Fragments on the Floor

"God, but he's such a bastard."

"You're to pay him no mind. He's not worth it." Matthews shakes his head, and puts his hand on Styles' shoulder, inelegantly. Then he pokes him as an added measure. "D'you understand?"

"I understand, all right. I understand the captain's going to let him knock me about and you're telling me to pay him no mind."

"Yes, well, you're sulking, Styles."

"I've every right." Styles holds the last word for a moment, plaintively.

Matthews shakes his head again. "Every right, sure, but it's a damn' stupid thing to do, now. Get you flogged, or hanged, or tossed over the side."

"Or put in irons. Or put on continuous watch. He fancies that."

"Or hanged by your feet from the rigging. I wouldn't put it past him. Expect he's an inventive bugger."

Styles grins a little. "By me feet? By me hair."

"Nice hair. Too long. Perfect for tying to things, you know."

"Styles! Matthews!"

"That's the end of that. Come on."

Matthews starts ahead. Styles pauses behind for a moment, then hurries after, and tugs on Matthews' hair. "Yours is too long too."

"Don't I know it. Come on. And remember to keep your head, or we really will see you strung up by your hair."

"Or m'feet, as you said," Styles informs him.

"And your toes are long enough as it is, man. Move along."

Styles darts forward again after Matthews, and kisses his shoulder quickly, before straightening and walking with overdone obliviousness behind him.

"What was that for?"

"You know."

"Just don't let him get to you. Keep order, keep order," Matthews repeats cheerfully.


"Styles! Matthews!"

"Coming, sir!"


"You all right?"

"Oh, sure. Just hurting like hell and wishing I were somewhere else, of course. All right apart from that."

"Come on now. I didn't want to. You know I didn't want to. I'm bosun. It's my job."

"I know you didn't want to. It's not that bothers me."

"What--the captain?"

"He thinks I did it. He thinks I'm that careless. I'm not a cook but I'm not a fool. I'm not stupid."

"I know that."

"He doesn't."

"Ah, come on now, Styles." Matthews rubs Styles' shoulder with the heel of one palm, gently, the uninjured shoulder. "You'll make it up to him. He's a good captain. He's like my old captain. It'll be all right. You know that. We'll find out what really happened."

"'Course we will."

"Now, see, if you're going to be like that..."

"You know just as well as I do we won't find out what happened. He'll always think I'm a bastard without any sense."

"You are a bastard without any sense. It'll be all right, I tell you."

Styles groans softly, and bats at Matthews' hand. He stops quickly with a grimace of pain. "That hurts."

"See? You're a bastard without any sense. Now get your shirt back on and come up. It'll be all right. He's a good man. He's not going to be like Captain Sawyer and hang you by your hair from the rigging."

"Captain Sawyer never got that far."

"Captain wouldn't even think of it."

"Ha!" Styles laughs derisively. "Fine, I'm coming."

"There you go. Be up in the open air. Do wonders for you, it will. You'll see."

"Wonders?" Styles grumbles, sitting up.

"Absolute wonders. Better health than you've had in a year."

"God, you're a hundred times more comforting than Wolfe."

"Come on. We both know Wolfe is a bastard."


Matthews rubs Styles' shoulder again, comfortingly. "Sure."


"Stupid prison. I hate it in here."

"We all do, Styles."

"I want to get out and walk about! It's too small in here! It's not like a bloody ship. It's not open. There's no air. It's too hot."

"Ah, stop complaining, man. We're not getting out until captain comes up with a good plan."

"Captain doesn't care about us! He's got that Duchess, and then there's Mr. Kennedy. Between this and that and the other, he's not going to waste his time."

"Now don't talk like that. You sound like Hunter. You don't want that, do you?"

"No, but--"

"You see. Just leave it alone. Captain's thinking about us for sure. He's a clever man. He'll have us out any day now, just as soon as Mr. Kennedy gets back on his feet. Would've had us out before, he would, if he wasn't worried about his shipmate."

Styles leans his head against the bars in frustration. "Supposing Mr. Kennedy doesn't get back on his feet?"

"We've said this a thousand times. You and me and Oldroyd. Mr. Kennedy's going to spring back on his feet and jump over the wall, God's sake. It's for sure. And as soon as that's done, captain will get us out, and we'll be back on the Indy, and you can have back your sea breezes."

"And it'll be about time..."

"Shut it." Matthews raps Styles affectionately on the back of the head. "Be sensible. You're like a housewife dithering."

"Am not!"

"Just wait." Matthews leans on his elbows beside Styles on the stone before the window. "Any time now." Styles sighs in irritation, and Matthews drapes an arm over his shoulders. "Any time."

"You said that yesterday. And the day before."

"Any time," Matthews says again, firmly, and this time Styles believes him.

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