Based on the TV Miniseries "Tin Man"

The Markham Incident

By Len

Rating: T

Setting: Post series

Pairing: DG/Cain UST

Genre: Is Action!Fluff a genre?

Disclaimer: Standard

Notes: I’m on a roll, apparently! Thanks to everyone for the wonderful reviews for ‘Unexpected’ - I guess I still had more to say about that one. This story is a kind of prequel to that, and explains the “incident” mentioned in that story. The ending…well, it’s almost inexcusably fluffy. I just can’t help myself.


She looked a little different, Cain thought, as he walked a little in front and to the right of the Princess. A little older, a little more poised, a little more polished. Certainly a hell of a lot cleaner than the last time they’d set out for adventure across the O.Z. But she was still the DG he’d come to know, although her wide-eyed gazes at the world around her no longer reminded Cain of a young girl, as they had when he’d first met her. They no longer signaled flashes of childhood memories she was struggling to make sense of.

No, these were weighing looks. They were the gaze of an artist, trying to catch every nuance of the moment, all the subtleties of the scene, weighing the reality against the potential of what could be. Cain knew that whether were visiting drought-stricken farmland or a devastated village, she was always rebuilding them in her head. Seeing what they could become and what still needed to be done.

Trouble was, sometimes she looked at him like that. When it was late and it was just the two of them with cups of coffee next to the fire. He wondered what she saw in his face, in the half-light and the quiet.

He shook his head and glanced around the pockmarked field they were currently passing through. There was no time to think about that now. Although not technically part of her protection detail, he was one of the driving forces behind the reinstatement of the Tin Men and Police Forces across the O.Z. When he’d heard about her latest goodwill tour of the Northern Territories, he’d thought it best to get himself an invite. The political climate was still too unstable, her guards still too untried for him to risk DG’s safety with anyone other than himself. Besides, as he’d pointed out to Lord Ahamo and Brian Eastley, Head of Royal Security, Cain needed to travel north to see how well the police forces were cleaning up the area. Two birds with one stone.

“Man, this place looks like Halloween blew up all over it,” the Princess commented out of the side of her mouth. Cain didn’t know what a Halloween was, but he understood the “blowing up” reference. The formerly impressive residence ahead had seen rough times; the outer walls surrounding the fortified mansion had crumbled, the inner yard was thick with overgrowth.. Even the main path leading up to the door appeared to have seen precious little traffic over the years.

“The Northern Territories were hit hard by the Sorceress,” Cain replied. He knew she’d done her research before this visit. Sometimes, though, he had to know she understood that the ruins they were standing in - these were therealities of what she’d read. He wasn’t really worried about DG turning into the kind of royalty that was insulated from the living world, but he couldn’t help it. “She destroyed Finaqua first, and then came here. Fields were razed, families labeled as traitors and arrested or killed. The manor house was her last stop.”

DG paused on the path, as they approached a large pile of burnt timbers. Crawling vines had begun to cover the rubble, but it was clear that it had been a large structure at one point. “What’s that? A barn?”

“Stables. Markham was famous for his show ponies. Prettiest prancers you ever laid eyes on. I saw ‘em once on parade in Central City.”

“Oh, my God,” DG said, pointing. “They’re still here. He never cleared them away…”

Sure enough, bleached bones covered in spots by flaking leather hide were visible through the tall weeds. Cain tipped his hat back and shook his head. “Damn shame. The old man loved his horses. What the Sorceress did…she did it because she knew it would destroy him. Not kill him…she wanted him to suffer.”

DG nodded, and took a long look around her. She didn’t flinch as she took in the destruction; she never did. She was trying to see it as Markham had seen it, before the reign of the evil witch. It was her gift, one that had won over many people throughout the land. He had no doubt she would be successful with Lord Markham, as well.

Taking a final breath, she straightened up and face the door. Her hair was upswept, in some complicated series of braids and subtly pretty beaded doodads that made her look taller. Her deep green tunic and pants added to the picture, and for all Cain was supposed to be keeping an eye out, he suddenly found it hard to take a deep breath. She looked beautiful, with a new regality of bearing that combined with the same stubborn competence she’d had since he‘d met her…she looked like a queen.

After gaping like a damn fool for longer than he should have, he instructed her two guards to keep watch from the gate and from the front door. Then he knocked on the door.

A wizened old woman opened the door, and inspected them both through milky blue eyes. Cain removed his hat and bowed politely; representative of the Princess or not, there were some manners that a man simply had to remember when it came to his elders. “Ma’am, Princess Dorothy Gale to meet with the Honorable Lord Markham.”

The old lady blinked, and then clasped her hands to her face, blushing like a girl all the while. “Oh, by Ozma…young man, you do know how to give a woman a fright!” She pulled the door open, ushering Cain inside and bowing to DG. Cain smirked a little, and glanced at the princess to see the familiar look of discomfort crossing her features. Crossing the threshold in long strides, she took the woman’s gnarled, arthritic hands in hers gently. “Lovely to meet you, Ma’am. I’m Princess DG. How do you do?”

The woman looked up, and looked closely at her. “Princess - so young. So bright. Oh, we do much better now that you’re here!”

With that, she threw herself on DG and began sobbing - deep, wracking sobs that caused tears of sympathy to form in DG’s eyes. Startled, she patted the old woman on the back soothingly, and looked at Cain. What do I do now? She mouthed at him. He shrugged, and watched the scene. Cain had a feeling that this was not the only time this kind of situation was going to arise. Like it or not, the Princess was a symbol of hope and rebirth to a lot of folks in the O.Z. Not all of them, mind, but a fair few saw her as the person who would lead them out of the dark times and into a brighter future.

After a moment, Cain stepped in, and gently eased the woman away from DG. He pulled out a clean red handkerchief from his duster pocket and presented it to her. At the sight of it, a look of unholy glee crossed the princess’ face, but was quickly hidden under a mask of polite compassion. He glared at her. He wasn’t sure why she was so amused, but had a feeling some kind of defensive move was required on his part.

“Ma’am?” The woman sniffled into the red cloth. “Ma’am? I’m sorry for your…grief?” DG looked at Cain, checking to see if she’d pegged that emotion correctly. He nodded. “Believe me, I would really like to talk with you further when I finish my meeting with Lord Markham. Would that be alright?”

Pulling herself together, the old woman nodded decisively. “It would be my honor, Princess. Let me show you to his Lordship. “

They followed her stooped frame down a long, dusty hallway. It was lit up at intervals by candles - lumpy candles that let off a dark smoke and unpleasant smell that permeated the walls. The handmade kind, probably made by the very woman who now escorted them.

They halted in front of a dark oak door, scarred by generations of life in the manor. The woman - probably the housekeeper, Cain thought - knocked loudly and announced the princess. There was silence in the room, and then he could hear a deep, rattling breath being drawn.

As her temporary body guard, Cain entered the room first, glancing around for any possible threat. The room was as dark as the hall, with the drapes pulled tightly shut and the only illumination coming from the two pairs of candelabras sitting on top of the large stone mantle. Above the mantle was a portrait of portly, jolly looking man. He was dressed finely and his sparse hair had been curled neatly, as was the fashion for men of consequence, some fifty years before. Lord Markham then, Cain deduced. He turned to face the current version of Lord Markham, and bit back another “Damn shame.”

He nodded to DG. As she prepared to enter, the woman stopped her with a hand on her sleeve. “If you please, Highness…His Lordship hasn’t been…well…for a time. He’s terrible hard of hearing, and well…” She broke down again, holding his handkerchief against her face. DG looked at him pleadingly.

“Cain, would you…”

She didn’t need to finish the sentence. “I’ll see about getting her a cup of tea,” he told her in a low voice. “Then I’ll be right outside.” She nodded and entered, shutting the heavy door behind her. Cain had almost added on a request that she be kind to the old man, but that was just another example of him saying something she already knew. Once she got a good look at Lord Markham, she’d know to couch her request to him in softer terms. The man looked like he’d been dying behind that desk for well on a decade.

He helped the Housekeeper, whose name he discovered was Mrs. Middleton, to the kitchen and settled her in a rocking chair near the fire. The copper kettle was soon heated, and she directed him to the jar where she kept her herbs for tea. The whole thing reminded him of his grandmother’s house, where he’d go as a boy to split kindling and haul water. Towards the end, he would take her outside to watch the landscape she loved so much. He was glad she hadn’t lived to the destruction of her ancestral lands when Azkedelia came to power.

“Aren’t you just the sweetest boy? So thoughtful!” she declared as he handed her a stoneware mug of brewed rosehips. Cain smiled at the though of being considered a boy to anyone of any age.

“My pleasure, ma’am. How long have you worked for His Lordship?”

She took a sip of tea, and thought for a moment. “My goodness, it must be going on twelve years, now. I came to work for His Lordship just after my Harry was killed by…by…” Her eyes dimmed again, but she seemed determined not to lose control again. “By the sorceress. Lord Markham was in a terrible state, the poor man. Needed someone to look after him. Most folks around these parts headed south to the city after their lands were destroyed, but me…I had no reason to go. Besides, I’ve lived a good, long life. If something happens, it’s as it should be. So I came here, and did the best I could.”

Cain nodded, fiddling with his hat brim slightly as he listened. “Well, I hope things ease a bit for you, ma’am. The Princess, she’s real set on rebuilding, and is doing everything she can to make sure people get settled back in their homes, if they wish.” He chuckled, thinking about DG charming and wheedling her way into Markham’s good graces. The man would have to be crazy or dead to withstand the onslaught of those eyes. “Might be as soon as next spring that work gets started to rebuilt the Territories. The Manor included.”

Mrs. Middleton shook her head slowly, gazing into the mug in her hands. “I’m afraid that just won’t happen, Mr. Cain.” She looked saddened, and for no reason at all, Cain began to feel tendrils of worry knot together in his chest.

“Why is that, Mrs. Middleton?”

“His Lordship’s never really recovered from the attack. He just stopped living. I don’t like to speak ill of anyone, Mr. Cain, but I think that when he watched everything burn, he just….went a little funny in the head. That’s why he can’t abide anything brighter than a candle.”

Cain swallowed. “He’s never been violent to anyone, though, has he?”

At this, Mrs. Middleton actually laughed aloud. “His Lordship? Mercy me, no! He’s always promising that he’ll slit Azkadelia’s throat if he found her. You know, just like her men did to his horses. But, my word, there’s not a chance of that happen--Mr. Cain?”

He was out of the chair like a shot, turning it over in his haste. Candles blew out as he sprinted down the hallway, and he prayed that he was just being over-cautious. The heavy oak door was thrown open with such force that it hit the inside wall and cracked around the door knob.

The sight that met his eyes caused the worry inside to transform into a choking fear. Lord Markham was crouched over the fallen figure of DG, with an insane grin across his face. He reached out and yanked the blade out of her body, cackling and gasping like a madman.

“You’re too late!” he cried. “I’ve slain the witch! The witch is dead, just as I swore it would be!”

Wyatt Cain felt an icy sweat break out over his body. DG was still - so still. She would be fighting if she were alive, surely. Why didn’t she get up and fight? A roar filled his ears and he was deaf to all else. There was no way DG could be dead. He refused to believe it. She was supposed to lead all of them to a brighter world. And he was supposed to be right beside her, doing what needed to be done. That was the plan. He had more faith in that than in anything else he’d ever believed.

Maybe he should have let her in on it.

A couple things happened next. From her prone position on the floor, DG twitched, just slightly, as if she were trying to find a more comfortable position. Wyatt Cain found he could breathe again. And Markham realized he’d had not quite finished the job.

“Die, witch!” he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth. He raised the knife up high.

Cain shot him dead between the eyes, and was by DG’s side before Markham’s body could hit the ground.


“Cain, will you stop pacing? You’re starting to make me dizzy.” DG complained from her bed. Then she got a good look at his face. “On second thought, maybe you should sit down. You look worse than I do!”

He stopped, and looked at the Princess. She did seem genuinely concerned. And, on further reflection - although he hated to admit it - he was feeling a mite unsteady. He stunk down in the chair next to her and ran both hands through his hair. His hat was…somewhere. He’d lost it somewhere in the rush to get DG to a healer, and he didn’t really give much of a damn.

It was too close. Every time he closed his eyes - hell, every time he blinked - he could see her lying there motionless on the floor, the knife protruding from her back. It had been way too close. He sighed - it sounded more like a groan - and let his head rest in his hands.

“Tin Man, are you okay?” Now DG sounded really concerned.

He took a deep breath. Then another. And then he felt the fear and rage at Markham rise up, and there was no stopping it. “Damn it, DG!” He leapt to his feet, and returned to pacing the room like a caged animal. “Never do that again! You could have been killed! You were lying there in a pool of blood and I thought you were dead! Of all the damn fool things to do…”

She still looked concerned, but interjected with a “Hey! It’s not my fault the guy was out of his whacked-out mind. The only thing that gave me the creeps was that house, not anyone in it. I didn‘t know what he was planning any more than you did!”

He sat suddenly and scrubbed his hands through his hair again. It was beginning to stand up in strange tufts. “Hell…I know. I know,” he repeated, at a more normal volume. “You didn’t know. But I should have been able to--”

“What? Read the mind of the crazy guy? Do you get psychic powers along with your badge, Cain?”

“It was a rookie mistake, DG! I never should have left you alone with him. Anybody could tell you that’s the first rule of protecting someone.”

“Maybe,” she said. She reached out her good arm to grab his hand and tug him closer to the bed. Then she patted the spot next to her. “But I would have probably kicked you out, anyway. And the guy was, like, a hundred years old! I never would have guessed he’d be able to lift that knife, let alone break the skin with it.”

Cain grunted. She continued. “You can’t blame yourself for what a madman thought he saw in the candlelight, Cain.”

“I should have protected you, DG. That was the whole reason I went.”

“You did your job.” She squeezed his hand. “You saved me, Wyatt. Just like you always do.” She smiled, and winced a little. “Sure, I’ll never be able to wear tube-tops again, but I think those are probably out of the question for my mother’s daughter, anyway.”

They sat for a moment, staring into the flames in fireplace. She was watching him with that look on her face again, he could tell. “We live to fight another day, Cain,” she said after a while.

He smiled at her, still feeling that guilt eating away at his stomach, but more hopeful than he’d felt since the incident. “Many, many more days, Princess. That’s my plan, anyway.”

DG grinned at him. “Good plan.”

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