Ocean Music – LIL_1337
“Damn, it’s cold.” Hudson muttered to himself as he made his way down the deck at a fast walk. Moisture hung in the air and the wind at his back pushed him along at a steady pace. It was four am and instead of sleeping like a normal person he was on his way to the kitchen to start prep for breakfast. The café opened at seven thirty and there was a hell of a lot of food to be cooked before then.
Inside, out of the wind it was much warmer and he shed his coat before putting on his chef’s hat and apron. Working as a prep cook on the cruise ship Seven Seas Splendor was his first job since graduating from the Seattle Culinary Institute and he was determined to do it well. The chance to work with people who had been trained in various places all over the world allowed Hudson to expand his knowledge especially since everyone was willing to let him watch and answer questions.
“What’s cooking good looking?”
Hudson started, looking up from the biscuits he was cutting out into the most beautiful pair of dark blue eyes. Marley Stevens, the tenor for The Waves, ship’s singing group, grinned and reached past Hudson to snag a piece of bacon which he stuffed into his mouth and chewed blissfully.
“The café opens at seven thirty.” Hudson’s reprimand lacked any strength since he couldn’t hide his amused smile. Marley grinned, unrepentant, as he snatched one of the muffins hot from where they sat cooling next to the oven. “How was the show last night?”
“Great!” Marley took a big bite of his baked good and chewed slowly savoring the taste. “The audience was really into it especially during the sing a long. The theater was packed and you couldn’t hear us over the song of the crowd.”
“I’m glad it went well.” Hudson smiled, slipping the biscuits into the oven and pressing the button for the timer. “You’re up early this morning.”
“I want to spend some time on deck before all the passengers get up.”
“Hiding from your loyal fans?” Hudson kept his voice light and teasing though he couldn’t deny the hint of jealousy that raised its little green head. Marley had a way of charming both men and women that made them want to be his friend or more. It was one of the things that Hudson found attractive. Especially since he was shy and reserved, tending to duck his head and avoid eye contact if at all possible. Fortunately his duties allowed him to keep his passenger contact to almost nil.
Marley ran a hand through his short auburn hair, posing dramatically. “I’m a star. It comes with the business.” Letting his hand fall back to his side he smiled more honestly. “I love entertaining people, but when it is quiet like this it’s just me and the ocean sharing a moment, you know?”
“Yes, I do.” Hudson looked up from eggs he was cracking into a bowl in preparation to for scrambling. “That is one of the reasons I wanted to work the early shift.” He paused, picking up the whisk that lay beside the bowl. “It’s peaceful and quiet.”
“Totally Zen.” Marley plucked another muffin from the basket and tugged his hat back down on his head. “See ya later.” Pastry in hand he made his way out of kitchen, turning to wave before sliding the door behind him.
Hudson watched him go, absently whisking the eggs at the same time. He liked Marley, but then everyone did. There was something in his boyish charm that was universally appealing. The fact that he was handsome didn’t hurt either. With a sigh Hudson turned his attention back to the food he was preparing. He had no clue where Marley’s interests lay as he seemed equally flirtatious with both genders though he made no effort to pursue either as least as far as Hudson could see.
Oh, well, he thought, dismissing the question of Marley’s sexual preference. Hudson had accepted this job to get some experience and make some money not to find a boyfriend. There would be plenty of time later for that when he was established in his career and ready to settle down.
Breakfast was over and the prep for lunch finished when Hudson gathered his coat and yelled his goodbyes. His intention was to head back to his stateroom for a nap, but when he passed the theater the sound of singing caught his attention. Slipping under the woven mesh barricade blocking the doorway he stood in the shadows. On stage Marley, Vincent, and Alejandro were crooning to an imaginary audience while the celebrity guest, someone whose fame had faded before Hudson was born was wandering up the aisle pretending to select guests to join them on stage.
Hudson watched for a moment, savoring the view before turning to leave. The last thing he wanted to do was to interfere. He’d taken a single step when he felt a hand on his arm. “Come and join us, young man. It’s not often that we have someone to help us out during rehearsal.”
“I don’t want to intrude.” Hudson smiled, nervously avoiding eye contact.
“That’s nonsense. We welcome an audience.” The gentleman half turned and called out to the singers who were now standing and watching. “Don’t you think this gentleman should join us on stage? He seems to need a little encouragement.”
From where he was standing Hudson could see Marley’s grin though it was Vincent who spoke. “Of course he should. Marley needs to practice his dance moves.” Vincent waved for them to come while Alejandro jumped from the stage and stalked down the aisle like a large cat on the prowl for its favorite toy. It was more than a little disconcerting given that Vincent was easily one of most beautiful men that Hudson had ever seen. His dark eyes smoldered in a way that made everyone around him go weak in the knees. He was also one of the nicest people on the ship and given half a chance would share pictures of his wife and children with undisguised pride.
“I…I… can’t dance.” Marley stuttered trying to keep his cool in the face of an overwhelming rush of lust and embarrassment.
“That’s even better then.” Vincent smiled and grabbed Hudson’s hand tugging him towards the stage. “Most of our audience can’t either. It will be good practice.” He leaned in dropping his voice to a stage whisper that could be heard clearly by everyone in the theater. “He has two left feet you know.”
“I do not!” Marley’s outraged squawk had an underlying tone of good humor and the smile on his face never wavered. He danced an improved freestyle piece to make his point as Hudson made his way up the carpeted stairs to the stage.
“What shall we practice?” Vincent shared a look with Alejandro who then smirked at Marley. “The mambo, perhaps?”
“No.” Alejandro shook his head and pursed his lips in thought. “We did the Latin set Tuesday. Tonight’s show is fifties so it needs to be the jitterbug.”
“Uh…” Hudson looked back and forth between Vincent and Alejandro before Marley came to his rescue.
“That is a cruel thing to do to a beginner.” He stepped close to Hudson invading his personal space in a way that filled it comfortably. With an amused grin Marley captured one of Hudson’s hands then rested his other hand firmly on his lower back. “We’re going to do a basic box step. Step forward, right, back then left. Just relax and follow me. I promise not to lead you astray.” He winked and Hudson could feel heat infusing his face. “Step forward with your left foot. Ready?”
“I think so.” Hudson smiled gamely. “I’ll try not to step on your foot.”
“I’m not worried, so there is no reason for you to be.” Marley stepped back using his hand on Hudson’s back to bring him along. “We’ll practice a couple of times without music first.”
True to his word Marley did just that, gently guiding Hudson through the steps. When his movements grew more confident Marley nodded to the band and they began to play something slow and soft. “Look at me not your feet.” Shyly Hudson raised his eyes to meet Marley’s. “Trust me.” The words were soft meant for Hudson’s ears only.
Hudson tried to replied but ended up nodding when the words caught in his throat. He felt himself drowning in Marley’s eyes. Relaxing into the embrace Hudson felt the hand at his waist draw him closer even as the movement of the steps took on more of a sway. It was easy to let the world shrink to the two of them and the music.
Much too soon the song slowly faded and silence filled the theater. With more reluctance than he wanted to admit to Hudson pulled away. He could feel the heat in his cheeks and as well as infusing other areas of his body. Part of him wanted to run and hide while the other wanted to grab Marley and steal him away to some place more private. Hudson was no stranger to lust, it had been the bane of his existence for many years, but the feeling of connecting with someone else was both terrifying and exhilarating.
“Thank you.” He mumbled looking studiously at the tips of his shoes. “I enjoyed myself.”
“It was my pleasure. You’re a quick study and light on your feet.” There was something warm and soft like the brush of velvet in the tone of Marley’s voice that sent a thrill of pleasure down Hudson’s spine.
“Bravo, Hudson. You’re a good sport.” Vincent draped an arm around Hudson’s shoulders and squeezed him close before letting go. “You’ll come to the show, yes?”
“Uh…If I can. I work breakfast prep so I have to be up early.” It took all of Hudson’s will power to not immediately agree to anything Vincent asked of him. The man could have made a killing in sales if he had the urge.
“The early show then, you can be in bed by nine. If Marley can do the late show and get up to visit the kitchen you can come to see him sing. It is only fair.”
Hudson blinked, confused, his eyes flicked quickly to Marley then skittered away at the frown on his face. “I’ll try.” He ducked under Vincent’s arm flashing Marley a quick apologetic smile before making a dash for the theater entrance. In the shadow of the curtains he turned back to the stage where Marley was speaking animatedly to his friend and coworker. There was no missing the displeasure on Marley’s face or the consternation on Vincent’s.
The show was just beginning when Hudson slipped into the back of the theater. He’d been debating with himself all day about attending, deciding to go then changing his mind in quick succession. A few minutes before eight he’d found himself dressed in a sedate long sleeved t-shirt and jeans instead of his usual colorful uniform riding the elevator in a daze.
On deck six he took a deep breath before joining the trickle of late arrivals. Most of the seats were taken so Hudson leaned against the wall that supported the balcony trying to blend into the background as much as possible. On stage the show was just beginning with the headliner, Michael ‘The Buck’ Bucklow, introducing himself and reliving his glory days with an appreciative audience. Hudson smiled and clapped with at the right times though his eyes were glued to Marley watching his every move for a clue about what passed between them earlier in the day. If Hudson was honest with himself he was hooked on Marley in a big way and the dance lesson had just cemented it. It was his reaction after wards that had Hudson confused.
He had thought, or maybe it was just a selfish hope, that Marley liked him too even if it was only as a friend. He was always friendly when ever they ran into each other and made the effort to introduce Hudson anyone he didn’t know. More than once Marley had gone out of his way to draw Hudson into a conversation when it wasn’t necessary. Hudson sighed and carded his fingers through his hair. He hated not knowing where he stood.
On stage the backup singers had been sent out to find dance partners and Marley was leading a stunning blonde up the steps. Though small and slight her figure was head turning and she carried herself with a confidence of someone who had lead a privileged life. Her hand rested familiarly on his arm and she smiled up at him receiving a million watt grin in return. The mock dance contest was the jitterbug which Marley and his partner won easily. They moved in sync as if they had been partners for years. He dipped her then kissed her cheek when the overwhelming response made it clear they were the favorites.
Hudson felt his stomach clench and he looked around hoping to make a break for it, but unfortunately an older man in a wheelchair was blocking Hudson’s escape. For a moment he considered trying to get past. He wasn’t in uniform and since his job kept him out of view of everyone but the kitchen crew he doubted that he would be recognized as part of the crew. In the end the philosophy that the comfort and happiness of the passengers comes first that had been drilled into his head won out and he stayed where he was.
Before the final song Michael again sent The Waves out into the audience to find dance partners. This time Marley selected a young woman with short brown hair who looked scared and excited at being selected. He spoke to her quietly while Vincent and Alejandro wandered the aisles making their own selections. Once they were all back on stage the band began playing the song that Hudson had waltzed with Marley to. With growing embarrassment Hudson realized that Marley was taking the young woman through the steps and smiling at her in the same encouraging way.
When he leaned in and the woman immediately looked up at him and smiled Hudson felt his stomach turn over. He had clearly read a lot more into what was exactly what Vincent had claimed, a chance for Marley to practice his dancing with an unskilled partner. Mortified to bottom of his soul Hudson pushed away from the wall. No wonder Marley had been angry at Vincent for inviting Hudson to the show. Fighting back tears he pushed his way past the man in the wheelchair mumbling an apology as he hurried out of the theater for the second time that day.
Three am and false dawn was beginning to lighten where the sky met the sea. Hudson pulled his jacket tighter around him facing into the wind so that his hair was blown back from his face. He’d been up for an hour before venturing out on deck. Sleep had been scarce and troubled so he had finally given it up and after showering he decided some fresh air might help clear his head.
The gentle rocking of the ship beneath his feet was comforting and he leaned on the rail taking in the seemingly endless expanse of sea between him and anything resembling civilization. Being onboard ship was like living in a small town that had a large transit population. The ‘locals’ all knew each other and despite the mixture of ages, genders and nationalities they were a fairly tight knit community. This brought Hudson to the crux of his problem. How was he going to avoid Marley or spend the next eleven months acting like nothing had changed between them since it had apparently been only on one side.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Hudson startled, throwing himself off balance with the dip and roll of the ship. Strong arms steadied him and he looked up into Marley’s concerned face. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to surprise you.”
“It was my fault. I was thinking and lost track of where I was.” Hudson reluctantly pulled away trying not to focus on how good it felt to be in Marley’s arms.
“I noticed.” Marley chuckled. He dug into his jeans pocket and pulled out a dime which he offered to Hudson. “To cover inflation and shipboard prices.”
Despite his decision to remain emotionally removed Hudson could feel the corners of his lips turning up. There was something about this man that was absolutely irresistible. He accepted the coin and slipped it into the pocket of his jacket. “I was thinking that I needed to apologize to you.”
Marley frowned, his brow furrowing in confusion. “What the hell for?”
“Yesterday.” Hudson ducked his head focusing on the waves he could see through the bars of the railing. “I shouldn’t have intruded on your rehearsal. It was rude and put you in a bad position.”
“Why do you say that?” Marley sounded genuinely confused.
“You seemed really upset when Vincent said I should come to the show.” Hudson sighed then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I saw you telling him off when I left.”
“Vincent is a great guy and one of my closest friends, but he can be pushy sometimes.” Marley spoke slowly obviously choosing his words with care. “He forgets that not everyone is as outgoing or comfortable being on display as he is. Occasionally he needs to be reminded and that is my job because Alejandro just encourages him.” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair combing out some of the windblown tangles. “He doesn’t do it to be mean, he just wants everyone to be happy and enjoy life as much as he does.”
“There are a lot worse motives.” Hudson smiled, fighting the glow that was starting to warm him from the inside out. No matter how you looked at it Marley had been acting in his defense and that thought was quickly overriding everything else Hudson had been convincing himself of since he left the theater last night.
“Yeah there are.”
They stood in silence for a moment just watching the wake of the ship as it spread out to merge with the waves before Hudson broke the quiet. “What did he mean that I should come to the show because it was only fair?”
“You caught that huh?”
Hudson nodded carefully focusing on where the sun beginning to peek over the horizon. “Yeah.”
“Shit.” Marley took a deep breath then turned to face Hudson. “Ok, cards on the table time I guess.” He paused seeming to gather his thoughts or his courage before plunging forward. “Ever since he found out I was crushing on you he’s been pushing me to make a move. I guess he figured since I went to see you at your job you should do the same. He’s big on equality in relationships.”
“You were crushing on me?” Hudson goggled at Marley unable to believe that what he had heard could possibly be true.
“I know.” Marley laughed self depreciatingly, a strange sound from the usually cheerful young man. “Like there would be a chance in hell you would even give me a second look. You’re smart, gorgeous, and ambitious and I’m just some guy who dropped out of college to sing on a cruise ship. There is no way I am even close to being on your l…”
The rest of Marley’s comment was cut off abruptly as Hudson wrapped his arms around Marley’s neck and kissed him.
Like all crew members on the low end of the seniority and status scale Hudson’s stateroom was small. There was enough room for his bed and a tiny bathroom with just enough left over for two men to stand if they were willing to be pressed close together. Fortunately that was not a problem as he and Marley were happy to share personal space. They moved slowly partly in time with the motion of the ship and partly to the song that Marley was singing softly, his head resting on Hudson’s in a picture of pure bliss.
“Good night Sweetheart, well its time to go.
Good night sweetheart, well its time to go.
I hate to leave you but I really must say good night, sweetheart, goodnight.”
Hudson snuggled in closer feeling light headed from the contact as well as the long day on very little sleep. In addition to his kitchen duties he had attended both of Marley’s shows clapping enthusiastically along with the rest of the audience. Fighting back a yawn Hudson pulled back a little to smile at Marley before kissing him slow and deep. One hand carded into thick hair and held on while the other traced a leisurely path up and down Marley’s back.
Marley responded eagerly. His hands which had been resting comfortably on Hudson’s lower back began an exploration of their own. One worked its way up under Hudson’s shirt to splay on the muscles of his back. The other slid down to caress the swell of Hudson’s buttock.
Breathing heavily Hudson broke the kiss. “Don’t.”
Surprised, Marley moved his hand back up to where it had been before. “I’m sorry.” He smiled apologetically not wanting to upset him newly claimed boyfriend.
Moving Marley’s hand back to where it was Hudson shook his head, taking a deep breath to clear his quickly hazing over brain. “No, don’t say goodnight and leave.”
“Oh.” Marley’s grin widened. “Are you sure? It’s been a long day and you have to get up early.”
“I think I can manage to stay awake for a little while longer if you are willing to help me.” Hudson accentuated his words by rolling his hips in pure seduction.
“Fuck, I can’t believe I ever thought you were shy.” Marley moaned softly then began to place a line of kisses down Hudson’s throat.
Groaning softly and tilting his head to the side Hudson let his eyes drift closed. “I am just not with you.”
“Good. I like you this way.” Marley carefully lowered them onto the bed stretching out as much as the narrow space allowed. With gentle almost reverent touches he undressed Hudson before shedding his own clothing with undisguised impatience. Pausing to kneel on a corner of the bed he let his glaze roam over Hudson before resting a hand lightly on his thigh. “You’re more beautiful than I thought you would be.”
Shaking his head Hudson raised himself up on one elbow to tug Marley down to lie with him. “I’m not.” His words were a simple statement with no judgment attached. He ran a hand lightly down Marley’s chest then bent forward to kiss where his fingers had passed. “You are.” The vibrations from his lips elicited a low moan from Marley and he cradled Hudson’s head to keep him close, encouraging him to continue.
With his lips and tongue teasing Marley’s chest Hudson reached out to tentatively caress Marley’s quickly hardening cock. With growing confidence he ghosted his fingers up its length before tracing the head. He was rewarded with a quick intake of breath as Marley arched up into his touch.
“Fuck!’ It was more of an explosion of sound then actual speech and it was accompanied by Marley’s hand moving to mirror Hudson’s teasing touch.
“Oh god.” Hips moving of their own volition, Hudson pushed into Marley’s hand, finding a rhythm between giving and getting that was pleasing to both of them.
Groaning in wanton pleasure Marley rolled so he was laying half on Hudson thrusting against his thigh even as Hudson continued to pump his cock. The feel of Marley’s stomach rubbing against the sensitive head of his cock was enough to send Hudson over the edge. Head thrown back he arched off the bed crying out and taking Marley with him to orgasm.
The languid feeling of after glow spread through his veins and Hudson collapsed back on the bed his breath stuttering out in huge gasps. Carefully pulling his hand out from between them he wrapped his arms around Marley holding him close as they rode the high together. Sighing in pure boneless contentment Marley settled closer ignoring the stickiness on his stomach. He draped an arm over Hudson’s chest and snuggled closer getting comfortable. Rocked gently by the waves the two men drifted off to sleep wrapped in each other’s arms.
pic credit: dancers shown in the text are Robert Tristan Szelei and Gergely Darabos
From Clare: Catch up with the fiction and links on my FREE FICTION DAY through THIS TAG.
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