Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Forty

Cain was next to DG before anyone blinked, holding her so she didn't fall forward. He rubbed her white face. Jeb shouted, "Corporal, go get the alchemist! Or any other healers!"

"Water, Jeb," Cain said. His son plunged out of the tent himself. Sprite crept to DG's free side.

"You're supposed to be on the ship," Spencer told her.

"Shaman said must travel road with Cains." The Viewer child's hand clasped DG's arm. "Did much too fast."

"Is she ill?" Kaliko stepped closer.

"Not ill," Sprite said. "Body changing for baby."

"Secret, Sprite!" Cain glanced at the tent door. Jeb was coming through with a canteen, but it didn't appear he had heard anything. Cain wanted to break that news to Jeb in private.

DG groaned as her eyelids fluttered. "What the hell?"

"You fainted." Cain held the water canteen for her.

"Should have ate," Sprite added.

DG swallowed. "I didn't feel like eating."

"You skipped breakfast?" Cain frowned.

"Thanks a lot, now you got me in trouble." DG's sarcasm relieved Cain.

"Does not sound like healing needed, Captain Cain." Cain looked toward the familiar voice. It was the Viewer who had healed them for the slavers. Her wrinkled face grinned. "You brought our salvation. What is wrong?"

"She didn't eat and fainted." Cain answered as the now-collarless Viewer took DG's hands.

"I didn't feel like eating. It's not like I've never skipped a meal before." DG's skin returned to its normal color.

The Viewer nodded and smiled. "Must ebb magic away slowly when flares. Take nap and be hungry for last meal of day." She released DG's hands and turned to the side Sprite had disappeared from. "Come out, little one."

Sprite peeked around the stone chair. The older Viewer's eyes widened and she keened as she fell to her knees. Sprite crashed into her. Her outstretched arms wrapped around the child. "Child of my child lost no more." She rocked her granddaughter. "Lost no more."

"So that's why she wouldn't leave with the other freed slaves." Jeb turned to Carroll. "Corporal, get a tent ready for the Princess." Carroll saluted and headed out, passing a dark-haired young woman on her way in. "Sorry to drag you out of the infirmary, Miriam," Jeb said.

Cain recognized her from Jeb's resistance group who had taken charge of the wounded. He didn't know she had finished training as an alchemist. Miriam waved off the false alarm. "Honorea hasn't been wrong on a diagnosis yet. And I don't mind the help."

Jeb shook his head. "Not quite how I saw our reunion going."

DG snorted in a very unprincess-like manner. "Like we do anything according to plan. I'm never going to plan anything again. I'll just say what I want to happen and then try my best." She nodded. "Decisive mission statements and other people who Murphy likes can do the planning."

Spencer glanced at Dani on his shoulder but she kept her beak shut. "Who's Murphy?" he asked.

"Don't know, but he wrote a philosophy on the Other Side that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So when it does, you blame Murphy." DG leaned her elbow on the stone armrest. "In fact, he must hate my family and anything they try to call a plan."

Jeb ignored DG to address the Viewers. "We need to find a place for you to reunite with your granddaughter in private." The older Viewer nodded with tears streaming down her face.

Miriam helped them stand. "I'll find a place, Captain. See you at supper."

Cain turned to DG. "And you will eat supper."

"Yes, Lord Wyatt," she answered meekly, alerting his cynicism.

Carroll returned with a salute. "The tent is ready, Captain."

Cain scooped DG in his arms and she squawked like Dani. "I can walk!"

"But you're not going to, Princess."

She huffed, but wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'll see everybody at supper."

Carroll locked in all his comments and questions so he wouldn't piss off a superior officer. Cain had learned that expression well during the kid's first month at Scrowtown Base. He ignored it now as Carroll led them through the camp.

Betsy and Malachite stopped them. "What happened?" she demanded.

"I'm fine, I'm fine. Side effect to magic and I passed out," DG answered.

Malachite frowned. "I've never had a reaction like that to my magic."

"Langwidere and his entourage are headed back to Ev. Do you want us to leave too?" Betsy asked.

Cain shook his head. "Stay for supper. The Viewers said she'll be better by then."

"I don't understand what you did." Malachite rubbed his stubbled chin. "You didn't access that much power to shove Langwidere across the tent."

Carroll's eyes grew larger and Cain gritted his teeth. He just needed five minutes to tell Jeb first. Betsy grabbed her husband's head and kissed him hard. "You're thinking too loud," she told the stunned man. She turned to Cain and DG with a wink. "We'll go distract their majesties until supper."

"Thank you, Betsy," DG called as they resumed their progress through the camp.

Corporal Carroll held open the flaps of a tent almost as large as the headquarters tent so Cain could carry DG inside. The bed was large enough for both of them, but Cain didn't comment on that as he set her on it. Wordlessly, he knelt and pulled off her flat silver shoes. She sighed and said quietly, "Wyatt, I'm fine."

"Let me take care of you," he murmured, standing and kissing her. His hands moved to the buttons of her tailcoat.

"You do take care of me, but this won't help me sleep. Go talk to Jeb."

He pulled back. "And how am I going to be sure you do what you were told to do if I go talk to Jeb?"

She shrugged off her tailcoat with a yawn and handed it to him. "Post a guard if you want. But I'm going to nap and we need to know why Jeb's here, and you need to tell him what happened. He's been worried."

He draped the tailcoat on a chair and looked back at her stretched out on the bed. He leaned over her for another kiss. "I am posting a guard."

"And I'll take him with me if I need to go to the latrines. Jeb now."

"Okay, sweetheart." He inhaled deeply outside the tent. Carroll focused straight ahead. "Make sure no one disturbs the Princess, Corporal."

"It would be an honor, sir."

Cain found Jeb in the deserted headquarters tent. "A nice simple mission, and now I'm hosting a state dinner for two kings." His son's glare didn't have much heat, but it also said who he blamed for the turn of events.

"One doesn't eat Topsider food and the other has been disguised on board a pirate ship for a cycle. Serve something that tastes like food and it'll be fine."

Jeb shook his head. "Lord Wyatt. After all the fuss and worry, you're not only fine, you got titled too. What kind of crazy luck is that?"

"Wish I knew." His son looked exasperated. "Maybe you should start."

"Three days after you left, Princess Azkadellia found me while she was trying not to panic. She had a vision of a gang of ruffians beating you and thought it was coming from DG. She asked me to find her sister and bring her back to Central City or if DG refused, sit on her long enough for Az to make sure she was okay."

"I don't know what DG wants to do." Cain's lips twitched. "It's better you came from Azkadellia."

"We didn't tell the Queen." Jeb gestured for Cain to follow him through the camp. "It took two days to reach Scrowtown Base. Figured that was the best place to find out where on the border you two could be." He chuckled. "Turns out, the slavers who grabbed you decided that Scrowtown was the perfect spot to turn your supplies into money. But the shopkeepers recognized your gear and marched them to the base." He opened a smaller tent's flap and ushered Cain inside. "They finally told us they crossed the desert and sold you to the slave marketplace here." Cain sat on a folding stool and watched his son root through an army-issue trunk. "Unfortunately, all we could get out of the slave merchants was that you two were sold to a pirate captain, and they had all sailed off. I was about to send for Azkadellia when Ev's Ambassador showed up." Jeb grunted as he pulled two packs and a battered brown fedora out of the trunk.

Cain laughed. "I'll be damned, I didn't think I'd ever see it again." He set the hat on his head and opened his pack. His gun and belts lay on top of his duster. "We would've gotten away if they hadn't left our horses behind."

His son snickered. "Okay, Dad, whatever." He sat on the edge of his bed. "Not that anything in there fits your station."

"Bite your tongue. This is just for when I have to." Cain gestured to his navy blue frock coat and the silk waistcoat. "It won't be that often."

"You're with a princess and you think it's not going to be that often?" Jeb's right eyebrow rose. "You married a princess." Cain inhaled, but Jeb gestured to Cain's hand. "DG's wearing a matching ring."

Cain couldn't read his son's expression. "In a few months, it'll be worse trouble if she isn't married. And she chose me." He knew he sounded defensive, but Jeb had to accept this.

His son stared at him without blinking while silence filled the tent. Then Jeb's head fell back as laughter pealed out of his throat. He looked at his father again, and laughed hard enough to drive tears to his hazel eyes. "I can't believe," Jeb swiped at the tears, "with the Cain curse." His breaths in were lost to the laughter coming out. "After all her denials." He took a deep breath. "What were you thinking?"

Cain hung his head. "If I admit thinking wasn't a factor, will you stop laughing?" He didn't want to share how easy DG made it to not think when her skin pressed against his.

"Sorry." Jeb took another deep breath. "I'm lying; I'm not that sorry." He chuckled. Cain crossed his arms and scowled. "Okay, fancy titles and clothes aside, are you happy with DG? Is she happy with you?"

Cain blinked. "I'm happier than I have any right to be. And DG wants this, us, the baby."

"Then I'm happy for you. Though I'm hurt I didn't get invited to the ceremony."

"She's a princess, I doubt we're going to get away with just one." Cain cleared his throat. "How did you find out about the Cain curse?"

"Mom told me. She didn't want me to blow myself up and leave a girl in trouble." Jeb smirked. "Surprise, I turned out responsible."

"No surprise to me. But I am glad you haven't saddled me with a passel of grandkids yet."

"Like I'm ready for that. So tell me, Father, how did you let a gang of slavers get the drop on you?"

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