"Where are they?"

Gone, baby, gone. They were gone.

Like the rain water evaporating from the cup Jeb used to leave on the porch roof when the heat lightening crackled the gun-gray-sky.

"You think that'll make it rain?" she'd always laced a laugh into her voice when leaning her face toward their son.

"It'll rain." The boy had thumped a smug smile up at him, placing chubby sun-browned hands on his hips. "Right, Pops?"

"Sure." Wyatt had nodded firmly every time. "I believe it will."

He'd never been able to not smile when the cup had started to fill up wet and wild.

Splashing and bright in the flashes of the Outer Zone's best light show.

"Toldja." Jeb's young and pleased voice was fading clear and empty, the repetition removed from in front of his eyes and disappearing like evaporating water.

"Where are they?"

In the sky water, Tin Man… Gone.


He woke with a rattling breath, chest tight and fist clenched low against his stomach. Unintentionally he thumbed the inside of his wedding ring while he squinted his eyes toward focusing in the darkness. Cain mentally catalogued his surroundings, filing each of his senses one after the other.

The chair was stiff but sturdy under his lower back and sleep numbed legs but he could feel the weight of his laden holster digging the meat of his thigh.

Forgotten fear tasted like bile in the back of his throat and akin to disgust on his tongue.

It was a lulled hush in the room but there was a buzz of movement outside the shut window frames.

He could smell the tang of his own sweat and the grime of leftover gunpowder.

It was blissfully dark as he let himself relax his body.

He lifted his hand mere inches in front of his face, staring at the ring that seemed too tight after a sweaty few hours of nightmared sleep.

He couldn't stay in here, even if being alone was an odd comfort to his memories.

"Where's Jeb?" even the scraped gruffness of his own voice surprised him and he cleared his swollen and sore throat.

"I told you to get some rest." She weighted her words quietly, even if they did have some common sense to them. "That shoulder isn't going to heal if you - "

"Where's Jeb?" He repeated after swallowing to soften the fire in his throat. He hadn't recognized the pain echoing down his right side until she mentioned it. Now it thundered up and down and echoed in his tight spine.

"He's sleeping." DG murmured quietly and wiped the heel of her palm against her jaw slowly. "Finally. Like you should be."

Cain nodded his head down, mildly ashamed of the guarded but concerned glances she kept washing against him. She was fidgeting her hands in a way that seemed to say she was unsure of what she should do next. He took the moment to look over her, noting the redness that rode high on her cheeks and the shallow weariness that darkened below her blue eyes. He let his tongue skip his bottom lip, hand resting against his holster, and he looked around them briefly at the resistance fighters and soldiers that were milling around them.

"The young princess tells me I should rest," his other hand motioned between them idly, "while she sleeps on her feet."

"Young princess?" she snorted and the smile that perked her lips made her eyes a little brighter in the dull gas and oil lamp lighting.

Wyatt watched her eyes pale as she watched two young, very young, men draw another wounded boy staggering into the room. Her glance flicked quickly to the way he was letting his right shoulder hang slightly lower than his left. He flexed his palm open and closed in response to the wide-eyed concern that blanked her face paler.

"Tell ya what, Princess" he sighed as he leaned his upper body closer to her, "I'll let Fluffy and the medics make sweet medical love to this shoulder gouge if you promise to clean up and get some rest."

DG eyed him in open disbelief, "Really?"

He tried to shrug and caught the breathless half laugh noise she let up between them when he winced into it. "Really."

"You gotta stop calling me Princess." She shook her head amiably and curled her fingers into the fabric of his duster, tugging him lightly into a slow walk.

Cain smirked and followed into her languid steps, "Can't stop bein' what you are, Princess."

"You're right." She smirked playfully back at him. "Jackass."


"Take off your jacket." Her hands were nudging him gently back into a chair and he couldn't help the smug smirk that slung over his lips as he leaned back wincing.

"You first." A sudden giddiness of relief had washed over him and he laughed quietly at the surprised look she flashed down over him.

His humor filled face seemed a challenge to her and Cain watched as she slugged off the leather jacket she'd been huddling in for days. DG tossed it aside to the table that had been knocked and jaunted so that glasses and other ephemera were strewn forgotten across it. She blinked down at him, suddenly seeming more fragile in just the dusty and dingy blue shirt.

Wyatt blinked his acquiescence and leaned forward, easing the left side of the duster off before struggling with the right. He sighed softly into the way she leaned her knees against his bent legs so that she could slowly pry the fabric from damaged and swollen skin. He kept his head low, knowing that he was dangerously close to eyeing the young woman's breasts. Knowing that more than likely, he wouldn't stop himself if he started in on that lust-laden train. He jumped slightly when she tugged the hat off his head as well as the coat from his body. It was with mild amusement that he watched her set both items of clothing light and gentle to the table beside her own.

"Raw should be here soon."

He wasn't sure, as she leaned in to inspect the way blood had crusted and steepled his shirt to his skin, how she could still smell as light and warm as she did. "Princess - "

"DG." She corrected, a look of concentration on her face as she tried to pull a dried bit of fabric from the wound.

"Damn." He hissed quietly and caught the sidelong arch of her eyebrow.

"Don't be a pansy."

"Don't be a bully." He murmured back and steeled his shoulder against the way she kept prying the fabric away.

"Shirt too." Her voice had gone even quieter and Wyatt lifted a hand to catch both of hers, slowly drawing them down and away from the wound as he nodded.

He stood slowly in front of her, forcing her body back a step while he popped the bracket and buckle on his holster. Cain cocked his head toward the water pitcher that had mercifully stayed upright on the table and she stepped toward it in agreement. DG fished through the tossed up rubble on the long dining table, searching for glasses and bowls while he laid the holstered weapon on top of the duster.

"Princess?" the hushed tone of Raw's voice from the doorway did nothing to stop the both of them from jumping and while one of Cain's hands went back to the pistol, the other hand had already dug into the fabric of DG's shirt, drawing her back close.

The straightening of her spine and the cocked angle of her neck matched the way her suddenly labored breathing was pressing her stomach against the knot his fist had made in her shirt. One of her hands covered his and rubbed a soothing warmth before she stepped away, forcing him to release her shirt. He flushed red against pale in slight embarrassment, setting the gun back to the table while he watched the welcoming smile she washed upon the nervous Viewer.

"Hey, Raw." One of her hands waved the Viewer closer. "Hope they didn't wake you."

"Can't sleep." Raw shook his head and moved toward them slowly. "Too much."

Cain watched the way both the Viewers pawed hands lifted and waved beside his ears. He caught the sympathetic glance DG gave him before she rubbed the other man's fur covered arm. He started drawing his shirt tails from his pants, turning away from them and only half listening to the concerned way Raw was asking after Azkadellia. He slowly drew the shirt off his body, letting it pull against the dried and crusted blood that was bracing it tight against his shoulder. He hissed another angry litany of curses and jumped hard when he felt a cool hand against the clammy and sweated skin of his back.

"One of Jeb's field medics is waiting for you, Tin Man."

He disliked that even when it was her small and gentle hand against his back, he still itched for a weapon.

"Not until you're cleaned up and eating something." He banked the words gruffly behind him. "That was the deal, Princess."

"Cain - "

"That was our deal." He murmured and let bottomless blue eyes turn back against the way she was hovering near his back.

"Raw," she huffed their companion's name, "Wanna order me a steak?"

Cain just smirked back and felt her tap her fingers against the flex of his shoulder blade before she stepped away.


"You know what we need?" she asked around the chunk of roll she had just bitten off.

"A napkin?" Cain taunted at her, eyes squinting against the mild twinges of pain that were prickling at him from his right shoulder as the medic scraped the dirt and grime from the wound.

DG frowned at him and swallowed, "Thank you for the etiquette lesson Mr Tight Pants."

He coughed up a laugh at the eye roll she lavished between them and went hush while the medic continued to clean the wound. Raw was leaned toward the back of his chair but not touching it, hovering quietly with slow and shallow breathing. It was rhythmic enough to comfort him while he watched the young woman start bandaging the wound. He lifted his arm a few inches and swallowed against the hot spread of pain, making sure that the hurt didn't shadow his face while he glanced back to DG. She had launched back into her tirade already.

"…we need to leave Central City."

"You need to get out of Central City." He nodded. "Your entire family does. But not until it's safe for all of you to move."

"I don't think we should all be together." She chewed around the food and swallowed hard, grinning thanks up to Raw as he poured her a glass of water. "Is that stupid? If we separate?"

Wyatt eyed her with a cocked glance as she chugged at the glass of water. He thanked the medic quietly and then stood, pulling the shirt back up off the table. DG shook her head quickly and waved toward Raw, her fingers dancing between them. She nodded him back toward the chair and Cain just cocked a glance at her.

"Now isn't the time to play cowboy, Cain." DG let a little dismissive quality into her voice and waved at the chair again. "Sit."

"Longcoats are going to re-organize. Especially if they find Zero and set him loose." He spoke gently as he sat, settling the dingy white and blue shirt to his lap as he leaned his shoulders back once again. "It would be easier to protect all of you if you were in one place but… I can't argue with you. It's smarter to split you up. We run the risk of dividing resources, but avoid the possibility of the entire royal family being taken out all - "

"Quiet, Tin Man." Raw's gentle voice him was a cautious pleading as his furry hands settled to the older man's shoulders.

"Yeah, " DG stood and stepped slowly toward the both of them, "Hush up, Tin Man."

He sat back farther in the chair, tipping his head hard against the high back edge of it. DG looked over the way his tired eyes dipped closed, head shaking minutely as he worked thoughts through his head and they flooded silent but visible over his face. She knelt in front of him and reached out, feeling him jump under her hand when she tried to still his fidgeting fingers.

"You can't always save the whole world at once, Mr Cain."

His eyes flared open, crystalline blue and bright, "Why not? Apparently you can."

She felt the flush go from her cheeks and all the way down her throat to her chest.

And he smirked when he saw it too.

Jackass.


"He's gonna kill us when he realizes what you two did."

DG grunted as she tried to lift both of the large man's booted feet, "Shut up and lift, Glitch."

Raw moved in and helped pull the broody Tin Man's prone body up onto the cleared wooden dining table, helping her angle his feet up onto it while Glitch accidentally thumped Cain's head onto the wood. All of them stilled sharply, waiting to see if the rattling thump would wake him. When he didn't even stir, DG snorted a laugh and smiled at her companions.

"Good job, Raw." She nodded, "Sleeping Beauty's out."

"He's going to filet us." Glitch grumbled again and tucked the other man's shirt under his sleep heavy head. "With the razor. You know he knows how."

"Glitch." DG rolled her eyes at him. "Chill."

"No, I'm fine." He wiped sweat off his forehead and then checked his zipper out of nervousness. "It's actually a little warm in here."

She let off a slight and breathy laugh, taking up residence in the seat beside the table, shrugging down into the warmth that he'd left. Her hand aimed for his hat and she tucked it on her head amiably before smiling wearily at the other two. Glitch was half smirking down at her and Raw looked tired, his gentle eyes resting over the prone Tin Man.

"You said my mother wants to meet in the morning?" she spoke softly, suddenly very aware of the low even breathing Cain was letting off.

Glitch nodded, "She requested your presence. And Cain."

DG just nodded back. "You guys go rest. Eat something. Clean up."

"We should - "

"I've got it, Raw." She waved them off and leaned back farther in the chair, "Go ahead. I'll take the heat."

Her eyes were clipped shut as they left and she didn't open them again until she'd heard the hushed sway of the large door closing behind them.


"I forgot."

DG startled slightly and lifted her head away from the way she'd been fingering the blood tacky hole in his shirt. Her eyes met his and she swallowed shallow and hard against the piercing blue of his glare. Her shoulders shrugged up slightly and she straightened her back in an attempt to seem stronger.

"Forgot what?"

"That you're smarter than you look." Cain let his head loll back so that he was staring at the ceiling, one of his hands resting loose on his bare stomach. "Where's the gun?"

"Under the table."

"Where's my coat?" he let one word slowly follow another, his voice sounding slightly fuzzed and muzzy.

"Under you."

"Are you wearing my hat?"

She just tipped the brim farther down on her forehead. "Yes ma'am, I am."

"I don't even get a pillow?" he rubbed to fingers at the bridge of his nose. "I've saved your life, you know?"

She lifted the worn shirt idly, suddenly embarrassed that she'd been fingering the nearly threadbare fabric. "You threw it in your sleep so I didn't think you deserved it back."

She tried not to watch him sit up but it wasn't easy not to watch the way he pressed himself up on sturdy arms. DG studied the stretch of his taut spine and flexed forearms as he shook the fuzziness from his thoughts. She watched him glance down at the still bandaged wound before crossing his left hand over his body to poke at it. She assumed it didn't bother him as he nodded and swung his still clothed legs and boot heavy feet off the table.

"You're damn devious, Princess."

"I never once went back on our deal."

"You did." He tweaked the hat off her head and flopped it casually back onto his own.

DG frowned up at him suddenly. "I ate."

"You still look like you got thrown forty yards by a Runner and then trampled under the entire Guild." He cocked his head back to blink wholesome blue eyes at her and she just chuffed back a noise and threw his shirt at his chest in a fashion that made him almost laugh.

"I saved your life, you know?"

He nodded and smiled sincerely as he swung the shirt back onto his body, "I will never forget it."

She hated how easily he kept making her flush.


She found it hard to sleep at first, worrying her fingers into the cotton-like fabric of the over-sized shirt she'd found to sleep in. DG lolled her head back and forth on the pillow, trying to stretch her tensed and tight neck muscles while she sorted her thoughts.

First problems first…

Civil war. Okay, okay… So it wasn't there yet, but it seemed as though the O.Z. was teetering dangerously close to re-enacting the Redcoats and militia riot act here. There were options, political options, she was sure… but she knew they needed to re-organize and plot these things through. Sure, that was what her mother…

Her mother. Her parents.

Second (and third) problems second…

She didn't know exactly how to approach either of them. It wasn't as though she was unhappy to see them, but it was awkward to say the least. DG wasn't quite sure how to say, what to say, where to say…anything. She fidgeted her fingers on the shirt even harder, blinking her eyes closed as she heard the far off scuffling of men still moving in the hours past midnight. It wasn't going to be easy for her to interact with them.

And if it wasn't going to be easy for her, it was gonna be a thousand extra miles of hard road for Az.

Azkadellia was the one she actually felt some sort of connection to – but the snapping break the witch had made in her sister was like a trench between them and she wasn't any more comfortable trying to span it than she was trying to get homey with her parents.

The parents that sent her away… And the sister that she didn't know anymore.

The only people she was mostly comfortable with were the men that had been her recent companions. Even they weren't necessarily going to be able to help her when it came to her relationship with her family. Sure, they could guide her when it came to the Outer Zone and where to go from a winning battle in a suddenly possibly waging war… That didn't mean that they could sit down and Dr Phil her family…

She allowed herself the amusing image of them all sitting down together on set while Phil sorted their problems for them, of course commenting on the fact that she couldn't stop looking at shirtless Wyatt Cain like a tall glass of something-something to a desert-parched woman.

"Ugh." DG lifted both hands and made a growling noise into her palms, letting them cover most of her face as she tried to push away the image of him looking up at her from under his hat brim, shirt deliciously untucked and rumpled. "This is gonna suck."


Half of him wished that he'd asked Raw to knock him out once again because his own brand of sleep was nothing of the sort. He rucked the sheet lower on his waist and let both hands wipe up to his face, fingers rubbing against the bridge of his nose as he shook off the repetitive nightmare that had woken him again.

Always the same.

Over and over again.

Wyatt stood quickly, flashing the sheet off his still clothed legs before he realized that his feet were heading for the floor. He was up, half across the room before he realized he'd picked up the gun. And before he lifted the pistol to look at it, he realized he was crying.

Always the same.

Her screams and the mangled way she moaned out his name.

She'd begged him to save her.

He'd just watched.

He was in the center of an unknown room, the ruckus still roaring in the main area of the tower…but it was too still up here. Too quiet. Too perfectly untouched in this room. All it did was close him in and lock him in a rememory that wouldn't end. He could see the blood that formed perfect droplets of blinding red on the corner of her mouth. He could hear the wheezed and forced rattle of her breathing as her eyes squeezed shut against tears. He could hear his name…over and over again.

Wyatt… please?

"Cain?" this voice that shot his spine straight was much younger, much livelier. "Jesus, Cain…put it down."

He hadn't realized he'd locked the business end of the pistol in the divot of his chin, grinding it between the bones of his jaw.

"Wyatt…please?" DG's eyes were wider and brighter than Adora's had been, younger and while still mildly manic…calmer. More cautious and assured. Nearly as desperate, but not so resigned.

His princess, unlike his dead wife, was still hopeful.

Bless her for that misguided innocence…

He let the hand with the gun sink down by his hip. "I never follow through, Princess."

"I think suicide attempts call for names, not titles." She still hadn't moved and he thought he could smell the fear radiating off her, like a pack dog with a lead on something.

Cain let up a cynical half laugh, "If I was going to kill myself…baby, I woulda done it when that box opened up."

He angled his body away from her, showing her his bare back as he set the pistol back to the bedside table. He considered the bed and then considered the fact that she was still standing still and awkward behind him. Cain let his shoulders drop on a huff of suddenly embarrassed breath and turned his voice behind him.

"I'm sorry."

"I couldn't sleep."

The breathless way she said it seemed to mark the sudden change in conversation but he didn't mind at all. He took the way she was walking toward his window as a moment to rub the salt tears off his face, hand wiping down over his mouth.

He let his hands set to his hips as he noted the mostly comfortable way she leaned a shoulder against the window frame, "What do we do?"

His eyes dropped to her pale and lithe legs, brow arching at the flimsy shirt she'd apparently used for bedclothes, "Keep going."

DG nodded but it wasn't at him. She was thinking aloud, "I think Az should stay with my mother. She'll need the guidance. And Tutor can help her. We'll go with Ahamo."

"You and the mouse in your pocket?" he let a tone of teasing into his voice to lighten the awkward stillness that was still brooding between them.

She turned her wide blue eyes on him, arms tucked under her breasts as though she was cold or frightened, "I'm not wearing any."

He cocked his head at an angle and then shook it with a smirk, "I'd noticed, Princess."

"I hate that you call me that."

He smiled wider, "I love calling you that."

"Because I hate that you call me that?"

"You shouldn't be in here." He chided gently and breathed evenly through his nose.

DG turned slowly from the window and he watched her suddenly gain a few inches in height as she straightened and stepped toward him. Her hair was a damp wild mess and the dark tangle of it had a halo in the light from outside. It was beyond attractive to him and a sick feeling started in his stomach when he realized how much he liked looking at it.

His wife was dead.

But… she hadn't been dead all that long.

But…

"Cain?"

She'd been dead, over and over again, in his head for round on a decade.

"What?" he blinked his eyes up at her slowly, noticing how pale she was looking.

"Don't ever put that piece of metal to your head again," there was a gray tint of steel in her blue eyes. "Do you understand me?"

He didn't even blink, "Yes, Princess."

"Good night." She was already headed back for the door and he watched her leave without knowing why she'd even come.

"Good night, DG."


"Jesus Christ." She was shivering a hand against the wall outside of his room, trying to steady herself as she leaned into its coolness. Her stomach churned black tasting bile as she tried to shake the image of him out of her head.

Him and his fucking gun. Always with the gun.

The memory of it digging toward his throat as tears went crystal cut in his eyes and DG had to bend down against the wall to keep from losing the little food she had eaten. It was at least half an hour before she felt like she could safely walk from the doorway without hearing a shot echo behind her.

She didn't trust his promises.

She didn't trust anyone's.

He'd taught her that.

The guilt he felt on Adora's behalf was trap-laying a headache directly behind his eyes but he did his best to ignore it. Instead he tipped his head to the side, angling his jaw against the pillow, looking over the place she had been.

Not Adora, not his wife.

Dead wife…she's dead, Wyatt. Face it.

He stretched flatter on his back, legs stretched out over the bedsheet instead of under it, studying the empty space that her short but delicately strong little body had been. He could still half see her there, the curly mess of waved dark hair, the glaring clean white of a dress shirt that had probably once belonged to her father. The way the hem of it had cut just half between the soft backs of her knees and the light little teasing curves of her -

"Stop it." He dug the heels of his palms against his closed eyes, forcing pain so that the guilt-ache flared red in the dark.

Even with his eyes closed he could still see the way each of her lithe arms tucked under barely covered breasts, just enough hint of a cleft between them to -

"Damn it." His fist punched down hard into the mattress beside him.

He opened his eyes to a dark room, staring at the ornately carved rails that soared up over the rarely used bed. He didn't try to stop himself this time when he imagined her laying still on a similar bed, eyes wide open as she stared at a shadowed ceiling and worried over everything the Zone had dropped into her small but capable hands. And before he could stop the thought he wondered how capable those hands were at other things.

Nearly a decade.

Annual, on annual, on annual of feeling nothing.

Not even desire.

He was suddenly surprised by the way lust felt. He'd barely remembered the sensory feel of it. Now it was tight in his thighs and his breathing had a rasping fire in his throat. Something was cinching in his chest and, damn it… He couldn't make it stop.

Not even Adora could stop it.

Not now.

"She's dead." He whispered quietly to the empty room and listened to the way it echoed.

Wyatt looked back to the empty window space again and allowed himself to recreate the soft swaying image DG had made while standing silent sentry to the suicidal Tin Man. He let his eyes sift closed but he could still see the vision of her in the dark, the way she'd turned and been so suddenly stolid and forthright.

Damn sexy is what she'd been… tousled and pretty and perfectly made in the shadows of his bedroom.

She'd entered, taken the room, been a part of it as though she'd belonged there.

As though she already owned the intimate space at his window, at his bedside.

He didn't stop the movement of his hands, a reminiscent throb in his right shoulder only vaguely reminded him of the mostly healed wound as he undid the clasp of his belt and worked open his pants. Cain sucked down a nervous breath and slid his hand against his length, fingers curving around it as he closed his eyes and saw her again. He swallowed against guilt, pressed his eyes tighter closed so that the red of the headache was fading black. His other hand jerked against his pants as he pulled himself free and just strokingly, softly, touched himself.

The heat of his hand and the dryness frustrated him and he considered running another bath but…it seemed like too much effort for something so ridiculous. And it seemed that the pain was dulling the roar of guilt that had sunken angry teeth into his head. He kept his movements slow and soft, head driven hard into the pillow while he kept his eyes squeezed shut.

There was a warmth and a certain earthy delicious smell to her that he had noticed while she'd lingered at his window. It seemed to hang in the air over him, like rainwater and maybe violets. Wyatt groaned into the slow and careful stroke of his hand, licking his bottom lip as he ran his thoughts over every inch of her that he could draw up in his head. Stubborn crown of dark hair to her small but quick feet, he already knew it all. His breathing hitched along with his hips and he finally worked a little fluid at the tip of his penis, groaning as he settled on the memory of her cocky smile.

He dug his hips down, biting on his own lip in an imaginary nip of hers while he started stroking harder. The damn smell of the girl was still lingering in the room and he couldn't from shallowly swallowing it down into his lungs as he rolled on the mattress. He put the free arm up, resting his body against his forearm and lifting up on his knees.

He couldn't stop seeing her under him.

He didn't want to stop.

Her smaller and softer and warmer hand working him raw instead of his own. Smirking at him while she teased. She had a perfect way of teasing him sometimes, confident, cocky, but true and honest. Always honest and right. Wyatt tightened his fingers, growling in frustration.

More.

He needed more of her.

He needed the too clean shirt half open and his mouth cradling slow down the valley between her breasts while he teased himself against her wetness. The moan she would offer him and the indignant punch in the arm when he pulled away from sliding into her. The laughter he'd let into her dark hair while she pulled him back between her trim legs. The slide of her tongue against his as he sank hard and tight into her…

He came faster than he'd expected, groaning as he bit down hard against his own forearm.

Wyatt…please?

Their voices were starting to echo together into one.

Evaporating into darkness as he sank flat against the messy sheets.

He didn't know if he was crying out of relief and release, or guilt and self hatred.


It was still dark, really, and Ahamo hadn't had near enough sleep to want to deal with any of the handfuls of problems they had waiting for them. He stretched to the side of the bed and felt it cool-cool empty. One of his hands rubbed up against his face as he heard the familiar cultured tones of his wife from the outer room of the suite they were resting in. He could hear her conversing with a man, no…two men at least. With a gulp of air he listened for a few moments, savoring the sound of her close by before he forced himself up from the mattress.

He dressed quickly in clothes that had been left in one of the chairs. He smirked at the old articles of clothing that reminded him of their long ago lives. Ahamo wiped his hair back before buttoning the shirt, eyes resting on the jacket she'd left for him. He shook his head minutely with a smile, knowing it was one of her old favorites. His hands were quick and confident as he slid on the jacket, buttoning it while more voices added from the other room.

He was rubbing at the scruff on his jaw, wishing he'd taken the time to shave as he entered the outer room. Lavender was fully dressed but her hair, grayed for years now, was long and loose down her back. She was speaking softly to the younger Cain, her voice quiet but firm while she gave the young man directions in a flowing voice. He'd learned to recognize the soothing and coddling tone that she'd once used with their girls.

Their girls…

If they were theirs anymore…

"Good morning." She barely lifted her head as she spoke, intently taking one of the scrolls that another resistance fighter was handing over to her. "There's some breakfast on the table for you."

"How much have I missed?" he asked as he bypassed the tray of fruits and reached for the coffee.

"Mister Cain - "

"Jeb." The young man corrected pleadingly.

"Jeb and I are already organizing the leftover men in defensive postures around the tower." She nodded his name with a placating smile before looking down at the paper she held, "The dead and wounded count is…high, but not as bad as it could have been."

"Tin Men should be recalled as soon as possible." Ahamo added while he poured steaming coffee into a chipped up cup. "The wounded need to be attended to."

"I'll have the elder Mr Cain recall the Tin Men as soon as I can re-instate him. Unless there is an argument I'll appoint him Captain." She nodded once at their following silence, "The wounded have already been taken to the main dining hall and they're receiving care."

Ahamo took a slow sip of hot and blessedly strong coffee, "Royal Guard?"

"Jeb is helping organize an internal guard." She gave the young man, awkwardly standing to her side, a soft smile. "If you could give me another report before we all meet?"

"Of course, ma'am." His pale eyes winced before he dipped his head. "Your majesty."

"Thank you." She nodded and stepped away from him and Ahamo watched the younger man deftly move from the room as quickly as possible.

Ahamo waited until the door clipped closed behind Jeb before letting up a bark of laughter, eyes on her serene face, "You just scared that boy out of three lives, my love."

There was still a sadness to the amused smile she returned, "He is very, very young."

"DG isn't much older." He murmured quietly.

"Dorothy is a Gale." Lavender answered sharply, "She's older than the Zone itself."

Ahamo just nodded as she turned back to the scroll she'd been handed, her usually clear eyes clouding as she read the report of the dead and wounded.