DG had never felt so glad for a wagon to have stopped. Motion sickness had never bothered her before; maybe her nerves combined with the week's worth of jostling to unhinge her stomach. She stared up at the Palace spires. Miriam glanced at her. "If it helps, you two make quite the pair dressed like that."
She glanced at her tan pants and the tailcoat with the silver geometric design woven into the blue fabric. "That's the idea." Her smile fell. "God, I wish this was easier."
"I'm glad I'm an orphan. The fellow only has to worry about impressing the rest of the unit."
"Who all have guns? I'm not sure that makes things easier."
"Easier for who?" Cain stood next to the wagon's seat.
"My hypothetical suitor." Miriam jerked her head. "Now go. The wagon must get off the parade grounds."
Cain's large hands wrapped around DG's hips, in case she lost her footing climbing down, but she didn't. "We finally made it," he said as the wagon wheels rumbled over the cobblestones.
"And why aren't we running for the gate?"
"The paperwork. And your sister."
"Right." She clutched the leather portfolio tighter. "So any ideas how we should go in there?"
Cain looked away with a frown. "We may be needed out here first." He took her arm and guided her around the dismantling caravan.
She heard what he must have been listening for. "Captain Jebidiah Cain, who the hell have you brought back with you!" Glitch's clipped tones carried over the noise the soldiers made. Jeb held his mount's bridle while Glitch continued. "I know all noble houses in the Zone and the surrounding realms, and Lord Platinum is not one of them!" Jeb smirked harder as he saw their approach over Glitch's shoulder. "Wipe that smirk off your face, Captain, and tell me who the hell Lord Platinum is!"
"I'm Lord Platinum," Cain said stopping outside the Advisor's kicking range.
Glitch almost didn't jump as his court manners took control of his surprise. He whirled and his manners must have fled, because his jaw fell open. His head jerked up and down, and his wide, brown eyes took in the battered fedora, the blue and silver tailcoat, tan pants, and the platinum chain of office. But he didn't speak.
Cain chortled. "I knew his expression would be worth it!"
"I think you broke him." DG waved a hand in front of Glitch's face. "Glitch? Are you glitching?"
"Doll?" He focused on DG's face. "DG?" She grinned and he wrapped his thin arms around her in a hug. "Oh, that was a bad one. Wyatt Cain all dressed up and calling himself a lord." He squeezed her tighter. "Glitching hasn't stopped; he's still dressed like that!"
Jeb snickered. DG patted Glitch's back. "You're not glitching. Wyatt is Lord Platinum."
"Oh, okay... wait, 'Wyatt?'" He jerked back and realized she and Cain were dressed alike. "What have you two been up to?"
"Come on, Zipperhead. We should only have to tell it once." Cain hitched his thumbs into his belt.
Glitch opened his mouth to protest, but closed it with a sharp nod. "You're right. I'll never hear the end of it from Azkadee. But, Doll, before I forget or somebody springs another surprise," he paused to glare at Jeb, "Prince Aedan is still here."
"What? Why? The message on the marriage contract not blunt enough?" DG closed her eyes against the sudden roll in her stomach. "Or did Aurissau kick his ass out and didn't tell us?"
Glitch licked his lips. "I don't think the Queen showed Prince Aedan your message, but I know she has promised that you will be more receptive to his courtship once you got over this rebellious exhibitionism."
"'Rebellious exhibitionism'?" So this is what glitching feels like, DG rubbed her temples. "I need a travel storm to get Dr. Phil." She turned to Cain's impassive face. "This wasn't part of my mission statement."
He squeezed her shoulders. "It needs to come from you."
"Otherwise, they'll make you the bad guy, saying you're jealous." She closed her eyes with a sigh after he nodded. "Jeb, do you have two men who will follow your orders no matter if the Queen is yelling at them to desist?"
"I have a couple, why?"
Cain rubbing his thumbs against her collarbone gave her strength to continue. "Because I need you to arrest Prince Aedan of Aurissau for assaulting me at the Winter Festival."
"He did what!" Jeb and Glitch shouted in unison.
Cain pulled her against his chest. "It's okay. You can tell them."
She squeezed him before twisting in his arms to face Glitch and Jeb. He tried to release her, but she grabbed his hands and held them on her stomach. He left them. "He was drunk and cornered me on one of the balconies. When he got under my skirts, I knocked him off me with my magic, but I didn't have any control over it. Raw grabbed him and kept him from falling to his death. And you should've seen how hard he punched him." She looked up.
Jeb clenched his teeth in a manner she usually saw on a different jaw. "Don't go in without me." He brought his horse with him as he headed toward the Army barracks shouting for people named James and Catyuy.
Glitch's fists were clenched. "DG, you lied to me."
"I'm sorry, Glitch, but I didn't want to wreck the treaty that I thought was real. And he threatened Cain, and I didn't want him gunning for you. And I'm so sorry." She blinked, keeping the tears at bay. She couldn't face her parents red-nosed from crying.
He rested a hand on top of hers and Cain's. "It's all right, DG. I should have seen that something was wrong then." His fingers squeezed hers as his attention went to Cain. "But I'm not getting left out of Aedan's dancing lesson, and don't pretend you aren't making an appointment right now, Tin Man."
"Wouldn't dream of going dancing without you, Glitch," Cain answered.
Jeb headed their way with two soldiers, so DG let go of Cain's hands and took his arm at the elbow, and Glitch led them through the Palace, sweeping past the guards and servants, until they reached the parlor between the throne room and the Queen's offices. It was where important people were entertained less formally and the seats were more cushioned than the throne. DG pressed her lips together. She wasn't admitting to actually sitting on that piece of furniture ever.
"Dorothy Gale!" The Queen didn't stand, but pressed her hand to her chest and blinked rapidly. "It is about time you returned home."
"DG!" Ahamo did stand, but his steps toward her were arrested by Azkadellia barreling past him and throwing her arms around her sister.
"Don't ever scare me like that again," her sister whispered into DG's ear, before straightening and holding DG at arm's length. "By the gods, what are you wearing?"
"Azkadellia, let Dorothy Gale acknowledge everyone." The Queen's apprehensive voice sent DG's stomach rolling again. Azkadellia rolled her eyes while she squeezed DG's shoulders, but she stepped to Glitch's side.
Prince Aedan headed toward her, his thick lips turned up in a smile that didn't reach his green eyes. DG clutched Cain's arm, fighting to keep her stomach in line with the plan. "I am so delighted to see you again, your Highness. There have been many anxious days since your departure, wondering what had become of you."
DG found her voice. "Captain Cain." It sounded pathetic to her ears, but Jeb stepped up to her left. "That's the man who assaulted me at the Winter Festival. Raw is my witness."
"Assaulted!" Ahamo's expression darkened as the blood drained from Aedan's face. Glitch stopped Azkadellia's move toward the foreign prince. The Queen's jaw dropped before she stammered that it must be a mistake.
Jeb and his soldiers ignored all the hubbub and flanked Aedan. "Prince Aedan of Aurissau, you're to come with us now."
"Keep your hands off me!" he snarled, but that didn't keep the soldiers from grabbing his arms. "Do you have any idea what I could do to you?"
"Do you have an iron suit?" Jeb kept his voice pleasant, despite the dangerous cold glint in his hazel eyes.
"You got nothing then. Plus you hurt our Princess and a Savior of the O.Z. I'm the least of your worries now."
Cain moved DG away from the door as they dragged Aedan out. Ahamo and Azkadellia were both bearing down on her, and the Queen stood. The soldiers were gone, and the yelling was fading. DG slapped her hands over her mouth, but no, her stomach wasn't listening. She bolted to the parlor's powder room, reaching the toilet before the vomit reached her mouth. She thought the pathetic sounds of someone retching would either shut the people in the outer room up or drown out their voices. No such luck.
"DG, I'm going to kill him," Azkadellia seethed. "No, killing is too fast. We'll get some of those zapping prods. Are you ill?"
"Dorothy Gale, what under the stars possessed you to arrest a foreign dignitary? There are proper channels to deal with incidents. Ambrose, why did you let her do this? How are we ever going to explain it to Aurissau?"
"Your Majesty, you did not see the state he put your daughter in."
"Somebody do something useful and send for the Royal Alchemist!" Ahamo insisted.
Azkadellia's hands soothed DG's hair and touched her temple. "No fever. DG, what's wrong? Mr. Cain, what's wrong with her?"
"Nothing that the Royal Alchemist can help with. Excuse me, Princess." Cain's hands brought a cool washcloth to DG's face. "Make her some ginger tea. That'll settle her stomach."
"Are you sure?"
DG straightened, wiped her face, and then twisted to look at Cain, crouching next to her. "Are you sure?" she echoed Azkadellia.
"Always helped Adora." He cocked his scarred eyebrow to her hard stare. "It's been a cycle since we left Central City."
He was way better at keeping track of time than she was. She struggled to remember biology lessons that she's never paid much attention to. Morning sickness usually started in the second month. His lips twitched when he saw understanding on her face. "I want to rinse out my mouth. Then I'll try the tea," she said.
He helped DG to the sink, and she conjured up a glass for the water. Azkadellia watched with puzzled eyes but stepped back into the parlor. Too bad the idea to give her space hadn't dawned on her parents yet. "Goddamnit, what the hell did Aedan do to you that makes you puke just looking at him!" Ahamo's voice echoed off the tiled walls. "Where the hell is the Royal Alchemist?"
"Yes, Ambrose, get the Royal Alchemist. She must have picked up some illness in the wilds." The Queen's voice didn't echo as loudly, but the idea of seeing that man again made DG's hand tighten around the now empty glass. Cain pried it loose before it broke.
"Will you all just shut up!" She gripped the edge of the porcelain sink as she turned to the doorway. "I'm not sick, I'm pregnant!" She pushed out past her wide-eyed parents. "Where's the tea?"
Azkadellia's dark brown eyes were just as wide as Ahamo and the Queen's, but she passed the delicate china cup to DG without sloshing the contents. "Lots of sugar already." Her eyes then darted between Cain and DG, but she didn't say anything else.
Confident that her sister wasn't going to yell at her too, DG turned to Glitch. "I do not want to see the Royal Alchemist. I want medical staff who understands what patient-doctor confidentiality is. You bring me that asshole and I will do something nasty to him."
There was a few second of silence before Glitch asked Ahamo, "What is patient doctor confidentiality?"
"PREGNANT!" The Queen's skirts swished as she stood in front of DG. "Dorothy Gale, how could you be so irresponsible? I made it perfectly clear what the realm expects of you, and you continued with your reckless behavior!"
Okay, the Queen wanted to pretend DG didn't exist. DG was her angel she sent to the Other Side, and Dorothy Gale was the mess returned to her. Two could play that game. DG sipped her tea and sat down on a plump sofa. That made Glitch's eyes bug. You weren't supposed to sit before the Queen.
Ahamo ran his hand through his disheveled blond hair. His face looked haggard, figuring out what to address first. He decided to go in order. "Doctors don't gossip about their patients on the Other Side, Ambrose." He crouched eye level with DG. "You're pregnant."
"I've had three different confirmations and didn't even have to buy a pregnancy test." She set the teacup on a delicate end table. "So a baby is on the way."
He chewed on his bottom lip, his blue eyes troubled. "But is it wanted?"
DG blinked and felt Cain hovering over her, standing behind the couch. "It's a miracle, not a mistake." She smiled.
Ahamo grinned. "I'm going to be a grandfather!" He whooped as he caught the Queen's hands, and spun her. "Our baby girl is having a baby, Galinda!"
"She can't!" The Queen pulled free. "How did this happen?"
"You had two daughters," DG answered, since she didn't call her Dorothy Gale. "Do I need to teach you where babies come from?"
Lavender eyes flashed. "That's not what I mean and you know it! You cannot have a baby out of wedlock. It will never be accepted in line for the throne."
"Why does it matter if I'm married?" She doubted anyone was in the mood to answer one of her 'why does the Outer Zone do things this way' questions, but the attitude was making her snarky. Both she and Cain wore their wedding bands. If they wanted to be that unobservant, oh well. "Seriously, I can understand in a patriarchy where the man has to make sure his heir is his, but our crown is passed along matriarchal lines and it's obvious when a woman has a baby that it's hers."
The Queen blinked. Ahamo bit his lips to keep from laughing. So Glitch jumped in. "Tradition mostly. Setting a good example for the rest of the populace."
The Queen recovered first. "You just arrested your only eligible suitor. Ambrose, bring him back. We must apologize for this alliance to go through."