For oresteia (dr_kittym) – who bid for a Tin Man story & donated to a wonderful cause. This went in a direction I had really not planned, and the Jeb/Azkadelia brackets were unexpected. It definitely went a bit darker than envisioned as well. I hope you enjoy anyway. I think I will work on another one for you that is more upbeat, but I wanted to post this so you would know I had not forgotten you. Disclaimer – I do not own anything that you recognize from the Tin Man mini-series. However, if the owners would feel so inclined to loan me Wyatt Cain for a little while, I would not complain.
A dark-haired beauty slipped into the palace's security room. As she glanced around, she held back a flinch at the suspicion on most of the faces of the men within, but felt relieved that the open hostility was finally gone. Staying by the door, ready to dart back out, she searched for one face in particular. A growing silence spread throughout the room as she looked.
In the back, a young, yet slightly haggard man lifted his head as the silence reached his corner. With a frown, he rose and strode to the doorway. Concerned at the slight shadow of fear dwelling in the young woman's eyes, he ducked his head to meet her gaze and tried to give her a small grin. Acknowledging the shadow of doubt in the room, he stressed her title when he spoke.
"Princess Azkadelia? Is everything all right?"
Her lips quivered before settling into the tiniest of glimmer of a smile.
"I am well, thank you Major. I hesitate to bother you," she stated as her eyes left his to flit around the room before returning once more.
He shook his head.
"It's no bother, Princess. What can I do for you?"
"I am well, but apparently DG had a…trying time at the negotiations this afternoon."
Giving a tiny snort, he reached up with one hand to rub his temple.
"Did she take off or just lock herself in this time?"
Her smile grew a bit larger as the men behind him relaxed enough to smile and snicker.
"Fortunately, she's only barricaded herself in her rooms. However, Glitch is busy with Daddy in the laboratories, while Raw is down at the healers helping the newly returned soldiers."
He chuckled as she wrinkled her nose in consternation. Sometimes her expressions really drove home the fact that she was essentially a traumatized teenager in a grown woman's body.
"Let me guess; now you're trying to find my father?"
She nodded, eyes brightening.
"Do you know where he is? She's not even listening to me at the moment…not that I think she can hear me over her raving anyway. She's too busy ranting about some agreement they wanted to make. I wasn't even able to find out what the issue was before she locked the door."
For a long moment, he reflected on all the changes that had occurred over the six months since the Eclipse. Thanks to his position, both as a leader of the Resistance and the son of Wyatt Cain, he had a front row seat to the ongoing struggle to bring the OZ back to what it once was. Despite their low caste birth, the Cain family, such as it was, now held a great deal of power…all deriving from their proximity to the royal family. Jeb himself had been given the job of organizing and leading the new Royal Guard. When he had tried to protest, he had been soundly defeated by all four of them. The Queen had noted his leadership qualities while her Consort had commented on his ability to adapt and compromise. DG had just given him a wide-eyed look and asked who else they were supposed to trust. Azkadelia had stared at him in silence for a long moment before winning him over to the position with a single comment.
"You're the right choice, and I know it because before DG came, you were the biggest threat, and the Witch wanted you dead."
He had been unable to say no to the haunted eyes focused so intently upon him.
On the other hand, his father had no official title. Much like Glitch and Raw, he had maneuvered and ducked every attempt to give him additional honors for the work he did leading up to and during the Eclipse. This really did not affect his standing in the country though. Everyone from the Queen down to the street sweepers knew that the former Tin Man and his companions had something more important than any fancy title. They had the absolute faith and trust of the youngest Princess. At least two of them could usually be found at her side or trailing behind her during balls or any time she left the palace. While Glitch and Raw would drift and return to her side, any one who approached DG could be assured of doing so under the steely gaze of Wyatt Cain.
With him as her constant shadow, she had been mostly spared the fawning toadies that had first thought to garner attention from the somewhat unprepared newcomer. Between her three companions, DG had been shielded from many of the hidden fangs and claws of court as it tried to reestablish itself after so many years in hiding under the Witch. Unfortunately, she could not be protected from everything. The nobles of the court did not favor the young princess much. Due to her upbringing on the Other Side, DG could not fit into the "perfect" princess mold the nobles wanted her to – in fact, she refused to. While her mother would hold court and allow the nobles to pursue their various power plays, she would wander into the city to look over the shops and meet with the merchants and workers. As the Queen met with the new leaders of her small but growing army, DG would go down and talk to the common soldiers. As the Queen played politics for the loyalty of the nobles, the Princess won the hearts of the masses.
It had not come without a price. Many in the court had compared her to the Witch, claiming she sought to undermine her mother's rule. They felt she was too wild, too impetuous. According to their way of thinking, she needed to be controlled and reigned in before she caused anarchy. They tried to twist her every action. If she sought to buy from the smaller merchants and help in their business, she was blocking "progress" or the control of the guilds. If she helped the healers take care of injured soldiers, she was setting up a future coup. No matter what she did, they tried to find the most negative cause. This had led to a serious of anxiety attacks and moments of despair for the young woman. When it became too much for her, she tended to have one of two responses: locking herself in her rooms to vent or taking off into the city to try and forget for a few minutes.
After the first few times of dealing with a seriously pissed off Cain, she mostly kept to her rooms, reserving the city escape for times when he was available to go with her. Even in her most upset moods, she knew that it concerned him when she put herself in a vulnerable position. However, when she locked herself into her rooms, only three people were capable of talking her out.
Her family had tried, but she still did not know them that well. They had been so busy making things right that they had not had time to share the quiet moments that built relationships. Everything they did as a family focused on the rebuilding of the OZ, and their personal lives took a backseat to that. Unfortunately, that meant the bonds between them remained weak and fragile.
On the other hand, the four adventurers had a strong connection. While they had the shared experiences of their travels and adventures to bind them, they had an even deeper bond of quiet moments around the campfire sharing simple meals and little stories. Unlike the family dinners that usually evolved into private meetings and planning sessions, the four of them had meals that dissolved into inside jokes and one-upmanship teasing. The most striking connection the four of them shared? They had a common bond of being on the outside looking in.
A princess raised as a commoner in a world with no magic…a tin man locked for years inside a prison with only memories…a royal advisor stripped of his genius with flashes of remembrances…a reader lost to his kindred with overwhelming emotions battering him – none of them really had a place in the city. They would never fit into the molds society wanted to force them into, and they knew it. They stayed out of duty; out of a determination to see the job finished and the Queen safely back on her throne. They kept close to make sure that Azkadelia recovered from the damage done by the Witch. They even remained to make sure his place was assured. One thing was absolutely certain - they did not stay out of a desire to be there; Jeb was almost certain that they would flee the moment the opportunity presented itself.
For now, as long as DG felt it was necessary, they would stay. That one fact held the others – DG remained in the city. Raw volunteered with the healers and in helping Azkadelia recover from the Witch's possession but refused a position as either reader or healer; Glitch helped Ahamo in the laboratories and talked with both the Queen and Azkadelia, but he would not accept his old place back; and Cain? Cain steadfastly, though politely, ignored offers of a rank in the security forces, knowing that he could then be sent anywhere or given any task deemed necessary. He would accept nothing that would remove him from his chosen place – guarding the safety and well-being of his princess. These three held only the remotest respect to the authority of the Royal family as a whole – their first and chief loyalty was given to DG.
Bringing himself back to the moment, Jeb took a deep breath and smiled down at the eldest Princess. Glancing over his shoulder, he nodded at his men and then held his arm out for her to take. As she placed her hand in the crook of his elbow with a little giggle, he led her out of the room.
"Come along then, Princess. Let's see if we can track him down so he can talk her out…again."