Cain faltered at the guarded library doors. A deep bass voice rolled through the doors. "It may be a common procedure on the Other Side, but it is not here. To put your mother through it is shameful!"
DG matched his volume. "My mother always put everyone ahead of herself. She would have gladly volunteered for the chance it could help her ill subjects!"
He shouldn't have doubted Raw. DG didn't need this second guessing with everything else going on. He nodded to the guards and thrust open the doors. Four heads turned in his direction, but the only face he concentrated on was DG's at the head of the table. She hadn't slept was all over her pale face. Her blue eyes widened as she stared across the room at him.
"You can't just barge into a Council meeting!" said one of the seated lords.
"Wyatt Cain is a trusted Royal Advisor," Glitch retorted. "He has as much right to be in this meeting as you do, Count Begon."
DG's blue eyes never left Cain's face. "What's wrong now?"
"Nothing." His ears burned, but he continued walking until he knelt next to DG's chair. "Nothing's wrong. I just needed to tell you I'm still here. You have my support."
She stared at him without blinking, then launched herself out of the chair. He wrapped his arms around her as she hugged him and hid her face from the Council. Her breathing was shaky.
"You always will, DG. Now let's get through this meeting." Cain whispered into her ear.
She nodded and let go, returned to her chair. "Sorry. Where were we?"
Cain squeezed a chair next to DG's, straddling the corner of the table. Lord Vandervort barely scooted down to make room before broaching a new subject. "These Other Side alchemists do know they must report to the Council?"
"They'll report to me," DG said. "They're working right now, so I'll check in with them after this meeting."
"You can assign that task to anyone, you Majesty," Count Roundtree said.
"I'm the one who brought them here, and they'll be more comfortable talking to me."
Glitch grinned. "Course, if you want to deal with Cain's identical twin alchemist?" His brown eyes caught Cain's and he winked. "Connor's preference seems to be scalpels instead of bullets."
Count Roundtree tugged his collar. "I only wanted to ensure her Majesty knows that she doesn't have to oversee everything personally."
Cain smirked, but didn't say anything.
"I believe we've covered everything but your coronation and your mother's funeral." Count Begon shuffled the papers in front of him. "Assuming her body is in any condition for a state funeral."
DG winced, but Glitch spoke before she could say anything. "It's probably best for you to make a list of the proper itinerary so her Majesty can decide what would be the best tribute to her mother and for the state of the realm."
"That's a good idea. I'd rather wait until this health crisis is over." DG glanced at Cain and he gave her a slight nod. A party, even a funeral party, when people are dying would be a bad start.
"But we have to give Prince Gilliam an answer for when we can announce his courtship," Count Roundtree said. "We wouldn't want to combine that with your coronation, so your mother's funeral is the only time to make that announcement and he must know when it—" He stopped when he saw DG's disgusted frown.
"He wants to hook up at my mother's funeral? You're telling me that it's okay to turn a funeral into a date, a courtship thing?"
"Most people wouldn't," Cain answered.
Count Roundtree spluttered. "The O.Z. is in a precarious position and our Queen should marry sooner than later." Cain's hand on the table curled into a fist and Count Roundtree gulped.
"So I should just throw my standards out the window because I need to have an heir?" DG crossed her arms.
"No, of course not, your Majesty!"
"Fine, my mother's funeral will focus on my mother only. And I'm not meeting any creepy prince who would suggest anything different."
Glitch picked up his papers. "I think that's a good place to stop for the day."
The Council took their leave, but Lord Vandervort lingered. The young man ran his hand through his black hair. "I hope those scared old men haven't insulted you so badly you won't consider any suitors, your Majesty."
DG smiled. "I understand where they are coming from. But I'm not marrying just anyone with a pulse."
"Of course not. Good-day." He finally shut the door, leaving Cain and Glitch with DG.
Cain scowled at the dark wood. "I don't like him."
"Lord Vandervort?" Glitch sounded amused. "He's filling his father's position very well. He spearheaded the Central City rebuilding project, and wasn't opposed to DG's ideas on improvements." DG slumped her head onto the table with a groan. "Don't sound like that, Doll. This meeting went really well."
She twisted her head to peer up at Glitch. "You're not mad? About Mother?"
The former headcase's smile had a trace of melancholy, but mostly just sympathy. "Of course not. I trust you and besides, you're right. Galinda would have volunteered." He patted her shoulder before glancing at Cain. Cain nodded; he wasn't leaving her like this.
She twisted her head to gaze at Cain after the library doors shut behind Glitch. "Are you mad at me?"
"I think you need another hug." He stood up and tugged her out of the chair. She didn't resist, if anything, her grip tightened when he rested his chin lightly on her head. "Can't you tell when I'm just grumpy ‘cause you're not safe?"
"I thought it was because I sent Jeb Longcoat hunting." Her voice was so small, but it still pierced him.
"You made the right call with that." He let her go to stare into her wan face. "What's on your agenda?"
Her nose wrinkled. "I should check on the doctors and get an update from Az before the Council decides to do that for me. And then lots of paperwork that can't be put off."
"I'll walk you to the doctors. Then I got to find somebody to go to Tenniken for supplies. And no, you can't go."
"I wasn't going to ask that." She huffed as he opened the doors.