later
They had yet to come face to face. Cain had taken up residence in the royal guard barracks that adjoined the palace, deciding that another heartbreaking encounter with the princess was not on the cards.
Jeb knocked on the open door before coming in. Cain glanced at his son as he lifted his razor to his chin, scraping away the stubble.
"You alright, Jeb?"
"Yeah, I've got a meeting with the Prince Consort. There's a letter for you."
Cain wiped the last of the foam from his cheeks and held out his hand for the envelope. Jeb grinned and left as his father looked down at the letter.
He recognised the handwriting immediately.
You can call this me taking the coward's way out. Because if I see you in person, I don't know how I'll react, so it seemed safer to write. Even though as I'm writing it, I don't really know what to say.
I answered your question honestly the night of the wedding. All I want is the same from you.
Why did you leave and why did you come back?
One Day Later
DG buttered her toast whilst Ahamo peeled an apple. Breakfast still seemed unnaturally quiet without Glitch and Azkadellia. Lavender looked up as a servant came in, carrying the usual pile of letters and telegraphs. The servant placed a substantial pile in front of the queen, and equally large pile in front of Ahamo and then two envelopes in front of DG.
DG glanced at them, picking up the top one.
"It's from Az!" She said, tearing it open. She read eagerly. "They're taking a journey south for a couple of days to the Southern City. They're meeting with a couple of friends there before going back to Finaqua. Apparently it's snowing hard!" She smiled at her sister's familiar, fond handwriting before looking at the second letter. Her parents watched expectantly. DG didn't get much post.
"Who's that from, angel?"
DG didn't seem to hear, gazing at the writing on the envelope. After a moment she shook herself and looked up at her watching parents.
"May I be excused?"
She half ran up to her room, needing somewhere private to open this letter that could raise any number of emotions in her, none of which she wanted to be observed. DG shut her door using magic and sat at the little table by the window, where she could see the city.
It took her a moment to build up the courage to even open the letter, it was so heavy in her hands that she didn't know if she would be able to stand what was written inside. But desperation tore open the envelope and her eyes read hungrily.
You're a lot of things, but you're no coward. Perhaps this was the best way to resolve the situation before we end up face to face.
I left because I needed to. I saw in your eyes at dinner the night we got back to Finaqua that you were ready to become the princess you were born to be. And I don't think that I was ready to accept that.
In those months we spent together, I saw you change from a frantic kid, trying to save the whole world into a person that I respected more than any other.
You wanted me to promise that I would come back and see you after the journey was over. I didn't make that promise because I never intended to leave. I wanted to stay and help you, watch over you. But then when it came to decision time I cracked. I wasn't ready to lose the DG I'd gotten to know when we were alone.
I'm the coward here. I couldn't lose you, so I cut loose. I ran and I'm sorry for not being strong enough for you.
I came back because I thought I was ready to be strong. I thought I could be the Tin Man you always saw me as. I guess I didn't think about what you'd been doing this whole time. I didn't expect you to change as well.
I'd like to make a promise to you now. If you'll have me, I promise I'll never leave you again. I'm yours.
Half an Hour Later
Cain was watching Jeb supervise the training of the new recruits. It seemed that every young man in the O.Z. wanted to be a Royal Guard, and the ten youths who stood before his son were the best. They saluted smartly, moved in perfect unison and shot with exact precision.
In his day, they would have been Tin Men, Cain thought wryly as Jeb ordered them into press ups. Suddenly they all leapt to their feet, saluting, including Jeb. Cain looked around to see what had caught their attention and his heart leapt into his throat and he shrank back into the shadows as DG half ran into the courtyard, hair flying behind her and a harassed looking guard chasing after her. Clearly he'd been assigned to watch her and was finding the task considerably more difficult than he'd imagined.
Jeb bowed to the princess who scowled at the gesture.
"Quit doing that, Jeb."
"Your Highness, can I help you?" He asked. She nodded and he noticed an envelope clutched in her hand.
"Where is he?"
"Cain, where is he?" She was almost shouting in desperation and Cain suddenly wished he could sink into the brick wall. He hadn't imagined it would all come to a head this abruptly. Jeb gestured to him and DG whirled about, searching. Finally her eyes met his and she took a faltering step before braving herself and walking over to him. He moved out of the shadows, meeting her halfway. She stopped in front of him, standing a little out of his reach and looked up, eyes searching his face. He tried to keep it blank, rather wishing that there wasn't a platoon of soldiers witnessing the meeting.
She held up the letter.
"Did you mean this?" She asked quietly. Cain didn't really know how to reply, so he nodded mutely. She simply stared at him and it seemed like neither spoke for a lifetime. Eventually she bowed her head.
"I'm not looking for a bodyguard, Cain. I've got an army to protect me. I don't need another Tin Man." She said quietly.
Cain nodded again, still not sure that his voice was working. DG licked her lips and breathed deeply, wishing she'd thought this through.
"I want someone to love me, Cain." She whispered. His head jerked, as though she'd made to hit him. Her hands were in fists, screwing up the letter without realising she was doing it. She was shaking, he realised.
"I want someone to love me. If you can promise to do that… I'll be yours."
The world stopped, the way it does. There were complete silence and then he reached out, without hesitation and pulled her to him, bowing his head so that their lips met. DG couldn't even think, her brain wasn't functioning but her senses were working overtime as his scent surrounded her, the smell of dusty roads, log fires, spice and something that was uniquely him. She felt the heat of his body through his thin cotton shirt, rough on her fingertips. Her arms slid around his neck, one hand stroking his hair, feeling the blonde bristles and feeling his hands on her, one hand on her waist, keeping her firmly in place (she did have something of a penchant for running off at crucial moments). His other hand was tangled in her loose hair, pushing her face to his. His mouth was warm and tasted of the coffee he'd had at breakfast and all of these things together overwhelmed her. Her mouth parted from his and, with eyes still closed, she pressed her face to his neck, glad that he was supporting her because she was fairly certain that basic motor functions like standing were now out of the question.
After a moment, Cain removed his hand from her hair and looked down at her. Their eyes met and he managed a smile. She returned it and then frowned slightly.
"You know, you still haven't promised anything." She said pointedly. Cain chuckled and pressed his forehead against hers.
"I'll love you. Always. I promise."
"Cross your heart?" She murmured, moving her face so his lips were mere millimetres from hers. He lifted her hand and pressed it against his chest so she could feel his heartbeat.
"Only if you'll look after it."
A/N: I swear, this was gonna be a short story when I started out. Then it just kept going and going… funny how things turn out like that! Well, I think this is the end of this little saga. It's been a while since I really wrote anything, so feedback is much appreciated!