DG stuffed her hands into her motorcycle jacket's pockets. She stared at the back of the duster ahead of her. Cain had barely said five words to her this morning. To be fair, she hadn't been a chatterbox either. Not after their conversation last night, not after the nightmare that turned into something hot starring Wyatt Cain, and not after waking up on top of him.
Why the hell did she tell him all that? It had to be a Tin Man technique, comfort the suspect and worm all the secrets out. It must be taught at wherever Tin Men were trained. Her throat tightened when she realized she didn't know what that was even called. Add it to the list. Maybe she should start writing the list down.
What the hell was wrong with her? She always disappointed Mom and Popsicle. She couldn't keep her birth parents happy, the people who had sacrificed so much to save her and the O.Z. Now she disappointed her friends. She looked down at the ground. Cain deserved better than her. He deserved someone who hadn't allowed his family to get torn apart, and caused years of torture for him. They all did, but they wouldn't leave her. She shouldn't have brought them along this trip. But she honestly couldn't see going across the O.Z. with anyone else.
Cain had horrid luck. He wasn't there when they made the plans for this diplomatic scouting mission. He dropped in the day before they left and didn't even unpack. He didn't even complain when she had demanded he come along. She was horrible. He was a fighter, not a politician. He couldn't help her in the Palace where the weapons were words. She loved him too much to force him to share the punishment she deserved.
Kill the big evil and it's happily ever after, yeah right. She should sue Disney or force them to make the sequel dealing with the trauma resulting from the big evil and everyone hating the hero who never suffered from it, who let it out in the first place.
At least, the witch had been honest with her. Playing mind games and trying to kill her was mentally healthier than telling her she loved her and then punishing her by stripping away everything that made her a person twice. DG's skin prickled. She should bury herself in the cave. Then everyone could forget her blissful ignorance from the Other Side. They would be safe from her fuck-ups that led to more heartbreak.
"DG!" Raw grabbed her arm. Wind swirled around them, strong enough to whip the tree branches and for Cain to hold his hat on his head. They all stared at her, and she looked away from their concern to Raw's pain-filled eyes. "DG loses herself in the dark. No hope on that road."
She glanced away, and pulled the magic back under control. "Sorry about that." Raw squeezed her arm. "I'm alright, Raw."
"Repeating something does not make it true. DG should know this." He let go of her arm.
Zack scanned the forest as the wind died. "Magic leak?"
"What do you mean?"
"That's what Cass would call it when she lost focus or just had too much energy and nothing to burn it on. Light bulbs would explode and she would babble."
"Cass, another princess?" They started walking again, and she stayed next to Zack.
"A gargoyle halfling, her father was fae and gave her magic powers. But if you want to get technical, she was raised in Troy's royal court and Homer called her a princess."
"Troy? The Trojan War Troy? No way." He looked down at his hands. "Is she from the alternate New York you mentioned?"
"Yeah." He rested his hands on his daggers. "How much training have you had?"
"I remember one lesson from when I was a child, making my doll spin. I healed a Papay tree, but I don't know how. Tutor taught me shielding, and Az taught me a silencing spell when we didn't want anybody to know we were staying up all night. And I can make my hands glow. I never need a flashlight again."
"What can you do offensively?"
"She swings sticks at people," Cain grunted.
DG's temper flared. "You can be the most ungrateful bastard in the whole Zone, you know that?" Cain turned to her with wide open eyes. "That stick you love to keep throwing in my face was the only thing available and it was to save you and your family!" She stomped past him.
"Huh?" Zack turned to Glitch.
"When we met Cain, there was a tri-dimensional energy stored projected holographic time loop playing of when the Longcoats attacked his family. DG thought it was real and charged in."
"Completely ignoring the fact that if it had been real, she was outnumbered." Cain regained the lead. Fine, he could have it; she didn't know where Jeb's unit was anyway.
"So how come no one's teaching you magic missile?" DG focused a blank look at Zack and he sighed. "How to zap things?"
"Probably because zapping things isn't what a proper princess does." If she wanted to do something, it was a safe bet it wasn't what a proper princess should do.
"And probably because no one wants to get zapped." Glitch threw up his hands when she glared at him. "I know I don't!"
"I wouldn't zap you guys."
"Even Cain?" Raw smiled.
DG rolled her eyes. "Even Cain, but he's a more tempting target." The Tin Man's stride faltered a little but continued. She turned back to Zack, "You knew a princess that had weapons? How did she get away with that?"
"Her father was the Champion of Hyrule and thought she should know how to protect herself."
"No good for me. Ahamo still thinks I'm seven."
"Her mother didn't find out until we returned to Hyrule to stop an invasion, and Zoe abdicated the crown."
That sounded sweet; to just walk out of the Palace with no more crushing responsibilities. It must have shown on her face because Glitch turned bleak. "Doll?"
"I wouldn't do that to Az."
"We made it," Cain interrupted. Two uniformed guards stepped out of the underbrush in front of him, checked the group, and then led them into the camp. Twilight descended over the forest.
"Dad!" Jeb exited the main tent and hugged the Tin Man. DG realized she had only seen the Royal Army's dress uniforms they wore to the Palace, and Jeb looked more in his element in the dark green and browns of the working ones.
Zack stepped up to DG. "I didn't think he was old enough to have a kid that old," he murmured.
"Later," she whispered back.
"We were expecting you last night," Jeb said after he took over leading them further into the camp.
"Longcoats," Cain answered, "but I don't think DG and Zack left you any to play with."
Jeb raised his eyebrows. "What, Captain? You never broke any of your toys as a kid?" This time she remembered introductions. "Captain Jeb Cain, Zack Baker." Zack shook his hand.
"Here's your tents." He stopped in front of a pair close to the center of camp, and gestured to the smaller one. "This one is yours, Princess. Supper is in about an hour, and I want to hear about how you broke the Longcoats."
She nodded and slipped into the tent. Only one cot, good she wanted alone time. The pack hit the ground and she shrugged out of her leather jacket as she headed straight to the washstand. After a quick wipe off and a fresh shirt from her pack, she felt human enough to contact Az.
Deeg! Why didn't you talk last night? Az's voice filled her head.
We just got to Jeb's camp like just right now.
Couldn't hide anything from Az. We were captured by Longcoats. A Slipper named Zack helped me rescue the others.
Az sighed. Mother's not going to like hearing that. Ambrose and the others are supposed to keep you out of trouble. But it's is one of your adventures.
DG felt tears prick her eyes. Just tell her we're fine, which we are. She can wait for the details. I have to go eat now.
Okay, sis. Tell Ambrose…. DG could feel Az's embarrassment.
Don't worry about it; I know what to tell him. Later. She opened her eyes and wiped her wet cheeks. Damn, she could usually talk to Az without breaking down. She lit the lantern before slipping out of the tent. Zack sat on a nearby log. "Waiting for me?"
"More or less. I figured if I asked you, I won't make a fool of anybody during the meal."
"What Glitch was telling you earlier about the hologram? Cain was locked into a tin can they call an iron suit, forced to watch it over and over again, for eight years," she sighed, "annuals. The suits don't let the body age, and don't knock you out either."
"So Jeb kept growing. Ouch. And this group is on your side?"
"It's an advance party unit of the Royal Army of the O.Z. Jeb is their commander." She bit her lip before continuing. "Can I ask you a favor?"
"Considering that you're being so nice letting me tagalong, sure."
"Could you leave what that Longcoat was going to do to me out of the story of last night?" She stared at the ground. "I don't want anybody getting the idea to ship me back to the Palace, where I'll be safe."
"I'm getting the impression you aren't safe there. Otherwise, Cain would have already done it."
"Is his over protectiveness that obvious?"
"Maybe you inspire it. But I've got no problems with editing."
"Thank you." Glitch stumbled out of the larger tent. "Az says she misses you." His face reddened before he grinned. DG smiled at him. She was glad they were happy. Someone in her family deserved to be.