The First Move
By J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine Marley, LeChuck, or the various game locations. They're the property of LucasArts. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended
Timeline: Set in the gap between The Secret of Monkey Island and LeChuck's Revenge. If you haven't played to the end of either game, I recommend you stop reading right now. Here there be spoilers.
Author's Note: Hi there!
If you're a regular reader in this section, you may remember I wrote and posted a few Monkey Island fics about a year or so ago, in the wake of the last couple of chapters of Tales of Monkey Island. Tales was my first Monkey Island game, and I loved it so much I was eager to play the rest. Unfortunately, not all the games are readily available, but I did take advantage of the special editions LucasArts put out, and having finally wrapped up LeChuck's Revenge (and recovered-slightly-from that curveball of an ending), I had a bit of a fic idea, and got writing for Guybrush and Elaine again.
I realise the game came out 20 years ago, and everyone probably has their own idea as to what went on in the gap between games. This is just my take on it. I hope you enjoy.
As far back as Elaine Marley could remember, she had always been the one to make the first move.
It was partly out of necessity. For a woman to get anywhere in this world, a world intent on putting limits on the fairer sex at every turn, the only recourse was to take the initiative rage against those limitations at every turn.
It was also the Marley way. Elaine's grandfather abandoned England for the opportunity to define and reinvent himself by his own actions, rather than let society dictate his place in the world in terms of the narrow confines of class. The high seas and islands beyond offered no rules except those he wrote himself. It was a fresh start, a new beginning, one from which Elaine's parents had, in turn, benefited. And it was all thanks to a first move.
Taking the initiative, making the first move, had served her so well in her career. Why not in her personal life?
And so Elaine had carried her family's proud tradition of going into new, unexplored territory. When she first came face-to-face with a tongue-tied young wannabe pirate by the name of Guybrush Threepwood, she at first dismissed him out of hand—he couldn't get two words out around her, so what was the point in further wasting her time with him? But after he'd gone, she found herself regretting her harsh words, and harsher treatment, of the young man, and when she found out he was due to be killed, the Marley instincts kicked in. If he was too shy to initiate a conversation, let alone a relationship, then she would have to take matters into her own hands. She would have to make the first move.
And she did.
On the pier.
She never doubted it would. It always had. If she could engage thousands of potential voters at a rally, make them feel comfortable enough that they would trust her to govern them, then she could open up a dialogue with one blond lad of 18, and make him see she had a softer, less strident side. It was just the push he'd needed. A few kind words, a softer tone, and opening up to him and letting her feelings be known had untied his tongue and pushed him to return her sentiments in kind. Truth be told, telling him how she felt had been a little terrifying. Elaine wasn't used to letting herself be so vulnerable, so open, to anyone, let alone an almost complete stranger. But Guybrush made her feel safe saying things she never would have to anyone else. For the first time in her life, Elaine Marley let her guard down, let herself be loved. It made her giddy, delirious even. The early days of their courtship were the happiest she had ever known. And none of it would have been possible if she had never made that first move.
It only took a few weeks for her to invite Guybrush to move into the Governor's Mansion. Up to that point, he had been bunking in one of the grotty little rented rooms above the Scumm Bar, where one counted oneself lucky if there were fewer cockroaches than one had fingers, and no one ever truly slept alone. Alas, health inspectors had been one of Elaine's few failed ventures.
It was as Guybrush was scratching away at a bite, the origin of which she really didn't want to know, that she suggested he move in with her. After all, it only made sense. He was losing his money, and picking up who knew what, staying above the bar, and they saw so much of each other, it hardly made sense for them to go home to separate dwellings at night. Elaine knew Guybrush had been dancing around the issue whenever he came by the Governor's Mansion, but he hadn't mustered up the courage to do it himself. So Elaine did it herself. She made the first move. And he moved in the next day.
She hadn't really cared about what it might have meant for her image—the single, very attractive governor moving in another single, very attractive (well, in her eyes at least) young man to whom she was not married, betrothed, or related would easily be the headline of every gossip rag on the island. But Elaine had quit worrying about what people thought a long time ago. All the same, she assigned Guybrush a room of his own, at the opposite end of the hall, for propriety's sake. Even though the only things that spent the night in it were his clothes. Still, it made the servants more comfortable.
It was a lark at first. Whenever the paperwork piled up, or the latest opinion polls were less-than-encouraging, Guybrush was there with an easy smile and an optimistic word. He was like Elaine's own personal decompression valve, adding some much-needed levity to the otherwise sombre state business. And whenever she had a free afternoon, or even, luxury of luxuries, a whole day to herself, there was no end to the possibilities they could explore. Sailing, picnics, long walks on the beach, and the occasional swordfight. Just to keep things from getting too soppy.
Inevitably, though, her work caught up with her, and on the days she was chained to her desk until the wee hours, Guybrush was left to prowl the halls. Oh, he had things to do—practice his insult swordfighting if he could pester the Swordmaster into being his opponent, dip into the mansion's vast library, and sailing. Every time he came back from time aboardship, he had a spring in his step and a glimmer in his eye. He was always asking her to take some time off so they could go out together, tour half a dozen islands, bunk below decks with the creak of the hull to lull them to sleep. She knew it was almost cruel to keep him here, with her, on the island, when his dearest wish was to be a pirate and hone his skills on the open seas. There was only so much he could do with her tying him to one place. To his credit, he never complained about the lack of opportunity, not really. But his pleas for her to go on a voyage with him became more and more incessant. The answer was always the same:
"I have responsibilities, Guybrush. I can't abandon everything for a pleasure cruise."
His long face said more than words ever could. Eventually he gave up, stopped asking, tried to find other ways to fill his days. That posed new problems when her staff started to complain about the mess and property damage that accompanied Guybrush's attempts to find a non-piratey hobby. The day he wandered into her office and idly asked whether she thought it was physically possible to juggle twelve plates, Elaine knew she had to intervene, if only to save her taxpayers the burden of funding a whole new set of dinnerware. She made the first move.
"Why not try writing?" she suggested, as Guybrush lolled idly against the window frame.
He pulled a face. "Pirates do stuff, not write about it."
"They write logs," Elaine pointed out. "Those are narratives, more or less. It would be good for you. Improve your mind. And your spelling."
"I already have the mind of a fiendishly cunning pirate," Guybrush declared. "If I improved it any more, I'd ruin it."
Elaine sighed at the flash of ego, but didn't bother to burst his bubble. "Do it for the spelling, then."
He had to concede that one, and she was pleased to see he was willing to own up to at least some of his failings. "What would I write about?" he wanted to know, and Elaine took it as a good sign that he was at least considering the idea.
"Well, they do say write what you know..." she offered.
"They," Elaine emphasised, a little more sharply than she'd intended, but her often quick temper was starting to get away from her, and she had a pile of work to do. She didn't need to help Guybrush struggle through his writer's block on top of everything else.
To his credit, he must have read the annoyance in her eyes, or her tone, or something, because his own blue pools widened in alarm. "They. Right. Say a lot about a lot of things. Well, I guess I'll, uh, need paper, and, you know, writery things, so I'll just, uh..." He edged toward the door as he spoke, then made a break for it when he was within sprinting distance. Elaine shook her head, but smiled fondly to herself. Who knew? Maybe he'd turn out to be good at it.
It was slow-going at first. Elaine discovered a lot of discarded pages with doodles of Guybrush defeating LeChuck in new, exciting, and wildly inaccurate ways. He'd also seen fit to bestow himself with a fuller beard than the underwhelming effort he was currently trying to grow, and an impressive set of biceps , in the process. She'd shaken her head, but hadn't commented. It was keeping him busy and quiet at the very least. What did it matter what he was doing when he put pen to paper?
But one day he strode into her office with actual pages, clearly proud of himself and his accomplishment. He thrust them at her like an overenthusiastic child, and she took them, skimming the contents distractedly. "What's this?"
"I thought about what you said. Or what you said they said," Guybrush explained. "About writing what you know. And what do I know?"
Elaine sucked her cheek. "Not to eat raw seafood?"
He scowled. "No."
"Not to shave without a mirror?"
"No," Guybrush repeated, hand touching a small scar under his ear self-consciously in the process.
"Not a not, a how-to. How to become a pirate. And not just any pirate. A LeChuck-slaying pirate. I'm going to write my life story for posterity, to help inspire future generations."
"Really?" Elaine regarded him from beneath hooded eyes. Guybrush's ego was in full swing, and she was pondering whether to rein him in.
Guybrush rattled on, oblivious to her reaction. "I'm thinking about a trilogy: The Time I Blew Up LeChuck, When I blew up LeChuck, Where I blew up LeChuck, and Why I blew up LeChuck."
"That's four," Elaine pointed out tiredly. "Trilogies have three parts."
"Why limit myself?" Guybrush replied, a glint in his eye, and Elaine sighed. She had a lot of work coming up the next few weeks, and four books would certainly keep him out of her hair until it was finished. Quashing him now wouldn't do her any favours.
"You'd better get started, then," she told him, and he grinned so broadly he actually cut through her cynicism.
"I promise you'll get a complete set of signed copies, the first set off the printers," he said, giving her a quick kiss before dashing out of the room. Elaine watched him go with a smile, then turned back to her mountain of paperwork.
The next few weeks passed quickly. Guybrush babbled on about his memoir progress every night at dinner, and Elaine listened patiently, too tired to do much else. She was grateful he wasn't at loose ends in the mansion any longer, but as the weeks wore on, she had to admit Guybrush's trumped-up take on his exploits was hard to swallow. For one thing, her contribution to the events had been cut down considerably, and where she was featured, it was often in an overly-romanticised, soppy way that she feared would make her the laughing stock of her constituency. But she was being ridiculous, she told herself. Guybrush wasn't actually going to publish anything. He may have said he would, but when the rejections started coming in, he'd abandon it soon enough. So she tried to relax and not take it too seriously.
That plan went to hell in the proverbial handbasket when Guybrush received a letter from a publisher over breakfast, informing him that, for a small fee, his memoirs would be published, an ordering mistake having landed them with a large supply of paper they needed to shift, and they'd even throw in a book tour of the tri-island area, provided he didn't go around mentioning their good name and the book titles in the same sentence. Before Elaine knew what was happening, Guybrush was in his bedroom, counting out pieces of eight from the secret stash in his sock drawer. Elaine followed him in, arms crossed, watched him stack up the coins.
"You're not really going to take them up on it, are you?" she asked incredulously. A book tour? Even for Guybrush, it seemed over-indulgent.
"Why not?" Guybrush wanted to know, looking up from the coins briefly. "You were the one who told me to write what I knew."
"For pleasure," Elaine clarified. "Anyway, they're not publishing it based on merit."
Guybrush's chin jutted out defiantly. "Says who?"
"Says anyone with half a brain. They're meant to pay you, not the other way around."
"They're paying the tour expenses."
"They probably as far away from the publishing company as possible. You're not actually planning on going?"
"Why not?" Guybrush replied, returning the rest of his money to the drawer. "You're too busy to do much these days, anyway. No use letting all this extra Guybrushiness go to waste. You've been keeping it all to yourself. I should be spreading it around a little."
Elaine shook her head in disbelief. "Your ego really does beat all, doesn't it? If you don't have someone lavishing attention on you 24 hours a day, you're convinced you're being neglected. It's childish behaviour."
Guybrush's previously cheery expression turned sour. "Bet most kids see their parents more than an hour a day, though."
Elaine's eyes narrowed. "That's different. And we are not going to have this conversation again."
"Or what? You'll ground me?"
"The only times I see you are over breakfast, and when you come to bed at night. And let me tell you, plunderbunny, you are not a morning person."
"I told you, I've been busy," Elaine snapped. "I have responsibilities. I can't be expected to drop everything at a moment's notice."
"I never asked for everything," Guybrush snapped back. "Just for something. Anything. To let me know I was dating a girl, not a stack of paper."
"You're one to talk, buried behind your 'epic' there!"
"Only because I was going stir-crazy in here. I was never good in confined spaces. I need the wind in my hair and the waves beneath my feet."
"And I need to get things done," Elaine countered. "I don't have time to be larking about."
"You don't have time for anything!" Guybrush yelled, blue eyes clouded with angry frustration. "You have things to do. I get it. But I'm sick and tired of being crammed into your schedule like another meeting, another form. I'm not one of your stupid files that you can just take out when you feel like, and put away when you don't want to deal with it anymore. I'm a person, and I'm here, and I think you've forgotten that."
"Guybrush, I've told you a thousand times! It's my job. I love it. Do you expect me to give it all up just for you?"
"I did for you," Guybrush said quietly, and when she didn't respond, continued. "I love being a pirate, but I haven't gone out and done anything really piratey since we got together. I came here because I loved you, and you wanted to be here, so I stayed. I thought maybe if I hung around long enough, you'd take some time off, and we could take a ship, go off together." He shrugged. "I dunno. I always thought relationships were supposed to be about give and take. What have you given up for me, Elaine? Really?"
Elaine didn't have an answer for that.
He nodded, and there was a maturity in his eyes that she hadn't seen before. "Who's the child now?" He murmured, brushing past her on his way out the door. "I'm leaving in the morning. We can talk when I get back."
That night, he slept in his own bedroom for once. And when she awoke, true to his word, he was gone.
That was the last straw. Who the hell did he think he was, skipping off on a tour for books no one wanted to read, to meet people who didn't have the foggiest idea who he was, and weren't interested in finding out? His ego had finally spun out of control, and even she couldn't control it. He was too young, too immature, too self-involved. And if that were the case, there was no point in dragging things out...
That was why she was packing now, gathering up her personal effects in anticipation of the move. She had turned in her resignation as governor, and contacted her opponent in the last election. A dull as dishwater man, he was nonetheless honest and hard-working. Melee Island would be safe in his hands. Elaine couldn't abandon her constituents in good conscience, so she was happy to have someone to look after things in her stead. She would move to Booty Island, where there was other, important work to be done. At least, that was the reason she had given to her staff. In actuality, she wanted to be long gone, and hopefully untraceable, by the time Guybrush returned. Break-ups were messy at the best of times, and while Guybrush likely wouldn't take rejection quite as badly as, say, a certain LeChuck, she recognised it for the messy ordeal it would be. Guybrush wouldn't let go easily—there would be a lot of tears and begging and pleading, and she didn't have the time, or the patience, or, heaven help her, the strength for it. A face-to-face break-up would be long and drawn out. A quick, clean break would be best for them both. The sooner it was over, the sooner they could both get on with their lives. She could continue her work unaided. He could return to the high seas. It was the logical decision. The responsible one. But Guybrush would never be able to work up the nerve to make it. So it was all down to her to make the first move.
And she was making it. Literally.
As she closed her last steamer trunk, though, she felt the slightest waver of uncertainty. Was it right to end things this way? Even the way Guybrush had been acting lately, it still seemed cruel to leave without a word, to simply drop off the face of the planet. He had promised to talk when he got back—shouldn't she at least give him that chance, a chance to be an adult and work things out? And at the end of the day, was he right? Was she being just as selfish and unfair as she had accused him of being?
"All set, Governor Marley?"
It was one of the movers, a big bruising fellow, coming to take the steamer truck down to the docks, where her ship waited for departure. Was she set? Elaine honestly didn't know, had the terrible feeling she was making the worst mistake of her relatively-young life. And yet, waiting for Guybrush to return, to talk things out, would mean leaving the initiative in his hands. Would mean not making the first move.
Elaine didn't know how to do that.
"Yes," she told the mover. "That's the last of it." She walked to the door of the mansion, watched the man carry her trunk out, then turned to lock up. For just a moment, she pictured Guybrush standing in the foyer, blue eyes full of unshed tears, calling her name in vain, and felt her heart break despite her best efforts to keep it intact. She slammed the door hurriedly and turned the key in the lock, before she could change her mind.
Before she couldn't make a move.