Title: It Was Good
Aubreyad book world
Word Count 520
NNE, light winds. All well. Pre-dawn, but not by much.
Jack opened his eyes He rolled from the hammock. His feet found the deck .He had a pair of calico slop trousers on the hook. Warmth was his need, rather than modesty. The days were so hot, the night airs were chill by comparison. He stepped into the trousers. The hair of his legs had risen in the cold. He pulled on a jacket over his nightshirt. Good enough. The jacket had a pocket for his bit of cake.
Maturin slept, within arms reach. Jack edged by him. He had spent most of life trying not to wake other sleepers. That, or trying to sleep himself in a hive of breathing, sweating, men. There was something insectile., like bees. But Stephen said that bees were all female. Made no sense. Jack must have misunderstood.
Space to yourself was the reward of captaincy. But they breathed around you, wherever you were. And you could hear their thoughts, feel the need of them, battering at you. As you felt the ship. The space, the windward side, all just a kindly illusion.
The doctor said something. It was a blurry foreign sound, muffled by his pillow. He slept poorly, since the rescue. Jack knew he dreamed., but Stephen did not speak of it, and Jack did not ask. Pride he had was small covering. It was for Stephen to set aside or not. He had so little to cover his pain, and shame came with weakness, always.
Stephen had not even hold a book to read, at first. His hands had been like ice mush in torn skin gloves. The mids had taken it in turns to read with him, sit with him. Killick had made sure that he had water nearby. Killick flavored it with lemon and honey. Plain water made Stephen gag now. It had used it to hurt him, in that place. Jack had been in the room when Stephen had had put aside his pride to tell Killick, please don't wash my face-- the cloth. Stephen had wept. Jack and Killick too, but each alone, and later.
So no. Captains had no privacy.
Jack eased the door shut. The airs of the night were damp, dangerous no doubt, but he breathed them deep nonetheless. He passed by the sleepy drawing up of men on watch, the heavy eyed midshipmen. The marines were dusted with morning whiskers. They smelled like sweat. They looked perfect. But he knew their humanity. He had seen the red insides of them, brought out bleeding into to the metal shrieking day. Now they flicked their while walled eyes, trying to see around corners before he did. He smiled on them. This was not an inspection. “As you were.” He whispered. They smiled back, hesitant, puzzled.
The ratlines now, the joy of up, up up. His bare toes curled, the feet the hands, not Captain, but just Jack, and all sailor. Up, up. The strength of his arms, the push of his legs. The purple on the horizon. Here, this the dizzy swinging world, round around him, as it should be.
There, the crest of the sun, streaking the ocean with blazing gold. His ship below, tiny and perfect. He leaned back, sitting easy. All around him, the good ocean, and the day coming, clean and new.