This chapter is dedicated to BigBigTruck, who's wonderful art of Captain Nunes inspired my muse so much this story simply demanded to be written. Thanks hon!

Outside Looking In: Manuel Nunes
by Laura Bryannan

I missed the lad. I truly did. More than I expected to, and more than I felt comfortable admitting to myself. Once it became clear he was not going to stay on board, I was disappointed of course, but I was also relieved. I believed my interest in him would wane once he was gone, and I found that belief a comfort. Unfortunately, I had to be honest with myself and admit my interest would be better termed infatuation. I was infatuated with the boy—there was no getting around that fact—and I was astounded by it.

Despite all the time I spend in men's company, I have never desired men sexually. Certainly, over the years, there have been a handful who sought my attention and received it. I'm not a prude. But the way I felt about Mugen...that was another matter entirely, and I could not understand it.

Did I desire him for himself or because he desired me? That was the foremost question in my mind. It began on the very first day we met. We were caught in a squall and I remember seeing red out of the corner of my eye, stepping to some loose barrels on the lower aft deck. Who's got a new shirt? I wondered, and didn't think any more about it until all was calm again.

Later it dawned on me: whomever I'd seen could not have been a member of my crew, so I wandered back to learn more. A man with initiative is always a man worth cultivating. He was still on deck when I called to him. He turned to me and I felt it. How could I not? His jaw dropped and there was no missing the pulse in the crotch of his pants. I was quite flattered, to say the least. A man like me, well preserved perhaps, but still middle-aged...I don't turn heads the way I used to in my youth, and certainly not the head of a young buck such as he.

Recovering himself quickly, he responded to my greeting and I got a closer look. Prison tattoos. Well, well. On one so young it was intriguing, but I wasn't concerned. He looked strong and sane and we were short-handed, so I offered him a job. As I said, initiative impresses me in a man.

When he declined, showing me the scars on his belly, I was shocked. He was certainly a mess, the worst being a recent gunshot wound that probably tore up half his liver. I was amazed he was up and about. He was covered in new scars—on his face and awful-looking ones on his left hand. He told me he wouldn't be strong enough to work, and I believed him. Not for the work I needed him to do. But something wanted me to keep him near, so I reiterated the offer, and strangely hoped he would agree.

I found myself looking forward to bumping into him each day, content to receive his appreciation as he toiled with Shi in the galley. It was amusing at first, but it became intoxicating as the weeks went by, although I struggled with exactly what I wanted from the relationship. It woke me up, and I hadn't felt so alive in a very long time. As ludicrous as it seemed, being desired by one so young made me feel young as well.

That he did not approach me or offer any hints he that wanted to be approached made the situation all the more mysterious. The desire was there. It was tangible and ever noticeable tenting his crotch, but it never went any further. I found that admirable. The boy was not a whore. He wasn't going to use his body to try and gain favor with me. And, as far as I was aware, he was not having relations with any other member of my crew, so it made his interest in me all the more flattering. I found myself feeling and thinking things that aroused me in one moment and horrified me the next, and I could not understand why it was happening.

I love a majority of the men in my crew without reservation. We've shared each other's lives for well over a decade. Through good weather and bad, marriages, births, sickness and death—I have been privileged to receive their respect and return it in full measure. But I have never been in love with a man, and only a few women. My life kept me too busy for that, and traveling always made it difficult to sustain a relationship anywhere for very long.

My wife is my greatest blessing, and I have remained faithful for the eighteen years of our marriage. The eldest daughter of a wealthy merchant in Canton, I was fortunate to catch her, especially since I am not Chinese. Thankfully, her father supported my business, even though our small company was just getting started then. He was more interested in his daughter's prosperity than the mixed-breed children she would bear me, God bless him. Perhaps if her mother had been alive, the courting would have gone less easily, but her father agreed to the union and I was the happiest man in China when we were finally married.

I have kept no mistress. My Chan has always been woman enough for me. And though we put into the same ports year after year, I don't have any longstanding relationships with the women of the evening I frequent while I'm there. Chan and I do not speak of such things when we are together, but I'm sure she is aware I'm not innocent in that respect. I am a man, after all, and life at sea is lonely.

So what did I want with this boy? I honestly did not know. I can count the sexual experiences I've had with men on one hand. Literally. The few men who have approached me over the years were content with kissing, touching and tasting, and I was fond enough of each of them to allow it. Not one ever asked me to take him as I would take a woman, and I was never surprised about that. I know what the Good Lord blessed me with and, to be frank, I found it impossible to imagine how it could happen. I didn't believe it would be healthy for a man to be stretched so, nor could I understand what a man would find pleasurable in such an experience. Perhaps that is why I never yearned for it when I had a male lover, nor did I yearn for it when I didn't. I never fantasized about being sexual with men at all...until Mugen.

What was it about him I found so attractive? Putting aside his own glaring desire for me, which was an influence I'll admit, there was still something about him. Although he was far from beautiful, he held an allure that was unmistakable. He seemed barely tamed, only partially contained, as though there was a smoldering passion burning underneath his quiet exterior. The more I learned about him, the more intriguing he became. The answers I received beget further questions, and it became curiouser and curiouser.

Cristo called him Tiger Man, and the name was apt. The boy was striped with scars from the lash! His back, his ass. He couldn't have been walking the earth for more than a score of years, yet he bore so many marks, it seemed inconceivable. Evidence of the trouble he'd been in, the trouble he'd seen, and yet he didn't behave like a troubled soul. He was quiet, kept to himself, did his job well and without complaint. The feedback I received from the crew was positive, and he appeared to be well-liked amongst them. He didn't drink at all, at first, and later as he became healthier he didn't drink to excess. He joined his mates as they went gambling and whoring, and seemed completely normal to me. So the marks on his body didn't fit the person I knew.

I found my mind continually dwelling on the last few minutes we spent together, when I had him in my arms and we shared quite a kiss. He melted against me and it felt so natural, so right. I hardened immediately, and there was no mistaking his arousal against my thigh. I knew that if I locked the door and guided him to my bed, I would find him willing. And, of course, his comment about wanting to be forced resounded over and over in my head. Where I summoned the fortitude to let him go, I have no idea, but I did. And he left. He left and I was lonely for him in a way I never expected to be.

I fantasized about doing things to him I have never done, and knew I should never do. I fantasized about doing things I didn't half believe were possible or even enjoyable, but I couldn't stop thinking about them. Why did I want to sink myself into his body? When I imagined making love with Mugen, it never stopped at kissing and touching. I was always fucking him. In my good moments I told myself it was necessary to show the depth of my passion. In bad ones I wondered why I needed to hurt and degrade him so, if only in my mind. I felt shame with the arousal, confusion with the longing.

I was fumbling around in territory I had never explored before and knew little about. Men with men. I'd heard that in such relationships one was The Man and one was The Woman. A dominant and a submissive. Mugen did not seem the least bit submissive, so where did that leave me? No, I was not interested in being fucked by anyone, not even Mugen, so what did I think could happen in a relationship with him? I had no answers to such questions.

But the fact remained. I fantasized about him submitting to me every day. I imagined it to be pleasurable for him. It wasn't arousing to think of it hurting, even though all logic told me it would. I consoled myself that they were fantasizes, after all, and didn't have to include such unpleasant realities. But finally, after many months of struggling with all I didn't know about such matters, I decided to do something about it.

I became so obsessively curious about how sex between men happened I did a shameful thing. Choosing a brothel I had never frequented and would never frequent again, I asked the madam to allow me to watch two men together. No problem, she told me, and showed me to a room. After a short while, two young men wearing flimsy yukata came in, looking at me shyly.

“You really just want to watch us play?” the smaller one asked. I nodded. “What do you want to see us do?”

“Start with what you would like to do,” I decided. “Perhaps that will be enough.”

They shrugged and smiled at each other, then began to kiss and caress. The taller/older one seemed the one in charge, untying Little One's belt and pushing the material aside. He stroked his lover's chest and belly, teasing his nipples then finally reached for his manhood. Since these were things I had done myself, their behavior seemed natural, and Little One's moans were genuine.

Taller reached into his sleeve and pulled out a small bottle. He poured some of the contents into his hand and I could see it was oil. Swirling his fingers in it, I began to heat up considerably as Little One lay back, opening his legs and tipping his hips forward, giving Taller access. His long finger slid inside Little One, who's face looked so blissful, his sigh so content, I was amazed. A second finger joined the first and the boy's face became wanton, eyes half-lidded, mouth slack. His hips writhed and he moaned in what appeared to be ecstasy. How could it be?

“What are you doing to make him behave so?” I asked Taller.

He gave me a surprised glance. “You really don't know?” he asked. I shook my head. “Well, there's this place inside, see, where it feels really great if you mess around with it. Sometimes it just makes you feel like you gotta pee, but most times....” He smiled, winked, and Little One's vocalizing suddenly increased.

“Plus,” he said, realizing he was dealing with someone in dire need of an education, “I gotta open him up some before I fuck him, you know? It's not good to stick it in till he's more ready.” Ah yes. That made sense.

Taller turned back to his lover and slathered the rest of the oil onto himself. His erection was impressive, and again I wondered how Little One could enjoy having such a thing inside him. But Taller hovered over and Little One pulled him nearer with his legs, reaching down himself to guide Taller to the right place. It was happening face to face, just as a man takes a woman, so clearly such a position worked for men as well. Taller entered, and they moved together for a long while, Taller fucking him slowly, in no hurry to find his release. Little One was so obviously enjoying himself, I had to conclude that such a thing could be pleasurable for the one receiving.

If I could see Mugen wear such a face while I did the same thing to him...well, thinking about such things was making my groin ache. I unbuttoned my breeches to give myself some room and some attention. Watching those two and thinking about him. I was not going to be able to walk out of the establishment without a release of my own.

Taller was taking Little One from behind at that point, stroking his cock and thrusting more intensely. Little One's face would grimace now and again on a particularly powerful thrust, but it seemed a good kind of discomfort. And soon he sang, “Oh Shao, I'm gonna, I'm gonna....” He bucked a few times and then came. Taller wrapped his arms around Little One's waist and thrust madly, finding his release as well. They collapsed onto the futon, breathing heavily, hands lazily stroking available flesh. I was stroking my own, and it didn't take them too long to notice.

“Hey mister,” Little One called. “Let us help you with that.” They both crawled over to where I was sitting, looking irresistibly mischievous. I chuckled.

“Yeah, come on,” said Taller, reaching for me. “You're nice. We never get to play with each other. We can pay you back.”

Before I let them, I had to know. Turning to Little One, I ran my hand through his hair. “That was enjoyable for you?” I asked.

He laughed. “Oh yeah, getting laid by Shao is the best!” He stroked my length and shook his head. “Don't think I'd want to try you though...sorry.” It was my turn to laugh. I leaned back and they pounced. Closing my eyes, I imagined that the mouth and hands upon me belonged to a certain tanned youth who had firmly ensconced himself in my heart.

Concerns for my sanity somewhat abated, I did my work and tried to be patient when the journey south seemed unending. All the unknowns, all the questions. Would he be there at all? If I found him, would he want to return with me? Until I knew the answers, my mind could not rest. I hoped...I prayed, that once I learned, one way or the other, I could finally let him go. Or—I could barely let myself dream it—I would find him and he would come back into my life.

So it was with much anticipation that I sent Kaio out to find the Port Master's office once we put into Ryukyu. He was a native, and knew his way around the city with his eyes closed. I half expected he'd return empty-handed, so when he came back with an actual address for Mugen I doubt I hid my excitement well.

“It's about six blocks down that way, Boss.” He pointed at a major thoroughfare. “You want me to fetch him?”

“No, I believe I'll go myself,” I replied. He grinned but wisely kept his mouth shut. For all its seediness, Ryukyu was laid out in a reasonable fashion. I was familiar with the city and knew I could find my way. “I may not return until late. Please inform the Lieutenant. You have the address should you need to find me.” Kaio nodded and left to find my brother.

I sat in my quarters, wondering what I hoped to discover. While I didn't wish ill-luck on the boy, I had to admit I wanted to find him alone and ready to rejoin my crew. It was late afternoon when I set out to find the house, locating it in a relatively nice neighborhood for Ryukyu. There was a gathering of humanity in the front yard, and as I got closer I could see that what looked like a celebration of some sort was actually a bunch of neighbors milling about and gossiping while a martial arts class took place.

I moved closer, leaning against a large tree across the street, to get a better look. I scanned the crowd, but did not see Mugen among them. However, as the people moved and shifted I saw the one teaching and my heart sank. He had to be The Samurai, the one whose name was carved into Mugen's arm. Tall and lean, his long black hair tied up in Japanese fashion, with one of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen on a man. A face marred only by...spectacles! Quite unusual, rare and costly. What was a blue blood such as he doing in a place like Ryukyu?

I realized immediately Mugen was unlikely to return with me, and that saddened me greatly. But I could understand how such a man had captured his heart. He was stunning, and it was clear his students doted on him. And what a fascinating group of students it was—young, old, even some women! He walked among them with confidence, correcting a stance here, nodding in approval there. Luminous and cold as the moon, he seemed the opposite of Mugen.

I know little of any martial art, considering how long I have lived in the East. I rely on my size, my fists, and my pistols, and never had the time to learn sword fighting. But I knew enough to see that The Samurai was quite skilled, and I was impressed in spite of myself. My eyes wandered as I daydreamed, trying to decide whether I should return to the Brightness or wait and see if Mugen arrived.

Then a swash of deep red caught my eye and The Samurai stood in front of me. I was startled, as I hadn't heard anyone approach, but I believe I covered myself well. Eying me with simple curiosity, he was even more beautiful up close, and I blinked a few times in awe. There was no denying the lineage he carried. One of the old Japanese families. Thoroughbred. He bowed low, formally, his eyes thoughtful.

“You must be The Captain,” he said, in a deep, melodic voice that was startling coming from such a feminine face.

“You must be The Samurai,” I replied.

He shook his head. “Samurai no longer,” he told me.

“One never loses what one was born with,” I stated.

His eyes flickered with pleasure for an instant and he inclined his head slightly, his expression still bearing not one ounce of animosity or suspicion. It was amazing. “You took very good care of him while he was on board your ship,” he said. “He returned...improved. I will always be grateful.”

“He was an asset to my crew, and I'm not one to toss such assets aside lightly.”

“You've come to take him back,” he said quietly, the first hint of steel in his voice. “Please know I will not allow it.”

We regarded each other for a few moments, and I decided it would be unwise to argue with him. The decision was Mugen's to make, in any event. “I understand your feelings,” was my reply.

He arched a brow and nodded. “Mugen should be along shortly, please wait for him. I know he's been hoping to see you.” Again, I was surprised by his response, his willingness to gift me with such information. Bowing once more, he returned to his students.

And so I waited, watching the class end and slowly disperse. There were still quite a few people milling about, however, when I saw Mugen sauntering down the road. It was the walk that caught my eye first, as he was dressed in dark colored Japanese clothes when I had been looking for bright red and Ryukyuian shorts.

His hair had grown back to just about the length it was when I met him, which I was glad to see. I felt so bad when he had to shave it off, even though it was as funny as hell. It was clear he felt like Samson after Delilah was through with him, all his beauty and strength lost. Poor boy! I was glad he let me thrash Cristo for him, and hoped he took as much satisfaction from it as I did.

But there he was walking into the yard, and my heart beat faster. I heard voices yell, “Fight! Fight!” The chorus got louder as Mugen and Samurai neared each other. They were both shaking their heads and waving them off, saying no, but the cries didn't cease.

“Come on!” A louder voice called out. “You haven't given us nuthin' for a week.” They looked at each other and Samurai shrugged. Mugen set down the sack he was carrying, reached for his sword and they began. It was amazing to see. I'd watched Mugen fight a few times in the past, but clearly his level of ability had vastly improved. I was fascinated, especially since it appeared neither was holding back. The fight was real, and both were determined to win—you could see it in their faces.

I found myself watching the pretty samurai as much as Mugen. If he was the submissive one, as I imagined he had to be, he was certainly not acting particularly submissive. He was so fast, there were times when I literally couldn't follow his sword with my eye. It was warriors like he, I realized, that made Japan the powerful and feared country it was. Faced with such an opponent, Mugen rose to the occasion in ways I never saw him achieve when he fought with with Lee. His style was unlike any other I have seen, but it was effective against Samurai and I was glad.

The small crowd followed them as they moved about the yard. The fight traveled nearer to me and I had a better view. And then the crowd parted just so, Mugen pivoted in my direction...and saw me. He froze. Thankfully Samurai noticed and pulled his punch, which would have gutted Mugen neatly if he hadn't. Unfortunately for Samurai, the torque of his checked movement carried him forward and he executed an only-somewhat graceful flip before landing on his ass a few feet away. I cringed, but my eyes were only for Mugen.

“Holy fucking shit!” he whispered, staring, rooted to the spot. Perhaps his lover's resounding, “Oooof,” as he landed finally woke him up, but he strode over, throwing himself at me without reservation. It felt good to hug him again, damp and steaming from the fight. He smelled as I remembered...dark musk and autumn air. But oh, he was thin! I was a little shocked by that. I gently pushed him away so I could get a better look.

“You've lost weight, my friend,” I said, forgetting that I hadn't even said hello.

“Yeah, I had the yellow fever,” he told me. “Just getting over it.” My heart froze. I've seen my share of deaths from the disease, and it's not an easy way to die. “Jin and Fuu...kashi got me through it,” he continued. So Samurai's name was Jin after all, although I doubted it was his legal one.

“The treatment is expensive and hard to acquire,” I said. “I'm so grateful you obviously benefited.”

His brow creased and I could see the gears turning as he mulled that over. “Expensive?” he asked.

I nodded. “Quite expensive. I've watched men die due to the inability to afford it. And in some cases, the funds were there but the herb was not available. You were very fortunate, Mugen.”

He was not pleased by this information and turned to call Jin over, who complied, eying me warily as he noticed Mugen's expression. “How come you never told me how expensive my medicine was?” Mugen asked him.

Jin's eyes widened and he looked relieved, as though he had expected Mugen to say something else. “It's unimportant,” he replied.

“Like hell it is!” Mugen cried. “You weren't gonna tell me, were you?”

“No, I was not.”

Mugen walked up and got his nose in Jin's face, but the samurai did not back away. Standing calmly, he seemed unperturbed by Mugen's scowl. There was no mistaking the familiarity, the intimacy, of their relationship as they swam in each other's gaze. No, Mugen was not going to return with me. I was certain.

“Four-eyed fool,” he growled. “I can't be letting you do that kinda shit for me. If Captain Nunes hadn't...uh, oh yeah....” He suddenly turned back to me. Yes, my boy, I'm still here.

“Damn!” he said, cringing. “Uh, this is Jin.”

I smiled, bowing slightly, and Jin did the same. “We have already met,” I told him. “Before you arrived.”

He looked back and forth between the two of us and we both nodded. “Uhhh...well, OK then.” He stammered a bit, looking more uncertain than I have ever seen him. It was, dare I say it, cute.

“Mugen, why don't you take the captain inside and show him some...hospitality?” Jin's offer seemed sincere, and I could have sworn he winked at Mugen when he said it, so I was amazed yet again. What kind of relationship did they share? I could not comprehend it. Mugen gave him a grateful look and grabbed me by the arm.

“Yeah, come on, sir,” he said, pulling me toward the house. “Where's my manners? Oh right, never had any!”

I chuckled. God only knew what awaited me inside. But I hadn't felt this curious, this alive, this...aroused, in a very long time. I would be in Ryukyu for two nights only, and I intended to make the most of them.

to be continued