Disclaimer: I own nothing, nor am I making any profit off of this story. Everything belongs to SyFy; I'm merely exploring what happened after the credits rolled.

AN: Hello, all! Welcome to my first foray into the Tin Man fandom. I've loved the miniseries since it aired, but hadn't really entertained any ideas of writing for it until this little beastie attacked my brain a while back. I wrote 3/4 of it in a day, but then had trouble with the ending for over a year. Happily, I've remedied that. There will be four chapters.

One small note: this is quite angsty in parts. Tin Man ended before it could explore the aftermath of the Witch's reign and this is a possible outcome. Never fear, however! Where there's life, there's hope...and love. :twinkles:

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13 (NIV)


Reality Check
Chapter 1

The Witch was dead, to begin with. The monolithic tower of terror she had built from which to rule the O.Z. with a merciless, oppressive, clawed fist was a smoking pile of rubble. Azkadellia had been freed from her enslavement within her own body; the Royal Family reunited.

The news swept through the O.Z. like an unstoppable wildfire, spreading blazing elation, giddy joy, and hope like crackling flames. The Witch was dead. Princess DG was alive, having been dropped back into the O.Z. by a travel storm just like her namesake.

A new era dawned the day of the double eclipse, bright and clear. As one, the people of the O.Z. threw themselves into capturing the rest of the Witch's forces. For weeks, everyone rounded up the last of the Longcoats. Afterward, a fragile peace settled over the city.

D.G. should have known—they all should have known—it was only the prelude to something bigger.

She had been so certain things would work out, so…naive. She flung herself headlong into her duty as a member of the House of Gale, even though it meant learning Royal etiquette, protocol, and a thousand other things in between tactical meetings with Cain and military leaders.

Azkadellia remained in the shadows. She was recovering from the trauma she'd suffered during the Witch's use of her body and sensitive to the fear that still swept through people at the sight of her face or the sound of her voice.

DG blithely plunged ahead, confident everyone would make the distinction between her sister and the Witch. Yes, in hindsight, she'd been incredibly naïve. One joyous day and the overthrow of the Witch couldn't possibly make up for the fifteen annuals of chaos, fear, and misery their people had suffered.

A storm is coming.

Free of the Witch's oppression, free from looking over their shoulders in terror and fear, the people of the O.Z. finally had time to take stock of their situation. What they determined they wanted brought a chill to the hearts of the Royal Family. The people wanted justice, revenge…blood.

Azkadellia's blood, to be exact.

Queen Lavender Eye's impassioned proclamation of Azkadellia's innocence by way of the Witch possessing her body did nothing to assuage deep, resentful anger. All anyone who had suffered at the Witch's hand saw when they looked at the Crown Princess was the Witch's face.

It wasn't safe for her to travel; Azkadellia stayed in the Palace as much as possible. "I can't be Queen, Deej," she told her sister one morning. "Our people hate me for what I—we—did."

"Not you, Az," DG insisted. "The Witch. And I can't be Queen—you had the emerald at the eclipse."

Azkadellia shook her head soberly. "I don't think it will matter."

Wyatt Cain, newly instated head of palace security, attempted to restrain DG's wanderings as well, but met with a surprising amount of resistance. Not that he'd expected anything different. He already knew the princess was as stubborn as a mule.

As hard as she tried to become what the entire O.Z. expected her to be, DG was a wild spirit who refused to be contained. Every so often the pressure would finally get to her, weighing down her shoulders and clawing at her throat. When it happened, she temporarily disappeared.

Cain was the only one who could ever find her. Azkadellia could if she tried, but she was reluctant to leave the anonymity of her chambers. So it fell to Cain to stalk the palace and the gardens until he stumbled across DG tucked away in a corner, doing her best to de-stress.

They had grown closer as time slid past, close enough that DG well and truly lost her heart without realizing it. The two of them had turned her disappearances into a game of sorts. As much as she often needed a few moments to herself, she delighted in giving Cain the slip and then waiting with bated breath and amusement for him to find her.

He always did. Especially on the rare occasions she made off with his beloved hat.

Lavender Eyes and Ahamo were aware of their daughter's penchant for evading her guards, but they understood why. Ahamo, more than anyone else. And with the struggle to rebuild the O.Z., they missed the steadily growing attraction between DG and the former Tin Man.

Jeb Cain, however, did not miss the signs. And he most definitely did not approve.

He confronted his father one day, eyes blazing and mouth set in a bitter line. Cain had only known Adora was dead for a few short months—how could he forget her so quickly? And flirting with a princess who was only a few years older than Jeb himself?

"What are you thinking, Father?" Jeb's eyes narrowed. "Oh, wait. You're not."

He could have said nothing else that cut his father more deeply.

Reeling from the stinging verbal slap across the face, Cain assessed his situation. Jeb's words revealed his own inner conflict. DG was a princess and much too young to have any real interest in an old, washed-up Tin Man such as himself. And Adora…guilt clawed at his insides. Jeb need say no more.

Quietly, humbly, Cain relinquished any tiny hopes he had nurtured regarding DG's affections and withdrew. He did not resign his post—he knew no one else would have any luck managing her. He barely kept up with her on a good day. Instead, he slowly and methodically extricated himself from all the little rituals and routines that marked the course of their friendship. He figured, done slowly enough, DG would never notice.

He was wrong.

At first DG thought nothing of his occasional absences, attributing them to his duties as head of palace security. But when they began to occur more frequently, and Cain gradually changed into a cool, aloof, taciturn shadow of his former self, she was left unable to account for the difference. It worried her, fractured the little piece of stability she'd managed to latch onto in this strange world.

Somehow, she'd lost Cain's friendship.

She noticed he was spending more time with Jeb, and that Jeb himself was no longer so cool and stiff toward her. He seemed justified. That was when DG realized Cain must have been forced to make a choice—she knew Jeb hadn't approved of their closeness—and Cain chose his son. She understood why, really, she did, but that knowledge did nothing to mend her heart.

For the first time in her life, DG experienced real, aching heartbreak. She was numb, like someone had taken a large spoon and scooped out her heart. She'd misread Cain; he didn't care for her the way she'd thought. I am a nuisance.

Not too long after that revelation, things in the O.Z. finally came to a head. The fragile peace they had established popped like a soap bubble in a patch of brambles. Bowing to weeks of mounting tension, Queen Lavender Eyes convened a hearing with representatives from the entire O.Z. to determine a solution to the unrest. The entire Royal Family was in attendance. Cain was nearly beside himself when he found out.

The day of the hearing, Central City was packed.

DG didn't think they could cram any more people inside the gates if they took a shoehorn and shoved. Several hundred people crammed them themselves into the Grand Hall of the Palace. Thousands more lined the streets outside. The hearing itself was being broadcast across the O.Z. for everyone else.

As she took her seat with the rest of her family and select Royal Advisors at a long table on a raised dais at the back of the Hall, DG scanned the crowd. Sullen, bitter, angry faces stared back. An ugly mood lay over the crowd; she could feel it pressing in on her with an itchy weight that left her body restless.

DG glanced sideways at the guards lining either side of the dais. She kept herself from looking for Cain, but she saw his son. Her heart wrenched when she saw the anger and resentment written all over his face. Even Jeb couldn't restrain his emotion.

Beside her, Azkadellia sat very tall and still. Her pale skin was even more bloodless than usual. DG resisted the urge to frown and chew her lip. Az has been recovering so nicely; I hope this doesn't set her back.

"We shall begin." From her seat at the center of the table, Queen Lavender Eyes raised a hand for silence.

DG's stomach clenched. Here we go.

A short, balding man stepped forward. Raymond Mason was the Crown's Chief Prosecutor.

Even as new as she was to the O.Z.'s politics and legal system, DG knew this was not a good sign.

After a few platitudes regarding the Queen's generosity in granting the hearing, Mason went straight to the point. "We, the people of the O.Z., have come before you today to demand justice for the evils perpetrated on this land for the past fifteen annuals by the Crown Princess Azkadellia."

It only went downhill from there.

DG had entertained a few, half-formed ideas of what to expect, but this was worse—far worse—than anything she could have imagined. Mason read through page after page, listing all of the people who had been killed, tortured, maimed, and otherwise wronged since the Witch took over the O.Z.. His words flew through the air like bullets; DG felt her sister flinch internally under the impact of each one.

Guilt bubbled in her stomach, burning the back of her throat with acid. This isn't right. She clenched her hands together in her lap, tight enough to cut crescents into her palms. Az shouldn't be the one suffering for this—she had no choice. The Witch used and abused her for years. Her eyes darted over the crowd. None of them care that she's as much of a victim as anyone.

Her mother and father remained silent; monarchs or no, this was still a legal proceeding. There were rules. They seemed to be waiting for a break in the litany, a break that never came. Glitch's face was tight with suppressed anger.

Az said nothing—she didn't even move—but the expression on her face told everyone she knew she deserved every harsh words.

Mason finally paused to rest to rest his voice. Behind him, another lawyer rose to his feet. "The laws of the O.Z. are very clear, Your Majesty. They must be upheld." He paused. "Princess Azkadellia must pay for her crimes against the people of the O.Z.."

Queen Lavender Eyes finally spoke. "How do you wish this payment to be rendered?"

Mason did not waver. "A life for the lives taken, Your Majesty."

The bottom dropped out of DG's stomach. Her blue eyes went wide as she inhaled. He's calling for Az's execution?

For a second, profound silence fell over the Hall. Then the entire room erupted in a cacophony of shouts, hollers, whoops, and other sounds of agreement.

"Execute her!"

"She's not fit to live!"

Out of the corner of her eye, DG saw Azkadellia bow her head in quiet acceptance. The guilt roiling in the pit of her stomach morphed into molten lava, burning her up from the inside out. Without conscious thought, she shot to her feet. Her hands were still clenched into fists. "Stop!"

Behind her, Cain took a convulsive step forward. Raw whimpered at the sheer hate filling the room, but he kept his eyes on DG.

Her shout cut across the cries for her sister's blood. Her presence—tall, erect, blue eyes blazing—arrested the attention of the entire room. This, they could well believe, was the Princess who had saved the O.Z..

"None of this was Az's fault!" DG clenched her hands into tighter fists. "The Witch trapped her inside her own body for fifteen annuals and used her to take over. She's as much a victim of this as any of you."

Ugly murmurs swept through the crowd. A man in the front row tipped his head back. "Then whose fault is it, Princess?" Derision dropped from every syllable.

Behind DG, Cain's hand dropped to his gun and he fought the urge to shoot that man.

DG did not hesitate. "It's my fault," she said firmly. "All mine. I was the one who found the Witch and accidently freed her. And I left my sister when she needed me the most."

Everyone froze—including Cain.

In the shocked silence that followed, DG made a sharp gesture with her wrist. "Raw?" He came forward and she held his gaze. "I don't want to put you through this, but the O.Z. needs the truth."

He nodded. "Raw understands." Grasping her hand, he reached behind them to touch a large mirror hanging onto the wall. He closed his eyes and DG's memories of that terrible day played out for the entire O.Z. to see.

When it finished, DG looked out across the sea of faces. Shock was the predominant emotion, but she knew anger lay just beneath it. "I'm responsible for everything that's happened to the O.Z. in the last fifteen annuals. The Witch would never have taken Azkadellia if I hadn't freed her and run away. Don't blame her for my mistake."

She took a breath. "So, people of the Oz., whatever justice you want meted out, let it fall on me." She spread her arms wide. "I'll take it all." Her blue eyes swept over the crowd again. "I'll never be able to make up for everything you've suffered."

"DG!" her mother cried in a low voice.

It took everything DG had not to look at Azkadellia or her parents—or Cain. He'd said it wasn't her fault once, but deep down she didn't see how he could believe that. She'd cost him his family and eight years of his life. She'd cost the O.Z. a hell of a lot more than that.

After a long moment, the people seemed to shake themselves out of their stunned stupor. Whispers replaced the ghastly silence. DG remained standing.

Mason blinked at her before turning to confer with his associates. Then he addressed the Queen. "Your Majesty, may we request a recess?"

"Granted." Lavender Eye's voice held none of the grief in her eyes.

Without waiting for a command, Cain and the rest of the Palace Security hurried DG and the rest of the Royal Family into a safe room away from prying eyes.

Lavender Eyes and Ahamo each took DG by an arm. "My angel," the Queen began quietly, but DG shook her head.

"I'm no angel, Mother."

""DG." Azkadellia sounded close to tears. "You shouldn't—"

"Yes, I should." Stepping away from her mother, DG wrapped her arms around her sister. Through her voice remained firm, she couldn't prevent tears from welling in her eyes. "You wouldn't be in this position at all if it weren't for me."

She looked around the room, feeling Cain's eyes bore into her back. Her parents, Glitch, and the rest of their advisors were all staring at her as though she'd lost her mind. "Don't you see? If this will serve justice and let the O.Z. heal, then it's totally worth it. I'm the reason everything was destroyed."

"You're also the reason the O.Z. was saved, Princess."

DG finally allowed herself to meet Cain's eyes. They reflected pain, confusion, and an undercurrent of fury. Her throat closed up; she couldn't answer. That ship has sailed.

Instead, she broke the look to take her sister's hands. "Az, you know more about ruling the O.Z. than I ever will." She nodded to the simply decorated room around them.

"DG—"

"You had the emerald at the eclipse. You're the next Queen."

The sisters stared at each other.

Queen Lavender Eyes stepped forward, her hands fluttering, but whatever she had planned to say was forgotten as a brisk knock came sounded on the door.

Cain opened the door. A lower-level advisor stepped inside and bowed. DG had always liked him; he was kind and never too busy to explain something if she had a question. His lined face was solemn now. "Your Majesty, the delegates have reached a decision."

"They have, have they?" The Queen raised her head.

DG's throat closed up again. She'd been so caught up in reassuring Azkadellia, she hadn't fully considered the implications of her offer. This might be the last day I'm alive.

Her eyes sought Cain of their own volition, but she forced her gaze away before he noticed.

Later, DG would learn the delegates had wrestled back and forth with the question of what to do with her for only a short time. Knowing she had returned to the O.Z. and freed them from the witch, coupled with her open avowal of her own guilt, had calmed some of the bloodlust. There were a few who still called for Azkadellia's head, but the majority settled on what they deemed an equitable punishment.

Queen Lavender Eyes gracefully took her seat and folded her hands in an expression of polite interest. "What do you propose be done, Counselor?"

"Your Majesty," Mason inclined his torso forward in a respectful bow, "after reviewing the evidence and in light of the events of the past few months, we have concluded that death will not serve justice in this case. We therefore humbly request that the Princess Dorothygale be henceforth banished from the O.Z. to live out the rest of her days on the Other Side—alone and cut off from everything and everyone she has come to know here."

DG couldn't breath. Exile. Not death. Beneath the table, Azkadellia found her hand and held on for dear life.

Queen Lavender Eyes looked over the assembly. Cain, his eyes still searching for possible threats, did not envy her the position in which she found herself. Torn between her duty as a mother a separated from her child for so long, and a queen attempting to piece back together the fabric of a realm ravaged by a despot wearing her other child's face, she made the only decision she could.

In a quiet voice that commanded the attention of everyone, she said, "Justice must be served. We find this proposal acceptable. Princess Dorothygale, stand before us."

Willing her knees not to tremble, DG stood and made her way around to the front of the table, where she knelt. She held her head high as she met her mother's gaze.

"Princess Dorothygale, you are hereby banished from the O.Z.. This evening, you will be sent into a travel storm and exiled to the Other Side."

Bowing her head, DG accepted the declaration with grace.

Azkadellia barely choked back a sob.

DG tried to smile at her, to smile at her mother and father, but her face was frozen into a respectful expression. What a time for all those princess lessons to finally kick in, she thought ruefully.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. DG tired to soak up these last few precious moments with her family, but her brain couldn't seem to cooperate. Part of her was still shaken by how close she'd come to being responsible for her sister's death on top of everything else. Another part of her had shattered that morning when she fully comprehended the depth of the hatred seething in the O.Z..

I was so naïve.

Golden sunshine slanted across the fields outside Central City. Dressed in the jeans and jacket she'd worn when she first arrived in the O.Z., DG stood on a platform awaiting the travel storm that would whisk her away. She had not been allowed to take anything with her. That stung, because in the last few months, Momsicle and Popsicle, newly reprogrammed, had moved most of her things to the O.Z. for her.

It looked like the entire O.Z. had come to see her leave. DG solemnly faced them. "I am so sorry. I hope one day you can forgive me."

Her gaze swept over her family, her heart wrenching at the tears coursing down Az's cheeks, and Raw and Glitch, before lingering on Cain. He stood next to Jeb, looking impassive. He'd said not a word to her since the Queens's verdict was handed down.

DG wasn't surprised. He'd been distant for months now; her departure would finally set him free from whatever duty to her he felt honor-bound to fulfill.

Dark, swollen clouds gathered in the sky above. With a roar, a swirling vortex snaked its way down to the ground. Fierce wind whipped DG's black hair around her face. Her knees threatened to liquefy, but she took a half a breath and threw herself into the whirlwind.

Seconds later, the malevolent clouds disappeared. Sunlight fell over the silent crowds once more.

DG was gone.


Hope you enjoyed! Let me know what you think!