Disclaimer: My schedule keeps me so sleep deprived that I have the attention span of a gerbil and the patience of a kicked beehive, these stories are all that are keeping me sane, do you really want to quibble about ownership?

Author's Note: I have ideas; they get a little wonky when I am so tired I can fall asleep while people are doing stress tests on my ligaments. The summary amuses me, in time it may amuse you, one can only hope. I by no means mean to imply this is Gulch Verse by the way. I'm pretty sure it isn't, in fact, but you never know what with that gravitational pull and all.


Cain took three brisk strides away from the door, paused, then marched right back again, reached for the door handle...and froze. Seconds ticked by on a hidden clock somewhere, the Tin Man's lip twitched and he turned abruptly away from the door to stride purposefully down the hall, pivoted...and found himself staring at the door once more. He shifted uneasily on the balls of his feet and fidgeted with his gun belt; he took off his hat and ran a hand through, well, over his close cropped blond hair. Then he put the fedora back on, straightened his duster, paced away from the door...and back again.

What was taking them so long anyhow? It was only the first time the family had been together in fifteen annuals...he should probably go find Jeb. The boy was doubtless still out chasing Longcoats and having all kinds of vengeful fun. The Tin Man really ought to track him down, there was reacquainting to do, issues to work through...pasts to lay to rest.

Cain contemplated the doorknob. He was pretty sure he'd done that already.

The thing was, ever since he'd gotten out of the tin suit, ever since time had started flowing again and colour was reintroduced to his world, he'd been on a mission. There'd been something he'd had to do and it had needed done now, no time to think about it just keep rolling with the punches and keep on fighting. It had been a long and hectic week – had it only been a week? – and his purpose had been so very clear, he'd known what his goal was, what he needed to protect...except now it was over. Mission accomplished, world saved, celebratory hugs all around, and now what? The Tin Man had the unsteady, anxious feeling of the inertia of movement coming to an abrupt and jarring halt. The quest was completed, what did that mean for its followers?

And now that storm-ridden door finally opens, just as he standing right in front of it so that the blue-eyed princess coming through almost bumps right into him.

"Cain!" she exclaims in happy surprise, trying to dodge around him, only he's tried to get out of her way and they've stepped in the same direction and now they're doing the 'you go first, no you go first' dance that seems to be bi-universal.

"Um," the Tin Man mutters when they finally manage to stumble their way out of the doorway so that the rest of the royal family can get by and go...wherever. "That is..." he tries again, he wanted to talk to her, he's pretty sure he wanted to talk to her, that's why he's been lurking in the corridor like this. Except he's not entirely sure what he wanted to talk to her about and...Cain pulls of his hat, twisting it between his hands a little as he shuffles his feet uncomfortably. What the hell had he wanted to say?

DG blinks her big blue eyes at him.

"Ur..." Cain endeavours, flushing bright red to the roots of his hair because apparently the tin suit wasn't a torture device, it was a time machine that clocked him right back into adolescent, tongue-tied idiocy. Guess that made it a torture device after all, an abominable one. If Glitch invented it, Cain's going to kill him, it's the only fitting punishment...because suddenly the Tin Man realizes he's blushing, fidgeting and stammering in front of DG – the princess who's been known to out-empathize a Viewer.

And now she's smiling at him.

Cain opens his mouth to say something but no words come out so he closes it again, because he will not gape at her like broken tic tok. "Erm..." he manages.

There is a sudden twinkle in those blue eyes, he only has time to register the sudden knowing quirk of her lips before they are brushed briefly against his and the princess is sauntering off down the hallway leaving a frozen Tin Man behind her.

He isn't entirely sure what just happened. He'd wanted...he was going to...and then she'd...from somewhere down the hallway came the sound of a happy hum. The cheerful tune went oddly with austere surroundings that were the Tower. The Sorceress' Tower in point of fact, the one they'd just invaded and overthrown but really hadn't had the chance to search for threats, the rooms and hallways of which might – and probably did – harbour many hidden Longcoats, Alchemist, and other hostile beings, and DG was strolling through them as if she hadn't a care in the world. He should probably keep an eye on her.

Cain took three brisk strides away from the door...and then he sped up.