Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chapter 11 (concluded)

Johnny glanced over at the “tub.”  “This is ... somewhat unusual for us,” he said, trying not to look over at the increasingly naked Roger.  “We typically don’t ... um, bathe in front of other people.  Where we, ah, come from, I mean.”

Roger stepped in front of him.  She wasn’t any taller than he was, but she was obviously older.  Her breasts weren’t large, but they seemed to fill Johnny’s vision.  He tried looking down, but that brought him to the dark patch of hair between her legs, so he turned his head and looked at the wall instead.  “Suit yerselves,” Roger was saying.  “I’ll wash up meself and then go find ye some fresh clothes.  I reckon ye can fit into me own garb well enough ...”  Johnny felt her grab him by the shoulders.  “A bit broader across the blades than I, mayhap, but close enough.  Ye, little lassie, on the other hand, ...”  Johnny felt her let go of him, then out of the corner of his eye he saw her put her hand on top of Larissa’s head.  Larissa continued to gaze up at the older woman.  “Ye’ll be a bit of a challenge.  But methinks I can scrounge up summat.”

A brief pause and then a splash, and Johnny finally dared look back around.  Roger’s head popped up above the surface of the water, and she shook it, flinging her ponytail around and spraying water everywhere.  Bones scolded her with a screech, but she paid him no mind.  The tea-colored water did a good enough job of hiding her nudity that Johnny felt he could look at her now.  She chatted on while she washed, using the hunk of soap to create a surprising amount of lather, which she used on both body and hair, although she didn’t undo her ponytail.  By the time she was done washing, there was very little of the soap left, and Roger dropped it in the water.  Johnny noticed that it quickly sank down and out of sight.  Point one, he thought to himself: don’t drop the soap until you’re finished.

Most of Roger’s chatter was instructions on what to do (and what not to do) while on board the ship.  She was quite excellent at this, and Johnny found himself wanting to do as she said, never doubting that she was in charge, but never feeling like her inferior.  She had an easy air of command that was in no way diminished by being in the midst of taking a bath; no doubt she was born to be a ship’s captain.  Suddenly something she was saying caught his ear.  “Wait, what was that last bit?”

Roger had finished her washing by now and she began to lazily backstroke across the short length of the “tub.”  (Johnny had to avert his eyes again.)  “The Guide,” she repeated.  “We’ll be off to pick up the Guide now.”

“Who’s the Guide?”

“Aidan de Tourneville.”

Johnny shook his head as if to clear it.  “No, I meant ... what is he, or why do we need him, or ... something.”

Roger chuckled again.  She had a very sexy chuckle; it was throaty, like her laugh, but even more seductive, somehow.  “For where we’ll be heading, we’ll be needing a Water Guide.”  Johnny could see the capital letters in “Water Guide” from the way she said it.  “Aidan may not be the best of the best, but he’s the best of the ones we can get to right now, and he’ll see us through.  And as to why we be needing him,” and here there was another splash, and her face appeared in his field of vision, staring up at him from the edge of the tub as he was trying to stare at the floor, “that’ll be on account of the monsters.”  She heaved her body out of the water in one well-muscled push, and Johnny blushed and looked away yet again.

“Monsters?” he said, his voice cracking a bit.

“Now, now, nothing to worry yer pretty little head over.  That’s what we’ll be having the Guide for, s’truth.”  There were dripping footsteps, and then a click, and then a loud whoosh.  It surprised Johnny so much that he forgot to look at the floor.  Through the cloud of steam, he could barely make out Roger’s back; she was standing over where one of the fireglobe stands had been, holding her arms out to either side and using her foot to press a button on the floor.  The steam seemed to be coming off her, somehow, and, sure enough, when it cleared, she seemed totally dry.  She stepped over to the wooden box with its little round pot on top.  Removing the lid, she scooped out a handful of some goopy substance and began to rub it on her body.

Johnny knew he was probably supposed to be looking away again, but this was too fascinating.  “What is that stuff?” he asked.

“It’s allsalve.  Ye’ll need to be putting it all over.  Concentrate on the exposed skin, and don’t get it too near your eyes or your nethers, but get it on most of ye.”

Both Johnny and Larissa had come over to examine the stuff.  It was white, and roughly the consistency of cocoa butter.  There was a very distinctive, but not unpleasant, smell coming from it.  Larissa stuck a finger in it and brought it to her nose.  “Aloe vera base,” she pronounced.  “Infused with zinc oxide and ... nepetalactone?”  She gazed back up at Roger.

“Well, I don’t know what ye’re on about there, missy, but this stuff will keep you from burning in the sun, and it keeps the mosquitoes off ye, which is the main thing.  As an added benefit, it keeps yer skin from drying out, and it can occasionally make the burrikits go loopy, rather than eating ye.”

“What’s a burrikit?” Johnny asked.

“Large orange cat,” Roger replied.  “They waits up in the trees for ye to come along, and then they drop on ye.”

“Nepetalactone is the active ingredient in catnip,” Larissa told him.

“Ah,” Johnny said.  “Wouldn’t that attract the ... um, burrikits?”

“Occasionally, ye’re right as rain, but not as often as it keeps ye from being drained bloodless by the mosquitoes.  And the mosquitoes can get to you here on the ship, ye see, whereas the burrikits cannot.  For the most part.”  Roger applied some of the cream to her cheeks, chin, and forehead, and then wiped her hands on her hips.  “There!  That should do ‘er.  Shall I go fetch ye some clothes then?”  Without waiting for an answer, she turned and strode off.  Johnny caught himself watching her walk away and immediately turned back to Larissa, who wasn’t bothering to avert her eyes.  Her gaze lingered on the door for some time after Roger had disappeared through it.  Finally she turned to meet Johnny’s eyes.

“So ...” Johnny said.  “You want to go first?”  Larissa didn’t answer.  “I mean,” he stammered, “I mean, I’ll go wait outside and ...”  Larissa’s gaze didn’t falter, and her blank expression didn’t change.  Johnny thought he was probably blushing.  Again.

“How about I just go first then?  Can you guard the door for me and make sure she doesn’t come barging in?”  Larissa nodded.  Johnny exhaled, relieved.  “Okay, cool, then I’ll do the same for you afterwards, right?  I’ll just poke my arm out for the new clothes when I’m done, I guess.”  Johnny looked around and saw that Bones was still in the room, perched up on a shelf across the room.  “And take that thing out with you, if you can,” he said, gesturing.

Bones opened its beak and stuck out a small pink tongue at Johnny.  Then it gave a short monkey cry and scampered out of the room.


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