A Shoulder to Mope On
Chapter 4: Storm Brewing
Location: Steamhawke, crew deck
Timeline: Day 1
The Captain was ignoring her still, Dottie thought. Once the team came back from the sandbank, the Captain had not said two words to her. And now she was in the engine room, trying to figure out why the engines were silent, she supposed. Dottie was busy anyway. There were ropes to be coiled, cannons to be cleaned and hammocks to be fixed. So to start, Dottie sat down in a chair on the crew deck, with a cup of coffee and a cigar in her mouth.
It was Wren that came upon her, looking as if he was very much on the move with his arms full of several boxes and a slice of buttered toast hanging from his mouth. He'd been taking the shortcut from his quarters, through the rec room, on his way to the workshop to dump out some of the half-finished gizmos and gadgets he'd hauled on board with him when he'd first joined the crew. But the sight of the human he'd not yet met gave him pause. And while everyone else was running around doing this and that, she was sitting around and enjoying herself a cup of coffee. That didn't sound like such a bad idea. The next instant, the boxes hit the floor with a muffled clatter and Wren pulled half of the toast out of his mouth, finally chewing and swallowing the other half before shooting Dottie a lop-sided grin.
"You look busy," he offered, flopping down into a chair across from her. His tone was amiable enough despite the sarcasm the words themselves should have summoned.
Her first thought was to be irritated at the interruption, and to address the suggestion she wasn't doing much. Then she realised that she really wasn't doing much and nothing she'd say would make a good impression. So throwing it the other way, she said: "I am!" To illustrate, she put her feet up on the table, grinning around her cigar and puffing out smoke. Wren just lifted an eyebrow.
"Who are you again?" she asked. With so many new faces on board, and her tendency of late to mope about in dark corners, she had not been very social. She'd seen this guy around, and knew his name was Wren, but she wanted a formal introduction of sorts.
"Ah, I'm Wren," he supplied unhelpfully, settling easily into the chair with an arm thrown over the back of it. Blue eyes studied the woman across from him. Like much of the crew, he had glimpsed her around here and there, but he'd always been busy and she'd never really warranted much attention before now. He couldn't think of any name to stick with her face. "I'm a combat engineer," he continued after a moment. He really didn't even like that title all that much. "Or more of a gadgeteer, I guess." And that was what he'd always labeled himself before he'd found a place on the Steamhawke.
"And you're Alisel, right?" It was a wild guess, but he continued on as if he couldn't even fathom the idea that he was wrong. "The captain might be cross if she knew how busy you were down here, Alisel," he suggested with a teasing smile. Wren leaned to the side against the armrest, propping his head up on the back of his hand.
"Alisel?" Dottie almost spits outb her cigar, laughing. "Oh, I am not Alisel. I am Dottie O'Toole. I am the... I was the first mate. Temporarily. Yep, I had the Captain's ear, and all. Captain won't mind me taking a break." She sucked on the cigar, puffing out more smoke. It was hard to keep smiling though. Her frown returned.
"First mate, eh?" said Wren. "How ... interesting." Clearly, she was no longer the first mate, and that piqued his curiosity.
"Got replaced though. Captain thought I might be better suited to... well, I was thinking, I might sign up for the war dogs, you know?" She took the cigar out of her mouth and tried to get a whisp of tobacco leaf off her tongue. "I am pretty good with guns, and knives. Might be nice to see some action now and then."
Wren nodded absent-mindedly, taking a moment to break off another piece of his toast and pop it into his mouth. Combat was all good and fun, and Wren did enjoy explosive traps. But all in all, he was more at home with the less bloody gadgets.
"If you think about it, then maybe you should. But why didn't the captain move you there in the first place?" He knew very well he was prying somewhere he probably did not belong, but Wren just smiled easily at the woman, never showing any degree of unease with the subject.
Dottie didn't know whether to cry or glare. She'd always been second choice, never quite good enough, never really 'one of the boys'. But crying would make her look weak, so she glared at Wren. His smile was friendly though, and diffused any anger bubbling inside her. She had rarely been around someone who was so relaxed, and who didn't seem to challenge or question her abilities. She almost felt she could let her guard down. At least a little.
"The captain doesn't think much," Dottie said a little roughly. "Or she doesn't think much... of me." She stuck the cigar butt between her teeth and grinned. Wren just sat there looking at her, still chewing his toast. "I'll..., ehh,... I'll talk to her about it though." She frowned and took the cigar out of her mouth again, playing with it, feeling the heat from the tip almost searing her fingers. "She owes me. I worked bloddy hard before that Aeolus came on board. And where is he now, eh? You rarely see him, he never talks to the crew, or at least... not to me."
She was looking at the table as she said this, and stole a quick glance to see how Wren would react to her badmouthing both the captain and the first mate.
"Oh, I know, he's absolutely awful," he responded in a chipper tone. Wren had no clue what he was talking about, but when people were upset, sometimes they just needed to get it off their chest and, even better, find someone to rant with. "And he has warts," he finished with a faint laugh and a twist of his nose.
The laughter faded, but there was still that ever present smile on his lips as he swallowed down the rest of his toast and leaned forward so that his elbows were resting on his knees. "But you said you're good with a gun? How about some target practice then? Wouldn't want to get rusty now, especially if you're gonna be a war dog." Wren was pretty handy with a gun himself, though he rarely took advantage of the opportunities to use one.
Just then the engines came back to life. Dottie sighed. "Maybe later. Can't keep sitting still if the engines running. Just doesn't feel right." She got up and pushed the burning cigar, no more than a little stump now, into the table. It left a burn mark, but Dottie carefully put the leftover cigar away in her breast pocket.
"I'll see you around." With that she grinned and walked off, in no hurry to get any work done.
Wren shot her a grin and a slight wave of his hand, watching her wander off to do whatever it was she actually did around here. The young man sat there a few moments longer, feeling the vibration of the engines. They would soon be on their way. The blond pulled himself up and out of his comfortable seat, grunted a little as he hauled the box back up and, trying not to drop it, continued the trek he had been on before he'd been interrupted by the former first-mate and her own personal dramas of the Steamhawke.