Chapter 1: Prologue - Life Turned Upside Down
Prologue - Life Turned Upside Down
Ten years ago
The sound of a cannon being fired shattered the silence, and with it the last vestiges of the night. Most of the ship’s inhabitants were asleep and therefore rudely thrown into the growing melée of chaos and destruction.
“Lord Burke, Sir!”
Usually, William Blake, one of the younger crew members, knocked before entering the largest cabin aboard, but due to the circumstances, he dropped his manners and stormed in, only half-dressed and shaking with fear. The youngest crew member was on his first, and judging by the way the ship began to lean to one side, last tour of the Caribbean Seas.
Peter, Lord Burke of Northampshire and member of the Queen’s Marine High Council, was already up and began to dress. One way or another, he was responsible for both the ship and the crew, even though he had a formidable captain with Sir David Siegel.
The female voice coming from the bed was thick with sleep. If anyone could sleep through all the chaos, it was Peter’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Burke. While it was rather uncustomary to have a woman aboard (there were a lot of sailors out there who thought women to be in the company of bad luck), Peter had used his status to have her with him. After almost ten years of marriage and countless attempts, they finally were expecting a child, and if both his mother and mother-in-law were right with their guesses, Elizabeth was carrying a son, an heir to Peter’s title and lands.
“Go back to sleep, my dear. I’ll be right back.”
Peter hated nothing more than lying, in general, but even more so to his lovely, very understanding wife, but he didn’t want to put more stress on her than necessary. Especially in her already delicate condition, any kind of trouble could be dangerous to both mother and child. Due to an apparent hereditary issue, many women on Elizabeth’s maternal side suffered from terrible blood pressure, causing spontaneous fainting (in the best cause) or death during childbirth (in the worst case). Lady Caroline Mitchell, Peter’s mother-in-law, herself lost her own mother to this problem, and she was, of course, worried that her only child would suffer the same.
“Why is this ship leaning to one side?”
Apparently, Elizabeth was fully awake by now. Peter, still with his back to her, heaved a sigh before steeling himself and faced her.
“Hon, I didn’t want to worry you, but it seems that we’re under fire of unknown origin.”
“That’s what I’m going to find out now.”
Before Elizabeth could form another question (she was, uncommonly for women of her time, raised to speak her mind and ask a load of questions), Peter silenced her with a kiss before following Blake up to the deck.
“Lord Burke, Sir?”
“I beg your forgiveness, but you have a very lovely wife.”
They had reached the door leading to the open deck, and they could hear most of the crew shouting and cursing, but Peter stopped for a moment and turned to the younger man.
“You don’t have to apologize, Blake, especially when you’re pointing out an obvious fact.” The younger man only nodded. “And now we have to make sure she’s stays safe.” And with that, Peter opened the door, immediately surrounded by a light fog, due to the fires started by the cannons.
After a few minutes, he finally located Captain Siegel up on the bridge, shouting orders to the soldiers and sailors beneath him.
“How did we get surprised by them?”
Peter himself had to shout the question, even though he was standing right next to Siegel. Cannons being fired tend to be loud; add some fog around the ship, and the sound is worse than a heavy thunderstorm.
“We barely had entered this wall of fog when the first cannon ball struck,” Siegel shouted back, before issuing yet another order at his frantic crew. “I only can guess that it’s coming from this side,” he pointed to his right, “judging by both the damage of this first shot and the way the ship is leaning to this side.”
Peter nodded his consent to Siegel’s estimations. While such walls of fog were nothing out of the ordinary back home in England, both on land and sea, experiencing them here, in the warm climate of the Caribbean Sea, was definitely NOT common.
He was about to ask Siegel about his plans when the whole ship was rocked by the impact of yet another cannon ball, this time quite in the middle, where they stashed the food and other supplies. By now, almost all of the men still alive were in a frenzy, torn between trying to save their own lives and protecting the ship.
Despite all the noise around them, the clear voice of Elizabeth was easily to hear. Panic gripped Peter’s heart. What on God’s green Earth was she doing on deck?
Somehow, he made it down the few stairs, despite the fact that the ship was more and more tilting towards the left. Beneath his feet, the heavy cannons could be heard rolling from the right to the other side, bringing the ship and its crew closer and closer to the end.
“Elizabeth, my dear, what are you doing out here?”
“I couldn’t stay back in there and listen to the cries of the men.” She gazed over his shoulder, and apparently for the first time since stepping out, she noticed the strange setting around them. “Didn’t you tell me that there’s no fog in the Caribbean?”
“I did, indeed, but apparently my sources weren’t exactly true about that.”
Another cannon ball struck wood, and despite his upbringing, Peter let out a scream (though it was closer to a shriek to his ears). Elizabeth did the same, and they only had the blink of an eye before the ship tilted further to the side and finally reached a 90° angle of its usual position on the water. They saw with horror in their eyes as David Siegel fell into the dark waves beneath them, as well as other men who weren’t able to grab a rope or anything else to hold on.
And even though they had a quite good grip on the fishing net mounted to the wall over them at the moment, Peter knew instinctively that, sooner or later, he and his wife would join the soldiers and sailors in the water. Which happened only moments later, when Elizabeth slipped through his grasp, her full lips parted in a silent scream before her body hit the water and vanished beneath the crest.
Peter jumped after her, but between the fog, debris from the ship and the dark water, he couldn’t make out her silhouette beneath the water. Besides that, his clothes were soaked thoroughly and got heavier by the second. Just as he was to succumb to the surprisingly cold water, his eyes saw the other ship – much larger than his, towering over the wreckage like a dark shadow, the dark flag on top of the highest mast waving in the wind.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1 - Under Pirates
Peter is saved, adjusts to live by a pirate's rules, and learns more about the man responsible for the attack.
Guest appearances/mentions of some characters from other fandoms.
Warnings: Implications to rape of an underaged male. Mention of rape (of a female character).
Chapter 1 – Under Pirates
The first thing that Peter noticed upon awaking was the fact that he wasn’t in the water anymore. Was he dead and in heaven? He wished so, since he couldn’t fathom a life without Elizabeth in it. Or his unborn son, for that matter. Two innocent people, murdered by a bunch of ruthless pirates, just because their ships crossed paths. If there was truly a God up in the skies, why did He let something like that happen without striking down these miscreants?
“Oh, you’re awake.”
Peter was so lost in his thoughts that he hadn’t heard the door to his (?) quarters open. Looking around, he didn’t see any weapons nearby, but, as a voice in his head pointed out, why should somebody save him first, only to kill him as soon as he was awake?
He finally turned around completely – and was faced with the half-amused face of a young Negro woman. And even more surprising than the color of her skin was the fact that she was dressed like a man.
“Where am I?”
“You’re on board of the ʻEstelleʼ, and yes, we fished you out of the water when we came across the remains of what I suppose was once your ship,” she told him, matter-of-factly.
“Did you save anyone else?”
“No. We pulled some more from the water, but there wasn’t anything we could do for them anymore, except for saying a prayer and handing them back to the sea,” she explained, and Peter could almost feel the sadness that tinged her voice. “Do you wish to sail back and have another look? Captain won’t be thrilled about it, but there’s always a chance to convince him over a bottle of wine.”
“No,” Peter answered, despite the demands of his heart, that wanted nothing more than go back to the very place it was buried on the bottom of the sea, along his wife and unborn child.
“Hey,” she said while putting a hand on his shoulder, “who did you lost out there? Someone special?”
“Yeah,” Peter heaved a sigh, his heart getting heavy again at the mere thought of Elizabeth, “my wife. And our unborn child.” He could hear the woman gasp, her whole body sending waves of shock and pity towards him. Going against his upbringing once again, Peter let himself envelop by them and cried for the two souls lost forever to him.
Walking through the narrow hallway, Peter couldn’t help but notice that this ship was far more luxurious than the one he was on that fateful day. He wasn’t an expert on the different types of wood, but the dark, rich-colored panels right next to him even looked expensive. Whoever was the owner of this ship must have been a rich man to afford things like that. Sure, Peter and his family weren’t poor either, but they never, ever would have put something like expensive wood on a ship.
At long last, they stepped out on the main deck, and for a moment, Peter had kind of a déjà-vu. Try as he might, he couldn’t help the images coming up in front of his inner eye – the fog that surrounded them, thickened and blackened by the fires; the dull yet roaring sound of a cannon being fired, the men running around the deck in a frenzy; and last but not least, Elizabeth looking up at him, her beautiful face twisted into a mask of fear before vanishing beneath the dark waves.
“Looks like Sleeping Beauty has awakened.”
The words were accompanied with a sneer, and that alone brought Peter back to reality. Looking around, he saw a shorter man standing about ten, fifteen feet away from him, measuring him from head to toe with a calculating gaze. Somehow, this man gave him instantly the creeps.
“Leave him alone, Keller, or you’ll get a repeat of two days ago.”
Surprisingly, it was the woman who issued the threat, and Peter was more and more fascinated with her in a non-romantic way. Whoever she was, she was well-educated (if her manner of speaking was any indicator for that), and she definitely had commanding power on this ship – both things not a common thing for neither women nor slaves.
“Captain on Deck!”
Peter looked up to the source of this new voice, and was again surprised to see a very young man (he couldn’t be older than maybe 15 or 16) standing on the bridge, his strong, demanding voice belying his age. Looking back at the people on the main deck, he finally noticed the new arrival – a short man, with almost a bald head and a monocle in his left eye.
“I take it you’re the Captain of this fine ship?”
“Aye, sir, I am.”
Once again, Peter looked around on the ship, looking for any indication which nationality the ship and its crew had. Try as he might, he couldn’t find any.
“Which crown are you sailing for?”
“None, and that won’t change, at least as long as I am the captain of this ship,” the man said, accompanying his words with a light full body shudder, as if the mere thought of subjecting himself and everyone else aboard under any authority gave him the chills.
“You’re a merchant, right?”
Peter even hadn’t finished his question when some of the crew members began to snicker. The woman next to him offered him a broad, but warm smile, and the Captain’s face lit up.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, except that I wouldn’t call our line of work being merchants,” the woman offered, her voice laced heavily with humor.
“Well, in some twisted way, we are merchants, only that our goods aren’t so good at all.”
The man she called Keller spoke up, leveling her with a hard gaze.
“No, Keller, that’s not our definition. And I told repeatedly if you don’t drop that attitude, we’ll maroon you on the first and smallest island we pass.”
Before any of the others had a chance to reply, the man had vanished into the belly of ship.
“Trouble in the crew, Captain?” Peter asked, a tad worried for his own safety.
“Nothing a good whipping and a cut of his share of prizes couldn’t handle,” the short man answered. “Come with me, I think we have a lot to talk about.” He turned to the woman. “You have the bridge. I’ll be in my quarters, enlightening our guest about the rules here aboard.”
The woman only nodded before heading up to join the young man at the wheel. Peter was left to witness that all with growing awe. Back home in England, some men couldn’t even stand a woman speaking up in their presence, and here, on this ship, a woman (and a Negro on top of that) was second in command, having apparently gained the full trust of the Captain.
At last, he followed the Captain back down the hallway, but instead of turning left, they turned right this time, and after a second, though shorter hallway, they entered the Captain’s quarter. Seeing the large windows, going over three sides of the room and offering a spectacular view of the sea, Peter stopped dead in his tracks. In all his years of existence, he had seen a lot of ships, and some of them were downright beautiful, but he never, ever had seen something like that before.
“You’re not the first one to react that way upon seeing that,” the short man gestured to the windows, “for the first time.”
“I can only imagine,” Peter replied, sitting down in one of the chairs at the large oak table. The other man went over to a small cupboard, coming back with a bottle and two stone tumblers.
“We don’t have any fancy glasses here on board, at least not for drinking purposes,” the man said while pouring them some wine. “And no, it’s not because we couldn’t afford them, quite the contrary. It’s more from practical point of view – there’s no big losses with them,” he raised his mug for emphasis, “should they break.”
Peter only nodded. Like the woman before, this man here also was very well-educated. And judging by the way he dressed and behaved himself, Peter even had the suspicion that the other man even had a deep-running connection to a noble family.
“So, how should we call you?”
“Peter, because that is my given name.”
“Very well, Peter, I am Theo, and as you already know, the captain of this little ship here.”
“I wouldn’t call it little, to be honest.” Theo didn’t reply, but his gaze told Peter to continue. “I grew up in a family of sailors and captains, and I have never, ever seen a ship so beautiful.”
Standing at the bridge, one hand on the wheel, Peter let his gaze sweep down over the deck out to the dark blue waves and the bright blue sky above. Compared to the heavy storm they had weathered only two days ago (without losing any crew members to the stormy sea), the light breeze he felt in his hair now was more than welcomed, making the hot rays of the sun coming from above more bearable.
A lot had changed in the last decade, since the day Mozzie and the crew of the “Estelle” fished him out of the sea. Sure, he was more than a bit shocked to learn that his saviors were pirates, but they proofed it several times over the years that they had no desire to kill him – unless he broke one of the dozen or so rules pirates had to agree upon joining a crew.
They also taught him that, while they all were more than capable to turn a fight to their favor, they weren’t ruthless killers who lacked any kind of moral, only out for causing mayhem wherever they roamed. Sure, there always was a lot more bloodshed on their opponent’s side when they captured a ship, but the crew of the Estelle also had their losses over the years.
Good men, like John, who was on the ship with his two sons, or Edward, just to name two of them, had ended up at the wrong end of a sword or a gun. Scott, their youngest crew member, almost died from infection after another fight, and survived only because Eliot, the ship’s cook, Peter and Diana fought for him and forced the infection back to a level where they could save most of left leg, only the lower half had to be cut off and replaced with a wooden stick, provided by their resident carpenter, a man from Mississippi delta going by the name of Benny. Almost the same tale could be told about Samuel, the younger of John’s sons, and Martin, a young, idealistic soldier/sailor that reminded Peter of himself at that age.
For the first couple of years, no one, except for Diana and Mozzie, as the captain preferred to be called (Peter still had no clue as to how this nickname came to be), knew what exactly happened before they found him in the water. Only these two had learned the full, heartbreaking truth of the tragic deaths of Elizabeth and the baby, and if it was only up to his heart, it would stay this way for all eternity.
But his brain, apparently had other plans, with a little help from a coincidence. People usually assumed that pirates never followed any rules and routines, but as Peter had quickly picked up, it was quite the contrary. Not only was a set of rules in place, they also had kind of a post-caper ritual they almost followed to a T.
It didn’t happen after every single caper, but whenever Mozzie thought their storage rooms were full enough, they made the trip to one of four ports – Port Royal (despite the danger of being caught by the ever-present British guards), Tortuga, and two other, yet-to-be-named settlements to exchange their loot for food and other more necessary provisions.
On one of these trips to Tortuga, Peter had the biggest flashback to that fateful day in years, causing him to stop dead in his tracks, only two steps down the wooden ramp connecting the ship with the pier. Several of his colleagues almost collided with him, but he didn’t hear any of their complaints, his eyes fixed on something he hoped he would never see again.
Like on the darkest day of his life so far, the crest he saw on the attacking ship was towering over the other ships, remembering Peter of a dark, sinister sentinel.
“You okay, Peter?”
If she really tried, Diana easily could shed her usual tough exterior and be like it was expected from a woman of her time – soft, empathic. And of course it would be her that would take notice of Peter’s discomfort before anyone else would even realize it.
“Yes, I’m fine.” Her only answer was an arched eyebrow. “No, not really.”
“What’s the problem?”
For a moment or two, Peter’s brain and heart were having a battle. His brain wanted to share his knowledge, his heart wanted to keep itself safe from even more pain in one day. At last, his brain won, and Peter turned Diana around to show her.
“See that dark banner with the golden crest over there?” He pointed to the tallest mast.
“Yeah, but why…” She stopped herself, realization suddenly dawning on her. Over the years, Peter had learned that she was a very clever woman, having received the almost same education as the two daughters of the family she and her mother were sold to. “You know this crest, don’t you? And it has something to do with you ending up in the water, on the brink of death, right?”
“Yes, it has. This crest was the very last thing I saw before I lost consciousness. And I think it was on the ship that attacked us that day.”
Diana’s dark eyes went wide as saucers, and it took her several moments to regain her coolness. Before she said anything, she grabbed Peter by the arm and pulled him back up the ramp onto their ship and further into Mozzie’s cabin, shielding them both from any uninvited listeners.
“You know it too, don’t you?” Peter asked, once he had a regular breathing pattern once again.
“I do, and I tell you who it does belong to, but only if you promise me one thing.” She walked over to where Mozzie kept his personal stash of whiskey, grabbing a bottle and two tumblers.
“And what should I promise you?”
Diana poured them some whiskey and handed him one of the tumblers before fixing him in his place with a stare.
“That you don’t plan any revenge or a solo tour. Almost everyone here on board has a connection of some kind to the owner of this ship, so if you plan anything despite my warning, you probably have to get in line.”
Peter took a sip, letting the amber liquid with its rich taste gliding down his throat while mulling over Diana’s words. How on Earth could she predict his thoughts so precisely, even before he really had thought them? And was it kind of destiny that it was exactly the crew of the “Estelle” that would save him back then?
“If you wish.”
“No, Peter, I don’t wish it – I beg you.” She put her tumbler down on the table beside them. “The crest you showed me belongs to a modern Janus, going by the name of Vincent Adler. From what I know, he’s a Brit, just like you. He claims to be ʻjustʼ a merchant, like so many others, but no one knows what he really deals in – humans.” Peter opened his mouth, but she stopped him with a hand. “And I’m not talking about slaves, like I was. No, he kidnaps people from lower social ranks, vagabonds, poor people, and sells them both here in the Caribbean and back in England.”
“And nobody does anything about it?” Peter couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Sure, most of the civil servants were from noble families, but even then, if people disappeared, someone HAD to take notice of it.
“Because he knows how to cover it all up. Rumor has it, he declares them as free workers in his enterprise, even shows any civil servant digging around a written note where they, apparently, have agreed to work for him for a small fee.”
“Which, of course, they never have,” Peter surmised with a sour taste in his mouth. He knew that there were a lot of bad people out there, but that had to be the icing on a distasteful cake. “So, how do you know so much about him?”
“First of all, thanks to Scott.”
“You mean our crew baby?”
“Yep. Mozzie and I found him hiding in alley in Port Royal, hurt and badly malnourished. It took Mozzie some time to convince him to come with us back to the ʻEstelleʼ. Once we were here with him, Eliot almost ripped him from our arms and steered him into the small medical bay of his. Where he spent the next hour or so with treating the many, many wounds on that small body.” She paused, turning her head to the window and the open sea behind it before continuing. “Like with his leg, we fought any infection for the next ten days with everything we could think about. And while his body was fighting to get better, Scott told us the story of his life so far.” She turned back to face Peter again. “He was four when he was kidnapped from his grandparent’s garden, while his mother was working. When we found him, he was thirteen.” She grabbed her tumbler again, finishing her drink in one go, the burn of the alcohol burning away the bitter taste of memories. “In the nine years between, he was sold around half England before ending up here in the Caribbean. And each new ʻownerʼ treated him worse than the one before. I don’t think that anyone ever asked him, but some of the guys suspect that somewhere along the way, Scott even had to endure what usually happens to women.” She didn’t have to spell it out; Peter knew what she was talking about.
“How old is he now? I still have a hard time to guess his age.”
“He’s 17, if his memory is right.” She paused again, looking Peter in the eye. “Yeah, still way too young to have endured all that already.”
“And what’s your story with Adler?”
“You’re relentless, you know that?” She countered, sitting down on the edge of the desk.
“Yeah, I’ve been told that before,” Peter answered, offering her a small smile.
“After my mother died, the family we worked for gave me the opportunity of leaving on my own terms.”
“Quite unusual, especially for a noble family.”
“Yeah, usually it is, but not when you get caught kissing the elder of the two daughters.” Peter’s eyes went wide, especially upon seeing the smug smile spreading on Diana’s face. “Her father told me that he considered punishing me, maybe even killing me, and setting an example for the other slaves working for his family that way, but after being with the family for so many years, I was considered being the third daughter, and you don’t go and publically punish your family. And so, I got a small pack of provisions and money to tide me over and was sent on my way the next day.”
“Which led you to Adler?”
“More or less. I worked in several pubs, and I learned to handle guys who wanted a different kind of service. Until one day, when Lord Bryan McKenzie ended up in the pub I was working, due to a torrential rain. That day, my luck ran out on me.”
“Oh yes, he did,” Diana said with so much ice in her voice that Peter almost was waiting for the windows to frost. “And he not only raped me and punched me unconscious, he also brought me back to Adler’s mansion, where I came to two days later, chained, on a small cot in a semi-dark room, my whole lower body on fire.”
Peter couldn’t help but wince in sympathy. How someone could do such cruel things to another human being – and he considered slaves as human beings as well – was beyond him. But he knew that someone had to do something against that all, and foremost Adler, and if nobody else volunteered for it, that was him.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2 - Human Driftwood
The crew of the "Estelle" has a little déjà vu...
Chapter 2 – Human Driftwood
Ever since Diana told him about Adler, Peter’s mind was busy with coming up with plans. Plans on how to act out his revenge on the man he held responsible for that fateful day. But so far, his plans all had one weak point – you couldn’t attack a guy like Adler from afar, especially when you were part of a pirate crew. The chance that they all would end up either in prison or dead (or both) was really high that way, and that was something that Peter, despite all the prejudices he had (and partly still has) about pirates, couldn’t do the rest of the crew, not after everything they’ve been through together in the past ten years.
Right now, all plans about revenge were pushed to the very far corner of his mind. Together with Mozzie, Diana and Eliot, Peter was standing at the second table in Mozzie’s cabin, the one containing the large card of the Caribbean Sea. The season of heavy storms on an almost daily basis was upon them, and none of them wanted to endanger both the ship and the crew any more than necessary.
“Captain,” Eliot began to speak, “we had a good season.” Everyone else nodded. “We made good prizes, had no personal losses. I was able to procure good food all the time, which is a miracle in itself. So I suggest we get to a nice little harbor, sit the storm season out on dry land, and start anew afterwards.” He sat down. “Besides, I think some of us would love to see their special people again.” Peter couldn’t help but notice the meaning look Eliot sent to both Mozzie and Diana. Apparently, there was more to them two than meets the eye, even after more than a decade of sailing together.
“I agree with Eliot,” Diana spoke up. “We never, ever have let greed cloud our judgment and gut feeling, not even when Keller was part of the crew, and I’d love to see this string continue.” Two years ago, Mozzie finally had had enough of Keller’s extravaganza and underlying aggressiveness, and marooned him in short distance to a harbor. Suffice to say that the general mood on board went up after that.
Mozzie was about to say something when Samuel, the younger of the two Winchester boys, stormed in. Without saying anything, he just motioned for them to follow him to the deck. Which, after a heartbeat or two of hesitation, they all did.
Once up on the deck, they saw some of the sailors huddled together near the bow of the ship, pulling at one of the heavier ropes they had. While Eliot joined the group to assist, Peter went around them to see what the whole ruckus was about.
Several feet beneath them, Dean, Sam’s older brother, was pulling a large board closer to the ship, with the help of the rope. On the board, Peter saw two men lying, both of them apparently unconscious. Or so hoped Peter, if only for Dean’s sake. While the young man was one of the best swimmers aboard, there was always kind of a rest risk in diving headfirst into the waves beneath the ship.
At last, Dean and the others had managed to pull the board to the side of the ship. A second rope was lowered down, secured to the opposite of the first, and ever so slowly, they pulled the board up to the deck, while Samuel helped his brother back aboard.
As Peter had noticed before, the board held two men. One of them was a Negro, probably a slave, and sporting a large gunshot wound in the front, dying the once white shirt in a dirty, rusty red-brown. As soon as the board was secure on deck, Eliot and two others pulled the Negro from the board and onto one of the emergency cots, as Eliot used to call them, where the man immediately began to work on the wounds of the stranger.
Peter turned his attention back to the second man on the board. In close-up, he couldn’t help but notice the sheer beauty of the man. Dark, curly hair, a nice face with an almost perfect symmetry, a lean stature, dressed in what seemed finest silk and brocade. Definitely a noble man, and by the looks of it, he had suffered the same fate Peter once had.
Eliot’s exclamation rang loud as a cannon over the silent deck and brought Peter out of his reverie.
“What’s the matter?” Mozzie inquired once they were at Eliot’s location.
“I can’t get the bullet out. I see it, but my fingers are too thick to get it.” He chanced a look at Diana. “So I can either open the wound even more, causing this guy more pain, or…,” he trailed off.
“Or I could step in and pull it out for you,” Diana offered without missing a beat.
“Yeah, but even after all these years I was too afraid to ask,” Eliot admitted, and Peter could see a very light blush creeping up in the man’s neck. Diana had exactly that effect on pretty much every man, probably an aftereffect of the things happened to her earlier in life.
“Move,” Diana said with an accompanying gesture, and Eliot all but jumped to the side. With a quick move, she plunged her fingers into the open wound (Peter couldn’t help but grimace upon seeing that) and came back with the bullet in them only heartbeats later. She dropped it into Eliot’s hands before going over to his “medical” bucket and washing her hand.
In the meantime, Eliot made quick work of closing the wound before ordering one of the men to keep watch of the stranger. As Peter had witnessed over the years, Eliot not only was a master in the kitchen, or had an uncanny way of speaking his mind, the half-blood also had kind of some superpowers, whether it was going into a fight with an assortment of throwing knives (and coming out almost unscathed) or assessing a medical situation to the point (and saving more than one life that way). Peter couldn’t help but suspect that the man either weren’t allowed to learn medicine the proper way – due to his Indian heritage – or that he considered his talents better used in the real life. Either way, Peter was glad to have the man in the crew.
His current train of thought was jerked to stop when all of a sudden, a hand closed around his wrist. Looking down, Peter was surprised to see the eyes of the second stranger wide open, darting around the limited range they had in a frantic way. Apparently, the man had no idea where he was or what had happened. Crouching down, Peter put a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Hey, it’s okay. You’re safe. We pulled you out of the water.”
“Where…,” the word came out resembling more a groan than anything else. Realizing that the man probably hadn’t had any water in some time, Peter signaled one of the men on deck to bring him some water. In the meantime, Eliot had joined them, and together, they hoisted the man into a sitting position (though he was more leaning into Peter’s chest than actually sitting on his own) before Eliot held the mug to the man’s lips, letting him have small sips.
Having him so close, Peter could feel the younger man burning up. As he couldn’t see any bleeding wounds (at least from his point of view), he suspected that the man in his arms had suffered a sun stroke.
“I know, he’s burning up.” Eliot looked up, down the deck, until his eyes found first Benny, then the Winchester boys. Giving a short whistle, the three of them showed up only heartbeats later.
“What’s up, Doc?” Samuel asked, using the nickname everyone gave Eliot once they had guests.
“He’s,” he motioned to the man in Peter’s arms, “burning up. We have to get him to my quarters, but since…”
“…you don’t know the full extent of his injuries, you want more hands helping, right?” Dean finished.
In no time, they had the man hoisted up and were carrying him into the belly of the ship. Somehow, he didn’t let Peter go, keeping a strong hold on his sleeve. Once down in Eliot’s “office”, they made quick work of the man’s clothes, and Peter could see that he was right – the man had no open wounds that could have caused the fire burning inside of him.
“Any idea what’s causing the fever, Doc?” Benny asked while trying to cool the unconscious man down with a wet rag.
“I suspect a sun stroke, but I really need him to be awake to clarify that theory,” Eliot answered while rummaging around in his medicine cabinet. Most of its contents were self-made, based on recipes Eliot either got from the shamans of his tribe or collected on their travels. Locating what he was looking for, he came back, a stash of rags in one, a small container of ointment in the other hand.
“What’s that?” Peter asked. He knew that Eliot kept a steady stash of different ointments and salves at the ready, but he didn’t know what they exactly were for.
“Back in the tribe, we had to deal with fevers on a regular basis – some would get it from an infection, others from the flu. This here,” he held up the small container for emphasis, “can help the body to cool down.” He handed to rags to Samuel. “Fold them out, that’s the most effective way to spread it on him.”
“Why not using our hands?” Dean asked, puzzlement coloring his voice.
“Because any kind of fever makes the skin more sensitive than one would guess.”
“So you say we could cause him a great deal of pain if we apply the salve with our hands?” Now, it was Peter’s turn to be puzzled.
“Yep.” Eliot didn’t look up, already busy with spreading some of the ointment on the rags with a flat wooden spoon. “And that’s also the reason why I use this here. Besides, there’s some herbs in there that have such a strong scent – you can’t wash it away from your hands.” He instructed Samuel to lift the man’s leg carefully before sliding the first rag under his calf. Samuel put the leg down again, and everyone in the room winced in sympathy when the man on the cot let out a hiss.
“Don’t worry, that’s the normal reaction to the salve. There are cooling herbs in there, and since his skin is hotter than usual…” Eliot trailed off; everyone knew the conclusion. No need to waste a breath on that.
They continued to cover the noble man in the rags, putting even one around his neck, leaving only his face free of any ointment.
“Why don’t we put something on his face too?” Peter asked.
“No. Learned that the hard way while with the tribe. We did exactly that with a warrior who had developed a fever over an infected bear scratch. He had scabs all over his cheeks once we had cleaned his face. Won’t risk that again, ever.” He shuddered slightly. “Besides, the skin on your face is apparently thinner than on other parts of the body, so I would have to dilute that ointment as well to use it properly.”
The noble man was the first to recover from his fever, but he still stayed unconscious. Eliot reasoned that while the main reason for his unconsciousness, the fever, had broken, his body still had to heal the various sunburns he had suffered while drifting at sea. And given the rather weak status he was in when they found him, it didn’t surprise Eliot that it took so long for the man to wake up.
His companion was faring worse. The gunshot wound kept being infected, and on the third day, Eliot had to reopen it to clean it from pus. They still had a long way ahead for the man to survive, but that wasn’t the first fight they had with infections over the years.
For reasons unknown to him, Peter couldn’t keep himself away from the noble man’s bed. At some point since his rescue, he and the stranger had bonded on a level none could explain without being labeled crazy. He didn’t know him, but somehow, Peter felt responsible for him, felt that the man might be more than meets the eye to him in the future.