Growing Tides

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The Noon Hour

Let us return a few hours before to the sea. The cheer and mirth aboard the Kraken had shifted to dread, knowing all too well their time of joy and respite was coming to an end. Ruu and Roe and Ella watched from the bow, their light banter silenced when Captain Tarjen stepped out of his cabin. He lumbered down the (shoddily) cleaned steps, heading in no great haste towards the mast where their lovely song bird still crowed. He took a moment, drawing a deep breath, and put his first “foot” on the metal that jutted out from the poles. For the most part, they were easy enough to ignore, little more than a few inches out from the wood, but they served an important purpose, locking the poles deep inside the ship when they were diving and only loosed and allowed to turn to the side when the wheels were cranked.

Gale watched him ascend for her, her screams and begs reduced to pitiful whimpers. Her cheeks flushed, body shaking, focused entirely on her captain climbing the tall mast, just for her. Her heart fluttered, crying out for him as he stumbled, sliding a bit down, but he caught one of the ropes tending the sail and cut it just under his hand, as quick as a blink. The rope buzzed as it ascended, taking him along. The sail was forced to suffer, toppling onto the deck, the cost of saving her.

He let go near the top, and the rope whizzed in an arc just before the bowl that was the crow’s nest side, but Gale paid it no mind, her eyes still locked on her captain, cheeks burning even hotter than before. Her heart raced, as if ready to escape her chest and fly off into the heavens where her captain flew, blotting out the sun. His jacket splayed behind, making it seem like he had wings, rippling against the wind that blew across the crow’s nest. It seemed to rise for him, catching him, slowing his fall until he landed before her, and the sun made his eyes shine like the finest gems, staring down right at her.

Captain Tarjen sheathed his dagger back in his waist before offering his hand, but once more she was struck dumb. The wind had stirred again and raised his jacket around him, allowing the sun to gleam on his gray skin, making it sparkle and gleam with so many gems of its own. There was a dark river down the middle of his “chest”, filled with even greater secrets, just waiting to be plundered by the right person. Rather, by her.

“All right. Break’s over,” Captain Tarjen said, though his words were lost as she simply continued to stare. “Unless you want to clean this old spotter’s seat. It could use it, though most prefer to wait until we dive to give it a good going over... Gale?”

Gale muttered something that ebbed on the line of incomprehensible to pure nonsense, but shook her head, finally breaking her gaze upon his “chest” and how the arms that made it bulged, toned and strong as they slipped into a pair of dark blue pants and down into his boots –which he still wasn’t wearing. Her time in this nest had at least granted her the boon of reddened cheeks, hiding her blush. Seeing him there, feeling him so close- and once more she had to break her stare, lest she become mystified again, instead becoming enthralled in his eyes, in those starry orbs. If she didn’t know better, she could swear it was night, and she was staring into the heavens, gazing deep, deep into those eyes.

He muttered something else, his voice rather small for a Cephamorian his size, even smaller in that fanned, patched coat and his tricorne hat. It had a periwinkle band across its front, holding a pair of silver sabers with copper handles, clashing against the two bright gold A’s put before them, interlocked. The symbol of the Aqua Alliance.

Her captain groaned, making her heart sink. What did she do? What did he s- She cried out as he pulled her onto his shoulder, forced to look down upon the deck again. It rose fast each passing beat of her heart, quickening to such a tremble as the ship- no, the world, itself, seemed to spin. She clawed at his jacket, locked her legs on his front, the softest of whimpers turned into screaming as he jumped out of the crow’s nest. The air rushed by her face, taking with it tears, but it faded quick as Captain Tarjen landed on the first mast beam, then jumped down to the next.

There was one final rush before they hit the deck, and he eased her onto her feet. He had to hold her; Gale could have been in his embrace forever, alas ending too soon as her legs gained their strength. He took a step back, and looked her over, shaking his head.

“If a gull comes along and defiles my deck again, maybe, just maybe, clean where it had sullied instead of chasing after it,” he stated, wiping his hands, and snorted. “Did you hear me?”

“Y-yes, sir,” she mumbled, gulping hard, and only realized how dry her throat had become. Or, rather, how thirsty her whole self truly was. “E...excuse me, sir, but I need some water before I can begin working.”

Captain Tarjen motioned to the barrels on the starboard side, sitting by the bow’s staircase, and she hurried over to them. Water plonked into the large basins, salty spray caught in the tarp there left to desalinate and fill them with fresh water, sparkling in the sunlight. It was disturbed as she plunged her head into it. She forgone the ladle and the wooden cups sitting beside, too hot and bothered to care, reveling in its cold touch, calming her burning cheeks and throat at last. For the moment, at least.

She finally breached for air after gulping so much down, her belly protruding a touch. It gurgled a little, feeling a touch queasy, but she put on a straight face as she righted and faced her good, honorable, dutiful captain again. Besides, the queasiness did not hold a candle to the fluttering of her heart in his presence... nor the ache in her head.

How could he not have known her? How did he not remember her all those times when he docked with the Kraken? She was always the first to rush aboard, the first to clean and make sure everything was spic und span. She was always first, always, to his ship, to see him strode upon the deck before his crew, and always waited, with bated breath, listening to how he encouraged them, how he respected them, regardless if they were Aceon, Cephamorian, a Terra Force race, or even an Itchyoman. Especially an Itchyoman.

And now? She was here, on his deck, standing before him as his skipper. His right-hand lass... It was as she always told her mother and her sister: they would be together.

So, for now, she would play his game. She would pretend they don’t know each other, build a bond of trust, and ultimately refuse his proposal of love only to sullenly agree, as if petulant when in truth it would be the grandest, happiest moment of her life.

However, she must learn one thing before all of that: to actually listen to him talk instead of gazing into his eyes.

“I’m sorry, sir. The sun must still have me bogged down,” she said, giggling as she actually took the ladle this time and took a drink. She even offered it to him, but he declined. “What did you say? Again, I am sorry.”

“I was simply stating that the others already have their duties assigned,” he said, a touch bitter, but she knows he wasn’t truly angry or scornful. It was all a part of the a- “In fact, Ella and Roe took on the bulk of the work, so you can help them where needed. Otherwise, you can aid me in cleaning the deck, retying the sails, patching them up, then head to the kitchen to start dinner.”

“Ella took most of the work?” Gale said, the fluttering in her heart turned into a raging furnace, though she was always good at keeping it there and not in her face. At least, when it comes to her captain she was. “Roe, as well? The one who lied? Why would she do that! Why would either one?”

“Ella felt a touch guilty, considering how much she is being paid compared to the others-”

“Good! She should be. She abused your trust to extort such a hefty amount.”

He shook his head, which only made her fire burn hotter.

“It’s nothing like that,” he said, fueling the flames. “Her want for the money is noble, and she has never lead me to believe she would lie about anything she may say.”

“W... well... what if I can?”

“Pardon?”

She nodded, hard enough to make her neck popped, but was too giddy to care, tittering as a wide, goofy smile stole across her face.

“What if I told you she’s one of the main contributors of the drug underworld of Carapai? What if I said she was the enabler to allow Blue Pearl to flourish in the seedier, down-trodden areas of the city... What if I told you she is responsible for potentially bringing Natalie’s ire down upon the new capitol of the Aqua Alliance?”

“I would say that is an incredibly bold claim, and would come with some dire consequences unless you had evidence to prove it.” Tarjen groaned as he stretched his “arms,” making his hat shudder with a yawn. “For now, I don’t have time for fairy tales, and neither do you.”

“Yes, sir, though I’ll think I’ll go help Ella and Roe. They have such a large workload, after all.”

Tarjen nodded, and was that pride on his face? Did she do good by him? Her heart settled from its furnace a moment to flutter again, body squirming as he walked passed her, passed the barrels and to the door set in the center between the pair of bow stairs. It creaked open, which made him stop and move it back and forth, grimacing at the hinges, but she would not spend another moment gawking after... not now, at least. She had a mission; she had fired that shot in the dark, but she would show it had hit its mark, if it means finally winning his love fully. She would deal with the other in time, but there was little fear of that. She already showed that Itchyoman a liar, already carved by the Cat; it wouldn’t be too hard to oust her as a mutineer, either.

Oh, the very thought made her legs rise on their own, practically skipping down to the galley... falling down the steps. Though her face hit the planks hard, and she could taste blood, she still wore that big, silly smile.

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