Cain had decided that he was completely and utterly fed up with constantly thinking about every damned thing.
It was unrelenting.
The worry and regret and anger and frustration and sadness and overanalyzing and…he slammed the door as soon as her face showed up, like always, giving himself a mental shake.
He refused to even so much as acknowledge that ticking time bomb.
His head was pounding as they stopped to break for lunch and he avoided his men like the plague, unwilling to be sucked into another conversation until he'd had some peace and quiet, from their voices as well as his inner ones.
It had been about a month now since he'd been let out of that godforsaken suit, a couple of weeks since the eclipse and the so-called happy ending. But here he was, out gallivanting through the OZ again chasing after the princess. He still had no idea how he'd been conned into this, had barely listened to the reasons why it was necessary to escort DG to Finaqua, nodded in feigned agreement when they had rattled off the explanations as to why it had to be him in charge of her protection instead of one of…hell ANY of the thirty other men that accompanied them.
Nope, it had to be him.
He sighed to himself as he walked a safe distance from the group and rested his back against the trunk of a tree, close enough to respond at a second's notice, far enough that they'd get the hint that he wanted to be left alone.
The part of him that was pleased to be out of the palace with DG again had very promptly been locked up tight. Sure, it still pounded on the door occasionally and bitched that it wanted out, but he'd hear none of it. He was mentally exhausted at this point and with the warm suns beating down on him he tipped his hat down over his face and actually managed to drift off for a little while, which shocked the hell out of him.
The edge was gone from the headache when he opened his eyes, his internal clock told him it had been almost two hours since he'd fallen asleep and he sat staring at the interior of his hat knowing…just knowing what was waiting beyond that material. Part of him hoped that if he just stayed still…
He muffled a curse as the hat was lifted gently from his face, her joyful smile peering down at him once he forced himself to open his eyes and take it like a man.
"Mr. Cain…the food is going to get cold and the men didn't want you to go without." She said sweetly and offered up a bowl as he arched a brow at her indignantly, leaning to the side to see his men. Several faces spun away quickly and he knew he'd found at least a few of the guilty parties.
"So they told you to come wake me up?" He asked, still squinting in response to the sudden brightness.
DG grinned and took his question as an invitation to stay a while, plopping down in front of him on the ground. "Yeah, none of them would do it. Apparently you've got a reputation for being a real hard-ass." She joked, but noting the way his coloring instantly changed and eyebrow shot up she realized her mistake and tried desperately to backpedal.
"Ooh, sorry! Another stupid Other Side term – it doesn't literally mean…" But since we're on the subject…her mind filled in and she shooed it away. "…it just means…umm…umm…it means like a tough guy…or a…"
Bad-ass? Her mind offered and she scoffed at herself, realizing it was sort of strange how all of these terms seemed to revolve around ass. Much like any thoughts involving the Tin Man…
You're not helping! She told the insistent voice of sexual frustration.
Cain was shaking his head and staring down at his bowl of food, praying silently for her to somehow pull her foot back out of her mouth so it would be quiet again.
"It just means someone you don't want getting mad at you." She said finally with a sigh, averting her eyes from his and whistling that this whole language barrier thing was getting to be a real hassle.
She still hadn't explained to Cain just what she found so amusing about the men discussing the livestock on their farms back home over supper…
Particularly their enormous cocks.
Oh yes, they'd gone into great detail describing how sturdy their cocks were, some even using hand gestures as visual aids to convey just how large the head was on their prize. Why a few of them even argued endlessly that they had the largest cock in the OZ, that they were sure of it, they'd submit their cock for measurements to verify the claim.
Every single face had spun to stare at her, watching in confusion as she all but choked on her food listening to the conversation.
Cain had very promptly excused them from the meal, snagged her by an arm and led her away from the group, asking that she fill him in on just what the problem seemed to be. It had only made matters worse. Seeing Wyatt Cain all indignant and straight faced demanding to know if comparing cock size was a discussion that was uncommon among men on the Other Side? Priceless. She'd told him no, that in fact men on the other side had the same exact conversation all the time, and with that declaration had fallen into another fit of hysterics.
Wyatt had given up, marching her back to her seat and trying his best not to fill in the blanks.
It couldn't possibly mean that on the other side, no matter how much his intelligence told him it must be the case.
Innocent little DG just wouldn't be giggling uncontrollably over such a thing. He was sure she wouldn't even know of such a term if it truly meant that.
And if, by some chance, it was that, and she did somehow know the term, she would have most certainly been blushing, not laughing. Not DG. He had lied to himself as he kept watch that night, but couldn't keep the smile from creeping across his lips every few minutes as the thought surfaced that maybe…just maybe the little princess wasn't quite as innocent as he'd presumed.
They were both lost in their own thoughts and moments rolled by leaving them in increasingly common shared awkward silence. She watched him push the unappetizing gruel around the bowl, chewing the inside of her cheek and trying to think of something to say that would change the subject and ease some of this tension.
"I …" Her mouth snapped shut painfully as her brain kicked in just in time. Wow, that was close. Alright, she could do this. How do you tell someone you're this hot for that you 'feel dirty and need a bath' without it sounding like a come on? After a moment she started again. "I smell like a horse. Seriously, I think I could scare a hungry dog off a meat wagon at this point. Is there a lake or stream or something nearby where I can wash up?" She managed somehow, and congratulated herself on making that sound as unattractive as possible.
It did the trick, Wyatt's features relaxed visibly at her words and she laughed a little to herself that even if he wasn't happy about it, she definitely had one hell of an effect on him.
He said nothing for a moment, and she was just about to cut in thinking he was ignoring her when she suddenly realized he was listening for the water as his eyes scanned the tree tops for tell tale signs of a stream hidden beyond them. She watched him with interest, finding his ability to read nature incredibly alluring…but then again, he could blink and it would turn her on. She sighed inwardly. When the hell had this gotten so bad?
"Just over that hill." He motioned with his head, returning to his feigned interest in his 'food'.
She was so busy watching his lips and entertaining herself with a daydream that it startled her when he spoke again. "Den? Michelson?" He called without looking up and she listened to their footfalls approaching, guiltily trying to find something other than Cain to stare at before the men were standing beside her. "Take a handful of the others with you and comb the area around that stream." Another nod of his head toward the unseen water. "The Princess needs to bathe and I'll have no unexpected surprises for her, understood? Lock it down tighter than you would if your own wives and daughters were disrobing there."
The men rushed off to their assignment and DG couldn't help herself. She had to ask. "Mr. Cain? Why do you have them check when you and I both know you're just going to do it again yourself?"
Despite himself he smiled, silently hoping that it was hidden beneath the brim of his hat as he looked down at his bowl. She was too smart sometimes, and too damned outspoken about it. He waited a moment before speaking but knew he was doing a pitiful job of masking the amusement in his voice. "Makes them feel needed, I suppose." He forced himself to take a bite of the muck that had likely been appetizing at one point…a very long time ago before it had been dried and packed for the trip, then reheated hours earlier.
Once the men had returned he selected the largest ones who were the most fearful of him and stationed them around the stream, sending a handful of them wading to the other shore line. He quietly told each of them that he didn't care if the ground beneath their feet was quaking; that unless he gave orders otherwise in the event of danger they'd better keep their eyes turned toward the woods unless they wanted the last thing they saw before their vision was gone to be him.
From the manner in which they had scurried away from him DG knew without a doubt that she might as well have been standing among the blind, not one glance was going to stray in her direction. Even still, after Cain had given the surroundings his own inspection and was satisfied that there was no threat, he had led her to a place where the water was shallow and tucked back into the shore, almost completely surrounded by brush. He wasn't taking any chances.
He had just turned to walk away, tossing her a bar of strange looking army-ration type soap when the itchiness of her legs inside her pants reminded her…and oh how she would have willingly given up the memory of rocky-road ice cream for a Bic just so she wouldn't have to ask, but sadly, it wasn't going to happen.
With a sigh and a scrunched up face she spoke to his back. "Umm…Mr. Cain?" She started, not daring to let a 'Cain' or heaven forbid, a 'Wyatt' slip out and have him get all edgy and uncomfortable again.
He stopped mid-step, answering her with a grunt over his shoulder as if fearful she had somehow managed to disrobe in the split second he'd had his eyes off of her.
She sighed. "Can I borrow your razor?" She asked in a timid and unsure voice, knowing how he was about his belongings. He only had what? Like four? She felt guilty even asking.
He turned to her; confusion etched into his features, and caught her off completely off guard with the words: "For what?"
Her eyes widened.
For WHAT? How about the layer of fur I've accumulated in the month since my last encounter with my girlfriend Lady Gillette, you goofball. The voice of frustration replied bitterly, and as always she ignored it.
"Well…I need it…to…" She stammered, trying to buy enough time to gauge whether he was toying with her.
She almost snorted at the thought. Cain? Toying? Never. But he couldn't be serious, could he?
Hey, 'Tight-pants the Tin Man' over here is always serious and you know it. The voice teased in amusement.
She was suddenly panic stricken.
But…but…if he was serious then…My GOD were the women of the OZ all just expected to go au naturale?! Did she not have a say in the matter? Was she to be crowned Princess of the wolf-women? What kind of backwater nightmare of a place was this?!
She considered in that moment, very seriously mind you, hopping the next twister back to Kansas and a world where Brazilian Waxing and Nair were more than just a pleasant dream.
He was still staring at her, utterly and adorably clueless as to what a woman would need a razor for. It took every ounce of strength she possessed to keep that voice of frustration from piping up with a comment that would have turned his fair skin a lovely shade of scarlet right to the tips of his ears, sending him sputtering and stammering all the way back to camp, no doubt never speaking to her again.
She bit her tongue, finally managing to speak after safely tucking away the image of his innocent curiosity into her memory.
"For protection!" She said with a cheesy grin, and held her hand out as he stood in silence and considered it for a moment. His eyes scanned their surroundings once more, scrutinizing every tree and rock for a threat that may be waiting and finally gave in, reaching inside his coat and handing it over. "Thank you kindly." She said, and motioned for him to leave.
He was all too eager to walk away and she almost laughed, shaking her head and making her way to the water.
Wyatt was floored as he walked up the hill. Alright, and maybe just a little tiny bit insulted…but no, he was mainly floored.
What had brought this on? He racked his brain. When did the Princess decide to take an interest in self defense? He tried to tell himself that this was a good thing, hell at least she was stepping up from wielding a stick. He should be proud…right?
But keeping her safe was his job. He was supposed to protect her. She'd always been confident in his abilities before, what had changed?
In a nice little cage next to the room where happy-to-be-with-DG-again Cain was locked up, a part of him was snapping and growling like a rabid dog suddenly.
Had one of the men tried something?
There were so many of them...what if it had been more than one?
Was that why she wanted a weapon now?
Had he missed something?
He'd only been asleep for two freaking hours!
He'd kill them. He'd get his hands around their necks and…
He just needed to find out who it was first. His furious eyes scanned the group of men and they all cowered equally, unsure of the cause of his suddenly deadly gaze but certain they didn't want to stick around to find out whether it had been them for committing some unknown offense.
He was already creating a list of suspects in his mind, running through a mental log of every guard who'd come within five feet of her, standing with his back to the stream and planning out their punishment when he felt her small hand on his shoulder.
He shook himself from his thoughts and realized that more than a half hour had passed and the men were all casting terrified sideways glances at him, waiting to see who was gonna get it.
She didn't look at him as she handed him his razor, saying thank you quietly and attempting to slink away with no further discussion.
His heart was pounding in his ears.
Oh this was not the princess DG he knew at all…brushing past him without taking the opportunity to gab to him endlessly?
It was settled. He was definitely going to kill whoever it was.
Just as he opened his mouth to call her back he spotted it and his vision tunneled in, everything else becoming a blur. The sound of his teeth snapping together as his mouth closed sent a few of the men instinctively retreating back a few paces without even knowing why.
As she walked up the hill he noted a difference in her gate, and narrowing his eyes for a closer inspection saw that she was limping slightly. Further scrutiny as he quickly closed the distance between them revealed two drops of blood on the side of her shirt.
To say 'it was on' would be putting it mildly.
Cain was now in alpha-über-Tin Man mode.
"Hey!" She began when she felt his hand on her arm, but very quickly shut up when she saw the look on his face. "What's wro—" She tried, but he was sitting her down on a river stone the size of a recliner before she could even protest.
She watched him worriedly as his eyes searched her face, his fingers under her chin turning it gently but quickly from side to side for a close inspection. His hands lifted her hair so that he could see her neck, he pushed the sleeves of her shirt up to check her arms, lifted her hands searching her knuckles for defensive wounds.
He was so concerned for her, for whatever reason, that she couldn't even enjoy his touch.
"Cain, what's wro—" She started again, and this time he lifted the tail of her shirt so that she could see the blood, staring down at her with urgency in his expression, demanding an answer without words.
Her jaw dropped. "Oooohh….that…" She said softly.
Uh-oh…came the little voice.
"It's nothing…I just…slipped on one of the rocks. It's just a scratch. Really, no big deal. I'm sorry if I worried you…" She tore her eyes away from the scrutiny of his gaze and tried to get up, only to be shocked when his hand on her shoulder forced her to stay seated.
"Where?" He asked through gritted teeth, looking over her shoulder to keep himself in check as his anger reached a boiling point, he's already seen in those big blue eyes that she was lying to him.
DG…lying….to him…about being hurt.
"Huh? Umm down at the water…" She said, but he turned his face a little to the side and she got it. "Oh! Umm… my…foot?" She tried with a scrunched up face and was beyond mortified when he checked.
He actually freaking CHECKED!
Left foot, nothing….right foot…uninjured.
He let it drop to the ground, now utterly seething and shot a look outwardly around them in a circle like a nuclear blast; within a matter of seconds there wasn't a guard to be seen. She looked around them and wondered how he had accomplished it with nothing more than a look, but when it settled on her she secretly wished she could join the retreating men.
"DG…" He said and looked down at the ground between them, his voice like gravel as it worked its way past his rage.
Major UH-OH…The voice offered uselessly.
"Don't. Lie. To. Me." He ordered and she had a difficult time swallowing, her eyes nearly popping from her skull as she nodded.
Damn it all to hell.
This was her robotic parents' fault. Couldn't they have had a bag ready for her with all the comforts of her life on the Other Side packed away neatly? Ready to grab at a moment's notice so that she wouldn't have to learn the intricacies of shaving with a straight blade so intimately?
"Cain…" She breathed, her voice surprisingly soft and soothing, she had no idea where she'd found the strength to sound so calm. "I've never used a straight blade before…I just nicked myself shaving…" She said, resting a hand on his arm, mirroring where his rested on her shoulder
His crystal blue eyes locked on hers and she didn't shy away, knowing what he was looking for. The man was a freaking walking, talking, breathing lie-detector test.
The results were in, she was being honest and his brow arched. "Shaving?" He repeated, having no idea how she could be throwing the results of his test.
She sighed. "Yes. Shaving."
"Shaving what?" He asked, stopping the test due to confusion and she bit her lip to hide her smile. He really, truly just wasn't getting it.
"My legs." She said, and watched his face flash, just for a split second, with the most adorable, amused curiosity before it was very quickly hidden away.
His anger was still boiling as he stared at her, but those two little words had somehow popped of a relief valve somewhere, he could feel his adrenaline simmering down at an alarming rate. It took every bit of self restraint he had to keep the question "Really?" from bursting from his lips, which were still threatening to form a smile.
Happy-to-be-with-DG-again Cain was now prying on the door of his cell, demanding to be let out for a thorough interrogation into the mechanics of a woman shaving her legs. There would have to be stretching involved. And bending and maneuvering…he would like to see this acted out, for informational purposes, of course.
She sighed, mainly to take the strain off of her face as she tried not to smile. "Like I said, I've never used that type of razor before, there is a different kind for women on the other side than from men since there's a lot more…places for a girl to knick…" She pretended not to notice him flinch at the insinuation. "I'm sorry that I worried you, I really am. And I didn't want to lie to you, I was just trying to avoid getting into it and making you feel…I don't know…uncomfortable."
He nodded his head, still fighting back his intrigue. Of course she had the right to privacy, and he assumed it wasn't the type of thing a girl wanted to talk to a man about. He sighed inwardly as the last of his adrenaline died down and was astonished to find that his hand was still resting on her shoulder. He let it fall quickly to his side before his frustration could realize it was there and decide to do something about it.
Alright, no big deal, so she shaves her legs…Really? Like honestly? All smooth and soft and…Came the annoying voice again and he shook it off, refusing to picture the maneuvers his locked up frustration was so intent on. This was the PRINCESS. He had to keep it together.
The frustrated Cain, knowing it would be forever before another opportunity like this presented itself, was fed up at this point and tried a new tactic.
Right, she is the 'Princess'…but isn't it her protector's duty to ensure she's not injured seriously? I mean, what if she says it's nothing out of embarrassment but bleeds to death in her sleep because her 'bodyguard' was shy about guarding her body? Huh? How would that go over? 'Sorry, your Highness, I let your daughter use my razor and she bled out because I didn't want to cross any lines. But better luck next time!' She said that she didn't want to 'make YOU uncomfortable', not her. She's not shy about this subject.
Stupid, evil, wicked, sexually frustrated voice!
He almost growled as he accepted defeat. It was a valid point…but one made for all the wrong reasons.
"Alright." He said finally with a sigh and knelt down in front of her, motioning to the bottoms of her pant legs. "Roll'em up so I can see whether we need to bandage it."
DG's jaw fell open.
"No, really. I'm fine." She said quickly.
His brows drew together as his eyes flashed back up to her face. That little lie detector was back on in a heartbeat and she was now royally screwed.
Ooooohhh…you're gonna get it! Frustrated DG sang and she rolled her eyes before she could stop herself.
"DG. What the hell?" He said frankly and she almost laughed at the tone in his voice matched with those words. "What now? You said you cut yourself shaving your legs, so where on your legs did you cut?"
Yeah! Just how high up is she shaving? Frustrated Cain demanded, mouth watering shamelessly. Keep her talking Wyatt. Oh sweet Gayle, I bet it's on her thigh…
--drum roll, please--
She closed her eyes, now fully avoiding Mr. Wyatt "Polygraph" Cain, willing herself to die on the spot so she wouldn't have to explain this to him. She'd just wanted to ease the tension by bringing up her need to bathe…she'd just wanted to change the subject so he wouldn't be so uncomfortable…but noooo…he just couldn't let it go, could he? He was like a freaking pit-bull, once he sunk his teeth in there was no getting him to release.
"I didn't say that…exactly." She began, wondering if her magic could help her out with the curling up in a ball and dying plan. Nothing came. "Oh for the love of…I said I cut myself shaving…then I said I had shaved my legs…I didn't say 'I cut myself shaving my legs'."
Please get it. Please get it. Please get it.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He asked, using those Tin Man interrogation techniques. He wasn't sure of the answer and wasn't going to help her out one single bit.
"Damn it, Cain!" She said in frustration, shaking her head and dropping the way she usually carried herself for him in these situations in order to make things easier for him. "I don't just shave my legs, alright? I shave everything."
His eyes grew large but there was no going back now. Ooooohhh no. He wanted it? He was gonna get it.
"That's right. If it grows hair and it's not my head, eyebrows or eyelashes it's getting shaved off. You follow me? Are ya freaking happy now?"
The voice, for the first time since his release, was silent in his head, its jaw hanging open in complete shock, unable to form a coherent thought at this sudden revelation. The only thing it could come up with to do was to unblinkingly and silently walk over to a slat-board and move that blessed razor blade up the ranks to the very top of his list of prized possessions. His hat and gun weren't offended in the least; there was no way to compete with…well…that.
He was staring at her with a mix of embarrassment, anger at her tone, embarrassment, guilt for pushing the issue, and did I mention embarrassment? His face was threatening to reach that crimson shade she'd been avoiding but she was too humiliated herself to care at this point.
She'd tried to beat around the bush, to put it lightly, to give subtle hints, but there didn't seem to be any way with Cain other than pure, blunt truth.
"So." She said, tilting her head to the side and reaching for the draw-string of her pants. "You ready to see the cut now?"
Take that, Tin Man.
His hand snatched hers and he shot her a look that very clearly stated 'expletive, expletive, don't you expletive dare.'
He sat still as stone for a half a minute, then let go of her hand as if it had burned him. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. God, how did she always manage to make things so hopelessly complicated?
He'd almost killed one or two of his men over this, he realized with an indignant 'humph'.
"DG…" He said distractedly, his mind racing in all directions at once.
He finally sighed, too exhausted by now to (not run, per say) walk briskly as far away from her as possible. He somehow mustered the strength to look her in the eyes despite their combined humiliation. "You're alright, though?" He asked with honest concern in his features.
"Yes." She groaned, putting her hands on his shoulders and leaning her head back wishing this would hurry up and be over. "When you shave your face you cut yourself occasionally, right?" She asked and he nodded, chewing the inside of his cheek. "Did it hurt like a bitch? Yeah – I'll admit I've got a new found respect for the fact that you use that torture device all the time and still have a face." He refused to succumb to the smile threatening to form on his lips. "Did I bleed? Yeah, and if I had known you were like a freaking blood-hound I would have been careful not to let any of it get anywhere. But yes, Cain. I'm fine. I promise."
The embarrassment and tension were easing, and there was one sure DG way to chase it away completely. "Now come here." She said, and he drew his brows together as she held out her arms. He rolled his eyes, moving away from her ever so slightly and she laughed. "Cooommme here. You know it's gonna happen, just make it easier on yourself." She teased and he most certainly didn't enjoy it when she hugged him.
She loved her stolen hugs. It was the one fix she could get for her growing Cain addiction; no matter how reluctant he was to receive them.
"Alright, we'd better get back before the men pack up and head for the hills hoping to outrun you." She teased and he didn't let himself laugh, nodding and standing, helping her to her feet and not letting so much as a hint of amusement show when she let out a little whimper getting to her feet.
There were just certain places he presumed a knick felt like a stab wound.
Cain distanced himself from her half way up the trail, chiding himself for getting conned into another of her hugs. She was getting way too comfortable with touching him whenever the mood struck her. He was treading dangerous territory here and he knew it.
DG watched with a touch of sadness as he returned to regular Tin Man Mr. Cain. The smiling version of him had slipped back behind that expressionless veil and she sighed watching him move through the camp as if she was nothing more than his charge again.
She had to admit, she rather liked it when he let his guard down.
Finally giving in she held up a white flag to the sexually frustrated voice, which was all too eager to accept her surrender and help her come up with a plan.
She had reached the decision that one way or another she was going to get in.
She almost felt sorry for him as he went about his business, completely oblivious to the plot against him. Now that her mind was made up Wyatt didn't stand a chance.
Amusingly enough, the dialogue between DG and her sexual frustration was inspired by my own pervy and often hillarious inner voice, aka my Muse, that pops in with all of the ideas you read in my fics. I swear if anyone could look inside my head they'd understand the smirk that's usually on my face at the most innappropriate moments. Just felt like sharing. Carry on. :P