Title: A Place for the Cactus
Char: Tom and Nell Pullings
Spoilers: None really. We all know life
at sea is nothing like the married state.
Word Count 786
This is part of the knickers challenge
A Place for the Cactus
The door shut. They had all gone. The sound of it was soft, and it was final. Tom Pullings had been looking at her all morning, all through the wedding and the cheering, and the cake. And now, well, now he kept his eyes on the little table, and the cake crumbs, because he could not, suddenly, bear to look.
He heard Nell take a deep breath.
“I have something to give you Tom.”
“Aye?” His voice could not be steady. He felt himself flush.
“Not that, not yet.” She chuckled softly. He looked up, and saw her face was flaming too.
She turned to the small cupboard, took something from it.
“I could not leave her in here much longer.”
A kitten, very round and mostly fluff. Suspended by its fat middle, it paddled the air with white feet.
“I thought--” Nell swallowed audibly, “I thought you might like to take her to sea.”
Tom stretched out a finger, touched the little thing between its tiny ears; soft soft.
“She is very lovely.” His voice was low. He was not looking at the kitten.
The moment stretched. Nell had pulled the kitten up under her chin, held it with both hands. Now they were both looking at him, soft soft.
“I have something for you too.” He said. Her mouth quirked. He smiled in return, feeling the scar pull the way it always did now.
Tom turned to his sea-chest. It was all ahoo inside. He had been pawing frantically this morning, the thing he wanted was at the bottom now. She was still standing in the center of the room, holding the kitten, breathing rapidly. And she could see his dirty socks. He drew the package forth.
He handed it to her, wrapped in string and brown paper. He took the kitten in return. It fit roundly in his two hands, and commenced a wee purr. It weighed nothing at all.
Nell sat down in the chair. There was only one chair. The room was really very small. Tom could sit on the bed, but somehow it seemed-- well, he found he did not want to do that. He dropped to a crouch beside her. He had thought she would tear the paper open, see what was inside. But she was staring down at the paper.
'Mrs Thos. Pullings'
“Oh.” She ran her fingers over the inked words.
“First time I wrote that.” He said. “When I signed the book this morning it was my name, same as ever.”
“I didn't think of that.” She said. “Mine was different.”
Now she was undoing the string, pulling the paper aside.
He watched her face. He had bought the finest lawn, the finest silks. He had worked the seams with care. Tom was good with a needle and thread, always had been. The embroidery had been slow. He had borrowed a book from the doctor, full of plates of plants. He had picked the ones he liked the looks of, little cactus and palm trees. He had made them small, around the waist and legs. He had left the middle plain.
“You made me...drawers?” Her voice tipped up at the end, amused, wondering, tinged with something he could not interpret.
She chuckled, shaking her head.
“They are so fine. I have never worn anything on my legs like that. I have never had anything so – I imagine they will feel very-- hmm.”
She touched the little plants he had worked so long on. She slid her hand inside, and held them to the light.
“I can see right through them.” She whispered.
The moment stretched and burned. He could not tell what the next moment would bring.
She looked up, and he found out.
“Tom Pullings,” she said. “Do you mean to say that you sat on that ship, before God, and Captain Aubrey and everyone, and you ran me up a pair of transparent cactus under--”
She gave a snort, he found it delicious. He wanted to listen to her snort forever.
The giggles got the best of her. And he was laughing too. The kitten looked at him reprovingly, leapt from his hands.
When the last ragged gasps had stopped, the room was easier somehow.
“I was hoping you would want to wear them,” He said, burning burning, and the moment soft around them both.
“Tomorrow,” Nell said. “I'll wear them tomorrow Tom.”