I've lost count as to how long we've been sailing. It's been at least two weeks and I'm getting restless. Cortés still sends me letters, telling me that Kenobi hasn't got to the Fountain yet, but I don't know if I can trust him. Cecil tells me that I have nothing to fear. If Kenobi had already reached the Fountain, the world would have been driven insane already.
That man is such a great comfort, he is.
Always sunshine and rainbows. Reminds me of me. I finally understand how Queenie and Bex feel when I lampshade their problems. You just want snap 'Oh, shu'up!' and walk away because you're blushing.
I spent the day bored out of my mind, staring at the endless ocean. Funny. When I was with Khadir and his family all those years ago in the blazing desert - remember how much I longed for the sea and for Callum. But now I would give all this water and all these leaping creatures for the return of that desert and Uncle Haythaam.
What are we people but bottomless vessels of greed and yearning?
What is in front of our eyes is just never enough.
“Are you hungry?” Cecil asked me.
“Do you have food?” I replied.
“Then what does it matter?”
He paused a moment, “I was merely making conversation,” he leaned forward on the banister next to me and asked, “Why do you shun me?”
“I don't do it intentionally, Cecil. I just...” I sighed, “I'm agitated, worried, anxious. I almost feel sick to think that Kenobi could have already found the place and is just waiting - waiting for his brothers to come and fight us off.”
“Such a thing will not happen.”
“Why do you say things like that? How do you know?” I snapped.
“We must prepare for what we are about to do - you are about to eliminate the man that killed your husband, your own brother-in-law. How can you do this if you are busy considering other occurrences?”
“I can adapt to a situation,” I said defensively.
“Hmph. If this is the case, then you should focus on the task in front of you. You can adapt if the task changes in some way when met with it.”
I gave him a look and he laughed gruffly, “It is beyond me to think that a man like Thomas would marry such a serious woman!”
I paused, “You and me both.”
Cecil stopped smiling abruptly, “I meant no offence.”
“None was took,” I mumbled, “He never gave me a straight answer, you know.”
“Why he married me. He always used to say 'because there's no other woman in the world I'd rather be with' and then he'd say something else and then he'd change the subject. It was like... he didn't know. And maybe he didn't. We were so unalike, he and I.”
“Not all pairs are identical, Midnight. And not all pairs know what brought them together. Sometimes it is merely a machination of Fate. It's hardly something to mourn.”
“I know. It just bothers me sometimes.”
“You loved him, didn't you?”
“Then what does it matter why he loved you or you loved him?”
“Because it does. Love is not the answer to every problem. Love is not the remedy to every sickness. It is not absolute. It has the equivalence in value of small talk to a stranger. It's a happy convenience, something nice to have around until it's gone. There has to be a reason, and I never knew what it was - and that bothers me.”
“Okay, well, why did you love Thomas?”
“Because his numbered flaws were plain to see and his overwhelming righteousness was hidden beneath all of it. I did not love him the moment I saw him - only when I came to know what he was: a good man thrown in uncounted tests and trails in his life. I've never met a more caring man in my life - a good father, a good husband, even a good son. He didn't excel as a brother, but he had his reasons for it. And he was the best uncle any of my nieces could ever have - that anybody's niece and their mum could have.”
“So, in other words, there isn't a man in the world you'd rather be with?”
I narrowed my eyes, “It's not the same thing.”
“That is a fairly empty sentiment. Anyone could say it to anyone and the words would be the same but they may or may not be true.”
“You think Thomas was lying? That his sentiments were empty?”
“You know what? Screw you. You know it's not the same thing,” I said, walking away.
I went around to the helm and stood by the captain. He cocked his hat forward as he watched me approach.
“How much longer?” I asked the captain.
“Few more minutes,” he replied.
I gave him a look, “...Really?”
“Aye,” he nodded, “We've travelled far enough, Ms Rogue.”
“The Chess Pieces have had your name in their book for a long time,” he smiled and ripped out his sword. I jumped aside as he slashed down and pulled out my own weapon. The other men stepped away from their posts and unsheathed there swords - the rhythmic shing, shing, shing caught my ears as blades left their scabbards. I looked around for Cecil - he was on the quarter-deck, looking around him and hefting his large axe.
“We can make this easy for you, Ms Rogue, if only you comply. And we'll let your beast-friend go,” said the captain.
“Why are you serving them? That scum only wants to see you dead!” I replied.
“The bounty on your head is a large one, and I intend to collect.”
“Do you know who I am, what I've done?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Then you'd better be prepared to die,” I charged at him, slicing down and to his side, trying to catch him off-guard. His swings became wild and jerky, and I managed to run him through his stomach before a reflex made him kick his knee into my stomach. I doubled over as the man fell to the deck, dodging blade and taking cover from bullets as I recovered. I cut my way to Cecil (who seemed to be more of a target to gunfire) and stood back to back with him.
“Was there any actual plan or did you just lash out in the hope of surviving this?” he cried, swinging his axe into a man's belly and spilling his innards.
“That depends. Can you swim?” I replied, stabbing one man in the eye and slicing through the throat of another.
“Are you mad? We're both bleeding profusely - we'll be attacked by every shark in the sea!”
“Would you rather your pelt was sold to some merchant in... somewhere!”
“I find that deeply offensive!”
“Yes or no?”
He growled at me.
“Then grab a crate and jump!”
I kicked a sailor in his groin and killed another before grabbing a crate and jumping into the sea. I heard a splash after me and assumed it was Cecil and paddled away from the ship. I watched as blood ran from my wounds, like faded ribbons in the water. There was a patch of land up ahead, and we made for it, using the crates to help us stay afloat.
Once we reached the island, I crawled towards a lone tree and leaned against it, looking up at the palm leaves sprouting from the trunk. Cecil rolled flat onto the sand and panted.
I laughed, “I told you I was adaptable.”
“Keep... quiet,” Cecil replied, with a light scoff.
I got up and went to him. He'd taken many bullets, but his armour and thick skin had prevented them from getting in too deep. Even so, he was bleeding fast and I helped him up in the hope of fixing the damage.
“You wouldn't happen to have any medical supplies?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, “But I have clothes and a sharp dagger. It will have to do.”
“What about you?”
“Of the two of us unchecked, you would die first. Just let me worry about you and then I'll worry about me.”
“It takes a lot more than a few bullets to kill me,” laughed Cecil.
“Oh, such arrogance,” I said, “Let's see how long you last taking the cure.”
I spent the whole afternoon digging metal out of Cecil's body. He scratched me several times and even attempted biting my twice. It was as funny as it was painful. But once I'd patched him up with torn sheets of my cloak, he rested undisturbed. I then patched myself up as best I could and killed an iguana that was just padding by lazily. I cooked it over a small fire for us both to eat, but Cecil wrinkled his nose.
“No? Alright, more for me then,” I said.
“Can you even eat that?” he asked.
“Are you sure?”
“No,” I said, taking a bite, “I'm deliberately poisoning myself in the hopes of escaping you.”
“There are easier ways in which that could be arranged,” Cecil laughed, gesturing to the claw-marks on my arm, “You have my apologies.”
“How can it be alright?”
“Because I believe that men are big babies when it comes to bullets and blood,” I said, “It's alright.”
“How... do you deal with Simon? When he... gets out of hand?”
“I put him back in hand.”
“Midnight, I am very tired.”
“And that it not my problem, Cecil.”
“It will be, if I decide to-”
“But you won't.”
Cecil sighed, “Midnight, please?”
I smiled at him, “We just leave him alone. Let him take it out outside where he can't hurt anyone,” I paused, “Or, as in one instance, we try to physically calm him down.”
“Does it happen often?”
“Some of his cousins enjoy ticking him off.”
“And you've just dealt with it all these years?”
“Yes. It's what a mother does.”
He regarded me for a while but didn't say anything.
“Are you sure you won't eat?” I asked him.
“I'm,” he adjusted his position and sat more comfortably, “not very hungry.”
“You've lost quite a bit of blood. I know lizard isn't really in your regular diet, but I think you still ought to eat something - hunger or no hunger.”
“I'm... Just... No. I'll be fine.”
“Do you know where we are?”
“If I were to guess, I'd say we were west of the Windward Islands - that's about where we should be.”
“So, what's the plan?”
“...I've nothing in mind.”
“I doubt we can swim to the next island.”
“I am not swimming to the next island!” Cecil snapped.
I laughed, “Well, then I'd say we're stuck here. At least for the moment. Unless you can contact someone in your head to pick us up.”
“I'm,” Cecil yawned, his pink tongue flicking out over his sharp teeth, “too tired to do that at the moment. I'll try it in the morning. I have a friend in Martinique that will find us, if I give him this location.”
“Sounds as good a plan as any.”
“A chill is settling in. Are you going to last the night?”
“I'll keep the fire burning. I should be okay.”