Disclaimer: If I could claim Tin Man, don't you think I would?
Author's Note: So about the time I was finishing up 'Tales from the Otherside' I was feeling a bit mournful that I had certain other little DG/young Gulch ideas in mind and now nowhere to put them, this thought collided with the idea that it was a shame that despite talking about Emily and Gulch's first meeting, we never got to see it. The resultant train wreck of thought about dumped me into the sink full of dishes I was doing at the time, I was giggling so hard. I really hope that I have managed to convert the live action film my imagination produced into words sufficiently to share it with you. Rules are the same as for TFTO, just Hank and Emily probably aren't going to switch narration quite so evenly. Hope you enjoy.
Emily, nurture unit and cyborg, wasn't entirely sure she and her fellow tic tok Hank were going to be able to perform their one duty in this world of raising the youngest princess of the O.Z. up right and keeping her safe. They'd almost lost the child twice already and that was before they'd even gone through the travel storm. The girl just couldn't seem to help but try to wander, even more so now that the Consort had crossed back over. The Mystic Man had worried there might be some side effects from the cloaking of her memories, though it was hard to say if that was the real issue: DG's tendency to explore had, after all, been what had gotten them all in this mess in the first place. Seemed a bit harsh to blame a five year old, however, her mothering programming told her as she glanced out the window to check on the princess, but the sad fact remained that...she didn't have a clue where DG might be, because she most certainly was not in the yard.
"Haaaaaank!" the already much tried Emily hollered as she scampered towards the door, "Lord have mercy," she added with careful use of Otherside idioms, "we've lost her again!"
This was beginning to be something of a routine; they'd only been in the Otherside for three days and Hank had spent most of that time chasing DG across the farm – heaven knows what they'd do if the princess ever made it past the property line. Emily was beginning to doubt they were cut out for this: nurture units were not guards, and a guard was what the princes undoubtedly needed.
Fretting about the house – lest by some miracle the child decided to return on her own – while Hank went out to scour the countryside for the truant, the cyborg wished for what her central processor informed her was the one hundredth and twenty-sixth time that the Consort had seen fit to send a member of the princess' protection detail with them. Unfortunately, the Otherside native had been opposed to the idea – with no time to train anyone, the cyborgs were the only ones that had any hope of fitting into this alien society. And so it was that the Queen had come to Milltown, seeking the most advanced tic toks – those with the ability to give the appearance of aging – with Ahamo's carefully – if hastily – prepared Otherside Orientation Program and the little girl that was now the O.Z.'s one hope. And it fell to Hank and Emily to keep her alive. As the hours ticked by and still there was no sign of Hank or the princess, the counterfeit farmwife came to the conclusion that they needed more than a guard, they needed a hero, they needed...
Knock, knock, knock.
"Afternoon, ma'am," the unknown young man standing on her doorstep said politely as he tipped a hat vaguely like those some tin men liked to wear at her, "my name's Officer Gulch, you wouldn't happened to have lost anything lately would you?"
"Wha...DG!" she cried diving forward to snatch up the five year old that had been trailing in stranger's wake, "Are you alright? Where have you been?" the mother unit demanded anxiously, checking carefully for damages – humans were so fragile, children especially, "Do you have any idea how worried I was? Don't you ever do that to me again young lady," she ordered at last, "How did you find her?" she added, holding tightly onto the princess and glancing up at the man who'd identified himself as Officer Gulch.
"Just happened to be driving by, ma'am," he replied humbly, "saw her in Spencer's bullpen trying to ride old Hanni-, er, Farmer Spencer's old bull."
Emily closed her eyes in pure horror, she should have known that trouble would come of the Consort's farewell outing with his youngest daughter; she was so munchkin see, munchkin do. To take her to a place where they rode the livestock just to see whether you can keep from being bucked off...the tic tok shuddered. "Are you sure you're okay?" the surrogate mother asked frantically, the princess was being so uncharacteristically quiet – though that might have something to do with the fact that the cyborg was squeezing the breath out of her.
"She's fine," Officer Gulch told her, just a touch dryly, "Hasn't got a scratch on her in fact."
Glancing up at the princess' saviour, Emily had a millisecond of synaptic panic as she realized that a response of gratitude was required here and she hadn't had enough time in the Otherside to the assimilate Ahamo's data packet for integration with observation of the natives in order to select the correct one. So she chose all of them.
"Gah!" the Othersider exclaimed in surprise and embarrassment as Emily leapt up and wrapped herself around him.
"Thank you," she breathed earnestly, pulling back so that she could place a kiss on either blushing cheek, "for saving her," she uttered sincerely, grasping one of his hands with her own and kissing it as well, "if anything had happened to her all would have been lost," she stated dramatically, clasping the captured hand to her breast.
Eyes bugging comically, the young man choked, "N-no really, m-ma'am, j-just d-doing my d-duty."
"Regardless I...you're bleeding," Emily gasped as she only this instant noticed the makeshift bandage tied awkwardly around his hips.
"He got whored," DG piped up for the first time, watching them with interest.
"Gored," the Othersider corrected reflexively, "And it's no-"
"Let me look at that..."
Officer Gulch about hit the ceiling when Emily grabbed his belt and tugged. "No really, ma'am," he yelped, trying to knock her hands away, "it's nothing. They can take care of it at the hote-hospital," he amended hastily, "at the hospital. I just messed with the bull and got a little of the horn is all," he said desperately, still striving to get her to release his pants.
"You were willing to put yourself in harm's way for her," she exclaimed tremulously, throwing herself at him yet again and, ignoring his alarm widened eyes and flailing hands, pressed her lips firmly to his. Cross referencing her kissing protocols with her gratitude responses while trying to take into consideration the human need to breath, Emily tried to calculate the correct length and depth that was required to properly thank the princess' rescuer. She figured about the time she hit his tonsils that she must have got it about right.
Releasing the young man, the cyborg averred strenuously, "I don't know how we can ever thank you enough."
Stumbling back a few steps, Officer Gulch panted for breath before mumbling faintly, "No, really...not problem...anytime. Gotta...gotta go now," he muttered distractedly as he tripped down the steps.
"What a nice young man," Emily stated, deciding that was a suitable comment after a quick consult with her CPU.
"Says he's cop but gots the wrong badge," the princess informed her dubiously.
"Is he now?" she replied with interest. Watching the young man wobble his way back to the foreign vehicle plainly marked 'to serve and protect', Emily reflected that if tic toks had prayers, hers had just been answered.