Another night at sea.
Pairings/Characters: Levi Thompson, Peter Crowe, Charlie Benton
Rating/Warnings: PG. (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: I still own them all. Still not beta read.
It was the second day since I had started avoiding Crowe. I was beginning to realize that I couldn't keep it up forever. The day before, he had moved the few belongings he had from the forecastle to the officers' quarters, and although he hadn't moved far, I still felt the loss acutely. He was the only friend I ever had on this ship. But alas, my certainty of this was beginning to falter. Was he really my friend? If he wasn't, then no one else was; that was for sure. He had always been friendly before. And cabin boy? What was that about? He had always called me Levi before. ...Oh, yeah. Before. That was the key word, wasn't it? Something had changed in Crowe that night. Of that, I was sure.
We had just been through some rough weather, and I was cleaning up some disorder in the captain's quarters. There was an ink well and half a bottle of rum that the captain had left on his desk that had been tossed about by the rocking of the ship. I was cleaning up the ink, rum and broken glass strewn across the cabin as best I could. The captain naturally blamed me for the mess. (“Cabin boy! Where were ye when this hap'ned, ye scurvy dog!? Clean up this ruddy mess!” He had conveniently forgot about telling me to go and help batten down the hatches while the storm was still brewing.) I was just about to go down to the hold to fetch replacements for the ink and rum, when Crowe (from seemingly out of nowhere) took hold of my arm.
At first he said nothing. He just had this hard look to his eyes. I swallowed the lump of apprehension forming in my throat and spoke up in a tiny voice. “Mr. Crowe?” I could think of nothing else to say, so I fell silent. He furrowed his brow for a moment and then knelt down in front of me. With his eyes at my level, I thought I could see a bit of the man I thought I knew. Maybe he wasn't lost forever. Just changed a bit. I felt cheered by this thought.
“Cabin boy?” he began tentatively. I looked away and frowned. It wasn't that I was unused to being called that. In fact, that was what every other sailor on the ship called me. I had just never considered Crowe as one of them. It felt as if he was fraternising with the enemy. I looked back at him and he continued, “You all right?” This sounded suspiciously like what he had said when last we spoke.
“I should be getting back to my duties, sir.” I shrugged out of his grasp and turned back to the stairs in front of us. “Sir” was my petty retaliation to his “cabin boy.” And I suppose it worked, even though I hadn't really expected it to. Crowe stopped me again and moved to block the stairs.
“Levi, wait. It's okay, someone's already taking care of it.” I stopped trying to escape; now that we were on the same page, I was willing to listen. “What you do on this ship, you don't really like doing it, do you?”
I pondered his question for a moment; it wasn't really something I had considered before. I honestly couldn't imagine myself being a “real” pirate. I had watched them plunder merchant ships, offering no quarter, and decided that I could never do that. I couldn't take a person's life like that. I just couldn't. But that didn't mean that I liked being a cabin boy. “No,” I decided. I didn't want to be ordered around by every man on the ship and be expected to keep up with it all. And I didn't want to be punished whenever I screwed up (and even when I didn't). “I don't. But I also don't see what else there is for me out here.”
He stood up, crossing his arms over his chest, and smiled at me. “Come with me. There's someone I think you should meet,” he said. He then headed down into the ship and I followed him. I knew that there were members of the crew that I had not yet met. And to be honest, I wasn't too keen on meeting them. From my experience, pirates were not very friendly people. If they weren't mocking me, they were insulting me, yelling at me, smacking me upside the head just for grins, or simply just glaring and trying to intimidate me. I suppose it was because I was still not much use as a sailor. Even after six months, I still got seasickness on occasion, and I couldn't hold my liquor if my life depended on it. Well, I couldn't hold my rum, anyway. Pirates seem to have no respect for “landlubbers.”
We passed the gun deck, and stopped by the galley. Crowe pulled out some sea biscuits from one cupboard, and then he put his knee on the counter to reach a block of cheese at the very back of another. “Benton likes cheese. I usually try to bring him some if we have any,” Crowe explained as he cut few slices. He handed me the cheese and biscuits and we took to the stairs again. We found Benton at the lowest level of the ship, the bilge. I grimaced. No place on this ship was free of stench or infestation of rats, cockroaches and other animals, but there was no place where it was worse than in the bilge. I never looked forward to coming here. I began doubt whether this potential promotion would be worth it.
“Hey, Benny. I got somethin' for ye,” Crowe said as he gripped my shoulder and shoved me forward. He always spoke to the crew in this manner, but it sounded strange to my ears. I held out the cheese and biscuits as Benton turned away from his work to face us.
“Sink me! Peter, ye old dog, ye didn' tell me we had cheese!” The pirate dropped his tools gleefully and lumbered over to take what was offered to him.
“Well, we wouldn' be havin' any if ye knew where I bin hidin' it, now would we?” Benton pondered this while he chewed on a biscuit. Crowe laughed and added, “I picked it up at port las' we docked.” This had been the day before Flint had attacked him. Benton swallowed and then responded.
“Aye. Good work there, mate. This 'ere leak's been a right stubborn bugger. Was jus' thinkin' I needed a break.” His eyes shifted back to me. “An' who's this lad?” I shuffled my feet a little bit. I opened my mouth, but I was too nervous to speak.
“This 'ere's our cabin boy. Levi, meet Charlie Benton. He's our master carpenter.” Crowe then addressed Benton again. “This one's prob'ly a bit rusty, but 'e used to be a shipbuilder's appren'ice. I hap'ned to o'erhear ye sayin' tha' one of yer mates jumped ship.” Benton eyed me appraisingly. I fidgeted and kept my eyes trained on my feet, ankle deep in bilge water.
“You e'er fixed a leak in the hull?” he asked me.
“Yes, sir. Although not in a great while.”
“Ye know how to fix a hatch what's been ripped from its hinges?” I nodded. “How 'bout repairin' a battle weary mast?”
“Um...” I stammered. That had been something that my old master and I had yet to cover. I looked up at the pirate, afraid that I would be rejected. To my surprise, he was smiling at me. A crooked smile that glinted with a few gold and silver caps.
“Ye'll do, cabin boy. Ye'll do,” Benton leaned forward and clapped one of his huge hands on my shoulder. I almost collapsed at the unexpected force, but I managed to keep my footing. I also couldn't help but smile a little, content to be accepted, even if I wasn't sure what I'd got myself into.
Crowe chatted with Benton a bit more and I helped him finish sealing the leak. I learned that a carpenter's job didn't bring him to the bilge all the time. There was plenty of work to be done on the upper decks, especially after a battle. Later, after we were finished plugging up holes, the three of us headed back to the upper decks; back to civilization, relatively speaking. When we reached the deck that houses the living quarters, I expected that Crowe and Benton would both set off for the officers' quarters together, but Crowe stayed behind and asked me to wait. After Benton was out of sight, he knelt down in front of me, like he had before.
“You still want the job, Levi?” I hesitated minutely and then nodded. I suddenly found that I had my heart set on it. The last thing I wanted was to go back to waiting on the captain's cabin. “Well then, there's something you'll have to take care of first.” He paused and I shifted my weight impatiently. “You're still a cabin boy, remember?” I furrowed my brow and glanced left, trying to see where this was going. What he said next made my blood run cold with dread. “You'll have to run it past the captain.”
“Are you kidding me?” I could feel the panic rising in my voice.
He scoffed and scolded me, “Oh, come on now. He's not about to bite your head off.” Maybe from where he was standing. The captain wouldn't just bite my head off, he'd rip me limb from limb. There was no way I'd make it out of that conversation unscathed.
“But Mr. Crowe, can't you–” He had taken me by the shoulders and shook me.
“Nay, I can't, cabin boy! Don't ye see? Ye can't be relying on me all the time. I won't always be 'ere. Ye hafta learn to fend for yerself.” That shut me up. He had slipped back into that pirate's slur. This was the first time I had heard it directed at me. I stared at him, a little shocked. And he stared at me, his eyes fierce, but compassionate. Finally, I came back to myself and broke away from his grasp.
“What's up with you?” My voice sounded small. Crowe's face read confusion. I suppose it seemed no big deal to him. He probably hadn't even noticed his slip. I took a step back and then turned around and walked away. Before long, I began to run. When I got back to my quarters I heaved a sigh and collapsed against the door. I'm sure Crowe must have thought I had gone mad, but I could tell that there was something up with him. Something was bothering him. I could see it in his eyes. Before long, I would wrestle up the courage to ask him about it, but that night, I needed to focus on the formidable task ahead of me.