15. Hurting Each Other

Chapter 15

Hurting Each Other

Satel explained what’d happened that led to that …‘disaster’, mildly putting it, at the port. I was at first amused, but was concerned that just one encounter with Delar had made him feel that way. I pegged it as being frustrated from the entire day, rather than it being the simple reason of seeing someone he didn’t like. Satel didn’t get angry that easily- not even if he had to speak with Cyirlie- so something else had to be bothering him too.

To be safe, I came clean immediately – before he found out from someone else – that I had known about Delar’s misdeeds. I didn’t want him to think that I was maliciously hiding anything from him, as I was aiming to break it to him gently over the coming days- just like what he does to me. He was upset at first, but at least he did give me the chance to explain- but it took him a half hour before he understood and forgave me. I found that disturbing, as he’d usually forgive me almost instantly if I apologized- which I did.

My mate then spent the next few days brooding in the cabin, only lightening up when Rutan asked for sword lessons or when I took a break to spend time with him. I couldn’t believe this affair with Delar had affected him so much- he’d told me before of the information he’d obtained from my friends and that lady pirate I had yet to meet. I had thought he would’ve recovered quickly and gone back to his investigations, since they did seem important, but…

I wouldn’t say that Satel was afraid– but he was certainly still pissed off. I had a feeling that he was just trying to cool down before he went back to work, so he wouldn’t make a terrible mistake. I was worried though because I never took so long to let go of my anger. Well, that wasn’t exactly true- I could hold a grudge for a while. It’s just that I didn’t dwell on it for very long after the transgression. My brooding only lasted a day or two- his lasted almost a week.

But when his bad mood finally seemed to pass, he began heading off to find these ‘Tau’ people he’d heard about, and learn of their connection with the Fodaren clan. I was worried his investigations would lead him back to Delar again, but nothing came up, even though he’d been searching for two weeks. Maybe they were just missing each other- or perhaps Satel wasn’t trying to find him, as I suspected he would. He was clearly still upset, so I’d thought he’d be seeking a fight- but I guess I was mistaken.

In the meantime, I’d made two raids on Daedeleth soil- after passing their ‘earth island’ homestead, but before crossing into a new sea. I would’ve loved to stage an attack right at their door, but their homestead was odd- as an ‘earth island’, I couldn’t technically touch it because it didn’t have any beaches. It was the sole property of Kajros.

There was some ‘seafarer law’ that dictated who would be born a seafarer or a landlubber. It was wordy and confusing, but I translated it to ‘any child born within five miles of a beach is a seafarer’. That also meant that any land within those same boundaries also belonged to Elit. The only exception to that law was the ‘lava law’, where any island more than twenty miles wide was the property of Harishul – the fire god – regardless if it had any beaches. The whole concept was just a mess.

To make matters worse, Eruda was yet another exception to the rule- it was created as an earth island despite the lava law – so it should’ve belonged to Kajros – because he had created it to imprison a sea goddess. Now, because she had made pacts with the humans on her cage, it stood as a water island despite it having no beaches. Elati was certainly a rebel- all this confusion with Eruda was her fault, just because she had to act out.

Though I was doing business as I usually did, I still felt as though I was relaxing on vacation the moment we crossed the sea’s borders. All that annoying tension Tiata tried to send my way faded, and I felt much better. Unfortunately, it was getting close to mid-spring, so I couldn’t linger for too long in Anatil’s waters before heading over to see what all the fuss in Naia was about. Though with the way everything seemed so lax over there, maybe I could afford to head over there by mid-summer.

But at the same time, there weren’t that many coastal cities here in Anatil that produced weapons. The pirates around here never really needed my help, much like in Elati- they only needed me for bigger heists. There were rare times nobles might bring a valued treasure to the coast and have it heavily guarded, and having me help made the difference.

I think I just wanted to stay longer because of the calm atmosphere. Of course there was more to it than that- Satel’s birthday was quickly approaching, and since the man meant so much to me, I made it to where we celebrated a few days before his birthday. This was so he could spend each day celebrating with his different families – first with the crew and Rutan, then we had a day to ourselves, then we’d go to the homestead so he could spend his big day with his birth family.

It was probably unnecessary, but I wanted to give my boys a reason to party, and I wanted to go on a date with him- something we didn’t get very often. And, of course, he wanted to be with his clan for his special day. Seeing as I couldn’t bring my crew to the homestead, and because The Cruel Whore was too small to fit every falucite, it just made more sense to add on more days.

Though this meant I had to do the same for Rutan when his birthday came up. It was only fair.

We’d already had the first party with the crew two days ago, at the tavern of a black market island. Not really appropriate for a birthday party, but it was perfect for a man who wanted a taste of the pirate life. But today was special- not only was it the day for Satel and I to celebrate together, but the annual festival in Osel happened to be today.

It was a festival we attended every year, and it served as something like an anniversary for when we became mates. Though it wasn’t the place where we’d met, nor was it even the place where he’d ‘asked’ (more like ‘insisted’) for me to be his mate. But it was special to him because that was where we’d first kissed- and subsequently, where he’d first decided he was interested in me.

Regardless, I looked forward to it every year. The music was better than the off-key, drunken tones the bands at the annual meeting could come up with, and the festival lasted all night. It was one of those occasions where we could just dance the night away.

It was already getting close to dusk as I waited for Satel on the quarterdeck, letting Rohje take the helm. My quartermaster was already busy assuming his role as the second in command and babysitter of Rutan. My mate still had some last minute business he wanted to finish before leaving- something about gathering information about establishing bars.

He’d mentioned to me before about his idea of turning our settlement into a pirate’s hangout, and I immediately liked the idea. He seemed to be spending half his time lately planning for that, while the rest was devoted to his covert missions to find out what the ‘other forces’ – namely the Fodaren – were up to. I trusted that he wasn’t trying to get into trouble, at least today, and that he wouldn’t arrive too late.

But while I trusted that he would show up, I had to hope that he wasn’t going to arrive angry. Just about anything could set him off nowadays… and I didn’t want a repeat of what happened a month ago. Him storming off in a huff once was one time too many.

I was all dressed up for this night- I still had my usual red skirt with black ruffles on, but this time I only had the left side ruched while the right cascaded down to my ankles. Something about ruffles appealed to me- I thought they looked nice when dancing to the cheery, upbeat songs. I went without my usual leggings, choosing to leave my legs bare, though it was only part of my left leg that was exposed, and it was only to the knee.

Since it was a warm spring night, I put on a red satin corset with black lace and a black mid-sleeved blouse that buttoned up to just above my naval. The neckline dipped far below my breasts, exposing the corset and creating a heart shaped design from it. Since it was now common for corsets to be shown, usually outside of the shirt, I knew the humans in Osel wouldn’t think anything scandalous about the attire.

And while I did look like a fashionable lady waiting for her date, I managed to also appear tough as I rested a hand on my hip. It was out of habit that I did so- maintaining the air of control and high self-esteem usually kept the men at bay and reduced their unwanted attention. I found out a long time ago that desperate men or cowardly drunks try to go after those they thought were weak or as desperate as they were.

And, of course, I did this to remind my own men that I was still me despite the very feminine clothing. I knew Hammer was focused on my cleavage, anyway.

Rutan was being unusually somber, walking around with something on his mind rather than running about, looking for mischief to get in to. I had to wonder what bothered him, and I was soon answered when he finally decided to approach me and speak his mind.

“Ma? Can ah go wit’ ye an’ Pappy? Ah promise ta behave meself,” he pleaded, tugging at my skirt.

I made a wry grin as I glanced down at him. “Lad, don’t make promises ye know ye can’t keep,” I teased, kneeling down to his level. “Why do ye want ta go wit’ us? “

I was admittedly curious about his request, seeing as he was well aware what a date was and that I was going on one with his pappy. Rutan didn’t mix well with romance- he didn’t want to see it or think about it.

“Ah want ta see a landlubber city,” he answered simply, before continuing without any prodding. “Ye ne’er take me anywhere beyond the ship- an’ the places we visit we either go straight ta the tavern or go in an’ out fast fer a raid.”

I suppose he had a point there- he couldn’t enjoy the places we’d visit if he wasn’t allowed to explore. But I couldn’t let him run around in flaming cities, though I had no excuse as to why I couldn’t go with him to explore the pirate-friendly ports. Somehow, I didn’t think that would be enough- like all pirates, he’d probably would want to have the freedom to wander where he wanted when he wanted, without my worry-wart input.

“That mebbe so, an’ ah could fix that situation wit’ some plannin’, but why do ye want ta go see the places where landlubbers dwell?” I inquired, still curious. He could’ve asked me a long time ago to let him explore other port towns, or go with me on the rare occasions that I needed to visit some seafaring towns on my own, but he hadn’t. Why now?

The boy only shrugged, seeming unable to come up with a good reply. “Curious,” he mumbled honestly, obviously worried that it might not be enough to convince me. “Ah jus’ want ta see landlubbers up close an’ see if they are really as daft as the others say.”

I chuckled at that- my goodness, it seemed this Rutan was an early bloomer. The wisdom that my pappy possessed eventually worked its way into the brain of his child forms and awakened a philosophical awareness. The last incarnation developed this mentality at twelve, so apparently it wasn’t an age thing.

Though that wasn’t to say Rutan was wise yet, as he didn’t receive his collected wisdom until the Blessing of Knowledge when he turned twenty. It’s just that Pappy always had the capacity to absorb his experiences and his surroundings with an unbiased mind, enabling him to learn the facts of life by just living it. So it’s no surprise that he would keep learning all over again until he regained his memories.

I rubbed his head affectionately. “Believe me, ye can find no human more daft than a landlubber, but ah suppose ye do have a right to learn why we think so,” I replied with a smirk. It wasn’t so much that earth dwellers were really stupid- it was just that their views and opinions clashed drastically with ours, and we could never see eye to eye. Sometimes having Pappy’s memories was a blessing for me, too – four thousand years of history made me really sure of my answer.

As for why I thought that way- we seafarers relied on families and communal growth, while they relied on individuality and earning fortunes for themselves. There wasn’t anything wrong with that, but I personally felt that one couldn’t succeed in life alone. What was the point in having a family if you didn’t help them, or receive help in return?

Though there was one thing we could agree on- we both thought the other side was full of imbeciles.

“So does that mean ah can come!?” he asked excitedly, hoping that I’d changed my mind.

I shook my head. “‘Fraid not- this be a special night fer yer pappy an’ ah. But ah can see if we can take ye somewhere next week, once e’erythin’ settles down,” I replied, hoping he wouldn’t get too down. Even for a maturing eight year old, a week could feel like a year to him.

But the time was necessary- I was going to have to run it by Satel first, since I needed his teleport magicks to get us there, and we needed to time it right so the crew wouldn’t be caught off guard while we’re away. …Though I suppose I could just let the boys go without me and have a father and son outing, but… I was hoping to encourage more family time together. It depended on what Satel was in the mood for, I guess.

“Ye promise?” he inquired dubiously, upset about having to be patient and unsure that I would even remember in a week’s time. Silly boy- unlike him, I never forgot my promises.

“Ah promise,” I confirmed with a soft grin.

Rutan still didn’t seem satisfied as he tilted his head and asked in a skeptical tone, “Are ye makin’ a promise ye know ye can’t keep?”

I laughed out loud at the rather adorable use of my prior words. “Ah swear on the pure Erudian blood that runs through me veins that ah’ll do e’erythin’ in me ability ta get ye ta see a landlubber city,” I promised him, earning a bright smile from him.

“Okay, thanks Ma!” he shouted happily as he backed away. He then ran off while saying, “If ye break yer promise, then yer no longer an Erudian!”

I chuckled again at his speedy withdrawal and wondered if I should later correct him on that. No matter what I did, I would always be Erudian- but if I didn’t do as I swore, then I’d definitely lose my honor and credibility with him. I thought back on what I’d told him and how I could mess it up and still keep my word, but I had no intentions of letting him down- it just only served to remind me to teach him how to catch loopholes as the rules were being made.

Though the boy excelled at finding loopholes – at least for his age – I didn’t want him to make the mistake of trusting the wrong person and getting scammed because of a simple twist of words.

I remained squatting for a minute longer before I decided to stand again. Just as I was upright, my backside collided with a firm body and hands gripped my hips to steady me. Before I could even register what was happening, those hands reached for mine and twirled me around the face the man behind me. I was soon met with the sight of my mate before I was all but crushed against him in a tight hug.

“You’re beautiful as always, my sirsa,” he whispered into my ear, his breath warm against my skin. I smirked as he fit a hand between us so he could dig a finger into the valley of the sweetheart line of my corset. I wonder what his fascination was with sticking his fingers in my cleavage?

I leaned up to kiss him before checking him out as well. So as not to attract too much attention with the landlubbers, he’d decided on his usual brown vest, a sea green dress shirt, and ordinary brown trousers with some sea green threading- sea green was my favorite color.

Though he hadn’t done so in years, he’d decided not to wear anything white. He used to wear all black or shades of grey so that he’d look evil personified to the land dwellers. Since his maturing, he claimed that he didn’t even play with his ‘toys’ anymore- said he was too old for them. Imagine that- I still played with my toy sometimes, so I guess I was still a kid.

I couldn’t resist playing with his platinum strands as I pulled away. I then toyed with his über hat while thinking of a nice compliment to give him. I wasn’t very good with words when it came to flattery, but he usually got the message if I added a few extra kisses at the end.

“Ah wish ah could think o’ something more than ‘ye look handsome’,” I ended up telling him. I earned a smirk.

“Your eyes say it all, so I know what you mean,” he reassured me before stealing another quick kiss.

He seemed to be in a good mood, which meant that his business for the day went well. Perhaps I could ask about Rutan before we left, then I could get it out of the way and focus more on Satel. I smiled up at him and gently tugged at his ascot.

“Did ye overhear wot Rutan an’ ah were discussing?” I inquired first, unsure of how long he’d been behind me. There was a chance he already knew what was going on and it would be nice to skip over the explanations.

He made a noise as he shook his head in reply, indicating that he had not overheard anything. I pulled back a little and gave him an amused smile.

“Rutan wanted ta come wit’ us ‘cause he-” I didn’t get to finish as Satel interrupted with a clipped, and mildly irritated, “No.”

I was slightly put off at how fast he’d answered without hearing the whole story, but I immediately dismissed it as him thinking that I was going to acquiesce with Rutan’s plea.

“Ah know,” I agreed instantly to calm him down, “Ah already told him that, but ah wanted ta tell ye-”

“No,” he repeated more forcefully, his brows now furrowing.

I mirrored his look. “Will ye at least let me finish talkin’?” I snapped irritably. I didn’t know what his problem was, but the least he could do was hear me out before jumping to conclusions.

“You’re going to ask that we bring him along anyway and give me some reason why it would be beneficial to him,” my mate intoned dryly.

“No ah ain’t!” I shouted defensively as I backed away from him more. His words bothered me more than it should have. Though he was partially in the right, as this was supposed to be our day, his immediate refusal insinuated that he didn’t want to spend any time with Rutan at all.

“You added ‘but’ in there- meaning that you were going to make a compromise in his favor,” Satel stated, all traces of affection being replaced with annoyance. “I’m well aware how much this ‘family time’ means to you lately, but tonight was supposed to be about us. I’d like to have you all to myself once in a while, you know.”

“That’s a vial of kwiad rue,” I muttered harshly, trying to keep my voice down so Rohje – who was still nearby – couldn’t hear, “Ye have me every night, an’ even sometimes during the day. An’ while we haven’t had had an outin’ in a while, it wouldn’t kill us ta include Rutan sometimes. Ye know the lad thinks the world o’ us- we’re his parents, remember?”

In hindsight, I probably should have rushed my explanation in that I didn’t want to cancel our plans for the evening and instead arrange something later, but I was so pissed off at him that all I could think of was to defend myself. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to him- Satel used to listen to me all the way through before forming an opinion and making a choice. I didn’t think that trait had meant so much to me, but it hurt that he wasn’t even giving me a chance.

Satel acted as though I’d hit him before his lips drew into a deep frown. “If that’s how you feel, then fine,” he muttered angrily. “RUTAN!”

I glared at him more as I wondered what he was up to. We hadn’t resolved the argument, so I highly doubted he was going to see my way and fix anything. But as Rutan ran up to the quarterdeck, I grew worried that he was going to call the boy out and blame him for this argument. Maybe Rutan was the subject, but he wasn’t at fault, and didn’t deserve to be trapped in the middle.

“Aye Pappy?” the shaggy haired boy said once he was close enough. I was about to open my mouth to make a plea to leave our son out of this, but he was talking before I could form the first word.

“Your mother and I talked about it, so we’re going to Osel together,” Satel replied in a pleasant tone, confusing me completely. What happened to ‘it’s supposed to be our night’?

“Satel, ah-” I was about to protest and try to clear things up, but Rutan got excited and cut me off.

“Really!?” he shouted happily before glancing up at me with a brilliant smile, “Thanks Ma!”

“But…” I trailed off, unsure if I should say anything. I still kind of wanted to go on a date with Satel alone, but I didn’t want to crush Rutan with the truth.

“Come along rissr’a falcie,” Satel said, gesturing for the bouncing-in-place child to stand beside him. They then turned away from me before the blond man looked at me from over his shoulder. His rust colored eyes seemed to gleam in the waning sunlight as he gave me a very evil smirk and added in a taunting voice, “Don’t wait up for us.”

My eyes widened and my jaw dropped when he teleported away with Rutan in tow. He… he left without me- that bastard went without me! What in five hells was his problem!?

Even if he was doing it under the delusion that it was what I wanted, I said nothing of him going without me. He clearly did this to punish me- but for what? I didn’t do anything wrong!

“D-… did he jus’…” Rohje trailed off, then flinched when my angry eyes darted over to him.

I didn’t know what was going on with Satel, but what he’d just done was inexcusable. Somehow this topped his debacle at our dinner back in Gominta, and this time I was in no mood to forgive him so easily.

“Er… Capt’n?” my quartermaster called out nervously when I didn’t speak. Though my eyes were on him, they were unfocused as I immersed myself in angry thoughts. What was it Satel had said before departing- ‘don’t wait up’? Fine!

“Rohje, ye still have command fer the evenin’,” I growled out before storming toward the stairs, “Ah’m goin’ ta bed.”

“Erm… aye, aye, capt’n,” he replied, somewhat stunned with what had happened.

Instead of going to my cabin, I instead went through the kitchen and climbed down to the lower decks through the dining area below it. I then headed off to the storage area with a gas lamp to light my way. Maybe it was petty of me, but I was going to take Satel’s advice to heart- I wasn’t going to wait for him.

He got a free pass the first time, but I wasn’t going to let him fly off the handle and treat me like a disobedient pet every time something crawled up his ass. No- tonight he was going to sleep alone.

After making sure that no one was around to see me, I snuck around to where the spare boats were being kept. I then crawled under an overturned one and shut off my lamp. As long as no one saw me, Satel wouldn’t be able to find me later- the sea was too noisy for him to listen for me, and while his nose was sharp, he couldn’t trace me down by smell alone.

I lay flat on my back on the hardwood floor and crossed my arms over my chest. The boat above me curved up enough so that I had a little room, but not enough to toss and turn in. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to sleep, but it would do- no one would know where to find me, and I hoped, just a little bit, that it might make him panic a little.

Though really I should be kicking him out of our bed, rather than looking elsewhere, but I knew it would be a futile attempt to tell him to go away. He would just stubbornly climb in anyway and make it to where I’d be trapped in bed with him. It was better this way.

…But I did end up amusing myself with a brief thought of sending the last person on board who pissed me off to sleep there in my place. I could only imagine the look on Satel’s face to see some man in our bed when he’d be expecting me. Alas, the prank died before I could really think about it- Satel would end up traumatizing the man, and I didn’t like the thought of someone else sleeping there anyway. Our bed was kind of sacred to us, in a way.

It was through sheer will power that I managed to force myself to sleep under the circumstance. I barely remembered to grate out a brief song in dedication to Elit before my mind drifted off to oblivion.

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

When I woke, only darkness met my eyes, and my back was killing me. It took a while before my mind caught up and reminded me of where I was. I blindly reached out for the gas lamp and switched it on before gingerly crawling out of my hiding place. I glanced around at the restrained stacks of crates and barrels with bleary eyes and then wondered what the time was. I had no way to tell if it was morning or still the dead of night.

I couldn’t say for certain that I’d received enough rest, but I didn’t think I would be able to doze off again on the hard floor. I stretched a little, feeling many bones popping in protest, before I haggardly pulled myself up to stand, using some nearby crates to steady me. I was so sluggish and stiff that I felt like an old woman…

There was no need for me to sneak around once I was out of the storage area- I ended up climbing to the main deck through the hatch instead of going through the dining area and kitchen again. I was greeted by crisp air and faint light of the rising sun as I pulled myself out of the hole. I actually slept through the night- sure didn’t feel like it.

At the moment, I was just empty. I refused to think of Satel’s actions last night, if only to keep myself from feeling for the next few minutes. Without even thinking, my feet managed to lead me to the corridor under the quarterdeck, and I stopped myself before reaching my cabin. It was probably not a good idea to go in there just yet- not if Satel was waiting for me.

I instead looked over to Rutan’s door and wondered if he’d made it back safely. I had no reason to believe Satel would do anything to harm the boy, but my maternal instinct demanded to see him just to satisfy the nagging in the back of my head. I cracked open the door just a little to peer inside and let out a smile at the sight of the boy curled up under his bed sheets.

It was amazing how innocent he appeared when his eyes were closed- it was a far cry from the terror he tried to be during the day.

Though I hadn’t intended to, I pushed open the door a little more and discovered that he wasn’t alone. There, laying next to him on top of the sheets, was Satel.

My mate was still in the clothes he wore last night and seemed to be dozing stiffly beside Rutan. His über hat was covering most of his face, but I was able to see a deep frown on his lips, indicating that he was still angry, even in his sleep.

…Or rather, I thought he was asleep- my heart jumped in my chest when his head tilted up suddenly and his eyes locked onto mine from the shadows of his hat. With a jolt of adrenaline I closed the door and strode out to the main deck, fury rekindled.

He was sure to follow me, so I wanted to put in enough distance between our inevitable confrontation and the eyes and ears of others. Luckily it was still early, meaning that most of the crew wasn’t up yet. The only ones out were the watch stationed at the masts and the scheduled helmsman.

Deciding that the quarterdeck was the perfect battlefield, I strolled up the stairs and dismissed the man on duty. “Ah’ll take o’er from here- ye go get some extra rest,” I told him as I grabbed the wheel.

Apparently he wasn’t aware of the coming storm and gave me a grateful look before saluting and leaving. Just as he descended the stairs, Satel ascended on the other side, stone faced and tense. I regretted not having enough time to compose myself as he stormed over to stand beside me.

“Where were you?” he inquired frostily.

I had to take a minute to decide how to respond to that. I was somewhat offended that he honestly expected me to be waiting in bed for him when he came back home, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings- much.

“It’s none o’ yer business. Ah’m entitled ta find other places ta sleep when ah don’t want ta take yer abuse like a docile wench. It’s simple- piss me off, ye sleep alone,” I muttered angrily, matching his tone.

“Piss you off?” he hollered incredulously, “That’s funny since I did what you wanted-”

I whirled around to face him, keeping my dominant hand on the wheel to stop myself from hitting him. “Ye have no idea wot ah wanted! Ye ne’er let me finish me sentence!”

I was going to do the same to him as he did to me, and patiently waited for him to explain himself. He started, his voice laced with frustration. “But you-”

I sneered and jumped in, “Ah didn’t get ta say anythin’! Ye jus’ assumed that’s wot ah wanted an’ punished me fer nothin’,” I barked, earning a grunt as he was cut off, then a low growl. Having made my point, I wasn’t going to keep up with it, unlike him- I still wanted to hear his reason for jilting me.

“I wasn’t trying to punish you- I thought you wanted time away from me. You really hurt my feelings last night when you insinuated that you didn’t want to spend time with me,” he told me, stupidly trying to pin the blame on me to justify his actions.

“AH DIDN’T INSINUATE NOTHIN’!” I roared, furious that he would go so low and act so stupid.

My outburst stunned him, and I ended up taking advantage of that as my free hand shot out and fisted in his ascot. In a fit of rage, I yanked his form against me and deliberately slammed my forehead against his. I ignored the pain and kept him in place so I could stare him straight in the eyes. I didn’t know why he wouldn’t listen to me yesterday, but he was certainly listening now.

I then spoke slowly in a low, infuriated tone, “How dare ye even think ah don’t want ta spend time wit’ ye. Ah look forward ta goin’ ta the festival e’ery year wit’ ye, an’ ah didn’t want ta bring Rutan along fer it. Mebbe ah posed the question at a poor time, but ah wanted ta ask if we could plan somethin’ together next week!” I tossed him back roughly, using enough force to make him unsteady on his feet.

“If anyone is hurt, it’s me. Ah thought ye trusted me an’ cared ‘bout wot ah have ta say,” I finished with a hard glare.

There was a long pregnant silence as the blond man stared back at me with a bewildered expression. Whatever was fueling his indignation seemed to have vanished as my words got through to him. It wasn’t until I began to feel a burning sensation in my eyes when guilt hit him full force.

“Oh Maker… ‘Tia, I didn’t mean to-”

I turned away from him as tears threatened to well up in my eyes. “Jus’ go- ah don’t want ta see yer face fer the rest o’ the day,” I said, struggling to quell the growing sadness in me. This was not worth crying over- and I wasn’t going to shed a tear in front of him.

“Don’t say that- I’m really sorry about how I acted,” Satel replied desperately as he tried to put a hand on my shoulder. I was quick to slap his hand away.

“Don’t,” I sternly muttered, refusing to look at him. “Ye know how ah am right now. Ah can’t even stand ta look at ye, ah’m so angry an’ disappointed. Jus’ give me a day ta cool off an’ we’ll talk later tonight.”

“But ‘Tia-dear…” he whispered sorrowfully as he stepped into my personal space. He tried to hug me, but I used one arm to keep him back- the action probably crushing him greatly.

“Ah’m angry, but ah don’t hate ye. Ah know we’ll get o’er this an’ settle this later, but ah need me space first. Please let me have it, Satel,” I requested, hoping he’d get the message and leave me alone. If he stayed any longer, I might end up crying, or decking him- one of the two.

He stubbornly remained there, debating his next move. Though I refused to see his face, I could tell he was now distraught and remorseful- maybe he was sorry for what he’d done, but he was sorry the last time, too. Apologizing meant nothing if he couldn’t stop himself from doing it again.

“…I …I understand,” he eventually muttered in a rush before backing away. He slowly made his way back to the stairs, not completely willing to leave me alone, but struggling to respect my request. He paused again at the first step before saying, “I do hope you’ll find it in yourself to forgive me. I love you so much, and it hurts me to know that I’ve hurt you.”

I didn’t respond to that- I couldn’t bear to give him any hope that mere words would fix anything. I knew he loved me – and I still felt the same way about him – but that didn’t explain his snappish behavior, nor why he was getting upset with me for no reason. He wasn’t always like this, and I hoped that this fiasco would help him realize that something had changed between us.

Cruel as it might be, leaving him to think that I might not forgive him would lead him to seriously think over his actions. Maybe then we could finally get to the bottom of this and truly put it behind us.

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

Over the day Rutan seemed to have found himself acting as a messenger between Satel and I. True to his word, Satel didn’t show his face on deck, but he seemed to have missed the point of leaving me alone. So, in true Lord of the Sea fashion, he found a loophole to abuse and enlisted our son to help his cause.

I didn’t suspect it at first because the first time Rutan came up to visit me, it was to excitedly tell me the fun he’d had with Satel yesterday. Despite the turmoil and grief of the argument, I was still glad Rutan enjoyed himself and got to spend time with his father figure. If only it had ended at that…

After a while the boy left after learning Satel was still on board, and then came back not too long after to feed me another story. I knew instantly that Satel had sent him, because Rutan began telling me how much he and Satel missed me while away- the little fibber.

While I didn’t doubt that Satel might’ve felt bad on the trip, I had a feeling Rutan added his own input to make himself look good. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t care about me- I just couldn’t believe that he honestly spared me much thought during the excitement of seeing something new. Still, I had no question that Rutan did feel bad now that he was aware that something was wrong. I kind of wished Satel had kept his mouth shut- Rutan didn’t need to be involved in this.

I didn’t really respond to anything involving Satel’s feelings, but I did counter Rutan’s with dry humor and sent him on his way. The next time he approached me, he returned with another story and a gift of some jewelry, claiming that he and Satel won it at the festival for me. I told him to keep it, though I inwardly realized that doing so would send a bad message to Rutan- I didn’t want him to think that he could profit from every fight his parents had.

But I wanted to ensure that Satel didn’t get it in his head that giving me gifts would solve anything either. Frankly he should know better by now- he’d known me for over sixty years, after all. …Though because I knew him so well, I kind of knew that that wasn’t his intention anyway- when the man became repentant, he became obsessive about my happiness.

His actions were for my comfort and happiness- not a deluded belief that I would be swayed by material possessions. When I eventually remembered that, I accepted the final gift from Rutan – a pack of cured meats and a box of cigars to chew on – and told him to tell Satel that he was still not forgiven yet. After that, Rutan didn’t have any more ‘messages’ for me.

I felt a little more in control of myself and my emotions by early afternoon, but I held out for the entire day before I finally decided to return to my cabin and confront my mate. The moment I opened the door my nose picked up the sweet scents of moaghos and roses. I sighed when I detected the rose petals and plates of sliced moaghos on the bed and a small pile of treasures on my desk.

It seemed I was entering the last phase of his repentance- and when I thought about it, I’d rather him be catering me from head to foot than going off and destroying cities in fits of rage. Though I couldn’t say that this was an actual improvement- while he did deserve the scolding he got that led to this, I’d rather not have gotten into an argument with him in the first place.

As I walked in, I couldn’t see any trace of the blond man and wondered if he was out gathering more presents for me. I didn’t think he would stay in the cabin all day- though I kind of figured that, since the gifts Rutan tried to give me had to have come from the outside. I was about to head towards the bed when I heard a light thump behind me. I turned slowly, knowing what I’d find.

Satel was bowing at my feet, head pressed against the floor in that typical humiliating way to prove that he was sorry. He did that for no one but me.

I let out another sigh. “Get up, Satel. It ain’t goin’ ta work.”

“Please…” he pleaded, his voice heavy with emotion as he raised his head a little. He pushed himself up enough to hug me around the waist and buried his face against my lower belly. “I hate hurting you, and I don’t want it to happen again. Tell me what I must do to make it better,” he finished, his voice muffled.

I had to admit that I was a little uncomfortable seeing him like this. He’d never been this emotional before- at least not to the point of crying. This was only adding up on his long list of strange behaviors, and it was only making me more worried for him. Though, at least he was acknowledging that he was doing something wrong and wanted to consciously stop it. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to help him.

“First o’ all, get up an’ sit like a dignified falucite- ah ain’t angry at ye anymore, so ye don’t need ta degrade yerself. It ne’er makes me feel any better anyway,” I told him as I gently pushed him back by the shoulders. There were tears welling in his eyes, but he wasn’t bawling like a baby.

I helped him to stand, then guided him over to the side of the bed so he could sit down. I then knelt down to pull the chest out so I could change clothes. Even if they were magically cleaned as I wore them, I didn’t want to spend another night in that corset. The blasted thing was too tight to wear for a long period of time.

Satel watched me quietly as I took off both the blouse and corset, then put on a breast band and a loose white shirt. Since I still had to go out there in an hour to sing with Rutan, I couldn’t get dressed for bed yet. …Though if Satel and I reconciled fast enough, I might not have to worry about nightclothes.

When I was done changing, I sat down next to him and leaned against him until my arm was around his waist and my head was on his shoulder. I wasn’t lying- my anger was already gone, and I only felt as though I missed him, so I wanted to be close to him again.

My mate tensed at the contact for only a brief second before he quickly turned and hugged me tightly against him. I allowed it for at least a minute before I gently pushed him back and looked him in the eye.

“Fer starters, ye need ta stop assumin’ that ah’m workin’ against ye. Ah don’t want ta hurt ye anymore than ye want ta hurt me, but yer sudden lack o’ trust in me is hurtin’ me feelin’s,” I told him, starting off the much needed conversation.

“It’s not you I don’t trust- most of the time, you just happen to be caught in the crossfire of what I’m really angry at. Like last night- some part of me was furious with the fact that you didn’t seem satisfied with our progress on Rutan. I remember how you worried that you weren’t being a good mother, so it just seemed like you would cancel our date for him. I felt like you were choosing Rutan over me, but at the same time I couldn’t hate him, or you, for that. I just… I don’t know,” he admitted before letting out a rush of air.

It didn’t occur to me that the conversation we’d had so long ago would come and bite me in the ass. I wasn’t even serious about it- I was just trying to guilt Satel into listening to me at the time. However, his uncertainty expressed at the end of his rather pathetic explanation gave me reason to believe that there was more to this than what he was telling me- perhaps he wasn’t even aware of the root cause.

“Yer jumping ta conclusions fer no reason. Mebbe ‘cause yer feelin’ angry most o’ the time?” I suggested, taking a guess. He said it himself that I was getting ‘caught in the crossfire’, and it wasn’t so much that he was frustrated with me, but with events that I happened to be part of. I was probably an unintended outlet for his aggression.

Satel slowly turned away and rested his elbows on his thighs, hunching over to stare expressionlessly at the floor. He drew in another deep breath before replying, “Maybe… More than half the time I don’t even know what I’m angry about.”

Well, that was a major warning sign- so he was getting upset over little things and needed to vent on something. I was beginning to suspect that maybe our increased sexual activity was also a result of his anger- but a more positive way to work off the energy. Perhaps it even helped him feel more at ease…

When I thought about it, he seemed to get progressively worse the more I discouraged him. Though I had been caving in more to his seduction lately, and yet he didn’t seem any less agitated. Perhaps we weren’t doing it enough?

“Well, until we figure out what’s makin’ ye angry an’ how ta stop it, ah only see two options fer us,” I responded as the idea came to me. He quickly glanced over to me, eager to hear me out. “Either ah jus’ accept that we’re goin’ ta fight o’er stupid misunderstandin’s, or-”

“But you shouldn’t have to accept it- there must be some way for me to control myself,” he exclaimed, belatedly noticing he’d interrupted me once again.

I made a glare before I reached over to grip his stubbly chin and made him look me in the eye. “So help me Elit if ye e’er interrupt me ‘gain, ah’ll deck ye so hard ye’ll still feel it next week! If ye don’t let me finish me sentences, how will ye e’er know wot ah’m talkin’ ‘bout?” I scolded sternly, hoping to nip this new habit of his in the bud.

“Sorry, ‘Tia-dear,” he mumbled remorsefully, turning his head so that my hand was caressing his cheek instead.

“If ye want ta try controllin’ yer anger – at least ‘round me – then when yer talkin’ ta me, assume that e’ery thing ah say will lead ta us matin’ later. Even if ah say somethin’ that upsets ye, pretend ah’m doin’ it so ye’ll be naughty fer me later,” I suggested with a grin. But then a thought occurred to me and I had to add, “But please do take wote’er ah say seriously if it be serious.”

I was hoping sex would triumph over anger and help him stop treating me like an enemy, but at the same time I didn’t want to encourage him to ignore my words and focus only on sex.

Satel smirked as he grabbed my wrist and continued to pet himself against my hand. “I don’t know if that will work, but I do like the idea,” he replied, wrapping his free arm around my waist. Of course the thought of mating would cheer him up…

Though we hadn’t come to a real solution for our problem, we ended up making up for the fight with a few heavy kisses and adventurous hands. The only thing stopping us was my need to go out and sing before bed. But once that was done, we were easily able to pick up where we’d left off, straight into the morning.

Thankfully our mystery was about to come to an end. Once we were back home for Satel’s birthday, I was going to learn the reason for Satel’s strange behavior. It was a relief that it was perfectly normal- but it was also extremely annoying.

To the Next Chapter

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