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Here We Meet These Broken Sailors



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Mon Jul 20, 2020 7:22 am
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Wolfical says...



Holstering her weapon, the guard crossed her arms and glared at Brett, who raised his hands in defense. “Hey, when nature calls—”

“Doesn’t matter. When you’re under my watch, I need to know exactly where you are and what you’re doing, at all times.”

With a plan for how he was going to meet up with James stewing in his mind already, the words didn’t make him prickle with annoyance as such reminders of constraint usually did: in just a few hours he’d snap free of his leash and be able to wander around exactly as he pleased. The only question was how. How would he sneak off the ship and into the forest, without even Matt or Ciera knowing? Wouldn’t they find out he was missing?

“We’re heading back now,” the guard said. She jutted a chin towards the ship, indicating that Brett should lead the way. She wasn’t going to let him out of her sight again.

Brett scooped Annabel into his arms and whispered something in her ear.

“You’re gonna what?” she asked with a scrunched up nose.

Brett turned and coughed pitifully into his elbow. “Suddenly, I—” He coughed again. “Gosh, Annabel, I... I don’t feel so well all of a sudden.” He stumbled and almost dropped her as she squealed in surprise.

Catching her eye as he regained his balance and set her on her feet, he winked. After a moment of confusion, she laughed and winked back.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Thu Jul 23, 2020 2:15 pm
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soundofmind says...



James started packing his things - not that he had much to pack anyway. He'd only taken out his blanket, and he always kept everything ready to go. But still. He felt antsy.

He shook his blanket out over the rocks and watched as little flecks of dirt and a few leaves fell off the back of it. He whipped it out in front of him for good measure, watching it catch air before it fluttered down in front of him. After bringing the corners together twice, he started rolling it up.

Elliot inched towards him, giving James a sniff. He snorted.

"Don't give me that," James retorted. "You know I haven't had a chance to get a decent bath in a while."

He turned and moved to Elliot's side, where he tied the blanket back up onto the saddle.

"Hoss has been on my tail ever since we left. I'm more concerned about staying alive. Not smelling nice."

Elliot turned his head and looked back at him, snorting again. James glared back.

"Shut up."

James knew that Elliot couldn't really understand him, but pretending like he could helped his sanity. It seemed counterintuitive to say so, but talking to a horse at least felt better than talking to himself, and at least like this, he could reasonably speak things aloud instead of getting caught up in his head all of the time. That was what drove him mad.

With a sigh, he turned to look out through the trees.

He could see the ocean from here. The sound of the rolling waves reached him, faintly, like a gentle hum. Each crash against the rocky shore felt like the ticking of a clock, counting down the minutes and moments before his past caught up to him. Or, in recent times, to be more specific, Hoss. And Hoss wasn't a bounty hunter interested in money. He was interested in revenge.

Brett wouldn't want to hear that story.

James's eyes fell to the ground and he stood still for a moment. Elliot stood still beside him, apart from the flicking of his tail to ward off a pesky dragonfly.

James reached for his saddlebag.

He pushed aside his spare clothes and pulled out his journal. Rarely would he rip out a piece of precious paper from his book, but this was a different occasion. Flipping to the back of the leather-bound pages, he stopped at the very end. The last page was blank, along with many others, and he decided he could sacrifice one page to Brett. Brett was worth that much.

In truth, Brett was worth more. Brett deserved to see him face to face again as real friends would, but James couldn't imagine putting Brett in that kind of danger. There was the guard, of course, who was monitoring Brett, but then there was James himself, who had his own trail of people following him. He didn't know if anyone else besides Hoss had caught onto his trail now that he was on the move again, but he wouldn't be surprised with his luck.

He ripped out the page and quickly tucked his journal away. He pulled out his pencil and walked over to the flat slab of rock he's once been lying on so he could lie down again - but this time so he would have a flat surface to write on.

I'm sure no amount of apologies will make up for this letter being here instead of me, but I do hope that you'll read it. I truly am sorry that I'm not here as you wished me to be.

I'm glad to see that you're doing well and that you've made things right with your brother. I'm so happy that you now get to share your life with your family now, and that you're closer to freedom than you've ever been. You are a dear friend. I wouldn't want to ruin that for you.

I know you were concerned for me when you saw me, and I do hope to ease some of your anxieties. I cannot lie to you - my life always seems to come with its own troubles, but I always seem to find a way of escape. I find myself in trouble and then I find a way out again. I'll be fine, just as I have been before.

I do ask that you would keep quiet about my presence here. I'd like to pass through quietly. I'm sure you understand.

Take care.


His pencil hovered over the paper for a moment. Names. Names. He knew it would make sense to write them down, but if the letter were to be found by someone other than Brett, he wouldn't want to draw suspicion to either of them. It was best to leave them out. If Brett found it, he would know it was for him.

James read it over a few times, fussing over the words. Fussing over the details. Was it too vague? Was it not specific enough? Was it too... formal? Could such things be too formal?

In the end, he didn't change anything. Before he could change his mind, he decided to stick with leaving the letter at the tree. It would be better than leaving nothing. Brett deserved some kind of answer.

He walked over to Elliot, folding the letter up in his pocket.

"Okay. One little delivery, and then we'll be on our way."
  





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Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:21 am
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Wolfical says...



The guard assumed her position at the bottom of the boarding plank so she could monitor who came and went. For as long as they stayed on the ship, Brett and Annabel finally had their freedom, and they could carry out the first steps of their plan without begin noticed because the deck was almost empty. Since docking, many of the sailors and other passengers were enjoying their time in town, where they could find entertainment, warm food, spacious motel rooms, and the steady ground beneath their feet.

Brett helped Annabel jump down from the plank onto the deck. “Step one of Operation Cowboy...” he said. “Infiltrate the galley!”

The cook was among the absent crew, and the door to the galley was locked. After looking around to make sure no one was looking, Brett lifted Annabel up to the little window and she climbed through. Another minute later and the door creaked open. Brett raided the kitchen supplies, wrapping a bundle of food in an empty flour sack and snatching a jar of crushed peppers.

“Step two!” Brett whispered as he closed the galley door behind them and tucked the small bundle of food under his arm. “Go, Bell!”

Crossing the deck, she opened one of the double doors into the captain’s quarters and disappeared.

Brett looked down at the jar of crushed peppers in his palm and sighed. It was one thing to come up with an idea, and another thing entirely to carry it through.

He shook a generous mound of peppers into his palm, stoically uttered “For James,” then he swallowed the whole thing at once. Well, tried to, anyway. Immediately he broke out into a coughing fit, red pepper flakes spraying from his mouth and between his fingers like confetti. As he tried to brush the flakes off of his tunic, his eyes began to water and his nose started dripping.

The double doors to the captain’s quarters swung open, and Brett staggered in from the bright light of late morning, squinting through tears as his eyes adjusted to the comparative darkness.

“There you are!” Ciera glanced up. “Annabel told me you— Dragons above! Brett! What happened to you?”

Sneezing and coughing, Brett struggled to reply.

“Do you need a doctor?” Ciera asked, rising from the desk and reaching for her satchel. “I’ll go to town right away and fetch one.”

“I think he just needs some rest, Mama,” Annabel said. She ran over to the hallway of passenger bedrooms and opened Brett’s door for him.

“No... doctor... please,” Brett managed to squeeze out between sneezes before he gratefully collapsed into his tiny room and Annabel shut the door behind him.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:36 am
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soundofmind says...



James folded the letter into thirds and wedged it between two intertwined branches. Low enough to be noticed by the observant eye, but high enough in the tree that someone just passing by would miss it. He’d had to half-climb the tree to get it up there, but he knew if Brett could climb to the top, he could grab the letter easily.

James hopped down, letting out a grunt as his trick ankle twinged under the pressure. He wiped his hands off on his pants and stood up straight, stretching and sighing.

Elliot stood beside him, relaxed.

“Well, buddy, I guess we’ll be on our way now,” he said, patting Elliot affectionately on the head as he walked to the saddle and pulled himself up.

Elliot sniffed the ground as James situated himself in the saddle, and it wasn’t long before they were moving again.

This time, James wasn’t in a rush. He was tired, and so was Elliot. All he was worried about was getting away before Brett got there and making more distance down the coast than the day before.
  





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Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:21 am
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Wolfical says...



Confined to a bedroom that was just long enough to fit a narrow bed, Brett waited for the sneezing and coughing to subside and listened through the door as Annabel spoke to her mother.

“Where’s Daddy?”

“He left right after you two did. Needed to take care of some things in town.”

This made things easier, but Brett was worried Matt would return home before he did and discover the empty bedroom. If anyone would find suspicious the story of Brett suddenly becoming sick, it would be Matt. Brett wasn’t even sure he had entirely convinced Ciera, who by now was a witness to a number of his shenanigans. Fortunately, he could depend on his little partner in crime for carrying out step three of their plan.

After he finally stopped sneezing, Ciera came and knocked at his door. “Brett?”

“He’ll be okay, Mommy,” he heard Annabel say.

“She’s right,” Brett called out. “I better stay in here a while, though. Might take a nap.” He made an audible yawn.

“Do you need us to bring you anything?”

“I’m good, thanks. Don’t worry about me.”

Ciera was quieter after that, in respect for Brett’s nap. Annabel, knowing better, was not, and Ciera had to keep shushing her. Baby Samuel started crying from the captain’s quarters and Ciera hurried over to comfort and quiet him, and Annabel took this opportunity to dash over to Brett’s door and whisper through the keyhole. “Uncle Brett? Can you hear me?”

“Affirmative, Captain Bell.”

“I’m gonna ask her soon.”

“Aye aye. Hurry up!” Brett whispered back. He’d been watching the sun through the tiny round window in his room, and it was nearly 12:00.

A little while later, loudly: “I wanna go look for dolphins, Mommy!”

“Shh! He’s sleeping!

Probably eager to get her noisy, energetic daughter away from Brett’s room, Ciera and company departed for the quarterdeck, softly shutting the double doors behind them.

Like a sprinter tense and ready for the gunshot, a shirtless Brett darted from his room and entered the captain’s quarters, where he raided Matt’s closet for a disguise. He selected Matt’s pair of glasses, a dark cloak, a gray tunic, a white sailor’s cap, and a pair of shoes. Matt’s stern captain’s portrait on the wall watched him somberly.

“If only we were identical twins,” Brett told him. “Woulda made this whole thing a lot easier.” He shut the closet drawers and took a deep breath. “Okay, time for step four.”

A minute later, he was near the bow of the ship, tossing a rope over the edge and climbing down the side, starboard, so the guard at the boarding plank and any guards in the other ships wouldn’t see him. Hiding in the shadow of the ship, he donned the glasses on the tip of his nose and tucked his long locks up under the hat.

He held the sack of food and the other pieces of the disguise in a bundle over his head and waded through the chest deep-water toward the shore, careful to stay out of sight of any guards. Hidden by a rock, he put on the rest of the clothes and walked, dripping with confidence, towards the forest as if he was just emerging from a morning of sunbathing at the beach. He felt a bit uncomfortable from having no time to dry off, and from wearing shoes in general, but he knew they were the crowning aspect of his disguise.

By the time he found the twisted tree, he knew he was late, so it surprised him that James wasn’t there yet. As he was waiting he noticed Elliot’s fresh tracks, which confused him further. He wasn’t that late, so why had James left already? Had he made the tracks deliberately, so Brett could follow them to a new location?

Maybe if he quickly climbed the tree he could scan the surrounding areas of the forest and potentially spot James and Elliot. He put down the sack of food and the unwanted pieces of his disguise onto the big rock and began climbing, almost passing over the letter in his haste to get to the top. He stopped, surprised, and plucked it from the branches and lightly hopped back down.

He unfolded the letter and sat at the edge of the boulder to read it, his expression changing from confusion to amused annoyance. He should have expected this—as usual, aloof James thought himself a danger to his friends. It was thoughtful of him to write the letter, at least.

Brett pocketed the letter and picked up his things, setting off without hesitation along Elliot’s trail.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:37 am
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soundofmind says...



James sighed as they came to a stop. He hadn't made it very far yet, but he could tell Elliot was tired. They'd been taking it slow, and as long as he didn't see anyone following him, he planned to continue doing so.

They'd stopped at a ledge, overlooking the water. Down below it was steep and rocky, and he couldn't see anyone below.

James hopped off, feeling the cool ocean breeze hit his face and blow a loose hair in his mouth. He sputtered and brushed it behind his ear. If the wind picked up he'd just put all of his hair in a ponytail, instead of keeping it half-up as it was.

Elliot seemed relieved to stop, and James wanted to reward him. He dug around in his saddle bag and picked out a carrot. It was Elliot's usual snack time anyway.

He walked up to Elliot's head and let Elliot do his usual sniff-before-eating routine, watching as Elliot finally nibbled at the end and took a big bite.

"There you go, buddy," he said softly, sparing a glance back out at the ocean.

He could see why Brett liked it. It really was beautiful - but as beautiful as the rolling waves were, they were also powerful and terrifying. James was glad to be above them, not below them.
  





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Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:25 am
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Wolfical says...



As he got further, Brett could tell by the length of Elliot's strides that the horse was moving slowly. Despite the letter, he again began to suspect that James wanted him to follow. He'd said he wanted to pass through quietly—maybe he was choosing a safer place to meet, away from the town and the ships. As he jogged quietly along the path, Brett just hoped it wasn't too far, because he needed to beat Matt back to the ship.

He didn't have long to worry, for he soon found James and Elliot resting at a ledge overlooking the water, the silhouettes of horse and man cut out of the blue.

Not wanting to startle them, he paused a stone throw's away and announced his presence. "It's a beautiful view."
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:55 am
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soundofmind says...



James froze, but his eyebrows twitched. He had to very, very consciously decided not to fight, or run. He knew the voice when he heard it, he just hadn't been expecting to hear it so soon - or rather, at all. Then again, he guessed he should've expected this from Brett. Brett, following him. Finding him. James hadn't gone out of his way to make himself difficult to find.

But after the letter, he wasn't sure if he'd already made things sour between them.

He took in a slow, deep breath, letting his muscles relax as much as they would allow themselves to.

His eyes only flicked to the view before he found Brett, standing in clothes that Brett had clearly stolen from Matt's closet. His eyes fell to Brett's feet.

"I see you're finally wearing shoes."
  





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Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:56 pm
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Wolfical says...



Brett grinned. "Not for long." He bent down to shake some dirt out of one of the shoes, but then decided to keep them both off and tossed them aside. He gestured to the ocean as he placed the bundle of extra things with the shoes.

"Seriously, though. This spot is way prettier than the twisted tree, and safer, too. Good thinking." He looked up. "You did want me to follow you, right?"
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:19 am
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soundofmind says...



James's eyes followed the shoes, and he stared at the bundle of clothes longer than was necessary. He wanted to shrink and hide - which was a familiar feeling, but he wasn't quite so used to feeling it with friends. That was probably due to the fact that most of the friends he'd had he'd never kept. He felt like he was infamous for burning bridges, with or without his criminal past being the cause. But Brett was an exception, along with the others, not that he'd run into any of them until now.

He did wonder if Ari was around. He knew Ari would be overjoyed to see him.

James's eyes fell to his own feet.

"Well, I don't know," he admitted. "I didn't think you would. But I don't know if I was thinking much at all, besides trying to keep you safe. I know you probably went out of your way to sneak out and see me, but I don't know if I could live with myself if you got caught with me and I got you in trouble."

The moment the words left his mouth, he knew how selfish they sounded. He wasn't just doing it for Brett, he was doing it for himself too. To avoid confrontation. To avoid questions. To avoid talking about, well, everything, really. He knew Brett would want to talk. What else would they be doing out here?

He looked up at Brett.

"I'm sorry..." for not being as brave as you.
  





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Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:15 pm
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Wolfical says...



It was bad enough to see his friend's physical afflictions—the terrible bruises, scrapes, gashes—but to watch him struggle with the relentless invisible turmoils that Brett would never understand... It broke his heart. Again.

He didn't want James to feel uncomfortable. He especially didn't want him to feel guilty.

"James," he said in a tender, pleading voice. "It's okay. It was my decision to come here, and there's nothing you could've done to stop me. No amount of guards I wouldn't have found a way to sneak past, either. That's what family does for each other."
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:26 am
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soundofmind says...



James took in a deep breath, and he gave Elliot's reins a tight squeeze. His eyes fell to the ground again.

Family. He wasn't very good at being family, if that was what family was. He couldn't let himself think about it more than that if he was going to keep his composure.

His lips pressed into a tight line.

"Look, I - I don't know what to say. To that." That sounded terrible, didn't it?

"I really am happy to see you. I am. I just... I don't know. I'm not in a great place right now."
  





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Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:54 am
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Wolfical says...



Brett must have said something wrong, or at least something that James didn't need to hear right now.

"I'm so sorry to hear that," was all he could say at first.

The atmosphere between them was tense and awkward. He needed to lighten the mood somehow—out of the two of them, it was definitely his responsibility. He uncrossed his arms and sighed.

"I wish Ari was here. It looks like someone needs a hug." He grinned playfully to convey that he wasn't sincere about the last part. James probably wouldn't welcome a hug right now... not that he ever really did.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  





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Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:58 am
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soundofmind says...



James let out a huff of air through his nose, which was as much of a laugh as he could muster.

“How is he doing? Ari. Is he still sailing with you?”
  





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Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:06 am
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Wolfical says...



"Yes, and nine times out of ten he'd be with me right now. He always comes exploring with Annabel and I—she loves him. As it so happens, though, his ship is a couple days back. They had to stop for repairs." He jabbed a thumb down the southern coast.

"He's good, though. Same ol' Ari, joyful as ever. Both of us have to be watched at all times, and he's chummy with all his guards." He laughed. "Can't say the same for myself."
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
  








I have writer's block. I can't write. It is the will of the gods. Now, I must alphabetize my spice rack.
— Neil Gaiman