Title: This is the Tempest We're Fighting For: Chapter 2
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin (eventually)
Character/s: Arthur, Gwen
Summary: The pirate code says when you're captured by a ship you either join them or die. Arthur isn't sure what his options are.
Warnings: anachronisms, free adaptation of history and piracy facts, mentions of minor injuries and of real life pirates.
Word Count: 1,132
Prompt: #211: Elusive
Author's Notes: Follows this: Prologue|Chapter 1 or on ao3
His father's words ring in his ears, his rules and warnings clear as the fresh water he can't stop drinking straight from a jug someone handed him. His father often spoke of the dangers of bringing a woman on board. The bad luck it brought to everyone aboard the ship. Arthur knows he blamed himself for his mother's death after giving birth to Arthur at sea and even more than that, he blamed the woman who couldn't save his wife despite of having the power to do so. Despite his father's demands. Arthur's heard the story too many times to count, his mind filled with memories that don't belong to him. When he was old enough to come along with his father on his journeys and they set sail with the wind blowing in the right direction, Morgana had to stay behind. Alone in a house excessively big for a girl waiting for her family to come back to her. Merely because she was a woman, a harbinger of destruction.
Arthur only wonders what he would say about Gwen. Captain Gwen if he wants to be exact, commanding every man and woman aboard her ship. The Sea's Diamond. Uther would disapprove wholeheartedly. He certainly had strong opinions about Grace O'Malley.
As it is Arthur is counting on his lucky stars. There haven't been any talks of corporal punishment or forced labor, and Gwen keeps looking at him like she's trying to figure out what course of action is the right one to take. Like she's seeing something he isn't.
She might look sweet but Arthur can already tell she's as fierce and brave as any of his men. You should never underestimate someone brandishing a sword.
They're keeping him out on the deck, sitting on the wood, body limp as if he's given up on standing up, but no one mentions his situation. Instead he sees captain Gwen whispering to a girl she earlier called Freya. They're both shooting quick pointed glances at him, before turning to the other. The rest of her crew stays back, keep up with their chores but stay alert to whatever Gwen might say.
Gwen shakes her head, curls bouncing with the movement. She stops right in front of him, cuffed boots dragging. She sighs, a long sad poof of air. Arthur waits, downing the rest of the water on the jug not caring if it's the last ration he will receive. It feels good, fresh in his mouth. Cool drips dribbling down his chin.
"Are you really Arthur Pendragon?" Her words are careful, probing.
Arthur opens his mouth, closes it before any sound can make it out. Whatever he says is the difference between being alive and sinking down the ocean like a heavy chest full of rocks.
"I don't think he's in the position to be askin' questions," someone shouts behind Gwen. She holds up her palm effectively stopping the voices begging to riot. It's to be admired.
"Shall I ask you again? I've been nothing but understanding of your situation, I brought you back to my ship not as a prisoner but as a comrade. One of the brethren. Please, I need to know," she says falling out of breath, eyes tired and lips down turned.
Arthur sits back up. "But the code-"
She chuckles, gives him a smile he wasn't expecting. "We all have different versions of the same rules, don't we? In our ships the Captain's words are the real rules. Nobody has told Roberts what to do, have they?"
He shakes his head, knowing that while the code is something every pirate and buccaneer must abide to, the last word of what goes on the ship is the captain's. He's carried on his father's legacy. On his rules. The ones he memorized since he was a child.
"Yes. I am."
"I am Arthur Pendragon, Captain of the Avalon."
"How can I be sure of your words?" Gwen still has her guard up and he doesn't blame her, you never get too far if you trust blindly every stranger you meet.
He searches around the pockets of his torn clothes, glad at least this survived along with him. He takes the small object out, dangling it in the air. He hears Gwen's sharp gasp. Murmurs around them. Freya's eyes are huge in surprise.
"The draconis compass. It's true. It's real and- You're here."
"I suppose I am. Thanks to you."
"No, you don't understand. I've been looking for you everywhere. You're a tough one to find."
"My brother, Elyan, I don't know where he is and last I heard he was part of the Pendragon crew. Someone saw him in the shores of Tortuga getting off the Avalon."
Gwen's words rush together, rise and fall with joy and bewilderment. Her eyes too bright and Arthur can't look at her, doesn't deserve to be shown kindness. As soon as he heard Elyan's name his heart sank.
"Please, I need to know if this is true."
She begs, asks and Arthur wishes he hadn't drank the water because he needs to wash down the bitterness invading his taste buds.
"I must tell you something," he begins, swallows, looks at a point lost in the blueness of the ocean, "it's true, Elyan was with us, but there was a storm and...I don't remember what happened. I woke up alone." He hangs his head in shame as he watches the spark of hope die in Gwen's eyes.
She probably knew something was up. Soon realizes the possibilities of what his words mean since her crew roamed the island to find nothing but sand and Arthur. But hope is the last to die when it's about family and those who you love. Arthur knows. You never give up the fight. Not easily.
Elyan was brave, his men were worthy, they all would've given their lives for him without a second thought. They always threw themselves into battle like the world was ending. And now he must face the fact they're gone and he never thanked them like he should've for their loyalty. He should've done more for them. Kept them safe.
Everyone in the ship is quiet, too quiet like when you're trying to appease the gods or you have reached troubled waters and you don't want to wake up evil. Like when every light has burned out at night.
"Right. I'll take you to your cabin. Have the medic examine those wounds."
Gwen walks away, not looking back to see if he follows but he still gets up and does. Puzzled over what Gwen might be thinking. Everyone else sets in motion around them as they pass, the spell lifted.
There are things you can't change no matter how much you want to.