Aboard the Lady May Ch. 01bystoryteller51©
For any history buffs, this story requires a bit of suspension of disbelief. I know Felix's voice is a bit anachronistic (somehow I just can't manage to think like an eighteenth-century man), which I tried to somewhat overcome by using a third rather than a first-person point-of-view. Also, the rate of homosexuality among sailors was probably not as pronounced as I imply (sodomy was, after all, a capital offense), and women discovered aboard ship disguised as men were not automatically condemned to being repeatedly raped and passed around by the crew. Often they would act as chambermaids for the officers until such time as they could be safely returned to port. This is just the product of my (too) active imagination and (too) many history classes. And this is my first submission here, so please let me know what you think and whether this is worth continuing on with. Thanks.
The boy was fine-boned and slight, with pale skin that shone vaguely blue in the moonlight filtering through the open porthole window. Smudged dirt or bruises—Felix didn't know which—shadowed the thin planes of his face, and his eyes were wide, dilated and nearly black in the dimly lit hold. When Felix reached out to place one rope-roughened hand on the slope of his shoulder, the boy jerked and stepped back until he was pressed flush to the seamless planked wall. Felix followed, moving slowly, and his hands remained gentle. One hand on either shoulder, he began to explore the boy's exposed throat and his shoulders through the thin, dirt-smeared shirt he wore. The neck was slender and long, soft skinned, untouched by even a hint of whiskers, and the collarbones were fragile and prominent beneath Felix's stroking fingers. When his thumbs met in the hollow at the base of the boy's throat, he could feel the frantic, rabbit-jump thump of his pulse in pressure that briefly intensified against his skin when the boy's throat moved in a quick, convulsive swallow.
"You don't need to fear me, boy," Felix said softly, then reached up to brush the dirt from his cheek. The mark didn't lessen, and the boy flinched slightly. A bruise, then, Felix thought and gentled his touch even more.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he continued. His voice was hoarse from a lifetime spent shouting into the wind, and he persisted in touching the boy, hoping to calm him, to accustom him to his touch. "I'm just going to teach you. To show you how to protect yourself."
The rasp of his voice was like fine-gauge sandpaper. His big hands cradled the boy's head and scratched softly at his scalp. The boy's hair was dirty between Felix's fingers and of indeterminate color, but cool and soft and straight. A small, sobbing sigh escaped the boy's lips and echoed back in the quiet hold. How long has it been, Felix wondered, since anyone bothered to touch him with affection? A cold nose turned and pressed into the cup of Felix's palm like a kitten leaning into a caress. Quite a long time, he decided.
The boy was the fourth in a year Felix had been given to gentle. His appointment to the post began after one new recruit—terrified by an older crewman and abused to the point of madness—had slipped quietly overboard with a rucksack of lead shot slug across his back. As one of the few sailors onboard who could actually swim, Felix had been the one to dive into the drink, a rope around his ankle and a cannonball cradled in his arms to speed his descent. But the boy sank fast in the black of the cold north Atlantic, and Felix was hauled to the surface, frozen and gasping, half drowned himself, without either the cannonball or the boy. Before he was even dry he beat the man bloody who tortured the boy, then threw him, toothless and insensate, over the starboard rail. Neither an officer nor one of the tars saw fit to fish him out.
Afterward Felix took it upon himself to guard the new boys the Lady May picked up. He couldn't, he knew, keep the seamen away from the lads, but he could teach and protect them, and punish the men who abused them. Danny—his first charge—had been red-haired and cheerful, safe under Felix's paternalistic eye, and a great favorite among the crew before he succumbed to fever and died, raving and wasted, still sucking spasmodically on the gray flannel rag Felix had soaked in broth and slipped between his blistered lips.
Peter and Luke—his second and third boys—had transitioned well to the manner of life at sea and were content in their knowledge that Felix would protect them or, at the very least, that he would avenge them and help them to heal. It was better than they could hope to expect aboard another ship, and Felix was respected by the men and quick with his fists so that he'd had cause to beat just one man—a drunken carter called Kenzie—in the past six months.
This new boy, though, was different than either Danny or Peter or Luke. He was younger, his skin softer, his bones more slender, his pale face almost pretty in the cool moonlight. For the first time Felix felt his body begin to respond to a boy's presence. He had used his mouth and hands on his earlier charges to teach them to expect pleasure, but he had never been aroused by their touch, and he had used a series of gradually-widening candles to adjust their bodies to a man's invasion. He had felt tenderness for them and an abstract appreciation for their smooth, almost feminine skin, but no desire. When he woke once in the night to find Peter sucking softly on his shaft in a gesture of appreciation, he'd stopped the boy and thanked him, then sent him back to sleep in his own canvas hammock.
Felix could not deny now that he felt desire. He cupped his hands over the boy's shoulders and slid them down his arms. He could circle the thin limbs with his thumbs and index fingers all the way up past the elbows. When his fingers probed the hollows of the boy's armpits, a soft release of breath—nearly a giggle—feathered Felix's chest through the open vee of his shirt. The straight lines of the boy's ribcage and thin hips were nearly perpendicular, but the soft swell of his backside filled Felix's hands surprisingly full, and he groaned as his cock twitched inside his pants. He squeezed once and released, using his whole hands to knead the yielding flesh, and the boy whimpered, pressing himself back into Felix's touch.
Felix took this for ascent and, without pausing to think, thrust his hands down the back of the boys rough-cropped trousers. Bare of undergarments, the twin globes were smooth and cool beneath Felix's wind-chapped hands. His touch was initially soft, then grew firmer when the boy whimpered again and leaned forward to press his brow against Felix's chest. When Felix felt the boy's mouth, warm and wet on his exposed skin, he firmly filled one hand with a buttock and withdrew the other to bring around to the boy's stomach. He hesitated for a moment, rubbing his thumb in the shallow, downy navel, then the boy licked his chest, and Felix arrowed his hand, thrusting down beneath the boy's waistband.
Felix froze. He had expected sparse pubic hare and stones like marbles in their softly wrinkled sack—a small, tender erection that would erupt beneath his stroking touch in mere moments. Instead he found his palm filled with a plump and lightly furred feminine mound. The boy—girl! Felix realized in a burst of lust-fogged clarity—thrust her hips forward once, then registered Felix's stillness and ceased all motion herself. Her forehead and mouth remained pressed against Felix's chest, but she began to tremble again and her breath came in quick, panicked gasps.
Felix registered her fear, but it had been years since he'd had his hands on a woman. Before he could stop himself, his fingers delved and probed. He used his knee to nudge her thighs apart, then stroked the entrance to her body. She was soft as velvet, but tightly closed and just barely damp enough to allow one fingertip to slip between the supple lips. She gasped at the rasping contact, then cried out when his thumb angled to find her hidden clitoris. He pressed and twisted against the nub, causing her body to shudder, and she wrapped one hand around his thick forearm and jerked hard.
It took Felix several seconds to register the girl's protest, and even then he had to force himself to stop. He reluctantly withdrew his hand, but could not stop his fingers from dragging through her folds or his index finger from flicking its blunt nail over her slightly distended clitoris. She cried out again, and then his touch was gone, and he stumbled back several steps to bend over, breathing heavily with his hands propped on his knees.
"You're a girl," he growled, then wished he hadn't sounded so rough.
"Yes," she answered needlessly, and folded her arms across her chest. Had it been possible for her to recede further back into the woodwork, Felix suspected she'd have done so.
"Why?" he demanded.
She said nothing, and he glanced up to find her looking at him, her brow furrowed and mouth pursed—a very full, feminine mouth, he now realized.
"Why am I a girl?" she asked.
Felix laughed painfully. "Why didn't you tell me as soon as I began touching you?" he clarified. "Surely you knew I was bound to notice."
"I—" she began, then broke off. She licked her lips and Felix had to look away or risk leaping forward to lick them himself. She drew a deep breath and released it, then spoke to her feet in a quick, embarrassed rush: "I thought maybe you wouldn't know, that you wouldn't touch me in front. No one else ever has before. It was dark, and they just—" She gestured vaguely at her backside, and Felix felt himself tense with rage.
"You've been buggered before?" he burst out. The girl flinched, and he wished he'd thought to use a more delicate term.
She nodded and began to speak quickly, sensing his anger but misreading its cause. "Only a few times," she said and held one hand out as if placating him—or, Felix thought, as if she were holding him off. "I swear," she continued, "only three times. Four perhaps. And I can hold myself tight so you'll never know." She turned her hand over so it was palm up, pale and defenseless, beseeching in the blue moonlight. "Please," she begged. "Don't be angry. Just give me a chance. Let me show you."
Felix took a quick step forward, and she flattened herself against the wall, flinching, her thin arms raised and crossed to shield her face. He stopped, appalled, and regarded her small, cowering body. She couldn't weigh more than seven stone. She was thin to the point of emaciation, and Felix abruptly remembered the bruises mixed with the dirt on her face. The signs of abuse were there for anyone to see. He just hadn't taken the time to put together the pieces, which was unusual for him, as his main goal was to protect and comfort his charges. His only excuse was that he'd been aroused for the first time in so long that he'd lost focus on anything besides the sudden swelling of his body and the softness of her skin beneath his hands, the firm thrust of her backside and her warm breath on his skin—
He scowled, disgusted with himself, then reached behind his head to jerk firmly on his thickly tarred pigtail. The pain carried a sharp burst of clarity and cleared the lust from his eyes.
He began to move forward again, but slowly this time, his callused feet bare and silent on the smooth planked floor. When he grasped her wrists gently, she flinched but allowed him to pull them down from her face. He released one wrist to cup her cheek. He rubbed his thumb back and forth across her prominent cheekbone, and after a moment she turned into his touch, nuzzling his palm as she had before.
"I'm not going to hurt you, girl," he whispered, then wondered aloud, "What did the men say when they sent you to me?"
"Nothing," she said, sounding small. "They just opened the door and shoved me in. And then you started touching me, so I thought—"
"Aye," he interrupted. "I know what you thought." And she was right, in a way, but he couldn't bring himself to admit that just yet. Instead he said, "They send all the new boys to me. I protect them. Show them the ropes aboard the Lady May. Help them adjust. The other men," he gestured vaguely at the decks above, "they haven't the patience for the task."
Quickly, before she could ask any questions—and because she looked as though her legs were set to buckle beneath her—Felix bent and scooped her up in his arms. He raised her high against his chest, thinking he'd been generous with his estimation of seven stones, then turned his back to the wall and slid down to the floor. He crossed his legs, adjusted her in his lap, then pushed her head down against his shoulder. He began to stroke his fingers through her roughly chopped hair and wished suddenly that he knew what color it was.
He started to ask, then she turned and pressed her face to his throat, and he could feel the hot warmth of her tears on his skin. He kept his fingers moving in her hair and whispered to her, striving to make his raw voice as soothing as he could: "All right, girl. All right, now. You go on and have yourself a cry. You deserve it. You just soak my shirt, and I'll keep you safe. I won't let anyone hurt you. All right, now. Hush, girl. Hush. You're safe."
She sobbed open-mouthed against his neck for so long, Felix grew worried. There was hardly anything to her—hardly any meat, and not much moisture either, he reasoned. She would cry herself dry and spend strength she could ill afford to lose. Then finally, when Felix thought she must surely pass out from exhaustion and lack of air, she began to still. She hiccupped and sighed, then drew her knees back to her chest, curling as tight as she could, ensuring that not an inch or a toe or a hair of her hung off his lap. Felix kept one hand on the back of her head and wrapped his other arm around her entire body, hugging her tight enough to feel the pulse of her heart and the thick, slow thrum of her blood through her veins.
"Thank you," she said after a while, her mouth still muffled against his neck. "I haven't wept since my father died."
"When was that?" he asked.
"Six years ago," she answered, then added, "He was the one who brought me to sea. He was a sailor before he met my mother, then she died, and he said he couldn't stand the land anymore. I told him if he left me, I'd cut off my hair and follow him, so he cut it himself and brought me along." She paused then and reached up to touch the cropped strands hanging limp and dirty around her face. "I used to have pretty hair," she said wistfully, and Felix couldn't help but smile.
"What color?" he asked, seeking to assuage his curiosity.
"Red," she said. "Like my mother's."
Felix smiled to himself; he'd always had a fondness for redheads. Then he was quiet for a moment, figuring the numbers in his head. As a boy, he had taken her for fourteen or younger, but as a girl—and a malnourished one—she could easily be several years older. And her father had died six years before, which meant she'd been at sea with no protector, a girl masquerading as a boy, for more than a half-decade. It was a miracle she'd survived, much less that she'd never been discovered. Felix shuddered at the thought of what would happen to her if the crew learned the truth of her sex, then vowed silently that he would never allow that to happen.
"How old are you, girl?" he asked and steeled himself to set her away from him if she was anything less than sixteen.
"Nineteen," she replied. "Nearly twenty."
Felix sighed in relief, then reached down to grip her chin and gently force her face up to his. "Are you telling me true?" he asked, glancing meaningfully down at her body.
She smiled slightly, easily reading his thoughts. "I was born the third day of June," she said, "1721. My mother died when I was nine. I spent four years at sea with my father. He died just before I turned fourteen. Now I'm nearly twenty." She paused to glance down at her stick-thin limbs, curled tight, barely taking up a third of his lap. She shrugged. "I've always been small," she said, "and it's not as though I've been dining at the King's table these past years."
Roused by even the indirect mention of food, her stomach growled loudly, and she blushed, looking away.
Felix laughed and tightened his arm around her until she squeaked. "Soon," he promised, "I'll get you some food." Then the thought of leaving the hold, of facing the rest of the crew, caused his smile to fade.
As if she sensed his thoughts, the girl wiggled to free one arm from between the press of their bodies, then reached up to touch his face. "What's going to happen to me?" she asked.
Felix sighed and grasped her hand, brought it to his mouth, kissed her fingers.
"I won't be able to keep them away from you," he admitted. She tensed and tugged on her hand, but Felix maintained his hold and spoke against her small, cold fingers. "It's the way of men at sea." Then he added without thinking, "I'm surprised you've been buggered only four times."
She winced, and he reminded himself again to treat her with more delicacy. She was still ensconced on his lap, surrounded on all sides by some part of his body, but he could feel her withdrawal.
"It was more than that," she confessed, talking to his chest rather than his face. He tensed, and she drew even further into herself, speaking quieter, seeming to shrink even more. "I'm sorry I lied," she whispered. "I thought you were angry because you weren't the first. I didn't want you to—"
She broke off and tugged once more on her hand. This time Felix let it go. She touched her cheek, then her mouth, and Felix wondered if it was really as full as he'd thought, or merely swollen.
"Fourteen times," she blurted a moment later. "And it would have been more than that. Much more. But I'm small enough to hide sometimes, and usually they'd let me—"
She touched her mouth again, and Felix wanted to howl with anger. He wanted names of both men and ships. He wanted descriptions, and ports of call, and his own vessel and crew. He wanted months to hunt down every bastard who'd ever touched her, to beat them toothless before he pitched them overboard to watch them sink into shark infested waters. And then he wanted to join them himself because he knew that he was helpless to stop it from happening again—and because her admission brought the image to his mind of the girl on her knees before him, his hands in her red hair, guiding her soft lips' rhythm on his thrusting cock. He'd let her pull back just enough to lick the swollen head, to press her pointed tongue into the shallow depression at the tip, then he would draw her forward again until he bumped the back of her throat. He'd force himself deeper, instructing her to swallow and hum, to use her nails on his thighs and backside, then to swallow again, and to swallow, and to keep swallowing.
He grew stiff and throbbing beneath her, and she felt it happen. She tensed, preparing to spring from his lap, but Felix tightened his arms around her.
"Easy," he whispered, his lips in her hair. "I said I wouldn't hurt you, girl, and I meant it. I can't help what my body does. I want you, and I'm not sorry for that." Not very sorry, he amended silently. "But I'm not going to hurt you." His hands rubbed up and down her back, stroking the lumps and hollows of her spine, and she slowly began to relax. "Anything I ever do to you," he said, moving so his lips were right by her ear, "it'll be because you want me to. And anything you do to me, it'll be because I already did it to you, and you loved it so much, you want me to feel the same pleasure."
His hands moved on her back, her neck, in her hair, until the tightly curled constriction of her body began to lessen by degrees. She rested her cheek against his shoulder and didn't fight him when he grabbed her outermost ankle and used it to draw her leg down and out. He shifted to drape her straightened leg over one of his own, then hugged her other leg tight and bent to his chest. She was at ease and breathing shallowly, trustingly spread, and Felix wanted more than anything to prove to her—and to himself—that she was still capable of experiencing pleasure.