There's No Place Like...Oz

By Pandora.

The straw brushed against her skin as his lips pressed against her cheek. Dorothy closed her eyes away beneath dark lashes, crossing one leg over the other gingerly as the euphoria pulsed through her body from his touch down to the secret place hidden between them that she had been so unaware of all her life. Mere hours had passed since the wizard had opened his leather bag and bestowed long desired gifts upon her friends before declaring that he himself would fly Dorothy home to Kansas in his hot air balloon. Her elation had been great, and none amongst her companions had been happier for her than the Scarecrow. But a strange anxiety had lingered beneath her joy, one that she did not understand until later, when she had wandered into the snow withered poppy field just outside the Emerald City and came across her dear friend slumped amongst the frosted blooms in the final, fading glow of the afternoon sun. The happy-go-lucky Scarecrow had been enveloped in a sadness that she had never seen before, and in that sadness she felt a kinship with her own feelings, realising that there was a part of her that did not want to leave. Dorothy had sat beside him, her skirts splayed across the moist grass, glistening with the tiny snowflakes that still drifted through the air around them.

"You could stay," the Scarecrow had said in a hushed tone, grasping her soft, warm hand, "if you wanted to."

Dorothy knew that she could stay in Oz, she even conceded the greater part of her that wanted to. But she couldn't, because Aunty Em was worried and ill, and it was all because she had run away. Her journey down the yellow bricked road to the Emerald City and her battles with the Wicked Witch of the West had all been for Aunty Em. But he had been with her the whole way, braving all manner of dangers to help her get home. He had faced the Wicked Witch so many times for her, been disembodied and threatened with his greatest fear – fire, yet he had never left her. Even when she had been taken prisoner in the witch's castle, he had come for her, refusing to abandon the young lady who fell from a star.

Dorothy had stroked the smooth, soft straw of his hand gently, leaning against the Scarecrow, her head tucked against his shoulder. The scent of fresh, clean straw had reminded her of home when first she had met him, but now, as it whirled around her and overwhelmed her senses, Dorothy's thoughts were filled with her memories of the Scarecrow. She looked up at him suddenly, her heart pounding in her chest, a heat that she did not know racing through her. He met her gaze, smiling as beads of snow settled on her long eyelashes, sparkling in unison with the blue tears that welled in her eyes.

"Dorothy," the Scarecrow sighed gently, brushing away the tear that rolled down her cheek, "please don't cry."

His arms wrapped around her, pulling her into his embrace, and Dorothy pressed her face against the straw of his chest, breathing in the nostalgic scent. When he finally let her go, their hands and eyes remained locked, as though by letting go they would hasten the moment when Dorothy would fly away from Oz. The Scarecrow lifted her hand, pressing it to his cheek before letting go and allowing her arm to slip around his neck. Dorothy gave a slow, quiet gasp as his arm coiled about her waist, drawing her onto his lap and pulling her tightly against himself. The tips of their noses touched, stroking against one another lovingly even as heavy breathes guided their lips together into a tender kiss. Dorothy drew back, her eyes searching him with uncertainty, but the gentle warmth of his smile had reassured her as always.

That had been earlier. Now, all too soon, Dorothy stood within a wicker basket beside the Wizard in his weathered old balloon, its great shadow lapping back and forth over her as it bobbed slowly in anticipation of the journey ahead. She was surrounded by her dear friends, though they wept at the knowledge that she would soon be leaving them. Somehow, she had managed to hold in her tears and bid each farewell with a quiet dignity that was contrary to the turmoil that raged inside. In her heart, Dorothy did not believe that this balloon would carry her home, though she fretted to return to Kansas. The anchoring ropes were being uncoiled, and her liquid eyes fell upon the Scarecrow. His countenance was one of a man who had lost everything rather than one who had been bestowed the honour of Wizard of Oz. His dark eyes smiled sadly at Dorothy, and he waved farewell with a slow gesture of his straw hand. Something knotted in Dorothy's chest and she almost leapt from the balloons basket, but she stayed her desire with memories of the pale, wane face of Aunty Em that she had seen in the Witch's magic globe.

To-To, however, had no such inhibition. At first Dorothy had told herself it was the cat he had seen in the crowd that made her little dog leap from her arms and back into the throng of Emerald City, but later she wondered if her clutching fingers hadn't dug a little deeper, pinching the dog in encouragement as he yapped at the feline. She would not leave without To-To, and despite the balloon lifting steadily into the air, Dorothy clambered out, desperate to retrieve her dog. The Tin Woodsman had caught To-To, but by the time he placed the small dog back into Dorothy's arms, the Wizard had ascended to the height of the city, shouting his farewell's and apologies that he did not know how to return for her.

Guilt washed over Dorothy. Something inside her had rejoiced, now she would have to stay in Oz with her Scarecrow, for there was no way to return to Kansas and Aunty Em. It was a terrible, selfish thing to feel, she thought to herself, since it was her fault that Aunty Em was worrying herself ill. The scent of fresh straw caught her, and she felt a soft, familiar hand stroke the back of her shoulder comfortingly. The euphoric waves rose, and Dorothy rebuked them and her perceived selfishness with a torrent of reassuring sorrow for the misery she had caused her Kansas family, something she would never forgive herself for.

"Never, never, never," she sobbed. She felt the straw arm tighten around her, his lips close to her ear, the warmth of his breath caressing her skin.

"Look, here's someone who can help…" he whispered. Dorothy looked to where he pointed, her heart simultaneously rejoicing and sinking at the sight of the rosey pink bubble that drifted towards them. She turned quickly to the Scarecrow, her eyes wide and questioning. He sighed gently, taking her hand gently into his own.

"Stay because you want to, not because you have to," he said gently. Tears danced in Dorothy's eyes and the Scarecrow paused for a moment to take in their beautiful, blue hue.

"I am leaving because I have to, not because I want to…" she choked, her voice flooded with the oncoming assault of her tears. They began to spill forth as he ran a single, straw finger across her cheek.

"What we want is not always what is right," the Scarecrow crooned, though he wanted to beg her to stay. Dorothy squeezed her eyelids together tightly, falling into his embrace.

"I love you," she whispered beneath her sobs, pressing a wet kiss against his cheek. He tightened his grip, holding her firmly against him, savouring the moment before the attention of those around them fell from Glinda to Dorothy.

"That's the second time you've kissed me to say goodbye," he said with a soft smile, "perhaps one day you will return and you will kiss me to say that you've come home."

The rose bubble grew and sang with its melodic tinkles and whistling as it settled on the platform beside them, illuminating for a moment before giving way to the lovely form of Glinda, good Witch of the was her custom, she came baring a tediously simple solution to Dorothy's dilemma that had been there all along.

"Simply click your heels together three times and repeat 'there's no place like home'," she has instructed with a sweet smile. The Scarecrow was not sure that he liked Glinda very much.

"Why didn't you tell her that right away?" he asked, agitated after all that they had been through and suffered. Glinda simply smiled with a knowing wink.

"She had to learn that for herself."

Dorothy had learnt a lot from her time in Oz. Some things she shared, but most she kept locked away within herself. Silently, she reflected on her new found strength and sense of responsibility, for no longer did she put her needs and wants above others like a spoilt child. She knew that Aunty Emm needed her, and though she wanted more than anything to stay in Oz, she knew she must return to Kansas. But most importantly, Dorothy had learnt about love, only to find that she must let it go if she was ever to grow up. Glinda was right, there was no place like home. But when Dorothy thought of home, all she could imagine was her Scarecrow.

"Now I know I have a heart," the Tin Woodsman had said as Dorothy said her goodbyes, "because I can feel it breaking."

She had embraced him and the Cowardly lion, clinging to each with the devotion she felt for her beloved friends from the Land of Oz, weeping against fur and tin because she had been through so much with them in such a short time. She wept because she would miss them, their company and their beaming faces, because she wished she had had more time to get to know them before she had to leave. But when Dorothy stood before the straw man, her first real friend since crash landing her little house in this strange and magical land, her tears slowed. They weren't enough. She engulfed him in her arms one last time.

"I'll miss you most of all," she sobbed into his shoulder. Tenderly, reassuringly, he smiled at her her as he slowly ushered her towards Glinda without a word. Their fingers slid apart, flesh over straw, until the last fleeting touch of their fingertips split into air between them. And with her eyes tightly shut, Dorothy tapped the heels of her ruby slippers together three times and just like that, she was gone from Oz and her Scarecrow like waking from a dream. One that she would never forget.