Readers. You are hilarious with your anxious reviews! I worked my butt off to finish this sooner rather than later so you will stop being so anxious. I hope this is satisfying, and please let me know what you think!
Gobsmacked. Wyatt Cain was gobsmacked.
The Princess who he had dreamed about and desperately worked his way through the academy to protect had just asked him to kiss her. She needed it.
And Gods be damned if he hadn't been thinking about it too. Since the day he met DG, Cain had felt his energy shift from focusing on avenging his wife's murder… to protecting the youngest princess. He wasn't comfortable with that shift at all; the fact that he rarely thought of Adora anymore made Cain's stomach churn with guilt. She was his first love, the mother of his son, and that kind of love could only be reserved for one woman.
But a second emotion had emerged in him of late, starting the moment that DG's body left the balcony on that horrible day. Never in his life had Wyatt Cain felt so compelled to care for someone. It didn't have a name, this blind zing of electricity that shot through his body every time he looked at her. When she opened her eyes for the first time after being unconscious, Cain knew he was done for. Well, perhaps he didn't know it at the time, but Wyatt Cain certainly knew it now, standing nose-to-nose with the girl who had set him on fire. His skin was humming with the promise of what might happen if he granted her request. Or worse, what fire would go out inside if he didn't.
DG wasn't a kid anymore. Cain didn't lust after her in the way he had for Adora in his youth. He yearned for DG. His every waking second was devoted to controlling his impulse to do just what she asked; to try it, see if the electric pop would explode between them, or burn even brighter. He almost kissed her at the ball, in front of the whole Tin Man academy, in front of her parents, without having declared his feelings – yes. That was it. He couldn't deny it now.
Wyatt Cain had serious, finger-tingling feelings for Princess DG. He felt more intimate with her at that moment, sharing a silent pause, than he had ever felt with a woman before. And he was scared.
DG searched his eyes for any hint of what he was thinking, but she couldn't read him at all. For all she knew, he was planning an elaborate exit plan. He shifted in his boots ever so slightly and the hairs on DG's arms stood on end. He had that effect on her. Even when she was unconscious, she had an indescribable sense of calm. When she awoke to see the bewildered and bedraggled Tin Man staring at her, it was through a new set of eyes; the eyes of a woman who had seen death. Before the accident, DG had been careless with her heart and never reacted to things in a reasonable manner, but now she felt safe and at peace. Standing nose-to-nose with the man who had given her a second chance at life, DG felt strong. Brave.
In the end, neither the courageous princess nor the cowardly tin man knew who moved first. Perhaps they moved as one blinding force of energy, but all we know is that their lips touched.
Wyatt Cain sat on DG's balcony for a long time by himself. After the kiss, he had felt a shift and it bothered him deeply. He didn't know what had changed, other than the entire dynamic of his relationship with the princess… unless – yes. DG had become his whole world. Thinking about it now, it seemed obvious. From the second she fell, he had wanted nothing more than to hold her and make everything all right again. He joined the academy to protect her, became the best man he could be. All for her.
It's as if he hadn't even been himself. Or maybe, he had become someone new that he did not recognize. Either way, he couldn't find words to explain any of this to the woman in question. Instead, he just excused himself softly to ponder his very existence outside on the balcony. Except, he felt like a bumbling idiot! A man that prided himself on always having it together had completely fallen apart in a matter of a kiss.
He didn't even hear DG open the balcony door. But he felt her.
She wanted to wrap her arms around him and tuck into the safety of his barrel chest, but she didn't. Instead, DG placed a small hand on his shoulder. Cain covered her hand with his own. Neither one of them spoke for several minutes. Finally, he sighed very softly.
"I have to go with the next set of troops," Cain murmured.
"Oh," she replied.
DG turned her palm over in his large hand and laced her fingers with his. "Have to?"
"Yes. Apparently I did too well in the academy," he said.
"You're the best they've ever seen," DG said. "Of course they need you."
"But that's not what I want," Cain huffed, standing. He released DG's hand and paced angrily.
"What do you want, Wyatt?" the princess asked, sitting in the chair he had just occupied.
Hearing his name on her lips was like an answered prayer. Cain stopped walking and turned towards her slowly.
"I don't know."
"Yes, you do," DG soothed, smiling. "You wouldn't be here if that were true."
"DG," he sighed. "I think I'm going crazy. Being in the academy gave me something to take my mind off things, but I don't think I'm right in the head. I haven't been for a while."
"I know you know. And it's freaking me out a little bit," he said, running a hand over his face.
"That you know that I know that you know?" DG laughed. She stood and pulled her robe around herself.
Cain felt like he might dissolve into a puddle of melted tin any second. The fact that he had shared a kiss with this woman, and that she seemed to see right through him was a combination of dangers that he wasn't quite prepared to face. As she stepped closer, Cain crossed his arms over his chest.
DG looked out over the land that surrounded the palace. "The last time I spent any real time up here, I stood right here and watched you avoid me in the gazebo," she said, pointing to the little white structure about two hundred yards off. "I knew you were there because I smelled your cigar. But I wished you were here with me instead, and that has been pretty clear to me for a while."
"What's a while?" Cain asked.
"Since the moment you hugged me in the forest, before we went into the tower. I wanted you by my side, but I knew that everything we were about to face might tear us apart. I don't know why I felt that way, but it hasn't gone away since. And I knew you had problems when I met you, and I know you don't have it all together, and that's okay." DG smoothed a wrinkle below Cain's collar.
"I don't know what this – " Cain gestured between himself and DG. " – this thing is."
"Neither do I. But I'm willing to bet it's more than a friendship, and less than a relationship, and I'm okay with not answering that today," she said, putting a hand on his arm.
Cain felt a calming energy pass through his skin and he allowed himself to smile a bit. Not enough to afford the princess his pearly whites, but a kind smile, that said he forgave her for breaking through his shell, and that he forgave himself for letting her.
The tin man took her hand and held it at his side, an extension of himself. And when she looked up at him, he knew what she was asking before she said it, so he spared her the words and kissed her for the second time that night. It was a promise, and one that he would very soon break.
A/N: Sorry I'm not sorry about another cliffhanger! But your response to the last chapter was incredible and I can't even tell you how much it helped me write the next part. If there's something you're dying to have happen, let me know and I just might use it! Thanks for your help!