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14 December 2003 @ 04:57 am
Master and Commander fic: Like Distance, Like Time (1/1)  
Author's note: This fic is the direct cause of Lyra and I learning more about South American geography and Lyra proudly proclaiming "Cape Horn and Valpairaso ARE SO TEH OTP!!!" Take from that what you will.

Author's note 2, the serious younger sister of the other Author's Note: This is based off the movie. Not the books.



Hollom can hear them talking. Their voices swarm together, buzzing, pressing hard against the thin walls of the ship. Vibrating through the planks until he can feel their words crawling across his skin on invisible feet, can feel them flitting around his head, echoing in his skull.

He shakes. He hasn’t stopped shaking since Cape Horn, even though heat lies heavy in the air here, thick and ugly and humid – like the air around his face when he cried into his cupped palms after…after the storm. After the mast broke. After Warley…

After.

His breath comes short, and sweat beads on his brow, trickles through his hair, down his back. His teeth clack together, and he clenches his eyes closed. In the self-imposed darkness, Hollom sees their eyes as he passes them on the deck, feels the weight of the crew’s regard. It presses on him, makes him hunch his shoulders in. Makes him want to shrink, disappear. Be anyone but a thin-faced, too-old midshipman with long hands. He presses back into his hammock, pulls the edges of it tight.

He can still hear them, though, and the buzzing clears, turns into something he can understand. A single word, softer sounding than it has any right to be, over and over, in waves that pound against Hollom’s ears until his eyes fly open and he realizes he’s the one chanting it, under his breath.

“Jonah…Jonah….Jonah….”

***

He polishes his boots carefully, until the flat black shine of the toes reflects back the sputtering light of the single lantern that sways above him. The buttons on his jacket are dull, and he buffs them, too, until they glimmer, and Hollom draws a deep breath, and smiles.

They’re only buttons, and a common enough color. The same as the buttons on any other officers’ jacket, but when Hollom turns his jacket *just so*, they become warmer, absorbing the red from the thick, scratchy wool. And it might not be so uncommon a color either, this red-gold that Hollom stares down at for long fluid minutes, but it’s the same color as the handful of hair that waved over Warley’s brow. He turns the buttons with his fingers, and thinks of how Warley laughed, tossing his head back and slapping his leg, smile wide, curved. Hollom thinks of the pink of his cheeks, his lips, and how brown his broad, square hands looked against the gray of the sails.

How small they looked, reaching through the crisp white foam toward the Surprise, and how tender they seemed when they’d cupped Nagle’s face. Warley’s broad shoulders and his big hands and lean hips, all cradling Nagle’s body, pressing him back toward the mast in the stillest part of night as the ship had cut quietly through the waters. Hollom had squeezed the railing, and turned his head back to the sea, blinking the memory of the sight away.

Over the gentle lapping splash of the prow splitting the sea, he’d heard Warley’s voice, roughened and thickened, whisper just once, “Oh, Joe.”

Hollom had cleared his throat loudly, and two pairs of startled footsteps skittered below deck. The wind had picked up, and moaned into the mainsail, and to Hollom’s memory it seems as though even then there had been the whisper of it all, lying in the sound of the waves and the wind and the gentle creaking of the boat itself, all of it quietly calling his secret name.

All of it quietly saying, “Jonah.” He just hadn’t had ears to hear then.

He does now, and in every breath, every simple stir of Boyle and Williamson in their narrow beds, every shiver of noise, he can hear the accusation.

“Jonah…Jonah…Jonah…”

***

He wonders, as he primes and loads his pistol, making sure the silver is bright and the chamber is oiled, if this is what he’s always been, who he’s always been, or if he changed from his last sea voyage to this one. If he changed the day they set sail from Portsmouth. That first night at sea was the first time he saw Will Warley, after all, and it seems to Hollom that if there was ever a time he’d changed, that may have been it.

Warley’s skin had been pale, smudged with dirt, and maybe he’d been thinner than he was after several weeks on board the Surprise. But his lips had been elegant, and red, and full, and his eyes had snapped green with laughter. He’d been tall, his smile bright, with a voice that was deep and sweet and lilting through the sad notes of a song Hollom had never heard before.

He hadn’t seemed real – a creature lined with gold, topped with gentle, generous curls of hair that Hollom had known would be soft to the touch. It’s a moment burned into Hollom’s memory, one he can call up at will, even now.

The guns are ready, so he slips them into their holsters, fixing his clothes, and closes his jacket. It should be unbearable in this heat, but Hollom pays it no mind, instead lets his eyes linger over the room that he’s slept in for so many months. He squares his shoulders, and leaves. Behind him the door clicks shut, definitively, and before him, in the dark, the crew lies. Some sleep, and others lean against beams, their eyes harsh and flickering in the dim.

He wants to tell them not to worry. He wants to thank them, though he’s not sure for what. It seems the thing to do. He hesitates and he hears the sound of someone spitting, and an old voice, husky from smoke, and bad weather, mutters clearly, “Jonah.”

He says nothing. As he walks through them his feet land heavily, with good, solid noises that echo through the crowded cabin. No one meets his eye, and Hollom smiles slightly, standing straighter as he passes through the tight pressed anger around him. He finds some irony in all the eyes that follow him. He’s not someone that gets noticed; he’s a small man, and easily over looked.

He’s never minded that, much. Hollom has never been ambitious. He’s smart enough to know that would only lead to disappointment.

Hollom could never make captain, or be loved by his men. That didn’t matter terribly either, because he only wanted one of his men to love him. And that would never have happened either, and Hollom may not have much to recommend him, but at least he’s honest, he tells himself, as he steps on deck and inhales the sharp saline tang of the air.

The night lies still, the water spread out flat, like a sheet of glass, and the sails hang limp against the framework of wood and rope that supports them. It’s nothing like Cape Horn, where the wind was harsh enough to split his skin, and push him backward, hard. Where water rode the currents of the air, and choked him, blinded him, snapping at the taut sails and the men who scurried to secure them.

Salt crusted over his skin as he climbed the mast bit by bit, one hand, then the other, cautious and so slow. Too slow, far, far too slow – stopping, and that, he knows, was unforgivable – but he remembers the burn in his lungs, the stutter of his heart, the pain in his chest. He remembers not being able to breathe because of the tight fingers of fear that curled around his ribs, and squeezed him. He remembers Warley’s wide mouth pressed thin, thin like the air he gulped down, and he remembers the thunderous snap of the thick wood as it cracked. Warley reached for him, falling too far away, and Hollom closed his eyes.

The waves were tall, and rising fast and hard. The ship bucked with each swell. He clung to what was left of the mast, and watched as the captain and Nagle cut Warley loose. He watched as Warley disappeared in the water. It was strange how little he looked, for such a tall man – a single dark speck in the angry, churning gray of the storm.

Hollom shakes off the memory, and wipes a steady hand across his brow, and the dark presses in on him again. He rubs his thumb over his buttons, closes his eyes, and his lips form Warley’s name, though he makes no sound. He knows that’s not a name he has a right to.

He whispers his own instead, on a thin breath, as he steps off the side of the ship, into the sea. Water fills his nose, and floods his lungs, and the wind will come off Cape Horn the next morning, carrying with it his voice. It will echo so quietly that one will have to strain to hear it.

“Jonah,” it says, “Jonah.”
 
 
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Allison Krause + Union Station - It Doesn't Matter
 
 
 
Adoable Frunklyra_sena on December 14th, 2003 10:13 am (UTC)
So beautiful, honey, so amazingly lovely. You capture Hollom at what is at once the lowest and (to him) highest point in his life. He's made a decision, one that he feels *good* about, and he's sticking to it.

Gorgeous prose and imagery, per usual.

It will echo so quietly that one will have to strain to hear it.

“Jonah,” it says, “Jonah.”


I can hear you reading this aloud...the way you'd form the words, the cadence, and the rhythm. It's soft in my mind, and lilting, and it makes me sigh in pained tenderness.
pure FORESHADOWING: stephen!nifra_idril on December 15th, 2003 06:24 am (UTC)
He's made a decision, one that he feels *good* about, and he's sticking to it.

I think in Hollom's mind, just as he gets ready to kill himself, he's thinking, "This will be the first thing I've done right." And if that's not heartbreaking, I don't know what is...he's not a likeable character, no, but he's...god. He's so, so, sad.
r1cepudding on December 14th, 2003 10:54 am (UTC)
Okay, so you already had my OMGWTFLOL SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE untelli-reaction in AIM, but let me reiterate that I love this story.

You've captured Hollom so perfectly, this interesting, not-quite-sympathetic character who has no place on the ship or inside his own skin.

Everything in it makes complete sense and fits beautifully with what I saw on screen. *smooches you* The writing itself is lyrical and lovely as always, and you've really conjured up the claustrophobia and hopelessness Hollom feels.

Bravo! Now write me Nagle/Warley kissing. *bounce*
pure FORESHADOWING: princess kittynifra_idril on December 15th, 2003 06:25 am (UTC)
You've captured Hollom so perfectly, this interesting, not-quite-sympathetic character who has no place on the ship or inside his own skin.

Thank you so much babe -- Hollom's kind of a hard character to pin down, and what a way to put it "has no place inside his own skin". Gah. That's exactly it.

*hugs* Thank you honey, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
nerodi: blakenyhurtnerodi on December 14th, 2003 02:46 pm (UTC)
i enjoyed this very much. good job, nice atmosphere-- you very well captrue the atmoshpere of teh whole jonah subplot of teh movie (which was one of my favorite parts of the movie btw). I also like the teasing glimpse of warley and nagle, who were absolutely adorable together in the movie.

I like this.

Hey, let me know if you ever write any fic with my boy Lord Blakeny in it!!
pure FORESHADOWING: Deathnifra_idril on December 15th, 2003 06:27 am (UTC)
I *loved* the Jonah-arc of the movie, but then again I think I fell *hard* for anything Warley related, so...but what I loved most about the Jonah-arc was the *atmopshere* to it. The way the superstition just swelled among the men like a tide. Gah. So good.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! And Blakeny...who doesn't love him? He's amazing.
sheila: boromirmimesere on December 14th, 2003 11:28 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's *lovely*.
pure FORESHADOWING: neon nightsnifra_idril on December 15th, 2003 06:27 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
leadensky on December 15th, 2003 12:27 am (UTC)
(here via Destina via Astolat)

This is very, very good.

He hesitates and he hears the sound of someone spitting, and an old voice, husky from smoke, and bad weather, mutters clearly, “Jonah.”

Hollom's head is not a fun place to be, but you make me wear his skin.

Wonderful place setting, great sense work.

- hossgal
pure FORESHADOWING: ship!nifra_idril on December 15th, 2003 06:30 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Hollom was such a really fascinating character in the movie, that I couldn't help but write this. He's been tugging at my brain ever since the first time I saw him singing to the men, and watching Warley... His head *isn't* a fun place to be, I mean, it couldn't be, but I'm glad that I put you there for a very little bit.

wearemany: navywearemany on December 15th, 2003 08:31 am (UTC)
i think this is the part that really kills me:

Hollom had cleared his throat loudly, and two pairs of startled footsteps skittered below deck. The wind had picked up, and moaned into the mainsail, and to Hollom’s memory it seems as though even then there had been the whisper of it all, lying in the sound of the waves and the wind and the gentle creaking of the boat itself, all of it quietly calling his secret name.

because even before he knew what they thought of him, or what his place would be, he was already ruining things. not to be cruel -- just wanting to be involved, i guess.

He remembers Warley’s wide mouth pressed thin, thin like the air he gulped down, and he remembers the thunderous snap of the thick wood as it cracked. Warley reached for him, falling too far away, and Hollom closed his eyes.

and i love how this is both tragic and almost erotic, and how the story is at once both of those things, without really letting either get the best of it.

thanks for posting this! (i came via hms_surprise -- have you seen perfect_duet, also?)
pure FORESHADOWING: Deathnifra_idril on December 20th, 2003 07:42 pm (UTC)
Hey there! Let me start by saying thank you for the lovely feedback -- it definitely was happy dance inducing.

even before he knew what they thought of him, or what his place would be, he was already ruining things. not to be cruel -- just wanting to be involved, i guess.

Exactly -- poor guy was so awkward he found himself stumbling around and mucking up things even though he didn't mean to.

i love how this is both tragic and almost erotic

Okay, first off, thank you and secondly I love, love, love that you said this because watching the movie that's the same feeling thatI got in the Jonah arc --- the details were so sensuous, a slow build of everything that you usually only see in some kind of romantic/sex sequence but just served to make his suicide that much more sad, and arresting. I was definitely looking to make that kind of impression, so I'm happy to see that it worked. Thank you!

Also - I thought perfect_duet was just for Jack/Stephen fic? Is it not?
lisan on December 19th, 2003 07:08 pm (UTC)
Wow. Ouch. Wowouch.

Lovely work. Thanks for sharing!
pure FORESHADOWING: absolut!nifra_idril on December 20th, 2003 07:43 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting!
peeps wanna see peeps boink: beautifulmusesfool on December 29th, 2003 05:01 am (UTC)
Finally got a chance to read this, and I'm glad I did.

I love how each line is heavy with the weight Hollom is carrying - the weight that he's too old to be where he still is, that Warley died when it should have been him, that he's coming to believe the men's supersititions, and that he finally finds that courage to act and it buoys him up against the load he carries, even as it sinks him down into the sea.

Lovely.
Lynnlynnmathews on January 5th, 2004 01:29 am (UTC)
Yaaaay! I have nothing literary and insightful to say, but Fox pointed me this way, for which I thank her, and you, because this is a wonderful fic. ^_^