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Old 10-03-2005, 07:58 PM   #1
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On the rising tide Chapter 5

** Disclaimer: the following is a work of fiction and in no way meant to be mistaken for reality. Inspired by real people, but purely and completely false and written without the consent of any of those people. No offense is intended to anyone. It’s all meant in good fun.


On the rising tide Chapter 5

They had arrived in Madrid a few hours earlier, the stevedores immediately going about their jobs of unloading the cargo onto the docks, but the sailors were all still aboard and waiting for Larry to release them. Carra had seen the concern on her fathers face, the tension in Larry’s shoulders, and the heated words exchanged between them. Still, she hadn’t been prepared when Larry had told a small group of them that he did not have enough money to pay the wages of all the sailors. She could tell that it pained him to have to admit it, knowing his pride and honor were at stake.

“How is that possible?” She wondered aloud. She would never have expected this of Larry, who was notoriously frugal.

“Between the cargo that was lost or damaged in the storm and the fucking taxes…” Larry told her, his shoulders and arms tensed, his hands balling into fists and then loosening. He wanted to hit something, but he was hanging on to his composure. Barely.

“How short are you?” Adam asked, producing a small stash of coins from his jacket pocket.

“Put your money away!” Larry ordered him seriously.

“I’m not offering you charity, I’m offering a loan. You’ll be paying me back, don’t worry about that.” Adam told him, placing the coins in Larry’s palm and closing his fingers around them. Larry scowled at him, but Paul took the coins from Larry’s hand and sat down at the ledger to do some figuring.

“Well, we’ll still be short, but everyone will get better than half the wages they’re owed.

“They’re ready to turn mutinous out there already. I don’t think you want to go out and try and short change that lot.” Carra warned.

“How many could you pay in full?” Adam asked, settling one hip on the corner of the desk and watching as Paul refigured the numbers.

“Larry’s already waived any profits, saying he will take what is left after he’s paid all the debts.” Paul said as he lined up the numbers on a piece of parchment, the scritch-scratching of the quill against the paper the only other sound inside the room. “We’d be able to pay … all but six.” He finally announced.

“Fine then, I’ll take my wages in room and board.” Adam said.

“And we can wait to be paid until we’re back in Dublin.” Edge said, and Bono nodded in agreement.

“Carra?” Paul asked, and she nodded silently at her father. “Right, so with Carra and I, that makes five people. There is still one person who won’t be getting paid. How do we decide that?”

“Waive Finn’s wages.” Adam said, standing and stretching his long limbs casually.

“What right do you have to decide that?” Carra asked, her eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“Finn is the youngest member of the crew, as well as one of the newest. Not only does that make him a logical choice,” Edge replied in Adam’s stead, “But, he’s also not as likely to be bent on carousing for the nights we’re docked here.”

“And even if he does get angry and tries to resort to violence, he’s the least of our concerns. There’s not one of us he’s likely to do real damage to.” Larry said, reasoning out loud with himself. “All right. If you’re all certain about this?” He asked, looking at each of them and receiving a nod of affirmation. “I’ll see to paying the others.” He said, opening the door and gesturing for them to leave.

“So I guess we go without a decent meal and a bath, as I’d hoped.” Carra said with a sigh as they made their way back on deck.

“Not necessarily.” Adam told her. “There is always money waiting to be had. You just need to be creative enough to find it.”

“We’re not resorting to thievery.” Edge objected, and Adam feigned shock and dismay at the suggestion.

“I never said any such thing!” He told them with a smirk. “But, I’m certain the two of you have, once or twice, had to sing for your supper.” The men smiled at Adam.

“What, exactly, did you have in mind?” Bono asked, his blue eyes twinkling at the prospect.

*********************************************************************

Once the other sailors had been paid, Paul had volunteered himself and Carra to stay on the aingeal and keep an eye on things, wishing the other men luck in their quest.

“Where did you come by that?” Larry asked when Adam hurried along the dock to join them, carrying a snare drum like they used in the military to keep time while marching. Adam grinned and Larry raised his hands and waved them back and forth. “Nevermind. I don’t want to know.” He told his newest friend, hoping his amusement wasn’t clear in his face.

“We’re in luck.” Adam informed them, handing the drum over to Larry. “One of the pubs round the corner there is owned and run by an Irish bloke. He says he’ll be glad to part with our meals and three rooms for the night if we can keep them entertained with some fine Irish music.”

“Well I’ve got the fiddle, Bono’s the voice. Larry, apparently is handling the percussion.” Edge said with a chuckle.

“I can keep a beat.” Larry assured him.

“What do you and young Finn propose to do to earn your keep?” Edge asked Adam.

“As a matter of good fortune he has a bass guitar, and a pianoforte.” Adam informed them as he fell into step, the unlikely group travelling together as naturally as if they’d been born and raised together.

“And can you play the bass guitar or pianoforte?” Larry asked in jest. Not one of them had any real doubt in their mind that he had some musical experience. After all, he had arranged all of this before they had so much as readied themselves to leave the ship.

“I can manage.” Adam told Larry with a wink and a cocky grin. He turned and shot a glance at Fiona which told her that he had no idea what he would do with either one of those musical instruments. She bit her tongue and followed behind the four of them nervously.

“And you?” Bono asked, falling back a step to match pace with her.

“I can play the pianoforte. Some, anyway. I know a few tunes.” She said softly.

“Can you play ‘the rare old mountain dew?’” He asked as he struck a match and lit a cigarette which he’d accepted from Adam.

“Aye.”

“Of course you can. What fine Irish lad doesn’t know ‘rare old mountain dew’?” He said, draping an arm around Finn’s shoulders and neck, in a playful mood. Finn was tense, but Bono didn’t let loose his grip on the boy. If he was going to be a sailor and frequent the dock pubs of the world, Bono figured he needed some toughening up.

“Tim!” Adam greeted the man behind the bar of the dark, smoky pub as if they were old friends. “I told you we’d not be long.” He said and the gruff, portly Irishman behind the bar examined the lot of them through narrowed eyelids. “Have you the keys to those rooms you promised?”

“Let’s see if ye’re worth supper, lad. Then we’ll considered putting ye up.” Tim replied seriously. He gestured for the tiny, slightly raised alcove in the back corner of the room where a dusty old bass guitar, a bass drum and a pianoforte took up three quarters of the floor.

“I think I need some whiskey to prepare me voice.” Bono told the man, grinning at him mischievously. Tim’s mouth quirked up slightly and he poured him one finger of whiskey.

“No more til ye’ve earned it.” He told Bono who swallowed the burning liquid in one gulp.

They were doing well enough, sticking to the bartenders requests; mostly traditional songs he hadn’t heard in years except for when he sang them himself. Not counting the occasional group of drunken sailors bellowing them on their way out the door, that is.

“Something don’t sound right.” Bono complained, and Edge shook his head in agreement. They glanced around at the others, who in turn looked around at each other as well. Larry’s drumming was fine, that was clear enough. Finn had only known one of the songs they’d done and had played that one just fine. It didn’t take long before all eyes fell on Adam who for a long moment stared right back at them with a straight face. Finally, he could no longer hold back his mirth.

“I don’t think it was all that bad considering I’d never touched one of these things in my life.” He told them through his laughter. The other men could not help but chuckle at his bluff, since, thankfully, the mood of the audience was light and they did not end up being booed and tossed off the stage. The other men could not help but chuckle at his bluff, since Edge took hold of Adam’s hand and guided it to pluck first one string, then another, and finally a third.

“Just like that, ok? One, two three, pause. Watch Larry for your timing.” He said and Adam nodded, lifting his smoldering cigarette and holding it between his lips. Fiona hid her smile and did her best to stay invisible. She did not want to be noticed, and to be truthful was not comfortable with the things she saw with her own two eyes. To keep herself from gawking, she kept her eyes on the others in her group and on the keyboard.

The ladies who were working the docks were dressed scandalously, but Fiona reasoned, still not as scandalously as Carra. And Carra, she thought, had turned out to be a fine person. A friend, even. She had to laugh as she thought of her mother and sisters, back home in Dublin, and what they would think of her now. Her younger sister, Emily, would likely faint dead away at the sight of the place. For once in her life she was glad that she was not more like her little sister.

After awhile, the pub owner brought them their meals, which they all ate hungrily. It was a nice change of pace, the fresh food. For too long now they’d survived on salted pork and hard tack, the water having gone bad weeks ago so that they had only ale to drink. She couldn’t help but wonder, though, about Carra and Paul. It didn’t seem fair that they were stuck aboard the ship while the rest of them ate a hearty meal and had real beds to sleep in.

She was nearly finished with her meal before she glanced around the small table at the others. Their plates were all empty, and they had already finished the whiskeys the pub owner had given them. Fiona’s sat untouched before her. She had no real desire to swallow the amber liquid that burned her eyes and nose when she lifted it to examine it. From the way some of the men had winced, she had no doubt that it would burn her throat much worse. Fiona placed the glass back on the table and turned her attention back on her food.

“Haven’t taken a liking to the drink yet?” Larry asked, eyeing the whiskey across the table. Fiona looked up and realized every one of the men were, in fact, looking at it.

“No, I don’t really like…” She started, feeling a bit like a hunted animal.

“Go on, lad. It’ll put hair on yer chest.” Bono encouraged her, patting her hard on the back. Adam happened to be taking a drink of his ale at that moment and laughed so hard at Bono’s words that he choked, nearly spitting his drink on the table.

“Go on, then.” Adam said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Don’t you want hair on yer chest?” Fiona’s face flushed nearly to a shade of scarlet. She pursed her lips and wished she could give him the scolding he deserved for teasing her so when she was helpless to defend herself. She was actually rather afraid, for a moment, that she was going to have to drink the foul liquid herself.

“Leave him alone.” Edge told them, pushing his chair back from the table. “Let’s get back to playing.”

“I’ll take that off your hands.” Adam said, grabbing the glass from in front of Fiona just before Bono’s hand would have reached it. He smirked at the man and tossed the drink back, barely wincing as the alcohol burned it’s way down his throat. Fiona scowled at him in silence, wondering if she wouldn’t have been better off on the ship with Carra and her father. She had seen too often the way men behaved once they had a few drinks in them.

**********************************************************************

Fiona had been the first to retire for the night, just as soon as the pub owner had seen fit to give them access to the bedroom he kept above the pub. There was also a room with a tub for bathing, but she didn’t have the energy to fetch the buckets of water nor the money to pay for the woman in the kitchen to heat the water for her. She had slipped up the stairs and sank down onto the mattress, wishing sleep would take her quickly.

Her mind was wide awake, however, and there was little chance for restful sleep. There were only three room for the five of them. Larry had declared that, as captain, he would not be sharing a bed with anyone. Bono and Edge had been mates and travelling companions long enough that there had been no real question of whether or not they would bunk together. That had left one room for her to share with Adam.

She would have been just nervous, if she were the same girl she had been even the night before. Tonight, after sitting in the pub and watching the way the harlots had acted toward the men she had a million questions eating away at her. If it was such an unpleasant thing, this act which her mother had warned her about, she could not see any sign of it in the eyes of the women offering to do it in trade. In fact, they had seemed almost eager.

Fiona thought of Carra and the way she had kissed Larry, that night near the beginning of their voyage. She thought of the longing in her eyes when she watched him. She wondered if it were possible that, under the right circumstances, it might not be so dreadful a thing. The women had laughed and teased the men, more than one of them offering to take Larry to bed free of charge. Larry had not been amused, though the other men seemed to find it quite funny.

They had still been playing and drinking when Fiona climbed the stairs to find the three bedrooms. She’d taken off her boots and sat there, wondering what she should do. Did she strip down to the nightshirt she wore beneath her men’s clothes? Did she take off the horrible, binding cloth which she wrapped around her chest so that she might sleep in comfort, or would that be to much?

To be sure, none of this was appropriate. She had no guidelines for the way to behave in a situation such as this because she should not be in the situation to begin with. Adam was not the sort of man who was shocked or offended, that much was certain. He had said, more than once, that he believed a man should not be forced to wear pants when it was not cold weather. She couldn’t help but giggle at the man’s audacity. He challenged all the rules, but, she had noticed, rarely actually broke them.

She slipped out of the boys breeches and let the over shirt slip off her shoulders as she unbuttoned it, discarding the clothes on the floor in a pile. Adam had made it clear to her that he posed her no threat. He did not have the ill intentions for her that her own father had harbored. The truth was, she did trust Adam. She trusted him more than any man she’d ever known. She unwrapped herself and discarded the long sheet of fabric with her other clothes, breathing easily in her loose fitting night shirt, truly comfortable for the first time in weeks.

She made use of the wash basin and pitcher of water, washing up and wondering if that bath would have been worth the work after all. She ran her fingers through her shaggy blonde hair and wondered what it looked like, now. It had grown some, while they were at sea, but it was still far shorter than she’d ever worn it before. She found a small looking glass on the table near the wash basin and stared into it for a long moment. Her blonde hair curled around her ears and cheeks now, making her look like a pixie or some other fairy tale creature.

She blinked her wide hazel eyes in surprise. Had she ever seen this stranger in the mirror? She smiled softly at the metamorphosis she had undergone, seeing for the first time what Adam saw when he looked at her. She replaced the mirror on the table and turned the lantern down low. As she slipped into bed, she could still hear the music and laughter drifting up from below. This was not such a terrible life, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

She woke with a start when a loud crashing noise broke the near silence of the now completely darkened bedroom. She felt every muscle in her body tense, and her eyes snapped open. She held her breath as she listened to Adam mutter a string of curses at the chair which had tripped him as he attempted to slip into the room without disturbing her.

She held her breath and feigned sleep as he shuffled across the floor and hit the bed hard. She felt the mattress shift as he fell backwards against it all at once. She could smell the whiskey on him, and a cold fear gripped her heart as memories of her father were brought to mind. Men were best left alone when they’d been in the bottle, her mother had said.

She wasn’t sure what she was expecting him to do, exactly, but the anticipation had brought her to complete wakefulness. She lay there waiting, wondering if he was going to sit up and shed his boots at least for a moment before she heard his breathing become deep and even. After every three or four breaths he would mumble something nonsensical and shift his position slightly, but it was clear he posed no threat. Fiona breathed a sigh of relief and eventually, sleep took her once more.

When next she came to awareness, it was a slower, more pleasant process. She could hear the bells on the ships arriving and leaving port in the early morning hours. The sounds of merchants with their carts, bringing in their goods to sell that day. From somewhere nearby, the smell of bread baking wafted in through the window, and Fiona felt warm and safe. She smiled as she drew in a deep breath and stretched her sleepy muscles.

That was when she realized something was amiss. She was warmer than she should be for the temperature in the room, and her back was pressed up against something that was not the mattress. Her heart began to speed as she looked down at her waist to see the strikingly large hand which rested limply against her belly. Her gaze followed the arm to which that hand was attached to find that she had been sleeping cradled up against Adam, his chest against her back, and his legs entangled with her own. She drew in a sharp breath and bit her lip in shock.

Adam mumbled something into his pillow and tightened his grip on her waist, pulling her closer and pressing himself tighter against her. Fiona wasn’t certain what to do. Did she wrestle her way out of the situation, waking him in the process? It was quite possible he was not aware of the position they were in, she told herself. Maybe she could wiggle free of his grasp when he shifted in his sleep, and then she would not have to face the intimacy of the moment with him.

As she lay there considering the situation, it occurred to her that there was nothing particularly unpleasant about the moment. If she were honest with herself, she realized, she would rather like to stay right there like that. It felt safe, to be held so close to him that the warmth from his body radiated into her. She could feel his heartbeat against her back, her breathing falling into an easy, natural rhythm with his. There was something deep inside of her that stirred, not quite awake yet, but struggling up into her awareness. It did not feel wrong to be so close to this man. In fact, it felt completely right.

Adam sighed in his sleep, turning his head slightly and nuzzling against her hair, his mouth against the back of her neck. His breath hitting the sensitive skin there sent a shiver through her, but not in any bad way. She wondered at what an odd thing it was to take such pleasure in. A part of her was still worrying about propriety, but her curious nature was emerging, starting to overcome her inhibitions. She stretched again, as she had started to moments earlier, and once again when she stretched, Adam pressed tighter against her.

She fell still when he began to stir, his hand rubbing her belly through her nightshirt, one of his legs sliding up between her own. She felt his full, soft lips brush over that sensitive skin on her neck in a series of feathery kisses which literally made her begin to tremble. She turned her head, thinking he was awake and saw that his eyes were still closed, his face relaxed. He was acting on instinct, as far as she could tell.

She studied his face for a moment, the aristocratic features, and especially that proud chin and thick lower lip. Her little sister, Penny, had already been courted by several young men. Penny had told her, once, that there was no harm in kissing a suitor. Her logic had been that of all of the intimacies shared between a man and wife, a kiss was truly the most pleasant. She would not wish to spend her life with a man whose kiss she did not enjoy. Fiona had never been bold enough to accept a kiss anywhere but on her cheek.

She thought about the kisses she’d seen exchanged in her life and realized that she wanted to know what it was like. Just out of curiosity, she told herself as her eyes scanned Adam’s face for any signs that he might be waking. He seemed to have slipped back into a deep slumber, and Fiona reasoned with herself that he wouldn’t mind. He was a self-admitted ladies man, having kissed more than one woman in his life. Her heart was pounding wildly against her ribcage as she tentatively closed the distance between their faces, her lips finding his. She held her position there, completely still for a moment.

She couldn’t say that it was a particularly pleasant or unpleasant thing, really. Then, she brushed her lips over his, a jolt of excitement washing through her at the sensation. She tried again, her lips finding his more firmly this time. A pleasant warmth followed where the tingles of excitement had spread through her body.

“Oh!” she heard herself moan, though she hadn’t intended to speak out loud. She leaned in for just one more kiss, and as their lips met, she felt Adam draw in a sudden breath as he began to wake. He hummed in approval as he shifted his head and returned her kiss. His lips brushed over hers once and then again and again, the third time his lips opening and the tip of his tongue tracing her lower lip.

His massive hand slid up along her side as his tongue became more aggressive, trying to coax her lips apart. Fiona let her lips part slightly, acting out of instinct, and Adam’s tongue slipped into her mouth to caress her own tongue in a slow, sultry rhythm. His hand covered her breast and began to knead gently, and Fiona drew in a deep breath, her body tensing. Her sudden tension made Adam draw back and open his eyes to look down at her. He blinked at her, his mind trying to understand what was wrong.

Suddenly, his mind recognized the lovely, nymph-like woman in his arms and Adam jolted upright in surprise.

“Jaysus! I’m sorry, Fiona!” He told her, swinging his legs over the opposite edge of the bed, turning his back to her. He ran a hand over his hair and rubbed the back of his neck.

“It’s alright.” She told him softly, sitting and drawing her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs.

“No, it’s not.” Adam said. “I –“ He let out a slow breath and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. He turned to look at her, his blue eyes washing over slowly. He could hardly believe his eyes.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked, shrinking further into her nightshirt and chewing on her lower lip anxiously.

“I – I had no idea.” He told her, reaching out and cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand. “You’re – older than I thought you were.”

“I’m seventeen.” She told him, staring at him as he looked at her again.

“Why aren’t you married?” He asked, honestly baffled.

“I – my family is not wealthy.” She replied. “There weren’t any suitors lining up to wed the plain daughter of a drunk and a wash woman.”

“Luv, you are far from plain.” Adam told her seriously. “I feel as if I woke up beside an angel.” Fiona felt the blood rush to her face, her eyes falling to look at the blanket. No one had ever looked at her the way Adam was right then. “How am I supposed to pretend you’re anything else now?” He wondered aloud, his thumb stroking her cheek.

“Please, Adam!” Fiona asked, her eyes wide with concern. “I cannot be myself. It isn’t safe for me to be anything other than Finn.” Adam leaned back away from her, withdrawing his hand from her face and nodding. Perhaps it was fate punishing him for his philandering. He’d just woken with a beautiful woman in his bed. A woman with whom he’d become friends over the past weeks. A woman who was innocent and who needed his help. A woman who his conscience would not allow him to touch.

“You’re right. Of course.” He agreed, standing and leaving the room without looking back at her. It had been a fun secret before. Now, it was going to be torture.
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Old 10-03-2005, 08:25 PM   #2
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Fab!!
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Old 10-03-2005, 09:24 PM   #3
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can't wait for more!
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Old 10-04-2005, 05:04 AM   #4
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Old 10-04-2005, 11:53 AM   #5
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I just had a chance to catch up with this story (stupid homework) and it's great, keep up the good work
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Old 10-04-2005, 04:09 PM   #6
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That's evil, leaving us off there *whines*
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Old 10-05-2005, 01:49 AM   #7
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Adam and Fiona. Oh, my.

Will we see more soon, SG? An extended scene, perhaps?
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Old 10-05-2005, 07:25 AM   #8
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Old 10-05-2005, 10:29 AM   #9
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More please!
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Old 10-05-2005, 08:49 PM   #10
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Hey, this keeps getting better and better. I especially like Adam's conflict and his worry that this is some kind of punishment. Can't wait for the next part!
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Old 10-06-2005, 12:41 AM   #11
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I really like where this story is going.
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Old 10-06-2005, 08:02 AM   #12
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I am completely smittem with this story... Please write more soon! It's wonderful!!
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