…Not only had the Witch's former slaves cleaned and bandaged Dorothy's burned legs, they had also allowed the foursome to rest in the castle, giving them leave to take as much time as they needed before returning to the Emerald City. Scarecrow hadn't gone to visit her in the two days since the Witch's death; he just kept himself cloistered in the tower that had once been Dorothy's prison. He wanted to put himself in her shoes, to try and make sense of what she had done that night. From the impromptu, out-of-character kiss to her reckless sacrifice…none of it made any logical sense. Not that he hadn't enjoyed it…the kiss. It was more than he ever could have dreamed of! But was it love or was it driven by the fact that they were at death's door?
All of this thinking, without a brain to manage it, was draining the Scarecrow. When he turned from the window, determined at last to run to Dorothy's side, she was standing there, quietly watching him. He suddenly felt a pang of shame. What could he possibly say to her?
She was wearing one of the soldier's over-sized uniform blouses, the bandages on her injured thighs visible and blood-stained. Her hair fell down her back in brown waves. She had removed the ruby slippers that the Witch had so coveted, and stood on the cold floor in bare feet.
As he drank in the ethereal sight of her, reality hit him all at once. His lip trembled, and with a sob he said,
"You saved me."
And then she was coming toward him with that scathing look in her eyes, threatening to burn him up on the spot. He closed his eyes tightly to protect himself from the borage of scolding remarks he so deserved, but again she surprised him with her generous spirit. Her arms found their way around his neck, and they just stood there for a while, holding each other as if the other could disappear without a moment's notice.
It could have been years by the time he took Dorothy gently by the shoulders and put an arms-length of distance between them. Scarecrow tried to read her face, fresh with tears but oddly calm and collected. She even cracked a smile for him, and he felt that he ought to beg her forgiveness for his recent neglect on bended knee. But somehow, he knew he didn't have to.
He managed to say instead:
"Your feet are bare. You're going to catch a cold!"
Before she could fully formulate a protest ("We walk through the fields on bare feet all the time in Kansas") he lifted her from her feet and carried her to sit on the thick, stone railing on the observation balcony. Dorothy swung her legs over the edge and Scarecrow kept his arm tight around her waist to keep her steady. They sat quietly for a while as the mountain wind whipped past them.
"I considered jumping, you know," Dorothy said, much to his astonishment. "I thought it would be better to choose my own destiny."
"Thank goodness you didn't. What stopped you, Dorothy?"
"I knew you would come after me. You had followed me so far already, I was sure you wouldn't leave me here."
He turned to face her and hastened to take her hand in his own.
"The minute they took you from me, my path was clear. I would have done anything, anything at all, to come and get you."
Dorothy smiled brilliantly at him. He moved his arm from her waist to her shoulder and rested his head upon hers, gazing out at the barren landscape of the western territory.
"You need to make a point of talking to Tin Man and Lion soon," Dorothy said after a stretch of contented silence. "They've been so worried about you."
"I'm so sorry I've been distant these last few days," said the strawman sheepishly.
"I was wondering why you hadn't come to see any of us. The others told me you must be thinking."
"Well, it's not easy to ponder without a brain, so I'm afraid I've been rather unsuccessful. Once I've collected on the Wizard's promise, maybe some of this will make sense."
After a long while of enjoying the stillness, Dorothy yawned.
"You need to rest," Scarecrow said as Dorothy's feet found their way back onto the cold, stone floor.
Since she absolutely refused to allow him to carry her back to her room, Scarecrow relented, kissed Dorothy's hand, and then looped it through the crook of his arm. They walked slowly to the girl's sleeping quarters. When they reached the door, the strawman wrapped her up in his embrace. She was content to leave him with a kiss on his burlap cheek, but when she turned to leave he found that he didn't have the strength to let go of her hand. Dorothy looked quietly at their entwined fingers, as if considering them, and then met his gaze.
Scarecrow's lips moved, but nothing came of it. Their free hands found each other and he brushed the backs of her soft skin with the pads of his thumbs.
"I wish," he said after a time. "That I had the right words."
"I have them," she replied quietly.
"Then please," he pleaded quietly. "Help me!"
She took his face in her hands.
"There are three of them," Dorothy said, stroking his cheek lovingly. "I've had them since the day I met you, and I have no doubt that you'll find them when you're ready."
Scarecrow was so enthralled by what Dorothy was saying that he had almost completely missed the way her eyes had softly glazed and the way her lips had parted ever so slightly. He may have missed these things completely if she hadn't just then stood on the tips of her toes to softly kiss him. It was shy and beautiful, the way a first kiss should be. It wasn't the hasty, fiery one of the night of the melting. No…that had had the distinct flavor of a last kiss. This was soft and intimate, and it was the most natural thing in the world for the strawman to wrap his arms around her at the waist and shoulders, tipping her back ever so slightly. As gently as it had started, it ended, and with that, she left him for the night. He stared at her door for a moment, searching for answers.