After a while I swung up onto Colbert’s back behind Toto, and asked him to gallop awhile to make up for lost time. Looking to my right I saw Hammerby easily keeping pace on his smooth metal joints, his axe strapped to his back and a gentle smile on his face.
I must have stared too long because Toto elbowed me in the ribs and cut me a grin of her own. I rolled my eyes and snorted at both her foolishness and my own.
Still, every now and then I would glance at my knight in shining armor and try to wipe the goofy grin off my own face as we traveled on.
The Rainbows End: Ain’t No Rest for The Wicked (Cage the Elephant)
Eric’s touch set me on fire in the bar and then like magic we were in his room, my body covered only in his kisses. I was frantic, needing him everywhere and he was mystical in his ability to satisfy that need. “Sookie,” he whispered between kisses, memorizing my name as he did my flesh.
I wanted to know his the same way but couldn’t stand the idea of stopping him to get my turn. Interruption felt profane in his worship of me. I moaned as his lips latched on one of my hard nipples, moisture pooling between my thighs, there was only him, and all the time in the world would never be enough to cross the continents of this man before me. I needed…Hammerby!
I sat up, covered in sweat and aching in all my feminine places. Fuck! I folded my body in half, head down as my arms came up to rest on my knees. I was shaking and panting like I had run a mile in ten seconds and been denied the finish line that had been in my adrenalized sights.
It was unbearable!
Rolling up quickly, I left my bedroll near the fire and wandered to the edge of the dark. I needed a moment, and this small distance right outside the light of our fire was as far as I could go and still monitor the welfare of my soldiers.
I was tethered.
I was burning.
I was alone.
No, I wasn’t alone, and that was at least part of the problem. Glancing back I saw Toto curled in her own bedroll, Colbert stood dozing his face out in the night and his backside at the fire. It was his way of keeping guard, he’d told me when I asked. I looked then, my eyes having adjusted to the darkness and thought I could make our true sentinel a dozen or so yards away in the dark. I never sleep, he had said, and as far as I could tell he did not. I don’t need to eat, and as yet he never had. I can run at speed and never tire, and this too was true to his word as far as I could tell.
What he did need though, at the end of each hard and dusty day, was his oil can. Like an alcoholic needs a drink, like an addict needs a fix. Each evening as we settled in he would come to me for his can and then retreat to the edge of the firelight and oil his joints.
That was what had started this.
At least that what I blamed it on.
For two nights after he joined us I watched him perform this ritual. It harkened back to Gyl cleaning her gun, the one we had always teased her about, drawing comparisons to cocks and lovers at home waiting for her delicate, sensitive, dedicated touch.
At first I had smiled, and then I had stopped smiling, entranced watching him move with grace and ease as the motion lotion settled into his joints and he folded himself into impossible positions for maximum reach.
If he only had a hard…
I knew I was in trouble when that random thought floated through my mind. I shook myself, and summoned our platoon Sgt. Major Sixta in my mind to save me from this road to hell.
“Marines has gots to takes care of deyselves! Regelation hairs, regelation uniforms, regelation groomin’ standards! It’s your jobs to takes care of de Marine Machine!” Hearing that ridiculous voice in my head again cooled me right the fuck down, just like it had back in country.
I had turned away that night and dwelled in memories of all the nicknames we had for that little son of a bitch. He was hated universally, by our troop and all others, even by myself for all the hell he put me through about keeping my shirt tucked and my hair at regulation length. That is until I overheard him talking to the LT’s Right Hand right after mail call.
We were boxed in deep in a city ghetto, surrounded by hostile fire when the mail from home came in. One of them got a Dear John from his wife’s lawyer. We all knew that was some cold shit man, but it happened way more than it should have.
No one was surprised when as short time after the Marine had said he was fine he was kicking shit over and spoiling for a fight. I had been standing off to the side, when I heard Sixta tell the Right Hand, “You lets me know if morales gets down, I’ll hit ‘em with The Grooming Standard and fire ‘em up good.”
It clicked for me then that the Sgt. Major’s job in this Marine Corp was to make himself a target for all our rage and anger. He was the bravest little son of a bitch in the Corp. Forty days in country, running on an average of thirty hours no sleep, chomping Ripped Fuel like Skittles and the orders down from the top that seemed to make as much sense as six million monkeys on six million type writers, and this little fucker would holler about tucking our shirts in so we could focus all that rage, all that anger, all that fucking hate on him.
I stopped calling him names after that. I didn’t try and stop the others, because he was doing what the Corp paid him to do. I knew that my glimpse behind his curtain was for my benefit only. The rest would see if they needed to, until then, he was doing what he was made to do.
Sixta was an asshole, and as one of my fellow Marines had said one day, he excelled at the position.
I wish that little fucker was here with me now, I thought as I looked at my Tin Man out there in the dark. He would keep me focused. He would keep me nailed down and together.
His, “Marines gots to take care of deyselves,” was his tacit approval for, among other things, what the guys called Combat Jacks. It was the Corps way of acknowledging that even well-oiled stone cold killing machines required different kinds of maintenance and attention.
And here I was again recalling the trigger that had awakened the woman in the warrior…
Hammerby had been so beautiful in the firelight that night. Toto was busy prepping rations, and Colbert was off rooting for grass. I had watched him try and get to this one spot that seemed to be giving him trouble for several minutes when I stood and offered to help him.
I had held my hand out for his oil can, and when his blue eyes met mine the rest of the world just faded away. He had stared me for a long time before he placed the can in my hand and whispered, “Thank you.” Something big had rolled over inside me, something big and dark and intense. Ignoring it I had oiled the trouble spot and when he moved cautiously and successfully I should have handed the can back.
I should have.
But I kept going.
Standing on tip toe I dripped oil down the back of his long graceful neck. He dropped his head from side to side, working it in, moaning in pleasure. Hypnotized, I went on, down the back of him, applying the oil, ignoring that I was getting slick at the same time from the sound of his deep moans.
The back done, I moved to the front of him, and when he pinned me in his blue stare again, I moaned. There was so much pleasure in his eyes, so much heat I feared that one or both of us would melt. I kept going anyway though getting the front of him as I had the back, and when I finished I was kneeling at this feet, looking all the way up at him with so many things swirling in my mind.
“Sookie,” he said softly, reaching to me with his cool hand that gently cupped my face. My eyes fluttered as I rested my face there in the palm of his large hand.
Then it hit me what I was doing, what I wanted to be doing there with him, and most of all that I was in the middle of war zone, surrounded by enemies and I was thinking impure thoughts about a Tin Man.
I know I turned red, and I was glad that my back was to the fire and no one could see. I had quickly handed the oil can back and fled as far as my tether would allow, humiliated and still needing what could not happen. Not just because it wasn’t physically possible, but because it was irresponsible to let myself be distracted.
That night the dreams had started. My memories of Eric melded with my desires for Hammerby and I would wake up trembling on the edge of release. That was three night ago and it was getting worse.
“Marines gots to take care of deyselves,” Sixta’s ghost mumbled in my jumbled brain. I blew out a frustrated sigh and gave in, there was nothing else to do. My hand slid down the front of my camo and started moving in the wet heat there. Fuuuuuck, I thought, trying to keep the sounds of my pleasure as quiet as possible. I didn’t want to wake my sleeping companions. I was so focused on what I was doing that like a POG I let my guard drop and chased my orgasm. Despite my bodies readiness my mind was holding me back and I couldn’t make it happen.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I hissed in the dark, trying that much harder for what was literally slipping through my fingers. I didn’t hear him until I felt him press his long hard cool body against my back, his arms coming around me, his hands resting on my trembling stomach muscles.
He didn’t speak, instead he kissed my neck, his breath as cool as the rest of him across my goose bump flesh. I leaned back into him, letting my frustrated body take comfort in his embrace. My other hand came up to rest on his long neck, giving as Sixta had, tacit permission for him to do what I so desperately needed.
I whimpered when his cool hand slipped down to replace my own, his hand chilly gave me a start at first, and I trembled against him, closing my eyes and turning my head from side to side. “Shhh,” he said, and a moment later his hand had absorbed the heat from between my legs and it felt like he was a part of me. It was then that he started to move just like I needed him to.
My hips pressed against him, and I moaned my pleasure as he moved at better than human speed to bring me to release. I muffled my cries as best I could, but it felt so fucking good I was pretty sure The Wizard himself sat up in the Emerald City and looked around in wonder at just what the fuck that had been about.
I didn’t care right then.
I might care later.
When my legs gave way Hammerby caught me and then sat on the ground pulling me into his hard lap so that my head could rest against his metal chest. I think I nodded off for a few minutes at least. He was humming softly when I opened my eyes again, rocking me gently. I hadn’t felt this good since…
Oh, Eric! I sobbed quietly, unable to keep it down any longer. I was too undone to be the Ice Princess who had accepted the loss of her Great King Eric as a matter of course and headed out on the march to battle.
I believed you, goddamnit! I believed you would find me, and you went and lied and died. Fuck you, liar!
Hammerby rocked me harder as I cried, his hand on the back of my head like I was little girl. Finally, I ran out of tears, and I just laid in his arms quietly as he rocked me.
“You don’t have a heartbeat,” I whispered to him in the night. He chuckled softly.
“That’s because I have no heart, dearest Sookie.”
“Bullshit!” After what had just happened, after what he had just done, I called bullshit.
“Tis true,” he said, leaning down to kiss my forehead softly. Eric had kissed me like that. I hiccupped, and nearly started crying again.
“What happened to it?”
“I tell myself I gave it to some lovely maiden in a strange land,” he stopped then sounding thoughtful, “but in truth, I know not.”
“I did that once,” I told him, my hand coming up to rest on his empty chest.
“What’s that, dearest Sookie?”
“I gave my heart to a handsome stranger in a strange city.”
“And how did that turn out?”
“He broke his promise and now I am about to lead the residents of Oz in a last time pays for all war with The Wizard of Oz.” He was silent a moment.
“Not so good then?” I giggled. My Tin Man was the master of sarcasm. It was an underappreciated art form.
“Not so good,” I confirmed, smiling.
“Is it better now, Sookie?” I knew what he meant. He had wicked sharp hearing and I was sure he had heard me moaning in my bedroll these past three nights.
“Yes, thank you, Hammerby.” I placed a soft kiss on his chest.
“You are very welcome, my Sookie.”
We were making good time on the next day when the hair on the back of my neck stood up, a sure sign that someone had eyes on me. On alert I started to track the movement in the bushes to our right. I signaled Colbert to slow down and noticed that whoever was the bushes matched our speed.
A short time later I called a halt for a break. I took a drink of water and handed it to Toto, alerting her with my eyes that were not alone. She pulled her dagger again and took a sip of water before putting the canteen away. I moved around, stretching, pausing to scratch Colbert’s ears, whispering at the same time. He nodded and casually looked around, knowing that he should run depending on what happened next.
Hammerby had casually unstrapped his axe and was checking the edge when I came up beside him. His eyes told me that he too knew that we were no longer alone.
“I need to take a tree,” I said and wandered off back down the way we had come, planning to circle back up behind our new friend. Hammerby stayed put, and kept his axe at the ready.
Moving with stealth I came back up behind the brush and saw someone hiding in there. “COME OUT NOW!” I yelled in my most authoritative voice. The unsub screamed a high girly scream and leaped through the brush out onto the yellow brick road.
“Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me!” he yelled. When I fought my through the brush I was astounded to see a lion sitting on his hind quarters with his huge front paws in the air. Hammerby was ready to strike and Colbert was ready to run. Well, he was ready to run until the Lion burst into tears.
I looked at Hammerby, my eyebrow raised in question. He shrugged, but remained on guard in case this was a trick. I let the Lion go on for a bit and then finally, I couldn’t take anymore.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” He immediately fell silent, dropped his front paws to the ground, stuck his head under them, and balled his huge body up into as tiny a ball as possible. He was still sniffling but other than that he was silent.
“Why are you following us, Lion?”
“La-La-Lafayette.” He finally got out.
“What the fuck is a Lafayette?”
“M-m-me,” he moaned out from under his paws.
“Lafayette, why are you following us?”
“The P-P-Python sent me to get you.” I rolled my eyes.
“Straighten the fuck up, solider! Stop your blubbering and answer me like you got some fucking sense!” He snapped to then, sitting straight and sharp. The only sign that he was still under duress was the quivering of his large tan body and the tears that still ran like a river down his face. “Start at the beginning and explain yourself!”
“The Python s-sent me to get you, Sgt. Stackhouse. I am to bring you before Th-The C-Council.” I looked at my companions. Their faces clearly showed surprise, even Colbert who had changed to yellow. Caution.
All right then. The only Python I knew of was the one from my dreams, and that one had said I was called.
The way this crazy fucking place ran, the snake was probably running this show.
“We have a mission right now. We are two days out from our destination and I have no intention of turning around now.”
“A-After. I am to take you after.”
“And do you know where we are headed?”
“W-W-Wizards weapons cache at the foot of the Gilliken Mountains.”
“And who gave you this information, Lafayette?”
“And where is Claudine now?”
“W-With The Council.”
“And your mission?”
“T-To accompany you to the weapons. A-Assist as possible, and then return with you to The Council before the final battle.”
I looked to my companions. Hammerby nodded, Toto nodded, though more cautiously and then Colbert spoke.
“Animals stand to lose the most if this doesn’t go our way. We are hunted now, but will be completely annihilated if The Wizard succeeds.”
I stopped to make it look like I was thinking it over, but really I had no choice other than to rely on my own instincts and my companions worldly knowledge. I moved closer to the Lion and gave him a cold hard stare into his eyes before I rendered my verdict.
“You may join my company, and I will protect you as I will the others with my life, but know this, Lion. If you betray us, if harm befalls anyone of my people because of you and your cowardly ways I will kill you myself and take your skin for a trophy. You picking up what I’m laying down?”
It was harsh I know, but I needed him to know who was in charge, and I needed him to know how fucking serious I was about it. His cowardice turned my stomach. I was wise enough to know that it bothered me so much because I saw so much of myself in him, but that only made me hate it and resent him for it all the more.
No one likes a mirror in front of them that they don’t choose to hold for themselves. They like to prepare themselves before they look at who they are.
“Yes, Sgt. Stackhouse!”
“That’s more fucking like it! Break over, back on the road, troops!”
Later, I was just about to call camp for the night when ahead of us a figure stepped out onto the yellow brick road. Despite the dusk of evening I recognized the silhouette instantly.
And I knew firsthand how slow that fucker was, so he didn’t get this far ahead of us without some help. As the realization hit me full force that shit was about to go down two things happened.
First, the cool veil of the Ice Princess slipped over my vision, bringing everything into sharp focus as my battle instincts came on line.
Second, that tattoo on my shoulder, those fucking Ruby Slippers started to burn.
The first wave of the true storm had arrived at last.