Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Twenty-two

DG and Sprite sat at one end of the boat, Cain at the other with Dani, while Betsy wrestled with oars between them-not trusting the landlubbers to handle them on the silent trip back to the ship. DG hugged herself as she stared at the water. Of course she was resigned, her prediction that he would betray her like everyone else had come true. Couldn't find any other way to tell her not to endanger herself and their baby than to call her a job? How long will it take for her to trust me again? Cain didn't want to ponder the answer to that question.

Jenkins helped them onto the deck once the dingy was secured at the rear of the ship. "Conference in my quarters," Betsy told him as her feet hit the wooden boards.

"It went that well, did it." Jenkins took the birdcage from Cain. He scratched his bald head under his cloth cap. "Nope, not going to ask about the chicken."

Betsy only paused to give directions to Bonnet. DG and Sprite trailed after her. Jenkins looked at the group curiously before following. Cain carried Dani into the Captain's quarters. DG paced and stopped, realizing what she was doing. Betsy knelt and dug for something in the cabinet. Sprite sat in a chair, kicking her feet. Cain set Dani's cage down and leaned against a wall.

Jenkins broke the silence. "Betsy, what are you digging for?"

"This." She planted a tall bottle on the table. "Pirates drink rum, right?"

"Pirates, aye, but you don't." Jenkins scratched his head again. "Isn't that the good rum Geoffrey gave us?"

"We were saving it for an important occasion." She poured herself a goblet and took a large swallow. Her brown eyes watered and she coughed.

"What's the occasion?"

"Our funerals." Betsy fell back into a chair with a bitter chuckle.

"What the hell did the Shaman tell you?"

"Who she really is." Betsy pointed to DG. "She's the freaking runaway princess of the Outer Zone!" Jenkins turned his disbelieving expression to Cain. Cain nodded. "After everything we've done, we're going to hang for what we didn't." Betsy swallowed more of the amber liquid.

"It's not that bad," DG insisted. Jenkins sat with a heavy thud into a chair and pulled the bottle across the table. "You guys didn't kidnap us and I'll explain that."

"Do you really think you'll have a chance?" Betsy slammed down her goblet. "O.Z. law doesn't shoot first and ask questions later when the safety of the Royal Family is at stake?"

DG turned to Cain. "Will you tell them they're paranoid for nothing?"

"Not when they have a valid point." He tucked his thumbs in his belt.

"No one in the O.Z. even knows where we are!"

"And how long do you think that'll last if you get into a magical showdown with the Nome King? People saw the light show at the Tower a thousand spans away!" Cain's hands curled into fists.

Jenkins swallowed some rum. "They know?"

"Sprite told me to tell them."

The Viewer child beamed. "Still helping."

"Because it's the right thing to do," DG said.

"You must have been chum on the water in court." Betsy propped her head up in one hand.

DG looked confused. "What?"

"Blood and fish guts you throw in the water to attract sharks. Being nice in court has the same effect." DG's mouth fell open. "Do you think Malachite would have been imprisoned if he didn't have the same problem?"

"That's not a good way to be grateful for the help." DG crossed her arms.

"You're the one who ran away."

Jenkins stared at his drink before turning to Cain. "Why don't you like it?"

"My wife and unborn child facing a legendary evil with a grudge against her family, and she's not a trained fighter."

"I'm not facing him," DG said indignantly. "I'm just leading the ship there."

Cain took a deep breath to not snap again. "You think that's all it will be with our luck?"

"You're impossible." DG turned her back on him.

Jenkins frowned at his empty goblet before looking at Betsy. "The cost is too high, Captain. We must end this now."

"NO!" Betsy and DG both blinked at each other, surprised they had spoken in unison.

"Damnit! Look at this seriously, will you?"

Betsy drained her goblet. "Sing a new song, Jenkins. This one is getting stale."

"Crew mutiny is one thing. But this," he waved a hand at DG, "is a whole different level of suicide."

DG's eyes flashed. "You can all take a walk off the plank! I didn't ask for this and I'm tired of everyone acting like it's my fault! All I wanted to do was get out of my Kansas hometown. I worked my ass off to afford a trip. Then I got thrown into a tornado, and everything I thought was true blew up in my face like an atomic bomb! And EVERYBODY acts like I should be perfectly happy to go sit on a shelf in a goddamn dress and fucking tiara. That's not me! That has never been me!" Her eyes flicked to Cain. "Apparently, the reason I was sent through the storm was to be this world's superhero. Fine, whatever, bring it. And for the record, I'm not scared of this Nome King or whatever beef he's got with my family. Given how I feel about them, he might be my new best friend!" DG stormed to the door, and slammed it shut behind her.

She still remembered what Cain had told her between Milltown and Central City. DG had told them what sketchy details Father Vue had provided, and he had made some comment about there having to be a reason for her trip to the Other Side. He wouldn't have sent Jeb through a travel storm without a damn good reason. She'd seized upon that for a call to destiny?

"What has the House of Gale come to?" Dani pondered from her cage.

"Nobody's talking to you," Cain growled.

"If you didn't want me to be part of the conversation, why didn't you leave me where I wouldn't hear it?" Dani cackled. "It's not like I have a choice in the matter."

"Every time I think I got a grip on stuff around here…," Jenkins covered his eyes.

"That was a beautiful rant. All you need to do is teach her how to do that in court." Betsy closed the rum bottle and put it back in the cabinet. "Goodnight, gentlemen."

"Wait a minute, we haven't settled anything!" The chair scraped back as Jenkins stood. Betsy straightened with a face carved from stone. "You're not even giving Cain a chance to state his position."

"He had his chance, and to put it frankly, he blundered into hot water. Actually, volcanic-vent heated water is more accurate."

Cain moved his whole jaw before he got words out. "I've already been overruled." He sighed. "Her identity?"

"Is still a secret. Now everyone just go." Betsy shooed with her hands.

There was no point in staying when Sprite and Jenkins both headed to the door. Cain picked up the birdcage. He could stow Dani in their quarters, and if DG hadn't gone there to sulk, find her next.

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