I'm honestly not sure where this came from. It's just one of those plot bunnies that appeared in my mind one day. And since I'm one for unorthodox concepts, I poked it with a stick. And this happened.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own a thing.
It was always times such as these, Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate had decided, when the beard felt heaviest.
"Hello? Are you feeling alright?"
He snapped back to reality, where Charles was waving a hand in front of his face. "Sorry. You can hardly hear yourself think in here," he said, absentmindedly waving his hand at the tavern bustle that surrounded them. "What were you saying?"
Charles looked puzzled for a moment, but he seemed to buy it. "It's your turn," he answered, gesturing to the backgammon board they had found in the cellar.
Rolling the dice, he moved one of his checkers forward and captured one of Charles's in the process. "How's that theory of yours coming?"
He brightened up at once. "I think I know why all the finches have different beaks...!"
Try as he did to listen to his friend, Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate's attention inevitably drifted back towards Cutlass Liz.
She was simultaneously an object of admiration and jealousy, and both for the same reason. No other woman went around hiding nothing as she did. There were some who shied away for fear of bad luck, but most of the men gave her their respect — she was a captain, after all. No such mercy would be shown to a lady who wasn't.
Still, the blonde-bearded pirate thought, what's it like to not go around in a silly thing like this?
Charles finally looked in the same direction he was. "You fancy her?" he said, watching Liz regale the crowd with the story of some perilous endeavor.
"Do I...? Oh, no, not at all!" Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate answered quickly. "Don't fancy anyone, really." He searched his mind for a way of changing the subject. "How 'bout you?"
Charles smiled sheepishly and shook his head. "They always fall asleep whenever I start going on about my notebooks."
"Well, that's their loss, then."
"Are you just saying that?"
"Wouldn't say it if I didn't think it." He tapped the board. "Your turn."
Things might have stayed the way they were, forever, if the Pirate With An Accordion hadn't chosen that moment to strike up a shanty.
The two friends groaned in unison as the familiar strains floated through the air, followed by the clamor of a thoroughly inebriated Black Bellamy standing up on a chair. "We are two mariners, our ships' sole survivors, in this belly of a whaaaaale..."
The rest of The Barnacle's Face soon joined in as the tavern filled with slurred, off-key caterwauling. Charles and Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate were nearly at the door when the staggering form of the Pirate Captain blocked their way. "And where do you think you coves are going?" he said, just as drunk as the rest. "You're missing the shanty!"
"We're just stepping outside for a bit, Captain."
"Come on, join us!" he answered, swishing his tankard of grog around.
Charles pushed it away. "Someone's got to make sure you get back to the boat."
"...Quite right." The captain instead grabbed Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate's arm. "I know you'd like to!"
"I really shouldn't, sir."
"That's an order, lad! Honestly, what is the world coming to? People shouldn't need to be ordered to enjoy themselves..."
Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate looked to Charles. "I won't be long — "
"No, it's alright," he answered. "You'll have more fun with them."
Before Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate could protest, the captain was pulling him back towards the rest of the crew. "Look, I'm only having one..."
"Captain, the boat's this way."
"I know that, Chuck!" the captain said before promptly turning around and beginning to walk toward the wrong end of the wharf.
Mr. Bobo pulled him back by the hem of his coat, and Charles steered him in the right direction as the manpanzee and Polly returned to herding the rest of the crew. One by one, each pirate was driven to the end of the street and up the gangplank of the Pirate Ship, slurring their words and tripping on their feet all the way.
Is. That. Everyone? Mr. Bobo asked as the Pirate With An Accordion stumbled past him, still playing snatches of the shanty.
Charles did a head count. "I think so." There was the captain, there was Scarf, there was Gout...wait, where had Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate gotten off to?
Someone ran into him from behind, nearly knocking him over. He whipped around with a start, only to calm down as he recognized the form of his friend. "Oh, there you are — "
The pirate let loose a drunken giggle. "You know," he said in a voice that was much, much higher than usual, "that shanty's not so bad once you get used to it."
Charles stepped back in surprise. "What on earth...?" Then he took a closer look.
...No. No. Just...no!
"I mean, it's got a nice tune," Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate continued, utterly oblivious to how Charles was staring in shock and horror at him — or rather, at her. "Don't you think?"
"...I-I think you had a bit too much to drink..."
"I'm fine, Charlie!" she insisted, stumbling and almost falling into the water before the words had finished leaving her mouth.
Charles barely managed to grab her arm and pull her back up in time. "Of course you are!" he said frantically. "Just worrying a bit, that's all!" Trying to touch her as little as possible, he gently placed his hands on her shoulders and steered her up the gangplank onto the deck.
She laughed again. "You're funny when you worry!"
"J-Just get some sleep."
Rolling her eyes, she stumbled over to the hold. "G'night," she said with a wave before disappearing below.
"...Goodnight..." He himself was beginning to sway a bit, and he made it to a crate just in time for his legs to give out.
Charles didn't get a moment of sleep that night. He simply paced around the deck, his mind racing with questions. Who was she? How did she end up here? Did the others know? No, of course not. They wouldn't allow a woman on the boat — would they?
I have to tell the captain.
It took him all of the next morning to work up to the task. It's the right thing, he repeated over and over. Besides, if you keep it a secret, you're going to blurt it out sometime, and then how will we deal with it civilly? Yes, it was the only way. Fully sure of himself, he turned around to go to the captain's cabin...and instead bumped right into her.
She didn't seem to notice his fearful expression. "Mornin', Charlie," she said in her false voice, rubbing her forehead wearily. "I didn't do anything silly last night, did I?"
"...Well..." He could feel his resolve tumbling down. "...No. No, of course not."
She smiled and walked away, and he was left to stare at the boards of the deck. What now?