Part XV - "Steak and Ladies... Er... I Mean, Eggs, Please!"

- --------- - --

Watch aboard the Titanic was nothing near what it was on the Renown, or even the Indefatigable. While Kennedy would have been standing idly by on the quarterdeck of the Renown, he now walked the length of a gigantic steamer. Of course, one could say he and Harold were the equivalent of midshipmen on the steamer; the junior-most and therefore most put upon. His feet honestly hurt after returning from the quick walk down to the stern and back again -- he couldn't remember the last time that had been the case. Even walking briskly in the near cold morning air had certainly made him wish that he'd invested in new shoes last time he'd been in port.

Staring at his majestic surroundings, though, he couldn't help but grin. Something about the familiarity of the planked decks made him feel near at home, while the prestige of the woodwork did nothing but surprise him. He was so used to living on board a ship that was for nothing more than war; never one used for civilian passage. He had heard of some finery on the merchant ships that had run trade before the war... stories of gilded woodwork, but Archie knew without actual proof that it was still a far cry from this. This was spectacular... dreamlike in it's exquisite carvings and gold leafing, and even the most plain of things seemed amazing to the young lieutenant.

With a half of a grin, despite aching feet, he tried to picture what James would be doing in his tiny cabin on the Renown. When he'd woken up on Titanic, he thought for a moment he had passed into the afterlife, with the new white walls, the bed rather than hammock, and above all the soft scents of a freshly cooking breakfast wafting up from decks below. Of course, then he'd decided to investigate the knocking down the hall, and the rest was history... no, the future. Wait, no, the...

Laughing momentarily, Kennedy just shook his head at himself. Not in his wildest dreams (and he was a dreamer of the highest sort) had he imagined himself in a situation like this. There had been fantasies of the high life, perhaps, and of the stage, but never the decks of a steamer so large it's very size baffled him, let alone the thrum of engines and the lack of canvas above.

Running his hands along the railing, he toyed with the thought of actually working on a ship like the Titanic someday. He knew it would never happen, but the idea of such a luxurious ship was something he enjoyed purely for the moment. The thought of being able to have a hot meal at almost any hour, of standing in the shade of the Bridge on a hot day, or even just of the small cabin (still some larger and better appointed than his own) appealed to his above-common upbringing. He loved the ships he had worked on for the most part, but none had the outward comfort of Titanic.

Smiling wistfully, he took a moment to lean on that railing, looking out over the water. His father, being a literary professor, had known his fair share of high society. Even though he had left home young, Archie could remember a few times he had been dressed up by his mother, and sent along with his father to have dinner at some contributor's house. He could remember clearly the polished silver cutlery, or the china, and occasionally the expensive furniture around the rest of those houses. That, perhaps, was what Titanic reminded him of... of the life he'd not quite had, but certainly had a taste of.

Not that he would have traded his family for anyone else's. It was his father who introduced him to Shakespeare, and a hundred other authors. Kennedy was reading near before he could walk, it seemed -- getting lost in a world made from words, the vivid imagination of the young creating scenes not unlike the ones he'd seen recently. As he looked back, he understood in some way why his father had chosen to get him into reading and rhyme... it served to keep him from getting into mischief, being the most fragile of the boys. Perhaps, had he not grown to love literature, though, right down to how each word had it's own particular flavour, he may have resented it. But he didn't.

Lost in his own world at that moment, Archie tried to imagine how he might someday try to explain all of this to his family. His brothers would likely laugh at him, or maybe indulge in his wild stories of time travel. His mother would certainly ask if he'd been well, or if he'd been running a fever. His father... Kennedy grinned happily. If anyone would believe him, or at least not think him insane, it would be the man who'd already in quite some way influenced his life. They were the dreamers of the family.

"Archie? What are you doing?"

"Making wings! I think I ought to fly, father."

"Wings... a regular Icarus, are we?" That patient laugh, affectionate as ever.

"But he flew too close to the sun. I think I'll keep myself to brushing the treetops."

Of course, his plans for flight gave way not long after to the idea of making his own human slingshot, which gave in turn to the simple thing of tree-climbing, all in one day. And he remembered that his father had given in to all of his crazy ambitions, going so far as to getting out copies of Da Vinci's diagrams of wings, and taking apart one of his quills to show the constructions of a feather.

But in all reality and the present, none of them required as much movement as the Royal Steamer, and the short shift did nothing more than exhaust the younger man to the point that he was halfway asleep, leaning on the railing off to the side of the Bridge. He didn't know that nearly the same position was one that Lowe had been in the night before their meeting, nor did he know what lay ahead for him or his mates. He just slept, trusting in the railing, himself, and the fact that he believed everything would be all right.

Harold came back awake of his own free will, which in itself was probably something to note down in history books. But even as he slept, he still concerned himself with Archie, with the Titanic herself, and before long pulled himself from that nice, warm bunk. Rubbing at his eyes, he staggered through dressing with the sort of half-conscious percision of someone who's been wearing a uniform long enough to dress in near any condition. Then, heading back to the bathroom, he splashed himself with cold water and headed out on deck.

Still donning his 19th century uniform, Archie had obviously given into the urge to doze off. Thankfully all he would get here would be a reprimand, and not a death sentence -- Lowe smirked to himself at the principle in itself. While he could understand wartime policies, some just seemed silly to him, being from this time. Not really wanting to wake Kennedy, he leaned against the rail beside him for a moment, still coming awake from the few hours of dead sleep. It promised to be another beautiful day.

Lightoller joined them not long later, being the current Officer of the Watch. He looked between the two of them, a slightly tired and near affectionate smile crossing his face as he addressed Lowe with a quiet voice, "We've finally managed to round up a uniform that would fit him."

"Thank you, sir," Harold replied, just as softly. It couldn't have been all that easy to do so -- where Horatio could fit into Harry's uniform, Archie was too stocky and short to borrow Jimmy's. "How'd you manage?"

"Joseph's jacket, with some quick hemming, and a pair of Davy's trousers he'd left behind in my cabin closet," Lights chuckled, referring to Boxhall and the last-minute transferred Blair, taking up a spot beside Lowe. "It took some careful talking, but it's all set up."

Harold smiled, despite himself. Part because it was somehow nice to hear a senior officer use their first names... of course, Lightoller had served with both of them on the Oceanic, and knew them well enough... and part because he imagined Archie would really appreciate the lighter nature of the White Star uniform. Reaching over, he tapped the acting-Sixth on the shoulder. "Archie?"

Startled slightly by the tapping, the young lieutenant immediately bolted upright. In his mind, he was still on the Renown, and expected to hear a pistol sounding through the air. Instinctively, he closed his eyes, and when no sharp sound rang out, he opened one, then the other to look at his two superiors, a near bashful look on his face. "I'm sorry, sirs..."

Charles sort of raised an eyebrow, once again wondering if this lad had some screws loose or not, but he didn't speak up. Harold, however, gave him a downright amused look, the Welshman's teasing streak making it's first appearance of the day. "A little jumpy, Mr. Kennedy? Why, if I were to cock a musket, I may have gotten you to actually jump the side."

Giving a slight glare for only a moment, Archie then cleared his throat and straightened up. "Indeed, Mr. Lowe, you might have." Offering a downright infectious smile, he slipped his arms behind his back. "I'm glad you didn't."

Chuckling, Lightoller nodded in agreement, looking between the two. "Myself as well after all that we've gone through to get Mr. Kennedy situated with a uniform of his own. Aside from that, another missing officer, acting or not, would be a hard thing to explain away."

"That it would." Harold grinned himself, standing straight and squaring his shoulders to look at Archie. "Well, Mr. Kennedy, since we were quite deprived our meal on the Renown, would you care to join me for breakfast?" And looking at Lightoller, he added, "With your permission, of course."

"By all means," Lightoller said, gesturing. Lowe was just coming on shift, and it would only be right to allow him to get something to eat before he had to head off for his duties. "Though I'd get properly attired first."

"Absolutely!" The idea of hot tea, bacon, soft bread, butter, jam, eggs, and fruit had Lowe quite willing to rush Archie into changing so he could get down to the Officer's Mess, not giving him time to answer or even get a word in edgewise.

"I left the uniform on the bed in Mr. Moody's cabin," Lightoller called after Harold, who was already dragging Archie off by his arm.

Had Kennedy been given the time to think, he would have realized the time it took him to put on the twentieth century uniform was at least a third of what he was used to. From the white cotton shirt to the boots, he felt a new man. Light, with the ability to move much more agilely than he had before. Comfortable in the most genuine of terms, and quite a bit cooler.

Grinning to himself, he stepped over to the small mirror in Moody's cabin, looking himself over. He didn't look bad in the new uniform, just different; thinner without three thick layers. Giving his hair a quick comb through, he tied it back -- certainly more strictly than he would have back home -- and stuffed it into his collar. Then, picking up the tie, he looked it over with a raised eyebrow before tying the long, thin thing as a cravat.

Taking a deep breath, thinking himself to be quite a picture, he then opened the door and peeked his head out in an attempt to find Lowe, tugging at the tie lightly and muttering about how difficult it was to knot.

He might not have understood why Harry just looked at him once up and down, and when his eyes settled on the quite unique tie-tying, he fell into laughter, shaking his head. Frowning slightly, squaring his shoulders, Archie gave the other man a look. "What...?"

Lowe shook his head again, still laughing as he stepped over and unwound the tie. Finally, tying it in the proper knot, he slipped it back over Kennedy's head with a light chuckle, "It's just a little amusing, the quite fresh thoughts you have on ties." Grinning a bit, he tightened it neatly, then stepped back again. "Now you don't look like you're wearing a large black bandage around some gruesome neck wound."

Raising two helpless eyebrows, Archie looked around a bit nervously before leaning in closer to Lowe. "I think I might have put my knickers on wrong then," he commented, quietly, then stood back, appraising Lowe's reaction. The Fifth Officer seemed a bit preplexed by the whole thought, stumbling over the words that were trying to come out of his mouth. Archie, however, allowed his face to melt into a grin as he gave a bit of a wink.

Harold closed his mouth with a click, narrowing his eyes at Archie with a growl, "I thought you were serious! D'you do this sort of thing to Hornblower as well?" Muttering darkly (and without the slightest bit of real malice), he pointed at Moody's cabin, "Get your hat and come on... I want breakfast before I have to nursemaid you all day."

Snickering, Kennedy let out a content sigh and traveled back through the doorway to retrieve his hat. "No, I think Horatio would have taken me as serious even after the wink." Placing the hat atop his hair, he then clasped his hands behind his back again. "Shall we, Mr. Lowe?"

"We shall."

The Mess was aft on the Boatdeck, starboard side, and once Lowe pulled Archie away from inspecting some odd or end, the smell took over and Kennedy needed no more coaxing. Lowe grinned a little himself, stepping into the near quiet Officers Mess, and tossing a wave to Boxhall as he went to grab a plate and throw his order back to the mess attendant in charge. "Two over-easy, bacon, and the biggest piece of steak you can steal."

"Yessir," called back a reply, as Lowe went to getting his bread and that, all laid out on the table at the end of the Mess.

Standing still near the doorway, Archie was nearly knocked over by the smells in the air. Everything took over all at once and he couldn't tell if he was smelling potatos or beef or vanilla. Blinking, he turned nearly a full circle before looking after Lowe. "I don't have any money... How can I pay for this?"

"You don't," Harold said around a piece of bread in his mouth, which made it sound more like, "Y' domph."

Jospeh gave him a faintly amused look, standing and offering his hand. "Joseph Boxhall... you must be the fellow taking over for Jimmy."

Lowe looked up, eyes widening briefly. Just how much did Boxhall know? Shifting his almost full plate to his other hand, he took the bread out of his mouth, speaking slowly, "He's acting-Sixth, yes..."

Grinning, Kennedy offered his hand to the Fourth Officer, jovially. "Archie Kennedy, and it's a pleasure!"

Shaking the proffered hand, Boxhall nodded. "Well met." Taking a bite of the roll he'd had from his meal, he chewed and swallowed before continuing on, "Cunard, eh? I guess you gents have to pay for your meals; should be a thankful idea that you can eat everything you like here."

"Certainly," Archie replied, going directly into the acting mode he had deemed so useful at that point. "I'd say that's the largest complaint the rest of the officers and I have, though."

Lowe chuckled, relaxing somewhat now that a piece of the story had been established, and that once again the intrepid Mr. Kennedy had worked around it smoothly. Sitting down finally, he kicked back in the chair -- no sense in being formal in their own Mess.

"James and his good luck," Joseph laughed, cleaning up his plate and silverwear. "Can you believe it?"

"Scarcely," Harold replied, vaguely, hoping to draw more of the story out yet. He took to buttering one of the four slices of bread, listening.

"I mean, I would have volunteered if I'd known all I'd have to do is sit and talk all day. Talk about an easy job." Boxhall stood, giving Archie a light grin. "No rush on getting the jacket back to me, and I'll see you on watch, all right?"

"Yes, of course, and thank you for allowing me to borrow it," Archie added, before going about and getting his food.

Nodded as he headed for the door, Boxhall called back, "Not a problem." It was only after he left that Kennedy let out a sigh of relief and traveled his plate full of fruits and breads to Harold's table, sitting across from him.

"Wonder what Mr. Lightoller told him," Lowe murmured, looking after the Fourth Officer and waiting for his steak, bacon and eggs. "Might do to know the story, so we might at least leave a note or something for the other two should we switch about again."

Chewing on a piece of pear, Archie nodded. "And so I know what story to converse with the others over."

"Exactly." The call from the kitchen interrupted Harold in mid-thought, and with a mildly rabid look, he went and retrieved the steaming plate, juggling it slightly between his hands from the heat. He dropped it on the table with a faint hiss of pain, shaking his hands out. "Should probably let it cool before trying to eat it."

"Just figured that out, did you?" Archie smirked, already a good way into demolishing his first really good meal in quite some time.

Lowe didn't care to offer more than a mutter, sticking to his bread and jam while the plate cooled off. The brickish biscuits on the Renown hadn't done much for him at all, particularly since he hadn't even gotten to try them, and all he'd had in quite some time was water. The steak was taunting him with its proximity, and before it was really cool enough to eat, he was busy cutting it with almost loving precision.

Without even looking up, Kennedy commented to Lowe, "It's not surgery, doctor..."

"No, it's food. Edible objects that you put into your mouth, chew, swallow, and don't talk about while performing the above tasks," Harold answered, smoothly, likewise trained on his plate.

Shaking his head, Archie just figured it best to eat his meal instead of arguing over it. Sneakily, he reached his fork out and speared the piece Lowe had shaven off of his meat, stuffing it into his mouth greedily.

Not one to have his much needed breakfast stolen, Lowe raised a challenging eyebrow at Kennedy. "Get your own meat, damn you, or I'll reciprocate by taking one of your fingers in exchange." Nodding smartly, he bowed his head again to hide the wicked grin on his face, and went back to his carving.

"Live on dried meat for most of your life and then you can begrudge me, Mr. Lowe." Snickering, Archie went back to his own meal, happy to eat at what he had.

"I'm not begrudging you, I'm simply saying that you can easily order a steak of your own, and have no need to steal mine from my plate," Lowe said, finally taking a bite of the meat and trying not to allow too blissful a look on his face.

Nodding, Archie did nothing more than continue on with his meal, grinning halfway.

Breakfast was over, and it was still cloudless out as Harold and Archie stepped out of the Mess to begin their duties for the shift. Full stomachs made for a cheerful disposition, and despite their friendly sniping across the breakfast table, Lowe had given in and shared his steak and bacon. He found he was beginning to think of Kennedy as a confident, somehow comfortable with his joking good humor, and though that was a somewhat different idea for the mildly nomadic Welshman, it was welcome in such bizarre circumstances. Afterall, it was the same type of joking mannerisms that made him look to Jimmy as a friend so quickly.

Harold took a deep breath of the April air, such a far sight different from the Equatorial air that was on the Renown, and let it out slowly. It wasn't going to be easy, any of it, at any point. Not if he ended up back in 1801 again, and certainly not in trying to change Titanic's fate. He knew that, accepted it, mentally complained for a minute or two, and then decided stalwartly to do the best he could. Looking over at Archie, he frowned for a moment in confusion, wondering what had caught the pup's attention so quickly and completely.

Oh, so that was it! Looking past Kennedy, Lowe caught sight of a group of the first class women who had come out after breakfast, allowing a smirk to cross his face as he leaned over and said to the other man, "Relax, Kennedy, they're off limits to working blokes like us."

Archie only mumbled something in reply. It had been a long time since he had seen ladies at that proximity, particularly ladies who were dressed as elegantly as these were. Afterall, a ship of war only goes into port on occasion, and those times are fewer and farther between than any merchant ship. He'd known men, common seamen, who hadn't seen their wives or any women since the beginning of the war, and being only twenty-three, despite a professional life of hardships, he was still at the age where women were quite the objects of desire and fantasy.

Harold just shook his head, trying not to laugh outright. He could sympathize, but at the same time, he knew the facination would wear off when Archie had to deal with these women on a professional level -- a good many of them were downright disagreeable. There were so many times in his career that he'd just barely managed not to snap at them over a ridiculous complaint they had, be it about the service, or the accommodations, and though he didn't mind appreciating their looks, he felt no urge to deal with them in any way but the quickest and most efficient. "C'mon, you can gawp at them all you like later... right now, we've got a ship to tour."


"C'mon," Harold chuckled, taking him under the elbow and dragging him off the other way. In that moment, he felt frighteningly like some sort of parent.

"Did you see them? My Lord, they were stunning! Like the first blooms of Spring, or perhaps the--"

"Ohhhh, wait until one of them starts complaining about their service, food, drink, bath tub, furnishings, deck chairs, a speck of dust on their new shoes..." Lowe shook his head in amusement. "You'll start thinking of them as harpies and witches before you know it."

"I don't know," Archie said, doubtfully, casting a glance back over his shoulder in the direction of the ladies. One particular one noticed and gave him a smile, and he immediately turned around and started back towards them.

"That gate marks the Engin--" Harold glanced over, then blinked and turned around in time to see Archie sidling up to the ladies on deck. He took a deep breath, sighed in resignation, and followed.

It promised to be yet another long day.


Author's Notes: This chapter has been sitting for quite some time on my harddrive. The story itself will probably not see completion anytime in the near future, and even if we do pick it up again, you can bet that we're going to overhaul it and clean it up somewhat before continuing. Until then, I hope you enjoyed that we left off on a light note, and any comments, ideas, or thoughts you might have are eternally appreciated. Thank you!