Hope you guys enjoy the new chapter!
By Meyari McFarland
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Connection
“Are you getting up?”
Cadfael groaned and pulled the blankets over his head. Taji giggled as he climbed onto the bed. The other boys were there too, climbing up to poke at Cadfael’s sides. He squirmed and grumbled, batting at their hands. Unfortunately that only made the kids laugh far harder. Eventually he pushed the blankets back enough so that he could see them. Umar squeaked and scrambled backwards until he ended up in Nanjir’s arms.
“Boys,” Cadfael sighed, “I didn’t get home until dawn. I’m tired. Please go away.”
“You have bags under your eyes,” Taji breathed.
“No, that’s a black eye!” Ochi said. “Did someone hit you?”
All four the boys scooted forwards with worry on their faces. Cadfael sighed and hid under the covers. They started poking him again so he sat up with a small groan, and rubbed his face gently. The bruise wasn’t very large but he was fairly certain that it was quite obvious given his pale skin. Ochi crawled right into his lap, hugging Cadfael while crooning something to him. He patted Ochi’s back.
“What happened?” Nanjir asked.
“Osh’Anwyn’bram, ish’Efia’slom and ish’Faiza’slom got in a fight with your aunt Princess T’Kelah,” Cadfael explained. “They were beating each other up and I took an elbow to the cheek.”
“Did our side win?” Umar asked while bouncing on the bed.
“Heh, ish’Ynes’bram won,” Cadfael chuckled. “She’s got a black eye too, but that was because osh’Anwyn’bram kicked her in the face before realizing it was ish’Ynes’bram.”
Taji pushed at Umar, trying to claim Cadfael’s lap. He stopped them from getting into a fight over rights to his lap by flopping back onto his pillows. That made both Taji and Umar giggle before they snuggled next to his sides. After a moment Ochi and Nanjir moved closer so that they could cuddle too. It was awkward and mildly uncomfortable, but all four of the boys settled down enough that Cadfael found himself dropping back off to sleep.
He felt the bed shift later but he didn’t wake up fully until much, much later. By the time he woke up properly Cadfael could tell from the heat that it was afternoon. Dragging himself out of bed, Cadfael found a tray full of fruit and sweet bread in the other room. There was a little note by the pitcher of juice in Macario’s handwriting. ‘Feel free to rest if you wish. I will check on you later to see if you need anything’ the note said. Cadfael smiled as he sat down to eat. Once he was done eating Cadfael went to the baths to get the sweat from last night off his body. By the time they had made it home last night he’d been too exhausted to do more than strip and collapse in bed. To his surprise, Macario was there soaking in one of the tubs. Only one other person was there, a servant who smiled and nodded to Cadfael before leaving the room with a stack of laundry to be done.
“Feeling better?” Macario asked.
“Much,” Cadfael replied. “How’s my eye look? It feels like the swelling has started to go down a touch.”
“Horrible,” Macario chuckled. “Osh’Fai-za’slom said to tell you that she’s terribly sorry and Princess T’Kelah has sent over a huge stack of Chinwendu silk thread for you to apologize for her part in the battle. Vlo’Jinhai’bram insisted in properly wrapping it on a set of sticks. I think he’s jealous of you.”
“What colors?” Cadfael asked, perking up at the thought of new silk to use for his embroidery.
“I believe every color that there is and then some,” Macario laughed. “It was quite the pile. He’ll probably spend the next couple of days winding the silk for you.”
Rather than spending a long time getting clean Cadfael rinsed off, careful not to get his hair wet and then climbed into the second bath with Macario. At this time of day he most certainly didn’t want to soak in the hottest bath but he also didn’t want to waste time on endless scrubbing. Macario smiled at him, his cheeks going a bit red as Cadfael ended up very close to his side instead of on the far side of the tub as was more normal.
It was the first time that Cadfael could remember them actually being completely alone. Even when they had been ‘alone’ before there had always been servants or slaves hovering around them in the background. He wasn’t sure if this time was pure happenstance or if someone (Hamid) had decided to back off. Either way, Cadfael was grateful for the time with Macario. From the expression Macario’s face, he was as happy about it as Cadfael was, though a great deal less nervous.
“Breathe,” Macario chuckled.
“We’re… alone,” Cadfael hissed. “We haven’t been alone ever, Macario! There’s always been a servant or slave or the kids around. This is…”
He couldn’t find any way to describe how wonderful it was. The sheer potential involved with being completely alone and naked with Macario had his heart beating faster and his mouth going dry with anticipation. Cadfael put one hand on Macario’s arm, shivering at the way Macario’s muscles tensed and then relaxed again. Macario obviously felt it, too. Even with the water covering them, Cadfael could see that Macario was hardening just like Cadfael was.
“Cadfael,” Macario murmured, his grin slipping away into a much more serious and intense expression.
He leaned closer, reaching out one dark, wet hand to cup Cadfael’s unbruised cheek. The touch of his lips to Cadfael’s made both of them moan. Macario pulled back, licked his lips and leaned in again. Cadfael met him that time, wrapping his fingers over Macario’s arms because he wasn’t sure what to do with them. When he’d been with women before they’d always directed what was to happen, other than with Ula and she’d always slowed Cadfael down, stopped to make sure that he actually wanted what they were doing.
There was no hesitation or slowing down as they kissed. In fact, Macario tugged Cadfael closer with a hand wrapped around his hip. That brought Cadfael close enough that he could straddle Macario’s lap and press their bodies together just as their lips were. He gasped and then shuddered as Macario’s tongue brushed against his teeth. Cadfael was hard enough that his head was swimming or maybe that was the heat of the bath. No, it was the wonderful way Macario’s hands and tongue and long, lean body made him feel. It didn’t matter a moment later because Cadfael could feel that Macario was just as hard as he was, just as excited.
“You… want this?” Cadfael panted, barely able to speak for Macario kissing and petting him.
“Want you,” Macario complained. “Everyone keeps blocking us. I don’t think that will keep happening now that Hamid’s no longer sharing power with me, but it was very frustrating.”
Macario caught Cadfael under the armpits, lifting him out of the bath to set him on the edge. That put his face directly in front of Cadfael’s groin. They both moaned, Cadfael high in his throat and Macario so deep that he sounded like he’d just been stabbed. Cadfael shivered half from being out in the air again but mostly from the hungry look in Macario’s eyes. When Cadfael looked at the door, certain that someone would come and interfere, Macario chuckled. Before Cadfael could ask what was so funny Macario’s mouth descended on him.
“Blessed daughters of Chin, Ragna and Tahira!” Cadfael gasped.
His eyes automatically shut from the feeling of Macario’s mouth wrapped around him. Cadfael whimpered, one hand on Macario’s shoulder and the other knotted in his long black hair. Every movement Macario made, every breath and gasp, drove Cadfael closer and closer to the edge. He’d never been with someone who was that skilled with their mouth. Most of the time it had been Cadfael doing the servicing, not the other way around. Before very long, and thankfully before anyone came in to stop them, Cadfael gasped an incoherent warning that made Macario suck even harder.
“Mmngh!” Cadfael grunted through the hand he’d clapped over his mouth.
Macario’s chuckle set off aftershocks, as did the way he kept sucking and licking Cadfael. Eventually Cadfael pushed him off, shaking and blurry-eyed from pleasure. When he managed to focus his eyes, Macario was grinning at him with delight. Cadfael pulled him close for a kiss that tasted salty and sweet and perfect enough for Cadfael to wish that they could go somewhere private, truly private.
“You, too,” Cadfael murmured against Macario’s lips.
“I’m fine,” Macario said, but he shuddered and gasped when Cadfael managed to snake a hand to his groin.
“You, too,” Cadfael repeated. “Can we, I mean is it okay if we go um, somewhere else? Somewhere private?”
The offer might have been what made Macario moan and nod desperately, but Cadfael suspected that it was his fingers wrapped around Macario’s flesh. They kissed a little more, but only a little. Macario climbed out of the bath and they took turns drying each other’s bodies off. Getting dressed turned into simply pulling on pants and draping a shirt around their shoulders before hurrying through the hallways towards Macario’s rooms. Two servants saw them, but after taking a moment to stare at them in surprise the servants pretended that they hadn’t seen anything at all.
They left their clothes along the stairs and then in Macario’s sitting room above. By the time they reached Macario’s bed Cadfael was hard again. When they tumbled onto the covers somehow Cadfael ended up underneath Macario, not that he was complaining. From Macario’s expression he wasn’t unhappy about it either. He pulled back just enough to grin into Cadfael’s eyes before kissing Cadfael soundly. His toes dragged along the bottom of Cadfael’s foot, prompting Cadfael to squeak and squirm as he giggled.
“Oh dear, ticklish?” Macario asked.
“Yes, and if you take advantage of that right now there won’t be any more fun today,” Cadfael declared as fiercely as he could while Macario’s fingers were teasing his sides. “Macario! Stop it!”
Macario laughed and stopped tickling him. He leaned close to press an infinitely tender kiss against Cadfael’s lips.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tease you,” Macario promised. “I’ll never hurt you, Cadfael.”
“Better not,” Cadfael whispered while running his fingers through Macario’s hair. His hands looked so pale next to Macario’s dark skin. “I think our sisters would have a fit if you did.”
The urge to say something ridiculous about love and always staying together was there even though Cadfael knew that it wasn’t going to happen. To keep himself from doing it he pulled Macario down into a much more serious kiss. No matter what he wanted, this had to be a short-term thing. Even so, Cadfael had every intention of enjoying himself to the utmost before going back to his cold, lonely life in Aingeal.
To his surprise, no one other than Taji commented on the bite mark on Cadfael’s neck at dinner. Even Hamid gave Taji a scolding look for bringing it up. Cadfael ran his hand over the little boy’s fluffy hair to reassure him that it was okay and got a grateful look in response. He wasn’t at all surprised that Hamid pulled Macario away after they were done eating or that Azizi and Dankov tried to pull the boys away so that they couldn’t ask questions.
“But!” Umar protested with tears in his eyes. “Story time!”
“It’s okay,” Cadfael laughed as the boys clung to him. “I got plenty of sleep, so I’m fine. Why don’t we go to the library and you can pick out a book for me to read to you, boys?”
They cast desperate looks at Azizi and Dankov who exchanged looks before nodding that it would be okay. That led to all four boys cheering while dancing in delight around Cadfael’s feet. By the time they were in the library the boys were arguing about which story Cadfael should read to them. He shushed them all and headed for the window seat so that he could watch the sun set over the garden walls while talking. Taji and Ochi cuddled up next to him while Nanjir and Umar argued over which story would be best tonight.
“Sorry,” Taji murmured.
“It really is okay, vluu’Taji’bram,” Cadfael said, hugging both him and Ochi so that neither would pout. “I do bruise easily and it shows very badly on me.”
“You’re happy?” Ochi asked.
“I’m happier here than I’ve ever been, vluu’Ochi’bram,” Cadfael replied.
There wasn’t even a moment of internal surprise when he realized that it was quite true. Nanjir and Umar came back with a storybook full of tales of the creation of Ntombi’s many clans. They sat by his feet while their fathers talked quietly together across the library. Cadfael smiled and picked one of the stories to read. Back home he wasn’t treated as an uncle despite actually being related to his aunts’ and cousins’ children. When they needed help or wanted hugs, Cadfael was never the male relative they went to. He wasn’t sought out for story time or lessons on how to sew, knit or cook. Most of the time, his nieces, nephews and younger cousins made a point of avoiding him when they wanted to learn those sorts of things.
For some reason, it was different, here. Here, he was treated as an uncle, even though Ntombi society didn’t have the same emphasis on mentorship between the older and younger male generations. Here, he was someone that was welcome and wanted in discussion, a friend to Jinhai, potentially someone Hamid approved of. All the approval and support Cadfael had always wanted was right here.
“Now you look sad,” Taji said as Cadfael opened the book.
“I’m thinking about when I have to go home and making myself sad,” Cadfael admitted. “Not good, so let’s have a story instead. If you’re all very good we might be able to sneak a second story in before your fathers realize we’re done. Okay?”
The boys all grinned at him, cuddling close as they nodded. They stayed quiet enough during the first story that Cadfael was able to tell them a second one. By the middle of the second, Azizi and Dankov came over to listen as well which effectively prevented a third, not that Taji and Ochi would have stayed awake through it. They were nodding off by the time Cadfael finished the second story. Even Nanjir and Umar were yawning, so Cadfael shut the book and passed it to a servant to put back on the shelf. He carried Umar while Dankov carried Taji. They both followed Azizi who led the way with his sons. It felt even better to help tuck the boys in and wave goodnight to Azizi and Dankov as if they actually were brother-husbands.
When he got back to his bedroom Macario was already there, smiling at him as he sat in Cadfael’s bed. His dark skin gleamed in the candlelight, tempting Cadfael just with his presence. Cadfael bit his lip and slowly stripped his borrowed shirt and pants off, making a little show of it that had Macario moaning quietly.
“You didn’t have to come here tonight,” Cadfael whispered as he climbed into bed and into Macario’s arms.
“I know,” Macario said. “But our time is short. I don’t want to waste any of it. I want to spend as much time with you as I can.”
Cadfael smiled; his cheeks hurt from how wide the grin was. “That sounds good to me.”
NOTE: You can find explanations of the various prefixes and suffixes, as well as a sorta-dictionary, sorta-story on Ntombi over here.
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