ANYway, some may remember this fic, most may not. I posted a couple chapters a while ago, then Life dropped in and decided to bring thier good friends New Job and Stress. Thus throwing said fic on back burner for a while.
BUT IT HAS RETURNED!
Well, fine. Here you are, then.
Title: The Sweet Trade
Characters: Um... pretty much everybody
Warnings: Little known terminology (that I will define at the bottom), Unbeta'd, written at work, typed at home at roughly three am.
“Just toss that one over there. Shouldn’t hurt it too much.”
Edward complied, lifting a heavy bag of rice and heaving it onto a pile of five more, Hughes scribbling notes in a small logbook here and there. He glanced over at Edward after jotting down a figure or two and nodded. “Go ahead and take a break for a bit.”
Edward nodded, collapsing on the floor where he stood, staring up at the ceiling from his position on his back. Hughes chuckled softly as he rolled a keg over to use as a seat.
“Winry running you ragged, is she?”
Edward scowled at the ceiling now. “Only when she’s not throwing tools at me or beating me with a hammer.”
“So that’s what happened to your back, then?”
Edward’s not so masked growl seemed to be answer enough for him.
Hughes chuckled. “Don’t let it get to you too much. She’s actually a really sweet kid once you get to know her.”
Edward snorted as he sat up. “I’d really rather not, sir.”
Hughes raised an eyebrow at Edward’s statement, but chuckled again at his formality. “Hey, if Roy’s not around, you don’t have to bother with all the ‘sir’ crap. Name’s Maes. Or you can just call me Hughes.”
Edward blinked. “Right… Maes.”
Hughes smirked back at him. “Alright if I call you Ed, then?”
Edward blinked. “I… guess…”
“Alright then, Ed,” Hughes replied, wiping his glasses on his shirt. “You been having problems getting along with Winry, then?”
Edward sighed and flopped back down on the deck. “Aye. She’s a bloody demon.”
Hughes regarded Edward for a moment. “You know… she says the same about you.”
Edward sat back up. “What?”
Hughes nodded. “Yeah. And seeing how you treat her sometimes, I’m inclined to agree. Though I’m also inclined to agree with you, after seeing how she sometimes treats you. Fact is, we’re all on the same boat, both figuratively and literally, and we all have to learn to at least tolerate each other if we all want to survive out here.”
Edward frowned. “So she thinks the same of me…”
“In my professional opinion, you both hate each other. But can I say something?”
Edward looked up at Hughes expectantly.
Hughes sighed before glancing back at the door to the hold before leaning closer to Edward, who leaned closer to Hughes, sensing he didn’t want this heard by anyone close by.
“Winry…” Hughes started. “She’s been through a lot. She’s earned her keep here just as much as any other man here, but that’s not just because her grandmother used to own this ship and captain this crew before she swallowed the anchor and turned the ship and position of captain over to Roy. Winry can take anything the men can dish out and heap on some of her own when giving back. But sometimes she’s not as strong as she seems to be. I’m the one she comes to when she can’t take anymore and needs to just get away from the world for a while. She’s like a daughter to me, and I do my best to take care of her when I can, but I can’t always be there. She won’t tell me her past, but it’s not really my business anyway. I just try to be there and listen when she needs me. So not to sound threatening or anything, but if you do anything to hurt her, I will personally see to a punishment that will have you missing all those bumps and bruises she gives you.”
Edward lowered his gaze to the floor, looking a little like a scolded child. Hughes rested a hand on his shoulder and his gaze snapped back up to the first mate, a little fearful. Hughes smiled.
“You look like you and your brother have been through a lot, too.”
Edward’s gaze lowered to the floor again. “Yeah…” he blinked and looked back up. “Wait… this ship was captained by her grandmother?”
Hughes nodded. “Do you think any of us would have named this ship the Panthress? Roy likely would have renamed it himself if the old bat hadn’t forbidden him from doing so. At least she let him fly his own flag.”
Edward glanced up through the grate above him on the deck. A black flag with a white salamander over a red flame fluttered from the top of the main mast. He wondered briefly what the former captain’s flag was. He’d have to ask Winry later. If she was in the mood to talk to him without bashing his skull in with that damned hammer of hers. “So how many were here under the old command?” He paused, then, realizing what he’d just said, added, “No pun intended.”
Hughes laughed out loud at the comment, then replied, “Pretty much everyone you see here was under old Pinako. Just Winry, you, and your brother Al have come aboard since.” Hughes leaned closer and in a dramatic whisper, added, “Just don’t mention that name around the cap’n. I think he’s still terrified of her.”
Before Edward could reply, Winry burst into the hold. “Hughes! Tell the captain we need to make for port! Now! Edward, come with me, hurry!”
Hughes was instantly on his feet. “Best do as she says. She doesn’t yell like that unless something’s wrong. See you later, Ed.” And he was gone, leaving a dumbstruck Edward still sitting on the floor. Winry’s “move it!” got him into action though, and he scrambled up off the floor and hurried after her.
She shot through the pipes and struts of the ships structure like a monkey. Edward struggled to keep up with her, but only gained ground on her when they emerged on the lower gun deck, giving him enough space to pick up speed and catch up to her.
“What’s going on?” he shouted as he caught up to her.
“We’ve sprung a major leak near the starboard bow,” she yelled as she yanked open the door at the end of the gun deck and bolted down the stairs two at a time, grabbing tools and shoving planks into his arms as she spoke. “I need your help patching it before we get to a port so we can get a decent repair job done on it.”
“You need my—whoa,” he muttered as he nearly dropped a plank. “How big is this leak?”
“Pretty big,” Winry replied, and Edward noticed for the first time that she was soaked. “I tried patching it myself, but…” she gestured to her soaked state. “I need your help.”
Edward looked her over for a moment before he set his jaw and nodded. “What do you need me to do?”
A shadow of a grin appeared on her face. “Follow me.”
She led him down to the bilge, which was now knee-deep in water. Winry half waded, half swam to the leak. Edward tucked the planks Winry had given him under one arm and followed as best he could. When he caught up to her and found the leak, he let out a low whistle. “Good Lord… that’s as big around as the bowsprit.” He murmured, even though he knew he couldn’t be heard over the rush of water.
“Hurry!” Winry yelled. Edward looked over the planks under his arm before finding a suitable one to start with and setting the others on a shelf that hadn’t been submerged yet. Winry was on her knees in front of the leak and he got down behind her, holding the board down with both hands while Winry nailed it in. The water pressure was strong, and he could see why she needed his help. He was barely able to hold the board down himself.
He had to admire the speed and skill that Winry had been able to nail in a board underwater in as she was done in just a few seconds. He waited until she told him to let go before reaching for another board before sliding it down and holding it as close to the first board as he could. Winry started nailing again, and he silently wished she’d hurry. Not only was the water pressure getting stronger as the hole got smaller, but the water was up to Winry’s chin and his shoulders, and it was getting harder to brace against the floor, because he could feel himself starting to float.
Thankfully, Winry was done quickly and the third board Edward slid into place completely covered the leak. Winry quickly nailed it down and had Edward grab the two longest planks. She nailed them down over the patch, perpendicular to the three boards that covered the leak, forming a sort of reinforcement bar to hold the patch. After this was done, she sighed before looking over her shoulder at Edward, who still had his arms on either side of her, not holding the boards down, but hesitant to let them go.
“Go above and tell Havoc and Breda to man the pumps if they haven’t already. Then get back down here and help me clean up.”
Edward nodded, hesitantly letting go of the boards before sloshing to his feet. “You okay?” he asked as he stood. “You sound a little shaky.”
Winry waved him off. “I’m fine, just a little winded. Go. If you see the captain, tell him we’ve got it patched up, but we still have a slow leak and need to make for port as soon as we can.”
Edward nodded and waded through now nearly waist high water and some floating debris to the stairs, and upon reaching the top and opening the door, came face to chest with Roy. Edward glanced up at him before stepping aside to let him in.
“Mr. Elric,” Roy nodded in greeting before stepping down to the last step above water.
“… Captain.” Edward replied, still coming down off the adrenaline of a few minutes ago.
“Report.” Roy said over his shoulder. Edward swallowed.
“We had a rather large leak-“
“Obviously.” Roy replied nonchalantly, looking around the flooded bilge.
“Aye, sir… but we still have a slow leak and Winry says we should make for port as soon as possible-“
“Which I have done since Hughes relayed Miss Rockbell’s first message to me.”
Edward took a deep breath to try to quell the anger that was slowly rising at being constantly interrupted before continuing. “And she wanted Breda and Havoc on the pumps to clear the bilge out.”
Roy nodded. “As they are, as well as Falman and young Mr. Elric.” With that, Roy turned to face Edward. “Anything else, Mr. Elric?”
Edward shook his head. “No sir.”
Roy nodded once again and stepped up to Edward’s level before clapping a hand on the younger man’s wet shoulder. “Excellent work. Carry on.”
Edward blinked up at Roy at that, and Roy flashed a shadow of a smile before continuing past him, leaving Edward unsure of what to do, so he settled for a weak “aye, sir” as Winry climbed up to dry land beside him.
“I heard the captain.”
“Yeah. He’s got four men on the pumps and we’re already on our way to a port.”
Winry let out a long breath. “Good.”
Edward glanced back in the direction of the leak. “How did that happen, anyway?”
Winry sighed. “Wood rot. Just got too weak to hold any more.” She plunked down on the stairs beside his feet and took off her sandals, shaking them out before setting them on the stairs to dry. “I told the captain over and over that he shouldn’t push the ship like this. When we hit port I’m going to start looking for a decent shipwright to replace the whole damn hull. We can afford it and Lord knows we need it.”
Edward sighed, sitting down next to her. “Sounds like a long time at port.”
At a cheerful whoop from above that Edward recognized as Hughes’s voice, Winry grinned. “Not if we’re making port where I think we are by that yell. I’d give us a week at most.”
Edward stared at Winry. “A week? How? And what’s with Hughes?”
Winry chuckled. “You’ll see. And Hughes is just happy because he’s going to get to see his wife and daughter.”
“Hughes is married?!”
Winry grinned. “Yup. And consider yourself lucky. You’ll get to meet the old captain of this ship.”
Edward’s eyes widened. “Your grandmother?”
“Ah,” Winry replied. “So Hughes told you. Aye, we’re going to where my grandmother decided to swallow the anchor and stay. No better place to live for an old pirate.”
Edward nodded, absently watching the water level slowly drop as the pumps drained the ship. He didn’t move until he jumped a little when a blanket was dropped over his shoulders. He glanced over at Winry who shrugged as she pulled another blanket over her own shoulders. “You were shivering.”
He watched her for a while, but she had turned to watch the water level. He pulled the blanket closer around himself. “Thanks,” he murmured.
Winry glanced at him, but it was his turn to stare at the water. “What was that?”
Edward looked at her sideways through his drenched bangs and nodded to the blanket, blushing slightly in embarrassment. “For the blanket… thanks.”
“Oh,” she replied, now also blushing a little. “You’re welcome.”
An awkward silence stretched between them, broken occasionally by the water sloshing around as it drained.
“So…” Edward asked after a while. “Where exactly are we going?”
“Port Royal,” she replied. “It’s the closest port to us at the moment, and also the best place to lie low while we get the Panthress fixed.”
“Port Royal,” Edward mumbled. “Figures.” He sighed. “How long till we get there?”
“We should be there by tomorrow morning. Don’t get too comfortable. It’s going to be our job to watch this leak and make sure the ship doesn’t sink.”
Edward sighed and tried to ignore the shiver that ran through him. “Can we at least go above into the sun to dry off?”
Winry nodded. “You go ahead.”
Edward stood and looked down at her. “This boat means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”
Winry nodded. “It’s… more or less in the family. It was my grandmother’s ship. She’d want it to live up to its old reputation.”
Edward nodded before dropping his blanket around her shoulders over hers. “Just don’t get sick. You are the closest thing we have to a doctor, you know. Can’t have you sick, too.”
Winry rolled her eyes. “Yes, mum. I’ll be in bed by sundown, too.”
Edward rolled his eyes back at her before heading out the door and abovedeck.
The Panthress: Couldn't resist, really. It's a bit of a throwback to Dominic's feared reference of Pinako as "The Panthress of Resembool." Seemed like a name Pinako would find suitable for her ship.
Lower gun deck: Most ships had multiple gun decks, though the Panthress only has two, the lower with the larger cannons.
Bilge: An area near the botton of the hull of a ship, usually full of rank water.
Bowsprit: The Panthress is a four-master ship, meaning it has four masts: Tha main mast, the largest mast positioned in the center of the ship, the mizzen mast, near the rear (on the poop deck), the foremast, near the front, and the bowsprit, a sort of fourth mast that juts out at an angle straight ahead from the bow. The bowsprit isn't nearly as big around as the other three masts, but it's still pretty thick, so it was either a pretty decent-sized hole, or Edward was exaggerating. I'll let you choose. ^ ^
Pumps: Most ships had a pump or two that were used to remove water from the ship to prevent it from sinking. They were rather primitive, but in most cases, they worked pretty well.
Shipwright: Basically a ship designer and/or repairman. And while replacing a ship's hull didn't happen very often at all, it was possible to do, but was usually a rather long and expensive process that usually wasn't deemed worth it, so those ships were often sunk in favor of a newer one.
"Swallow the anchor": Pirate slang for retiring from sea life. Very few pirates lived long enough to do this, so it's a rather major thing when one does.
Port Royal: No, I did not steal the location from Pirates of the Carribean. Port Royal, Jamaica was the most famous of many pirate ports, and was the "center" of pirate activity in the Carribean. And as a result it was a rather unruly and seedy place, with not much in the way of law enforcement, and often described as "the wickedest city on Earth." Port Royal was destroyed in 1692 by an earthquake, and was later rebuilt with a stronger government and a naval base, to ensure that pirates wouldn't land there again.