Title: Beneath the Notice of the Great
Word Count 1493
This is fairly AU I suppose. It is William Bush, perhaps two years on from when we saw him last. (Still pre-canon, or maybe sideways of it.) I suppose you cannot get more AU than Fawlty Towers. This may be a little more sensible than that.
Beneath the Notice of the Great
Doctors. Will disliked them. There was something inhuman about the way a man could growl “No,” and they came on anyhow.
And he wanted no one now, not now when the noise was over. The other ship had been blown to bits. The cannons ticked as they cooled, and the smoke was almost gone .Working parties had come and their own dead had been lifted, (or shoveled, or sluiced, depending,) away. As soon as he was able, acting lieutenant Bush had found a dark corner where he could crouch. He had his bad hand clutched in his good one, and he could feel the hot wet all down the front of himself. He was cold and tired, and shaking. His hand was bad. He knew that much. He held it tight, but he could feel the blood flowing over his uninjured left.
He had let his eyes shut. (Don't see me.) And he had rested a little. His hair had come loose somehow, and stuck to the cold sick sweat on his face. And now the footsteps and voices had found him. He opened his eyes to growl them away. But it was the doctor, and Captain Luce with him. Will Bush staggered up. How had he gotten so sore and weak?
“Steady there, Mr Bush.” The captain had him by the front of his jacket, with his very own hands in the blood.
“Quiet, lieutenant. I think standing may not be the best thing. Lets just sit you down. Easy now..”
And the captain settled gently, and the doctor came up, and Bush could not protest. He held his poor hand out, and the doctor did things. William refused to look. He was trying not to cry.
Captain Luce ought to have gone away. He ought to be somewhere doing important things, not here on the gun-deck. But he must have stayed, because Bush heard him speaking now, from a long way off.
Are you not going to stitch it, Ratty?”
And that was funny, because you were not supposed to call the doctor Ratty. His name was Rattray. But he was a small dark man, who was always poking and twitching and sniffing. The mids had been calling him Ratty behind his back since day one. And now the skipper was doing it. William wished he could laugh. He wished he felt like laughing.
And Ratty was answering. “I don't want to stitch it, Sir, swollen as it is, and dirty. I'll Just pack it, for now, and see what the next few days bring. It will need to heal from the inside out.... Hmm.” The doctor's voice trailed off. He did more horrid things. Bush turned his face from the light.
He slept most of the next day. He woke to drink water, thirsty, over and over. And the stale water tasted so good, as if water was a new thing he had just discovered. It was strange, too, he did not seem to need to piss at all. Perhaps all that the water leaked out of his hand while he was sleeping. Just as well really. He did not want to get up. So he thought about that for a little while, how strange it was, and then he must have dozed again.
On the third day, William got dressed. . He had trouble doing up his buttons with his stupid left hand. The right was so swathed in bandages that he could not get his jacket over it. Finally he draped his jacket the best he could, and went up.
Captain Luce was on the quarterdeck. He was a big shining man. He was all gold and blue down to his skin and hair and eyes. He looked like a Naval Captain in a picture book. He looked like he had been made, right there, when the deck was laid.
It had made Will Bush want to dislike him. But even that petty pleasure was denied. Luce was kind and fair. He ran a good ship, fierce and warm.
And on this day, he saw Will Bush, and raised both his fair eyebrows and his fair voice.
“What can you be thinking? Back to your hammock with you right now until the doctor tells you otherwise.” And Captain Luce smiled at Williams crestfallen face.
We can do without you a little while while you heal properly. The Navy will need that hand of yours in years to come.”
So Will went back to his sleeping place. The little canvas space was warm and shadowed, and he had room to stand and turn around, and his hammock all to himself. And he was so tired. It made no sense at all. He wriggled out of his shoes without falling over, dropped his jacket, and rolled into sleep.
In the morning the doctor came. The doctors hands were thin and dark and seemed to made of nothing but skin and cordage. Bush's hand as distorted as a glove stuffed with goose-down. It was misshapen and astonishingly blue. But he could bend it, and when the doctor held it in his own and made his inspection, he seemed pleased. He pronounced William fit for light duties.
With his arm in a sling the jacket was really hopeless.
He arrived on deck to find it rigged for church. Sunday, of course. He had forgotten. His division was scrubbed clean and waiting. They smiled at him. He could not think why.
Today was the Articles. Captain Luce had a good voice. Will could stand, and let the voice coil around him, fuzzy as a blanket and devoid of meaning. The air was cool, and the seas quiet. But it did not feel like winter, really. He pictured his sisters, red cheeked, muffled, laughing as they went about a sharp gray world. The trees would be bare, and the small birds black against the sky. They would be thinking of the keeping of Christmas. They were safe at home, and thinking of him, too, he knew. Missing them was a pain that hurt where he could not reach. It ached, always.
The reading ended. Divisions dismissed. Everyone found a place to go. But Will could not do his mending, or even read easily, with one hand. Going aloft was possible certainly, but he would be an ungainly laughable thing, with his smart hand useless. It did not appeal. He sound a spot on deck, alone in the sun. He tilted his face up, and let his eyes rest a little.
The sun had moved when he heard something Someone was coughing, a ridiculous sound, most unlike a real needful hack. This, a feeble attempt to gain his attention. He came up, from the edge of sleep, ready to growl. But again, this was denied him. He found himself faced with the wide blue eyes of the youngest volunteer.
“Ca-Captain sent me Sir.” He was holding a letter box, and literally shaking.
“Aye? Well, what is it? Oh, sit yourself down, for God's sake!” Really, this one was too stupid for the Navy. And much too pretty.
The child sat.
“Captain said I am to help you write letters. He sent me with my letter box. He gave me paper. I write a good hand Sir.” The voice had started out bravely, but it squeaked at the end, rather ruining the whole effect.
It was true that Will wrote his letters on Sunday afternoon. What was so odd about that? Many men did. Nothing there to draw notice down on him.
But, as the boy was here, he supposed he could use the help.
He took a good deep breath.
“Begin thus--'Dear Sisters,'”
They were halfway through the letter. The boy did have a bold hand, but he could not spell. The going was slow. He was biting his lip, and his little eyebrows were lowered, when something seemed to occur to him. Bush could see the idea spread across his young face.
“Oh, Sir! I forgot something!”
Bush did not feel greatly surprised.
“This.” the boy was scrabbling in his letter box. “We all got them on the 21rst, but you were asleep. We had double rum too. Captain said Christmas is all well, but sailors must take note of the years turning. The men of your division saved yours out. Here.”
t was a little dry, but very good. A small cake, yellow, studded with fruit and raisins. It was delicious.
“I think it is supposed to look like the sun.” The child said.
Will broke it in half, held it out to the boy.
“Oh, no, Sir. I already had mine. That one is all yours.”
Will ate the whole thing.