Disclaimer: I do not disagree that I do not own this.


...

The whole castle was coming to the conclusion that the youngest princess of the O.Z. had lost her mind. There really was no other way to explain her behaviour. True, the girl had always been a bit strange, most in the O.Z. attributed it to the time she'd spent in the Otherside, but today she was beyond explanation.

It had come without warning. One minute she was having a whispered conversation with Azkadelia over lunch, then the next she had hopped up and ran out of the room. The entire table stared after her in astonishment until her faithful Tin Man got up and went after her. She made it halfway across the castle before he caught up.

"Anything wrong, Princess?" he asked.

DG merely smiled at him winningly and continued to stride casually along.

Cain was one to respect people's silences – unless he felt a particular need for their information – so he proceeded to match her steps, trusting her to speak if she needed to tell him anything. He spent a moment regretting his half eaten meal but knew there was no way he'd be able to eat in peace knowing that DG was running about the castle alone. Besides, there was something strangely restful about these companionable walks.

Of course, just as he thought that, DG went tearing up the stairs to the north tower, the tallest tower in Central City Palace. Startled though he was, the Tin Man was soon charging up the stairs right after her.

Reaching the top, breathing heavily and trying to catch her breath, DG turned to watch the Tin Man lumber up the last few steps. Grinning ear to ear, she watched as he bent, huffing and puffing, trying desperately to get needed oxygen into his overtaxed lungs.

"Kid?" he managed to gasp out between breaths.

Once again, however, she said nothing, merely tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and dragged him along as she started skipping back down the steps again.

By now, of course, Cain was beginning to feel a bit alarmed. She wasn't talking and her behaviour was approaching bizarre. Sure she was walking quietly - well mostly quietly as she'd started humming - for the moment, but he didn't trust it to last.

And he was right. DG's docility only lasted until they got outside when she suddenly sprinted across the courtyard to the oldest tree growing there. Then she threw herself into its limbs and started to climb.

The Tin Man went ballistic. He shouted, he commanded, he threatened, he wanted her out of that tree right now.

DG, of course, kept climbing.

Dancing about on his feet, looking for all the world like a nervous bear, Cain hesitated a moment longer before throwing himself into the tree after her. It had been many, many years since Wyatt Cain had climbed a tree, but at this particular moment he was feeling very energetic. DG may have gotten a good head start, but he powered up after her so determinedly that he overtook her before they were more than halfway up. And once he had, he made it very clear that they were going back down again. Now.

DG just smiled and complied.

When they hit the ground Cain's intention was to march her right back inside and sit her down to talk. He'd tie her up if he had to. The Tin Man was not surprised, however, when DG's feet no sooner touched dirt than she was off again. He was beginning to see a pattern in the making.

Again he was not wrong. For the next few hours the Cain chased DG through Central City trying, but failing, to turn her back towards the palace. She raced down streets and through (and occasionally up) buildings, she danced through a parade and waltzed along the city walls. To their astonishment, and Cain's dismay, she joined the City Guard in one of their training manoeuvres. Ignoring the bridges, she waded through the river, only prevented from swimming in it by a quick save on the Tin Man's part, getting him thoroughly soaked in the process. She tried to make a quick dash through Sin Square but the Tin Man, red faced with anger, caught her before she'd gotten half a block and dragged her forcefully away. So she had to choose a different destination.

Cain probably would have preferred Sin Square.

"Wow," DG said at last, studying him with awe. It was hard to tell at this point if his red face was due more to anger or embarrassment.

"Are you going to finally tell me what's gotten into you today, Princess?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"Wow," DG said again, "Azkadelia said you'd follow me anywhere but I thought there had to be some limits. She was right, though. I mean, if you were willing to follow me in here...wow."

The Tin Man closed his eyes in a pained grimace. A test. This whole damned afternoon had been some sort of deranged test of something the kid should already know. Anger was beginning to win over embarrassment. He was going to get her for this; he didn't know how, didn't know when, but retribution was definitely on the menu...but first things first. Doing his best to ignore the corsets, the brassieres, and the astonished stares of the women, the Tin Man grabbed the princess by the collar and thrust her out the door of the lingerie shop. He was very quick to follow.

DG simply smiled.