by Mackenzie L.
This one-shot was a request from a reviewer of my other Titanic fic, "You Miss Nothing, Do You?"
I admit, going into it was a bit daunting, since I had never really focused on Will Murdoch as much as the other characters. But I always love a challenge, so I re-watched the latter part of the movie, focusing on Murdoch's point of view. I grew to appreciate him much more as a character through writing this, and by putting myself in his shoes. I settled on a series of drabbles following Officer Murdoch from the time of the iceberg sighting up until where things start to get out of hand during the lifeboat fiasco. I stopped just shy of the suicide because I try not to write that dark, and because the real Murdoch never did commit suicide.
** Disclaimer: I do not own Titanic or its characters **
He cannot feel the numb muscles in his neck as he turns his head and looks out to a non-existent horizon over a terrifying stretch of ebony ocean. Endless, silent, and black, it mirrors the night sky above it almost uncannily, save for the superficial sprinkling of stars.
It seems the night donned her very best for this evening's show. Full moon as her tiara, and a band of gauzy galaxy as her scarf. And the stars are her diamonds. She shimmers.
Still, there is nothing outside of the ship but blackness.
Nothing but that taunting tower of ice, showing its face too late.
Finally, they had some company out on the sea. And it was a thoroughly unwanted visitor.
He hates having to say that word.
He hates having to say that word and have it actually mean something.
It seemed no matter how many preparations they had run through in the event that they would come across one, it had still been just a word until this night.
It would never really happen. It was a myth of the sea - a petty precaution in the lowest percentile.
But actually admitting the image of it with sensory perception as the ship tore relentlessly through the frozen fog of black... it was like stumbling upon the gates of hell and not being ready.
His hand grips the handle, and with the barrier of his glove between his palm and the cold metal, it feels wrong – like he has no control over that gold circle, staring dimly back at him. His eyes glaze over as he takes in the bold white letters so professionally scripted within the frame. Once, not so long ago, each had a positive purpose. Now they were nothing but bold white letters.
DEAD SLOW. STAND BY. STOP. STAND BY. SLOW. HALF. FULL.
He always reads them, no matter how rushed he is, no matter how much time he has to move. Some part in the back of his overworked mind sees the letters and pieces them together. He reads the words aloud in his head, and together, in their designated order, they are eerily rhythmic. They make a monotonous song.
STOP. STAND BY. SLOW. HALF. FULL.
Those words once held power in the silent commands they promised. Match the handle to the word and it would carry out its task, just as it was designed to do.
Design could only take man so far.
To think at one time, he had believed he had control over this iron beast. They all had believed that.
Clammy pearls of sweat congregated beneath his officer's hat at the sight of that iceberg, watching it approach and knowing there was nothing that could keep it from slamming into the ship.
Oh, how he wanted to tell her.
Turn, darling. Just a little further. Turn, dear. Don't you let that iceberg touch you...
He had always used such affection when regarding the ship, just as the rest of the crew had. They were smitten with their Titanic. She was an angel, a heroine – anything but a damsel.
Now it only sickened him. And ironically enough, it did not seem like the iceberg's fault that they were sinking. It was the ship's fault.
She just wasn't trying hard enough.
Like an elderly woman, worn down from the trauma. She had reached her breaking point. It seemed she had no hope left within her to continue for her passengers' sakes.
She was going to let them all down. Literally.
Little waves of water that had no business being so inhumanely cold waltz haphazardly around his ankles, impairing the speed of his pace as he walks around the flooded deck.
His mind slinks through each disturbing image that he had so misfortunately encountered over the course of the evening - like flipping through a morbid scrapbook.
The Captain's once proud face, collapsing into a mask of despair upon the realization of their doom.
The dull, jade, ocean water gushing like a gelatin dragon in that white stairwell.
The parentless children, scurrying about the deck with death etched into their ruddy cheeks and hope still glittering in their innocent eyes.
The mute crack of a firework that spits a lengthy flash of light across the stricken faces that keep passing, like ghosts on a carnival ride.
With each scant group of desperate women he aids onto the lifeboats, he wants to feel their weight lifting from the ship. Somehow, a childlike seed in the back of his mind germinates with the wish that the ship will suddenly rise back up, and the water will recede with a grand, rushing roar. He wishes Titanic would lift her head from the abyss and spare their souls.
Two-thousand two-hundred souls...
"Your money can't save you any more than it can save me!"
He hisses the words at the rich man, and never before has he felt so right, so alive. Because they are the right words to say. Somehow they feel so moral; the weight of them on his tongue makes him feel stronger, physically.
And as the paper money flutters down around him, it is no longer money. It is insignificant confetti. He has trouble remembering how he could have ever put such value on a strip of wilted green paper. It has no value. Nothing does, now... except for life.
He thinks for one moment, maybe it is possible to make it through this as a good man.
But it was these people around him. Good Lord in heaven. These people.
For a few delusional minutes, he had felt as though he had some power left - if he could only have the power to save but a few of these innocents - if there was even one person who would see the glorious crust of the American continent, welcoming them to a safe, dry land where they would be free.
He looks around him and suddenly everything is so unreal, so abstract.
The ship he had been trained to know like the back of his own hand now looks like a foreign prison, tilted at a grotesque angle and creaking under the pressure of the water that seemed to find its way in from places that never existed. A giant invisible child was playing with his toy ship in the bathtub, and they were the misfortunates on board.
The shrieks of women are like the distant chime of church bells; the rough bellows of his fellow crewmembers straining to keep order are little more than an animalistic drone.
The passengers flee about like winded moths, in a flurry of white life vests that will do no good to keep them alive.
Yet they still run about, maniacally, searching for any way to prolong the beat of their hearts, stall the inevitable frost that would permeate their flesh.
They still believe they can make it through alive.
He sees in that moment that there is no hope for him.
But he will not die until he is sure that there will be hope for someone.