Disclaimer: The problem with these disclaimers is that stating the obvious is rather boring, thus necessitating a rather wasted creativity. I own only what I own, and not what I don't own. Duh.
Author's Note: I am of the opinion that stories are not added to the Tin Man site fast enough. I am doing my part in changing this.
Midlife crisis. It wasn't a term known to the O.Z. According to the story that the slipper princess was telling the formerly possessed one, this occurred when a man suddenly became unsure of his place in life, bought a sports car, and ran off with a girl half his age. He wasn't sure why, but Wyatt Cain felt somewhat uncomfortable as he contemplated the term. It was alarmingly...applicable.
Once upon a time he'd been a Tin Man, sworn to uphold the law and keep the peace in the O.Z. Then a coup and his conscience forced him to turn his back on the government and join the resistance. This, in turn, led him to being beaten, locked in a tin suit, and forced to watch his family being torn apart for well nigh a decade. Of course, he'd been let out just in time to be required to shepherd an amnesiac princess, a headcase, and a cowardly viewer through a harrowing quest to find a magic emerald and stop a princess possessing witch from destroying the O.Z. Added to which he also had to find his family and capture the bastard that had locked him up in the first place - all within a week's deadline, naturally. Ok, so he knew about crisis.
The insecurity about his place in life was far too easy. Since the day of the eclipse Cain had found himself in the unfamiliar position of being a political figure. As one of the now well known heroes of the O.Z. his part in the restoration seemed to be, to his frustration, hanging out with the royal family and being put on display when the occasion warranted in a show of solidarity. To a man used to doing it was extremely aggravating. As he was constitutionally unable to sit around doing nothing, he'd found himself becoming, in the past year, some sort of unofficial companion/bodyguard to the crown princess of the O.Z. This, frankly, drove the official royal guard absolutely nuts.
It wasn't that they objected to Cain himself, it was just that the Tin Man couldn't leave well enough alone. Nearly obsessively paranoid regarding the safety of the royal family, and one princess in particular, Cain was constantly checking and rechecking their security protocols. To make matters worse, the one time they did slip up, the former Longcoat assassin got within sight the crown princess before the Tin Man himself put a bullet in him. The entire royal guard had then had no choice but accept the situation as Wyatt Cain dragged them each and individually over the carpet, and had to grit their teeth as he put them through his own hellish training program.
Yet despite all that he found to keep himself busy, the old Tin Man still found sufficient time to wonder what exactly he was going to do with himself in the future. With no real purpose, lacking a clear path, he felt disconnected and a little lost. Hectic as that first week out of the suit had been, at least he'd had an idea as to what needed doing. Unsure of his place in life? Check.
He wasn't so sure about the sports car thing. In the weird way of the O.Z. technology, they had time loop holographic projectors but the automobile had hardly advanced past Otherside WWII. The sports car hadn't exactly been invented yet. The Tin Man had, on the other hand, commandeered De Milo's...wagon, perhaps that counted?
Girl half his age, however, he definitely had covered. DG was only a few older than his grown son and while, granted, he hadn't actually run off with her, his feelings for her were not of the platonic kind. It was inevitable really. After an eternity of watching his family beaten, how could he not fall in love with the slight young woman who'd barged in on the scene swinging a twig that would have snapped over the head of the first Longcoat she hit without doing any real damage? (Reviewing that particular memory later he'd promptly set her up with some lessons in combat and educated her on the selection of weapons that would actually be of use.) And he'd been simply unable at time, despite his desperate need to track down and avenge himself on Zero, to allow her to continue her hunt for her parents with only the doubtful protection of the zipperhead. That, of course, had been the beginning. After that, the longer he stayed the more she forced him do what was right and remember all that he had once stood for. She'd hauled him out of his living grave and in the insane week that followed he'd fought his demons, grieved his wife, found his son, helped save the world, and . . . fallen in love.
There was, unfortunately, the slight complication of her being the crown princess of the O.Z. Since the first few weeks after the eclipse the queen had decided it would be best to get the royal court up and running again. This naturally had led to the resumption of balls and plays, noble gatherings . . . and a sudden onslaught of suitors. Neither the queen nor the consort had any intention in interfering in the love lives and marriages of their daughters; they simply had the desire to give their girls the best selection of eligible bachelors available. Noble intentions in mind, they sent out open invitations aplenty, the result being the descent of every wannabe royal hopeful from every corner of the O.Z. and, indeed, beyond. It was a nightmare for security, and even more so for Cain as it soon became apparent that they were all still very much terrified of Azkadellia and were therefore intent on wooing DG.
Not that any of them actually managed to get near her. It seemed that no matter how early the prospective suitors arose, the crown princess already up and out riding with her determined Tin Man. In this Cain was aided by her farm upbringing which had accustomed her to early mornings. After her whirlwind quest and the busy weeks following, she'd fallen into the habit of rising with the sun and therefore made no demur when Cain started showing up at the crack of dawn with a picnic breakfast and a destination far removed from whichever palace they were currently occupying. Regular as clockwork, he had her back just in time for her lessons with Tutor which took up the rest of her morning. As she liked to take lunch with Az no suitor dare disturb her before she was once again caught up in her afternoons of lessons and combat training with Glitch. For a while the suitors had hoped that dinner would provide the opportunity they needed, unfortunately it seemed that since it had been reunited the royal family had been using dinner as bonding time. No one else was invited. After dinner, they were startled to find, the Tin Man whisked the princess away once more for lessons of his own devising. While none of the nobles could understand why a princess should need to learn how to shoot and survive in the wilderness they found, between the Tin Man's glare and the princess' tales of her quest, that they were unable to argue. Most frustratingly of all, by the time she returned she was so tired out from her busy day all she wanted to do was read quietly for a while before going to bed. Read. In the library. With Az.
Everything worked out according to the Tin Man's plan for months before someone suddenly pulled the rug out from under him. He did not know if it was Tutor's own idea or if someone had put him up to it, but all of a sudden the man started letting DG out early or giving her the afternoon off, and always, it seemed, when Cain wasn't on hand with a princess extraction plan. 'She's made a lot of progress.' Right, sure, and the witch didn't mean to kill DG, it just happened. Now the blasted suitors were getting time with her all over the place and, worse still, some even had the gall to cut into Cain's time with DG. They were lucky they hadn't been shot. In fact . . .
The Tin Man had been brooding silently all through DG's lunch and Tales from the Otherside session with Azkadellia, thus the princesses were startled when he stood suddenly and strode purposely from the room. They stared after him momentarily then shrugged their shoulders and returned to their conversation. The man had been in a foul mood recently, they could only hope he wasn't about to pummel or shoot someone and thought it best to leave him be, though DG made a mental note to speak to him at the next opportunity.
Two hours later, released from lessons inexplicably early, that opportunity did not seem immediately forthcoming. Not only had the Tin Man mysteriously vanished but some Lord Pompous of Boringville had ensnared her into tedious converse and was even attempting to finagle an after dinner walk out of the encounter. DG was just thinking about how she was going to shoot Tutor for opening up her schedule and leaving her vulnerable when the sudden sound of pounding horse hooves drew her attention.
Cain smiled tightly as the mass of suitors scrambled to get out of the way of the charging steed. Good idea on their part as this horse wasn't stopping for nobility. Indeed, he only slowed at all when he got near DG so that he could scoop her up behind him without hurting her. My princess, get your own. Mission accomplished, he turned the horse towards the open fields and kicked it into a gallop once more.
Such was DG's trust in her Tin Man that she didn't think once to question his actions, merely noted that this was the horse he'd once ridden to rescue her from marble tomb and thought it oddly appropriate. Suffocated to death, bored to death, quite similar dangers really. It was only when she noticed the saddlebags that she reflected that his behaviour had been rather odd of late.
"Cain," she asked finally, "what are you doing?"
"Midlife crisis," he muttered back.
There was a moment of shocked silence then understanding lit her eyes. Pealing laughter rang out, trailing behind them as if to mock their pursuers.