This fic takes place during the sixth episode after Silver takes Jim back to the hotel but before the ship sets sail. As the summary says, the story contains violence and character death.
ONE FOR ALL
The rum tasted bitter in his mouth, but he downed his mug with one gulp and yelled at the owner to pour him another one. The man hurried to fill his order, no doubt wary of the angry and ragged seaman who had staggered into his public house around sunset. The same worry was reflected on the faces of the other customers who kept glancing at the newcomer from the corners of their eyes.
There was nothing about the man that stood out. He had the air of a seafaring man around him and was dressed in a plain blue coat. The cutlass hanging from his belt or the fresh bruises on his face weren't remarkable in any way; half of the men who drank in places like this carried such features.
It was the silent fury gleaming in the man's blue eyes that had everyone on the edge. He was staring at his rum with such concentrated anger that it looked like the slightest offence might set him off and that he wouldn't care whose throat he sliced open. It had been a quiet night so far, and nobody wanted it to turn into murder that early.
"Hey, Black Dog!"
Nobody, not even the lone stranger, turned to look at the door when a burly man entered. His long black hair was neatly braided, and he looked like he might have some foreign blood in him. He didn't stop to wait for a reply and marched straight to the corner where the man he had addressed was sitting.
"Finally I found you. I've been looking for you everywhere," the newcomer said as he took a seat.
Black Dog shot him a dirty look. "What do you want, Hands?" he growled.
"Silver sent me to find you," Hands replied, as if that explained everything.
"Silver," Black Dog muttered. The hand that wasn't holding the rum was caressing the hilt of his cutlass. "Did he tell you what happened?"
"Yes, we all know," Hands said, his face turning even grimmer than it already was.
Black Dog finished his rum and put down his mug. He leaned back in his seat and eyed Hands with a calculating look in his eyes.
"What does Silver want?" he asked after a brief moment of silence.
"He thinks we should hold council to decide what to do," Hands replied.
"There's only one thing we should do. We should have done it hours ago today, but Silver spoiled the chance," Black Dog snarled. He slit his eyes and stared down at the table, lost in thought.
"I know," Hands said, doing his best to sound diplomatic. "I think you should come with me. The others are waiting. You'll get your chance to speak."
"And I will. You may lay to that," Black Dog said as he stood up to follow Hands outside.
Life hadn't been kind to Black Dog as of late. He and Pew had failed at retrieving the treasure map from the Hawkins family. It had sounded like such an easy task. Scare the simple country folk a little and they'd be happy to hand over everything in exchange for their lives. Who would have thought that they'd fight back?
Black Dog gritted his teeth as he thought back to the dressing-down Silver had given him after his three failures. That rotten cook wasn't one to talk! What had he done in the past ten years except served food and drink at his public house? He was no longer a real pirate. That he had protected that snotty brat earlier that day proved it.
He was so consumed by his angry thoughts that he was simply following Hands and not paying attention to where they were going. When they finally stopped, Black Dog was startled to realise that Hands had led him to a remote cliff outside Bristol. They usually held their council at the Spyglass.
It was a bright night. The full moon dominated the sky, and countless stars made it easy to get lost in staring at the darkness. The only sound Black Dog could make out was the distant rumbling of waves against the rocks far below them, but the light of the moon immediately revealed that he and Hands weren't alone. A row of men stood near the cliff. He recognised each and every one of them.
"What's this?" he asked. "What are we doing here?"
Nobody gave him an answer. Black Dog felt the hair on his neck stand up as he looked at the faces of his mates. Job Anderson, Tom Morgan, George Merry and the others. They all were wearing solemn expressions that weren't becoming of them; usually they were laughing or sneering.
"And where is Silver?" Black Dog asked when he realised that he couldn't see the one-legged man among the crowd.
"He's coming in a moment," Hands explained.
Black Dog whirled around to face him. "What's this? I thought we were going to hold council," he said. So, Silver couldn't even be bothered to be there in time. Then again, maybe that would work in his favour.
"We are. We're just waiting for Silver," Hands said.
"Do you all know what happened today?" Black Dog asked, turning around again to face rest of the group.
"Yes. Silver told us," Anderson said.
"Then you know that he has gone soft. He protected that little brat and turned against me! You all know what he should have done," Black Dog said. Maybe he could convince the others that Silver had lost his touch. Normally he wouldn't have dared to even think badly of Silver, but the rum he had drunk and the humiliation he had suffered made it impossible to think clearly. All he knew was that they were all doomed if they kept following that cripple.
To his satisfaction, he saw the men nodding amongst each other, even if their expressions remained grim and hesitant. Black Dog dared to allow himself a sliver of hope. If he got the others on his side, Silver would have to bend to their will. The thought of defeat on that arrogant face made Black Dog's lips turn into a careful smirk.
"Yes, we all know what the right course of action was. We should have gutted that brat and thrown his body down a pier," he continued. He felt his anger grow as he thought back to the early afternoon. His bruises were burning after Silver's blows. He was nearly shaking in anger when he recalled how he had had to flee before Silver and the boy.
"Maybe he had a reason for this," Anderson pointed out.
"Like hell he had!" Black Dog snapped. That Anderson was a real bastard. He was always on Silver's side no matter what happened. Black Dog hated men who couldn't think for themselves and always followed the orders of someone else. If he had been as stupid as Anderson and done everything exactly like Silver wanted, he'd be rotting in some gutter already.
"Silver sought me out today and attacked me without reason! We were all alone in the alley with the Hawkins boy! If he had a reason for not killing him, I'd very much like to hear it!" he continued, making sure to look every man in the eyes for a split second. He was glad to see agreement on their faces, but his joy was short-lived.
"What's this? Black Dog, are you playing my men off against me?"
Black Dog felt a chill go down his spine as he turned around to look at the man who had just arrived. He hadn't even heard the steady clank of the crutch against the ground, and for a moment he was at a complete loss of words.
"It's a little rude to start without me. I always like to hear what people have to say about me," Silver said.
"Silver," Black Dog growled. Feeling that hated name roll off his tongue gave him back some of the courage he had lost upon the man's arrival.
"Those are some nasty bruises you have there, Black Dog. I hope I wasn't too rough on you today," Silver said. He wasn't even trying to hide the amusement in his voice, and Black Dog's scowl deepened as he saw the smug look on Silver's face.
"You have no reason to be smiling like that. You have betrayed each and every one of us today!" he snarled and clenched his hands into fists.
"Oh?" Silver asked in mock surprise. "That's a serious accusation. How have I done that?"
"Don't try to play dumb. We all know what happened today. We were alone with the Hawkins boy and could have easily killed him. But you attacked me instead. How can you possibly explain that?" Black Dog asked. He was glad to notice some of the men frown as they turned to look at Silver, waiting for his answer.
"I'd very much like to hear that, too," George muttered.
The smile on Silver's face disappeared, and for a moment he only stared at his men. Then he turned his eyes back to Black Dog. The pirate clenched his teeth in effort not to cower before the solemn look on Silver's face.
"So, you think I've gone soft and betrayed you?" Silver asked.
"Exactly!" Black Dog said at once, glad that Silver had given him the opening. He wasn't sure if he would have had the guts to accuse Silver of betrayal, but now that the man had done it himself, everything should go fine. "You attacked me, one of your old mates! I'd say you've taken a liking to that brat. How can any of us trust you anymore?" he continued.
Now there was some more muttering from the others, and Black Dog felt his confidence grow. Surely the others would soon take his side. Together, they'd show Silver his place and then choose a new leader among them.
But then Silver started to laugh, and the sound made everyone else quieten and stare at him in alarm. Even Black Dog felt tempted to take a step back. It was never a good sign when Silver laughed like this; it always promised misery and death to his enemies.
"You're all idiots if you believe that," Silver said. "Don't you fools realise that if we had killed Jim, all would have been lost? None of us would have ever got the treasure then."
"You lie! That makes no sense!" Black Dog snarled.
"Be quiet! You have no idea what you're talking about," Silver said, and the sudden furious look in his eyes rendered Black Dog unable to utter a word. He could only stare when Silver continued, "Don't forget that Jim is a close friend of Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey. They're in charge of the trip, and do you really think they would go ahead with the treasure hunt if Jim disappeared or worse, was found murdered?"
The blunt logic in Silver's words was left hanging in the air. Nobody said anything for a long time.
Silver let out a chuckle. "That's why it's vital for our plans to keep Jim alive and well. In fact, I plan to make friends with him so that he has complete trust in me. Young lads like that are easy to trick, and I'm sure Jim will be useful for us later," he said.
"It… it can't be," Black Dog muttered, trembling with sudden fright.
"Yes, it can, and you should have thought of that. You shouldn't have ever shown your face at the Spyglass because there was the chance that Jim might see you," Silver said. He shrugged and shook his head. "But that can't be changed. What we have to decide now is what to do with you."
"What do you mean?" Black Dog asked.
"Didn't you just accuse your leader of betrayal? I'd say you weren't far from wanting to give me the black spot," Silver remarked.
"No, it wasn't like that! I just wanted to know why you -" Black Dog started.
"Why I acted out in everyone's best interests? Do you think you're in a position to ask me about that? You've chosen me as your leader, and that should be reason enough for you to trust my decisions," Silver said harshly.
Black Dog knew he had lost. Silver had again been cleverer than him. He was sure the one-legged man had come to the meeting late on purpose so that Black Dog could try to rile up the others and accuse him of treason. Now it was too late to take back his words, and God only knew what would happen to him.
"Well, don't you have anything to say?" Silver asked. He waited a moment to give Black Dog the chance to speak, or perhaps to underline the fact that he there was nothing he could say to defend his position. "You should always think first before you speak," he added.
"Damn you," Black Dog growled. His eyes darted to his side. He wondered which way he should run if it came to that.
Silver yawned and stretched his back, appearing perfectly relaxed. "Well, mates, I think it's high time we turn in for the night. We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow. I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to need a moment to get used to life on board again," he said with a pleasant chuckle. Nobody shared his merriness. Everyone knew Silver was the most capable seaman among them, and they were all anxious to know what would happen now.
"What about Black Dog?" George asked.
"What about him?" Silver asked.
"If the Hawkins boy knows him, how can he come with us?" Hands asked.
Black Dog hadn't even thought of that. His mind had been so consumed by how angry and betrayed he felt that he had entirely forgotten about the long voyage. He turned his eyes to Silver, instinctively hoping that the man had a solution, as always. There had to be a way. He was part of Flint's crew. He had to go with the others!
"I thought that much was obvious. He can't," Silver said.
"What? But I have to! The treasure belongs to me just as much as it belongs to you!" Black Dog blurted out.
"True," Silver said lazily, "but I'd say you've ruined your chances to get it. You've failed, what, three times at retrieving the map. That's a lot, even for you."
"But I –"
"Furthermore, it's your own fault that it came to this. If you had taken care of Jim back in Black Hill, we wouldn't even be here now," Silver continued. He kept his voice down, but it had lost the pleasant edge from before. Black Dog knew how dangerous that was, but he didn't stop to think about it.
"But you can't leave me behind! I'm one of you!" he insisted.
Silver snorted and glanced down at his crutch for a moment. "So was old Pew, and where is he now? You didn't give much thought to old mates last time you were in Black Hill and had to save your own hide," he said.
"That wasn't my fault," Black Dog said. He wasn't Pew's keeper, and the blind bastard had always been good at taking care of himself. He hadn't had much need for them before or after he had lost his sight. Silver knew that as well, but maybe he didn't care. He and Pew had always got a long well, especially after the broadside that had crippled them both.
He thought he could see contempt flair in Silver's eyes for a moment, but he couldn't understand what had upset the man so. And Silver never said it. He turned his attention to the other men who had been watching their exchange in complete silence.
"That wasn't his fault, says he," Silver said. "And I say it's not the fault of me or any of you that Black Dog has lost his right to a share of the treasure. Are any of you willing to risk your share for him? Hmm? Because if you take his side, none of us will ever see the treasure."
"Don't listen to him! Have you all forgotten how we fought together all those years ago?" Black Dog said, glaring at the others as well. He let his eyes move from man to man. "Morgan, don't you remember how I saved you in Trinidad? And Hands, how many times did we drink together in Tortuga?"
"Billy Bones was between us and the treasure, too, lads. We showed no pity for him," Silver pointed out.
George was the first man to speak. "Silver is right," he said. This immediately got approving nods and mutters from the others.
"I've waited ten years to go look for the treasure. I'm not giving up now," Hands added.
"You can't do this to me! I'm one of you!" Black Dog snapped, despair clutching at his heart. He had placed all his hopes on the treasure. He had nothing else in his life. He was suddenly reminded of Pew's words about how he didn't want to spend the rest of his days begging in misery.
"I'm sorry to say it, but you've been voted out," Silver said.
"You can't get rid of me that easily! I'll go straight to Trelawney and tell him everything! Then none of you will ever see a single piece of eight!" Black Dog snarled. "And then I will -!" he tried to continue, but the grim looks on everyone's faces stunned him into silence. The way they were looking at him sent a chill down his spine.
"Mates, what is it?" he asked, his voice shaking.
Silver was the only one without a murderous gleam in his eyes. "And you just answered the question of what we should do with you," he said.
"What do you mean?" Black Dog asked, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer.
"You're a problem now. Maybe you only said that in a desperate burst of anger, but we can't be sure. We can't take the risk that you'd really betray us like that and talk to Trelawney," Silver explained.
Black Dog didn't need to hear more. His hand flew to his cutlass, but he knew he'd never be able to stand against so many men. If even one of them had a pistol… But then, as his eyes fell on Silver's relaxed form, he knew that there was only one man he had reason to be afraid of. And he'd never have a chance against him. He would have to run for it.
"Damn you all!" he snarled. He shoved his way past the others, pushing poor Morgan so hard that he lost his balance and fell down with a yelp. He heard angry shouts from behind him, but he didn't turn to look. It wasn't that long back to Bristol. He only had to make it about half a mile before he'd reach houses. It was dark, so if the others tried to shoot him, they'd probably miss.
Just as he had allowed himself this sliver of hope, there was a bang and agony exploded in his left shoulder. The impact made him stumble and fall, but he didn't even feel the ground grate the skin of his face or how his wrist twisted into a bad position. He was panting through clenched teeth as he tried to reach to touch the wound, only to pull his hand back when it touched warm blood.
Through his pain, he heard the clank of Silver's crutch long before the man himself emerged from the night. Black Dog wasn't surprised to see a pistol in Silver's hand. He should have known that if there was one man who could fire a good shot in the dark, it was him.
"Damn you," he growled and tried to back away, but he couldn't force his limbs to work. It was more like pathetic crawling than a real attempt to get back up.
"I missed," Silver said forlornly. "I was hoping to kill you with one shot. I don't like watching men suffer."
"Stay… stay the hell away from me you bastard!" Black Dog said through his panting. He felt like his lungs weren't working right; he wasn't getting in enough air. But no matter. He had to get away. He turned around and tried to crawl away from Silver.
"I hate to do it like this, but you give me no choice," Silver said. He had no trouble catching up with Black Dog.
The last thing Black Dog could feel was the agony as his spine was shattered by one strike from Silver's crutch. He didn't let out a sound as he slumped to the ground, still conscious but unable to move. Silver was a man of his word. These final moments didn't last for long.
Silver grimaced as he straightened and leaned on his crutch by Black Dog's body. He felt disgusted. He hated having to do this to someone who had sailed through the worst storms with him and with whom he had drunk rum until dawn. But there was no going around it. If he wanted the treasure, Black Dog had to die.
He heard the others arrive and kept the contempt away from his face. He couldn't give them even the slightest chance to doubt this course of action. Some of them probably detested murdering an old mate even more than he did. They would never forget that dislike, so Silver had to make sure it wouldn't grow into anything more dangerous.
"So, that was the last hurrah for Black Dog," he commented, not yet turning around to face the others.
Nobody said anything. Silver waited one more moment before he whirled around to look at the faces of his men. Everyone was solemn as they looked at Black Dog's body. Each and every one of these men had seen death and taken lives, but it was always different when it was one of their own.
"It had to be done," Silver said. He had to address that now before the men would leave and start whispering to each other. He searched everyone's faces to find the man who had the most doubts. It didn't take him long to find what he was looking for.
"You disagree, George?" Silver asked.
The man with the eye patch turned to look at him in surprise. "What? No, of course not," he said after a moment of hesitation.
"But you do think that killing a shipmate is going too far. I never knew you were such an honest man," Silver said.
"It's not that," George insisted. "I just wasn't prepared for it."
"You should always be prepared for it. You all should be. We've waited ten long years to get the treasure that is rightfully ours. Nobody is going to stop us now. As long as we work together, we'll get what we want. But if any one of us betrays the others or becomes a burden, we know what to do," Silver said. It justified Black Dog's death but also served as a grim warning. Anyone could suffer the same fate.
"Do you all understand that?" Silver asked. He was rewarded with a chorus of agreement, so he put a smile on his face and gave George a pat to the back. "If one member of the group ever hinders the others, they have the God-given right to get rid of him. Never forget that, George, my friend."
"No, boss," George said.
"And now I hope you aren't too tired to join me for a gulp of rum at the Spyglass. It's going to be a hard day tomorrow, but a little bit of rum isn't going to hurt old seadogs like us, eh?" Silver suggested. He had known things would end like this, so he had told his wife to keep enough drinks ready for everyone. Rum would do a fine job at dulling the memories of this night.
"What about the body?" Anderson asked as they were returning to Bristol.
"Don't worry. The seagulls will look after him for us. When someone finds him, nobody can recognise him anymore, and we'll be well on our way to the Caribbean," Silver said.
"Poor Black Dog. That's a little gruesome," Morgan remarked.
"But that's why Silver's our boss," Hands said, and Silver could only respond to that by laughing.
Later that night, after his men had left, Silver told his wife to accidentally find the body two days after their departure and gave her enough money for a decent burial.