Disclosure: Tin Man and such are all under the property of their respective owners and writers. I just spend until 2am working out plot points with an awesome friend.
Word count before editing: 3,384
Song I listened to for this chapter: Undertow by Timbaland, The Fray and Esthero.
Cain is grinning at them, but then he sighs. “We need to finish telling DG everything.”
DG turns to him, frowning. “Wyatt, why do I get this feeling that this is not going to be good. And I am not talking about the feeling from you.”
Az bites the bullet and tells her, “There is another Witch. And your namesake is involved.”
Glitch picks up from there, “Looks like we have another quest, Doll.”
DG slumps down, Cain pulling her to him as he feels her defeat rolling through her. He leans down, “DG, don’t give up, Sweetheart. We survived the last one, and this time we have more people.”
Glitch is watching her and he moves to her side, also worried for his sister. “DG, look at what more we have this time. I mean, c’mon. I have a whole brain this time. It is enough to beat the Witch by itself!”
Az and Raw look at each other. DG didn’t even smile. Az finally asks, “DG, what is wrong?”
DG is just staring, her thoughts tripping over each other in her head. She finally asks, “What Witch and what do we have to do?”
Cain is feeling…nothing. Before he can react, Az is shaking her head at him. “The sister to the Witch we defeated, Deeg. Same thing as last time, we need to defeat her.”
DG just stands and walks off to the railing, staring out over the farm. She can feel the worry from Cain, but she is just trying to swallow this. She finally says, “You know, to me, the last clear memory that I have that I am a hundred percent sure was mine and not one from the spell, is watching the suns come from the eclipse. Of knowing I almost died, Cain almost dying. And you guys joke about this being better?”
Her words strike them all.
Az remembers the spell the Witch had thrown at DG and her own cry of denial at seeing her sister go over the ledge.
Glitch remembers the shock of seeing Cain shot and on the ground.
Raw remembers feeling the pain from Cain, Kalm, Glitch and Ambrose as he flinches from the pain he is feeling now.
Jeb is shocked. He knew that his dad had been shot, but DG’s revelations on how serious it was and that she herself had almost died are a shot to his heart.
Momster and Popsicle are both worried for DG; her pain is obvious.
Cain, well he remembers very clearly that day, the pain from the shot mixed in with pain in his shoulders that he knew was from DG. The complete anxiousness he felt on not being there for her. The despair he had felt.
He gets up and walks behind his wife. He slides his arms around her and pulls her to him. He tells her, “But none of us died. Your spell is probably the reason why the wound didn’t bleed out. It may be the last thing you clearly remember, but it is not the same now.”
DG turns and searches his eyes. “We are being sent on a quest, for a Witch. Last time it took everything we had. And this time you guys are telling me how much more help we have. Cain, I may not know much, but if I have learned anything, is that nothing in the O.Z. is easy.”
Cain sighs and pulls her into his arms. He just stares at the others, knowing she is right.
Glitch finally asks, “Does this mean we are already giving up, before we have gotten very far?”
His words echo in DG and she looks up at Cain. “Very far?”
Az answers her, “You are the first step. Next, we have to go back and solve a stupid riddle. I knew I should have studied the legends, but not much is known in the O.Z. of when the Grey Gale had come to our world.”
DG frowns. “What do you mean there is not much information. That story is told over here; I think some guy wrote some books on it.”
Popsicle coughs. “Um, Peanut, some of the books you read were from this house. Well the book you read, I should say.”
They all turn and look at him. “It is no accident you came here to live. This is the Grey Gale’s original home on this side.”
Az frowns, “I thought her house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East. So how could this be the same house?”
Momster just laughs, “You ask this as a magic user? The house went, but to make sure there were no problems, Ozma made it appear back here when Dorothy came back. Well, a replica of the house since the original was being used to imprison the Witch.”
DG is thinking and she sighs. “Please tell me, Pops, that there is another choice.”
Popsicle and Momster both look at her sadly. “Not that we can see. You need that information. The book here may have the answer to this riddle, but you should know everything in case you will need to answer more riddles.”
DG rests her head on Cain’s. He can feel her sadness and…fear? “Sweetheart?”
Shaking her head, DG gathers herself. “We might as well head in and see what the town thinks. Maybe we will luck out.”
Her parents nod and head inside to grab the items they will need to get groceries. DG turns away from her friends and family and heads to the porch steps. She stops when she gets to the bottom, knowing Cain is following her, “You guys have to stay here. I need to know what is going on before I know what to explain of you, how you are here, who you are to me and so forth. Not to mention our own time away.”
Az tells her, “The spell would have covered for you.”
DG nods and heads off to make sure the truck is ok. Cain had stopped at the top step, his hand clenching the post. He can feel her pain and fear growing. When Emily comes out, he grabs her arm before she descends the stairs.
Momster looks up at him and knew that DG must be an emotional storm from the look on his face. She says to him, “She is right. There isn’t any way, other than going into town, to get the information we need in order to know what to do. We will try to keep her safe.”
Cain’s jaw grows hard. “What has her so upset?”
Hank’s voice is full of sorrow, “A mistake that we didn’t catch in time. Cain, we will talk more on it later if you don’t get it out of her. We need to leave now.” He puts his hand on Cain’s shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze.
DG drives up in the truck. She refuses to look at Cain, knowing that she will break if she faces the man who is hurting because she is. She cannot allow him to come since if who she thinks may be there is actually there, then Cain wouldn’t hesitate in defending her. And the lightest thing to happen to Cain will be that he will be in jail. The worst… well… her mind shies from that possibility.
Cain cannot take it; he descends the stairs, and reaching through the window to her, cups her face making her face him. “I don’t want you to go. Not when you feel like this, Sweetheart.” His eyes are dark, showing how much he hates this, when he is feeling these types of emotions from her, knowing how much she is dreading this trip.
DG closes her eyes, “I have to go, Cain. We have a very narrow window if nothing has changed to get there and back. Please.” By this time, both nurture units are in the truck.
Nodding reluctantly, he steps back, but not until he tells her, “I love you. If you need us, do what you need to; worry about the repercussions later.” When she nods, he backs away and watches the truck roar down the road. The pain in him rising as she gets farther from him.
Jeb appears next to him, “It will be ok. But I, for one, am all for you taking her somewhere when she gets back and finding the underlying cause of this. I don’t know about you, but seeing her like this, this is the last time she goes without one of us there.” His voice is hard, not liking the woman who is his father’s Life Mate being this upset.
Cain can’t help but chuckle.
Then Glitch puts his two cents in, “Jeb, do you really think her Life Mate will not be the one going with her. Actually, I am shocked that he let her go.” He too is standing there watching the truck leave, upset with how DG was being.
Cain is still staring where the taillights had turned off the driveway. “I can’t make her take me everywhere. I think she needs to face this; but if she needs me, there is no way I won’t be making my way to her side.”
They all nod, Az already planning on how to get him there. Since, this is her sister, DG can like it or not, but she will need her Tin Man. Az will be the one making sure she is taken care of like she should have been all this time.
DG can feel the pain from being away from Cain. But it is nothing new to her, she had been living with the pain for a while. She shunts it to the side; she needs to keep her eyes out and make sure she doesn’t run into her nemesis.
When they are a mile from town, Popsicle clears his throat. DG wonders if it is a glitch in their programming that they use it so much. “Peanut, don’t you think you should have allowed at least Cain be here with you?”
DG squints her eyes as she pulls into the grocery store. “And if Gulch finds me?”
Popsicle quite bluntly tells her, “You will have someone stand up for you. Peanut, I couldn’t. It is against our programming to hurt another human being. Cain should be here for you. He is your Life Mate. And Gulch may lay off if he knows you are married.”
DG sighs and gets out of the truck. “C’mon Momster. Let’s get the groceries while you and Popsicle gather information.”
Both of her nurture units look at each other. They are worried; before her friends in the diner had known of Gulch, her life had been miserable. Once she had started at the diner, they had noticed the misery that happened when Gulch had been around her. At that point, no one would ever leave her alone when she is working or if they could help it, often escorted her to work and back. It is that reason DG always was safe there. He would only give her tickets in the hope she would pay them when he was there, but someone in town normally helped out, and went to pay her tickets. However, they had been running out of people to help. Gulch was starting to make their lives hard, too.
Emily informs Hank, “Go find out what has been going on, I will stay with her. Hurry, we may actually miss him.” She is hoping; that this will be the last time that they will be here without Cain for sure. The end of their solid but limited protection for their little one will soon be over. Cain won’t be hampered by limitations in his programming from protecting her to the extent she needs.
Hank looks her. “Now you know he will just come to the house if we have been gone for a while and he hears that she has been in town.”
Emily slowly smiles. “Yes, yes I do. And you think Cain will allow anything to happen to her, much less the rest of them?” She cannot wait for the oaf to come face to face with DG’s new husband.
Hank stares at her and then he starts smiling. “Send me a signal when you guys are done. I will make sure at that time Gulch will know she is back.”
Emily quickly hurries into the store, finds DG, and works with her as quickly as possible to get the groceries. Townsfolk, realizing why they were hurrying, get out of their way, and even slyly help them. For instance, as they head to the front, a lane mysteriously opens for them to check out on, with multiple baggers loading things back into the cart as fast as they are taken out.
The entire time, DG says nothing to anyone. Just does what she can more robotic than her Roborents.
Emily sends the signal to Hank as they have a slight crowd helping them load the truck. Hank shows up to help them, casting a concerned look at Emily as he notices DG.
Emily nods back at him, fully aware of DG’s state of mind. They both hope she is keeping it enough under control that her Tin Man won’t ride out of the literal sunset for her.
Even though she is obviously upset, they both allow her to drive, knowing she can get them home faster. Emily just states to her, “You only need to get on our land. He can’t do anything to you there.”
DG nods and takes off from the parking lot. Her hands are white on the steering wheel. Hank tells her as he steadies himself, “If he comes after us, call him. Don’t hesitate, DG.”
DG is shocked that he called her by name, but she nods. She wasn’t going to mention that she had started to reach out to Wyatt when her fear was starting to get the better of her. She can feel his steadiness calming her. She also knows she will be sat down and Wyatt is going to get the story out of her.
Driving as fast as she can, she feels her fear start to lessen and then she hears it. A siren. Her heart falls as her foot hits the pedal. She doesn’t try to shield her fear from her Life Mate, knowing that he will be on his way to her.
The car is way behind them, but DG doesn’t take any chances. She cuts through a road that will have them closer to the farm and, more importantly, where Gulch can’t get a reading on the speed she is going. So far, she has plausible deniability in running from him. She glances back in the mirror, praying for a miracle.
Cain is growling as he paces. “Never again is she leaving my side.”
The rest of them are watching the Tin Man, not wanting to mention how his hand and arm are glowing as well as his eyes. For the first time, Az is seeing why the men under the Witch had feared this one man to the point that an elite team was sent to erase him. And he survived it.
Raw just says softly, “DG must be scared for Cain to be this mad.” He is watching both the road and the Tin Man.
Cain snaps at his words. “She is so frightened it’s not funny.” He has no idea Raw said it softer than he should have heard.
Jeb just looks at his dad and asks, “Then why are we not on our way to her?”
Cain’s eyes flash. “Because she is trying to keep calm. She doesn’t need me. Yet.” Then his eyes flash to Az’s.
Az meets him straight on, while on the inside she is completely overwhelmed by the man in front of her. She is ready the instant he needs her. It will be harder on this side, but she will not let her sister down, not when she is this frightened.
Cain is still pacing, muttering how there will be no question of DG telling him what is wrong when she gets back… Then he jerks and snarls, “Az!”
DG has managed to get them on their land, but Gulch is not relenting in his chase. She glances at her nurture units but holds herself together. Not much farther until the house.
She is roaring up the driveway, not bothering to hide her speed. Gulch can’t do anything about it; she is on her personal property and can go any speed she wishes.
DG glances back and sees him fishtail onto the driveway. She grits her teeth and slides into a stop in front of the porch. Before she can even take a breath, the door is thrown open and she is gathered into Wyatt’s arms.
As soon as they touch the glow from their Marks erupt over them.
Hank and Emily exit from the truck and move to the porch. Emily mutters, “They need to calm down the Mark. Right now it is hidden because of it being daytime and the truck…”
Cain is livid. Never has he felt DG this upset since he has known her. She is practically hiding in him. “Shh, Sweetheart. I will make sure nothing happens to you.”
The police car comes up and slams to a stop, narrowly missing the truck. Jeb and Glitch both growl and move closer, Raw had been pushed inside the house. Nevertheless, they can all hear his growls erupting. Az hastily puts a Silence Spell on the house as she moves towards the men; no one is going to hurt her sister again.
Cain moves and, putting himself in front of DG, watches the man get out of his vehicle.
Gulch gets out, a smirk on his face. He sees the group in front of him, but his eyes seek and find DG. His smirk gets bigger, looking over her body. He ignores the man in front of her, telling her, “Welcome back, DG.”
Cain almost staggers as he feels DG’s fear, then her anger overriding it. Before he realizes what she is doing, she steps in front of him spitting out one word. “Gulch.”
Gulch’s smirk turns into a grin. “DG. Now young lady, you know you should have let me know you are back in town.”
DG is trembling. “And why should I do that?”
Gulch’s eyes flash and the grin hardens, “DG, Honey, you should always let your man known when you are back.”
Cain stiffens. He couldn’t help it. DG belongs to him, no other. Then, he had just Bonded with her, it has not been completed yet. Though if he can, he will definitely be working towards that.
Before he or her siblings can react to that statement, DG’s eyes flash and she stalks up to the lawman. “Elmer Gulch! I am not nor have I ever been your woman! Now crawl back into the snake hole you came out of and leave me alone!”
To Gulch, he had what he wanted, DG away from everyone else. He smirks. “Now DG. We need to talk. However, I think it will be better later, in private. Meet me in our place.” He moves toward her, making a huge mistake. His only intention is to intimidate the man standing behind her, to make him not even think of taking what is his.
DG gasps as she realizes what he has done. Her eyes close briefly, Dammit, I am not going to hear the end of this. She has always known what Gulch thought. He has made it clear from day one, as she has made her denial clear. Rumors of how he has treated other women had made that decision. She is all for second chances, but nothing that the man has done has made her think otherwise. Especially not when he… She decided not to think of that night, not when she is feeling Cain’s pure anger and love. Love for her, and anger towards the man looming over his wife.
Cain is standing there, his eyes ice blue, the ring around them glowing. He can feel everything that DG is feeling, including the disgust caused by what the man is doing, as well as the hint of pure terror she had. He gives him one chance, mainly because of the gun his hand had strayed towards as he takes in Cain’s anger, “Step away from my wife.” His hand inching closer to his gun.
Gulch’s jaw locks down and he moves towards her as he growls at DG, “You whore out to him, DG? What else did you do? No man would want you, daydreamer…failure.” His eyes give lie to the words he is saying.
Cain can see the fear in them, and that more than anything else worries him.
Before anything else can happen, Gulch’s radio in the car crackles to life, “Gulch? Are you there? Gulch?”
He curses. He continues to meet Cain’s eyes, trying to not back down from this man.
DG moves her head to the side where her and Cain’s eyes meet, and she curses. I won’t be hearing the end of this for a while. However, at the same time, she knows that it is due to her fear earlier and now. There is no denying the pure love, anger and possessiveness he is feeling under the worry he has. Her eyes can see his Mark in both his eyes and on his hand, glowing and she can feel her own reacting. She hopes Gulch will be gone before he notices, with the sun going down, the glows will be harder to hide.
The radio crackles to life, “God DAMMIT, Gulch, you better not be chasing DG. I just heard she is back in town and if I found out you are anywhere close to her-”
Gulch grabs the radio before anything else can be said. “I am here. I am on my way in. Gulch out.” He looks up at them. “DG, if you know what is best; you will lose the ‘husband’ and meet me.”
When Gulch had dived into his vehicle, Cain had moved to DG. His arm had pulled her to him, his other hand free and close to his gun. At Gulch’s words, a growl rumbles through his chest, vibrating against DG.
DG can feel Cain beginning to lose it. “Gulch, if you don’t go, I will call the station and let them know you are here. Now go.” She is pulling strength from Cain, also knowing Gulch is about to have his ass handed to him. Her brothers will be behind Cain if anything starts not to mention her sister.
Gulch’s face twists in hatred. However, he knows he will seriously be in a lot of trouble if the new sheriff finds him out here. He had warned him off of DG when he had found all the tickets written out to her. He spits out, “This ain’t over, DG. Not by a long shot.” He slams the car door shut and quickly reverses the vehicle.
As soon as DG realizes he is gone, she collapses into Cain. He catches her, holding her close to him, feeling how badly shaken she is. He also knows it has taken a lot for her to stand there. They may have Bonded only this day, but there are going to be some rules.
His eyes flick to Jeb. “Keep an eye out.”
Jeb meets his father’s eyes and nods. He watches him as he carries DG up the porch stairs, pausing by Az, then walking into the house. The front door slams shut behind him.
Az frowns, waiting. Raw soon exits the house and she waives her hands, the house glitters with the spell she has on it. Then she turns and meets Jeb’s eyes.
Az’s eyes blaze as she stalks to Jeb’s side. “I really want to know who that man is.” They all turn to her nurture units.
Jeb is seething inside. That man had not only insulted DG, but he had made it clear that he was not going to accept Cain’s claim over her. He wants to know what is going on as much as Az does.
Emily and Hank sigh. “Let DG tell it. So much of it we don’t know for sure. Plus I think Cain should hear it first.”
Raw comes up beside them from exiting the house, “DG is hurting. Cain take care of. They need time right now.”
They nod, it would not be the first or the last time they slept outside. The group soon settle for the night, making sure they keep an eye out for Gulch. Az had cast a spell over the truck to preserve the food, since there is no way to get in the house until she takes down the spell. In addition, right now, she is too tired. She had pulled the truck to her with her magic, and cast the spell over the house. She also had her magic up and ready for anything, while trying to hide the Mark from Gulch’s eyes. Az has made fair use of her magic tonight.
Glitch glances at them. “Well, we thought the dangerous stuff would be when we got back to the O.Z.”
Jeb shakes his head. “Should have known there was a reason for DG to be so upset. But who would expect that? Hopefully that is the most danger we have here.”
Glitch laughs. “That man? He’s nothing. The most dangerous person is that man upstairs with our sister.”
Jeb smirks, “And ain’t it a beautiful thing?”
Glitch and Jeb share a look. Both had known that Cain was it for DG; it had taken him all this to admit it. But that little situation? Cain will never let a man hurt his love. Neither of them will be shocked to find that the Mark had grown after tonight.
Az looks up at the house. “While you two men are over there smirking, think of who gets to sleep in a bed tonight, while we are sleeping on the ground.” Then she smirks at them, “Of course, there is a strong guarantee that there will be hardly any sleeping going on up there.”
With that, all the men groan as Az’s laughter carries up to the sun fading below the horizon.
Word count: after editing 4,470