Title: Blood on the Moon

Fandom: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Summary: It's a long way back to the Galapagos, and there's blood on the moon.

Disclaimer: Still own nothing. Still not profiting. Damn.

Hey everyone. A short follow-up to Albatross, but this can be read as a stand-alone.

Movie-verse, again, but some spoilers for Master and Commander (the novel). There will be one

more piece to finish this arc, but it won't be posted for a little while. Cheers and happy holidays.

Blood on the moon.

Somewhere on the edges of his mind, Jack remembers this phrase, and wonders if it

applies to the foreboding he had felt until the morning Stephen was shot.

True, when not applied to all matters nautical, Jack will be the first to admit that he's a

trifle weak-minded. He can't even remember where he'd heard the term, let alone its exact

meaning. Certainly not from Stephen, who is far too pragmatic for such dire Irish prophesying.

Perhaps it came from Dillon, poor, wretched Dillon, who'd been romantic at heart, whether he'd

admitted it or not.

Dillon, who'd spent his last moments bleeding on the starboard gangway of the

Cacafuego. Lost to the world before Jack could ever make amends.

An experience he never wants to repeat.

Jack's sleep that night is understandably troubled. When dark dreams wake him for the

fourth time, he curses and rolls out of his hammock, heading out the door towards the sick-berth.

Blood on the moon, he thinks, and curses again.

He sits with Stephen, speaking to him softly, though he doubts his presence has any effect.

His friend is feverish, and his eyes dart about the little cabin, dazed and unseeing. His skin is

white, past even its normal pallor, bathed in an unhealthy sweat. He murmurs in Latin, in his

native Catalan, sometimes calling out to people Jack cannot see; to Diana, mostly, but Jack hears

his own name whispered more than once.

He leans forward to rest a hand on Stephen's too-thin chest, but the other man doesn't

acknowledge him.

Higgins comes in several times during the night, with fresh linens and water. He tries to

coax his captain to bed, but it is dawn before Jack stumbles towards his cabin, raw and gaunt with

exhaustion. He dozes for a restless hour before Killick brings his breakfast.

Stephen's injury casts a pall over the whole ship, over the little wooden world he fights so

hard to hold together. Even Killick's natural contrariness seems subdued, for he quietly serves

ship's biscuit, salt pork, and coffee, taking away the last night's untouched plate without a word.

Jack sits for a moment, letting his tired eyes wander. Weak sunlight filters through the big

windows, illuminating patches of the scarred table. A page of the Corelli lying in the corner,

unretrieved after their last duet. Stephen's cello, propped against the chair in mute accusation.

He emerges on deck ten minutes later, noting the uncharacteristic quiet of the hands.

There is a stillness, a sort of tension entirely different from the doldrums of a ship becalmed.

Then he sees Pullings striding towards him, glass in hand, and he knows, with a sinking heart, that

there will be a sail on the horizon.

So he stands under the foremast, glass to his eye, and sees the future split into two

courses. Home to England, with the Acheron as a prize, commendations, celebrations, a

paragraph in the Gazette...

...completely dead inside, with his heart buried under the dark waters of the Pacific. Sewn

in canvas with the last stitch through his nose.

And Jack knows, with perfect and certain clarity, that he would rather return and die

disgraced than lose Stephen.

The men understand, certainly, at some level, for there is no grumbling when he gives the

order to reverse course. And Jack sees speed and diligence that has nothing to do with the

bosun's rope.

There's long miles of sea between the Surprise and the Galapagos, and Jack intends to

strain every inch of canvas along the way.

Later, the litter sways as the men carry it over the rocky ground in the half-light of dawn.

The moon had been clear that night, for the first time in a week. Jack is glad of it, and prays that

it bodes well.

Stephen opens his eyes, still dreamy with pain and opium, takes in his surroundings, then

fixes his gaze on Jack. A cracked, parched whisper. "Please say this wasn't for me."

"Nonsense," says Jack, and his voice is almost steady. "I just needed to stretch my legs."