16. The First Time (Page 3)

Levi was a statue ─ his stance unchanging, his eye unblinking. Nothing could move him from where he stood, scrutinizing the doorway through which the young woman had disappeared. It could have been seconds since he had become a frozen vegetable; it could have been years. Time was incomprehensible to him. He couldn’t detect the light of the rising sun; he couldn’t feel the pressure of his crew's probing, inquisitive eyes. Nothing seemed to make a difference to him at all. The captain’s mind was a tabula rasa, a clean slate; his mind was completely blank.

“Captain!” an agog voice thundered. Hands shook his shoulders and danced in his view. “Levi, snap out of it! You’re spooking the men!” The pirate jolted back into reality, blinking away his cloudy vision. A familiar face materialized in front of him.

“Sorry, Firious,” his voice came out choked and raspy.

“And you should be! What in the blazes happened? One minute you were just screaming and shouting, and the next there’s a bloody bear terrorizing the ship. And I’ve got this old bloke here telling me that I can’t kill the folly-fallen beast because the gleeking thing is you up there terrorizing the dizzy-eyed dewberry of a lass! Are you going to explain this to me or not?”

“Uhhh...” Levi grimaced. “Well, I don’t... I mean, I’m not sure─”

“What do you mean you’re not sure? You're the one who turned into that accursed monster! If you don't know, then who─”

“I believe what the captain is trying to say,” interjected Antenor, “is that he, too, was a victim of this event, and is as unsure as you are about all that has occurred. He has no idea as to what has just happened, Firious. However, this old bloke does, and I'd be more than happy to share my knowledge with you both, but I suggest we go someplace a little more quiet.” He gestured toward the few stragglers who had yet to return to their bunks for an extra few winks of sleep or at least get an early start on their morning duties; one man with a plunger in his hand and his trousers looking as if they were about to fall off rubbernecked them as he walked towards the latrine.

Levi nodded. "My old room, then. Let's go."

The three commenced to move forward, trudging along, tired after a long night of no sleep and weary of knowing that there was still more to be done before the sweet, refreshing taste of rest could touch their lips. As they passed the door where Hataru was preparing for bed, Levi paused again. A heavy hand landed on the captain's shoulder.

“What is it, Levi? Is something wrong?”

“No,” Levi shook his head, “ Quite the opposite. Antenor, that was the first time… ”

“The first time? For what?”

The captain met his elder's eyes, displaying a light of pure joy. “The first time she'd called me by my first name.”

The End

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