Fandom: Tin Man

Title: Never Stand on Ceremony

Chapter: Sneezing and Other Signs of an Oncoming Apocalypse

Author: mik109

Rating: PG just to be safe

Pairings: DG/Cain

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. This is for fun not profit.

Author's Note: I haven't written in awhile. I usually write for Firefly but this story wanted to be written. So I'm giving it a chance. Hopefully, this will kickstart my Muse into doing some more hard work. Unbetaed but lots of handholding and encouragement by slaygirl. Thanks for reading.

Sneezing and Other Signs of an Oncoming Apocalypse

"Princess?"

Startled, DG accidentally inhaled some of the shimmery powder she had been closely examining.

Achoo!

"Princess?" A mostly amused Cain asked again.

DG's eyes widened. She must have missed his knock because, suddenly, she heard his unmistakable footsteps. The Tin man was in her sitting room, and getting closer! The now nervous princess fumbled to recap the flask she had not yet been given clearance to open. She hastily shoved the badly recovered bottle to the back of her gift table, behind an odd multi-armed statuette.

Achoo!

"DG?" inquired a not so amused Cain from directly outside her bedroom door.

Clapping her left hand over her nose, she sidestepped away from the table and groped across her vanity with her right, searching for the Ozian equivalent of face tissue.

"DG?"

The Princess whirled around to see Cain's clearly concerned face as he carefully advanced into her room, one hand on her door and the other on his holstered weapon. DG wanted to giggle. What exactly was he going to shoot? However, her face and upper respiratory system were currently out of her control so no giggle could escape.

As her face scrunched up in another pre-sneeze contortion, she scrambled desperately for the nonexistent tissues. Cain quickly realized her dilemma and withdrew his own handkerchief from his vest pocket, pushing it calmly into her hand. She gratefully covered her face as the next sneeze emerged.

As DG waited to see if another sneeze would erupt, the former tin man surveilled the room, searching for the cause of the princess' predicament. His pale gaze paused for a moment on the flowers. However they had been there earlier in the day so he dismissed them. What had not been there earlier? He turned to look at the odd assortment of knickknacks and whatnots, hastily strewn across the princess' work table. Perhaps something on the overflow gift table? These last arrivals were uncatalogued and had been shuttled into her room over his strenuous objection.

DG took a deep breath when no new sneeze arrived. However, as she turned to smile at her knight in a snazzy dark wool suit, she noticed his narrowed gaze on the gifts. Her face froze for a moment before she forced an innocent expression onto it. Jumping in front of the table would be an acknowledgement of guilt so she needed some sort of distraction.

"Is my make-up okay?"

"What?" Cain's head jerked around in surprise.

"My makeup? Did I mess it up with the whole sneezing thing?" She really hoped he didn't know it was semi-permanent and would not come off without the assistance of a special cream. After all, she had only discovered that little tidbit this afternoon when her handmaids assured her she would be happier with the outcome if she sat very, very still or someone might accidentally lose the eraser. Of course that may have only been a little white lie to settle her fidgeting. Either way, she really did hope she hadn't messed up all that hard work.

"Oh. It's fine," dismissed Cain offhandedly as his gaze drifted back to the presents.

DG breathed a silent sigh of relief before leaning over to examine her face in the mirror. She observed nonchalantly, "After all the hours everyone put into this get up, I'm sure fine will be acceptable."

Cain sighed. After rolling his eyes briefly, he stepped up to the princess's side. He cupped both her shoulders and spun her around to face him. He leaned down toward her, his pale eyes minutely assessing her face.

DG blushed under the closeness of his gaze and the warmth of his hands.

"You look perfect." He smiled reassuringly, finally noticing how truly extraordinary she looked in a gown the color of her eyes.

Their eyes locked and she tried to return his smile as his thumbs brushed across her collarbone. However, another sneeze began to overtake her. So she wrenched herself out of his arms and covered her face once more with his handkerchief.

Cain's eyebrows rose. Then his eyes narrowed. Something was definitely wrong. Something was causing the princess a problem. And on her big day to boot. Something was going to get its ass kicked. He turned back to his inspection of the odd assortment of objects on her table. These were the only new things in the room. One of them, and whoever brought it, would have to be dealt with.

After the latest sneeze ended, DG turned back to Cain only to discover he had returned to the possible site of her latest debacle. She somehow managed to make mischief wherever she went in the OZ, but she didn't want anything to disturb all of Cain's intricate security plans. Besides being her sometimes personal bodyguard, he spent most of his time as the Head of Palace Security after all. Tonight was his big debut just as much as it was hers.

So she had to intervene quickly again. Otherwise, they would never make it down to her introductory ball, or re-introductory ball as was more the case. They had no time for Cain to get all protective over some simple sneezing. It was just sneezing after all. Not a sign of an oncoming apocalypse.

She blinked. Well, she didn't think so. She shrugged. What was another apocalypse between friends?

"Where is MY handkerchief?" He wanted to hunt something? He could track down her matching, lacy, froufrou handkerchief. She knew there was one for this ensemble somewhere. There was always one. He could find it for her.

Cain's examination was cut short once again at DG's growl. This time he only raised one eyebrow as he pivoted to face the irate princess.

"Do you need more than one?"

DG scowled. "No. But I'm supposed to have one. One specifically designed to match this fairytale layer cake. I just can't find it and that is annoying me."

The Tin Man suppressed a laugh. At times, he struggled to keep his neutral mask on with DG. Especially when she pouted. Like now.

Sighing, Cain walked over to her bed and, and much to the princess' chagrin, immediately picked up the "lost" item.

"Well, how am I supposed to find it when it's piled with all the other matching stuff?"

"Where else would it be?" questioned Cain as his eyebrow peaked a bit higher.

DG shrugged and stomped over to him. He presented the offending fabric to her with a flourish. She stuck out her tongue at him then reached forward, but another sneeze arrived before she could take possession of her own handkerchief. The grin fell off Cain's face as his worry returned. Seeing him puff up from the corner of her eye, DG grabbed his arm before he could even shift.

"I'm fine." At Cain's look of disbelief, she assured, "I really am fine. This is probably some form of nerves."

"Nerves?"

Her bravado suddenly evaporating, DG slumped. "It's just… all those people watching me, bringing me things. I don't even know them. And I tried to pay attention in etiquette class and learn all the stuff that I'm already expected to know, but it's all so foreign. I'm just a waitress/farm girl/part-time mechanic from Kansas not a princess. I'm not who they expect."

Cain barely heard her muttered last sentence, but hear it, he did. He grasped her by the shoulders a bit more forcefully than before compelling her to look at him. "You are brave and kind and gave up everything you knew in order to save strangers. You are not just anything. You are DG, princess of the OZ…" He smiled wryly. "And the woman who saved me with nothing but a stick."

DG blushed and tried to look away. "I didn't save you with the stick. The longcoats weren't even there."

Cain shook her lightly when she refused to meet his eyes. "But you didn't know that and ran in anyway wielding only that stick and your stubborn determination to do the right thing no matter what. That is who these people have come to see."

"But I didn't always do the right thing. I caused the Witch's reign. And now people are throwing me a ball because I saved them? I feel like such a fraud."

"DG," Cain cupped her jaw and forced her chin up until her blue gaze locked with his, "you died. I think that was penance enough."

"Doesn't feel like enough."

"Well, I say it was."

The princess bit her lip and threw herself into his already opening arms. She hugged him tightly, thanking him for all she could not find the words to express. Embarrassed by her unexpected melancholy, DG straightened abruptly and forced a smile onto her face. "We should probably be getting downstairs." She threw over her shoulder as she dashed to the door leading into the sitting room.

"Aren't you forgetting something?"

Confused and chagrined, DG spun back around to face him.

From Cain's fingertips dangled the once lost wisp of blue fabric.

The princess rolled her eyes in a very un-princess like manner and stomped back over to snatch it from him. However before she could retrieve it, DG enveloped her face with his simple white handkerchief and sneezed again. She peaked over the fabric at him and shrugged.

His expression was not nearly as nonchalant. His pale face flushed with anger and his jaw set at an even more determined angle than was his normal. Pivoting on his heel, he managed one step toward the overflow table.

Knock, knock. "Commander Cain? Princess Dorthigale? Her Highness is ready to receive you."

Cain stopped. His rigid posture betrayed his desire to ignore the summons and search the room until he found the cause of the princess' current predicament.

The princess in question, on the other hand, was more than happy to leave this room before the head of security discovered her latest disaster in waiting and locked down the entire palace. It was just a little harmless snooping and he could be angry about it later. For now, hundreds of people waited, most likely impatiently at this point, for them in the ballroom as well as her mother the Queen. And despite how little she had actually learned in her etiquette classes, she was fairly certain she wasn't supposed to stand any of them up, most especially her mother.

In keeping with this line of thought, DG began to sidle toward the door once more. "We really should be going, Cain. Don't want to keep Mother waiting."

The former tin man's scarred eyebrow ascended towards his hairline again as he looked over his shoulder at her. "You always keep your mother waiting."

"I don't mean to. I just haven't adjusted to the extra light sources yet. I can never tell what time it is anymore."

Cain blinked at the unexpectedly honest response. DG usually passed off some flippant remark to cover up her struggles with the drastic changes in her life. Concern overriding anger, he stepped back to the princess and pressed his palm to her forehead. "Are you sure you're all right?"

She jerked away from his hand, turning away from him. "I'm not a child, Cain. I'm fine. I would tell you if I wasn't."

Cain's eyebrow shot up again.

DG rolled her eyes. "I would tonight. Being sick might get me out of this whole shindig."

Knock, knock. "Commander?"

"The princess needs another moment," shouted Cain. Then in a quieter voice he said to his charge, "I don't think you'd get out of it with a gaping head wound."

He stepped up to the princess again but this time he tipped her chin up with one finger. "Will you tell me what's going on later after you've finished your royal duties?"

DG blushed and nodded and then flushed, angry at herself for blushing so much. Why couldn't she act like an adult around Cain? And she was certainly not going to sneeze in his presence again she reminded her tingling nose.

"Fine. Then we'd better get going." With the new agreement in hand, the former tin man released her and strode over to the shimmery fabric piled on her bed. He carefully picked up her matching wrap then returned to her and gently settled it across her shoulders.

DG smoothed her palms down her stomach, straightening out any real or imagined wrinkles on the bodice. "Do I still look all right?"

"Perfect. Except…"

"Except what?" DG asked fearfully and she began to frantically pat her hair and jewelry and everything else on her person she could reach in polite company.

Cain laughed and once more held out her handkerchief. "Except this would look much better with that outfit than that." He nodded at his own plain white cotton handkerchief still clutched in her hand.

DG's grasp tightened on the square of fabric. If her nose had anything to say about it, she was going to need relief again soon and she could not imagine utilizing such an artistically delicate material. "This one is fine."

"A gentleman never goes out without a handkerchief but this one does not match my ensemble anymore than that one matches yours. So let's put them back the way they're supposed to be."

When he reached for his handkerchief, DG thrust her hand behind her back. "You can't have this one back. I've used it."

Cain rolled his eyes. "Yes, you've ruined it." He made a quick grab for it behind her back but she twirled away.

"No, Cain. I'm keeping this one. You'll have to do with mine."

He lifted the dainty scrap of fabric next to his face and laughed. "I really don't think it's me."

"But it matches your eyes," smirked DG as the light caught the silvery threads woven into the blue.

Cain snorted. "More of it matches your eyes than mine, Princess. So let's get everything back in order then we can go downstairs before your mother sends up a search party." He lunged for the cloth but only managed to tackle his charge into the wall.

Refusing to relinquish the material, DG wrestled with her bodyguard momentarily before trying another tack. "Won't you share with me, Mr. Cain?"

Shaken by the earnestness of her question, Cain stilled. Their gazes locked, and he found himself answering with equal gravity. "Always, DG."

Time seemed to stop as they stared into each other's eyes. Her solemn expression slowly evolved into an impish grin and then a beaming smile. The corner of his mouth twitched in response, finally prying a smile out of his usual stern expression.

Knock, knock, knock. Time had not only not stopped but had swiftly run away from them.

"We have to go this time," declared Cain as he drew the princess away from the wall and back to the center of her room.

Between the two of them, they hastily readjusted anything that had shifted out of place during their tussle. She fixed his tie and he tucked in her hair. Before he could step away, she folded the deep blue cloth and slipped it into his vest pocket.

"A gentleman never goes anywhere without a handkerchief," she reminded with a pat.

"DG, that's really not… it's not appro…" Cain's voice stuttered to a halt at the princess's bewildered expression. She obviously had no idea what such a thing meant here in the OZ and he had no idea how to explain it to her without much embarrassment and an even longer delay. After all, she only saw it as an exchange of equal value and not a romantic gesture. As long as no one else knew her handkerchief lay against his heart, he would not have to arrest himself for treasonous impropriety with a royal princess.

Knock, knock, knock, knock. Someone was getting impatient. Of course, the guard at the door was probably being pressed by royal attendants who were being hard-pressed by the most likely now very eager Queen.

"We really have to go."

Taking a deep breath, DG smoothed down her dress one more time then exhaled. She offered Cain a nervous smile. "I'm ready."

Smiling gently in reply, he began to lift his arm to her when he noticed she still had his handkerchief clutched in her hand. "Ah, DG, you have to put that away." And hopefully she wouldn't need it anymore this evening because that could get him arrested too.

"But I don't have any pockets." The tingling had finally disappeared, but she didn't know how long it would stay that way.

"There's a pocket on the inside of your…" Cain motioned toward the top of her dress with a dipping action.

DG looked down and then her eyebrows shot up. "Oh, is that what that's for? I just thought someone hadn't tacked it properly." DG carefully folded the soft white cotton and tucked it into the pocket just beneath the wide neckline. "Ready now?"

The Head of Palace Security inspected her one last time before lifting his arm and offering her his elbow. "Ready to begin a stage in your new life?"

Accepting his arm the way she had been taught, DG laughed shakily, "Only if you never leave my side, Mr. Cain."

Cain smiled as he opened the door. "I am, as always, at your command, Princess."

"Sure, you say that now."