Tin Man: What Memories Can Bring
She propped her head on her elbow and considered the nude man standing at the large window. The glow beyond the glass tinted his scarred muscles and fair hair green. Heat pooled in her belly as she remembered how those strong limbs had tangled with hers on this bed. But he seemed content to expose his glory to Central City below. "I married as exhibitionist."
His lips stretched into a grin. "Only for you." His blue eyes widened at how the sheet wasn't covering her body. Judging by how his manhood twitched, he appreciated how she splayed her knees apart as she laid on her side.
"I'm cold, Wyatt." Her hand ran over her stomach, inching her fingers closer to her dark curls.
Her husband inhaled. "I know how to warm you up." He crawled over her and his lips pressed down on hers. His hands pushed her back down onto the mattress. The mattress jabbed hard into her shoulder blades. The wrongness of that made her open her eyes. Their honeymoon hotel room vanished.
She screamed at what replaced it.
The knuckles dug into his cheekbone from the backhand. The Longcoat's hand let go of his shirt, and he spun in the air, landing face down in the mud outside their cabin's door.
Dad yelled and broke free from one of the Longcoats holding him. Dad's fist connected with the jaw of the Longcoat who had made his face bloody. He jumped to his feet, and swung his fists at the Longcoat leader.
The Bastard grabbed his head. The smirking Longcoat held his armored arm out straight. His blows came no where close to Zero's body.
Three of the Longcoats beat his father, tore his waistcoat, and held Dad down while his mother begged for them to stop. Zero let go of his head and grabbed his shirt again. The Bastard held him up so his feet had no traction against the ground. "Get Cain a seat," Zero ordered one of the Longcoats just holding a rifle. "We don't want him to miss anything." The Longcoats forced Dad into one of the dining table chairs dragged out to the yard. The biggest Longcoat with brown skin stood behind the chair, pressing down on Dad's shoulders.
Zero dragged him right in front of Dad. Blood ran from cuts on his father's cheekbones, his nose, and his mouth. His right eye was swollen shut, but his left glared up at Zero. The Bastard continued to smirk. "Are you ready now to tell the Sorceress what she wants to know?"
Dad didn't say anything.
His arm was twisted behind his back. He clenched his jaw, keeping the yell of pain inside. Dad jerked forward, but the Longcoat behind him kept him in the chair. "Who are your contacts in the Resistance? Who answers to you, Cain?"
Dad only continued breathing hard.
Zero twisted his arm higher. Tears sprang to his hazel eyes and he growled through his teeth, but he didn't cry like a baby.
"It's no good denying anything, Cain. The Last Stand of the Tin Men already damned you. Tell us what we want to know and spare your family some pain." Zero pulled his left arm behind his back too.
Dad surged out of the chair, only the burly Longcoat with black hair punched him in the stomach. Dad sagged around the fist before the uppercut rocked his chin back. Blood and spit arced through the air.
Zero chuckled as he pulled to free his arms. "Restraints." Another Longcoat handed over the Tin Man manacles. The metal closed on his wrists before Zero whirled him around. The blow knocking him to the ground hit his left cheek. But he didn't land. The Bastard tightened his grip on his shirt.
The blows alternated from right to left. His skin broke and he saw blood on Zero's knuckles. The Bastard's smirk swam in his view. "It's Jeb, right? Looks like your old man doesn't care enough about you to make the pain stop, Jeb."
His cuts stung, but he didn't say anything. No begging for Dad to talk.
"Leave him alone!" Dad growled.
Zero glanced at him. "Give us names, Cain, and your son doesn't have to bleed anymore."
Dad seethed as he pressed his bloody, swollen lips together. He matched his father's stance. The Longcoats couldn't hurt people like this. His father wouldn't break; he couldn't break either.
The Bastard glared at him. "I guess you're supposed to take punishment like your old man." Zero tossed him to another Longcoat. "Take Jeb behind the cabin. Let's see if a defenseless woman can make Cain talk."
He dragged his feet, putting furrows in the mud. The Longcoat pulled him past his mother as two Longcoats forced her toward Zero and Dad. Her face twisted with anger and her hazel eyes bored into Zero's. "Long live the Queen," she said.
Zero chuckled, "You two are quite the defiant pair, aren't you? Let's get this over with so we can go back to Central City."
The Longcoat pushed him into the dirt and stuffed a bandanna into his mouth. He heard the blows, Mom's cries of pain, Dad's screams of rage, and the Bastard's demands.
A pair of Longcoats dragged Mom around the cabin. Her mouth was already gagged and her arms bound behind her back. They threw her to the ground. She turned her battered face to make sure he was okay. One of the Longcoats pulled his gun from his belt and fired two shots into the ground. "Drag the bodies to the Papay," he ordered loud enough to be heard by everyone else and smirked at them before sauntering back to the front yard.
Dad bellowed-more pain filled than any screams during the beating. The fighting sounds resumed. He tried to push off the ground, but one of the Longcoat guards pressed the barrel of a gun to his forehead. He froze.
Dad's screams ended, leaving behind hard-breathing men. "He's not telling us anything. Get him ready for the Sorceress's plans." Zero stormed around the cabin and stared at Mom and him. "They're going back to Central City with us."
Jeb jerked out of the sleeproll. He wiped his sweaty face with his shirt sleeve. Why was he dreaming of seven annuals ago? He didn't need a reminder. He made sure he had his knife and gun before leaving the tent. "Do we have the information on the Longcoats' supply train yet?" He joined the planning group at the cooking fire.
"Red Hat sent all their routes through the Eastern Territories." Todd sketched a rough map in the dirt. "He wants us to blow the Eastgate Bridge. That'll make the route through the Fields of the Papay the fastest for the Longcoats."
"Proving why you never want to piss off the Munchkins." Their leader, Zeke, was at least fifty annuals old. He rubbed his bottom lip as he gazed at the lines in the dirt. "Do we have enough explosives?"
Jeb shook his head. "We'd have to get more from the mines in the Black Mountains. That'll add another week to reaching that section of the Brick Route." He pointed at the map with a twig. "What about blocking the pass through the Madeleines? That should take fewer explosives."
"But it's quicker to fix," Todd said.
A horse galloping into camp interrupted the meeting. Miriam slid out of the saddle. "Zero was spotted south of the Crack with two iron suits."
Jeb clenched his fists. "When?"
"Six days ago." The brown-haired girl recoiled as if his expression had slapped her. "I've been trying to find out who they're after!"
"Who do you think the Bastard is after?" Jeb stormed across the camp, grabbing the bridle of the closest fresh horse. Another Resistance member jogged forward with a saddle.
Zeke held the bridle. "I understand the bad blood 'tween you and him. But don't do anything rash."
The fear of where Zero had brought the iron suits seized his throat. He jerked the horse's reins and took off.
She could feel her throat and lungs squeezing screams out. But her ears didn't hear anything, not even the sound of the machinery keeping air circulating in this coffin. She had to focus on something good. But all that would surface was what she wanted to forget.
Two annuals without Wyatt was too long. That was the only thought giving her strength enough to go through with this. She pulled her coat tighter around her body, trying to blot out the damp night filling this room. She had put Wyatt's old sources to good use, discovering that Zero continued visiting the same girl in the Sin District every week. She was amiable to an exchange.
The door of the tiny room opened and closed. She turned to face the blond man. Zero's stance shifted as he smirked, looking more cocky. "Adora Cain, working the Sin District now?"
She held her chin up. "I'm here to negotiate my husband's release."
"Negotiate with what?" She let the coat fall to the floor. His cold grey eyes swept over her nude body. "I've seen better, Mrs. Cain."
"Don't you want something else to lord over my husband?"
He gestured at the bed. "Let's start negotiations." He unbuckled his leather coat.
She remembered Wyatt's kisses and caresses while Zero thrust. No surprise his wives left him. She covered with the sheet as he got dressed. "Where can I get my husband?"
Zero's cocky attitude vanished as he tucked his undershirt into his pants. "You thought we took Wyatt Cain to a prison camp." He focused on the wall. "We locked him in an iron suit, Widow Cain."
She jumped up, tightening the sheet around her. "Widow?"
"Fed his body to the Papay myself. You think they go after living meat fast." He shook his head. "Spared you the cost of a funeral, Widow Cain. If you're working here, you can't afford that."
An invisible vise clutched her chest. "The suit doesn't kill people."
He looked at her without that predatory gleam in his grey eyes. "Don't ask. You don't want to think of the father of your son like that." He shrugged on his coat. "Killing him was a mercy, Adora. What came out of the suit wasn't the man you married."
Tears welled in her eyes. "When?"
"About a week after our visit. Thanks for the negotiation," and he tossed some platinums on the bed before leaving.
Jeb pulled his horse to a stop, and glared at Zeke, Todd, and Miriam. "I don't need help!"
The red-head man only a couple of annuals older snorted. "You have no idea what you're riding into, Cain. You're crazy if you think we're letting you ride in alone."
Zeke nodded, "You're my best man on explosives. I ain't losing ya."
Jeb spurred his horse. "Keep up!"
She should have known Zero would be the one sent after her and Jeb. South of the Crack wasn't far enough to relocate notorious Resistance fighters like themselves. His men crowded into her tiny kitchen. Zero stood behind her. She continued washing dishes. "I thought you were smarter that your husband, Widow Cain."
"I'm so pleased to have disappointed you."
Zero's hands massaged her shoulders. "Where's Jeb, Adora?"
She chuckled. "I wouldn't tell you anything to save my husband. You think I will tell you where my son is so you can kill him?"
He jerked her around. "Just as stubborn as Wyatt Cain. The Sorceress has won. Accept it and your life will be so much easier."
"Azkadellia is a tyrant! And we all know what happens to tyrants in the O.Z."
His blow across her face rocked her head. "It's time for you to suffer like Cain did." Zero threw her to his closest lackey.
They dragged her out of the cabin where the man-shaped coffin stood upright in the yard. She clawed, kicked, left bruises, and drew blood. Her forehead slammed against the back of the metal coffin, and the front closed before she could shove herself out of it.
She had no idea how long ago that was. She couldn't move her arms and legs against the uncompromising metal. Maybe she was crying; she couldn't feel the tears, but her throat burned like when she had mourned Wyatt in that bordello room five annuals ago. "I thought," her tongue moved but she never heard the words or the sobs. "I thought you weren't strong enough, Wyatt. I'm sorry. Forgive me for thinking that."
The coffin door swung open and sensation rushed into the suit with a roar. She heard the heartbeats of the Longcoats surrounding her. Damp clung to her cheeks and her torn blouse. She toppled onto her hands and knees in the grass. Each blade felt like it stabbed her skin.
Two of the Longcoats reached for her as she looked up into Zero's sneering face. Her body quaked. Now they would torture her into saying where Jeb was and throw her back inside.
"You won't get Jeb, Zero!" Her voice boomed. She grabbed the gun from the Longcoat next to her and fired it like Wyatt had taught her. But her shaking threw off her aim. Zero grabbed the wound on his leg with a yell.
While the Longcoats were stunned by her defiance, she closed her lips around the barrel of the gun. I love you both. Forgive me.
She squeezed the trigger.
Jeb gouged out another A with his knife. Miriam finished washing her hands at the pump and stood beside his chair in the yard. He swallowed hard to make sure his voice worked. "How's Zeke?"
"I got the bullet out, but he's worried about how well he can travel."
"We have horses." He moved onto the I.
"He wants to talk to you about it. When you're ready."
Jeb nodded. A Resistance camp moved too much for the wounded to keep up. He blew away the debris from his cuts in the wooden plank.
"I'm sorry, Jeb. I'm so sorry. If I hadn't wasted so much time looking for hidden Tin Men."
"Don't." He stabbed to start the N. "It's Zero's fault. Maybe a little of my own since I never told you my father was a Tin Man." He dug the N out again. "But mostly Zero's. Get the mallet."
Miriam brought the mallet and he hammered the grave marker into the softened ground at the head of the mound. "She loved you very much."
He didn't have any tears left. "The Bastard will pay. He should've just given her a clean death." He turned away. "Let's get going."
Miriam refused to leave camp, even though Zeke did. She pointed out she was their only candidate for a much-needed healer. Zeke surviving getting shot without dying of infection convinced the rest of the men. Jeb didn't care as long as the dark-haired girl followed orders. Zeke put him in charge, and he had no idea how that was sitting with the older fighters. But they all followed his commands when they captured the pair of Longcoats with the second iron suit.
They only ended up with one prisoner. The poisoned blow darts from the Eastern Guild killed the second Longcoat. Jeb stared at the man about ten annuals older tied to a chair. "What was the plan; drive around with the suit in the wagon until you found someone to put in it?"
"I want to talk to your leader." The Longcoat gritted his teeth as he pulled on his bonds.
"That would be me."
"Right, boy. Your rebellion's failing so badly you're putting children in charge now."
Jeb's fist lashed out before he could stop it. "My childhood ended when you bastards killed my father with one of those things. And now, seven annuals later, you stuff my mother into one. She's dead now. Thanks for asking. You were there. You had to be if you had the one meant for me." The Longcoat ignored his bleeding mouth as he stared at Jeb. "You don't know anything strategic, getting assigned to the wagon. But I bet you know how to get to the munitions supplies."
The Longcoat spat on him. "I'm no traitor!"
"Then it should be an honor to submit to what the Sorceress cooked up. Put him in the suit, men." Todd yanked him out of the tent. The Longcoat howled and it took two more men, but they shut the iron suit on his terrified face. Jeb waited until the locking pins were hammered into place. "Let him out after an hour."
The defiant Longcoat came out weeping. He told them of every munitions storage area he had ever been in. After they had gotten everything useful from him, Jeb and Todd took him deep into the woods for a clean death and burial. The next order was to send two men to scout the closest storage area.
He wasn't surprised by how most of the men kept away. Two days in charge and he already had to make a speech. "Okay men, I need you to know something about me." He pointed to the iron suit. "Those things made me an orphan. I want nothing more than to turn them all into slag. That won't happen until Azkadellia is no longer in power. So until that day, I'm keeping that one to remind me what I'm fighting for, what my parents gave their lives for-the safety of my loved ones. I hope that's one of the reasons you are here too." He paused for a little effect. "And it's useful for getting what we need out of her henchmen."
The speech and ending chuckle settled the men, but it didn't stop Miriam from following him. But he hadn't found anything that would stop Miriam in the three annuals he had known her. "Zeke made the right choice. Even if you don't think so."
"I wasn't thinking about that anymore." Jeb moved the chair back to the table with the other mismatched chairs. "Mom led a cell in Central City, and she told me that Dad was practically the Mystic Man's right-hand man before Azkadellia got her hands on him. I always figured being a leader one day was on my road."
Miriam straddled a bench. "So what is churning under that unkempt hair of yours?"
Jeb half leaned against the table. "Mom found out from Zero that Dad was dead. The Bastard said she didn't want to know how he came out of the suit and now I know why." He stared at the ground. "At least, she was spared that much."
"As your friend and as the closest thing to a psychiatrist you guys have in the woods, I recommend happy thoughts about your parents." His jaw clenched. "Please, Jeb, tell me one."
"Dad taught me how to carve. An annual before the Tin Men's Last Stand, I carved him a toy horse for his birthday. Mom helped me paint a Tin Man star on it, 'cause every Tin Man needed a horse according to me. He always carried it to work with him." Jeb cleared his throat. Miriam was blurry when he looked at her. "He said it was his good luck."
Miriam smiled. "That's a diamond of a memory. Remember those instead of all the rust."
Author's Note: Yeah, life has been mediocracially crap-tastic since the beginning of July. So here's what I'm fairly certain is a completely original idea. Review and share your thoughts about it.
Also, I'd like to point people to my O.Z. Map page, now that my website is back up. The link is available on my author page since they really hate links in the stories. I'm not going to go into too much detail about the project here, but I lost a month making them to help the fandom.
And I'll probably add a link to Blackmoor's Nights cover of "Diamonds and Rust," which was the inspiration after I get home and find the mp3 file.
Now come on people, REVIEW! Don't you think Adora went through enough hell by only being onscreen for like five minutes?
For anyone needing the LJ summary format because they want to recommend this story:
Story: Tin Man: What Memories Can Bring
'Verse: Tin Man, pre-miniseries
Author's summary: Did anyone else notice the chair in the front yard at Cain's cabin? Did anyone else wonder what was running through Jeb's head when he looked less than thrilled by his father's admission of pride for him?
Characters/pairing: Wyatt/Adora, Jeb
Warnings: Borrowed Gatechic's idea that Zero told Adora and Jeb that Cain died in the suit and they threw his body to the Papay. Borrowed icarus_chained's idea of what the iron suits really do and Zero's creative idea had an unexpected effect. Inspired by Blackmoor's Nights cover of "Diamonds and Rust."