I'm surprised to find him sitting by the big table down in the galley. Ever since I'd half carried him aboard Howard's ship, the guy has been a total recluse; he has avoided all social arenas and have been keeping to himself.
He still is, given that the crew finished lunch over an hour ago, and the cook won't get started with dinner for a good while yet.
He brings the knife down so decisively I think he's committing harakiri or performing surgery on himself. The way he'd set his own broken leg without any sort of help - or anesthetics - kinda told me he was the type to do things his own way, and sure as hell not the type to do them half-assed.
The blade has a way wrong angle, though. Cutting through rind and pulp, it smacks very audibly into the cutting board. He brings the knife back up again and proceeds to split the halves of lemon into four parts. Putting the knife aside, he reaches for the last piece of the puzzle left on the table; a sugar shaker.
I don't like puzzles I can't solve, and ever since I first crossed paths with this bastard, he's been a damn walking enigma. Every time I think I know at least a little of what makes him tick, he does something totally unexpected. It's frustrating as hell.
But at least he put the weapon aside - not that he'd need it if he wanted to rumble; I'm sure he'd put up a good fight as long as he could protect his injury.
Hey, don't give me that look - I fight to win, not for sport.
I know he's already noticed me before I entered the room, but he doesn't bother to acknowledge me. That's one of the things about him that pisses me off. "So, what're you up to, huh?"
He's totally focused on the quarter of lemon in his hand, methodically powdering it with a thin layer of sugar. "Experimenting."
I grin at the opening, tempted to make any of a number of lewd jokes. I don't do it. He doesn't seem to like jokes much, so why waste my time and talent?
Turns out silence is just the thing I need. He graces me with a quick glare, then stares at the slice of fruit. "A remark one of the crew made got to me."
I gently raise a brow, cross my arms and lean against the support beam three feet to his right. He scowls at me from under those dark brown messy bangs, probably for daring to enter his comfort zone - but I'm still standing, still breathing, so I figure it's okay.
"Bittersweet," he mumbles to nobody in particular. Good thing I've got good ears. He tips the piece in his hand from one side to the other, studying it carefully. "The guy said that surviving a fall like that and still end up with a broken leg had to be real bittersweet."
"So what?" I shrug. The way his eyes suddenly remind me of icicles coming straight for me makes me jerk my neck back, but I stand my ground.
"It's completely illogical!" he bursts out, flashing me with another side of him I hadn't seen; outrage, frustrations at the little things in life. "It's contradictory! You can't have something that's both sour and sweet at the same time - those taste buds are at completely different parts of the tongue!"
"There's sweet'n'sour sauce in the pantry," I egg him on, earning a hard stare. That's a fun thing about him; I haven't lost a glaring match to him yet. I think I know why, but I haven't had a chance to test it yet.
"Names can fool you," he tells me, acting all sage-like all of a sudden. "You can't ever have it both ways," he adds, focusing on the piece of lemon again.
"Bullshit," I tell him, not bothering to present arguments for my views. "And there's plenty of stuff that fits that description," I tell him, pushing away from the support beam in favor of sitting at the edge of the table, gaining another foot. "For example, imagine this. You've been invited to the wedding of a girl you knew years ago in high school. At the reception, you get a chance to dance with the bride, and out there on the floor, where you're sure the groom can't overhear you, you give her a smile, tell her how gorgeous she looks and admit you had the biggest crush on her way back when - only, she doesn't giggle it off, like you expected - she just pauses, hugs you tight and whispers in your ear, 'you should have said something sooner...'. See? That's a bittersweet moment."
"No, that's what you get for not having any guts," he states flatly, finally putting the sugared pulp in his mouth, sucking hard.
I clench my teeth, my lips probably matching the scrunched-up line his makes. "Okay, how about this, then? You walk past a hardware store, and in the window you see this special set of wrenches you've been wanting for ages. You immediately go inside, only to have some other jerk beat you to it - the only set left - by three whole seconds. Now, that's bittersweet."
He deposits the husk of fruit, pushes away from the table and licks at his lips, apparently not crazy about his composition of flavors. "No, that's indecisiveness. If you'd ran, you'd have beat the other guy."
My left hand knots into a fist for a moment. Knew I shouldn't have used a real-life experience as an example. "Fine," I snap at him, "How about this? You're out for revenge against someone, you have been for ages - and then, when you finally nail their ass, you're flooded with bad memories of what you're avenging rather than the pure taste of triumph. Bittersweet," I tell him.
He doesn't answer right away, and for a moment I wonder if I've accidentally stumbled onto another facet - another clue. I only get a glimpse of it, though. "Those..." he starts tentatively, "Those are all emotional examples. I'm searching for something a little more... tangible," he tells me, finally looking at me - not glaring, or staring, or scowling. Just looking, as if I might actually offer him the insight he seeks.
They say you should be careful what you wish for - and they're damn right. On the odd chance you get it, it's bound to take a shape you never expected it to.
Pursing my lips, I make my decision. I grab two of the remaining slices of lemon and hand him one. "Here, suck real good at this." I take the lead, watch as he follows, and if we didn't share the moment, I might have grinned at the way he grimaces.
"Okay, now wha-"
I don't let him finish, I just slide off the table and down in his lap, mindful to keep my weight on his good leg. I dig my fingers into the unruly mop at the back of his head and kiss him, hard.
For a few fleeting moments, I can't feel my heart beat, can't breathe, can't think; all I can do is pray I was right about the staring contests.
When I finally sense him recovering from surprise, feel him kiss back, just as intense, I live again, body lax with relief - and I simply go with enjoying the moment for as long as it lasts.
When I finally pull back, a little reluctantly, I watch the bastard smirk at me, but that's okay. He's my bastard now, even if he doesn't know it yet. I grin back, but realize his sudden mirth is already fading. For a moment I think it's from the way my sticky fingers yank at his hair with my attempts at regaining my hand, but I know all too well that a little pain doesn't really bother him. I throw a guilty glance down at the floor, catching a glimpse of my slice of lemon down there, hastily discarded.
His palm caresses my thigh, but he doesn't look at me. I can forgive how he's actually wiping his hand off at my pants, given the shivers his touch sends up my spine - but the way he avoids my eyes? Uh-uh.
I slide my juiced hand down to his side, grab a fistful of dark green tank-top and pinch the flesh underneath.
He winces. He actually winces, and for some reason I don't think it's for show. I let him go in favor of rubbing my palm against the sore spot I created.
"...I have to leave tomorrow..." he mumbles, then finally dares to share a glance with me.
It's easy enough to see in that face, in those eyes, what he's waiting for, hoping for - what he's craving, almost as much as me. Tentatively, I lean closer and kiss him again, just as rough. My flat palm at his side cling to his tank-top as I raise it up, trailing fingertips against his slowly exposed skin. I feel his hand slide up my leg, cross my hip, cup my ass and squeeze gently.
Quickly, I shoot a glance at the clock above the pantry. Yeah, still two hours until the cook gets down here - and I figure there's got to be something in those cupboards we can put to good use.
He yanks my braid, calling for my attention. I brush a thumb across his right nipple, land kisses down the side of his jaw as he fingers the buttons of my pants.
Tomorrow is still half a day away, but I can't stop it from showing up, only go with what might be before it.