Read Taking One for the Team Online

Authors: Vanessa Cardui

Taking One for the Team (3 page)

She was tired, and the chains hurt where they cut into her, and her skin was so sensitive after what she'd gone through that the wet rag hurt when used it to wash her down.  But she moaned under his touches, and maybe it hurt a little less when he pushed in, slowly, carefully.

Once she'd adjusted, it was a lot less slow and careful.  He lifted her up, holding her easily in one hand, and moved her back and forth as he fucked her.  But it was too much; he was so damn big, it felt like he was bruising her inside with every thrust, and forcing her further apart than she could go.

One hand under her chest holding her up in the air, and the other moved to her pussy.  Born's cock felt like it was splitting her in half, but his hand was surprisingly gentle on her, calluses from the chains and the soft skin between moving across her clit, in time with his thrusts.

Raven came twice, once almost as soon as he touched her, and then second time just after he was done, the grip of his hand on her cunt pushing her over the edge as he convulsed.

When he was done, he went back to the camp, and Coach came out to Raven.

"36 for 84," he said.  "Not bad.  Target was 60%, though.  Two ways you can get there.  One is by playing defensively for a bit, choosing your tries more carefully.  The other is by being as good as you think you are.  In either case, if you want 60% on 84, that's 50; you're 14 short."

He steadied himself, lifted his cane.  "Count them."

Mostly, coach could stand without support; it was just walking that he needed the cane.  For the next little while, Raven wished he couldn't stand quite so strong without leaning on his cane.  Because damn it hurt, every single one of the fourteen strokes she had to count out, all across her ass.

Which he then fucked, the skin where she'd been hit burning as he pushed into her.  When he was done, and he took a while to be done, he untied her.  "Miss your target again," he said, "we're starting with the blindfold.  Because if you're going to keep trying for it, you damn well need to know your teammates."

Then he was gone, and it took Raven a little while before she was strong enough to stagger back to the camp, to the bedroll that Born had laid out for her, where she was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.

After that was three days on the road.  They paced along the wagons, practicing as they ran.  No goals, no stumps, nothing like that, but tackling drills and passing drills, and while the towers were too big to run for long, from time to time, they'd get out and do chain dodging drills.

The rest of the team would get up and ride from time to time.  But, damn it, like coach had said, there were two ways to make her target, and Raven wasn't going to pick the one which made her shuffle the ball off when she had a clear shot at the goal.  So she worked.  Every night, she slept exhausted, but every morning she rolled off the gas-wagon, and started running.

By the time they got to Digger, Raven had her trick ready for the exhibition before the match.  As they'd been traveling she worked it out with Born.  She'd talk, he'd listen, and then he'd make little gestures and shrugs, and she'd listen to those.  According to Pranah, at blue wing, it wasn't something wrong in Born's throat—it was something in his brain, so he couldn't use hand-signs to talk either.  No language at all.  But he could communicate, if you listened.  Raven listened.

So for the exhibition at Digger, Raven went close in with Born.  Into chain range, and then over and under and past, each duck and dive timed just right, each wheel of the chain exactly where Born wanted it to go.  Yeah, it was showbiz—if they were playing against each other, Raven wouldn't have closed in like that, not ever, and if she had, he'd have pinned her in five.  But that didn't mean it was nothing but showbiz.  Showed Raven's eyes and Born's control, and for all that she knew where the chains would be, she still had to make the goal.

Got some cheers out of the Digger crowd, though they weren't too happy that coach had set the stormer bet at a win by sixty.  Well, they were and they weren't happy.  Nobody won by sixty, so that was rude.  So maybe they'd take a win off a stormer team, and that'd give them bragging rights all down the basin, or maybe they'd see one hellaciously good stormer team playing well.

Not a lot of entertainment out in a place like Digger, and those long summer afternoons stretched forever.  Maybe one or two people in the whole town didn't show up for the match, excluding those who'd drawn watch duty.

Maybe one or two people in Digger missed one hell of a carnival.  Final score 134-67, stormers.  Three runners, two wings, and it was Raven who'd scored 48, last eight all in a row, no missed tries in the set.  Everyone else played like that, people in Digger would've chased 'em out with pitchforks, and then talked about that match for the rest of their lives.  Those 48 came on 96 tries, which was a damn sight better than Raven had ever thought she'd do, but which still wasn't 60%, because 60% was impossible, and she'd be better off learning to play as a defensive wing, like Coach wanted.

That night, he blindfolded her before the rest of the rest of the team came out to fuck her.  Supposed to help her recognize her team-mates.  She'd have to be dead or stoned not to recognize Katy or Born—and she'd have to be hellaciously stoned not to recognize Born—but the blindfold made it harder, not easier to recognize the rest of them.

At least it did that night.  There was Topknot (101-50), Drumlin (149-60) where Raff left to take over as coach, and everyone played as hard as they goddamn could, to show Drumlin how badly they needed a new coach, Raisor (88-60), and so on, all down the basin.  And Raven started to recognize Pranah by the scar on his right thigh, and by the rhythm he chose, Cali by the power in his hips and his fondness for fucking Raven's ass, Rache by the lightness of her touch and the way she enjoyed making Raven come.

They'd lost the bet in Raisor.  Damn near lost the game—it was the best team they'd played, and they had a deceptively gawky tower who'd played like crap the first half, and then managed a pin on Cali just after the half.  But while he'd taken a hell of a lot of ribbing for that, Cali wasn't the one who was tied to the stump and used by the team afterward; he used Raven with the rest of them, even though he'd been pinned and she'd scored 22 on 40 tries.

Since they'd lost the bet, Raven wasn't allowed to come, and there wasn't any mistaking Rache, from the way she'd played with that.  Light touches with her hands, with her lips, until Raven was panting with need, and then she'd ease off, and start it again when Raven had recovered.

Which left her in no state for Born to fuck her, not without her coming loud enough to wake up everyone in Raisor.

So she'd suggested trying it from a different angle.  Which turned out to be like trying to swallow an arm.  Raven was barely able to get the head of his cock into her mouth, and no question her jaw was going to be sore the next day from just that effort.  So it was mostly hands and lips and tongue, and small soft noises amidst the crickets and katydids.

It hurt as much as what he normally did, and it wasn't near as satisfying.  And she was so damn tired that it hurt to do anything with her arms other than let them hang limply in her bonds, like usual.  But there was a sort of satisfaction to controlling the speed and angle, and to feeling Born thrusting at a pace that she chose, his control slipping when she wanted it to slip.

When it did, she was still tied down, and he was still as strong as a gasoline tractor.  But even when he was coming, great streams and ropes of come down her throat and across her face, his hand still cradled her head gently, like he was holding a butterfly and feared he would crush it.

Truth was, Coach wasn't just right about learning to recognize them when she was blindfolded.  The whole thing—trying to make her target, and the consequences for failure—made her know them all, better than she'd known anyone.  She could tell from Pranah's breathing when he was at the edge of his capacities, could tell when Cali wasn't going to take the try by the angle of his hips.

And they all learned what she needed, learned to tell when she needed it.  Passes got smoother, she got support from the towers when she needed it for tackles, they'd distract for her tries, she'd distract for theirs.

And then they got out to the coast, and it was time for their real season.

Storming was a way for teams to keep sharp, earn a little extra food and booze when they were training, pick up a likely prospect here and there.  Coast league was goddamn murder.  Three, four thousand gallons of trade liquor riding on exhibition and out-of-league matches.  Hired matches for towns who couldn't afford to risk letting their local talent play, and then there was the league.  Standings there meant better contracts, and faces in newspapers and all that.

Out in the sticks, they'd been just stormers; when the season opened for the coast league, they were the Bobcats, with matching uniforms and new cleats and everything.  Only thing Raven wore onto the field that was properly hers was the curse-marker from Miracle, tucked into the back of her helmet.  Everything else was new and matched.

Losing that bet in Raisor was the nearest thing they'd come to losing a game in all the time she'd been with them.  They dropped their first two games in the coast league, and nobody even blinked.

Well, Raven damn well blinked at that, but everyone else was ready for it.  And fair enough; the other teams were like nothing she'd ever played against.  Went down 54-47 to Equinox, because Equinox's center tower would snap down any try that came from more than twenty yards back, or any that was moving even a little slow.  And 109-90 to the Blackbirds because their runners went all out, and stayed all out, and the wings kept making openings for them to ride on through.

Could be the rest of them weren't blinking because they were more used to it, could be they were less ragingly unsatisfied than Raven.  So she worked with Born on his blocking, trying to copy what that center in Equinox had done.  And she damn well worked on creating holes for the runners, whenever she could.

So they beat the War Eagles, 81-79.  Raff had challenged her to go twenty-two for forty against a coastal league team; third match in, she'd gone twenty-three for forty-one.  If it'd been twenty-five for forty-one, that would've been her target, but even though she got two swats from coach for it, he didn't seem too upset.  Neither did anyone else.   She came three times that night.  Katy and Pranah had started sleeping together, and they used her together; her tongue up Katy's cunt while Pranah had his cock in her ass and his fingers on her clit.  That had pushed her over the edge, first thing.  Rache teased her for like an hour until she broke, and then she came for the last time as Born held her, his cock splitting her in two.

Three more wins after that, scoring on over half her tries.  Then a loss when she'd dropped down to 30%, the Devilfish's gold wing going head to head with her on every exchange, and beating her.

And then it was Equinox again, for a dispute game.

Cowport had been shipping steers out from the rangeland of the lower middle since the crunch.  For a long time, they'd used ships from Longkey and Ratmouth, only they'd dropped them after Longkey got aggressive about their pricing, and built themselves a few ships of their own.

Then one fine night, some folks had come ashore near Cowport, lit the ships on fire, and vanished back into the southern ocean.

Natural, Cowport blamed L&R for the arson, and natural, L&R called Cowport all sorts of names, and raised their prices another 10%.  So Cowport called for a dispute match, and Longkey and Ratmouth agreed to it.  Neutral ground—fifty miles inland, at Whiterocks—and the price of four ocean-going bottoms at stake.  And three thousand head of cattle, and four lives.  And shipping rights and guarantees, and . . . hell.  If it weren't for dispute matches, both sides would be gearing up for a war.

Normally, Cowport would've hired one of the top-ranked league teams for a fight like that one.  Could be they'd gone with the Bobcats because Raven'd been playing well; could be they'd gone with the Bobcats because they were down the cost of three thousand head of cattle and couldn't afford the Devilfish or the Blades, and Equinox had already been hired.

Didn't mean the negotiations went down smooth.

Delegation from Cowport came down when Born and Raven were working on close-in scoring and close-in blocking, and coach was sitting at the side eating his lunch, so she got to hear the case, and the costs.

It was two thousand gallons of trade, held in Newport banks, win or lose, and another thousand gallons and three hundred head of cattle on a win.  Which was a hell of a lot for a match, either way.

"Course," said the delegate, after he'd laid that out, "be a hell of a thing if you lost."

Coach shrugged.  "We're 1-17 against Equinox for the last three years.  Want someone who the bookies will like, keep looking."

"0-1 this season," he said.  "And bookies have been adjusting your odds up the last few weeks.  But if you lose, there'll be a to do.  If you folks will take a punishment on a loss, that'd ease a few minds on the possibility of collusion, is all."

Katy had told her about punishment clauses on contract matches.  Bit like what she was going through for missing her targets, except instead of it being the team, it was the whole damn town that had hired them.  And instead of trying to teach something, it was just . . . well, punishment.  Hence the term.

"Permanent damage fines?" asked Coach.

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