Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas

Chapter Eighteen

After four flights of stairs and she lost track of how many corridors they had been led down, DG wanted to scream 'just stop walking already!' Instead, she tightened her hold on Glitch. She didn't like Ichiro, she didn't like this situation, and his castle was hiding something. At least, it wasn't empty. They had passed men dressed like Sigvat doing housekeeping. She sighed, it was all she trusted herself with in front of Ichiro's servant.

"I think he's trying to get us lost on purpose," Glitch whispered as he patted her hand.

She didn't think Sigvat had heard Glitch, but he stopped in front of a set of double doors and flung them open. He bowed as they entered the rooms, and shut the doors behind him. Tapestries hung over the stone walls of the huge parlor, and ahead were two floor-to-ceiling windows. Cain did his assassin check, and DG let him as she walked to the window. They were on the north side of the fortress, and the stones of the tower emerged from the water of the river below, without docks or gate in the wall for boats. She saw the corner of the tower above the fortress wall to the left. So that meant the rooms to the left faced west. There was a door on the west and east walls of the parlor.

She had her hand on the doorknob before Cain's larger hand wrapped around hers and the doorknob. "What are you doing?"

"Come on, Tin Man. You check because I want to see the view."

He didn't argue, only made sure he went in first. This room was for the rest of the guests, with two double beds and plain décor. A window was in a nook made by the bathroom on the north wall, but DG headed straight for the different colored stone blocks. The blocks were smaller and newer than the ones the walls were made up of, and the way they were stacked up reminded her of a window. "Damnit."

"What is it?" Cain came out of the bathroom and waited for her answer.

DG waved her hand at the wall. "The windows are bricked up. What is he hiding?"

"The Zipperhead is not following." Glitch leaned against the doorjamb. Raw, Zack, and Chelsea looked in behind him.

DG took a deep breath. "The outside walls go to the river, and here we are perched in rooms next to the river." She waved a hand at the window. "But the wall of the inner courtyard is set flush with the front of the tower. So he has blocked off space as wide as the tower and bricked up the windows. What is he hiding?"

Through the door, she saw Raw clutch his head with a moan. "Pain. So much pain," the Viewer whimpered. He dropped onto a settee.

"Put a silence spell up and a shield," Cain said as he ushered her back into the parlor.

"I should have thought of that." She closed her eyes and concentrated, working the spell into the walls. "And no glowing," she muttered before cracking open her eyes to confirm that her magic had done what she told it to. It had, and she let out the rest of the breath she held. Raw let go of his head. "Raw, are you alright?" Cain placed his hands on her shoulders.

"DG's magic blocks the pain." He shook as if to rid himself of the feelings. "Raw better."

"That's a good point." Zack nudged Chelsea when everyone looked at them. "Tell them."

She set Hal on his feet and he bolted around the room. Her face was red. "Where are the women servants? The fighting left plenty of widows and girls like me, why hasn't he hired any to work in the castle?"

"Having to hide a whole lot of Longcoats doesn't leave you with many household openings," Glitch smiled. "Still, Longcoats having to do laundry is an appealing image."

"It also means we have to be on guard against even the servants." Cain growled and his hands tightened on DG shoulders.

A knock echoed strangely on the enchanted door. DG nodded to Glitch who opened it once she had taken down the shield. Sigvat bowed slightly carrying a bundle into the room. "Lord Quelala presents this gift to the Princess and would be deeply honored if she would consent to wear it to supper." He laid the bundle on the table and bowed as he left.

DG sighed as she rebuilt the shield over the door. "Lord Gayelette didn't get me a present," she muttered.

"What do you call let you garrison the Royal Army at his fortress?" Cain tucked his thumbs into his gun belt. "Do you sense anything?"

"No magic, no poison." She unfolded the white cotton material. Inside was a pink silk jacket with red stylized twister symbols woven into the material. She laid out a pair of loose pants made out of the same material on the table next to the jacket. "It's pink. I'll give him points for the pants, but pink?"

"I've never heard such loathing directed at a color before." Zack moved around the table for a better view. "What did it ever do to you?"

"I don't like pink. I never have. Momster tried to put me in a pink dress on the first day of school and I freaked out. I was the only kid in town who started second grade on the second day."

"That's understandable why you feel like that," Cain said. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask why he found her life-long hatred for the color pink understandable, when Zack interrupted.

"It's a happi." He looked at their uncomprehending faces. "It's a Japanese outfit."

DG shook her head. "I've seen pictures of those. They wear dresses with impossible sleeves and huge bows on their butts."

"That's a kimono. You're comparing a business suit to overalls."

"My overalls never looked this nice." She dropped the silk back on the table.

"Yeah, I'm sure you mucked a stall in silk." Zack pointed to one of the repeated symbols. "Does this mean anything?"

"It's the symbol for the House of Gale," Glitch answered.

Zack met her blue eyes with Cain-like intensity. "Ichiro had this made for you. Your symbol treated like a mons, a crest. I don't what you consider it in the O.Z., but back in New York this falls under stalker creepy."

"Stalker?" Cain asked.

DG translated the Other Side terminology. "A guy who keeps trying to force a woman to be with him by following her, insisting on dates, inappropriate gifts, ignoring that she wants nothing to do with him."

"Got it." Something in his voice made DG wonder if he had to deal with the situation as a Tin Man, but she reached for his hand instead of asking.

"So the choice to wear the pink, and suffer through dinner. Or not wear it and snub the guy who's probably starting another coup."

"It's your prerogative, Princess." Glitch kept his face straight when he said that.

"Stop using that word. I never have any prerogatives." She glared at the pink happi. Cain squeezed her hand. "Fine, I'll suffer. But this is the last time I am ever wearing pink. Glitch, you be sure to tell the seamstresses or I will hurt them!"

He grinned. "Yes, your Majesty."

"And he did gives us indoor plumbing. Let's use up his hot water before dinner. That'll be start on justice." She headed to the door on the east wall, assuming it was her room.

One huge bed with golden velvet bed curtains and a matching velvet bedspread dominated the space. No windows, so Cain wouldn't worry about sniper attacks. A vanity sat on the wall next to the door on the north wall to the bathroom.

The door shut behind her and she jumped as she whirled. Cain set two packs on the floor. Two quick steps ate up the distance between them, and his mouth slammed down on hers before she had a chance to react.

Not that she had another reaction than wrapping her arms around his neck and moaning into his assault. He gentled, sweeping one hand up her back to cradle her head. She arched against him, her fingers teasing the short hairs at the base of his skull.

Cain released her lips. "I knew this was going to be hard, Darlin', but I didn't think I'd actually want to commit murder." She kissed his cheek. "If Glitch hadn't gotten that slimy bastard's hand off of you, I was gonna break it. Then shoot him."

She kissed the tic on his jaw. "I wanted to backhand him. How long are we supposed to keep this up?" She laid her head on his shoulder.

"Until we get out of here. Which could be tomorrow, if we find proof tonight."

Her Tin Man's scent filled her nostrils. "You know, it's a shame to waste the privacy and the bed." She kissed his neck and he rewarded her with a shudder.

"DG, it's not safe here. Plus you'll be late for dinner."

She pulled back with a pout. "Dinner can't start until I get there."

He released her with a sigh to pull off his duster and hat. "As much as I want to flaunt what's mine in that slimy bastard's face, we can't afford to." He set his hat on the nightstand and tossed the duster on the foot of the bed. Before he had finished turning, she pounced. Cain landed back on the mattress with her straddling him, and she kissed.

Her hands found his vest buttons while she kept his lips occupied. And she got them all unbuttoned before he flipped her onto her back and pinned her arms above her head. She craned her head but he kept his lips out of reach. She sighed. "I'd love to have something to say to convince you that this really is a good idea."

Cain smirked, "Nothing, huh?"

"Nothing you'd believe any way. Why can't you just want to take your lawfully wedded wife who's throwing herself at you, and have steamy, hot sex?"

He laughed and kissed the tip of her nose. "Because it could get my lawfully wedded wife killed if we can't walk straight at dinner."

"James Bond never had that problem."

"Who?"

"Fictional spy on the Other Side. I think he's a good role model for this situation. He manages to blow up the bad guys all by himself."

"Your sister is right." He rolled off and propped up on his elbow to look at her. "You do have violent tendencies."

DG kissed him. "Considering everything we've had to go through, I don't understand why you think they're not necessary."

"I didn't say that." He pulled her over his chest as he lay back. His hands ended up in her hair, and she quivered. He loosened her ponytail. His smirk stretched into a real smile. "Better."

She moved a hand under his vest. "That's not exactly encouraging me to stop."

"I don't always do the smart thing when it comes to you."

She rubbed his nipple through the cotton shirt. Her lips hovered above his. "That's not what I think," she said.

His hand found the back of her head and pulled her down. She kissed him, but wanted his lips on other parts of her body. He dropped his hand with a groan. "Gods, give me strength."

Maybe a change in tactics would release the pent-up passion and not derail the mission. "We could just take a bath together, since you're in such a hurry to get me back into the spy business." Cain's jaw dropped. DG reared back, alarmed by his expressed shock. Even if he was surprised, the most she had seen on him was wide open eyes. "What?"

"You think doing that," he had to pause while his lips twitched uncontrollably, "will actually get you to dinner on time?"

She smirked. "I was hoping it was a reasonable compromise." She rested her chin on his chest. "Okay, consider the suggestion forgotten." And to prove it, she would change the subject. "Why did you find my hatred of pink understandable?"

"You were wearing it when the witch killed you."

His words hit her like ice cold water. She sat up and shivered. Raw had shown it, she was so busy trying to understand what had happened to her and to her mother, the details had escaped her. But not her Tin Man.

"Hells." He wrapped his arms around her, pressing his face against the back of her neck. "DG, I'm sorry."

"That was an effective mood killer." Her laugh was shaky. "I didn't remember anything, except what would leak out in my dreams. But I remembered that?"

He took a deep breath before answering. "It was probably more instinct than an actual memory."

The tone of his voice hurt her. She lifted his left hand to her lips and kissed it softly. "Wyatt, it's alright. I'd rather know the truth."

"I didn't have to bludgeon you with it."

She kissed his hand again. "I'm not trying to get us revved up again. But I love your reality checks." She rubbed his knuckles against her cheek. "I need them."

He nuzzled her neck. "I don't want to break your spirit, even by accident."

"You won't, my Tin Man. You won't. You give me the strength to do what I have to." She stood and twisted with his arms still around her to kiss him. "I'll go get cleaned up now."

She didn't linger in the hot water long, just enough to scrub everything with soap twice including her hair. Cain touched her shoulder as he went in after she came out wrapped in towels. She was ready to be done with this stupid meal, even if they didn't find any proof, so she could wrap her Tin Man around her. His safety protocols be damned.

Another damn sprang to her mind after she got clean underwear on. The pink pajamas were still in the parlor. She eased the door open just wide enough to stick her head out. Zack and Chelsea were playing with Hal. "Um, Chelsea?" The girl's head twisted toward the door. "Could you get that outfit and help me out?"

Chelsea scrambled to her feet and snatched up the happi. She had already bathed and put on a dark green dress. "Do you need help with your hair, your Highness?" She gestured at the towel wrapped in a turban.

"Please, I can't ever do anything with it." The pants were normal enough with buttons, but the jacket took them three tries before they got the belt tied around it right so it wouldn't fall open. "For the first time I'm glad I don't have a bigger pair of boobs."

Chelsea bit her bottom lip to keep from asking the obvious question. DG pointed to her chest and watched the girl's puzzlement change to embarrassment. "I'm sorry I didn't understand, Princess." She unwrapped the towel onto DG's shoulders and attacked her black hair with a comb.

"Just call me DG, Chelsea. And don't worry about it. I constantly confuse everyone with what comes out of my mouth. Is there a slang word for women's breast in the O.Z.?"

"Not in polite company!"

"Then I won't use it around my mother."

"Teats, but only men use it when they're talking about the Sin District."

DG laughed. "I guess I should stick with my Other Side slang then. How is Hal doing?"

"Zack found an abacus in his magic bag for him to play with. And he actually let Mr. Raw pick him up." Chelsea started braiding at DG's right temple just under her bangs. "Can I ask you a personal question without getting in trouble?"

"I don't know what the rules are for royalty, but I don't have people arrested for asking questions. If I don't want to answer, I just say that."

She started a matching braid on her left temple. "Are you and Mr. Cain having an affair?"

DG smiled, the girl was biting her lip again. "No, we're not having an affair." She saw the brown eyes flash disbelief in the mirror. "We got married three days ago." She held up her left hand so Chelsea could see the wedding band. Her mouth gaped as she focused on the ring. "We're keeping it a secret, because I might be able to get more information out of Lord Quelala if he thinks he has a chance to marry me."

"It's like a legend come true." Chelsea met DG's eyes in the mirror. "They tell stories of how you rescued him from the iron suit."

"There was plenty of rescuing on both sides," DG assured her. "I bet by the time the first anniversary rolls around, we won't even recognize what they say we did to stop the witch."

Chelsea took the two braids that circled DG's head and wove them into a braid with the rest of her hair. "The bards make it all sound so romantic. It wasn't?"

"Not my first descriptive choice. I'd have to go with confusing and terrifying." Her face looked bleak above the pink silk. The blue eyes shone like Finaqua's lake, but her skin was white as paper. She pressed her hands against her thighs to keep from tearing off the outfit.

Chelsea tied off the braid and looked sharply at her. "Princ… DG, are you alright?"

"I'm going to be the life of the party." DG took a deep breath. "At least, my hair looks good. Thanks Chelsea." The girl smiled at the compliment. "Do you see my boots?"

Cain opened the bathroom door dressed in a fresh pair of pants and shirt, and holding her boots. Chelsea excused herself. DG turned so she wasn't facing the mirror to put on her footwear. "I don't think they go with the outfit."

"What would?" He sat down on the bed to pull on his own boots.

"I'm guessing something that would hurt my feet like the stupid heels they make me wear to the balls."

"Speaking of that," he started buttoning his vest. "How did you get through the Victory Ball?"

"They sprung the dress on me the day of. What I did fittings in was yellow. And they kept adding more ruffles the more I complained about them."

"Being trapped usually makes you throw a bigger fit."

"If I had, I would have leveled the Palace and been locked up in the Zone's version of a mental hospital. Not wanting that to happen was one reason. And then there was you."

His scarred eyebrow rose at her. "Me?"

"You were already so uncomfortable with the whole thing. I couldn't make it worse by stripping to my underwear and burning the damn gown in the middle of the crowd."

He stooped in front of her on the vanity bench. "You worried about embarrassing me? Not your parents?"

She shrugged. "I barely knew my parents when they threw the ball. And they kept gushing how precious and pretty I looked, like I was seven again. By the time we got down to the guests, I was beyond giving a shit what they thought of me."

He kissed her. "You just keep surprising me, Sweetheart." He strapped on his gun belt. "Think you can worry about me tonight? That slimy bastard already has you undressed in his head, and I don't want him to confirm his fantasies." He growled as he checked his gun.

"When you put it that way. I can resist the urge to yank this thing off." DG hooked her hand around his neck and drew him down for another kiss. "Just to spare your feelings."

"Much obliged," Cain murmured against her lips.