Before The Worst
One Year Later
It wasn't even noon but the weather was already warm, threatening to turn into a scorching day when the sun hit its peak. The market place in Central City was bustling, with people fighting to sell their produce. A car was winding its way slowly through the market, followed by a second car full of royal guards.
DG looked out of the tinted windows at the staring crowds, some people waving, although they could not see her. But it was fairly obvious who was in the vehicle, the royal insignia imprinted on the doors. They were on their way back to the palace, DG had been visiting the nearly completed power plant on the border of Central City and she'd been pleased with what she'd seen. Four hundred jobs would be available as soon as it opened, with more to follow. It would be open in a matter of weeks and DG allowed herself to sit back, breathing easy.
The car reached the palace and it drew up outside the front door. A guard opened the door and DG climbed out, smoothing her knee length black skirt and thanking him as she stepped up to the door, entering the entrance hall. A young man rushed to her side, holding her itinerary.
"Majesty, the visit went well?"
"Yes, Mr Riddell. Am I still meeting with the Glikkun ambassador?" DG asked, signing a piece of paper he handed to her. Stuart Riddell was her Royal Advisor, and had been for ten months. He had sandy brown hair, green eyes and he took his job very seriously. DG had tried to coax a sense of humour of him, but it was a work in progress.
"Immediately after lunch, he sent ahead his requests." Riddell said, giving her a list. She scanned them and raised an eyebrow as she walked to her study.
"I can see this meeting going badly. Does he really think I'm going authorise his marching trainee soldiers through neutral lands?"
"He'll be argumentative."
"So will I, it's one of my many virtues. Or so the Consort tells me. Do I have any post?" DG asked as they reached her study. Riddell gestured to a neat pile on her desk. Glancing through, she decided that it looked distinctly uninviting.
"Alright. I'll go through that after I meet the ambassador. Will the Consort be joining me for lunch?"
"Unfortunately he's still in his meeting, but he informed me that he will be present at dinner. Lunch is in ten minutes." Riddell said and she smiled at him.
"Good. Oh, before I forget, can you make sure that some flowers are sent to Lydia Pastley, it's her birthday tomorrow. And make sure she gets the weekend off as well."
"Of course, Majesty." Riddell bowed and disappeared.
DG sighed, sinking into her office chair. It was looking to be a long day. The past year had felt like a huge string of meetings and councils, visits to neighbouring regions and negotiating contacts. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had a day off. But now it was getting close to the summer and Cain had made the decision that they were going away for a month during the summer. They would travel down to Finaqua for a week, on to Pacalisaqua for a fortnight and then another week at Finaqua on the way back to Central City. Glitch and Azkadellia would join them in Pacalisaqua, along with their newborn daughter, Rosa, who DG and Cain had not met yet.
Sorting through the mail, DG noticed a letter from her sister and tore it open eagerly.
My Dearest DG,
I hope this letter finds you well and not working too hard! Glitch and I are looking forward to seeing you and Cain next month, as is Rosa. You must also arrange to come and visit us at Amnis Sedes, I cannot believe that we've lived here for a year now and you've yet to see it.
Mother and Father visited last week to see Rosa. They're both well and mentioned that they saw Tutor recently. I think that retirement suits him, he was planning to travel to the Viewer Homeland to visit Raw.
I miss you so much, my sister. We were in the local town recently and overheard people speaking of what a wonderful queen you were turning out to be, it filled me with such pride! Glitch wants me to tell you something about the power plant, but I've told him to write his own letter. I refuse to write to you about work! I suspect you get that all day, this is a letter of love instead.
Write back soon, DG, I would love to hear from you. If you're unable, it's no matter, we'll be seeing you in just a few weeks. All of our love to you and Cain. Also, give our regards to Jeb and Lydia.
My Love Always
"I had a letter from Azkadellia." DG said over dinner that night. Cain smiled.
"Is she alright?"
"Yes, she's well. She and the baby." DG said, sipping her wine. Her husband nodded.
"We're still meeting them at Pacalisaqua?" He asked and DG nodded, putting down her fork, full of delicious food. Cain eyed her, his sharp blue gaze making her smile.
"What's up, Tin Man?" She asked, the nickname used fondly. He gave a lazy half-smile at its use as well.
"Not a thing, sweetheart. How did it go with the Glikkun ambassador?"
"I told him to forget it." DG said as the servants began to clear their plates, "They're out of their minds if they think I'm going to let them train soldiers in the Vinkus, it's just asking for trouble. But I don't want to talk about it." She stood, reaching for his hand, "I haven't seen you all day."
"Will you be wanting anything else, Majesty?" The head servant asked and DG shook her head.
"No, you can all go now. Goodnight."
Cain's eyebrows arched as she turned to look up at him.
"Early night, darling?"
"Early night." DG confirmed with a grin. They left the dining room swiftly and ascended the staircase to their suite. Nodding goodnight to the guards posted in the corridor, DG had barely closed the door before Cain was pressing her against it, kissing her hard. She put her hands around his neck and giggled delightedly as he lifted her easily, carrying her to the bed. Her fingers fumbled with his buttons but he put his hands over hers, stilling the movement. Their eyes met and she found herself afraid of what she saw there; not because it was threatening but because she saw the truth in their depths.
Within moments she had gone from giddy to weeping in his arms. His hand stroked her hair as he rocked her, letting her sob loudly. This wasn't the first time she'd broken down since becoming queen. It wasn't that she hated being queen, that she resented taking the position.
She was lonely.
She and Cain were kept busy all day, sometimes into the night. It was rare that they went to bed at the same time these days. Despite the fact that they spent almost all of their time in the same building, they never seemed to see each other. DG had gone from having her mother, father, sister, teacher and her two best friends to utter isolation, with only the barest glimpses of her husband and she spent most of her time in the company of an advisor. Even the occasional conversations with Ozma did little to relieve the loneliness.
Eventually her sobs faded and she rubbed at her eyes. Cain kissed her forehead, pulling her to him.
"We'll be seeing them in four weeks, darling." He reminded her. "Just four weeks."
"I know. I know." DG sniffed and then sighed, "I've got to stop breaking down like this."
"No you don't." Cain said firmly, "In this room, you're not the queen. You're my wife, who's under a lot of pressure. You need to cry, you cry."
"I love you." She murmured and he kissed her. This time when she reached for his shirt, he helped her remove it.
Riddell entered the Queen's study silently. She didn't look up from the contracts she was signing, knowing who it was. He began to sort the files he was carrying, ready for her to look at when she was finished.
He'd been the Queen's advisor for ten months, having applied for the position through the Royal Tutor, a friend of his family. He hadn't expected to get the job; at twenty-three annuals he was only the same age as the Queen herself and completely inexperienced at these matters, but the Queen had been impressed with his knowledge of politics in the O.Z., he's sensible temperament and, for some reason, she liked the fact that he wasn't from a noble family.
"Most of my subjects aren't noble. It makes sense that the person advising me on their lives is someone who knows what the real issues are." She'd explained. So he'd started just a fortnight after Lord Ambrose had married the Princess Azkadellia and disappeared off to the Gillikin border.
The Queen sighed, signing the last piece of paper and closing the file with a smile.
"Finished. At last. Make sure these are sent to the council as soon as possible?"
"Yes, Majesty." Riddell said, taking the file. The Queen smiled at him.
"What's this afternoon? You told me earlier, but I've completely forgotten."
"You have lunch with a representative from the Central City Infirmary, a Doctor Lennox. And at three you have a short meeting with Baron Rex Nikan, regarding his betrothal; I've only just arranged that."
"Rex Nikan is betrothed?" She looked surprised. Riddell nodded.
"Yes, to Lady Amber Tassell. The Baron wants approval of the marriage; he's bringing all the necessary paperwork."
"Could you send word and ask him to bring Lady Tassell to the meeting?" The Queen said, "I prefer to see both parties when arranging these things."
"Of course, Majesty." Riddell made a note.
She tidied a few sheets of loose paper and stood, glancing at the time. She was not wearing the traditional dresses that her mother had so favoured, but a charcoal grey knee-length skirt and a bright blue blouse, the same shade as her eyes. A light golden circlet rested on her hair and the Emerald was glowing faintly around her neck. Riddell found his eyes drawn to it, this mysterious item that seemed almost alive.
The Queen seemed distant for a few moments, her eyes not fixed on anything in particular but her fingers grazing the Emerald. Riddell waited silently. He had heard rumours of the Emerald, that it had a consciousness that only the Queen could hear. Eventually her fingers dropped to her sides. Riddell looked down, almost embarrassed to be caught watching this private moment. The Queen caught his gaze and she smiled, but didn't comment. Stretching her arms, she gestured to the door.
"Walk with me in the garden?" She requested.
They took her favourite route, around the rose garden. The gardeners began to discretely pack away their tools but she waved at them to carry on, pausing to talk to one. Riddell listened, curious as always at her easiness with the staff.
"They're growing beautifully." She commented and the gardener, an elderly fellow grinned, stooping.
"Yes, Majesty. It's been a good spring for them."
"On the farm I grew up on, we didn't have many flowers. A couple of boxes on the porch, but it was mostly cornfields." She said lightly, examining a bloom. "I suppose I could have tried to grow some climbing roses up the side of the house, I never really thought about it before."
Riddell had never heard her mention her childhood. Everyone knew, of course, that she'd grown up on the Other Side in secret, but few people knew the details. She was smiling fondly in remembrance and then chuckled softly to herself.
"Where did you grow up, Mr Riddell?"
"Here, in Central City." He replied quietly. Her eyes were still on the flowers.
"You like it here?"
"I couldn't stand Kansas." She smiled, "I couldn't wait to get out of there, to find somewhere better. It's not the most exciting place, at least not where I lived. Just a lot of fields and not much else. I was ready to pack up and get out of there."
"Understandable, Majesty." Her gaze turned to him and he flushed, "I just meant… you belonged here, you were destined to rule, so… so it was natural that you would feel out place there."
She began to laugh.
"I said exactly the same thing! I guess great minds think alike." The Queen turned back to the flowers.
"Which do you like best, Mr Riddell?" She asked and he stammered, caught off guard.
"Oh, I… I, er…"
"I like these." She reached out to stroke a budding rose. It was a gorgeous shade of blue and she considered the colour for a minute. "Would I be able to have some of these in my study, Jeff?"
The gardener beamed at her, swelling with pride.
"I'll send some in immediately, Majesty!" She smiled her thanks and continued along the path, Riddell at her side. After a few minutes of idle chatter about the week's schedule she looked at him.
"I've been meaning to ask you about your plans for the summer. You're welcome, of course, to accompany us to Finaqua. But you haven't had a day off since you started working for me."
"I assumed you'd tell me where I was to go." Riddell said tentatively. She laughed and, to his surprise, put a hand on his arm.
"I can, if you want! But I insist that you take some time off. You must have family or friends to see, maybe even someone more special?" The Queen said, stopping by a fountain. Riddell flushed slightly.
"I… no, no one like that. My parents and sisters live in the City; I would like to spend some time with them. But it need only be a few days."
"Well, I'll be gone for a month. I insist that you take at least a fortnight off. And then if you want to join us in Finaqua for the last week of our vacation, you can." She offered and he smiled.
"That would be very pleasant, Majesty."
"You'll love Finaqua. It's beautiful." She said, a dreamy expression crossing her face. "It's… well, its home."
"I know that this palace is technically home, in that it's where I live." She said, dipping a finger into the fountain. Riddell stared as the water began to glow different colours as it flew through the air, "But Finaqua is more of a home where I have family. Do you know the difference?"
"I… I've only ever lived in Central City, Majesty." Riddell said, still staring at the multicoloured water.
"That's not an appropriate use of your magic, DG."
They both turned to see Tutor walking along the pathway. The Queen smiled mischievously.
"You never let me have any fun, Toto."
"Tutor, please." The heavyset man said firmly, before shaking Riddell's hand, "Stuart, how are you?"
"Excellent sir." Riddell smiled. The Queen beamed at them both.
"I don't know how to thank you for finding him for me, Tutor. This man is a godsend."
"A suitable replacement for Glitch?" Tutor asked and Riddell wondered again why Lord Ambrose had ended up with this curious nickname. The Queen raised an eyebrow.
"Possibly better than Glitch, since he doesn't have the penchant for blowing things up." She said dryly and Tutor chuckled, patting Riddell on the shoulder.
"And how is your father, Stuart?"
"Very well, sir. He's hoping to get a position at the university, when it reopens."
Tutor and Simon Riddell had been at school together, both going on to teaching positions. But when the university had closed, during the Witch's reign, Simon had found himself forced to work in manual labour. Tutor nodded seriously at this.
"I should think he'll succeed. Stuart's father was a dedicated professor of literature, DG."
"I could try and pull a few strings, if you like." The Queen offered, "I mean, the council is meeting for the university plans next week, I can just throw his name out there."
"It couldn't do any harm. And how are your sisters?" Tutor asked Riddell. Riddell smiled, his face brightening.
"Numerous and noisy, when last I saw them!"
"Stuart has five sisters." Tutor explained and the Queen smiled.
"Five? And my mother thought she had trouble keeping track of two of us!" She laughed, waving her hand at the fountain and letting the water turn clear again.
Rex Nikan and Amber Tassell were sitting shyly when the Queen arrived in the sitting room, Riddell in her wake. They stood to meet her and she smiled.
"Baron, Lady Tassell, it's wonderful to see you both again. Please, sit." They all took their seats, Riddell standing at the Queen's shoulder as she glanced over the contact, before passing them to him. Whilst he examined them thoroughly she smiled at the couple.
"How long have you been close?"
"We met officially at your coronation ball, Majesty." Nikan explained, his fingers wrapping around the pretty young woman's, beside him. She blushed charmingly and the Queen's smile widened.
"Your families are both happy with the arrangement?"
"Indeed." Nikan nodded again. The Queen considered them for a moment, eyes darting from one face to the other.
"And you both? You're happy?"
The question seemed to catch them by surprise. They looked each other and shy smiled crossed their face, hands clasped sweetly. The Queen laughed lightly.
"Well, that answered that question!" She said, and turned to look up at Riddell. "How are the contracts?"
"They're all correct; I assume the families have negotiated the dowry?"
"It's all been arranged." Nikan said, smiling broadly. Riddell handed the contracts to the Queen, who signed them and then passed them back to the couple, all three standing.
"Congratulations. I hope you'll be happy." She said, smiling. As the gushing couple departed, the Queen sighed happily, rubbing the back of her neck.
"Is the consort free this afternoon?"
"He was finishing some paperwork in his study. I'll be in my office, if you need me." Riddell smiled.
He walked quickly to his office, running over in his mind the job list he'd put together. There were several files that needed delivering to the council members in preparation for their next meeting, he had a couple of letters to be posted, as well as replying to the many invitations that the Queen had received to various events and dinner parties. Riddell paused by the window in his office. It overlooked the vast green lawns and he saw the Queen herself, walking with the Consort. Riddell had not had many occasions to speak with this serious looking man, but the small signs of affection that he saw between them were those that implied a deep love. Even now, suspecting that nobody was watching as they stood by a row of thickly blooming trees, he saw the Consort swing the Queen around, the young woman laughing, and pulling her into a kiss.
Riddell moved away from the window, slightly ashamed at witnessing this private moment. Instead he sat at his desk and began to fill out forms, a smile playing across his lips.
If there was one thing that DG truly disliked about being queen, it was the fact that Royal Council felt privy to every aspect of her like. In particular, her lack of children. She gave Lord Mercer a stony look as he brought the subject up again, as he had done at every meeting for the past ten months. The fourteen other men sat silently, almost abashed by the subject. DG folded her arms.
"I do not understand why you insist on bringing this up at every meeting, Lord Mercer." She said icily, but the man did not waver under her gaze.
"Majesty, whilst the O.Z. is without an heir, the country is at risk."
"If, god forbid, I should die without an heir, then the throne would pass to my niece, Rosa, with my mother and sister ruling in her stead until she comes of age. I have told you, time and time again, I am not ready for children. I am still new at being queen and am not prepared to throw a child into the mix until I am ready." She said with finality.
Lord Mercer huffed and DG raised an eyebrow.
"I don't want this brought up again, Lord Mercer." She said quietly, "My family is my business. I will notify you if and when I become pregnant. Is that all?"
She stood without waiting for an answer and left the boardroom. The car was waiting for her and she glared out of the window all the way back to the palace. Riddell was waiting at the front door and Cain emerged just as she entered.
"How was the meeting?" Cain asked as she handed Riddell her notes and she glowered.
"It was bullshit." Riddell promptly dropped the notes and Cain raised an eyebrow.
"It was going fine until they demanded to know why I'm not spitting out babies left, right and centre!" She said, waving her hands in the air. Cain examined her furious expression before glancing at Riddell.
"Does she have anything else on today?"
"No, Lord Consort." Riddell mumbled, still in shock. Cain nodded.
"Take the rest of the day. I'll handle her."
"I don't need bloody handling, Cain! I need those old asses to keep their noses out of my business!" DG said angrily, but Cain was already steering her towards their private sitting room. She managed to keep her outburst restrained until he had closed the door before exploding in a tirade about their nosiness, rudeness, inappropriate behaviour and personal hygiene (becoming slightly more childish in her insults towards the end).
Cain stood, watching her pace back and forward muttering to herself before catching her arm and pulled her to him. She buried her face in his chest and he rested his chin on her head.
"Sweetheart, it's none of their business anyhow. There's no hurry for kids."
"But there is. That's what is making me so mad; I need to produce an heir. I knew that when I signed up for the job, I just… I just don't know if I'm ready to be a mother." She mumbled into his shirt. Cain lifted her chin and kissed her gently.
"Darling, whenever you decide to have children, and notice that I'm saying children and not heirs… well, you'll be an amazing mother." He told her firmly.
Glitch walked quietly through the grass at Finaqua, watching the lovely woman on the gazebo. In her arms, bundled in light material, lay a sleeping child. Glitch smiled at the expression on his wife's face; it was one he saw a lot these days. A charming mixture of disbelief and joy as she stared down at her daughter. Azkadellia looked up at his approach and smiled.
"Are they here yet?"
"Not yet." Glitch said quietly, leaning over his wife's shoulder to gaze down at the beautiful child. Rosa snuffled in her sleep, tiny starfish hands rubbing over the material of her blankets. After an uncertain moment her eyes opened, dark and deep. She looked up at the two faces looking adoringly at her and then reached out her hands. Glitch chuckled, pressing a finger to one hand and feeling his heart leap delightfully as tiny fingers closed around it. She had grown so much in the two months since her birth, even sleeping five or six hours through the night.
Azkadellia lifted her into Glitch's arms and he paced back and forward on the gazebo, jiggling her up and down as he told her about his latest experiments. Azkadellia laughed quietly, swinging gently on the seat. Glitch caught her eye and she felt a smile spreading across her face as her chest swelled with the love she hasn't known she was capable of.
Suddenly her magic flared within her, something she hadn't felt in over an annual. She gasped and Glitch grinned.
"They're here?" Azkadellia nodded and they walked hurriedly from the gazebo towards the house. Sure enough, as they entered the palace, two familiar figures were greeting Lavender and Ahamo. DG's eyes met Azkadellia's and both sisters let out a cry of joy, embracing each other tightly. Glitch stood back, watching with happiness as the women chattered like monkeys over each other, desperate to share their news. DG turned to Glitch, beaming.
"Glitch!" She went to embrace him, an awkward one-armed hug around the bundle in his arms. Azkadellia was kissing Cain's cheek but DG's eyes had fixed on the baby who was making a cooing noise. Azkadellia crossed to her husband and lifted the child into her sister's arms.
"DG, this is Rosa. Rosa, this is your Auntie DG." She said. DG stared down at the baby without speaking. She recognised Azkadellia's eyes immediately and fought back tears. Cain moved to her side and looked down at Rosa.
"She looks just like you, Azkadellia." He commented and Glitch laughed.
"Lucky for her, eh?"
"Here's hoping she's got your brilliance." Azkadellia smiled fondly.
"There's tea in the sitting room." Lavender announced, beaming at her family. DG made her way to a seat, still clutching awkwardly at Rosa. Cain stood by her, a hand on her shoulder. Azkadellia sat beside her sister, beaming. Lavender bent to kiss DG's forehead.
"Darling, I can't believe we haven't seen you in an annual." She murmured and DG sighed.
"I know… it's…"
And then she'd had to hand Rosa to Glitch and bury her face in her sister's shoulder, crying noisily. Everyone, apart from Cain, looked shocked and gathered around her.
"Doll, what's the matter?"
"It's nothing!" DG said, giving them a watery smile, "It's just… oh, I missed you all so much!"
She dissolved into tears again and Cain offered to take the baby whilst they gathered around her, embracing and kissing her. DG glanced over at him as she hugged Glitch and the sight of him stood so easily with a baby in his arms almost made her want to cry again.
DG walked with her mother and sister by the lake after dinner, with Rosa asleep and the men talking politics. Azkadellia linked arms with her.
"Are you really alright?" She asked in concern and DG nodded as her mother took her hand.
"I am. Really. It's just hard sometimes. I genuinely don't know what I'd do without Cain."
"You never seemed at all upset in your letters." Azkadellia murmured. She seemed to have taken DG's misery to heart.
"I'm not upset! OK, I got a little hysterical back there, but that's only because I missed everyone so much." DG said firmly, "It was a culture shock. One minute I had my family and best friends around and the next… and take that look off your face, Az."
Azkadellia had paused, looking utterly heartbroken. DG gave her a dry look.
"Az, you got married. I wasn't expecting you and Glitch to hang around. The reason I became queen was so that you could go and have a life, remember? And you, Mother. I couldn't be happier that you're both away from that city, living peaceful and happy lives. So just ignore my hysteria, OK?"
Neither of them looked terribly convinced. DG sank onto the dry grass by the lake's edge, soaking in the sunshine. They sat beside her and Lavender touched her daughter's hand.
"My angel… please be truthful with us." She said quietly. DG stared out over the lake for a minute.
They only want to help you, DG.
DG smiled briefly and put a hand over the Emerald.
"Truthfully? I'm fine. I love what I do. I love helping people and making a difference to the O.Z. I have Cain and Ozma, they've been amazing. I miss you all, but I'm just glad that we're getting on with our lives. Now, I want to hear all about Amnis Sedes. What does that mean, anyway?"
As the conversation turned to more amiable things, Lavender watched her daughter closely. She had seen this look before, this uncertainty in oneself. She had seen it in herself, shortly after her coronation. It had been a sad affair, overshadowed by the death of her mother, and Lavender had been so very young, younger even than DG was now. Even though she had been preparing to become Queen her entire life, the actual coming of it had shocked her. Lavender remembered well the sleepless nights, the constant stress that something was about to go wrong, being pulled to and fro by council members, ambassadors and noblemen.
She had taken herself away for a few days with one or two soldiers, desperate from some peace from the baying hounds. She had come to Finaqua and welcomed a strange man down from the sky, carried in a balloon from a far-off place. Lavender smiled to herself as her daughters talked.
DG would be fine.
"How is she?" Ahamo asked Cain as they stood in one of the rooms of the palace, watching the women sat by the lake. Glitch, who had just returned from putting Rosa to sleep, joined them by the window. Cain let out a heavy breath.
"She's a good queen. Everybody who meets her adores her."
"Not what I asked, Cain." Ahamo pointed out and Cain shook his head.
"Most of the time, she's happy. But there are times when I can tell that she misses you all, not that she'd say it out loud. She spends a lot of time talking to Ozma and I think that helps. It doesn't help that the council are on her back half the time. I think she'd disband them given half a chance."
"How is her new Royal Advisor?" Glitch asked and Cain smirked.
"Jealous, are we? He's fine. Good guy, very organised but not much of a sense of humour. But he does make sure she's kept busy – lots of charity events, dinners, that sort of thing. It's the best thing for her, really. And he schedules us private time together every few days."
"And you, Cain?" Glitch asked. Cain's eyes were fixed on the figure by the lake.
"I'm happy where she is."
At dinner that night, the conversation was light and the laughter heavy. DG dissolved into giggles as Cain retold the events of a dinner party they'd attended in the autumn.
"And this gentleman must have been living in a cave for the last twenty annuals, since he had no idea that DG was Queen." He said and DG snorted with laughter as they all chuckled.
"But he started going on about how useless all the Tin Men are, and how they're just messing everything up and they need to recruit more soldiers like him, like ones they had back in the day," She laughed, "And they were all staring at him and nobody wanted to say anything and then Cain just puts down his knife and fork, real calm, and says-"
"'That isn't an Ixian medal of honour you're wearing.'" Cain smiled and DG threw her head back in laughter.
"It was a Tin Man badge! He'd bought it in some old pawn shop and was claiming he'd earned in the Great Battles!"
"Turns out he was a deserter in the war, and since so few of the survivors actually live in Central City, he was parading himself as a war hero." Cain explained, "I had the royal guard look into his background, turns out he was wanting on fourteen accounts of fraud around the city under different names."
"The Kalikos were delighted, they've invited us dinner the day after we get back to the city, I don't think they've had that much fun in years!" DG said. Azkadellia was laughing into her napkin, tears streaming from her eyes whilst Glitch guffawed loudly.
Eventually the laughter subsided and from the next room, the faint whimpers of Rosa stirring reached their ears. Azkadellia rose, but Glitch waved at her to sit, going to check on her. DG smiled at her sister.
"He's a proud daddy, isn't he?"
"He adores her." Azkadellia said, her face pink with delight. Lavender smiled at her daughters.
"Any sign of children on your part, my angel?" She asked and Cain glanced at DG, whose eyes had hit the tablecloth immediately.
"Um… I don't know." She mumbled and Cain's hand crossed the table to clutch hers. "It's not that I don't want children, I do! I'm just not ready yet, you know?"
"Perfectly understandable." Ahamo said and DG grinned at him.
"That's because you still think I'm five, Dad. Anyway, I don't exactly have a lot of free time to be raising a child right now, especially with the council breathing down my neck." She said. "They're desperate for me to produce an heir."
"They worry too much, don't pay them too much mind." Lavender said firmly, "Your daughter will be your child first and an heir second."
"Daughter? You sound pretty convinced there." Cain commented and Lavender smiled.
"Matriarchal line, Cain. DG would have to have a daughter to provide an heir."
"So what happens if I just keep having boys? How many kids are they expecting here?" DG said, anxiety filling her voice. Cain smiled and kissed her temple.
"Don't even worry about it, sweetheart. It's not something you need to think about until you're ready."
"You'll be a wonderful mother, Deej." Azkadellia said, full of certainty, "You have so much love in you. It will be the most natural thing in the world for you."
"Everyone seems so certain." DG said quietly, trying to joke but her fear betraying her. Azkadellia looked at her sister and DG saw the complete honesty in her gaze.
"When you're ready, Deej… you'll be fine."
Two Weeks Later
Cain had lost DG. She'd helped make breakfast and then he'd gone up to the orchard at Pacalisaqua with Raw to inspect the blooms and when he'd returned, neither Glitch nor Azkadellia had seen her. Cain paused by his sister-in-law to touch Rosa's head and wish her a good morning.
"Well, she's not in the library, the sitting room or the study. Could she have gone back to bed or to the lake?" Azkadellia asked. Cain shook his head.
"I don't think so. I'll have another look around."
"Alright. Wyatt?" He paused and she smiled at him. "I haven't thanked you for taking care of her."
"Not something I do for thanks, Az." He smiled. She laughed, cooing to the baby who was grabbing at strands of her hair.
Cain walked at a leisurely pace through the rooms of Pacalisaqua. They'd been in the house for a week and DG had been completely transformed, every ounce of strain leaving her at once. She laughed and teased and chattered with her friends, delighted to see Raw and showing him every part of the house. He knew that this break had been just what she needed. She'd arranged for Riddell to meet them in Finaqua and she was actually looking forward to getting stuck back in to business. Especially since Glitch and Azkadellia had promised to travel to Central City for Lurlinemas that winter.
Faintly, he heard her voice and silently opened the door to the garage. Dressed in a ragged pair of trousers and what looked like one of his worn shirts, DG was bent over the engine of the car they'd brought, chatting with Ozma.
"There's no way you're going to convince me that that is true, Ozma! No way!" She laughed, not noticing the man in the doorway.
I assure you, DG, I am telling the truth. My Dorothy had quite the temper, when confronted. When her daughter, Glinda, tried to sneak out of school, she became absolutely infuriated!
"With a name like Glinda, I'm not surprised."
It's a traditional OZian name, DG.
"Well, I can tell you right now, no kid of mine is going to be called Glinda. And I certainly wouldn't inflict it with the double use of 'Gale'. Seriously, DorothiGale Gale? I sound like a bad joke." DG said, unscrewing a bolt and peering at it.
"What would you call it?" Cain spoke up and DG looked up in surprise.
"Hey there, Tin Man. Didn't see you."
"Say hi for me." He nodded at the glowing Emerald.
Good morning, Lord Cain.
"She says hi back." DG smiled, cleaning the bolt and putting it back into place. Cain smiled at her messy appearance.
"You look cheerful, sweetheart." He commented and she wrinkled her nose. Her usual oil smudge was smeared across one cheek.
"Fixing a car is a heck of a lot easier than fixing a country." She said, twisting two wires together.
"You do both well." He commented, joining her by the car. "So, what would you call it?"
She looked at him for a moment and the Emerald brightened. Cain eyed it and DG smiled.
"She says I should choose a traditional OZian name."
"Not her kid." Cain reminded her and DG laughed, eyes considering him.
"I'm not sure… not for a girl, anyway. Too much pressure there, whatever it is, it has to go well with the 'Queen' in front of it."
"And for a boy?" Cain asked. DG was silent for a moment and then removed the Emerald, placing it carefully onto a clean work surface before facing her husband again.
"If it's OK… I'd like Tippetarius. I mean, we'd have to come up with some kind of nickname. But if you want something different, that's fine."
"Where in the O.Z. did Tippetarius come from?" Cain asked curiously and DG glanced at the glowing Emerald, feeling the emotions of it wash over her.
"It was the name of Ozma's husband." She explained quietly, "I'm thinking we'd have to shorten it to Tip for day to day use. He'd get picked on mercilessly, but I didn't want to tell her that."
"It's a good name." Cain smiled and DG grinned, wrapping her arms around him, neither of them really minding about the oil smears.
"OK. Then you get to pick a girl's name. That way we're sorted either way, when it eventually happens." She said, kissing him swiftly. Cain smiled, rubbing her oily cheek with a gentle, calloused finger.
"A girl's name, huh? Well… since Glinda is off the list," DG laughed, "What about Emily? After your nurture unit Mom?"
DG's smile widened and she kissed him again.
"You're a good man, Mr Cain." She said, standing on tiptoe to press her forehead to his. His warm, lazy smile, so familiar, crossed his face.
"Glad you think so, Mrs Cain. Now…" He glanced at the half-deconstructed engine. "Can I lend you a hand with that? I imagine you want to get back to Finaqua and if we leave it like that, we'll need to start walking now."
"Have a little faith, will you? I am an excellent mechanic. Pass me the three quarter inch wrench and I'll show you how it's done." She bent over the engine and he passed her a wrench. From somewhere nearby, Azkadellia and Glitch's voices floated through the air, whispering and laughing under their breath as they spent a few precious moments together whilst Rosa dozed in her cot. Raw was walking by the lake, marvelling at how a single place could contain so much love and how he felt more peaceful here than he did even in the Homeland.
And as DG and Cain worked on the complex machinery, speaking little and feeling much, both were thinking of their first visit to this place, to the circumstances that had changed, the emotions that had swelled and faded and of the bonds they had formed. And as they worked, they felt the closeness of the other and felt something that both had been searching for, for so long and had only ever found in each other.
You touch these tired eyes of mine
And map my face out line by line
And somehow growing old feels fine
I listen close for I'm not smart
You wrap your thoughts in works of art
And they're hanging on the walls of my heart
I may not have the softest touch
I may not say the words as such
And though I may not look like much
And though my edges may be rough
And never feel I'm quite enough
It may not seem like very much
But I'm yours
I'm Yours – The Script
A/N: Oh my dear, darling, wonderful readers, I have become far too emotionally attached to this story! But now it is finished – no sequel, because I feel that it has run its course. More than I expected it to, actually, seeing as how it was originally going to end after the confrontation with Zero. But as a rule, I don't like writing sequels. I wanted to show here how DG might struggle as queen, because let's face it – things just don't go smoothly, do they? It's a hard job, with a lot of pressure from every angle, but at the end of the day, she'll be alright. I'm going to miss these characters!
There are a few people I'd like to thank, and they're the ones who have been with me pretty much since the beginning and my faithful reviewers. KLCtheBookWorm, vixen519, Onora, Lyra Darkfury, Queen Isabella, trigun1509, captain ty, leat79. There are others, obviously and my heartfelt thanks go out to you as well! It takes a lot to stick through a story and I'm incredibly grateful that you did!
I'm sure there will be another Tin Man fic from me before long. These characters are far too irresistible! I've already planned and started a new one, but I'd like to get a few chapters written first time make sure it's going to work out, but keep an eye out! Anyway, I'm going to go now, I'm still revising for that horrid exam that I have tomorrow! So please leave a review on your way out!
Lots of Love and Gratitude