The Captain
by Te
January 9, 2005

Disclaimers: Not mine.

Spoilers: Vague ones for the Elseworlds "The Doom That Came To

Summary: The Captain isn't like anyone else.

Ratings Note: All ages.

Acknowledgments: To Betty for audiencing and also forcing me to
be comprehensible.


The Captain doesn't really --

Dick says 'he's not like anyone I've ever met' whenever
anyone they get friendly with in some port or another --
they all get to be the same, after a while. Only the
seasoning in the fish stew changes -- asks about the man,
and that's the only right answer there is for someone not
them, it's just that it's also the only right answer, period,
for Dick -- as near as Jason can tell.

The Captain (it's hard to think of him as anything else,
sometimes, and maybe that's --) doesn't really do...
anything like anyone else.

At first Jason was just going with the whole 'actually wants
the boys around to work' thing, and that was (more than)
enough -- certainly after some of the ships he'd been on --
but it's also more than that.

Dick's been with him pretty much forever, even though he
doesn't think of it that way, since of course the Captain
came from money, and had his own ship years before he'd
ever gotten the crew settled to his... whatever --

Thing is, that's part of it right there. The Captain doesn't
make sense unless he's on the water, except that Jason
knows -- they all do -- that somewhere back in America
there's this big mansion and a whole land life where
things --

They all know they're going back there someday, even if
they don't know for what. Because the Captain --

Sometimes, at night, when it's just the bones crew on, when
the winds aren't taking them anywhere particularly fast
and there's no storms coming that they all have to haul ass
to get out of the way of, and everybody's a little drunk --
just enough to be warm, just enough that no one's thinking
about what might be waiting for them in port, and no one's
thinking about how far away from anything but themselves
they are -- and the lamps are out and the stars are the only
light, and nobody's singing anymore, nobody knows the
next song --

Sometimes, at night, there's a quiet on top of the quiet.

That's when Dick stops whatever he's doing to just stare at
the Captain.

That's when Tim hunches over and starts to stink a little,
not salt and not sweat. Not good sweat, anyway.

That's when 'Stevie' starts to do something just a little
stupid and obvious like crossing 'his' arms over 'his' chest.

That's when he starts to do things like thinking too loud
about Stevie, and maybe this is when things are going to
break, change, and the land on the horizon won't be the
Canadian coastline or one of the million perfect little
islands in the South Pacific or wherever it's supposed to be,
and becomes --

That's when the Captain is the Captain, and nothing else,
and he stares up at the sky like he's not looking at anything
at all, like he's just one of those dogs or maybe foxes (it's
always wolves in the stories Dick tells when he's trying to
get Tim to stay up all night pretending he's not scared,
even though Jason isn't sure what's so special about them
compared to the mastiffs they saw back in London that
time) and there's something on the air.

That's when --

That's when they all know the Captain is going to walk (or
maybe Walk), and it'll be all night, and you'll go to sleep
even though you know he's going to do it, going to stop
over you and look, and see, and see *something* like
maybe you weren't just the healthy-enough kid he picked
up here, or there. You're --

You're the kid he's taking back to the land one day, away
from the salt and the songs and the warm kind of scared.

And that's when you hope -- if you're Jason, and those are
the nights when he wonders if he really knows any of them
at all, because he isn't sure what they hope at all --

That's when Jason hopes that the Captain isn't really
finished yet, that there'll be someone else he really needs
in the crew before it's time for -- whatever it's time for,
even though they're all just stupid kids, orphans who'd be
doing fuck only knows what if the Captain hadn't also been
Bruce (or maybe the other way around), the guy who stops
to do more than trade and pick up assignments from soft
little scientists who'll never leave the land, the guy who
picks them, too, only --

Only Jason doesn't know what it's all for, and Dick doesn't
think it's a question worth asking, even though he's been
here forever, even though it's something.

Something --

"Go to sleep, Jason."

"Sure, Cap."

Jason listens to the sure and solid sound of the Captain's
boots walking away from his bunk. He tries not to... this is
waiting, and he tries not to do it.

He does, anyway.