Just another small scene to flesh out an idea. This takes place after the "Releasing the Chains/Within Our Grasp" duo. Disclaimer: I still own absolutely nothing!
"Would you quit calling me that?"
At the exasperated shout, Jeb's head snapped around. He could not see the speaker, but there was no denying the familiarity of DG's voice. After many long talks as he tried to come to grips with the person his father had become, he could pick her out of a mob by sound alone. He had appreciated the time she had taken to help him reconnect with the stranger bearing such a well-known and beloved face. Now, for both her sake and his father's, he made his way swiftly through the hedges to determine who was bothering her.
As he came around a corner, he almost barreled over DG's sister as she hid behind a hedge and peered into the clearing. She spun, quickly but quietly, and placed a hand over his mouth even as she held a finger up to her lips. He frowned, confused, but obeyed her obvious desire for him to remain silent. She lowered her hands when she realized that he intended to keep quiet, and turned back to peep back around the corner again. That confused him. While she could be mischievous, Az did not usually stoop to spying and eavesdropping. His brow furrowed and he shifted so that he could look over her shoulder to see what she had found so engrossing.
There, in one of the seating areas sprinkled throughout the gardens, stood DG, hands on hips scowling at the man laid out on the bench in front of her. His father had stretched himself out on the longest bench, legs crossed at the ankle, hands behind his head, and hat over his face. If it had not been for the small smirk just visible under the brim, and the indignant young woman glaring down at him, a passer-by could have mistaken him for taking a nap in the afternoon sun. DG's face kept shifting between affection and annoyance.
"Not sure what's got you so riled, Princess," he drawled, hat and smirk both firmly in place. "You'd think I was being insulting."
"Humph," snorted DG, finally sitting down on the grass next to him. She leaned back against the bench and let her head rest back against his side. She stared up into the cloudless, beautiful blue sky. After a few breaths, she finally spoke again.
"Is there a reason you won't call me by name?" she asked.
He shifted and sat up, lifting the hat away from his face as he rose. She twisted sideways in order to be able to look up and meet his gaze. Eyes that had often been described as cold, steely, and harsh were softened, the slight smile of his mouth echoed in their depths as he focused on her. He reached out one hand and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.
"Does it bother you so much?" he asked gently.
"I just don't understand. You never call me DG, except in conversation with someone else…even though you use Az's name with no problem. But I'm still 'Princess' to you."
She gave a tiny shrug and tilted her head with a frown.
He gave a soft chuckle.
"Your sister, while an enchanting young lady, is an entirely different situation. I think you're missing part of the point."
Reaching down, he grasped her arms and lifted her to sit next to him. Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her face towards him, fixing his strong, serious gaze on her.
"Your parents, Az, Glitch, Raw, and hell, even Jeb all call you DG. The nobles fluttering around this place like useless show birds fawn all over you with the 'Your Highnesses' while the ordinary citizens and soldiers manage to do it more respectfully. No one ever calls you 'Princess' except when they have to be formal, and then it's 'Princess Dorothy'. There are other names I can think of to call you, other words I could use, but they'll keep until they're true. For right now, Princess, I think I'll keep what's mine."
Frosted blue eyes locked with sapphire, and the entire garden seemed to hold its breath as the connection between them electrified the air. Her eyes that had grown so wide in amazement as he spoke now sparkled and shimmered while his smiled down in affection. She broke out in a wide, beautiful smile, warmth radiating from her entire being.
At that moment, bells from the city center began to ring the hour, breaking the moment.
"You really should have said something before," she said, as she shifted and nudged him with her shoulder.
"You never asked," he replied, giving her a small wink.
She stuck her tongue out at him and then stood up stretching. Walking toward the northern entrance of the garden, she glanced back at him over her shoulder.
"Come on, Tin Man. We have work to finish."
"Right behind you, Princess."
After the sound of the other couple's footsteps and laughing voices had faded, Az stepped out into the clearing and Jeb followed her. She glided to a stop by the bench and turned to face him. Serious eyes concentrated on him.
"You know, I've heard her ask him that more than once, but he never answered her before."
Sitting on the bench his father had vacated, he leaned his forearms on his knees and thought for a long moment before angling his head to catch her gaze.
"I doubt he's taken the time to really consider why he did it. We've been so busy putting things to right that it was pushed to the wayside. Now, they're pulling back…have you felt it? They're stepping out of the limelight and taking a lesser role. He's got more time to think about the 'whys' and to give her an answer."
"Yes, I suppose that's true," she said slowly. "When she asked before, she never sounded so wound up about it. It was just something he did and she treated it with a laugh. Now, she wants to be something other than 'Princess' – and he's almost ready too."
"It won't be long now," he said, smiling up at her.
Giving a small trill of laughter, she spun and dropped onto the bench next to him. Leaning her head on his shoulder for the briefest moment, she smiled in the direction of the palace. Both of them enjoyed the silence that filled the area…a silence of shared peace and delight at everything that was right in this little corner of the world. As the bells rang out yet again, she gave a deep sigh.
"I suppose I should go back in. Mother gave me some time away from the meetings, but I need to be there for Court."
"You were better than I was," he snorted, grinning down at her as he stood. "I just disappeared…I'm surprised the Guard hasn't been hunting me down."
Standing, she shook her finger at him in admonishment.
"Now, now, no disappearing from the Guard - they get very testy when we do that!"
He laughed and offered her his arm and began to escort her back to the palace.
"You know," she murmured, "I think I'm almost jealous of her. Happy, truly happy for her, but jealous as well."
When they reached the kitchen door, he took her hand and looked down at her with a soft smile.
"Just to let you know? Green is not your color…milady."
With that, he kissed the back of her fingers and departed.