Disclaimer: I can't afford to own anything so borrow it I shall.

Author's Note: There was enough questions about the last one to seriously offend muse. This was the result. Hopefully it is answer enough. Now excuse me, I have to go be growly.

PS Dedicated to Lcsaf, thanks for the help with the ballerina lingo.


...


There once was a farm grown princess who was twice stolen from everything she had ever known. First was when she was very young, a curious child who had wandered carelessly far from home. The price of her blunder had been the loss of all she held dear: her family, her homeland, even her memory, leaving her stranded in a world that became familiar but never felt quite right. Leaving her ever searching for the magic that she almost knew should be there, but finding only the mundane instead.

Not unlike a ballerina, reaching always towards the heavens yet never able to quite escape the return to the floor.

The second time came as a thief in the night, searching her out, stealing its way into the only world she remembered. For while she had forgotten her home it had not forgotten her, not entirely. Darkness reached out for her, the enemy of her shrouded past lashing out blindly to extinguish the Light it had found, but the agents of that Light intervened. And so the princess who didn't know she was a princess found herself stranded and alone, on the other side of the rainbow.

There she found destiny waiting, and a tin soldier in a box.

Memory of her true Realm fractured and faded, haunted by disjointed dreams, and prodded ever onward by elusively familiar strangers, the long lost princess tread blindly along a path her heart almost remembered but that her head nearly didn't believe. She was not alone in her quest, however, for she had found friends to help her along the way, and a steadfast tin soldier had her back.

And in the end, there had been just enough light to show her the way.

Then the real work began, because being a real live princess isn't all dress balls and glass slippers; it's lessons and meetings and trying to keep a kingdom together while simultaneously preventing it from killing her newly discovered big sister. Some days she even thinks the balls are the worst of it, overflowing as they are with important dignitaries and noble suitors. None of the airs and graces required feel natural as she muddles her way along, desperately applying the very diplomacy that ever failed to talk her way out of a ticket. But she can't forget whose the erring step it was that rent the Realm. So she does not complain, merely tries to pretend she's at a barn dance amongst friends. Praying all the while that she doesn't lose the person she was in the person the O.Z. needs her to be.

It's like asking a ballerina to perform an arabesque en pointe…and hold it forever.

And yet that is alright, because she still has her new friends to help her and a loyal tin soldier still has her back. When the constant press of suitors becomes too much, when she thinks if she has to utter or listen to one more diplomatic platitude she is going to scream, when her smile becomes strained and that air of gentility begins to crack, he never fails to lend her a hand or an ear or a moment's fresh air. She doesn't know why he's stuck around this long – he hates the pomp and the circumstance every bit as much as she does – but she is so glad that he does, for he lends her the immeasurable balance of letting her be herself.

And then some greedy bastard had to go and start a war.

She couldn't say she was surprised when she heard he'd answered the call to arms, the princess knew too much of the steadfast tin soldier for that, but that doesn't mean she liked watching him ride away. Perhaps even more so because of message she thought she read in his eyes before they'd disappeared behind that wide hat brim. That silent promise that makes her hope that just maybe...

He damn well better not fall out of any windows.

Waiting has never been her strong suit, nor has she ever gotten used to the idea of being too important to do anything. Not that she does nothing. Waiting is never easy, but doing something at least helps the time pass. Those airs and graces are the first to wear away, the nobles watch in astonishment as their princess vanishes in the wake of an industrious farm girl waiting for her soldier to come home. It's an old story on the Otherside, one that can end so many ways, and so many of them unhappily. And no way of finding out how this story will go but wait out the years…

…and apply diplomatic butt-kickings until they bring her battered old tin soldier home.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, neither tin soldier nor princess would argue the statement as she flung herself into his arms at last. That message in his eyes has gotten louder, become a question he doesn't ask quite yet. There was something he had to do first, if she would just wait one more day…

She's really never been that good at waiting.

The cabin was on fire when she arrived, it lit up like a match to paper as she broke through the trees, following him because she could this time. She knew going in that she couldn't pull him out. He's more than twice her size and pinned beneath the collapsed roof besides. But then, pulling him out never was the plan. The flames blazed up into a raging inferno as she called the wind to her. Common sense dictated against adding fuel to the fire but she only needed it for a moment.

Just long enough to call the storm.

What she hadn't intended on was taking the fire with them. It wasn't as bad on this side, not yet, but the old wooden farmhouse was no less flammable than an old log cabin, all it needed was time. And the tin soldier was in no condition to help her. Exhausted, desperate, she struggled to pull her brave tin soldier from the burning wreckage she had once called home. Knowing she couldn't, knowing she wouldn't leave him there.

So many ways for the story to end, so few of them happy…

This one's end begins with an almost curse, and the mundane turned magic in the form of the neighbour that sees the blaze and comes to help. The kind that will walk right into that fire if need be. And suddenly there is a pair of helping hands and a set of strong shoulders beside her in the flames, aiding her in hauling the Tin Man to his feet, dragging him out between them, muttering encouragement all the way as they fight their way clear. Then they're lying beneath the open sky, sucking in that miracle called oxygen, and she can hear the sirens in the distance, coming ever closer. There's going to be some explaining to do, not to mention tomorrow to worry about, because suddenly it isn't an end after all.

Which is just as well, DG always was more interested in the ever after anyhow.