Posted by Gurtchmann
Ezikial stood beside Captain Chopper, looking as intimidating as he could. Despite his desire to slaughter the captain of the Famished Mane, he left her be and watched the crew instead.
When Reiko took the man, Saburo, aside to speak to him, Ezikial noticed Leila watching them intently. She glanced away and saw him watching her and she turned, heading to the officer’s quarters of the Crisis. Thinking that it may be an issue of concern to the ship, Ezikial followed, still bloodied from the wounds he had taken. Catching up to her inside the cabin, he dropped his scowl and aggressive posture. “Leila, what is it?”
She glanced at him and then away. “It’s nothing, Mr. Hands. I’m all right, or I will be.”
This seems less like a “ship’s problem” and more like a personal one, he thought, but it would be better if I found out for sure. "Tell me,” he said, trying to soften his usual roughness. When she hesitated, he continued, “It isn’t as if I speak so much that I would spill your secrets. And you have become a shipmate.”
She paused for a moment and seemed to warm to the idea, then spoke: “I don’t know if you can. I don’t know if anybody can.”
What was this? A curse, a secret oath, hidden knowledge, maybe even a geas? His mind pondering the possibilities, he said to her, “Maybe I will not be able to help, but if you don’t tell, we won’t know will we?” He leaned against the cabin wall, near the door. He knew that many found him uncomfortable to be near and did not wish to scare her into silence.
She took a deep, bracing breath, then said in a rush: “I am in love with Reiko, and I am afraid to tell her.”
It was only by the narrowest margins that he kept the shock off of his face. This was NOT what he expected, but he could still see what it had cost her to admit that out loud.
“And when I saw that man,” she went on, “I felt… jealous.”
Ezikial fumbled for his flask. "Honestly, that is something I doubt you have to worry about.” He paused, thinking. "She seems disinterested in men, to me. Although I am not the best judge of such things.”
Another affair of the heart, he thought. I know Besmara is laughing at me.
He heard Leila sigh and focused on her again. “She is disinterested in shipboard romances of any kind,” the navigator said.
Ezikial slid down the wall until he was sitting on the deck. He took a long pull from his flask. Thinking about it, he much preferred his arrangement with Grok. Inwardly, he sighed. I opened this nest of wyverns and I have to finish it.
Focusing again, he realized how much this meant to one of his shipmates and dredged his mind for some solid, honest advice: "You have to tell her or it will eat at you forever.”
Leila looked at Ezikial. “Even if it costs me our friendship?”
“Even if it costs your friendship," he grated out as kindly as he could. "Even if she breaks your heart; at least you will know.” He paused for another long pull from his flask, the pain from his wound distracting him for a moment. "It will eat you up until you do. And I doubt you would love someone that would shun you for your confession.” Ezikial thought about it for a moment. “And if she does reject your love, you may find some solace by joining Sandara and myself in our drinking.”
She smiled a little. “You have helped me, Mr. Hands. More than you know.”
He held his flask out to her. “Shipmates.”
“Shipmates,” she mused while waving off the flask politely. She pulled herself together with a small, but visible effort. “We should get back to work before we are missed.”
“That may be wise, Miss al-Zahra. If you see Sandara, will you send her to me here? I seem to need some patching.”
“Yes, of course.” She moved past him out onto the deck with a lighter stride than before.
Ezikial sat drinking and pondered Besmara’s sense of humor in sending him to counsel his shipmates.
Sandara came in a moment later, casting a strange look back over her shoulder. “Aye, Ezikial, you do need some patching.”
Ezikial grimaced as she pulled his vest and shirt away from his wound. “Sister, you may wish to keep an eye on her,” he muttered as she began her healing.
“On Leila? Why izzat?” Sandara stopped to look at his face.
“Shoulder to cry on,” he said, shortly.
Sandara cocked her head, “You know somethin’ I don’t?”
He grinned a bit. "Private chat, Sister.”
She sighed in disappointment. “Fair enough.” After a moment, “She opened up t’you, huh? Life’s just full o’ surprises. Oh, I don’t mean nothin’ bad by that,” Sandara spoke in reassurance when Ezikial grimaced.
“Aye, I know, Sister. But we may need to set out another cup when we drink.”
“For Leila? She ne’er touches th’ stuff. Must be some cry she got comin,“ Sandara mused.
Ezikial shrugged. “Well, maybe she can tuck us in.”
“Aye, that’d be nice. Tired o’ wakin’ up all tangled in beddin.’” The “alone” was obvious to Ezikial.
He offered her a sympathetic grin, knowing that she was still hurt over Chopper’s rejection and recent “marriage.”
She held out a hand to pull him up and they went out on deck to watch the Famished Mane sail off to Tidewater Rock.