TOTSS:

"Below Deck"

by

Beckers

Reference: "The Locket"

*~~~~*

Isabelle Reed was safe.

She was on his ship and she could hear the crashing waves; the flapping of a tall white sail as they, the passengers on the small vessel, swept across the South Seas. Isabelle could feel movement as The Rattler did battle with the rough ocean waves, mastering the deep as Captain Grief mastered his ship.

Lying on her side, Isabelle could also hear the sound of his soft soled shoes as he stepped slowly down the ladder to where she was resting. He had put her in a small cabin. It would have been claustrophobic for anyone who was not as accustomed to small spaces as Isabelle Reed was. She had once been in a jail cell no bigger than …

But no, she didn't want to contemplate regrets from her past now. 'Don't think about what went before.' Isabelle urged her thoughts away from the prison. She was warm and safe. Safe aboard The Rattler. Warmed by David Grief's care. David had rescued her as she knew he would. A week in hell on that island penitentiary was over. She had been cursed at, reviled, whipped, beaten with fists and clubs, then threatened with burns and worse. It was almost more than what Isabelle could endure. But it was over, over because David Grief cared enough to save her.

"Thank you." Isabelle whispered as she opened her eyes and saw him looking down at her. Smiling. So kind. So gentle. A very handsome man. "David." she said and lifted a hand to him.

He sat on the edge of the shelf bed, lifting his own hand, fingers touching her hair, caressing her cheek then rubbing an errant tear away with his thumb. "You have suffered so much." he murmured, "But I'm here now and you're out of harm's way."

"Promise me you won't leave." Isabelle practically begged. It was an action so uncommon to her. "I hurt." She stroked her shoulder, where the last lashing had bitten deep into her tender flesh.

"Let me help you." He reached for a jar of ointment on a small shelf beside her bed. Why hadn't she noticed it there before? Isabelle turned, loosening the tunic, and bared her much abused back as she lay on her stomach. His masterful fingers worked the soothing potion into her skin and she could hear him speak as he massaged; sweet words only for her.

David had a wonderful touch. She would give him anything, she realized, even Marcel's treasure.

The pain was nearly gone and she could smile. "You rescued me." Isabelle whispered dreamily, intrigued by his heroics. Why did he do this? What did he see in her that made David Grief risk his own life to set her free? She smiled. There was something between them from the first moment they made eye contact on Matavai. It didn't matter to David that she was chained and accused of murder. He desired her and would do anything to keep her safe, even if he *did* refuse to admit it out loud.

"How could I not rescue you?" he asked, "You and I are alike, Isabelle. We will never be parted."

Isabelle's brow furrowed and she turned over to look at him. That was a lovely thing for him to say but so unlike the David Grief she knew. He was not a man to wear his heart on a sleeve. "Do you mean that?" she asked.

"I want you, Isabelle, and when you're better I'll prove to you, over and over, how much I care." He moved forward with an unmistakable intent.

"David …." Isabelle whispered and her eyes closed, anticipating the bliss of his kiss.

But then, the fantasy evaporated.

Cold water had been dumped on her head, awakening Isabelle to the torture she had been subjected to.

"Wake up, woman! We're not through with you yet!" Mason shouted.

Isabelle lifted her head, dirty sodden strands of her dark hair crossing over her battered face. Her wrists were chained to a long pole that was raised high above the floor. She was aware, once again, of the agony. Her back was on fire, red lines marring the soft white flesh, compliments of a vicious whip wielded by the prison disciplinarian.

"Where is the money, Isabelle!?" he demanded once again and pulled her by the hair, forcing the woman to look up into his face, "You know where it is!"

"I know nothing." She said, as she had again and again over the last five days. "Marcel told me nothing."

He slapped her. "You're lying!" Mason shouted in frustration. He did not know how she was managing to keep silent but, given a little more time, Isabelle Reed would start talking and never stop. He'd seen stronger men than this slip of a woman break under his persecution. "Get her out of here." Mason told the Colonel. "There's always tomorrow. She can't hold out forever."

"Not under the lash." Colonel Mills agreed.

'Oh, yes I can.' Isabelle rebelled silently. She had a wonderful imagination. As long as there was Captain Grief there was still hope. He had her locket. He would come. And as long as there was The Rattler there was a deck below, where she could play out her fantasies, which included the love and kindness from a man she desired.

Isabelle felt the chains removed. Her feet were shuffling across the floor. She was so exhausted and could only look down at the hem of her grey rag of a dress. Then – with a rude grunt - the unsympathetic guard roughly pushed her into the filthy cell. Isabelle tottered to her bed and collapsed.

This evening she would sleep and dream. David would tell her what she meant to him and they would make passionate love on her bunk. She would get through this with the help of Captain Grief. "Thank you, my captain." she whispered to her fantasy. Isabelle was acutely aware that every inch of her body throbbed. "Sleep," Isabelle murmured, "Just sleep."

She knew her beating the following day would be even more intense. 'I will tell you nothing.' she silently vowed, holding out and picturing The Rattler in her mind's eye. It sailed smoothly across the ocean, quite aware of what was happening below the deck in a snug cabin built for one but occupied by two.

*~~~*

By evening on the following night – in a world not occupied by fantasy - there would be an unexpected medical inspection at the prison; conducted by two remarkably familiar doctors.

Isabelle Reed knew he would come.

THE END

September 2003

**Regards to "The TOTSS Coffee Klatch" and a special thank you to Sandy. Your help and tips were much appreciated!**