Disclaimer: When I own Tin Man I shall let you know, if only to make everyone insanely jealous of me. Until then I shall accompany the misery that is Tin Man non-ownership. Thumbelina may continue to own itself with my good will.
Author's Note: I hereby dedicate this story to Bookworm Gal who insisted it must be done. As is fairly evident, I totally agree, my only hope is that it lives up to your expectations.
Wyatt Cain, Tin Man, Hero of the Eclipse and unofficial member of Princess DG's protection detail, was not panicking. The fact that his princess had been out of his, and apparently everyone else's, sight for over two hours now was not making him frantic. That there had been no sign of any disaster or disturbance that usually indicated the kid's presence and general good health was by no means making him anxious. He had mostly certainly not uprooted a small tree out of frustration with his so far fruitless, but calm and collected search. No, Wyatt Cain was not going out of his mind with worry, he was simply concerned.
And nobody had really liked the organization of Finaqua maze anyhow.
Bulling sedately through another patch of unfortunate undergrowth, the Tin Man issued summonses to the princess in the dulcet tones of a raging tornado. When no answer was forthcoming, he pirouetted with grace and gently annihilated the inconvenient tree that dare get in his way. It had obviously been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obstruction removed, he charged demurely off once more to delicately scour the forest for a wayward princess that was most certainly not going to be throttled when he found her.
Fifteen minutes and several misplaced trees later, the Tin Man stopped for a breather induced mostly by the fact that he'd gotten his foot caught in a hunting snare. While he contemplated which would work best in releasing him quickest – shooting it with his revolver or sawing through the ropes with his razor – a small weight dropped down from somewhere above to land solidly on his hat. Cain was just starting to swing a hand at the offending object when a very tiny DG swung herself over the brim of his fedora to hang precariously in front of the Tin Man's astonished face.
"Hi," she said breathlessly in the tiniest of voices.
The hand already on route to his head received follow up instructions that the princess was now hanging by her fingers at a height that was, for her current size, deadly and instantly altered course to remove her from danger.
"Thank goodness you found me, Cain, it would have taken me a month to reach the palace in my current state, if I didn't starve to death on the way there," DG sighed with relief, slumping back into his cupped palm in utter exhaustion and making him immediately forget his nonexistent plans to strangle her.
"What happened to you, Kiddo?" he inquired not at all anxiously, examining her for injury as best he could without a magnifying glass.
"Well," she replied in that oh so innocent voice she used when explaining her various debacles, "I was letting the light flow through me..."
The Tin Man groaned with instant foreboding intuition. Pressing the fingers of his other hand to the bridge of his nose he stated in a tone of weary resignation, "You shrunk yourself, didn't you, and now you don't know how to make yourself big again."
"It should have worked," DG responded defensively, "I mean, come on, Azkadellia used to shrink people all the time – she used to shrink herself all the time. She still can when she wants to. If I'm supposed to be all fired more powerful than her I should be able to manage."
"So you took yourself out to the middle of the forest without telling anyone to try this for the first time?"
"It wasn't the first time," she muttered mutinously, "just the first time it worked. I thought it would help me concentrate."
Cain sighed, "Let's get you back to the palace so Azkadellia can fix you up."
This turned out to be easier said than done, however, as the Tin Man had forgotten about the snare currently entangling his foot. The resultant clumsy flailing induced by the sudden loss of balance coupled with his rampant fear of squishing DG was not something Cain exactly wished for her to witness, luckily the princess was far too preoccupied with the extreme induced vertigo to really notice much else. The razor turned out to be the answer to said problem as the Tin Man sliced himself free while DG lay on a nearby stump watching the world spin.
Walking back to the palace shortly thereafter, Cain endeavoured to ignore the fact that he quite literally had his hands all over the princess while DG took this opportunity to take a nap. The eldest princess proved to be almost as difficult to find as the youngest. After an extensive search of all the most likely places in Finaqua Palace, the Tin Man finally ran his quarry to ground in the main audience chamber. Azkadellia was accompanied by the Queen, the Consort, and a rather toad-like couple that were evidently mother and son.
"There you are Cain," Azkadellia said before the Tin Man had a chance to say a word, "have you seen DG? Lady Amphibia and her son wish to make a formal offer of courtship and, well, no one seems to know where she is."
In a rather childish gesture that made him wince internally, Cain abruptly hid his hand behind his back and cleared his throat to cover the sound of DG's surprised yelp. "No, I, uh, couldn't say where she is," he didn't lie; he prevaricated, backing slowly towards the nearby window, "You know how she wanders." Setting the youngest princess down gently on the ledge so that he could bring his hands back into view, the Tin Man held his breath as he waited for a reaction. The Queen and Consort accepted his explanation readily enough, and Princess Azkadellia didn't look suspicious at all. Nope, not at all, and her lip wasn't twitching either.
"Do you think maybe you could find her for us?" asked the Queen, "You always seem to have the best luck."
"Yes, ma'am," he acknowledged with a tip of his fedora, "I'll just go..."
A small scream and a louder screech interrupted his exit, the Tin Man whirled swiftly and, to the astonishment of the assembled company, leapt out the second story window after the bird they didn't know had just snatched up the youngest princess of the O.Z.
Having secured a good grip on the bird's wing, Cain's next order of business was to fasten a restraining hand on its feet as well as flip them all accordingly so that when they met the ground moments later, the Tin Man landed on the bottom. Groaning at the impact, Cain set to work prying away the talons encasing his princess. Tossing the bird aside and holding DG up once more for inspection, the Tin Man discovered a long scratch marring her forearm. Without any conscious thought, the revolver cleared the holster and shot the bird out of the air before it had gotten more than a few feet. Had probably put the poor thing out of its misery – the landing couldn't have been any kinder for it than it had been for Cain.
"You ok, Princess?" the Tin Man gritted out.
"Am I ok?" DG sputtered in response, "You just fell out a window! I get picked up by flying creatures all the time, are you ok?"
"'Snot my first time out a window, I'll be fine," Cain mumbled, trying to sit up. Falling back with a pained grunt, he murmured woozily, "I'm just going to lie here for a bit. You ok?"
Rolling her eyes in exasperation, the princess assured him that only minor damage had been done. Anything further she might have said, however, was interrupted by the Royal Family's arrival on the scene. Depositing DG hastily on his chest and hiding her beneath his fedora, the Tin Man endeavoured to assure everyone that he wasn't injured, he was just resting. Ignoring his protests, the Queen and eldest princess immediately set to checking for injuries. They couldn't get him to budge the hat, though.
"Yes, I'm sure you're fine," said Ahamo as the Cain continued his protests, "and just why did you feel the need to jump out of the window, hmmm?"
"Bird stole my g...un. Had to get it back."
Glancing from the dead bird to the revolver once more resting in its holster, the Consort replied doubtfully, "Riiight. Ok then, nothing's broken, let's get you up."
Helping the Tin Man to his feet was especially difficult with the way he insisted on keeping the fedora pressed to his chest. Fearing Cain had some as yet undiscovered injury, Ahamo made another attempt to get past the forbidden hat, only to have his hands swatted unceremoniously away. Leaning unsteadily forward, the Tin Man settled the hat carefully onto his head. Only after he felt the odd, but reassuring feeling of DG settling herself into his hair did Cain accept the Consort's assistance in hobbling back to his room.
Managing to rid himself of the concerned royals at the door, the Tin Man staggered the rest of the way to the bed, deposited the miniature princess on the pillow, and divested himself painfully of his duster, boots and fedora. Feeling that that was quite enough for one day, he crawled fully clothed into bed and called it a night.
"Are you sure you are ok?" DG asked from somewhere near his ear.
Cracking an eye open to peer at her wearily, Cain reassured her, "Nothing a good night's sleep won't cure, why do you ask?"
Arching an eyebrow, DG mused, "Oh, I don't know, maybe because I'm the size of your thumb, there's a marriage proposal waiting in the audience hall, and as far as my family knows I'm missing and yet you have apparently decided it's nap time."
"Well you don't want to marry that Lord Thingummy anyhow," he muttered.
"Definitely not," the princess agreed, "he looks like a toad and doesn't even know me, but that's not the point...oh never mind," she capitulated, noticing the Tin Man's eyes drifting shut. Apparently the events of the day had been a bit much even for the indefatigable Cain; come to think of it she was fairly exhausted herself. A nap sounded pretty good. Curling up in the hollow of his throat, DG let the sound of the Tin Man's breathing lull her into a peaceful sleep.
"Cain," Ahamo yelled, bursting into the room some hours later, "I'm sorry to disturb you when you're wounded but we still can't find...WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?" he bellowed abruptly as he gazed in shock at the scene before him.
DG groaned in protest and tried to bury her face further into the Tin Man's neck. Cain, meanwhile, muttered incoherently and tightened his hold on the princess' waist. Neither showed any signs of relinquishing their comfortable slumber.
"I. Said. What. Is. This," the Consort hissed, stalking forward.
"Oh my," another voice said in shocked accents, "this really won't do."
"Indeed," a third voice interjected snidely, "I'm not taking some commoner's left...yipe!" the lordling broke off in panic as a bullet buried itself in the wall by his head.
"You dare," the fully alert Tin Man growled, leaning protectively over his princess, "So much as think of finishing that sentence or any like it and the next one won't be a warning. I will allow no one to sully her in any way."
"Us sully her?" Lady Amphibia exclaimed indignantly, "You're the one who...ah," she wavered as the revolver was aimed her way.
"You were saying?" Cain asked menacingly.
"Yes, do tell us how scandalous it is for me to be caught with Cain fully clothed," DG muttered grumpily, sitting up, "In fact I am fully clothed around Cain all the time, how shall I ever escape the shame? Obviously we must be married at once lest I be utterly ruined."
"Naturally," young Lord Amphibia interpolated to the surprise of everyone.
Cain and DG blinked at him. Ahamo and Lady Amphibia goggled. The princess and Tin Man turned to each other.
"Works for me," said DG.
"Ahamo," inquired Cain, "may I ask for your daughter's hand in marriage?"
"But...what...I mean, yes," the Consort assented hastily as the revolver idly shifted position once more.
"That's just backwards," the youngest princess opined, shaking her head in disbelief. Then she smiled mischievously at her new fiancé. "Well now that we're engaged," DG smirked, moving in for the kill.
The Tin Man did not object in the least, but Ahamo did and broke things up in short order by hauling his daughter away. Cain allowed the interference...for now.
And up upon an adjacent, discreetly overhanging balcony, Princess Azkadellia brushed her hands together in a satisfied manner. A job well done, if she did say so herself.