Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope that you’re all doing well and having a nice day off (if of course you do have today off). To celebrate, have Chapter Three of Fitting In. :)
By Meyari McFarland
Chapter Three: Captain’s Boy
Over the next week there were a dozen opportunities for Ula to prove that she was quite serious about keeping Cadfael to herself. By the start of the third week of the journey none of the sailors so much as spoke to Cadfael without first making sure it was okay with Ula or Anwyn. Cadfael found that he could actually leave his cabin at will without worrying that the sailors would take advantage of him while he was out.
It was a huge relief.
Even if he did spend nearly all his time nauseous from the motion of the ship, Cadfael felt better about himself than he had since he was a little boy. Granted, there were no other males to talk to on board, but Cadfael wasn’t looked at like either a prize to win or some sort of stubborn whore who wouldn’t give up the goods. Instead he was more or less invisible by the time the third week was over. The difference was remarkable. Cadfael rather wished his entire life could be this way, with only the women he wanted to interact with talking to him but he knew that wasn’t likely to happen, no matter how much he would have liked it to.
Ula visited his cabin daily, at first spending a quarter hour or so with him but as time went on she stayed longer and longer. They talked. She helped him brush up on his Ntombian and taught bits of Chinwenduese swearing to go with his perfectly proper command of the language between stories of her home life when back in Aingeal.
Ula’s husband was small like Cadfael with a fierce temper as well, though apparently he was better at controlling it than Cadfael was. Some of Ula’s suggestions for how her husband kept himself from snapping people’s heads off were helpful while others made Cadfael laugh. To his surprise, Ula actually asked Cadfael his opinion about politics back home. More surprising still, she listened to his answers. By the second month of the trip around the world, Cadfael was more comfortable with Ula than he’d been with anyone outside of the family.
Of course that had to change given Cadfael’s luck with women, though to Cadfael’s surprise it changed for the better, not the worse. They hit a bad storm on the edge of the Yaffa Sea. While Cadfael clung to his bunk in his cabin, the women battled the wind and rain to bring them to port. Cadfael had no idea how close it was but as they finally sailed into the harbor Anwyn came in supporting Ula.
“Hit her shoulder,” Anwyn snapped. She nearly dropped Ula into Cadfael’s lap in her rush to get back outside. “It’s bad. Check her out, please. I’m going to make sure we make it safe to dock. The Ladies know that it took the Goddess’ blessings for us to get this far.”
The way she said ‘Ladies’ told Cadfael that it was just hyperbole. If Anwyn actually had asked the Ladies for help getting to the harbor she’d be as sick as Cadfael was, not able to help get to port. Of course, given the Delbhana’s outlawing of everything related to the mysterious Ladies and their underwater, crystalline cities, Anwyn couldn’t exactly come out and say anything either way, not even on a Dana ship well away from Aingeal.
Anwyn ran out before Cadfael could say a word. Ula chuckled but her face was pale and her left arm hung limp from the socket. Cadfael pushed his bucket aside and went to his trunk for bandages. Getting Ula’s coat off made her hiss in pain. By the time he had it down her arm it wasn’t rain dripping down her face. It was sweat.
“Dislocated,” Cadfael murmured.
“Glorious,” Ula groaned. “Just what I needed.”
“All right,” Cadfael said as he took a deep breath and reached for his scissors. “I’ll fix your shirt for you later. Let’s get this back in the socket and bandaged.”
Ula started to protest as Cadfael used his scissors to cut the sleeve open all the way to the shoulder but something about his expression stopped her. “Strong enough to do this?”
“It doesn’t take that much to pop it back into place,” Cadfael said with a little snort of wry amusement. “I’ve done it entirely too many times. I know you’ve met my family, especially Anwyn and Gwen.”
That got him a proper grin out of Ula. The process of putting her arm back in the socket was quick despite the way Ula swore once he was done. Bandaging her shoulder made her curses turn into incoherently growled words that barely made it through her clenched teeth. Anwyn checked halfway through the process, nodding when she saw Ula was being well taken care of.
“Got us to the dock and the Mate’s talking to the port authorities,” Anwyn reported. “Going to be okay?”
“I’m fine,” Ula said, glaring at Anwyn as if she expected Anwyn to poke her shoulder.
“Go away, Annie,” Cadfael said. “I’ve got this. You take care of the crew.”
Ula spent the night in Cadfael’s bunk. She dropped off as Cadfael carefully mended her shirt by lantern light. When he slid into bed next to her, Ula pulled him close and draped her injured arm over Cadfael’s side. To his surprise, the strain on her face eased so Cadfael stayed cuddled next to her. More surprisingly, Cadfael slept well wrapped up in her arms. He woke to Ula gently kissing his forehead while trying to ease over him so that she could get up.
“Oh no, don’t you dare!” Cadfael growled as he caught Ula’s hips. He blushed as she ended up straddling him, right on top of his morning erection. “You are not getting up to go work, are you? That arm is in no condition for you to work!”
Ula laughed, patting Cadfael’s stomach with her good hand even though the lack of support for her shoulder made her wince. “No, I was going to take care of my bladder.”
“You need a shirt and you need a sling, then,” Cadfael said in a much harsher tone than he’d used since they became friends because the weight of her on top of his hips was entirely too arousing, something he hadn’t expected at all. “I won’t have my hard work fixing you up go to waste.”
He let Ula go, which thank all the Goddesses, got her off of his hips because Cadfael was fairly certain that he was going die of embarrassment. As nice as Ula was, she was married and their arrangement was purely for show. The mended shirt went on with only minimal hissing and cursing from Ula. Her coat stayed to the side as Cadfael used one of his sturdier plain shawls as an improvised sling. Ula smiled as Cadfael helped her put the coat on over the top of that, especially when he fussed to make sure that it wouldn’t slide off unexpectedly.
“You can be absolutely adorable when you want to be, Cadfael,” Ula said. She kissed his forehead before gently tapping one finger against the tip of his nose. “But you really ought to get properly dressed, dear boy. Anwyn will be here soon to drag you off to see the city.”
Cadfael looked down at his warm sleep shirt and pants in horror. The sound he made was at least two octaves too high and horrified enough that Ula went to lean against the door to keep the world out, chuckling the whole time.
He scrambled for his clothes, stripping down and then dressing as quickly as possible given the layers of undershirt, petticoats, shirt, kilt, vest, and sash he had to put on. By the time he’d coiled his hair back up in a bun on the back of his head Cadfael almost felt in control once more. Ula’s eyes were amused despite the pain lining her face. She hadn’t even watched him change clothes, keeping her head turned to the side to preserve his privacy. The respect in such a simple gesture made him feel not only protected but appreciated as well.
“Better?” Ula asked.
“Much,” Cadfael replied. “Come on. We might as well go out.”
Ula didn’t move as Cadfael came over. She jerked her chin at the bunk, smiling fondly. “Thank you for last night. The support helped.”
Cadfael’s breath caught. He stared up at her, his fingers shaking on the hem of his vest. “Um, you’re welcome. I mean, anytime. Captain’s boy, you know.”
Anwyn was waiting when they opened the door a few moments later. She grinned at Cadfael and then, as promised, dragged him off the ship and out into the city. Yaffa didn’t have much that Cadfael found interesting. The fabric was far rougher than he liked and the colors were muddy and would clearly run as soon as the fabric was washed. They did have some embroidery silk from Chinwendu across the Yaffa Sea, but the price was so high that Anwyn rolled her eyes and dragged Cadfael onwards without letting him buy any.
“It’s less expensive than home, Annie,” Cadfael complained as Anwyn dragged him away from the stall.
“Not by much and frankly I can get you as much silk as you want later,” Anwyn said. “That was ridiculously overpriced to the point that I won’t even bother trying to bargain with her.”
“And how are you going to get me silk from Chinwendu when we’re going to Ntombi, Annie?” Cadfael asked scathingly enough that his tone of voice made a few of the tall, dark-skinned women passing by raise eyebrows at him. He didn’t think that they understood what he said but the tone of voice was clear enough that language was no barrier.
“I can add it to the trade agreement easily,” Anwyn explained just brightly enough Cadfael knew she was pushing their luck.
Her lecture went in one of Cadfael’s ears and out the other. Certainly, he listened closely enough to know that she talked about how they were going to Ntombi to set up a complicated triple trade that brought spices from Ntombi to Yaffa to be combined with their grain-based alcohol only to bring the spiced alcohol onwards Aingeal where it was traded for the weapons that Ntombi wanted for their endless battles. But actually paying attention to her rambling was beyond him when there were stalls to look at and blessedly solid land to walk on. It truly didn’t matter to him, as he wasn’t going to be part of the negotiations. All he was supposed to do was review the treaty once Anwyn was done negotiating it.
They ate dinner on dry land, to Cadfael’s eternal relief, and managed not to get attacked by any strange women along the way despite the stares they got for their pale skin and bright hair. Pale skin wasn’t something that appeared normal in Yaffa. Everywhere they went people stared. He heard a couple of women murmuring something about ‘flame hair’ at one point, not that he could be certain of that. His command of Yaffese was limited at best. Cadfael smiled when Ula joined them for dinner. Her presence was welcome even though she really should have stayed on the ship given her injury.
Dinner lasted until dusk when brilliant lacquered paper lanterns were put out on every doorstep. Cadfael, privately, allowed himself to be awed at how beautiful the effect was. Once back to the ship Cadfael retired to his cabin. Ula followed him, sighing and rubbing her shoulder gently.
“You’ll be staying the night again?” Cadfael asked as he put his shawl away and then took Ula’s coat from her.
“If you don’t mind?” Ula asked and for once it was an actual question, not a woman assuming that she would be welcome without question by the man.
“I don’t mind you staying,” Cadfael said, smiling wryly at her. “But I think you should sleep on the outside and I’ll sleep on the inside.”
Ula laughed and nodded, gesturing with her chin for Cadfael to go ahead and change. After that, Ula slept with Cadfael every night that didn’t involve heavy seas. Whenever the ocean got rough, Cadfael’s stomach was rebellious enough that he sent her away so that she could actually sleep. His stomach was bad when the boat heaved back and forth that he didn’t sleep for all the throwing up.
Cadfael was the one to initiate the touching. After a week and a half of waking up to Ula’s warmth, he’d realized that yes, he actually was dreaming about Aravel’s lessons on what a man could do for a woman with his fingers and tongue. He’d never used the lessons before, despite his family’s unhappiness with his general lack of interest in women. This was the first time he’d actually wanted to try them out with someone. When his hand slid down Ula’s hip towards her groin, Ula caught it and stared into his eyes.
“You know you don’t have to,” Ula said.
“Shut up,” Cadfael grumbled at her. “Of course I don’t have to. I want to.”
Ula laughed and let his hand go. To his surprise she let Cadfael take full charge of the play despite what women back home said about letting men top. His fingers and tongue satisfied her well enough that Cadfael felt no guilt for it when she pulled Cadfael up so that he could rub between her breasts until he came. They used a bit of precious fresh water to get cleaned up and then Ula went off to work while Cadfael collapsed on his bunk to pretend to embroider a new pair of slippers. He had to pick out every single stitch he put in them the next day but it was better than admitting just how much he’d enjoyed their encounter.
Their nightly adventures expanded from there. Aravel’s stories of bedding the many women he kept company with had always been long on descriptions of being held down and short on any hint that women might like it when a man took charge. Ula seemed to delight in letting Cadfael take the lead. That might be because he was younger and less experienced or maybe it was her still painful shoulder. Cadfael didn’t care.
Ula let him choose what they did, how far they went. Her reassurances that he didn’t have to do anything at all comforted him enough that he pushed a bit at her boundaries for them to do more together. It took a week and a half before Ula would let him actually penetrate her but once she did it became something that they did every night.
Cadfael had to admit after a while that Aravel might be right about sex being a joy instead of a burden. With someone who respected you, and with affection between the two people, it actually was quite fun. His favorite part was still the cuddling afterwards. Sleeping in someone else’s arms was quite comforting.
“Mmm,” Ula murmured as they cuddled together. “I do miss having a sweet boy to hold while I’m away.”
“Even now?” Cadfael asked because ‘sweet’ was not a term anyone used to describe him.
Ula laughed and lightly slapped his rear end, making Cadfael blush and poke her in the side. By the time they were a week out from Ntombi, Cadfael decided that he was almost glad that he’d come on the trip. Only because Ula was so nice to him, though. The sea sickness remained just as bad as when they’d started out. It was severe enough that Cadfael had to take in his kilts to compensate for the weight he’d lost throwing up.
Anwyn seemed quite aware that he and Ula had taken things to a more physical level. Her half-hearted lectures on the trade deal and what Cadfael would be expected to do disappeared, replaced by questions about whether or not Cadfael was happy, how he was doing. Cadfael glared at Anwyn as she started in on the latest round of ‘protective sister’ mode.
“You’re sure that you’re okay?” Anwyn asked. “Not upset or anything? I mean, other than your stomach. Ula’s not pushing you into something, is she?”
“Annie, do let it go,” Cadfael finally groaned. “For the thousandth time, I know she’s married. I wouldn’t have done anything with her if she weren’t.”
“I know, I know,” Anwyn sighed as she flopped on his bunk next to him. “It’s just…”
“Yes?” Cadfael prompted her when Anwyn only stared at the ceiling for entirely too long.
“She um, hasn’t had a cycle for over two months, Caddie,” Anwyn said, worry for him in her eyes. “Eighty plus days. That’s kind of obvious on a ship like this.”
Cadfael stared at her as he counted nights and realized that yes, Anwyn was right. Ula had spent all her nights with Cadfael lately and there hadn’t been any times when she wasn’t… available. “Oh my. Oh dear. Mother is going to have a fit.”
Anwyn snorted. “She’s going to dance with joy that you figured out that girls can be fun, Caddie. The Ladies know we had some doubt about that.”
His glare was fierce enough that Anwyn rolled off his bunk and hurried for the door. A quarter hour later Ula opened the door with a wry smile that made Cadfael sigh and blush in spite of himself. She came and sat down next to Cadfael, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. He hugged her so tightly that Ula chuckled and patted his back.
“Sorry,” Cadfael mumbled against her shoulder. She smelled of sea spray and the fragrant celoi oil she used to get clean.
“Don’t be,” Ula reassured him. “I’m not upset. My husband won’t be either. I honestly didn’t expect to get pregnant, Cadfael. I’m at the age where it’s not very likely, you know. We should be home before the baby’s born, always presuming I don’t miscarry. By the time the ship leaves port again I’ll have born the baby and recovered. It’s fine, just another link between our clans. I think my husband will be happy to have another baby to take care of, even if it takes after your family’s tempers and brawling.”
Cadfael laughed and snuggled closer to her. There wasn’t much to do about it while at sea if the pregnancy wasn’t acceptable but at least Ula wasn’t upset. Hopefully his mother Laoise wouldn’t get angry at him for this. She hadn’t minded any of Aravel’s by-blows but then no one seemed to mind anything Aravel did. Ula kissed his forehead gently enough that Cadfael decided not to worry about it all. They still had a week before they arrived at Ntombi. He would enjoy their time together and not make trouble with his fretting.
Find The Rest of this Story:
Or you can just wait and I’ll post the rest week by week. ;)