Hello, dear readers. Thank you very much for entering this webpage. I honestly hope you enjoy this story.
Well, for any of you who were fans of my King Kong story and are reading this, I apologize for not having updated that one in a while. I know it was a favorite from those who read it, and it was also a favorite of mine to write. I can only say that I haven't updated it because I have my reasons, and that I am now writing a Titanic fanfiction because I also have my reasons to do it.
For those of you who are fans of James Cameron's movie, this story is an AU, like I said in the summary, so don't be surprised if there is something that was in the movie and wasn't included here, or if I include anything that was in the movie. I mostly mean that I'm making changes regarding things that were discovered to be different from James Cameron's movie after it was released, but there will be other more specific things along the story. I will take the care to mention them at the beginning or at the ending of the chapter where they appear.
Lastly, here is the mandatory disclaimer. I don't own anything contained within this story, except any original character that might turn up further into it, or the plot in itself.
So, without further ado, let us begin.
Prologue – The Captain's announcement
Southampton, onboard the RMS Titanic, at the officers' mess, April 9th, 03:15 p.m.
As he gave yet another look at his pocket watch, Chief Officer William McMaster Murdoch let out what had to be at least his fifth sigh since he had entered this room, and once again tried not to wonder how serious the issue that had brought him here could be. It had almost been ten minutes since he and the other six officers on the ship had been summoned to the officers' mess. According to the steward who had summoned him – and presumably the other officers as well – the Captain had important news to tell them, but Murdoch didn't have any idea of what that news was. And judging from the looks on their faces, the other officers knew about as much as he.
Not only that, but, they had looked at Murdoch as though they expected him to at least have some information, until realizing that they all knew the same, and waiting for the Captain to arrive, like Murdoch himself was doing.
But if waiting hadn't been a problem at first, it was making them all nervous by now, to the point where the atmosphere in the room was starting to become suffocating. Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall both seemed to be itching to have a smoke to calm down – which they couldn't do without ruining the room – while Second Officer David Blair and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe had an obvious quiver on their feet, as if they were about to start pacing around the room. Sixth Officer James Moody managed to keep calm, standing quietly at his spot, but his eyes darted in every conceivable direction at erratic intervals, as if he was keeping him himself busy by trying to spot anything out of hand.
Trying not to be affected by so many different signs of nervousness, Murdoch slipped his pocket watch back into his pocket, and gave another look around. He had no more luck than on all the times he'd done it before. Captain Smith was still nowhere to be seen.
And some people in the room weren't up to waiting much longer.
"How long do you think he's going to take?" came a muffled whisper from his left side.
A sliver of a frown appearing on his face at the question, Murdoch turned to the one who spoke: First Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller. He was the only one besides Murdoch and Moody who seemed to not have succumbed to nervousness yet, but it was clear he was at least growing tired of standing around in a room without knowing anything.
"How do you want me to know that, Lights?" Murdoch muttered. "I'm not a fortuneteller."
Lightoller nodded at him.
"I know that," he replied, still speaking in a whisper. "I just thought you might have an idea of why it's taking him so long – and of why he wants to talk to us, for that matter."
A tiny hint of a glare came to Murdoch's eyes, helped by the nervousness built up during the wait.
"I'm here as well, am I not?" he almost snapped.
The moment the sentence left his mouth, Murdoch wished he could take it back. Not necessarily because of the words, but of the harsh tone they'd been spoken in. Besides not being fair for his friend to be spoken at like that, that reply had drawn the gazes of everyone else in the mess.
Masking his discomfort, Murdoch gave them his best stern look. It seemed to work, as all of them averted their eyes from Murdoch and Lightoller, but it had the strange secondary effect of causing two other pairs of mutterers to gather. Lowe and Moody moved to one of the room's corners and started their own hushed conversation, and Boxhall and Pitman stood by a table before starting to talk as well. Blair simply looked around at the walls, as if trying to find something to distract himself with.
"I'm sorry I asked," Lightoller eventually let out in the same hushed tone he'd been using until now. "But you're the Chief Officer, Will. Next to the Captain, you're supposed to be the one better informed of what goes on around this ship."
Had Lightoller's tone been different, Murdoch would think he was being accused or insulted. But although he knew his friend was just stating a fact – and had even done so in an apologetic manner – he felt angry. But most of that anger was directed at himself, for not knowing what had brought them all here in the first place like he was supposed to.
"I'm still not the Captain," it was all Murdoch could mutter, an ashamed look on his face. "There are bits of information that get to him first for sure."
This time, Lightoller simply nodded, as if to say, 'Fair enough.'
But a heartbeat later, the sound of footsteps was faintly heard over the hushed whispers of the other two pairs that talked. Turning around, Murdoch saw Blair edging his way toward him and Lightoller, apparently not having found anything else to distract himself with, and not wanting to be standing alone.
He stopped for a moment after Murdoch had turned around, but after a few seconds of not being turned away, he approached more confidently, until he was close enough for Murdoch and Lightoller to hear him speaking in the same hushed tone they'd been using.
"Are you sure you don't have any idea of why we're here, Mr. Murdoch?" Blair asked.
Pushing back a flicker of annoyance at hearing the same question twice, Murdoch whispered, "I already say I don't, Mr. Blair."
In an attempt to change the conversation's topic, he added, "Or rather, I can think of a few possibilities, but I don't find any of them likely."
Blair nodded, apparently finding himself lucky that he'd gotten that answer at all. Lightoller, however, spoke up again.
"You think the Titanic's maiden voyage is going to be delayed again?" the First Officer ventured.
Murdoch's eyes narrowed in puzzlement.
"Can't see why," he said after a few moments with a shake of his head. "After all, the only thing that could make us do it was a lack of coal, and that problem was already solved by putting other ships' coal in here. If there's any other reason to delay the maiden voyage, it's none I can think of."
Even as he spoke, Murdoch fervently hoped that such meant there were truly no other reasons for the Titanic's maiden voyage to be delayed for a second time. His position in this ship – Chief Officer – was a big jump from the First Officer position he'd occupied at the Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship, and the last ship where he'd been before being transferred to the Titanic. He could only imagine the trust his superiors at the White Star Line had to have in him to give him this position. And although he had yet to fulfill his duties in fullest, he was determined to show he was fit for the role, and that he deserved to eventually be given his own command – which, for all he knew, could be the Titanic herself in a faraway future.
"Maybe it's got something to do with that coal fire," Lightoller ventured again. "Maybe it's been put out already, but the damage is big enough that the ship has to head back to Belfast for repairs."
Murdoch shook his head again. He'd considered that option, but he'd quickly discarded it.
"I don't think so either," Murdoch replied. "That fire's been burnin' on for days, and no one thought it was serious enough to delay the voyage until now. And there's no way it could have caused enough damage to delay the voyage all of a sudden. I inspected it only a few hours ago, and it didn't seem to be causing any damage."
Other than cutting our coal supply shorter than it should be. Murdoch thought. Or giving the poor chaps workin' there an extra torture to endure once we get underway.
Murdoch could almost feel himself fainting upon thinking that. He remembered the temperature in that boiler room when he'd checked on the coal fire. Although he hadn't been there for that long, and hadn't actually gotten near the fire, it had been more than enough to wet his clothes with sweat. To have to endure it while filling fiery furnaces and pushing wheelbarrows full of coal had to be an absolute torture.
Quickly resuming the conversation to cut off his thoughts on the hellishly hot core of the ship, Murdoch said, "Whatever it is the Captain wants to tell us, wondering about it won't do any good. Let's just keep quiet, and hope he comes soon."
Both Lightoller and Blair gave him puzzled looks upon his putting of a full stop to their conversation. But an instant afterwards, their thoughts went away from the Chief Officer's remark, and their eyes locked on something behind him.
Noticing their change in focus, Murdoch turned around, right as the officer's mess door was fully opened. Then, at long last, in came Captain Smith, looking like the perfect picture of the classic Captain with his white beard impeccably groomed and his uniform so tidy and creaseless that it looked brand new.
However, there was another man who walked in after Smith. When Murdoch saw him, his lips parted, and a barely audible gasp left his mouth.
Tall, stocky, and dark-haired, the second man was Henry Tingle Wilde. Like Murdoch, he too had come from the Olympic, where he'd filled the position of Chief Officer. Murdoch considered Wilde a good friend, and knew the feeling was mutual, but upon seeing him now, he felt his heart drop to his gut, as everything suddenly fell into place.
Wilde had come aboard the Titanic only a few days after she had arrived to Southampton, so he could help getting her ready for her maiden voyage. Considering he'd been the Olympic's Chief Officer for several of her voyages, Murdoch had automatically started considering that Wilde might be occupying the same position on the Titanic. He'd even gone as far to tell that to his sister Peg on the letter he'd written to her yesterday, and to discuss it with his wife Ada after she'd come to visit him on the ship.
But it was only now that he saw Wilde walking in after Captain Smith that he understood that the possibility he'd considered had become reality.
Something started to squirm inside his chest at the realization, but Murdoch couldn't even properly focus on it, as something else came to fill his attention.
Looking as though he wanted to hit someone, Lightoller again leaned toward his ear, and demanded in a hiss, "What's that moron doing here?"
Murdoch barely stopped himself from flinching. His friend's voice had been so full of venom that a viper's bite seemed harmless in comparison.
And it had also been too loud, for Wilde's head shot up when Lightoller spoke.
"I heard that," Wilde mouthed at Lightoller, his facial expression calm, but his eyes narrowed and trained on the First Officer – as of now, at least.
Meeting Wilde's gaze, Lightoller clenched his fists, but neither man made any other move that betrayed hostility. However, it was enough for the atmosphere inside the officers' mess to thicken from tension with the speed of a lightning-strike.
Fortunately, there was practically no one in the room to speak up without risking the consequences, and the Captain either hadn't heard them or had purposefully ignored their exchange, for he purposefully strode further into the room, with Wilde following after him. Eventually, Wilde stopped, but the Captain kept on moving, forcing many of them to turn around so they keep following his walk without craning their necks. However, Blair, unlike all the junior officers, kept looking at Wilde, a confused and worried look on his face. He'd definitely arrived to the same conclusion that Murdoch had reached.
But even Blair turned to face the Captain when he finally reached his destination and turned around to face them, standing tall and firm as only he could do it.
"Good morning, gentlemen," Captain Smith greeted warmly after he stopped and turned around to face them. "My apologies for keeping you waiting, but there were unexpected issues to sort out."
Smith's words were acknowledged with a few scattered nods, before everyone's gaze further focused into him, as if to draw the words he was going to say now. The only exceptions were Murdoch, who felt a sudden urge to beg Smith not to speak, and Lightoller, who kept glaring at Wilde as if the man's presence was one of the issues that needed to be sorted out.
The Captain gestured toward Wilde, and at long last, everyone's gaze turned to him. To Murdoch, it seemed as if most of them hadn't even noticed Wilde's presence before.
"For those who do not know him yet, this is Mr. Henry Wilde," Smith clarified. "He has served on the Olympic as Chief Officer on several of her trips."
Smith paused, as if to make sure everyone was listening to him. Murdoch could already feel his throat and chest growing tight – but again, he was the only one. Lightoller kept glaring at Wilde, and the other officers seemed to be still wondering what would come next – except for Wilde, who took the moment to glance at Murdoch.
'Sorry, old pal.' Murdoch read in the man's expression.
But Murdoch didn't have time to even feel the slightest bit touched before the Captain spoke again.
"And as a result of that, the White Star Line has decided that he's going to step in as the Titanic's Chief Officer for her maiden voyage."
Looks of understanding dawned upon most of the faces, but they lasted only instants before being replaced with either confused or inquisitive ones. Lightoller's, however, had anger added into the mix.
Murdoch felt the squirming in his chest growing more intense, and being joined by a considerable weight. Although he had already known what the Captain was going to say, actually hearing the words was still painful.
"However, to allow for him to step in…" Smith turned his eyes to Murdoch. "You will have to become First Officer, Mr. Murdoch…" the Captain's gaze shifted to Lightoller. "..and you will take the position of Second Officer, Mr. Lightoller."
Murdoch grimaced as though he'd been punched. While being knocked back to First Officer still wasn't as bad as if he'd been knocked back to Second Officer or something – but it was a comedown from the position of Chief Officer he'd been looking forward to fill.
Meanwhile, Lightoller's look of anger doubled in intensity, and his mouth opened as if one outraged shout was threatening to burst its way out of it. Even in his downcast state, Murdoch felt fear flaring through him at seeing Lightoller about to shout at the Captain – but thankfully, Lightoller seemed to second-guess his actions and closed his mouth. Even though Lightoller's angry gaze remained as strong as before, Murdoch sighed in relief. Bumped down or not, an officer just didn't shout at his Captain, even if said Captain was as understanding and kind as Edward John Smith.
"What about me…" Blair spoke up sounding as if he was afraid of being told that someone he loved was slated to be executed. "… I mean, the rest of us?" he quickly added, tripping over his words as he added that bit.
A trace of regret and pity made its way onto Smith's face, as his whole posture stiffened even further.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Blair," Smith said. "But it has decided that you are to be removed from the roster and stay here at Southampton. The junior officers, however, will retain their current posts."
At those words, looks of relief made their way onto the junior officers' faces. But Blair looked about to crumble apart more quickly than a porcelain vase hit with a mallet. He opened his mouth several times as if he was trying to form words, but closed it back again on each of them without uttering a sound. After his last attempt, his legs seemed about to falter underneath him, and it was at the last moment that he managed to pull a chair and fall back onto it rather than on the floor.
"To all those concerned, this reshuffle is only meant to last until the return voyage from New York," Captain Smith said in a kind tone, particularly focusing on Blair as he said that. "When you leave Southampton under the next Captain's command, the original roster will be reinstated."
Blair barely perked up at those words. And Murdoch fully understood why, because the same happened to him. After all, ships' maiden voyages were unique experiences by themselves. And the maiden voyage of a ship like the Titanic, the grandest in the whole world was more unique than any other could ever dream of being. Even Murdoch felt it, even though he'd been First Officer on the Olympic, which was barely smaller than the Titanic, – albeit noticeably less luxurious – on her maiden voyage. If even he, who would get to stay on the ship, and didn't find her as extraordinary as practically every other of her officers did, still felt his heart being weighed down inside him, Blair was bound to feel much worse.
If the circumstances were different, Murdoch would have already gone over and patted the man's back, before grumbling the most comforting words he could muster without having his virility questioned.
"Now, to those whose positions have changed, be sure to familiarize yourself with the new duties," the Captain added. "As for the others, do your best to inform the rest of the crew about the reshuffle."
An edge of apprehension stabbed at Murdoch. He knew the First Officer's responsibilities couldn't be that different here from what they had been on the Olympic, but the truth was still that he'd been familiarizing himself with the Chief Officer's duties for quite some time. And now, he only had a day to break out of all those habits and get new ones.
"This will be all for now," Smith finished. "You may go."
Feeling the weight on his chest being pushed deeper, Murdoch started turning around and moving toward the door, as all the others did so at their own speeds. But before most of them had even started walking, the Captain spoke up again.
"Oh, I nearly forgot. Mr. Wilde and Mr. Lightoller, do come here for a moment."
As the rest of them kept walking out, Murdoch saw Wilde and Lightoller glancing at each other with absolute precision, ill-disguised contempt on their faces.
At any other time, Murdoch might have wondered what Smith could want from his two friends. But on this occasion, he just ambled out of the room, trying to digest the fact he'd not fill the position he'd looked forward to for so long, and heading toward the one person in the world who could cheer him up at a time like this.
On the starboard side of the Titanic's Boat Deck…
The moment he stepped out onto the ship's uppermost deck, Murdoch saw her, sitting on one of the deck chairs outside the gymnasium, where he'd left her waiting before heading to the officer's mess. She'd been visiting him since yesterday, and although he hadn't had a lot of time for her, and had even wondered whether she should be here, by now Murdoch was more than happy to see her again.
The sight of her was enough for a warm smile to stretch his lips as he started walking toward her. He'd always been unable to stop himself from smiling at her whenever he returned from a long voyage overseas, and although this time he'd seen her less than an hour ago, his subconscious was determined to grasp any source of joy it could find. However, this time his smile vanished after he'd taken about a dozen of steps. Although he always liked seeing her, nothing changed the fact he'd just gotten bad news.
Even before he got halfway to her, his wife seemed to have sensed his presence, for she turned her head right to look at him. At first, she gave him a smile like the ones only she could give, but like it had happened to his', it quickly vanished.
"Will?" Ada asked upon seeing him. "What happened? What did the Captain say?"
Instead of answering, Murdoch gave a look around to make sure no one was watching, and then leaned over to peck his wife's lips in greeting.
She returned the gesture, but the inquisitive look that had come to her face after she'd asked the questions didn't disappear.
"Thanks for waiting, Aid," he said from the bottom of his heart as he sat down on a deck chair by her right side. Again, his subconscious seemed determined to grasp any good thing that came up.
At first, Ada seemed puzzled over his reaction, but then, she grasped his hand comfortingly, and said, "Of course I waited, silly. I'd wait for you forever if I had to."
Murdoch gave her a small smile as he heard that. She had told him those words before, but he knew she meant them every time she spoke them.
Still grasping his hand, Ada fully turned over to him, and asked, "Do you want to tell me what the Captain told you, or do you want me to wait until you're ready?"
The brief joy he'd felt upon seeing her vanishing, Murdoch let his head drop a little. He didn't want to give Ada the news – she had been thrilled for him upon knowing of his promotion – but she deserved to know, and if he was to wait until he was ready, he probably wouldn't have enough time before the ship sailed tomorrow.
After removing his cap and setting it in his lap, Murdoch finally said, "It happened, Aid."
He hoped that those words would be enough to make her understand, but they weren't, for Ada raised an eyebrow at him.
"It happened?" she said. "What happened?"
He gave her no reply at first, but thankfully Ada didn't press the subject, and instead narrowed her eyes. After a few moments, however, they widened slightly, as her grip on his hand slackened a bit, and she asked, "Do you mean… Wilde..."
"Yes," Murdoch said with a curt nod. "I'm no longer the Titanic's Chief Officer. Harry has been chosen to step in after all."
The weight in his chest seemed to return, but this time it was stronger. Somehow, the fact he'd said those words gave the fact one sense of finality that nothing would be able to undo.
Her look sympathetic, Ada grabbed his hand again, this time in both of hers, and started caressing the back of it. Normally, Murdoch would have at least looked around to make sure no one was watching, but this time he didn't even consider the option. He just let himself enjoy his wife's comfort.
"I'm sorry, Will" she said. "I know how much you were looking forward to it."
Murdoch nodded sadly, and Ada squeezed his hand comfortingly in response, while giving him a slightly sad, but comforting smile.
"To tell the truth, I'm not the only one bumped down," Murdoch added, feeling a stab of guilt at thinking he was the only one affected. "Lights got demoted to Second Officer – and poor Blair has to sit out of the voyage altogether."
Ada gave a sympathetic nod of acknowledgment, but she didn't voice her pity for either of them. Not that he'd mind if she did, but none of them were close to her after all.
"But is it for this voyage only, or is it more permanent?" Ada asked.
"It's for this voyage only," Murdoch replied. This time, he felt at least a flicker of relief at knowing that. "The Captain said that the next time the Titanic leaves this dock, I'll be Chief Officer again."
Some relief came over Ada's face, but there was still a bit of sadness in her expression.
"But it won't be the same, will it?" she asked.
A slight prickle coming at his heart, Murdoch let out a small sigh, and whispered, "It won't."
Again, Ada squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"It'll be alright, Will," she said, speaking as though she wanted to make it happen just because she'd stated it.
For a brief moment, Murdoch had the impression he heard something tapping against the ship's deck at regular intervals, but he paid it no mind. Instead, he smiled warmly at his wife.
"You're right, Aid," he finally said. "I'll live."
That much he knew. Although this was a considerable setback, it wasn't exactly the first he'd had in his career. And he was a grown man. He could deal with it.
"Thanks for your support," he said, putting his free hand over hers.
Ada smiled at him, and then started leaning forward. Guessing her intentions, Murdoch returned the smile and did the same, but then, out of nowhere, Ada froze, and her kind smile morphed into a glare, as she let go of Murdoch's hand and looked at something which seemed to be behind him and to his right.
Wondering what it could be, Murdoch turned around to see what had caught Ada's attention. And again, he felt a slight stab in his heart as the sight of the person who'd just arrived reminded him of the position that had been so close to being his'.
A regretful look on his face, Wilde averted his eyes from them slightly, and said in a voice slightly lower than usual, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."
Murdoch shrugged as if to say he didn't mind, but Ada looked Wilde in the eye and demanded, "What are you doing here?"
His look neutral in spite of having been snapped at, Wilde said in a calm tone, "I need to talk to Will for a moment, Mrs. M."
Shifting his eyes toward Murdoch, he added, "May I?"
Murdoch hesitated before replying. He didn't have to be a genius to realize that Ada was quite angry at Wilde – even though they'd always gotten along fine on all the times they'd met so far – and would be better if she wasn't close to him over the next few days. But at the same time, Wilde seemed contrite enough over the reshuffle, and he was Murdoch's friend. He deserved to be heard.
"Sure, Harry," Murdoch replied. "Sit down."
Behind Murdoch, Ada nodded stiffly, but as she did so, she shuffled in her deck chair with such intensity that she appeared to be trying to root herself to her seat.
Giving her a calm nod, Wilde pulled a folded deck chair from the wall, and after opening it up, set it on the deck and then plopped down on it.
The three of them stayed in silence for a moment, and then, Wilde removed his cap, turned toward Will, and spoke up.
"I'm sorry I had to bump you down," he said. "I'd really prefer if I didn't have to do that."
Murdoch nodded. Wilde's tone was honest, but there was really nothing Murdoch could tell in reply to that apology. But Ada kept glaring at him, as if his presence was simply inexcusable.
"In fact, if it makes you feel better, it was only by a hairsbreadth that I didn't turn down this assignment all together," Wilde added in an uncertain tone, as if he wasn't sure of whether he should have said it.
His discomfort temporarily forgotten, Murdoch sat up straight and looked at his friend, his eyes wide in puzzlement. Up until now, he was sure that any officer in the White Star Line would give just about anything to be part of the Titanic's crew. For that matter, even the stewards, firemen, and stokers had been more than eager to sign onto this ship. Although there had been passengers who had cancelled their passages, and there had been crewmen who either hadn't turned up or had quit the crew, Wilde had literally been the first person Murdoch had met who said would rather not be on the Titanic.
"Why is that?" Murdoch asked, not bothering to disguise or tone down his puzzlement.
"Why didn't you do it then?" Ada asked a heartbeat later, her words driving a proverbial spear into Wilde.
The now Chief Officer of the Titanic averted his eyes from them and grabbed his cap, swirling it around for a few moments before setting it back on his lap and looking at them again.
"Well, I was hesitant to do it because I didn't want to bump you down, old pal," Wilde finally replied.
Murdoch nodded. Even though that didn't change the fact Wilde had bumped him down, it still gave him a bit of relief to know Wilde had at least taken his feelings into consideration. He'd met men who wouldn't do it. At the same time, he noticed Wilde had mentioned neither Lightoller nor Blair, but the truth was that Wilde didn't like Lightoller, and his relationship with Blair was almost less than an acquaintanceship. There would be no reason for Wilde to take the feelings of either of them into account, at least to a great extent.
Still, Murdoch wasn't fully convinced. Although he didn't doubt that at least one of Wilde's reasons had been the one he had just voiced, he couldn't help but to feel there was more to his hesitance.
"As for the second question, Mrs. M… it was for many reasons. For one, I thought it'd be wiser not to risk my employment. The bosses could think I'd lost my mind by turning down this sort of assignment, and that could reflect on my future jobs."
Ada's stern look stayed as immobile as if it was carved out of stone. In fact, Murdoch had the impression it deepened a bit.
Wanting to help his friend avoid Ada's anger, Murdoch said, "I see where you're coming from. Considering the racket everyone's been making about how grand the Titanic is, anyone is bound to be found crazy if he doesn't simply adore the ship."
Murdoch knew he could be exaggerating a bit, but not much. The Titanic had been near-worshipped since before her launching on May 31st last year. Even though she was basically an improved version of her slightly older sister ship, the small difference in tonnage and size between the two of them, as well as the luxuries that had been added to the younger ship, were more than enough for there to be more of a frenzy regarding her than there had been with the Olympic.
"Also, everyone around me was telling me what a grand opportunity this was," Wilde carried on. "Chief Officer on the Ship Of Dreams, second in command of a floating palace, and all that. I was even told that with Captain Smith's impending retirement I could be next in line to becoming the Olympic's Captain."
Ada's stern look again deepened, but Murdoch let out a bark-like guffaw.
Wilde captaining the Olympic or the Titanic so soon after being appointed Chief Officer? As good as Wilde was at his job, a ship like the Olympic would never be his – or any officer's – first command, at least in this day and age. Just who had been the idiot who came up with such a nonsensical comment?
Wilde didn't laugh, but a smirk stretched his lips for an instant, and he shook his head slowly just from recalling the comment.
"I know," he said. "I couldn't believe it when I heard it either."
At that moment, Murdoch got a strange feeling that told him Ada was about to open his mouth, and quickly turned around to grasp her hands, giving her a look that requested her to not tell anything yet. He wanted to hear Wilde to the end, and he had the feeling he wasn't done yet.
Sure enough, Wilde, now with a wistful look on his face, said, "And also, I just thought my children would be so happy if I accepted it."
Even as Murdoch let go of Ada's hand and turned around, Wilde smiled thanks to some memory, and said, "They got so excited when they heard I was going to work on the Olympic, I can only imagine how they'll be now that I'll get to work on the Titanic, even if it's only for one voyage."
At long last, Ada's expression softened, and she nodded to herself, apparently finding that reason the only one acceptable out of all the ones Wilde had given.
Although Murdoch himself still felt a little sad at not being Chief Officer anymore, he also understood why Wilde had done it. After all, his four children could do with any source of joy they could get, after the two tragedies they'd had to go through. Even though they had been sixteen months before, they had all been quite young – with the oldest being only ten – and children always took time to recover from such things.
Again, however, Murdoch could sense Wilde's hesitance. It was obvious that if he was doing this, it really was for his children more than anything else.
That was further confirmed when Wilde flickered his eyes from one end to the ship to the other, as though he was afraid some disaster would pop out of nowhere and wanted to avoid it before it happened.
And his unease didn't make any sense. Wilde was one of the toughest and bravest men Murdoch had known. He'd managed to keep a cool head even when the Olympic had collided with the Hawke seven months ago, which Murdoch knew from experience had been no easy feat. So why would Wilde be nervous now?
Murdoch started considering whether he should ask, but before he came to a decision, Ada decided to speak up again.
"I can't say I don't agree with your last reason, Henry," she said, now speaking in a sympathetic and understanding tone. "If I had any children, I'd try my best to make them as happy as possible."
Murdoch turned to his wife and smiled fondly at her, holding her hand again, "I would too, Aid."
A noticeable blush came to Ada's cheeks, and she looked down at the ground. On cue, Wilde stood up, and jammed his cap onto his head.
"Well, I guess I'll be leaving now," he said. "And if I were you, I would get going soon, Will. The Captain might be mad if he knows you're doting on your wife instead of seeing to the ship."
Murdoch nodded. "I'll keep it in mind," he replied.
Then, as if out of nowhere, Wilde's sentence made him remember something, which he couldn't help but get curious to know.
"Say, Harry, now that you mentioned Captain Smith… what did he want with you and Lights?"
Wilde's look darkened at the mention of Lightoller, but he quickly pulled himself together and said, "Nothing special. He was just telling us both that he – like the whole White Star Line – knows that the two of us have a relationship worse than that of a cat and a dog, but that Ismay asked him to tell us to make sure we do get along for this voyage. After all, also like the Captain said Ismay told him, it's the Ship Of Dreams' maiden voyage we're talking about, so me and Lightoller simply must get along."
This time, Murdoch didn't guffaw. Instead, he laughed more heartily than he should have been able to under the circumstances.
Asking Wilde and Lightoller to get along seemed as likely as asking the Loch Ness monster to come up to the surface, share a glass of scotch with the local town's population, and then start giving weekly tours to the bottom of its lake.
Alright, maybe that was an exaggeration. Both Wilde and Lightoller were professional enough to get along in spite of their extreme dislike for each other. But still, the picture of both of them trying to act civilized toward each other as their overall postures conveyed the fact they wanted nothing more than to insult each other with all their strengths at the very least was just too funny for him not to laugh at it.
"If I was simply told I had to do it, I'd probably be laughing too," Wilde muttered, sounding as if he'd swallowed some bitter medicine. "But considering I'll actually have to put up with Lightoller, the only thing I feel like doing is vomiting."
Not wanting to actively talk ill of his friend, or to support someone who did so, Murdoch simply nodded. Ada, however, was more vocal in her opinion.
"You men," she said. "I honestly will never understand how you can form such grudges for no reason."
Taking the chance that his wife didn't see his expression, Murdoch grinned to himself. While some men could form grudges for no reason, women weren't any less likely to do it in his opinion. He wasn't thinking about Ada especially, but he knew of some women who also formed groundless grudges, and which were, in a way, worse than those between men. But there was no way he was going to point that out to Ada. And thankfully, Wilde didn't make the remark himself.
"What can I say?" he asked as he shrugged. "I just don't like him. And I know he doesn't like me either, so at least we're in agreement. I don't lose any sleep over it, and the same happens to him for sure."
Indeed. Murdoch couldn't help but to think.
He'd seen both sides of the Lightoller/Wilde dislike – as both of them were his friends – and both of them seemed to feel exactly the same way toward the other. Which, like Wilde had said, was just fine, as it meant both were in agreement. At least as long as they remained professional enough to act as they'd always had, with neither acting on their dislike beyond getting a few verbal jabs on the other.
"Well, like I said, I'm going," Wilde replied. "Remember what I told you, Will."
In a lower tone, he added, "And again, I'm sorry things had to happen this way."
With that, Wilde gave Ada one nod of farewell, pivoted on his heel, and started to walk away.
Although not exactly thrilled at having to walk away from his wife, Murdoch knew he had to follow him.
Hoping to make this easy for both, he turned around on his seat and held Ada's hand. "I'm sorry, Aid, but I really have to go. There's still a lot to get ready, and most of the crew seem to require a lot of prodding to get working."
"I understand," she said, and Murdoch knew she was being honest. If she didn't understand, she'd never have married him to begin with.
"I'll see you tonight," he promised.
Then, unable to stop himself, he added somewhat mischievously, "Who knows, maybe we can even make one last try for a child before I have to leave, eh?"
Again, Ada's cheeks became much rosier than they usually were at that remark.
"I'd like that," she said, giving him the silly grin of a love-struck schoolgirl, which he still managed to get out of her on occasion.
Finding her too charming at this moment to pass up the chance, Murdoch leaned forward and kissed his wife.
In spite of her surprise, she quickly returned it, until they had to pull themselves apart for not to let their kiss escalate to levels that just couldn't be seen in public.
Then, with deliberate slowness, Murdoch stood up from his deck chair, helping Ada up as he did so.
"See you later, Aid," he said.
"Likewise," she said. "And good luck in getting the ship ready."
Exchanging one last smile, the couple slowly let go of each other's hands, until Murdoch finally turned around, and walked away, ready to continue getting the Titanic ready for her departure tomorrow morning.
So... this was my first chapter - or rather, the prologue. I hope you enjoyed it - but remember, I welcome any and all sorts of reviews, except for flames. Therefore, feel free to give me your opinion on this, no matter what it is.
Also, before any Titanic history buffs start pointing some things out to me, please let me give you a few informations.
1) According to a letter written by the real Henry Wilde, it was only on April 9th that he got to know he would be sailing on the Titanic for her maiden voyage, so it is historically compatible that it is only on April 9th that the other officers are informed as well.
2) However, on April 7th, the real Henry Wilde already wrote a letter which was sent from the Titanic where he said he was on it, but he wasn't sure if he would be sailing on her yet. At the same time, the real William Murdoch did write a letter to his sister Margaret (nicknamed Peg) on April 8th, and according to which he already seemed to be quite sure that he wouldn't be Chief Officer after all.
3) According to that letter William Murdoch wrote on April 8th, his wife Ada was indeed visiting him, and according to a follow up letter he wrote to his parents on April 11th, he had left Ada quite well on the morning of the previous day, which could perfectly mean she'd either stayed with her husband on the Titanic until it left port, or that she'd come to visit him one last time before the departure. However, I confess I didn't manage to find anything that gave me final confirmation on either point. On a similar point, the real William Murdoch did affectionately refer to Ada as "Aid".
4) Regarding Wilde and Lightoller disliking each other, I confess I didn't find anything that proved it in a hard and fast manner, but I read several references to that, and with all due respect to the real Lightoller and Wilde, it seems the sort of thing permissible to include in a fanfiction. My apologies to anyone who might be offended by this interpretation of things.
Lastly, I obviously have no idea how the reshuffle took place exactly, or of how the officers were informed - or of who was informed first hand, for that matter. But it seems historically permissable that only the officers themselves were informed in a firsthand manner, as even some senior crewmen were known to be unsure as to who was the Chief Officer.
Well... this is all, for now. Like I already said, I welcome any and all sorts of reviews other than flames.
Thank you all for reading.