The Whaler's Hunter
Juana la Cliker-Rooster
Rating: R for language, violence, drinking.
Author's Note: I want to thank all of you who had continued to read this story, and thanks to the reviewers! This is the final chapter of The Whaler's Hunter, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it. I am in the middle of a new TMMOF fic, so keep your eyes open for it in the coming months! I can't give a real deadline since my life suddenly became much busier, so I'll be working on it slowly. But thanks for reading!
"Oh God," Sister Sally cried, "Help! Someone help!" Horace pushed through the crowd and scooped his Captain up.
"We need a doctor right now!" he bellowed. Doctor Barber came running and said,
"Follow me. All my equipment is at my place." Horace obeyed and they ran off to the medical center of Stormalong. The nuns followed quietly, whispering prayers for a safe, swift recovery, while Flapjack's crew stayed behind to prevent Bavol and his crew from climbing back up to the docks. Face red with fury, Bavol cursed to the skies and thrashed about in the water, attracting the attention of sharks circling nearby….
Horace, meanwhile, was racing ahead of Doctor Barber and reached the medical building before anyone else. He placed Flapjack on a bed and waited impatiently for the help to arrive. Once the doctor arrived, he began to do everything in his power to help. Only time would tell the final result.
Two days passed before Flapjack opened his eyes. He looked around slowly with heavy eyelids, and rubbed his face with both hands.
"OW!" he cried out as a sudden pain shot across his face and through his chest, "Holy mother of God!" He could hear footsteps clomping rapidly toward him, and was not all that surprised to see Horace barge into the room.
"He's awake," he called, "Captain's finally awake!" Another rush of feet came racing in, and very quickly Flapjack was surrounded by his crew.
"What happened?" he asked groggily. In fact, he sounded…puffy. He touched his face and found a huge wad of bandages resting against his cheek. He'd forgotten about Bavol's cutlass slashing his face and chest.
"You nearly died, sir," answered Horace, "Bavol came close to killing you, but someone came to your rescue just in time." Flapjack blinked, unsure if he could believe such a thing. He had little memory of the events that had taken place those two days ago.
"Your own Captain K'nuckles, sir," Horace answered.
"I don't believe that for a moment," Flapjack snapped angrily, "Quit joking and tell me the truth."
"He is telling the truth, Flapjack," answered Sister Sally, who entered the room and made her way over to him, "That old guy with the wooden hands saved you."
"I thought nuns couldn't lie," he replied flatly. Sister Sally turned around and said,
"Guys, could we have a moment, please?" The crew didn't even respond. They simply left the room obediently. Once they were alone, Flapjack asked,
"Sally, why did you become a nun? Really." Sister Sally sighed and sat down. This was never an easy story to tell.
"After my father died, I was left alone. I hated it. I was no longer free. I was taken and placed in the Stormalong Second Chance Home for Boys, because there isn't one for girls. The convent didn't know about me until years later. In my time there, I was treated terribly by all the boys and men there. Did you know the place is occupied mostly by grown men?"
"Unfortunately, I do," he answered.
"I was beaten, raped, starved and picked on for several years, I can't even remember for how long. I was convinced no one loved me, and I wanted to kill myself so badly. I turned to drinking—real drinking, like alcohol. None of that maple syrup business, that wasn't enough for me. I was getting into the opium some of the traders were starting to bring in, and I was a prostitute for a while to make the money for my bad habits. People treated me like trash all the time, but I ignore it, because I always had an escape plan waiting to be consumed back home.
One night, I was out and waiting for some guys to come along when I heard someone talking. Chanting, actually, is more like it. I followed the sound, hoping to find a paying customer, but instead found the Matriarch of the Church, Mother Hope."
"Are you kidding me with that name?" Flapjack interrupted, raising an eyebrow.
"Trust me, I thought the same thing," Sister Sally replied, "I didn't believe in hope in any form, and I didn't want to. No one loved me at the time. Mother Hope asked me to sit with her and talk. I refused at first because I wanted to get back to working. But she told me she knew about me and needed to talk to me. I was suddenly afraid that she was going to report me to the police, but she told me that I had nothing to fear anymore. She told me God had watched me suffer, and that He was sorry for the pain."
"Listen. She told me life sucked, and that caught my attention. Nuns don't normally say things like that, so I was intrigued. She began to tell me that God has a plan for everyone, even lost, angry people like us, and that she wanted me to be saved. She asked me to go home and destroy all my booze, all my drugs and throw them into the ocean, burn them, even tell them to fuck off, so I did. It felt amazing, Flapjack. I went back to her and told her all about it, and how wonderful it felt to throw that dead part of myself away. I joined the church right away and have been very happy ever since."
"This isn't going to work the way you hope it is," Flapjack said as he examined his fingernails, "Don't try to—"
"Save you, I know," Sister Sally interrupted, "Trust me, I'm not the one trying to save you. God isn't even the one."
"I'm very aware of that."
"It's Bubbie who wants to save you."
The room became eerily quiet once again. Flapjack's hands gripped the tissue-paper blankets laid over him, while his eyes narrowed angrily.
"This is unacceptable," he growled, "Do not start this, Sally."
"Flapjack, after I purged my alcoholic, deadbeat self, I learned something new about myself. I know this sounds totally nuts, but I can hear the dead now, at least the ones that need to be heard. It's like there was a void after I got cleaned up, and something just decided to fill that void for me. I've listened to her, just a few weeks before you came here. She said she'd been watching you fall into despair. You've been in fights, arrested, done unspeakable things with other men for money, food and shelter, you're an alcoholic and you drown innocent men and burn their boats. She's says you're lost, so incredibly lost. She wants you to know peace, Flapjack."
"You're a sick, horrible, lying creature," Flapjack replied, "I suggest you leave before I pun—HEY!" Sister Sally reached forward and gently grabbed his face in her hands, and despite how much he struggled to push her off, he simply couldn't do it. Sally's eyes rolled back into her head, much like a horror story, and she began to speak.
"Flappy, baby, I love you so much. You know that, don't you?"
"You know it, baby. Now I want you to know that I been watching over you since the day I died, protecting you and making sure you didn't kill yo'self. There were hundreds of nights you would have poisoned yo'self with the way you been drinkin', and I've had it up to here with it. No more rum, you hear me baby?"
"Oh my God, Bubbie…" Flapjack felt warm tears running down his face. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be real.
"Close your eyes, sweetie pie," she continued, "It's okay, I won't hurt you." He obeyed and let her press her forehead against his. Instantly the image of Bubbie, floating in the air, materialized. They were both floating in the most beautiful place Flapjack had ever seen. It was warm, breezy and peaceful. Bubbie reached out and hugged him.
"Baby, I know you hate that man for taking me away from you, but you need to let it go. What's done is done. I know it sucks, and I wish it hadn't happened that way, but it did. There's no changing that. Now you listen to ol' Bubbie. I want you to come here again, but only after you live a beautiful life. No more killing, no more drinking, no more pain. You can do it. You managed to achieve all the bad in your life, now go for the good. I expect to see you back here in seventy or so years, you hear me?"
"No, wait, Bubbie, please don't leave me!" He clung to her as tight as he could, afraid to lose her again. She gently pet his head and said,
"I'm not leaving you, baby. I'm always watching and protecting you. I want you to be happy, so go and make it happen. Travel, have a family, open a business, whatever makes you happy, I want you to go do it. I'll be here, waiting for when you come home to me."
He looked up at her, tears in his eyes. She wiped a tear away, then said,
"Look at you, all grown up! You're so beautiful, Flapjack. But your eyes, baby, they're so sad. Honey, promise me you'll get yo'self fixed up, okay? Do it for me, pumpkin. I wish we could have grown together, sugar, but things happen."
"I miss you so much," Flapjack finally sobbed into her blubber, "Please don't leave me! I want to stay with you! I don't care if I die, I don't want to live my life without you in it!"
"No, honey." Bubbie answered in a gentle whisper, "You need to go back for a while. You're only twenty now, you have lots of fun adventures to experience. And trust me baby, the Big Guy upstairs has a lovely plan for you, if you'll accept it. You don't have to be all religious and such, he doesn't care about that. He wants you to accept his plan and remember that you are loved, no matter what you tell yourself. I have to go now, Flapjack. Promise me you'll listen to me."
"I promise, Bubbie…I love you so much."
"I love you even more, sweetie pie. Now go home, people, your family is waiting for you." She let him go, and despite his efforts to cling to her, she faded away and there was nothing to grasp anymore. He dropped to his knees and sobbed, but when he opened his eyes again, he found himself still in bed with the tissue paper blankets and the cold steel frame, Sister Sally Syrup sitting beside him. She had his hands in hers.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I couldn't control that. But I didn't hear or see any of it. I just knew it was happening." Flapjack sniffed and wiped his eyes. He felt like a little boy again, crying for his mommy.
"It's fine," he said quietly, "I think I'm gonna be okay now. What happened to Bavol?"
"He was knocked off the dock by K'nuckles," she answered, "He was furious. Bavol was going to take you with him and drown you somewhere, and he would have been able to. K'nuckles bit Bavol's leg and I guess it really freaked him out. He let everyone in town go and let you go free, too. We had you rushed here; you lost so much blood you fainted. You remember that, right?"
"Not at all," Flapjack replied, "But I guess I have to believe it. It's crazy enough to be true."
"Do you want to see your crew?"
"Just Horace, please." Sister Sally got back up and gave him a warm smile. He returned it, albeit very slightly.
When Horace entered the room, Flapjack looked up at him with his usual jaded scowl, but Horace knew better. He sat down next to his Captain and grabbed him in an unexpected hug. Flapjack, caught off guard, didn't return the hug, but instead stared at Horace's shoulder with wide eyes. When Horace broke the hug, he said,
"Sorry, Captain, but I was so worried about you." He cleared this throat. "I'm always worried about you, to be honest. I don't know what to say or do to make everything right in your world, but I want you to know that I'm always concerned for you. You've come close to drinking yourself to death so many times that it's become a habit of mine to check on you, even when you aren't able to see me. I may be your First Mate, and you may be the Captain, but dammit, I'm still your elder and I'm going to get parental if I have to. I can't watch you die anymore."
"…I'm sorry, Horace," Flapjack whispered, his voice cracking, "I'm so sorry for putting you through all that. I never meant to be a burden on you."
"I'll admit it was like having a son," replied Horace, "I refuse to let anything happen to you. You need a parent in your life, son. Be it me or your K'nuckles friend, you need someone to help you through your tough times. No one can go it alone, not matter how much of a front you put on."
"I know," Flapjack said, "I was just so angry about losing Bubbie—I mean, how would you have reacted?"
"I'd be angry, and I'd seek revenge, but that doesn't make it right."
Flapjack sighed and looked away. Horace was right. He'd done so many horrible things in his life, and he had hurt so many people in so many ways. If there was ever a time for self-evaluation, it was now.
"I want to make everything okay," he said to Horace, "and I need someone to keep me on track. Will you help me?"
"'Course I will, Flapjack," Horace answered, "That's why I'm here. If I didn't think I could help you, you'd have been dead for years now."
Thank you, Horace," Flapjack said, patting the older man's hands, "Thank you so much."
"Don't thank me too soon," Horace warned, "You're gonna give me a hard time when it's time to go back to the ship and I dump your rum into the sea."
"I know," Flapjack answered, "I know."
"All right, captain, I think it's time you had a few minutes with the man who saved you. I'll send him in."
"Please do," Flapjack said, "And Horace? Thank you." Horace smiled at the young Captain and replied,
"You're very welcome." Then he left the room. Moments, later, K'nuckles walked in on a new pair of wooden legs. When he saw Flapjack lying in bed, bandaged and bruised, he had to look away.
"Captain?" Flapjack asked aloud, and for a moment, he sounded like the innocent little boy he used to be. K'nuckles turned back to him and said,
"Hey'ya, boy. How're ya feelin'?"
"You mean other than physically."
"Yeah. I saw Bubbie, K'nuckles."
"Yeah? And what'd she say?"
"She wants me to be happy, and that my family is waiting here for me. I think you're part of that family."
"If you let me be," K'nuckles said, "then a'carse I'll be a part of it." He walked over to Flapjack and sat down next to him. "I've missed you, boy. I been worried sick about ya since you disappeared. I know I shouldn't have left you and Bubbie when she died, but like I said before, I couldn't handle it. I'm sorry, boy."
"I forgive you, K'nuckles," Flapjack said, looking down at his scarred hands, "I'm sorry too, for running away and making everyone worry. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time."
"I understand," the older man said with a sigh, "That was a terrible day. Everyone is Stormalong was affected by it." Flapjack bit his lower lip in an effort to not cry. K'nuckles looked down at Flapjack's hands and asked without thinking,
"How'd you get those scars?" Flapjack wiped a rogue tear from his cheek and answered with a cracked voice,
"Lots of fighting. I got into so many fights with guys in bars, on ships, even on islands. Everywhere I went I got into a fight; I don't have much self-control. More than once they've been sliced up or burned. I've got scars all over, I just don't like to show them. Sometimes I feel like the scars are a part of me and I should feel pretty badass about them, but other times I'm shocked at my lack of control and suddenly I'm ashamed of them."
"Well, no more, boy. You may be an adult now, but I'm not gonna let you get hurt anymore. None of us will, but you gotta work hard towards getting better too."
"I know," Flapjack chuckled lightly, "Horace already informed me we're going to be tossing all my booze when we get back to the ship."
"That'll be interesting," K'nuckles mumbled. If Flapjack heard him, he didn't react to the comment. Instead, he examined his scarred hands and looked out the tiny window across the room. The sky was grey as usual, the wind chilly and salty. It was no different than the day Bubbie had died, and it annoyed him. He'd always envisioned life-changing epiphany days to be suddenly bright and warm, with chirping birds and rainbows. He'd expected…changes. Today was like the millions of days preceding it.
Except it wasn't, not really. He had a family now, people who loved and cared about him. People who were going to throw away his rum and yell at him when he needed a swift kick in the pants, people who would remind him that life sucked but went on regardless of how awful things seemed to be.
Flapjack finally felt like a normal young man for the first time in his life. He missed Bubbie terribly, but it was time to let her go and respect her memory, not murder in her name. That was a chapter in his life that needed to be ended, and the rest of his story was ready to be written.
"God," he said out loud, not caring that K'nuckles could hear him, "It feels good to be home."