Breathing Again
Chapter Nine
Someday I'll wake and rub my eyes, and in that land beyond the skies, you'll find me.

Glinda poked her head into the room China Girl was sleeping in when she and Oz arrived back in the Emerald City late the following night. They'd powered the horses through the ride back and made it in record time. She had been eager to get home to see what was left of her old chambers, since she'd spent most of her first days of recovery in the King's. When she arrived however, she had been told by Finley that a certain six-year-old had been most troubled since returning to the palace.

With a sigh, since the little girl was asleep, Glinda prepared to leave the room, figuring she'd talk to the animated doll in the morning. "Wait," China Girl called sleepily, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," Glinda cringed, stepping into the too-large chambers and making her way to the oversized bed. "Go back to sleep, we'll talk tomorrow."

China Girl's shoulders shrugged and she frowned, fighting tears. "Why does everyone have to die?"

Glinda pressed her lips together, not ready to start a fresh round of crying. She lifted China Girl up, snuggling her against her chest. "It certainly seems like people come and go very quickly around here lately, doesn't it? It's so tragic. And I don't have an answer." Taking a shaky breath, Glinda kissed the top of China Girl's head. "I'm tired of losing people myself. And I know you are still struggling with what has happened to your people. We haven't really gotten to discuss that yet. But we will, little one."

"Oz said we could make some sort of memorial for them," She responded miserably, sliding back into her bed.

Glinda stroked the girl's cheek. "Absolutely we will, dearest. Try to sleep well," She bid her good-bye, standing and repositioning the blankets over China Girl's body.

About ready to collapse onto her own bed, Glinda walked down the hallway and pushed open the door to her old chambers, giggling at the sight of Oz already sound asleep on her bed, though it hardly looked like her old living quarters.

She groaned as she eyed their bags of clothing from their trip to the Gillikin Country. Everything of hers was dirty or not comfortable for sleeping and she did not have the patience to ruffle through stockpiles of old clothing that Evanora and Theodora had seen fit to put into the dungeon storage during their years of terror.

Giving a smirk as an idea formed, she opened one of the suitcases that contained Oz's clothes, and sure enough, he had one fresh outfit left. Stepping out of her dress, she found a longer button-up shirt that was soft enough to sleep in, which fell halfway down her thighs. Deeming it appropriate for the night, she stretched before gently climbing into bed, making herself snug next to the Wizard. He roused for a moment to mumble something incoherent and turn on his side, winding an arm around her. Giggling silently, Glinda pulled a blanket over her legs and let her head rest against his chest.

The following morning, as usual, Oz woke first, grinning at the sight of Glinda curled tightly against him. Her hand was over his heart and face cuddled in his neck. He kissed her cheek, hoping not to stir her as he carefully maneuvered so not to wake his sleeping witch.

Traveling to their luggage from the trip, Oz found himself his last pair of clean pants and undergarments, frowning as he swore there was at least one more shirt in the bag. Shrugging, he decided to deal with the matter after a long, well-needed soak.

Glinda's chambers were extravagant; possibly more-so than the King's. She'd told him on their way home that they were designed for her by the Master Tinker and his crew when she was very young, with only her crude drawings of what she wanted to go by. What they had produced was beyond any expectation, as Oz noted as he stepped into the lavish washroom. Swirled, white marble floors and polished silver adornments were everywhere. A slightly elevated, big-enough-for-ten bathtub was to the left of the room, which he tossed his clean clothes near while hunting for a towel in a cupboard. True to the theme of the city, most of them were in greens or whites, with one pink, smaller sized towel in the middle of the stack. He pulled it out, revealing a silver 'G' sewn into the back and he fought an eye-roll with a smirk at the sight.

Turning a knob on the tub and letting the water heat, Oz ruffled through shelves to find something no-so-feminine to use for soap. Assuming Evanora hadn't taken over this room was his best bet, as none of the ridiculous names to describe floral scents seemed to strike him as something she'd use. Giving up, he decided that he'd simply smell like a fresh daisy for the day.

After a relaxing soak, he dried off, feeling too bashful to use the pink 'G' towel after having already subjected himself to a floral pampering. He tied a dark green towel around his waist and left for a moment to rummage through his brown suitcase for a pair of small scissors to clean up his beard with.

Eventually he was bathed, groomed, and ready to attack his first morning in the Emerald City, with the first item on his agenda to wake the sleeping dragon in the room next to him followed by hunting down a shirt.

Glinda had rolled over onto her stomach with a blanket pulled up to her earlobes as she snored lightly, her hair tousled all over the pillow. Oz grinned and crawled up the bed to lay on top of the mound that was her body, earning a groan as she pushed her weight into the mattress. He pressed the blanket down and slid his fingers over her shoulders, sneaking his lips onto her turned cheek. "Good morning, my Queen. It is time to rise and greet your kingdom."

She twisted her face and rubbed it into the pillow, mumbling something about the kingdom being able to greet itself. Oz sat up with his legs straddled over her hips, pulling the blanket down with him and pressed warm kisses down from her neck to her lower back, earning a more satisfied groan this time. "Breakfast will surely be waiting if you can manage to get yourself up."

Glinda squirmed against him and Oz rolled to stand on the bed next to her while she extended her arms up in a dramatic stretch with a screechy yawn before pushing herself up, her ankles tucked under her. She blinked slowly, turning to meet Oz's stare as he eyed her ensemble. "And there's my last clean shirt."

He tugged her hips towards him as he earned a trouble-making smirk from Glinda. She undid the top button and the bottom one, causing him to swallow hard. "I'm sorry, Wizard...would you like it back?" Oz opened his mouth to speak, but didn't trust himself to, so settled instead for pressing it hard to hers. She groaned and hooked a hand around his bicep, leading the other to the tail end of the front of the shirt as she pulled away to whisper. "I'll take it off and put it on you, if that's what you want."

She led his fingers to the second button from the bottom, letting him toy with it for a moment before it popped open while she strayed her own hand to the top, revealing a long line of cleavage. He pressed his free hand to her hip, holding her still as he moved his lips to her neck and she slid another fastener out of the hole. The Wizard pulled away to meet her lusty eyes and he bit the inside of his cheek to contain himself from pressing his mouth to her sternum.

It wasn't long before the entire shirt was unbuttoned and Oz had to restrain himself with every ounce of energy in his body to keep from ogling her exposed chest. Glinda shifted her shoulders to shrug out of his shirt, never breaking eye-contact. Oz struggled to breathe as she fitted it around his back, sliding his arms into the sleeves and taking her time with nimble fingers to close each button, leaving the top one open for her to lean forward and kiss his warm flesh.

He refused to look down, knowing he'd be completely done for if he did. Instead, he helped her stand, pulled her in for a quick hug and kiss on the forehead then whispered, "I'll meet you in the dining hall."

Glinda deflated when he left, falling backwards on the bed in a mad fit of giggles, completely shocked at her own actions — that she'd had the courage to actually go through with them. The look on his face and obvious struggle with his arousal was completely worth the flush that now stained her cheeks as she gathered a hold of herself to ruffle through her own clothes to find something suitable for the day.

Glinda tied the bright yellow bow in the back of China Girl's new dress snugly before turning the little girl around with a beaming smile as she bent her knees up and down with excitement. "Ready?"

"Ready!" She bounced up to give Glinda a hug, one the significantly calmer witch gladly returned. After three days back in the Emerald City, the majority of her old items restored from the pits of the dungeons, Glinda was finally starting to feel a little peace.

Oz poked his head in the door, smirking at the sight of Glinda and China Girl. They'd taken China Girl to her new school the day before, and the doll was more than excited to go back for her first day. "Ladies all set?"

"Almost," Glinda smirked, unhooking a small string of pearls that was around her wrist and reattaching it around China Girl's neck, letting it hang almost to the middle of her chest. "There."

"It's beautiful!" China Girl marveled, gingerly touching the beads. "Thank you."

Oz scooped her onto his shoulder and took Glinda's hand, leading them through the halls of the Emerald City Palace. Their palace — their family home.

Finley met them at the front walkway and the small, misfit family made their way through the Emerald City for only the second time together since they'd all been back. Oz relied on Glinda to lead them through the wide paths that jutted out from the center of the city, the Palace, to the roads that lead to shops, restaurants, homes, or businesses. The Academy for Emerald City's Girls was nearly fifteen minutes walk from the city's center, but well worth the time for the look on the little girl's face as she scrambled down form the Wizard's shoulder and to the ground, where a group of girls her age were waiting to take her into the school. A teacher laughed and greeted the royal couple with a courtesy, assuring them that China Girl would be well cared for and well educated in her time away from home.

"There is no doubt in my mind this will be the best place for her," Glinda confessed, beaming as she eyed the little doll from the window, giving a little wave and earning one back before turning to Oz. "Time for the announcements?"

"Indeed," He agreed with a nod, eyeing the sky and predicting they had just a half-hour to prepare. He was nervous, hoping the good people of the Emerald City would buy into their story about his human form, and be accepting of the relationship between he and Glinda. It was a bit too much power, in his own opinion, for the Wizard and Queen of the Land of Oz to be sharing in a relationship; he knew plenty about Checks and Balances, and if they were together, there would be none. Therefore, he was hoping that within the next few weeks, the restructuring of the entire Ozian country would begin, just as Locasta's book had advised.

He'd read his ruling book from cover to cover thrice over in three days, nervous to truly begin a reign over the land without someone to guide him firsthand. Glinda had little practical experience in leadership, none that had derived form her own doing, anyhow. He felt completely unprepared as she led him up to a podium where he was to deliver his first official speech as Wizard to a waiting press and gathering of Ozians.

As the clock chimed nine in the morning, he cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and felt relaxed at the heavy hand that was against his lower back, a small indent from a ring pressing firm against him. Glinda gave her softest smile, and at the reassuring gesture, Oz began to speak.

"My fellow you may have heard from rumors or seen in the papers or visually before you now for clarification, I, your Wizard, have taken on a mortal shell once again. I have done this for not only your sake, but my own. Living as an all-powerful etherial being was as grueling as you might expect. And while the pressure was something I felt I could have lived with, I chose to manipulate my magic, with the help of your lovely Queen, and return to you as a human once more. I feel that in this body, I may service you in a more realistic capacity, truly embodying the word serve. As a spirit, there were not hands I could lift to aid in the reconstruction process of this great land, nor was there a fair way to go about spreading my time throughout the Land of Oz. Now, in this form, I can join you in rebuilding the nation, restructuring the government, and reminding you all that we are all in this land of Oz together!"

The crowd that had gathered erupted into applause, and Glinda clapped her hands together as well, catching his eye and forcing his grin to widen. Feeling completely confident, he began his next proposal. "The Land of Oz is beautiful and full of wonders. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful and wondrous things were tainted by the reign of the wicked witches. Whole towns were destroyed and their people with them. These tragedies will not be forgotten. I am personally funding a project to clean up these lost villages and erect memorials in honor of the forgotten." The people cheered again and Oz reached into his coat, removing a scroll. "This list of skilled workers we will need will be placed in the city message center. Those who sign up to work will be compensated for their time devoted to these projects.

"I also have a new structure for the running of not only the Emerald City's government, but each country within this land. Representatives will be chosen by the people to work with us in the Palace in creating new policies, law, and handling the day-to-day running of our government. More information on this will be out in pamphlets next week, one for each family in Oz. But, start thinking of who among you are fair, honest, and selfless people that you might nominate and elect to represent you on our court."

Those in the Emerald City mumbled amongst themselves at the idea of a new system for delivering their issues and needs to the Wizard. In the past, everyone needed an individual audience with the king. Now, they would be able to take their complaints or suggestions to one person who's sole job was to care for them. It would be an adjustment that would take time, but Oz was sure a democracy would be for the better in the long run.

"The final point I'd like to make while I have your attention this wondrous morning, is that many of you have realized by now that your former Princess is now your Queen." Glinda flushed, she hadn't known he was going to speak about her. Oz gave her a look and took her hand in his, drawing her closer to the podium. "She has spent the past month in the North, working extraordinarily hard on learning how to do the job and increasing her already powerful magic and unlocking her potential. Though the intent of the Wizard by the Great King was to be the leader of this land, I have every intention on sharing the role of leadership with Glinda. With her compassion, goodness, and complete devotion to you, people of Oz, she will make an excellent Queen. I am proud to stand beside her today, and looking forward to a lifetime of great, and good things with her."

The crowd went wild in applause and support for the Wizard's statement. Glinda turned her body in closer to his, hiding her red face from the people as she fought a smile. "Glinda and I have been through plenty together since I first came to Oz, and our relationship is growing stronger each day. I cannot wait for all of you to be able to witness us grow as leaders and as a couple destined for one another. The new system of government I am putting in place will work to ensure that the relationship that Glinda and I have outside of leading the people does not affect our work when we are."

Glinda nodded and wrapped her arm around his, watching her people hang on the Wizard's every word, full of wonder and anticipation for what would lie ahead during their reign.

Oz cleared his throat,"At this time, I will now answer a few questions in an orderly fashion." Reporters hands flew up as he began calling on them one at a time, most of his answers unclear as they asked detailed questions about the new structure of government. "You'll receive all this information next week, I assure you," He said with a chuckle as he restated it a final time. "Any questions not regarding the new system?"

A tall, lanky reporter near the back of the crowd called out, "When's the wedding?"

Glinda flushed pink again and Oz gave a full-on laugh. "All things in good time, good sir. We'll make sure there is plenty of notice."

With that, he wrapped up his speech and thanked the people for their time. Glinda nodded to those gathered and silently agreeing, Oz took her hand and bypassed the press, making his way straight to the people, shaking hands and greeting them. Glinda stood by, speaking mostly to small children who were at the gathering with their mothers, coming down to their height and listening to them speak animatedly about this or that, allowing them to swarm her in hugs. She couldn't stop the giggles that flowed out of her, as she was finally with her people in her city that she'd grown up in. Though her father was not there to lean on and wait for instructions from, she felt, with Oz's presence looming over her and picking up small children to entertain, that she could make it on without the Great King.

They stayed in the city for well over three hours, mingling with people, visiting shops and preparing the message center, only returning to the Palace when Oz's stomach decreed it was time for lunch. A group of palace chefs had anticipated their arrival, preparing a decadent meal that seemed to surpass any Oz had eaten already within the land. Glinda was hardly hungry while the Wizard shoveled food into his mouth. She ate slowly, forcing each bite down, feeling most ungrateful for the work that was put into the meal.

"Next you have an audience with the current mayors of the various countries while I work with the Tinkers in developing..." Oz rattled off, not noticing Glinda's lack of focus until he realized she hadn't chimed in on his one-sided conversation. He called her name, and again louder. "Glinda?"

She looked up from her plate, a hand raised near her head as she lifted her eyebrows at him. "What's on your mind?"

Smiling in a way that was clearly forced, she shook her head. "Nothing, Oscar."

He stood from his place and moved behind her, tugging her chair out from the table and squatted in the space he created in front of the witch. "Don't you lie to the Wizard," He teased, placing his hands on her upper thighs, rubbing them through the fabric of her blue-tinted gown.

"I'm just confused, I guess. That you'd tell the people of Oz we'd be married in a 'good time,' but...that you wouldn't tell me?"

Oz opened and closed his mouth, trying not to smile. "Come with me, alright? Let's go somewhere without eyes and ears." He tugged her hands and she reluctantly followed him down a series of hallways and stairs until they arrived in her old, familiar chambers that they'd been sharing. "What I meant when I answered that reporter was that it was none of his, or anyone else's business what you and I do, or when you and I do it. I didn't want to very well tell him to stick that feather-pen into a place where he wouldn't want to retrieve it. I'm the Wizard now, you've told me I have to be cordial." Glinda fought against herself not to smile. Oz took a seat next to her on the edge of their bed. "I do want to marry you, Glinda. In a good time. In our time. Not on someone else's schedule. When we are ready for it."

"But Oscar, I am ready for it!" She nearly whined as she groaned and twisted her leg up on the bed to face him. "I just want to be with you. In every way."

He reached forward, bringing both her cheeks into his hands and pressing a firm kiss to her lips. What other man would be so hesitant in this? "I know you do, I'm hearing you, Glinda, I truly am. What would you think of a promise?"

"Promise?" She tilted her head in his hands. "Oscar, please don't make some sort of ultimatum—"

"No, no," He kissed her again, pulling back to nuzzle his forehead to hers before whispering. "By the end of the season, we'll be married. At summer's end. I promise you."

"That's still two months away, Oscar," Glinda sighed, her eyes darting down to her lap as she pushed his hands off her face and laced them into hers. "Please, please, I'm craving you...and your touch."

Oz swallowed hard as he felt his heart rate increase at her statement. Her face was flushed — either it had been embarrassing to admit, or she was really craving his touch in the moment. He leaned forward and pulled her into his lap, tucking his face into her neck, kissing the layer of skin in front of his lips. She groaned and slid her hands down his back, unintentionally grinding her hips against his. "What are you so afraid of that you want to wait two more months to unite with me, Oscar?"

He slid a finger between the buttons along her spine, feeling the smooth pink of a scar as he sighed. "Glinda, I don't know. I just know that I'm not ready for marriage today, and I won't be tomorrow or the end of this week. I do want you, every part of you, I..." He lowered his voice, moving his lips up to her ear to whisper, "I want to be inside of you." Earning a shiver and feeling the first dribble of a tear against his shoulder, he swallowed hard. "I just don't want to be married this week or next, love. By the end of the summer, I promise you I'll be ready." He brought a hand up to tangle in the back of her hair and Glinda pushed on his chest, forcing him to meet her watery eyes.

"You're sure? By summer's end, we'll be wed?"

He sucked a breath and gave a firm nod. "I promise, Glinda," He kissed her cheek and then her lips, causing her to kiss feverishly back, pushing him down against the mattress and laying across his body, she pressed her hips into his, smirking into the kiss at the friction she felt between them. She undid the buttons on his vest, tossing it open and lifting his now-wrinkled shirt out from his pants so she could slide her hands up his bare torso, earning a pitch from him. She ground her hips again to his, opening her mouth onto his, forcing her tongue in between his lips and dominating him completely. Moving a brave hand from his chest to just below his navel, she motioned a fingertip into the waistline of his pants, prepared to continue when she felt a hand leave her hair and grip her wrist tightly. "No," Oz choked out hoarsely, sitting up. "There's no stopping from that," He managed to say, his breath fast as Glinda acted as if it hadn't bothered her and peppered kisses along his jawline. "Glinda, I-I can' have to..."

"...Hm?" She questioned in a hum, running her nails along his shoulders with one hand and letting the other tangle in the curls at the base of his neck.

"God almighty," Oz groaned, bringing both arms to squeeze her tight against him.

Glinda smirked again as he detangled her from him and pressed a kiss to her forehead, making haste toward their attached bathroom. And he was the one who wanted to wait? Every part of her doubted that they'd make it to the end of the summer to be married. Smoothing her hair and moving to her vanity to ensure she was presentable, Glinda eyed the time and noted she had enough of it to speak with the royal festival planner. If he was going to make her wait, he was going to get a wedding worth waiting for.

Glinda passed Oz the last nail in the kit he'd assembled to put together an appropriate-sized bed for China Girl. Though several of the Tinkers were in the process of accommodating much of the furniture the royal family used in their daily lives to suit the small child's needs, Oz wanted China Girl to come home from the end of her first week at school with at least a bed all of her own.

"And that'll do it," Oz nodded to himself, flipping the frame over and wiping his brow.

"I hope so," Glinda agreed, standing to look at the much smaller frame, though it was up at a height that wouldn't be too awkward for either she or Oz to tuck the little China Princess into at night, it had a staircase at the end so she could safely get herself in and out as needed. "Something nice for the next night before we have to return to Chinatown. Poor thing, I hope she'll be alright."

Oz shrugged. "I think she will be. She's a tough little cookie...well, for being made out of China, anyhow."

Glinda shook her head. "She's going to be more upset then she'll let on. She'll need lots of cuddles that night, for sure."

"Miss Glinda?" A soft voice called from the doorway, clearly nervous to interrupt the Queen and her Wizard. "You're appointment was at ten?"

"Oh, goodness, Marci, I am so sorry. I'll be right with you!" Oz was about to question who it was that was wishing to speak with the witch. "She's a friend. I'll see you later," She pecked his cheek and followed the tall, dark skinned woman out the door.

"There's samples of the dresses you requested in the east study, and I've drawn up some possible arrangements for the wedding and the banquet, but we really do need to narrow down who will be attending...if we've got the whole Emerald City and then some coming, we're going to need at least two more staff to aid in the planning process..." The royal festival planner trailed off, excited yet slightly intimidated to host the first real big celebration since Glinda's father had passed.

"I'll have that figured out by the start of next week, I assure you," Glinda understood, she was trying to plan as much of this as sneakily as she could. "I'm thinking a huge feast with dancing and fireworks for everyone — no need to set aside a few people as though their worth is greater." They stepped into the east study, where Glinda immediately felt choked up at the sight of the extravagant dresses Marci had brought up for her. "Oh, these are...phenomenal! They look just like the pictures! They're gorgeous, truly."

"We'll have them sent to your room this evening for you to try if you'll take a look through these booklets..."

They spent the next hour or so making arrangements and selecting pieces of this or that, preparing for the celebration of the century.

The afternoon wound down with Oz in an interview with a potential general, as he insisted the Land of Oz needed some sort of army to be prepared should the Wicked Witches ever strike back. Glinda left the Palace for a stroll through the Emerald City, greeting her people before picking China Girl up from school. Though it was unofficially Finley's duty to ensure the little doll returned home safely each day, Glinda recalled the joy she felt whenever her father had time to gather her at the end of a school day instead of a Palace servant. She also felt like a part of a group as she gathered with other parents of small girls outside of the academy, engaging in conversation with them about the trials and tribulations of being a parent. Though she was new to the world of motherhood, Glinda felt confident in her abilities to create a successful, if not untraditional, family for China Girl.

"Glinda!" The doll beamed as she was the first one to skip out of the schoolhouse for the day, a little bag around her shoulders full of books and school supplies that Glinda had enchanted to suit her properly. The Queen bent to gather her pseudo-daughter, unable to get a word in edgewise as the girl chattered away about the day she'd had, pausing multiple times to bid farewell to her classmates, fast friends. "-And I didn't even stumble on any of the words when it was my turn to read! Oz was right! Once you read something one time, it's easier to read it for a second time."

"Well I'm glad that his advice is proving helpful to you, love." Glinda gave a gentle, affectionate squeeze to the girl's knee. "I got my dresses in today."

China Girl lit up, in on the secret wedding planning. "Oh, oh! I can't wait to see them! Do they look like the pictures?"

"Exactly like the pictures, if not even more beautiful in person!" Glinda exclaimed, having had picked out the dresses she wanted to try with China Girl. "I'll try them on as soon as we get back to show you, Oscar is in a meeting and should be for quite some time, so we'll be in luck."

"Perfect! And then we should know," Her voice dropped as she considered having to return to her destroyed hometown. She full of nerves at the prospect of seeing the broken buildings and people once again.

"I know, love. We'll get through it together. And if you want to leave at all before we're done, I'll bring you right on back to the Palace."

China Girl gave a firm nod, clearing the negative thoughts from her mind before switching the topic back to the wedding. Upon arriving back to the Palace, the two headed straight for the Queen's chambers, where Glinda put on the first dress, amazed at it's beauty and rich detail, feeling completely spoiled to have had such a gown made just for her. China Girl marveled at the beading on the sleeves, tugging the material of the train. "Um, Glinda?" She questioned, blinking as she squinted at the woman's slightly-exposed spine. "What's all the red stuff on your back?"

Glinda's heart skipped a beat as she moved to a full-length mirror in her room, turning around and craning her neck, her shoulders slumping as she caught sight of the angry, ruby-hued lighting-shaped scars on her back. "Oh...that's from my fight with Evanora...perhaps this dress...isn't the one," She nodded, moving with haste behind the dressing curtain to try on the next dress, followed by another, and another, feeling completely defeated when all four of the gorgeous gowns showed the hideous markings along her back, along with the lighter pink scar from Theodora's burn on her upper arm. Fighting back her disappointment in front of China Girl, Glinda made a comment about seeing more dresses from their book or having a few altered to hide the scars. China Girl agreed that would be the best course of action before they quickly stowed the dresses away as Glinda sensed Oz's presence coming toward the room.

"Good afternoon, ladies!" He greeted them each with a kiss to the cheek, noting Glinda's obvious dissatisfaction with something, though he did not want to question her in front of their practically adopted child. When China Girl asked if he'd assist her with homework, he was more than willing, despite his concerns for the witch.

Glinda spent the next two hours before dinner pouring through texts from Locasta about healing, desperate for a way to remove the scars from her body. Curled up in an armchair before the fireplace that stood tall at the end of her chambers, she flipped through page after page, wishing that Locasta could have simply done the healing herself.

All but given up, Glinda felt her eyes mist over as she saw the title of an entry in one of the journals titled 'Stop Fussing, You Look Fine.' She sniffed as the words danced across the page and into her short-term memory. "Men don't actually care what you look like. Maybe at first, but after the initial attraction, there is much more involved in why they feel the way you do that does not include the length of your hair, the chub on your thighs or the scars that might line your back. I didn't heal you externally for good reason, and the Wizard knows this. You won't find a cure for your scars. They're a part of you and I want you to live with them..."

"Well I don't!" Glinda replied out loud, tossing the book and giving into a face messy with tears. Two hours she'd wasted on attempting to discover something that didn't even exist, when she could have been inventing the cure herself.

Oz entered his shared chambers, whistling as he prepared to gather his witch. She'd been so irregular with her moods that he was starting to wonder if he could time them and determine when would be best to approach her throughout the day.

At the familiar sounds of her sniffing, Oz quickened his pace, blinking in confusion as he found her sitting in only a pair of navy blue sleep-pants, his sleep-pants, and nothing else, twisting her neck with her head over her shoulder in front of a mirror, with her hands glowing above her spine. "Oh...'kay...Um..." He stepped forward, dropping to his knees in front of her and meeting her gaze in the mirror, which she responded to by closing her eyes and shaking her head. "Nope, not going away," He predicted her mantra, "At least not until you honestly tell me what is happening here. And why it's happening."

Glinda shook her head, tears abundant as her hands stopped glowing and she brought them to her lap. She attempted to regulate her breathing enough to give a composed explanation but found it difficult to do so. Oz scooted closer, twisting so he was sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, leaning over to press a gentle hand to her bare back, earning a loud sob. "Does it hurt?"

"No," The blonde blubbered. "No, not...pain."

"Okay..." Oz nodded. "Then what is it?"

"It''s's just..." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, dabbing at her cheeks and sniffing loudly, realizing she wasn't wearing a top and slowly bringing her arms to cross her chest. "I want...I want the scars gone."

"Oh..." Oz lifted an eyebrow, he didn't even truly see the scars when he looked at her. He studied them for a moment. "What, um...What's bothering you about them?"

"They're disgusting!" Glinda hissed loudly. "They're hideous. And I want to heal them, but...Locasta didn't leave me instructions on how to do it and I don't know how and I'm too upset to heal anyway and...she said she wanted me to have them and I don't know why she'd want me to have such a horrifying memory etched into my back and I can't wear any of the beautiful dresses that I picked out for our wedding without looking like someone tried to mince me to pieces and I was too weak to stop them!"

At her hysterical revelation, Oz pondered each of her reasons separately, letting her cry it out as he processed them. After taking a moment, he gave a firm nod of his head and tugged Glinda into his lap, pressing a few warm kisses to her temples before his fingers took a bold wander as they started at the base of her spine and traveled up slowly, following the line of her scar up to her neck, where he leaned forward and pressed his forehead to her hairline and nose against the top of her scar.

"They're not hideous," He whispered, both hands coming up to squeeze her shoulders as his head stayed in place. "They're a beautiful testament to your strength and courage." He felt her shiver and smirked, tipping his chin up so the scruff of it was against her neck. His hands lowered themselves back to the base of her spine, tracing the reminder of her bravery once more."They're as impressive as you are brave. They are a symbol of how the belief in true goodness can overcome all wickedness."

Glinda muffled a sob as she twisted against him to hide her embarrassed face into his shirt. "They're nothing more than a sign that I couldn't save my people on my own." She cupped her arm where the scar lingered from Theodora's burn. "I couldn't protect the people that meant the most to me."

"Sh...You know that's not true," Oz whispered, curling one hand into the hair at the nape of her neck and letting the other continue to wander up and down the pink, raised skin on her back. "And even so, there's no shame in needing help to complete a task as great and terrible as taking down Evanora and Theodora. Locasta told me that it's the greatest sign of a leader to understand you can't do it all on your own."

The Queen sat up a bit, keeping her arms carefully positioned to cover herself and at his words, she felt ridiculous for carrying on at all. "I'm sorry, I'm being completely petty and self-serving, we have a job to do and—"

He nuzzled his messy mop of hair against her shoulder blade. "It's not petty to need a reminder that you are beautiful," He started, tilting her head back to meet her gaze. "And capable of more than you know."

Upon hearing her own words spoken back to her, Glinda let out another cry, shaking her head and maneuvering so her arms were locked around his neck and head against his chest. Oz rocked her slowly, kissing her over and over until she'd finally calmed some. "I know that you might not think so, but I really do think your scars are beautiful, Glinda. Just like you. Just like your goodness. Locasta felt the same way, and she wanted you to bear your scars with pride."

Glinda felt her puffy eyelids open widely at the notion that Locasta had truly felt that wearing her scars was necessary. "I'm also sure that you'll look fucking gorgeous in whatever wedding dress you decide to wear, scars aside." Oz rubbed her back again, kissing her neck. "Let everyone know the sacrifice you made for them, and show it proudly."

The witch pulled back, forcing a watery smile before pressing a kiss to her Wizard's lips. "I could show you, if you wanted."

Oz smirked and stroked her cheeks with his thumbs, clearing them of tears. "Isn't it bad luck or something to see the bride in her dress before the big day?"

"Listen, I've had enough bad luck to last a lifetime. Do you want to see?"

"I'd love to," Oz nodded, kissing her puffy lips one last time before Glinda took a few deep breaths and padded over to the wardrobe where she'd stored them.

"There's a few of them, so you tell me which one you like best."

He leaned back against the foot of their bed, sighing silently and running a hand through his hair as she disappeared behind a changing curtain. Hearing the rustle of satin and lace and bows and tulle and other fabrics he wish he didn't know about, Oz reflected on the past ten minutes of his life and how they confirmed he really wasn't ready for the wedding that Glinda was tugging on dresses in anticipation for.

When had they started planning a wedding, anyway?

"Okay, this one is my least favorite, but it's alright, I guess," She stated before stepping out in a off-white gown that was strapless, fitted at the top and flared at the bottom just below her hips into a ruffled layer of translucent fabric. Small patches of crystals lined the sides and into the ruffles, with a layer that dipped into her exposed cleavage.

"Damn," Oz mumbled, blinking fast at the sight of her. She turned around, showing him the back — though unlaced, he could see her concern of the scars sticking out at the top.

"They don't show in this one as much as they do in the others, actually," She sighed, keeping the dress up with one and and flittering the other through her hair while examining the dress again in the mirror. "I think China Girl already disapproved of this one anyway."

"Oh, she's in on all this?"

Glinda couldn't help the smirk that graced her face. "Well she's my only female companion at the moment that I've got any sort of relationship with."

The next two dresses she showed him were just as impressive, though she had decided to save her favorite for last. She tugged the lace that stopped in her mid-back. Though it was her first choice, it also exposed the most of her battle with Evanora. Deciding that Oz's reaction would be her decision-making factor, Glinda took a deep breath and walked slowly out from behind the curtain.

"Oh, hell, now I know that this place is actually heaven. Good god, Glinda, you look like an angel."

She flushed completely as Oz picked himself up to draw closer to her, enthralled by her presence.

A sweetheart neckline danced along the top of her breasts, with extravagant beading and crystals along the bodice. At exactly her waistline, a sash tied together in the back, layered with an over-the-top meshing of diamond studs. The dress flowed from the ribbon into a floor-length skirt, with irregular ruffled lairs cut in an intricate pattern. She'd wowed him many times before, but in this dress, Glinda was beyond stunning. Even with her face still red, hair a mess and no accessories or crown to top it off with, Oz new that despite his hesitation, this would be the dress he'd marry her in.

"Absolutely incredible," He mumbled, circling her for a moment as she brought her hands up close to her face, blushing furiously. "None of that," He insisted, lowering her delicate fingers, pressing a kiss to each palm before taking her hand, lifting it over her head and spinning her around twice, watching as the fabric danced with her. He paused with her facing the mirror, standing directly behind her. Kneeling for a moment, he closed his eyes and pressed his lips at the base of the tie, where her scars started to rise. His hands firm on her hips, he kissed the line straight up to her neck, stopping where it ended and circling his arms around her, pulling her flush to him. "You're gorgeous. Scars and all."

She closed her eyes as well, leaning into him and sighing, drawing her arm up and around to grab at the back of his neck, turning her mouth to kiss his cheek. "I can't wait to wear it at the end of the summer...mostly because I'm looking forward to you taking it off me."

Oz groaned, god she could be cruel. But, two could play at that game he supposed. pulling her forward slightly, the Wizard opened his eyes to meet hers in the mirror, smirking devilishly. "There's nothing wrong with a little practice, is there?"

He moved his hands to her back, unlacing the ribbon that held the dress together. It fell off her easily as it still needed alterations to fit properly before their big day. Glinda flushed, but let him carry on with no complaints. Instead, she turned, stepping out of the dress, clad only in undergarments with no supporting top. Oz let his eyes wander down for the first time since they'd arrived back at the Palace, admiring the view. He scooped her up and took them to the bed, setting her straight in the middle, where she was immediately sitting up right to hastily remove his button-down. Both topless, Oz pulled the witch on top of him, groaning at the contact of bare skin to bare skin, leaning to nuzzle against her cheek. "Your body is perfect," He muttered, eyes closed as Glinda ran her neatly manicured nails along his chest and down towards his navel. "Careful," He warned, hoping she'd remember what he'd said earlier in the week."

"I know," Glinda nodded, sitting up and hovering her lips over his. She pecked him once, twice, three times slowly and sweetly before gliding her nails through his hair and sliding down his torso, resting her hips along his and earning a sucked in breath before Oz put a hand between her shoulder blades to keep her to him as he rolled them over. She'd been dominate enough since they returned to the Emerald City.

His lips attacked hers with fever and one of his knees came to separate her thighs. Glinda moaned into his mouth at the sudden contact. "Oscar," She sighed his name, opening her eyes just barely to see him lifting his lips from hers and trailing them lower and lower until she gave a loud, satisfied groan as they latched around a breast. "Oscar..." She nearly choked out, her fingers at the nape of his neck, holding him in place as best she could — the sensation was everything she'd hoped and then some as she felt her head roll to the side as his hand that wasn't perched at her waist moved to give attention to her other breast.

At his enthusiastic touches and nibbles, she could tell he'd been patiently waiting to touch and explore her this way for weeks, and she wasn't sure why they'd waited so long until his knee jutted up higher and the lamp next to their bedside shattered at Glinda's lack of control over the feeling he'd stirred within her. She groaned and Oz lifted his head up to ensure she was alright, pushing himself to his elbows to ensure there wasn't broken glass in her hair. She struggled to catch her breath as she brought both hands to cover her eyes, not wanting to see his face as she'd lost her ability to keep her magic intact during yet another intimate moment.

Oz lifted her them down, giving her a sympathetic, pouting expression. "Sorry, love," He whispered, kissing her lips and down lower, all the way to her belly-button. His hand grazed the line of her undergarments, causing Glinda to groan again. "See, it's not so different from my reaction to yours."

" least yours doesn't cause things to...explode!"

The Wizard gave a full-belly laugh at her response. "Oh, aught to get reading on that book from Locasta. I think you'll find yourself restating that." He kissed her innocent lips once more, then each of her cheeks, her chin, her nose, and her forehead.

Glinda wrapped an arm around him and hugged him close, sighing. "I love you," She muttered, feeling her eyelids growing heavy, despite the early evening hour. "Sure you want to wait until the end of summer?"

Oz gave a half-laugh and nodded, bringing his head to rest against her chest, comforted by the sounds of her slowing heart-rate as she finally started to relax. "Quite sure, my Queen."

Glinda whined and Oz kissed her skin near her neck before pulling up and motioning for her to lift her hips so he could pull the blankets down and over her body. "I'm going to wrap up a few things for the evening. I'll join you again in a bit, love." With a final press of his lips to hers, Glinda gave a little wave and rolled over, feigning as if she were going to sleep as he left the room. The moment she sensed his footsteps pacing away, she tossed the sheets off and scrambled to the trunk in the middle of the end table by the fireplace, pulling out Locasta's book on soul-bonding and afterwords, devouring the pages of it by firelight, giving the occasional shudder or raised eyebrow of confusion.

When Oz returned several hours later, much more tired and ready for bed, he resisted the urge to laugh out loud at the sight of Glinda passed out on a love seat with just a blanket around her shoulders and the book on love-making strewn in her lap. He marked the page she was on and tucked the book away before gathering her up and moving her to the bed once more, this time joining her beneath the blankets and curling himself around her.

Glinda gently shook China Girl's tiny shoulder the following morning, smiling softly as the little girl gave a tiny moan before blinking her eyes. "Good morning, sweetie."

"You're up before me?" The doll questioned in disbelief. "I think I'm still dreaming."

"Hey," The witch teased, poking the little girl's belly. "I'm capable of being a morning person every now and then. But a Queen should never have to rise unless she wants to."

"Then a princess can sleep in too, right?" China Girl questioned with a yawn, stretching her arms over her head and closing her eyes again.

"Sadly not today," Glinda responded, pulling her blanket down. "Time to get up. We've got a long day ahead of us." China Girl pouted, sighing as she sat up, her eyes downcast. "I know you're nervous, but we won't leave your side, I promise." She reached up and Glinda pulled her out of bed, snuggling her close, kissing her cheek. "You'll be okay."

"As long as you're with me."

Glinda helped the girl get dressed and packed a small suitcase for her to take for the weekend, then they were greeted by Oz. The family met with a team in the front of the Emerald City gates, a crew that would start removing the rubble after China Girl sorted through her own items and said her goodbyes to the place she'd grown up in.

She sat silently and stoically on Glinda's lap as they led the brigade of construction workers by carriage to the town some five hours away.

Oz met his future wife's gaze sadly, unsure of what he could say to cheer the little girl up. Surrendering any hope of comforting words, Oz gave Glinda a cheeky expression and began to sing a cheery song from his land, unable to hold back his laughter at his horrible, off-key tune. China Girl could only stare up at him, biting her lip to avoid mocking him, eventually giving in and falling over in Glinda's lap in a fit of giggles.

Their ride continued on with as much laughter as Oz could force out of his ladies, enjoying their company as they loomed closer to China Town. The little girl began to shake as they drove past the sign, causing Glinda to clutch her close. "It's okay, sweetie," The witch insisted. "It's alright."

They stopped the carriages before the first broken teapot house, the construction crew knowing to remain in theirs until the royal family returned from China Girl's home. "I-I don't want to," She whispered, turning to bury her face into Glinda's shoulder. "I don't really need my stuff."

"Sh, sh, I know it's hard. But you do want to collect the things that are important to you, the ones that remind you of your mother and papa." Oz took Glinda's free hand and led them to the place he'd found China Girl over a month earlier. At the sight of her broken home, China Girl cried loudly, clutching Glinda's dress collar and hiding her face. With the sight, Glinda felt tears running down her own face, sighing as to keep herself composed. "Take a moment, honey. Just breathe, little one."

They stood outside the shattered teapot, Oz's eyes examining the inside of it, noting a small wardrobe in a corner, toppled over, with little dresses sticking out. After allocating time for China Girl to calm herself, he took her from Glinda and set her on her feet, squatting down next to her. "Was this yours?"

"Mhm," She nodded, sniffing.

"Would you like it?"

"Mhm," She answered, and Oz lifted it, stuffing the clothes back in, setting it outside of the home.

She took a few brave steps forward and Glinda joined the two at their smaller height, watching with empty eyes as China Girl moved up the steps of the home, her little hands trembling. "What's up there?" She questioned, earning a sigh from the doll.

"My bedroom. There's some things I'd like in there."

The Wizard and his Queen waited patiently, offering the girl time. She came out with a tiny stuffed bear, pillow, and blanket. Glinda easily reached up and took them from the girl, encouraging her to find more. Seeing it was possible, China Girl started bringing toys out a few at a time, then scuffed her toe against the hard wood of the landing, wondering, "Could you reach in and grab my dollhouse? Or my desk? Or my rocking chair?"

More than willing, the two adults took out her requested items and packed them in the wardrobe, which was still light enough for Oz to carry.

When about forty minutes had passed, China Girl stepped carefully back down the steps, giving a sigh before taking one last look at the house. "I'd like to go now."

"Is there anything else you'd like to—"

"No, I'd like to go." She interrupted Glinda, her eyes pleading that she'd had more than enough. "Please?"

Glinda swallowed a growing lump in her throat and nodded, leaning over for a quick hug from Oz. He lifted the chest and set it in her arms, though heavy, it was manageable. He then bent down for China Girl, lifting her for the biggest snuggle she'd ever received, kissing her cheek. "Take care, kiddo. I'll see you tonight." He tucked her against Glinda's shoulder and asked, "You sure you'll be able to get back safely with that?"

She nodded and gave him a sad smile and in a flash, she and China Girl were sailing through space and back at the Emerald City. Glinda focused her energy on a safe landing, ensuring China Girl would land in one piece. Arriving in the little girl's chambers, Glinda set up the wardrobe next to the doll's bed, unloading it as the seven-year-old climbed back under the covers, pulling them over her face.

It was silent and Glinda felt incredibly awkward with no words for comfort — at least none the mourning orphan would want to hear. Just as she thought China Girl was sleeping, she heard a near whisper, "Could I have my bear?"

"Of course, sweetheart," Glinda agreed, finding it in the pile and moving over a bit to match China Girl's level, tucking the bear next to her in the bed. China Girl immediately latched onto it, cuddling it against her face, smiling softly at it. "Seems like you really missed it, huh?"

"My papa gave him to me. When Oz found me and we met you, it was the first night I'd ever slept without him. I didn't want to make a fuss because I was glad to be alive, but..."

The Queen traced the lines in China Girl's porcelain hair. "Well I'm glad you have him back. Does he have a name?"

"Just bear," China Girl shrugged.

"I see," Glinda sighed. "Is there anything I can do for you to help you feel better or take your mind off things? I'd love to read to you or go on a walk..."

China Girl raised her little shoulders again. "Maybe a story would be nice."

The two spent the afternoon reading and effectively distracting the animated girl from her earlier distress. By nightfall, both she and Glinda were curled up in a library chair, sound asleep from the long day.

Oz found them when he finally arrived back at the Palace at nearly midnight, China Girl on Glinda's chest, a hand over her eyes, while Glinda had one protectively wrapped around the doll and the other holding an open book.

He lifted China Girl as gently as he could not to wake her, but unfortunately caused Glinda to startle at the loss of the tiny body against hers.

"Sh, sh," Oz assured her as she blinked rapidly, a hand to her heart when she realized it was just her...fiancé? Were they engaged? They were to be married, so she assumed she could call him that. "I'm going to put her in bed," He mouthed, and the witch nodded, following him sleepily.

She yawned at every doorway it seemed until the little China princess was tucked soundly into bed and they were finally able to collapse in their own, Glinda unzipping her dress and sloppily tossing it off, not bothering to pull on sleep clothes. Oz took a moment to change his pants but joined her as soon as he could, groaning and nesting around her. "Crew's already started cleaning up the town. Saving as much of the original structures as possible. It's gonna look great in a few weeks...months, maybe. I hope China will be willing to come back and see it."

"In time," Glinda agreed. "It seems that's all any of us really need around here."

Ignoring the fact that the comment was obviously directed at his lack of jumping the gun for their wedding, Oz craned his neck to kiss Glinda's lips, sneaking a hand around her side before brushing her hair away from his face and curling up beside her, lacing one of her hands into his other one and letting sleep consume him after the day of a new beginning.