Word count before editing: 2,210
Song I listened to for this chapter: Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton.
Az looks away, for the first time fully aware of the love the man has for her sister. She chuckles to herself. When Cain glances at her out of the corner of his eye, she tells him, “If she chooses you, I think you two will be the stuff of legends.”
He shakes his head. “I think you be thinking of one of your fairy tales, Princess, maybe that one of that Oyster and her King.” Then his face softens. “She belongs to and deserves those fairy tales, not a man who is broken.” His voice trails off at the end.
Az just stares at the man beside her and realizes it won’t just be him healing DG, but her healing him. She just informs him, “You know, DG told me that there is a fairy tale in that other world of the Grey Gale’s journey. Who knows what other fairy tales are real, Cain. Or who knows which ones are beginning?” Her voice is soft, as she truly is beginning to believe that in front of her might very well be half of a legendary couple, one that she is sure will drive their own legends.
With that Az moves to her bedroll, noting with a smile that Jeb had placed his on the other side and made sure she will be close enough to the fire to stay warm tonight. She settles down quickly and looks into the fire, her eyes raise up and she can see Cain’s as he sits there thinking. She hopes he listens to her, then settles down thinking of the same tale that Cain had brought up, wishing that it was true as she falls asleep. There was no one more deserving of life never ending as the promised King and Queen of Knights.
The following day had them on their way to Cain’s homestead. That morning when Cain announces that is their next destination, his eyes are hard. Jeb jerked his head towards his father in shock.
Noticing this, Cain grinds out, “We are to follow the original path of DG’s journey. That is where she found me.” Then he quickly mounts Silver and rides back on the trail. His head held high, he doesn’t look back to them
Ambrose stares out after him. “This is going to be hard.”
Jeb is staring after his father and sharply turns his head to Raw as he hears him say, “Not just Cain. Jeb will have hard time.” He can see Raw staring at him, sympathy in his eyes.
Closing his eyes, he acknowledges this, then states, “No harder than it has to be for him. He watched what he thought was the massacre of his family, continuously, for eight long annuals. All the while locked inside one of those suits, staring out at the site of the same massacre.”
Ambrose glances to make sure the Tin Man is far enough away. “I think that was when he felt something for DG. He only looked at her a couple of times, most of the time he was staring away from her.” He will never forget that second that DG freed Cain and the look on his face when he fell at her feet. If he had been forced to say a moment that Cain felt something for her, it was then. He spent more time fighting it afterwards.
Az sighs. She nods to Lars and he takes off, seeing where Cain is. He comes back and circles. “C’mon. We need to get this done with. The faster we get to DG the better we all will feel. Plus it sounds like this is only the first part of the journey.” With that, she nudges Alric to a walk and follows Lars.
The rest of the Companions are quick to follow. None of them are talking, all thinking about the revelations they had received from the Grey Gale last night.
Ambrose is remembering when they had first seen Cain. The look he had on his face as he stared at DG from inside the Suit, then as he fell upon his knees at the first unimpaired sight of her, as though she was his angel, that everything that bound him to life was her. He frowns as the phrase sounds familiar, but he is too busy with his thoughts to trace it down.
Nevertheless, at the same time, he remembers his first sight of her. The pure rage he felt when he saw her as she struggled against the Guild. He had been willing to kill for her if he had been able to. He still has no idea why they put the two of them together.
Ambrose closes his eyes as he remembers the pure electric shock he had received when she looked him in the face completely inside their ‘cell’. As Glitch, he had pushed it aside and tried to play it down. He chuckles to himself, remembering how he had called her “doll” and thought he was so clever to get her to loosen the rope that made him stay up there. Then her trying politely to let him know that his zipper was open, Glitch had been mortified.
Nothing matched his heart screaming when she left him. He frantically followed after her, and how after that second he never wanted to leave her side. Moreover, he had done much that Glitch was not happy with in order to keep by her side.
Now Ambrose knows a lot of that was the Suitor Bond reasserting itself, it was how he had managed to find her a couple of times when she had gone missing from his sight. Then his eyes narrow in thought. Cain had known where she was at all times without the Bond.
Interrupting Ambrose’s thoughts, Jeb finally rides up closer to Az and Ambrose. He can feel Raw closing in, but he asks them both, “Do any of you remember the old legends clearly?”
Az sighs. “Actually, DG is the one who would know them better than any of us.”
This startles Jeb and Ambrose. It is the former who asks, “Why is that?”
Before any of them can answer, they came upon the Cain’s former homestead. And what waited for them, would break anyone’s heart. Cain is just standing there, his hand on his suit, his shoulders slumped. He is the very picture of a man broken.
Jeb’s breath catches, looking at the home that was the last place his family had been whole. Az turns to him, and lays a hand on him.
Ambrose, however, looks at the elder Cain, and his thoughts from earlier come back. A suspicion is coming to mind, but he cannot let the man who has become a brother to him suffer. He dismounts his bay horse and moves to Cain’s side.
Cain just tells him, “I don’t deserve to be a Suitor for DG.” He seems so lost as he looks at what still haunts his nightmares, of being imprisoned and watching what he had thought to be his worst nightmare coming true, over and over.
Ambrose stands with him, staring at the tree that Cain had told him was a sapling when he was put into the suit. He gathers his thoughts and asks, “You never would look at her after you fell at her feet. If it was where you had to, it was a brief glance or like you were trying to prove something. However, at the end, you never looked at her. I thought you were not going to help us, and were trying to figure out a way to get through the Papay fields. Even back then, I was not sure I could keep her safe. And that was and still is an important part of me.”
He sighed. “You did and still try to fight it, don’t you.” He says it softly, but it is painful for him to admit it.
Cain jerks slightly, and admits to him, “I gave in to loving her a long time ago. You were there when I did.”
Ambrose finally turns to him. “But you are fighting a stronger feeling for her. Cain, you knew where she was at all times before the Suitor Bond was even established.”
Cain closes his eyes and answers Ambrose, “And you have no idea if you would be feeling the same way since you have had the Bond since she was a child. Do not base anything on it, Ambrose. You love DG. You will give her your life without thinking of it. Moreover, it doesn’t matter what I or you feel for her, to be honest. It is up to her.”
Ambrose just stares at him. “You don’t think you deserve her.” The revelation is surprising for him. For the former Tin Man to admit any shortcoming is amazing and unheard of.
Cain just looks around and tells him, his voice harsh, “I don’t seem to do well with the women I love. I begged and pleaded with Zero not to hurt them, and had to watch it for eight annuals. The entire time believing that because I made the choice to help the Resistance, they are dead.” His eyes close, “The worst part, Ambrose, was watching Adora’s tears as they fell.”
Ambrose tries to grapple with the idea of if the child in the recording they came across was his and DG’s, how he would cope were he in Cain’s position. He couldn’t have. “Cain.” When that receives no attention, he tries again. “Wyatt, you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. There is no way I could have survived. I would have killed myself or gone catatonic.”
Jeb, Az and Raw had come up, but they remain quiet. Jeb remembers that day; it is sadly one of the clearest in his head. In addition, he knows that, same as Ambrose, he couldn’t have survived. In fact, he almost didn’t survive his week in his suit, and he didn’t have to watch what he thought was the murder of his family in front of him.
Cain’s voice came as a whisper and they barely heard it. If the wind had been blowing the other way, there would have been no way they would have heard it. “If it had been DG, I would have.” He turns and starts to walk away.
Raw’s voice rings out, “There be no tears in heaven.”
Those six little words stop the Tin Man. He stands there for a minute and then nods. He walks to the dock and stares out across the water.
Jeb starts to follow him, but Ambrose grabs his arm. “Leave him be. While time does heal, he needs to face this before we find DG.”
Looking up at Ambrose’s face, Jeb sees Ambrose resigning himself. He is not sure what is going on with the Adviser, but he looks back at his father. He pulls his arm away from Ambrose and continues on.
Raw moves up to Ambrose’s side. “Cain need son.” Then he looks at Ambrose, “Cain be right, don’t give up. No one knows what DG will choose.”
Az comes up on Ambrose’s other side, “DG has not had much in her life that she can decide upon. Don’t take away another choice from her.”
Ambrose closes his eyes as he nods, silently agreeing with them.
Cain is staring across the pond and feels his son come up to his side.
Jeb stops beside his father. “What is so hard, right now, Father?”
Sighing, Cain looks down at his son. “Because when I first saw DG through the view plate of the suit, I thought I saw an angel. Then to have her open it, I fell to my knees with the intense feelings I felt for this woman in front of me. I denied them, since for me, I just finished watching the 93,500th time you guys were taken from me and it all seemed like it happened today.”
Jeb stands there, thinking. “But it wasn’t. Even though you are frozen in the suit, you still are aware of time passing. Dad, there is no one blaming you for your feelings for DG. Mom would not have blamed you; she had found someone else before whatever disease it was that killed her.”
Cain turns quickly and stares at his son as he grabs his arms. “What did you say?”
Jeb frowns at him, surprised by his reaction, “Mom passed away because of some illness. We couldn’t find anyone to heal her, but she died peacefully. It was after she passed and when we had buried her, that Zero found us and stuck me in that suit. Eleazer was taken away by Zero. Later we found that he had been tortured and killed. I wanted to kill Zero for what he had done to you, the pain she went through and the death of the second father I knew.” His voice grows softer as he watches his father, puzzled by his reaction to this.
Searching his eyes, Cain asks, “But her gravestone said Adora Cain.”
Jeb nods, still confused. “She never married again. Dad, why are you asking this?”
Releasing his son, his eyes showing his shock. “I thought Zero had killed her, in fact I dreamed of it and Zero said he had.”
Jeb’s eyes widen as he frantically thought. Then his voice shakes as he tells his father, “No. He never laid another hand on her for the rest of her life. I am so sorry. I thought you knew.” His voice shows his emotion, that he felt badly that his father had been suffering all this time, and he never knew. Or he would have corrected him much sooner allowing him to suffer less.
Cain looks up at the sky, thinking. Finally, he shakes his head to himself, making a decision and then turns abruptly to his son. He reaches into his vest and hands Jeb an object. He tells him, “It’s yours, I meant to give it to you for the last annual. Even if DG chooses me, I won’t do that to her.” And with that he walks off back towards the rest of the group.
Jeb opens the object to find it is Cain’s wedding ring. I meant to give it to you for the last annual. Jeb’s head snaps up to stare at his father’s retreating back. Moreover, as he sees his left hand, there is not even a spot that is lighter than the rest.
Cain moves back to the rest of them and stops by Ambrose. He clasps him on the shoulder and just says, “Her choice?”
Ambrose looks him in the eyes, seeing some of the self-hatred he had seen earlier, gone. He nods, “Her choice.”
With that they all leave the Cain house.
Final count: 2,503 words