It wasn't the first time Bugeye had been kicked out of a tavern. It wasn't the first time he'd had a bit too much. Since Club 41, he'd begun to let barkeepers keep them coming as long as possible. He hadn't drunk himself to death yet, so he probably never would, he reasoned.
The street swam under him as he hobbled out the door, making sure to tell the barkeep he wouldn't know how to mix a good Yellowbeard's Baby if someone dumped it screaming on his doorstep in a basket. It was already dawn, and the sun was too bright for his impending headache. He was waiting for the cobblestones to stop bucking and swaying when he realized he was standing in someone's shadow. His dark eyes shot up to see who was blocking his path.
"Oh," he grumbled. "It might as well be you."
"Ha-hey! Bugeye! What a surprise!" Guybrush Threepwood stepped forward as if to hug him, and Bugeye respectfully declined by putting up his fists and giving his best pirate face and snarl combination. The skinny, blond pirate was accompanied by two figures Bugeye recognized a lot less, one of which towered over the both of them in terms of bulk and height both, and the other being about Noogie's size. However, this man was bald instead of the shock of crimson hair his former brother—former companion had sported.
Bugeye had no need for brothers anymore.
The two strangers exchanged a glance. "Captain, what do ye want done with this drunken lout? Dip his head in the ocean tae sober him up a wee bit?" The bigger man, a red-bearded Scot with a toothy smile, asked in a heavy brogue. He nearly elbowed Threepwood right off his feet.
He just snickered. "Nah, me and Bugeye go way back! We're practically brothers, right?" Guybrush gave him an exaggerated wink.
"I wouldn't say that," Bugeye drawled.
"You fought with me against LeChuck! Remember? The giant sea battle? Tears in the fabric of space? Portals to the underworld? Club 41?"
"I, uh, don't recall." Bugeye was still trying to process what he'd heard the two bulkier pirates say. "Did they just call you Captain?"
The question was addressed to them, but Guybrush answered it anyway, because he just loved the sound of his own voice. "Sure. You know, I was technically already a captain when I first met you. Just, uh. One man crew."
"Aye, we're fixin' that," the Scotsman laughed.
"Why don't you come back to the ship? It's new, bigger. I could show you around. Introduce the rest of the crew." Guybrush hooked a thumb over his shoulder, his smile eager. His crew members looked less enthused at the prospect. The short one eyed his nail-studded peg leg with suspicion. He sported one of his own, on the same leg no less, but minus the sharp objects tacked on. His peg leg didn't also have to be a weapon. It was simply how he got around.
Bugeye considered. "What's in it for me?"
The Scot looked him up and down. "A bath fer suere."
"A hangover cure." the short man suggested in a gruff monotone.
Guybrush's suggestion caught him off guard. He'd been denied a meal at the tavern. Well, uh, he'd sent it back to the kitchen for being too salty…but it was still their fault. Considering this, he realized he hadn't eaten anything for an entire day, and now it was the next morning…
He could stand to hang around if free food was involved. He didn't have to like the provider.
"That sounds fair. Lead the way, Goldilocks."
Pirating was hard work. Bugeye didn't remember signing up for it. But he wasn't about to sign out, either. The crew was certainly a ragtag bunch, but so it was with all pirates. Bugeye had been a part of many different crews. Well, a few; his career had gone a little off the rails with the whole manatee adventure. But those had been purely business—it was money or mutiny, no ties and no regrets. Here, they all seemed to share some sort of familiarity with Threepwood and had a story about him to tell. He caught snippets of their wild, outrageous tales while he hung back in the galley, peeling potatoes or poking the fire. Most of them seemed too ludicrous to be real. But he had his own odd story about Guybrush, and he still hadn't figured out certain parts of it. Like how he was quite certain that when they'd met, Threepwood had been missing a hand, yet now he was intact once more.
Also, the part where he had died. That one he definitely couldn't blame on a poor memory. He’d spent a good deal of time in the same room as the man’s decaying corpse.
But no one loved telling wild stories about Guybrush as much as Guybrush. His crew was a captive audience. For the most part, at least—when he launched into his famous tale of How I Blew Up LeChuck, his wife Elaine and another woman named Carla would groan and head up to the deck rather than listen to a story they'd apparently lived through. At first no one believed his telling of it, but whether or not that changed, the crew got into the spirit of it, participating eagerly when he called for it. Soon they all had it memorized, down to the beats, and shortly after that, they realized how much it annoyed Bugeye. This added an entirely new delight to the experience.
"Deep in the Caribbean," Elaine shouted into the hole. The stars above framed her. "Mêlée Island!"
"No!" Bugeye groaned. "Don't you dare."
"From the personal log of Guybrush Threepwood…"
The diggers cackled. Haggis McMutton, the Scotsman, was one of them, and his companion Cutthroat Bill was on the shore above with the rest, but Bugeye didn't remember the other's names. He didn't care. He stabbed his shovel into the pit wall. "If you're going to start that up, just bury me right now." The hole had gotten over five feet deep as the sun had set. He wouldn't even have to lay down to be mercifully smothered. Pinchpenny Island hadn't been on his list of top ten places to die, of course, but it was more attractive than four hours of uninterrupted story telling. At least it had a nice lagoon.
"Eergh…. Come on, Bugeye, you're ruining the—gnnhf—the fun," Guybrush grunted, heaving a large, gold-rimmed chest to the edge. Sand showered down into the hole.
"Whoa, there, laddie, wait for a little assistance," Haggis protested, pulling himself up and out. "Yer suere tae break your back that way."
Bugeye held up his hands to receive the box, and the two pirates still occupying the hole caught it with him and helped set it down in the center. "The only one who has fun with those stories is you," he shouted upwards.
"Is that true?" Guybrush asked, his brow wrinkling with what appeared to be genuine concern. Their captain was too soft. Too easily manipulated.
A chorus of no's rang back to him, with one "Nay, lad", and one slow shake of a bald head from Cutthroat Bill. Guybrush beamed. "See! They like it."
Bugeye was left by himself in the hole as the others clambered out. "Whatever, gasbag," he snorted, crossing his arms. A lone palm tree hung over the pit, swaying in the wind. He'd have to use its roots to clamber out without help from anyone.
A shovelful of sand smacked him over the head.
Peering over the rim, Elaine blinked innocently at him. "What? I thought you wanted to be buried."
Despite his first impressions, Bugeye actually liked Cutthroat Bill. Bill didn’t bother him. His build had reminded him of Noogie, but his attitude was more like Santino’s, if Santino had ever known when to shut up. He rarely spoke unless spoken to. And the two of them shared the same disability, so a few peg-leg tips between comrades did not go amiss. The only downside was he had an unfortunate habit of breaking into guttural song with his fellows, Haggis and the peculiar musician Van Helgen, and during these times, Bugeye had to find someone else to sit with during dinner. Operatic belting in one’s ears was never a pleasant experience.
Carla was okay. She’d box with him if he asked. She was older, but she seemed to share an understanding with him about fighting, about cynicism, about attitude, although that didn’t mean she wouldn’t yell at him for instigating any of those with her.
He found her down and away from the uncomfortably musical table, bent next to the stowed kitchen goods. She set her plate down and motioned for him to help her. “These casks sprang leaks. I think a rat chewed through them. We can’t have food spilling all over the ship and attracting more of them, we have to fill the holes somehow.”
“You know what’s good for filling holes?” Bugeye asked.
She frowned at him preemptively. “If you’re gonna say something crude, I’ll stuff you in the leak.”
He shook his head, shoving a hand into his patched-on pockets. He produced a hefty disk from its depths, something tough, but dry. The edges produced fine, sandy dust on his fingers.
Carla stared at it in vague recognition. “…Is that a dinner biscuit? We haven’t had those since we set back out. Do you just carry them around?”
“Do you just eat them?” He jammed it into the hole, and the biscuit crumbled to fit the shape. “Aaaand seal it with tar, and you’re done.”
“What about the rats?”
“Trust me. Even the rats hate these.”
“Hey, that looks like something I would do,” a voice came from over his shoulder, and Bugeye suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. Carla and her dinner plate checked out. She stuffed a potato in her mouth, leaving Bugeye to his fate.
“I guess it’s shoddy enough,” he remarked.
Guybrush helped him push the barrel upright. “I mean it’s resourceful. Clever. And it looks like you’ve got some carpentry experience, with the peg leg and all…”
“It’s wasting food,” he pointed out, though he wasn’t entirely sure why. The quartermaster, Van Winslow, could discipline him for that.
“I never think food’s wasted as long as it’s still put to good use, personally.”
Bugeye scowled. “Guess you’d know a lot about that.”
In return, Guybrush kept an amiable grin. “Kinda. Wait…what do you mean?”
Jabbing the pirate’s abdomen with one finger, Bugeye leaned forward accusatorily. “The rats on this ship have more meat on their bones. Do you ever eat anything, or do you shove it all in your pockets with your other garbage?”
Guybrush place one hand on his chest, offended. “I don’t put garbage in my pockets!”
“You just broke a plate and put it in there while the barbers were singing. Two minutes ago.”
“I might need it.”
“It still had food on it.”
“It’s a snack! For later!”
Bugeye folded his arms. “Sure it is. Your coat eats more than you do.”
“What’s your excuse? You’re just as skinny as I am!” Guybrush said indignantly. “Does that starfish eat for you?”
“Starfish, what starfish?”
“The one on your head, baldy.”
“On my wh—Tattoos don’t have anything to do with being skinny, you fruitcake!” Bugeye’s hand flew to the inking in question. He knew he should have gone with the angler fish. Those things were just scary.
“Look, did you want the job or not?”
Pausing, Bugeye squinted, trying to rewind back through the conversation in his head. “What job?”
The pirate quirked his thin shoulders with an always-amiable smile. “Ship’s carpenter. It’s tough work but you seem to have the knack for it.”
There was a long moment where Bugeye was searching the other pirate’s expression for any signs of a joke. His mouth was still twisted in a sneer, comebacks itching on the tip of his tongue, but Guybrush’s blue eyes were clear and, as always, genuine.
Seeing Bugeye was at a loss for words, Guybrush simply dismissed himself, turning away. “Well, if you’re not interested, you can always go back to being a swabbie.”
“Arggh! I can’t believe you beat me,” Carla growled through the scattered cheers, rubbing her bicep as she stood.
Guybrush leaned across the table with a churlish grin, his fingers flexing from his recent victory. “Best five out of ten?”
The swordmaster scoffed. “No! If this keeps up, one of us is gonna lose an arm.”
Bugeye slouched into the galley, his carpentry tools hanging from one hand. “What’s going on?” He’d come here for a much-needed break after sanding down floorboards all day. Carla and her crowd was filing out, leaving only Guybrush and the quartermaster to answer his question. Since Van Winslow seemed busy entertaining himself, the former took it upon himself.
“You’re looking at the tri-island champion of insult arm-wrestling,” Guybrush explained smugly. “Care to go a round?”
“Insult arm-wrestling? An antique custom for an antique pirate,” Bugeye sneered.
Winslow snickered from the corner table, his fingers tangled in a string game he was attempting to teach himself. “The captain’s not too much older than yourself, crewman.”
“It’s okay, Mr. Winslow, he’s just blustering because he knows he’d lose.” Guybrush was in a fantastic mood. He was so happy with himself, in fact, that Bugeye was tempted to knock him down a peg.
“You’re on, Threepwuss.” He swung into the stool and slammed his toolbox on the table, away from the designated battlefield.
“You’ve chosen the wrong adversary,” Bugeye warned, cracking his knuckles. “Pirate faces aren’t the only thing I have to my name.” He flexed his arm. Carpentry was defining him in more ways than one. Ropey as his limbs were, the tentacle tattoos on his shoulders still tightened with undeniable muscle—maybe not enough to impress someone like Haggis, but Guybrush Threepwood was more than a match.
He was already shaking in his boots.
“Ohohoho. There’s still time to back out if you’re scared,” he crowed, but something about the man’s blue eyes was putting him off. Guybrush kept glancing between the toolbox, his competitor, and his own pale, shaking fingers on the tabletop. His palms remained pressed down and flat on the tabletop, despite Bugeye offering his untested grip. His lips twitched open but no sound came out except the hitching of his breath.
Reginald turned his attention away from his work. “I say, captain, you’ve gone white as a sheet.”
Confused, Bugeye gradually dropped his outstretched hand. “What’s wrong with you?”
“S-s-so…s-sorry,” Guybrush started, pulling his hands shakily back towards himself, his eyes now locked solely on the tools.
“Oh, dear.” Winslow stood up quickly. “I’ll fetch his missus.”
“What’s going on?” Bugeye followed the quartermaster’s retreat with his bald head, but he was quickly left alone with Guybrush, who had begun to outright panic. A strangled noise wormed out of him between spastic gulps of air. Bugeye swiveled back around to face him and slowly grabbed the handle of his toolbox.
“N-no!” Guybrush wheezed, his chair shrieking as he skidded it backward, but Bugeye didn’t startle.
He carefully lifted the box, trying to hold eye contact as he pulled it off the table. “Hey. It’s going, okay? Don’t worry about it.” He pulled the offending object under the table under Guybrush could no longer see it. This did not soothe Guybrush, but the terrified noise stopped.
Elaine slipped in with the barest of sounds, Winslow trailing behind. Her hair cascaded to hide Guybrush’s face from Bugeye’s view as she bent over the seated figure of her husband, speaking softly to him. “Guybrush, sweetie? Can you hear me? Come on. Come on, talk to me.”
Bugeye shot a questioning look towards Reginald, but he was met with a grim stare. He mouthed, “What did I do?”
Winslow waved him over. “Let’s give them some privacy, shall we?” he said in a low voice, shockingly devoid of his usual cheer. Bugeye started to reach for his toolbox but the quartermaster caught his hand. Shaken, the peg legged pirate slipped out of his chair, leaving Elaine kneeling next to her spouse. Guybrush’s breathing began to steady as Winslow closed the door on them.
“Sorry about that. Your toolbox will be waiting when we go back in,” Van Winslow explained.
Bugeye blinked. He felt a strange displaced shame for Guybrush’s reaction to his challenge. Was arm-wrestling really that big of a deal to Threepwoods? “What the hell was that?”
“There are a lot of things you don’t yet know about the captain. I’ve only come to glean tidbits myself, but Mr. Threepwood has had…a number of events that left a lasting impact on his psyche.”
“Is—is it because he died?” Guybrush’s unconventional wake had seemed so long ago. Now Bugeye could remember the look in the walking dead man’s eyes, both in the Club and during the battle afterward. It had been mirrored during this panic attack, looking strange and unpleasant on a living body.
“Goodness. I wish, dear boy.” Van Winslow put a contemplative hand to his mouth, as if deciding how to impart the facts. “The truth is, he was tortured. For several years, cut away from humanity, made into an object of pain and ridicule in some kind of twisted carnival headed by LeChuck himself.”
A shiver snaked up Bugeye’s spine. “Damn. When was this?”
“Long before we met him. He has memory issues regarding the topic, which is why it’s difficult to piece the story together. Mrs. Threepwood-Marley can tell you why and for how long, but only Guybrush himself knows fully what happened, and sometimes odd things can trigger an unpleasant experience for him. I can only assume it was the woodcarving tools that unsettled him, by the way he was looking at them.”
“Why? It’s just a set of chisels,” Bugeye protested. “A mallet, maybe some pliers. But even the blades aren’t that sharp.”
“As I said, I don’t know the details.” Van Winslow tipped his head, changing the subject. “I’ve a flask hidden in the fo’c’sle. Care for a sip?”
“I don’t think I need it as much as he does.”
The quartermaster gave a humorless chuckle and ushered him along amiably. “The captain will be all right in a few. That wasn’t an exceptionally bad attack and we were there to catch it in time. I’m sorry to burden you with this, but it’s best you find out sooner than later, I suppose. Come on.”
Bugeye allowed his friendly escorting, but shook his head, trying to clear the image of haunted blue eyes from them.
- Buddy boy
The thunderous crash rattled the ship under Bugeye’s feet, and he winced and swung his toolbox over one shoulder. Checkered sunlight from the hatch swung over him as the ship turned about. “What side did they hit?” he yelled up.
Footsteps roared by overhead, but one pair skidded to a barely-audible halt to answer him: Wallace. Only one guy weighed that little. “Starboard, below decks! Looks like it went into the main hold. Get down there!”
“Thanks, Wally!” Bugeye shot over to the ladder, the wood burning his palms with greasy squeak as he slid down the sides, ignoring the rungs entirely in his haste. The floor groaned as the enemy cannonball rolled across the boards, whacking into the rope coils and casks that populated the recently-emptied hold. The ocean yawned at him through what Guybrush liked to call an “impromptu porthole” that definitely hadn’t been there that morning. Thankfully the cannonball had left little more than an outline of itself. Two planks were cracked and leaned inward, but they would hold if he pushed them back into place for now.
Reginald Van Winslow always made sure there was spare timber on board. Well, not so much him as his loverfish, Anemone, but regardless of whoever was responsible, it was convenient for Bugeye’s work. A few quick slashes with his saw made two planks out of one, and the nails went in with expertly placed whacks. He was getting good at repairing on a time limit. Now he had to get the heck out of here before the ship came back around.
Enemy cannons sounded again. Bugeye had to get up top and stay there, it was too dangerous to stay where he couldn’t see the actual guns being fired. He scrambled up, first the ladder and then the stairs, and crashed into Threepwood just as he caught sight of the sky through the doorway.
“Aa-ack! Bugeye, how’s she holding up?” Guybrush asked urgently, once over his initial fear of being trampled.
“She’s not. Having trouble firing back?” Bugeye snapped. He knew the cannons hadn’t been maintained since their last stop. They hadn’t expected to be pursued so soon. Guybrush had probably been boasting in taverns at port again.
“Uuuuhhhh…” An excuse was beginning to formulate, but before the pirate could put it to words, his wife appeared in the doorway.
“No sign of them leaving off, sugar boots!” she yelled down. “I’m going to empty that rifle case and see if I can’t give us a little cover from the crow’s nest, but you have to figure out how to disable their cannons! And one more thing, this weather is going to turn sour fast. Winslow’s ready to use the storm as a cover to retreat if you give the order.”
Shooting Elaine a thumbs-up, Guybrush gave a nervous confirmation. The sweat was visible on his brow in the curtain of daylight. “I’m working on it! I jus—I just need to think for a minute, see what I have to work with…”
Bugeye cut him off. “Listen, buddy boy, the ship hasn’t been reinforced to take damage like this. If you don’t get them to stop firing that cannon in the next three minutes, this baby’s gonna have a hole in it bigger than the one in your head, and we’ll all end up at the bottom of the ocean!”
“Got it. I’ll have us out of this in a jiffy.” Guybrush vaulted down the steps, but not without shooting a cursory grin at Elaine. “Hey, snugglebuns! Did you hear that? He called me buddy!”
- Guybrush Threepwood
Icy seawater clawed at his face, bringing Bugeye to spitting, retching wakefulness. A distant purr of thunder reminded him of how he’d been bucked off the ship, but not how he’d gotten onto this new one. He’d been out for that bit, judging by the headache. He was draped against the mast, his arms tied into an involuntary hug around its girth, and his peg leg was missing, forcing him to lean against one foot. He peeled his cheekbone away from the smooth wood to catch a snarling face in the scant, cloud-hooded moonlight.
“Tell us where he buried it.”
“Who what?” Bugeye said helpfully. Lanterns dotted the deck, but not close enough to tell him how many pirates were staring at his unprotected back.
“Wake him up again, lads.”
Bugeye swore as another bucket of freezing water was upturned over his head. He’d been stripped to the waist and the cold felt like pinpricks on his bare skin. He shuddered. “What is it you want?”
“I fished you out. You should be grateful to me, lad. The ocean would have claimed you if I’d ordered it.” The pirate captain sported a short brown beard with a mustache that curled down on either side of his lips like fangs. It appeared to be the only hair on his head, though his scalp was tied tightly in a bandana and sported a tricorn hat at a somewhat rakish angle.
“Right. And how are you suggesting I show this gratitude?” Bugeye gritted, straining his wrists against the soggy rope. The knots were swelling painfully against his skin.
“Rumor has it your captain recently made a seaman’s deposit of his accumulated wealth,” the pirate said, crossing his arms. Bugeye could only catch the action out of the corner of his eye. “I wish to take out a loan of me own.”
“So find a bank. What do you need me for?”
Something dusted Bugeye’s shoulders. He flinched to dislodge it, then he felt leather strands slap him with the lightest of touches, and he knew what the captain was holding.
“I’m afraid a bank wouldn’t trust a pirate like meself. Or your captain. See, I’d rather just take the money I want. But first, I need to know where it is. And I had a feeling you might volunteer that information.”
“In exchange for?” he asked, though he already suspected the answer.
A laugh. “In exchange for? Well, for me not throwing you back into the sea, for one. For another, giving me what I want would stop me from doing this.”
The captain took a step back and Bugeye ducked against the mast as the crack sounded, but the cat o’ nine tails was already licking across his back, leaving short, red-hot stripes. The shock of it made him bark out a wordless exclamation, his tattooed head jerking back in an arch.
What did he have to lose? It wasn’t his treasure. He’d already been paid, and then spent his pay in short succession during a night drinking with Carla and Van Winslow. It wasn’t worth a flogging. Not much was. “I’ll tell you where to go,” he snapped, angry that his own habit of being contrary had enticed the pirate to hit him. “Quit your blustering.”
That word wasn’t quite his, yet he felt compelled to use it. It sparked an odd image, a memory: Guybrush across the table in the galley, ready for the insult arm-wrestling session they’d never gotten to share. His blue eyes had been sparking with exhilaration for one moment. And then, in the next, an idiot had slammed a toolbox onto the table and disrupted that peace.
“I told you, boys. Sometimes they break easy.”
The pirate captain patted his shoulder. Bugeye stared at the woodgrain, but all he could see were Guybrush’s panicked eyes in his head.
Years of this. Three, Elaine had eventually told him. This exact feeling, trapped in an awaiting crowd, implements of suffering waiting just out of sight. What gave Guybrush the right to last longer through torture than him? Bugeye’s face went hot, with either rage or shame or the unhealthy lovechild of both. Suddenly he knew exactly what he had to tell the pirate.
“What’s so funny?”
Bugeye strained to stand up straight before the mast, but the height of the rope kept him partially bent. “Calm down, I was just thinking. Guybrush Threepwood finally has a treasure worth finding, huh?”
“Tell us. Out loud, boy, quick now. Then we’ll have you out of those nasty ropes, eh?”
The captain’s face fell into his view again, the fat brown beard wrapped around a self-satisfied smile. Bugeye mirrored this look, cocking his head. “All right. All right. This is what you need to do. Are you ready?”
The man frowned, impatient. “Out with it.”
“Go to hell.”
To his credit, Bugeye managed to keep from crying out the second time. And the third. The fourth, he slipped, because the cat o’ nine tails bit his skin and drew the first bit of blood. And at the fifth, admitting he was in outright agony with a shriek was better than breaking his self-imposed vow.
At some point, Bugeye had lost count of the lashes. The crew became the sound of a distant storm, hoots and yells and thunder. The torches had gone dark and the clouds had buried the moon, leaving him blind.The crew faded away. It was just him and the captain engaged in this standoff of obstinacy. Every once in a while, the hairy face would lean close to him, arguing logic over insanity. “What’s holding ye back? Money? Honor? Dying won’t bring you either.”
Pure, unadulterated spite probably wasn’t a good answer, however true it may be.
The whip dropped to one side as the captain came up beside Bugeye, his fingers curling around the starfish tattoo at the back of his skull. “Let me offer something better. If ye give up this charade, you’ll be a guest aboard me ship, eh? She’ll get ye wherever your heart’s desire lies. Have a girl? A family waitin’ for ye? You’ll get quite the reunion.”
“I wouldn’t go with you if you had the last ship on earth, scumbag.”
Tightening his grip, the captain rammed his head into the mast. “Not the face,” Bugeye slurred. His lip had split with the impact.
“Losing your good looks are the least of your worries now, boy.” The man still had his head in a viselike grip. He yanked him around like a doll and painted his blood on the mast with Bugeye’s cheek. “I’ll give you one last chance.”
Bugeye took a moment to get his breath back. His eye was already swelling shut. The captain wrenched his face close, and he hung limp in the man’s hand until his tongue got the better of him. “You know, your mast is gonna need work if you keep slamming me into it.” Blood pooled in his dry mouth until he spat it into the captain’s face. “There you go. A little spitshine.”
Releasing him, the captain stepped back. “I don’t want to knock your brains out anyway,” he assured him, in a way that was not at all assuring, because he was already petting blood out of the strands of the whip. “Me crew doesn’t think you’re worth the effort. I bet your captain didn’t, either.”
“My captain’s a better one than you could even hope to be, walrus-lips.”
A sailor dumped more seawater on him, and he was left shaking like a leaf against the mast as the salt seeped into his veins and the cold likewise seeped into his bones.
“N-nn—n-nice and c-clean and r-r-refreshing,” he croaked, but no one understood him through his stutter and his bleeding lip. His pulse pounded in his ears, nearly drowning the captain’s final words to him.
“I’ll send your tattered corpse back to your captain as a new flag.”
The flogging resumed, and the crew roared. Bugeye struggled for air as his back arched, his shoulders nearly popping out of their sockets as he fell against the deck in a miserable heap, no longer able to stand. He couldn’t hear the whip anymore but his bleeding shoulders assured him it was coming. Rough hands squeezed his tattooed arms as he was cut loose. Water leaked or blood leaked from his swollen eye. He could barely fit the words out of his mouth.
“No, no, no, I don’t want to die. I give up…I give up, please…it’s on the eastern beach of Pinchpenny Island, by the lone palm…we used it as a marker. Six feet under. J-just please…”
He repeated it until he was shouting. Bugeye was dragged across the deck like refuse. They dropped him on his belly onto a stretcher made of belts and spare timber. Someone shushed his piteous blubbering. Someone else took his hand.
- The Last Name
Bugeye woke up still lying on his stomach, and rolling over proved to be a very bad idea, indeed. His back was wrapped tight in a weighty, sharp-smelling poultice, and under it, his shoulder blades hissed with a continuous agony that he realized now he’d been feeling even through the blanket of his unconsciousness. It was unending. But someone was offering him clean water.
He squinted through his good eye. The other, much like his back, had also received a gratuitous bandage, and he could tell it was still too swollen to open besides. “Bill?”
Cutthroat Bill lifted his face and tipped the canteen into it. The water came in a torturous trickle but Bugeye didn’t dare ask for more, even if he could. In his shape, and at this angle, this was about as good as he could get.
The canteen withdrew after a few minutes. Bugeye dropped his head. “Wh…where…” Taking too deep of a breath made his ribs protest, cutting off his attempt at communication. His question answered itself slowly. He already knew he was on a ship from the familiar swaying sensation. He suspected it was Guybrush’s because of his fellow crewmate sitting beside him. With sudden shock, he realized the specific “where” was in fact the captain’s cabin: a desk stacked with journals, a growing collection of autographed sextants, and various useless-looking paraphernalia greeted him from his limited view on the cushiony mattress. He’d never really had a reason to sneak in here before, let alone be invited in. He stared at Bill in confusion, but the stocky barber just nodded at him.
“We’ve been taking shifts. Because we knew he’d fall asleep,” Bill explained, gesturing towards the desk. The chair had been shifted to face the bed, and Guybrush was nestled into it, his coat wrapped over him like a quilt. He looked like a doll someone else had left behind.
His face brought the truth leaking back to Bugeye like the rat-infested barrels, gnawing on him. Guybrush had survived worse than him, for sure. He was a better pirate. A better man.
“I told them.”
Bill gave a slow nod.
Try as he might, Bugeye could not keep the utter self-loathing out of his voice. “I told them everything. I sw—I swear I tried not to. But I’m such a coward. I cheated Guybrush out of his treasure.”
As though in response to his name, Guybrush shifted in the chair, and both men held their breath to see if he’d wake up. Silence prevailed until the sleeping captain’s easy breathing came back to them. The ship groaned softly. Bill leaned back, his formidable arms crossed.
Bugeye’s lip had scabbed over. His teeth brushed against it every time he opened his mouth. “If we’re pals, just…toss me back overboard, Cutthroat. It’d be better than making me talk to him. Face him. After all of this, I betrayed him like it was nothing, as soon as it didn’t benefit me anymore...”
“You were talking to Wally.”
This didn’t click with his thought process. “The pirate’s…name was Wally?” Bugeye asked, feeling dazed and drained at his confession.
Bill had an unsettling smile on. Well, all of his smiles were unsettling. It was another thing they had in common. “No. We’d already found you. I don’t think you knew what was going on, which was probably better for you. You tried to tell Wally where the treasure was hidden. The other guy, he was a little too preoccupied to overhear.” He nodded to the desk chair again and left the details to Bugeye’s imagination. “Besides, it wasn’t like nothing.” Bill held a hand over his own eye, imitating the bandages, and rubbed along his shoulder in a similar gesture. “Winslow wasn’t sure we got to the ship in time.”
The ship lurched on a breaking wave. A clatter interrupted them as one of the precious sextants tumbled to the floor, knocking against each of its brothers as it passed. Their collector blinked himself awake. Guybrush stared in confusion at the upside-down coat on his lap. Then his eyes wandered over to Bugeye and he shot to his feet.
“So are you,” Bugeye immediately countered.
Guybrush shuffled over to him, nearly tripping on the unruly sextant while he tried to worm his arms back into his stiff coat sleeves. “Cutth—uh, Bill, would you go get Winslow and let him know? Let everyone know.”
The short pirate gave a nod as he left to obey his captain’s orders. Guybrush watched him go, moving to stand at the bedside. “We were all…well, I’m glad you’re back.”
Bugeye sighed heavily. “Aren’t you upset you have a traitor in your midst?”
“The crying thing? Really?” Bugeye couldn’t see the man’s face from his restricted position, but Guybrush sighed and slid Bill’s chair out of his way. “That’s not important now. It’s not like they were listening by then.”
“It is. Of course it is. Do you know what I did to my last captain?”
Guybrush rolled his eyes to the side, pondering. “Uhh…”
“DeCava?” Bugeye let out a breath in a pained hiss. “I’ve caused you enough trouble.”
“Then I guess we’re even.”
The bruises made furrowing his eyebrows painful. “Even for what?”
“Remember the manatee? You had us trapped inside, and I foiled your plans. In fact, I infiltrated your group specifically for said plan-foiling. You might have betrayed my secrets, but I betrayed the brotherhood first. Now we’re all on the same ship. Literally.”
“I killed DeCava.”
After a moment of silence, Guybrush twisted, patting his coat pockets for a moment before pulling a short pole seemingly out of nowhere. It was about as thick as and a little bit longer than his forearm, made of a nice dark walnut. It had a light pink ribbon tied in a neat bow around it.“I almost forgot. It was Wally’s idea, since he was the first one to see what had really happened to you. Poor little guy. Scared him half to death.”
Trying and failing to shift on the bed, Bugeye wiggled and squinted. “What is it?”
“A new pegleg. We couldn’t find the old one. You’ll have to nail, uh, decorate it up yourself. But I hope you’ll be up again soon. Until then you can stay as long as you need to. But if you do, you gotta start calling me captain around the other guys, all right? It’s a morale thing.”
“Aren’t you worried? I’ll betray you again? I’ll mutiny and kill you, like my last captain?” Bugeye’s voice was thick with misery and disgust. He was at his captain’s mercy, and rightly so.
“Um…” Guybrush scratched the back of his neck. “Well, to be honest, I’ve dealt with a lot of mutinies by now. Like...a lot. Every single crew of mine previously decided they were better off without me. But, now, most of them are here. They came back. And now they’re ready to defend me. So I think I can risk it, if you’ll stay. Is it a deal, crewman?” He raised his arm.
“It’s a deal, Captain.” He took the preferred hand and shook it. “Brother.”