Who: Zaire, Killick, various NPCs
When: February 28, 872 RoK, late evening
Where: The King's City. A seedy inn near the pier.
"Pacin' ain't gonna make it easier, Cap'n."
"I know," Zaire answered, pausing by the rain-pelted window and shooting his Sailing Master a dark look. Pacing wouldn't make seeing his son easier, but it did give him an outlet for the anxious pent up energy in his muscles. Oddly enough, it felt similar to those moments as they drew up alongside a prize, where there was nothing to do but wait to board and anticipate the battle to come . . .
"I know th'boy," Henry Gladstone continued, tearing another chunk of bread off the loaf and using it to sop up the last bit of stew in his bowl. "Y'two may 'ave yer differences, but he'll be 'appy t'see ya alive."
Zaire didn't answer, his eyes instead going to the window again. Out of all his crewmates, Mr. Gladstone knew his family the best. His wife, Cissa, was close to Eloise and while most of their children may have been older than Zaire's, they'd all grown up together on the Island. Henry's son, Omar, had even saved Killick's life when the boy had tried to sail away from home on a raft he'd lashed together himself. Out of all of them, Zaire trusted Gladstone's judgement the most in these sort of matters, but that didn't stop him from second-guessing and wondering if this would be the time the sailor was wrong.
A moment of silence stretched between the two and Zaire found himself nearly convinced that Killick wouldn't show up. It wasn't far fetched, the idea that Killick would refuse the summon simply to spite his father; he'd been known to make many questionable decisions for that reason alone. Zaire had sent Chaz, close in age to Killick and the most likely to be able to navigate his way through the College campus without drawing attention, but he'd told the young pirate to not push the issue if the boy wouldn't come.
"An' if he refuses?" Zaire asked.
Gladstone shook his head, the scar bisecting his dark face catching the light from the fire and making him look far more menacing because of it. "He thought ye were dead, Cap'n. He'll be 'ere."
Killick didn't know what he was doing. Still, he'd followed Chaz because at least the time spent with someone else leading the way gave him the opportunity to think. Unfortunately, there was no amount of time in the world that would have been sufficient. Chaz alone was a good sign that his father was alive and well - did he really need to see him for himself to be sure of it?
He'd paced when Chaz first found him. Paced and fidgeted as Chaz explained as much as he needed to, and hated how small he felt.
Because even after being gone for months, even after being dead, Zaire could just show up and make demands and expect everyone to snap-to. Because they would. Because he would. It was enough to make Killick reconsider, for him to stop twice to argue with Chaz, whose job it wasn't to convince him, but even the second time ended in Killick throwing his arms up for Chaz to lead on. Because he might as well.
And because, if he was wholly honest, that moment they pushed through the door and out of the rain was relief he hadn't known he'd been waiting for. That wash of cool, calming water swept over every inch of him with his father finally in sight, and even the deepest well of spite couldn't keep the anger in his shoulders or the hint of a smile off the corners of his lips. Nor did it do a damn thing for the crack in his voice that managed its way into even as small a word as "Pa-"
And then the moment arrived right along with Killick and Zaire felt every ounce of anxiety seep from his muscles in a rush of relief, his chest tightening with emotion at the crack in his son's voice.
His men didn't hang around, Gladstone collecting his food and then ushering Chaz out the door only to close it behind them, leaving father and son to have their reunion in private.
Zaire crossed the room, reaching to take his son's shoulders and move them both closer to the fire. "Yer soaked to the bone, boy," the pirate murmured, his dark eyes skimming over Killick's familiar features. His son was taller than he was now, Zaire realized, by at least an inch or two, but that didn't stop the pirate from wiping rainwater from his son's cheeks all the same. Cheeks coated with the scruff of whiskers.
"Look atcha," he said with a sudden smile and unmistakable pride in his voice. "You went and became a man in t'last year." And before he could allow himself to think twice about it, to hesitate, Zaire pulled his son in for a hug.
He shouldn't have been seen with Zaire - that much Killick knew was detrimental to the whole persona he'd been trying to craft, here. To be that man that his father saw, someone new and different and wholly his own, he needed not to be associated with pirates. It threw a wrench in the whole facade.
Just the way his father being there, alive and whole and preening over him, sunk every intent to keep his back straight and his chin high and his emotions in check. Chaz and Gladstone were gone anyway, but it wouldn't have stopped Killick stepping in to the relative warmth and safety and home that was his father's arms, the smell of sea-salt that would never be scrubbed free of his skin, the very physical presence of every memory of every hail that inevitably preceded a farewell...
He stood again to pull back once he'd satisfied the boyish need to be certain the man in front of him was no spectre, that he did seem to have all his arms and legs... only for it to be replaced by another childish urge: blame-throwing. "What happened? Where were you?" Things happened at sea. He knew that - they all did. Sometimes the weather was rough and no one came home on time. But months, half a year, that wasn't normal.
Zaire sighed and took a step back, running one hand over his beard, but his anger didn't rise to meet his son's implied accusations. Was Killick ready to know the truth? Zaire had always been careful about what sort of information he brought home; not only to keep his family from worrying, but also because Eloise had been clear about how much she wanted to know and that preference had influenced how much he told his children. But Killick was a man now and it didn't matter that he'd turned down Zaire's offer to bring him out on the sea, he had the right to have his questions answered honestly.
"Duchess Francesca 'ad us arrested," he admitted, settling down into the chair recently vacated by Gladstone. "Me an' Chaz, Jimmy too." He shook his head, "Wasn't enough to 'ang the three'uv us though; she wanted the whole crew and she got'em." He reached for the bottle of rum and poured two glasses, pushing one across the table toward Killick. "I talked her out'uv an execution and struck a deal instead but it meant a risky hunt for a helluva prize and those things take time, lad."
Impatience had Killick near to fidgeting until his father was speaking again, and then he really was - looking back after the door Gladstone and Chaz had left through, worry knitting his brow and twisting in his chest. He'd long since decided not to be part of this, not to sail on his father's ship or any other when the goal was piracy. He'd made that choice to divest himself of that birthright, but it was as much a part of him as the blood thrumming nervously through his veins.
Chaz, Jimmy, Bosede, Gunther, all of them - they were family, and it gripped his gut to think they could all have been hung for criminals without him ever knowing. Without ma ever knowing-
He forced himself to breathe again, but with it came a snap: "Talked her outtuh-" Killick felt the slip back into that rural dialect he'd fought so hard to strip away, along with everything else that painted him as not from here, but he grabbed the glass - if for nothing else than something to hold, something to jab in Zaire's direction after it had been drained sufficiently. The liquor helped him keep his voice down, if not any more level; Killick let the current take him. "You coulda got'em all killed. None'uv us the wiser, not that you'd cared."
Zaire watched the anger play across his son's features, watched him drain the liquor from the glass in a single pull to rival any grown man and the pirate felt a well of pride fill him at the sight. But there was one thing that growing up hadn't tempered, and that was Killick's ability to cut to the quick with nothing but his words. They were accusing and just as sharp as any warrior's blade and while Zaire's temper may not have risen in response to Killick's earlier words, he found himself fighting a losing battle now.
"Ev'ry man an' woman on my crew 'as chosen t'be there, lad, and ye know that," he fired right back, hand tightening around his own glass, still filled to the brim and waiting to be drained. "I make no decision without their say-so."
To a point. In battle, his word was law, but there was a certain democracy aboard a pirate ship and he'd spit in the face of that when he'd made that deal with the Duchess. He hadn't given a second thought to whether his men would agree to it because what choice had any of them had? No, Zaire had saved each and every one of them who had made it from the deck of the 'Song to Francesca's dungeon and he'd not have that thrown back in his face.
He drew a deep breath, downed the rum, and then added in a much calmer tone, "Every minute I sat in that dungeon, all I could think'uv was gettin' back t'yer mum, yer brothers an' sisters. Gettin' t'see you again."
"Oh, aye?" There was a snarking edge to Killick's own voice even as he watched the signs he ought to back down from. Knew to back down from - that line in his father's brow, and the way his words went even as a keel on flat water. The calm that lulled inexperienced sailors into a false sense of security as the storm brewed just out of sight...
"So when'd we get t'choose? When's our say-so factor inta yer decidin', ah?" But Killick wasn't an inexperienced sailor. He'd grown up on the water as much as anywhere else, and he knew exactly what he was doing. Spitting in the eye of a hurricane and daring it to do its worst, as he reached out for the bottle with every intention of refilling his glass.
There was half a second of disbelief as Zaire simply stared at his son, wondering if he'd somehow misheard him, then the pirate's hand was reaching out to snatch the bottle of out Killick's reach and he was rising to his feet again only to explode: "You made yer choice, lad!"
Zaire was halfway around the table before he managed to rein himself in, drawing to a stop but still bubbling with anger. Who the fuck did Killick think he was, anyway? It was because of Zaire that his children hadn't grown up in a poor fishing village, that Killick had the freedom and the money to chase his dream of going into medicine rather than being forced into piracy the way Zaire himself had been! Ungrateful little bilge rat!
"T'wasn't I who sent ye here," he sneered, making his already well-known opinion on the King's City and it's fancy college perfectly clear. "Ye can go on wit blamin' me f'everything bad in yer life, but yer here because y'want t'be an' I didn't stop ya."
Killick bristled, a pup too young still to know better than to posture and snap at someone twice his size. Part of it was knowing his father was right. Part of it was knowing Zaire had willingly funded his decision to break away from the life that brought him this far. Not that he'd meant it the way Zaire had taken it -
But by the time the bottle was swept out of his grasp, Killick had no hope of smoothing down those raised hackles - his or his father's. They were never really good at seeing eye to eye... but things had got so much worse when Killick grew old enough to mouth off, just not quite old enough yet to think about it first.
The silence that fell for those few moments between them made it clear he knew he'd pushed his luck too far, until he straightened up and pulled his shoulders back. "Thanks f'the money, then, pa. S'do this again, next time y'almost get near e'ryone I know killed," Killick offered as he turned to go - thinking himself quite smart trying to get that last word in...
For half a second, Zaire thought that would be the end of it. That Killick would keep his mouth closed and they could, awkwardly, finish their visit before going their separate ways once again - and then the boy's shoulders had straightened and his mouth had opened--
Zaire dropped the bottle in his hand, leaving it to bounce on the threadbare rug before spinning wildly and splashing rum across the floor, and then that same hand was curling into the soaked fabric of Killick's cloak as he shoved his son into the wall with a slam that rattled the door on its hinges. "Next time," he ground out, lip curling over one gold incisor, "Ye'll be watchin' that tongue, boy."
It was a threat, without a doubt, but Zaire's family had a way of making those threats as empty as Mr. Larsen's pockets after a night of gambling. He wouldn't cut out his son's tongue, even though the next time they shared space they'd likely end up right back in this same situation. Still, Zaire held Killick's gaze in challenge, even as his speckled hands eased their grip in silent permission for the boy to leave if he so wished . . .
Killick couldn't help bristling - it was in his nature the very same way that vulgar violence was in Zaire's, the threat of it radiating from his body as searing hot as midday sun reflected off the water. It didn't matter that his back ached from where his shoulder blades struck the door, or that he was momentarily disoriented by how suddenly he was, once again, not in control...
Every inch of him wanted to fight back, to prove he wouldn't and how much he knew he didn't have to. After all, he was a bit old for whippings, wasn't he?
The struggle pulled the muscles in his face in tiny, barely perceptible twitches as he stared back, but couldn't bring himself to reply. Snarling words or thrown hands were neither of them forthcoming, and when Zaire let go, Killick found himself taking the out - no matter how much he wanted to do anything but. The night rain welcomed him back, at least...and gave him an excuse to keep his head down on the way home.