John Silver glanced over his shoulder slyly to get a peak at whatever progress his young cabin boy was making. From the looks of it, there wasn't much work to speak of. The two of them had been peeling vegetables since noon for the crew's dinner, and three hours later they still had a great deal of work to go. And as far as getting things by painlessly, a few words here and there, most of them on Silver's behalf, had done nothing to pass the time and now Silver was getting tired of the silence. So, with a cough to clear his throat, he moved to gently break the lingering ice between them.
"You, uh, got somethin' on your mind, Jimbo?"
The boy peered at Silver over his knife and raised boots, an agitated look in his cold blue eyes. He gazed at the cook as though uncertain of whether he should even bother to answer the question.
"Not really," he stated in a nonchalant manner. Jim quickly returned to peeling, quite content with being left alone.
The old cyborg frowned at this failed attempt at a lively conversation. He understood that Jim was introverted. Kids his age normally were, holding a grudge with life and angry with anyone who wanted to pull them out of their self absorbed stupor. Silver himself had been that way when he was Jim's age, so he understood where the boy sat when addressing the rungs on the ladder of life. Regardless, it made for a much more interesting day if the person you were forced to look after at least talked to you once in a while.
Now getting frustrated with the silence that threatened to overpower his sanity, Silver decided that if Jim wasn't going to talk willingly, he'd make him. Even if it meant leaving the kid to squirm out of a conversation he wasn't comfortable with.
"So, who'd you run away from?" Silver asked, a victorious smirk decorating his features.
Jim looked up again, this time looking offended.
"I didn't run away," he snapped. His blue eyes flared in anger and Silver knew he'd pressed a few buttons.
"Well then, if you didn' run away who's that Doppler feller yer with?" he asked with a laugh. "He suren ain't yer uncle."
With a sigh, Jim sank deeper into his seat. "The doctor is just a friend of the family," he assured Silver. "He came because he wanted to get out."
"I see," Silver commented, his lower lip jutting out in thought. "And uh, why is it that yer pap didn't come?"
Once again, Jim glared up at the cook over his knife. Silver caught this expression and felt his heart quicken in heated embarrassment. "Oh," he said with remorse in his voice. "Eh, sorry."
The cabin boy sighed. Rolling his eyes, he went back to peeling the vegetables once more.
Meanwhile, Silver kicked himself for his stupidity. He'd been so eager to push buttons that he'd forgotten that there were a few he couldn't touch on with this kid. Jim's father had abandoned both him and his mother years ago, leaving them to fend for themselves both physically and financially on a toughened mining planet somewhere on the forgotten outskirts of the galaxy. Life had obviously been hard to adjust to after that for the lad, and Silver knew that Jim would never come to trust anyone again after that. All of which was perfectly fine with Silver. He had no intention of becoming the boy's friend, but a twinge of sympathy had tied him to Jim in a way he couldn't quite understand. He'd felt the need to at least give the boy something, since so much else had left him in the dust. Life definitely owed Jim Hawkins something special.
"What about your mother?" Silver asked after a few moments of contemplative silence.
"She runs an Inn on Montressor," came Jim's response, not quite as slow as the others had been. "Or at least she did."
"Aww. She don't no more?"
"It burned down a few days before I left."
Silver stopped his peeling and stared straight down at the floor, trying to register that information while not showing a great deal of guilt on his face. Morph chirped thoughtfully on his shoulder, seeming to have also been making the connection between the incidents with Billy Bones and the Inn on that last planet before the port.
"Well, tha's too bad," Silver uttered at last, eager to move on to another topic of conversation.
Jim sighed. "Yeah."
Not much was said after that. Silver was beating away guilt while Jim became lost in his own thoughts again. Ages passed before John Silver recalled why it was that they had been talking to begin with.
"Are you close wit your mother then?"
A slight chuckle erupted from Jim's corner. It was the first time Silver had ever heard his cabin boy laughed, and it strangely warmed his heart.
"I wouldn't call it that," stated Jim with a light grin on his youthful features.
"Oh no?" Silver flashed a grin of his own in Jim's direction. "What would yeh call it then?"
"Not much, except one day she'd had her fill of a troublesome fifteen year old who did more harm than good."
Silver's lip jutted out in a frown as he turned to consider his cabin boy. He looked Jim up and down as though trying to get a picture of the boy as some punk strutting up and down small city streets taking money and candy from kids. Jim, noting this expression, laughed as he set aside his knife to fish out a few more plants.
"So yeh did run away?"
Jim shook his head. "I made a promise."
Silver smiled warmly, though it was hidden in his shoulder as he turned his gaze away. "And what promise was that?"
Jim paused to sigh. Silver cast a concerned glance in the boy's direction before he started.
"That I'd make her proud. And that I'd make up for all the times I'd let her down."
"And she let yeh go?" Silver asked, slightly amazed with the affectionate overlaying of the tale that was being weaved.
"Well, not easily," Jim said with a grin.
"I'd think not," Silver admitted with a chuckle. "If yer all she has, it'd have to be hard for her." He cast another grin in Jim's direction. The cabin boy only shrugged, not having the confidence to agree with it, nor the lack of care to disprove it. He simply remained silent.
"Ah, but yer in good hands," came Silver after a few moments. The uncharacteristic warmth in both his tone and words surprised both himself and Jim. All he could do was laugh and go back to peeling vegetables. "Why don't you go get some meat outta the cooler, Jimbo?" he asked after a few minutes of awkward silence.
The boy sighed. He tossed his knife aside and put the vegetables back into the bin, exiting the cabin with no more bounce in his step then when he had first entered it the other day. Silver and Morph stared after him until not even his shadow graced the stairway.
"Poor kid," Silver said with a sigh as he slipped Morph a few bites of the food. "Got a whole world on his shoulders and don't complain a bit." The shape shifter cooed and nestled itself comfortably onto its master's shoulder, offering no words either way.
His lower lip still pressed forward in a pout-like expression, the old cyborg sighed. "Guess it couldn't hurt," he began, "to look out fer him till our business is done. Could it, Morphie?"
Morph chirped happily, which was enough for Silver.
"Yeah. Couldn't hurt."