And here's something completely original.
Pairings/Characters: Levi Thompson, Peter Crowe, Jacob Flint
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, violence. (PG-13 overall.)
Summary: Captain Levi Thompson is a name to be feared in the waters of the Atlantic. But at the start of his days at sea, the man could barely scare a bilge rat.
A/N: This is a (horribly late) Christmas gift for my friend Jessica. I own all characters used in this story. Not beta read.
It took so many years for it all to sink in. I knew I wasn't cut out for this when I first joined the crew, but it wasn't like I had a choice. The only alternative was death, and I am a coward.
I was eleven. I hardly remember how my life was before then. I don't even remember my parents. I was raised as a shipbuilder, apprenticed to a man who had designed and built some of the finest vessels in the King's armada. I had just completed my first project. It was nothing more than a dinghy, but I was proud of it. Early the next morning, my master took me out on a real ship in celebration. I had never been to sea before. My legs were unused to the rocking of the boat, and I spent a lot of time bent over the railing, retching with seasickness, but it was still the best day of my life. Or at least, it would have been.
When my stomach had calmed down, I was just in time to watch the sun rise. It was magnificent. So distracted we were by it, that we did not see an approaching ship. The wood looked worn, and the sails were shabby. I was the first to notice it. I watched it curiously for a minute or so. It did not occur to me to alert anyone until I watched its crew hoist the Jolly Roger above its sails. My eyes grew wide with panic as I raced across the deck, shouting about pirates. Soon everyone was shouting and rushing to their positions and ducking below deck to arm the cannons. I just stood there, feeling stupid, but unable to help for lack of experience. Finally, someone dragged me into the cabin and promised I would be safe there. At eleven, I held a grudge over this broken promise, but today, I hold none.
A few moments later, I heard cannonfire, and the sound of splintering wood told me that it was not from our side. Instinctively, I backed into the corner and covered my head with my arms. I heard more of the deafening blasts coupled with strangled screams, and I wept, like the coward I am. Suddenly, a cannonball barrelled through the wall of the cabin, only a foot shy of hitting me, and I let out the most high-pitched girlish scream that you can imagine. Once again in panic, I jumped to my feet and ran from the cabin. Oh, what a fool I was.
Outside, there was the clash of swords and the stain of blood on the deck. Ten feet in front of me stood my master. He turned his attention to me, and I watched in horror as he was impaled by the blade of the man in front of him. And I did the second most idiotic thing I've ever done. Instead of getting myself out of sight before I was noticed, I rushed forward to catch him as he slid from the sword. His blood covered my hands, but I didn't notice it. I just kept muttering 'no' over and over again under my breath. I felt tears welling up, and I reached up to wipe them away, once again paying no mind to the blood. I noticed the rough leather of well worn boots still standing in front of me and looked up cautiously. The pirate eyed me curiously, almost with pity, it seemed, but I knew that to be impossible. Pirates were merciless, murdering scum that cared for no one but themselves, I had always been taught. His blade was poised at his side, and I waited for it to slash across my neck, but it never did. Instead, he pulled me away from my master, dragging me by the collar of my shirt. I sagged like a deadweight. What was the use? I was sure he was only going to kill me anyway.
We crossed the boardwalk to the other ship, and he all but threw me into the cabin. He left and the door slammed. I scrambled up and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. Left with nowhere to run, I hid behind the furthest object from the door, a small desk in the corner of the room. There was an oil lamp hanging above it, and I occupied myself by watching the way it flickered into the cracks in the walls and cast shadows upon my prone form. Outside, the only thing I could still hear was cannons. It wasn't much longer before it all stopped. I jumped when the door opened again and tried to shrink even further into the corner. It was a different pirate this time who grabbed my collar and brought me back outside. I was among four other bound prisoners, all young men, but older than me. I stood up quickly and ran over to the one closest to me, a man I knew called Peter Crowe. All around us were pistols and cutlasses pointed in our direction. I glanced over my shoulder to find that the ship I had come from was nowhere in sight; nothing but splinters of wood left in it's wake.
Minutes later, the pirate who killed my master came down from the quarterdeck, and from this I deduced that he was their captain. He paced back and forth in front of us, and I was afraid that he would order us shot any second. Finally, he spoke, in a deep, quiet voice that had an fierce intensity to it. “Ye kin join the crew or ye kin die. It's yer own choice.” He said nothing more and walked away. The pirate who dragged me out of the cabin asked me for my name.
“Levi, sir. Levi Thompson.” My voice was high-pitched and shaky.
“Well, what'll it be, brat?” He held a short dagger to my throat. I instantly started pleading for my life and agreed to join the crew. Reluctantly, he pulled the dagger away and muttered, “Dunno what use this whelp will be...” He did the same to the other captives, only two of which survived, Crowe and another man I had never spoken to. The three of us were then dragged off to different parts of the ship. I was thrown back into the cabin and informed that I was the new cabin boy. An hour later, another man came in and threw a bucket of water at my feet and told me to mop the deck. This became one of my regular duties. I was also responsible for keeping the captain's quarters clean. I kept his bed made and his desk organized. The first time I rearranged his quills and papers, he came barrelling out of his cabin a few hours later and dragged me back to his desk, where I was quite rudely informed that I had misplaced a letter, two quills, and an ink well. I was later beaten by an unforgiving sailor, and I never misplaced a quill again.
Although it was my business to mind the cabin, I was not allowed in the captain's quarters while it was inhabited. I was promptly kicked out every time the captain came in, and I was expected to wait outside his door until he left. It was only when he went in there to sleep – or when he was very drunk – that I was allowed to venture below deck and seek out a place of rest for myself.
My only friend aboard that ship was Crowe. He seemed to naturally adjust to the new crude life we lived, and he protected me when another member of the crew was out for my blood. When we first boarded the ship, he had quickly been promoted as first mate to the ship's sailing master, which was no surprise considering he had served as navigator on the naval ship we had come from. In no less than six months he held his master's position. For him, this promotion was of little consequence. Unfortunately, Jacob Flint, the ex-sailing master, was more than a little unhappy with the development.
One night, while I was finishing up some cleaning duties, I saw Crowe heading up for some fresh air. Flint approached him with his hand poised at his side, eager to draw his sword. Crowe had left his own sword in his quarters. Although he was sure to be seen as a coward for attacking an unarmed man, Flint was not one to be concerned with honour or dignity. He threatened Crowe with his life if he did not give up his position and leave the ship. When Crowe refused, Flint drew his sword and lunged at him. The attack was parried by a blade that seemed to come from nowhere. It looked so strange to see something so small holding a cutlass at bay.
I set my bucket down as quietly as I could and crept behind a set of stairs while the confrontation transpired. The two men separated and edged around an invisible circle as they stared each other down. Flint lunged forward again, swinging his sword madly. Crowe simply stepped aside and the blade embedded itself in the wooden railing. Flint tugged on the handle, but it wouldn't budge. Finally he growled in anger and whipped around to face Crowe again. The man hadn't moved at all; he stared at his opponent, his eyes as tranquil as the water. This made Flint even angrier and he lunged at Crowe again, even despite the loss of his weapon. There was a strangled cry and Flint dropped to his knees. Crowe stepped back and waited patiently while Flint, clutching his hand to his gut, struggled to his feet.
I could hardly believe it when I saw Flint charge him again. The man must have been crazy! What happened next was a bit of a blur. Crowe tossed the bloodied knife aside. I remember hearing a splash and then a few seconds later, an onslaught of curses.
“Christ, this bloody water is cold! Crowe! Dammit, Crowe! Get yer scrawny arse over here and throw me a rope!” I wondered if Flint actually expected him to listen or if it was just the shock of what happened getting to his head. Crowe ignored him and went to fetch his knife. I listened to Flint's voice fade away in a daze. Crowe started off toward the stairs and I tentatively crawled out of my hiding place. I made not a sound, but after a second Crowe stopped.
“You alright, cabin boy?” He didn't turn around, but I was rooted to the spot anyway. He had never called me that before. It was odd how such a minute change could make him seem a stranger to me. He looked over his shoulder and eyed me impassively. “Shouldn't you be off to bed?” His voice sounded cold and commanding. Without a second thought I took up my bucket, dumped its contents over the side and sprinted past him down into the ship. A day and a half passed before I spoke to Crowe again.