I really shouldn't be doing this. I have a major paper I'm supposed to be working on right this moment. But I kind of scribbled this up quickly at one point and figured that, since it is a one-shot, I won't be horribly pulled into writing another epic tale. I just barely finished a rather long and involved story not long ago and I don't need new distractions.

Okay, I probably don't have to tell you this sort of thing since it is a little obvious, but I don't own these characters. And I certainly don't own the miniseries. But I did love it. I stayed up and remained glued to the television for three nights in a row so I could watch "Tin Man" when it first aired. But I don't have any legal claims that I could make for any of this. Everything is based upon an awesome miniseries based upon a children's book series that was written at the turn of the century (as in the 1900s, not 2000s). The only thing I get out of writing this is my own enjoyment, a nice distraction from the paper I should be working on, and the wonderful reviews of those who like the ideas I scribble down.

And I had to write this down. My brain is too crazy. If I don't let out some of my creative ideas occasionally, they'll start seeping into the rest of my life until I don't have any peace. As much as I loved the miniseries, the ending felt a little abrupt somehow. I don't know how to explain it, but it felt like it simply cut off right before… something. I don't know… What I do know is that, considering everything that happened to all the characters and the entire O.Z., I highly doubt that it will be a perfect happy ending for everyone. There isn't a lot (or any) real dialogue in this, but plenty of insightful pondering and observations.

Okay, long introduction is over. On with the show!


Whispers. She tried to ignore them. More than anything else, she wanted to make the quiet comments and cutting words stop. But she also knew that it would be impossible to have that wish. It was the price she was paying for the last fifteen annuals of darkness. She was the face that everyone knew as pure evil. Even if Princess Azkadellia wasn't the one directing her actions, the witch wore her body and her face as a mask as she brought suffering to everyone in the O.Z. It was difficult for the general population, and even those who knew the truth, to separate the cruel and malicious Sorceress from the emotionally-frail and long-enslaved Az. So the hurtful words intended against the evil monster were often attached to her name instead. And as much as she tried to tune them out, they continued to plague the girl who was still trying to deal with her past demons.

They whisper about the atrocities that friends or families had suffered at her hands. Several lords were rather nervous when she glanced in their direction. At the balls, it was the rare and brave young man who would offer to dance with her. A few maids flinched when she entered a room they occupied. Snide comments about the possible doubts that the witch was truly a separate entity from and her and was truly gone would rise up occasionally only to be snuffed out temporarily when DG or one of her friends turned their attention towards the speaker. Each of these moments cut at her painfully, reminding her of all the pain caused by someone using her face and how Az couldn't stop it from happening. For the longest time, she was certain that she only received this treatment because of her time as the Sorceress and that it was merely the price she would have to accept for everything that had happened.

At least, she believed that until she overheard Jeb Cain complaining to one of the guard one evening. The former Resistance fighter had been visiting his father and, while he'd not been actively trying to avoid her, he'd not been around the elder princess enough for her to know much about what he was like. That short, overheard conversation did teach her that he held a low opinion of "gossiping fools who don't even understand what they're talking about and should be more grateful." Something told her that Jeb would not defend her that strongly, even if he was a little better at separating her from the witch than most who once fought in the Resistance. It was only after that evening that Az truly listened and paid attention to those around her instead of trying to block it all out. The elder princess was shocked to realize that she wasn't the only one being attacked by those whispering voices.

Wyatt Cain had remained at the palace after the events of the eclipse and spent a great deal of time with DG. Granted, her friends had all remained nearby after the occurrences of that day, but he seemed out of place. The people would point out his lack of rank, that he was a commoner. He might have helped save the O.Z., but they couldn't see what purpose he served now. A few nobles muttered about him being a parasite, simply leeching off of the good will of the members of loyalty. At least for some of them, that statement was a grave act of hypocrisy. A couple of young nobles glared whenever he stood too near the younger princess at various events, certain that he was trying to steal the possible marriage away from them. It didn't matter to those suspicious whisperers that he was much older than DG or that he had a son near her age; they simply feared any form of competition. A small number of people wondered if his long time in the suit ended up affecting his mind, but those were a rather small collection in comparison to the other concerns that were voiced about the man. But Cain didn't react to the words or the looks beyond occasionally rolling his eyes at their stupidity.

Poor Raw, even with all his skills and his own role in saving the O.Z. from everlasting darkness, had it rougher than the former Tin Man. One of first things the Sorceress attempted to do once she took full power was to encourage the idea of seeing the Viewers as little more than animals. It was easier to kidnap and enslave a population if no one cared enough to try freeing them. Some of those prejudices still clung to the populace. They would be happy to make use of his skills at healing or viewing, but some people would disregard his words and ignore him the rest of the time. The ignorant individuals would mistake his limited conversation skills as stupidity and dismiss him as unimportant. They viewed him and spoke of him as if he was a faithful pet or a rather dull servant than someone who escaped from the heart of darkness where his fellow Viewers were held captive, the Sorceresses' tower itself, and walked back into it under his own free will in order to stop the witch's plan. Rather than correct this misconception, Raw would merely withdraw meekly to more understanding and friendly company.

While Ambrose was once a well-respected and well-known face for the nobility who used to frequent the palace, Glitch had been less eagerly received. Devising a method to properly reunite his lost portion of his mind after all this time that would both work correctly and not risk the life of the loyal advisor was proving difficult, so they were stuck with the less predictable and far more illogical personality. It was rather tragic to see the brilliant inventor and advisor now struggling to keep a few memories in his head for even a brief conversation, especially since Az could clearly remember how he used to be. But too many now saw him as an annoyance or as a source of entertainment. They grumbled about the small disasters that his attempts to invent with only half his brain in his head resulted in. Several nobles snickered at the ease his fragmented thoughts caused him to be sidetracked to random conversations. A few members of the population, ranging in importance from servants to a couple of lords, muttered darkly about the headaches he caused when his misfiring synapses trapped him in a loop of repeating the same thought continuously. Rather than properly appreciating the sacrifices he'd made to try protecting the realm and noticing how well he'd dealt with the loss of part of his brain in comparison to most headcases, some people wanted him to be kept out of the way and out of sight until he was returned to a more acceptable state as Ambrose. Glitch responded to their annoyance and mocking snickers by adopting a sheepish grin and apologizing for his latest mental mistake.

Not even her wonderful sister, DG, was completely safe from the whispers. Even if her returned to the O.Z. brought an end to a time of darkness and suffering, she'd spent too much time on the Otherside and was now too alien for the more close-minded people. She was still ignorant of many facts that most learn growing up and too many common references were lost on her, leaving her looking slow-witted and foolish. She lacked the skills to negotiate the complicated web of nobility and court intrigue, making her seem blunt or even rude with her more straight-forward approach. They found her strange, shaking their heads at her odd ideas and unusual decisions. She wasn't what they expected and wanted for a princess to be like. She didn't fit easily into the world of her earliest childhood and some muttered she would never be able to adapt and conform again, completely forgetting that Ahamo would have once been just as ignorant of certain details. The younger sister might have fewer who speak ill of her, but some of the more spiteful ladies in court would remark about the amount of time she spent unchaperoned with a number of strange men both before and after the events of the eclipse. Rather than recognize a friendship forged in adversity, suspicious eyes only saw the possibility of scandal with the widower Tin Man, the damaged loyal advisor, or the timid Viewer. DG met such whispers with a small smile, a shrug, or even a dismissive chuckle.

When it came right down to it, they didn't fit in. The annuals that the Sorceress ruled over the realm caused damage to everyone and everything. Az knew that better than most. But these four brave souls proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Darkness, evil and cruel, had scarred all of them. Physically, mentally, or emotionally, it didn't matter which kind of harm was inflicted or if they had experienced all three. Each of their situations during those days of pure suffering may have been drastically different, but they had still managed to emerge alive. Alive, but changed. The damage was too great. They were trapped in their ill-fitting life, outsiders looking in on the rest of the world. No matter what happened or what they might do, they couldn't step back into the roles they had before the witch escaped from that cave. And so, those who could still manage to squeeze back into their old ways of life whispered and gossiped about the strange group who no longer fit in.

Regardless of how little they deserved such treatment, none of them argued or defended themselves. But, just as her new attention to the cruel comments showed her this injustice, Az was observing another intriguing pattern. They did not react to the whispers about themselves, but they instantly rose to the defense of each other. Cain's hand would abruptly rest upon his gun while he directed a glare at the foolish individual, silently promising to make them regret their words. Meek Raw would somehow straighten his posture and begin looming in a manner than would make a person wonder nervously when he grew a backbone. Glitch would suggest he and the offending party have a dance, the tone making the innocent-sounding offer into a threat. Even DG would gain a dangerous smile that any sane individual would guess was the princess plotting their downfall. Essentially, any of the four of them would protect the others from the whispering comments. They were united together and willing to stand against any threat, large or small.

None of them could fit with the rest of the population properly, so they had formed their own patchwork group where they could belong. They accepted each others' quirks and peculiarities that made others snicker or grumble. Instead of seeing the traits that made them ill-fitting with the rest of the world as faults, they used them to make their group more close-knit. Like the strange shapes of puzzle pieces allow them to lock together into a clear image, they were only complete and whole when they were united. Even when Cain was clearly trying to put up with Glitch's optimistic outlook and unwanted advice while his patience frayed away, only a complete fool would think that someone could blatantly insult the headcase without meeting a furious glare in return. Friends would protect each other from all outside forces with not even a hint of hesitation.

And, the more that Az watched and considered, they were equally quick to react when someone muttered darkly about her possibly still being the Sorceress. DG and her collection of close friends had realized the older princess was just as much an outsider, bearing the invisible scars of her own suffering from the witch's manipulations, as they were. They had silently and subtly brought her under their protection against the spiteful and painful words that the rest of the realm threw in her direction. She never asked for their help, but they had offered it without question. They were giving her shelter from the stinging looks and cutting words of the rest of the world. They were giving her a chance to fit in, to belong, by providing the opportunity to join their small group. None of them had said a single word, but the offer was clearly there now that she was actually looking.

But such a wonderful gift should not be so one way. They tried to protect her from the whispering voices. It was about time that she begins returning the favor. No one had the right to treat DG and her friends in such a manner.

The next time a quiet remark about possible scandalous behavior between her sister and one of her companions arose from a certain lady at the ball, Az directed a fierce glare in her direction that would have made even the witch cringe.

This is my first (and likely last) "Tin Man" story. It has been bouncing inside my head for a while and I just had to post it eventually. I would still love a little feedback. It would make my day. Thanks.