Gold Coins and Goodbyes
Dawn started brushing herself off and checking the others for injury. After a few moments she noticed the odd looks the other three were giving her.
The Tin-Man spoke up, hesitantly. “Um, aren’t you upset about being stuck here?”
“Well, sure. But I’ve done my crying for that. Besides, it’s not like I’m alone here.” She grinned, but they didn’t look as if they believed her. “Think of it this way. Sure, I miss Buffy but it is pretty cool here now that no one is chasing and/or kidnapping me. Plus, eventually they’ll figure out that I didn’t just run away and then I’ll have a Slayer and a very powerful Wicca both searching for me. It may take awhile, but I’ll get home.” Dawn’s grin turned absolutely wicked and a low chuckle escaped. “And then I will have the ultimate ‘Get Out Of Grounding’ card for at least a few months; probably longer depending on how long it takes them to find me. Just think of the guilt trips!”
The lion returned her grin. “Oi, you could play that one for years.”
Damn Skippy, I can! Now, is anyone else hungry? The Witch didn’t exactly have a well stocked kitchen, except for the Purina Monkey Chow.”
On the way back in they found the same guard that Dawn had bullied…er, persuaded to let them in to see the Wizard. After a few quick explanations about the Wizard going on an extended trip (they would save the whole “not coming back” thing for later) he showed them to the kitchens where a meal was quickly conned from the cooks.
Later, over empty plates and full stomachs the four sat back and were discussing the best way to run a kingdom when a low voice interrupted them.
“I don’t think that will be a problem now that I’m back.”
Dawn whirled along with the others to see the owner of that voice. She had never actually met Willow’s boyfriend, but she did have her sketchy Monk memories of him. Her forehead wrinkled as she tried to reconcile those memories with what was actually in front of her. The Daniel “Oz” Osborne she “knew” was a short, good-looking young man. This person with his face was a short, good-looking young woman! The hair was the same shade of reddish-blonde that his was when it wasn’t dyed blue, or purple, or green, or black, etc…, but it was waist length instead of cut short as she remembered; and he…er, she was dressed in a flowing, white dress that was tied simply around the waist with a gold cord.
Dawn suddenly remembered the conversations they had overheard the first time they were in the Emerald City and everything fell into place.
“You’re Ozma, right? Princess of Oz? Where the heck have you been?”
“Around. Heard the Wizard was leaving and thought it was time to come back.”
Dawn crossed her arms. “You haven’t exactly been a model ruler lately, what with ditching your responsibilities for all these years. Why come back now?”
Ozma shrugged. “He was doing an okay job, didn’t really see the need earlier. I’ve been keeping on eye on the place.”
“Oh,” Dawn relaxed. “Well, you are the Princess and you did come back where you belong so I guess that’s okay.”
At this point the Scarecrow couldn’t contain herself any longer and pushed herself out of her chair and ran over to hug the princess. “Oh thank goodness you came back. I was afraid that I would have to actually take over here. I would have, of course, but I didn’t want to even if I would have had the Tin-Man and the lion to help me ‘cause that would have meant that I would have had to speak in public and give proclamations and make laws and give audiences and decide whether people needed what they said they needed or whether they were trying to trick me into giving them something that they shouldn’t have and I just wasn’t ready to be in charge. Now I can go to Professor Wogglebug’s college right away and just learn and everything will be fine!” She looked up shyly, “although I may want to come back and visit a lot. You’re awfully cute for a Princess.”
Ozma just blinked. “Okay then. Glad to help.” She gently disentangled herself from Scarecrow and turned to Dawn; although Dawn noted that she kept an arm around Scarecrow’s shoulders. “You don’t have to wait for Buffy, you know. The shoes would have made it easier, but you’re the Key. I think you should go home now before they really start to worry.”
“And just how do you propose that I do that. My ride took off and isn’t coming back; I’m kind of stuck here.”
“I told you, you’re the Key.”
Ozma sighed. “That doesn’t go away, it’s part of you forever.” She pulled a gold coin out of thin air and held it out to Dawn. “This will help as a focus”
Dawn thought seriously about not taking the coin, but realized that would just be childish. Her shoulders slumped and she took the coin. “Fine, but I would rather wait until they found me.”
“I bet you would,” Ozma smirked. “Just hold that tight and think about home.”
Dawn looked down at the coin and then at her new friends. “I will miss you guys. Don’t forget me?”
A chorus of “never” and “of course not” answered her and she smiled, “I won’t forget you either.” Then she closed her eyes and thought about Buffy and Spike and everyone else waiting for her on the Hellmouth. A green glow shone through her eyelids and her eyes snapped open in time to see a swirling green vortex engulf her and plunge her into a whirlpool.
An eternity later she found herself standing in her room with Buffy and Willow staring at her with big eyes as the last traces of green faded into the air. Buffy was the first to recover and she rushed over and crushed Dawn into a hug.
“Air…need air…” The grip loosened enough for Dawn to take a breath, but then Willow joined with the squeezing and oxygen became a problem for another moment.
“Dawn! Where have you been!! We’ve been so worried…” Buffy shook her sister lightly. “Don’t you ever scare me like this again! We’ve been searching for two days now; Willow was just trying a locator spell when you appeared!”
Dawn opened her hand and brought the gold coin up to eye level. There was a profile of Princess Ozma on one side and an intricately twined “O” & “Z” on the other.
“It’s a long story. It all begins ‘Once Upon A Time’…”