Disclaimer: I think I've run out of interesting ways to state this: do not own Tin Man.

Author's Note: daughterofthe1king, I think you have as good of odds of winning that bet as you did several stories ago – this darn series keeps growing. Sigh.


...


Wyatt Cain was trying really hard not to take this game too seriously. It was, as he kept telling himself, just a game. There was no reason to be upset, alarmed or otherwise discommoded, especially when it contained all the elements he approved of in a game, thus he was going to approach the situation at hand with the utmost calm and composure…

Two unconscious guards and a thoroughly terrified lordling might think otherwise, but that was inevitable once Raw had introduced the changes he did. While the Tin Man could appreciate that a moving target made things more interesting, it was far too close to his own life for Cain's comfort despite – or perhaps especially because of – DG having been placed on the opposite team.

After all, if there was one thing Cain did more often than guard where the youngest princess had been, it was search frantically for where she was now. He was not exactly used to approaching such situations with an air of tranquility…

…but it was just a game, no need to be concerned or anxious or oddly annoyed, because it wasn't like DG found trouble every time she entered the woods…

…Movement!

The Crown Princess slinking through the undergrowth spotted the Tin Man almost in the same moment and took off at a dead sprint with him hot on her heels. A breathy, near silent laugh ghosted back to him as she dodged through the tree, attempting to throw off pursuit without giving away her position to all and sundry. She was promptly thwarted in this when she chose to cut through a close-grown thicket of brush, as Cain followed with all the stealth of an enraged bull in a tic tok shop. DG eeled past the last of the cloying branches seconds later, letting out a little crow of delight as she took advantage of her relatively unhampered state – only to find herself tackled the next instance as her pursuer tore free and threw himself forward…

He hadn't meant to actually tackle her; it was just that Cain never had a chance to see the drop-off coming.

Oh, so that's where they'd gotten themselves to, the Tin Man noted as he and the princess tumbled headlong down into the little valley at the far edge of the game boundaries. They managed, by some miracle, to miss any trees on the way down, rolling to a stop at the bottom a minute later in a tangle of limbs, Cain trying desperately not to crush DG beneath him. For a moment they only stared at each other in stunned surprise then the princess burst into a peal of laughter that was anything but stealthy but entirely infectious. The Tin Man tried to resist, a smile tugging insistently at the corner of his mouth as he endeavoured to contain it – this was a covert mission…game…thing – but the deep chuckle slipped out regardless, completely impossible not to join her in her merriment.

DG stopped laughing in absolute shock. She stared up at him for moment in a strange sort of awed wonder then, with a quirk of the brow, that laughing smile was back, dancing across lips that seemed to have gained a gravitational pull…

"Found them! Intruders!" the voice of a guard the Cain recognized to be on the Crown Princess' side bellowed through the trees, "Hurry! He's got the princess!"

With an oddly echo-y growl, the Tin Man rolled to his feet, taking the princess with him. It was not enough, he remembered suddenly, to capture the princess; one also had to get her safely back to home base. As he tossed the oddly unresisting DG over his shoulder and took to his heels, Cain could swear that somewhere he heard a Viewer cursing…