In Irons 4 - Punishment
(Prompt #3 for Summer of Whump)
If a little bit of this seems familiar, it’s because I mixed what was originally Whumpay Day 9 in. I liked that drabble, and it’s what started this whole series, but it didn’t work perfectly as is and was super short. This chapter, on the other hand, ended up being really long!
Taglist: @darthsutrich , @a-series-of-whumpy-events , @ladydani101
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Warnings: lady whumpee (male whumper), imprisonment, restraints, starvation, dehydration, brief mention of noncon touch, brief emeto mention, hallucinations
The sound of footsteps on the wooden steps wakes Adelaide from a restless, uncomfortable sleep. Lifting her head off the dirty floor, where she had finally resigned herself to settle when she couldn’t stay sitting up any longer, she blinks and squints at the figure coming into the brig. His face is obscured by the light from the lantern he’s holding. Adelaide quickly uses her manacled hands to shove herself upright, then decides even that’s not enough to make her feel safe and wobbles to her feet.
The man comes closer, setting the lantern down just outside her cell so that she can finally make out his face. It’s Marshall. So far he’s never treated her unkindly, but that was before he knew her secret. Besides, he carries out the Captain’s orders, so he could very well be there to take her to her doom.
For a moment they remain silent. He stares at her, as if trying to reconcile her outward appearance with the knowledge he now holds. Not that there’s much hiding it now, not with her shirt still gaping open. She hadn’t been able to twist her hands around to rebutton it.
“Thought you might need some food and water,” he says finally, holding out a flask and a sliver of bread between the bars of her cell.
She glances down at the offering, and back up at his face. “How...how long has it been?” She doesn’t bother to deepen her voice this time, but the way it rasps in her throat doesn’t sound the most feminine, anyway.
Marshall gives her a look that she might would call sympathetic if she didn’t know better. “About a day.”
Nodding slowly, she eyes the bread again, not sure if she should trust it. “And has the Captain reached a decision on what is to be done with me?”
“Not yet. I’ve mentioned to him that ‘twas Adams and me that brought you aboard, and that you probably continued the ruse for self-preservation.” He shrugs. “If you’re lucky it might sway him to be more lenient. Captain hates being lied to, though.”
He had...spoken up for her? That’s certainly unexpected.
Adelaide runs her tongue over her dry bottom lip, listening to the water slosh in the flask as he speaks. He must notice, because he holds both it and the bread out once again.
“Here, take this. You’re gonna need it. Captain...doesn’t exactly know I’m doing this, so don’t say anything to anyone about it.”
Finally she walks forward, still a bit unsteady on her feet but trying her best to hide it, and takes the food and water. She feels awkward, unsure what to do or say, but settles on nodding and whispering, “Thank you.”
Clearing his throat, Marshall steps back and nods once, as well. “Alright. Well. Just...just slide that flask over toward the stairs when you’re done with it, that way if anyone else comes down they won’t think it’s yours. I’ll pick it up whenever I come back.” Without waiting for a reply, he bends down, picks up the lantern, and turns to disappear back up the staircase.
He doesn’t end up coming down to see her again until her fate has been decided. Adelaide nibbles at the stale bread and makes the water last as long as she can, obediently disposing of the flask when it’s empty and sitting back down to wait some more in the endless silence and darkness. By her best guess, another day has passed when more footsteps traverse the stairs. But when Marshall returns, he brings another man with him, and that’s when she knows it’s time to really be afraid.
The bright sunlight is nearly blinding as she’s escorted up onto the deck, ankles free but wrists still bound. It’s a beautiful day, though. The sea is calm this afternoon. Gentle. The kind of sea that makes sailing easy, makes her feel like she’s out there for leisure, not being forced into laboring for filthy pirates.
Adelaide tries to enjoy it, even as Captain Payne sneers at her and orders the men to bring her toward the bow. There’s no telling if and when she’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful day like this again.
The edge of the ship and the water loom ever nearer, and she has half a mind to start struggling, to fight to get away from the rail, but she knows it would do her no good. She can’t even stop walking, the men on either side of her propelling her ever forward with their vice grips on her arms.
“There,” the Captain orders, pointing. “Make sure it’s good and tight.”
Suddenly she’s shoved back, away from the water. Her back collides with something hard. Before she can process what’s happening, Marshall and the other man are working together to wind rope round and round her torso, pinning her to what she’s realized is the frontmost mast of the ship.
So she’s not being thrown overboard. That doesn’t make her feel more than marginally better, not when she still doesn’t know what is being done to her.
The two men finish their job, tying the rope off in one of their expert knots, and Marshall produces a key to remove the shackles from her wrists. It’s a relief to have those gone, at least, though she wishes she could move her arms in order to massage the sore skin left behind. The rope is tight, just as ordered, only barely loose enough to not cut off her blood flow. The thick fabric of her coat keeping it from digging into her skin and rubbing it raw is the only thing making it bearable.
There’s nothing, however, to keep the Captain’s spittle from landing on her face when he leans in to sneer at her.
“You’ll learn quickly that I don’t tolerate deceit of any kind on my ship.” She’s smelled many foul things in her time aboard this ship, but his breath may win the top spot. “You’ll stay right here for three days. If you’re good and don’t put up a fuss, I might let Marshall give you some water once or twice.”
She won’t give him the satisfaction of speaking, but she does level a steady, defiant glare back at him. The punishment scares her. She can’t deny that. She’s already weak from the last two days in the cell with very little to eat and drink. But he won’t see her break.
He takes another step closer, and she refuses to flinch. “And if you think that seems brutal…” He chuckles darkly. “Try crossin’ me again. Then you’ll see brutal.”
She wants to protest that she didn’t cross him, it wasn’t him she was originally aiming to fool, and technically no one on this ship ever asked her if she was a female. Instead she presses her lips tighter together and keeps her gaze out on the horizon as he walks away.
The evening goes by slowly. Her face is quickly chapped by the ever present wind that she can hardly turn away from, her eyes dried out by the same. Her stomach rumbles with hunger. That small slice of bread is the only thing she’s eaten in two days, and while she’s had to get used to much sparser rations ever since coming onto the ship, this is far worse.
Once the sun sinks below the horizon to her right, the temperature rapidly drops. The crew dwindles down to just the nighttime shift, leaving the ship in near silence. She can hear the slapping of the water against the hull. It gives her something to focus on, something other than the shivers that rack her body and the dryness of her lips. She even manages to be lulled into a kind of half-awake, unthinking state, though she doesn’t actually sleep until morning when the air starts to warm again. Then her sleep is fitful, frequently interrupted by the sounds of the morning crew going about their duties.
If she thought the evening and night dragged on, the next day is much worse. Hunger gnaws at her stomach and her lips are even more chapped. Adelaide can feel herself growing weaker as time goes on, slumping further into the ropes, head lolling forward from time to time without her permission. It’s becoming harder, too, to distract herself from her misery.
When Marshall appears in what must be the early afternoon, she nearly sobs with relief. The small flask he holds is quite possibly the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen. Without speaking, he unscrews the lid and holds it up to her lips, and glorious water washes across them and into her parched mouth. She doesn’t even care that it’s stale and luke-warm, it’s heavenly.
Marshall pulls the flask away after only a few seconds, and she’s so upset by the loss that she accidentally whines, though she quickly cuts off the embarrassing sound. He offers her a half-smile.
“Not too fast. We don’t want you vomiting it all back up.”
He’s right, that’s one of the most terrible things she can think of happening right now. Adelaide nods, regretting it when her head throbs, and keeps her eyes averted from his. He lifts the flask again, and she relishes every second she gets. All too soon, she’s having to turn her head to the side so that she can tip it further back, Marshall following the motion until the last drops are drained.
Replacing the cap, he turns to leave as silently as he came. Before she fully knows what she’s doing, Adelaide calls out after him. “Stay!”
When he looks back over his shoulder at her, brow furrowed, she drops her voice to a near whisper, cutting her eyes away again. “Please? Can you...would you…? I…” Her chin drops down toward her chest. “I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.”
From the corner of her eye, she sees him lean to the side, probably looking over the rest of the ship, maybe even gauging the Captain’s position, before he steps back closer to her. He, too, speaks in a low voice. “I’m sorry. I cannot. Not without getting myself in trouble and you in even more trouble.”
With that, he’s gone, leaving her to the sun and the wind and her own thoughts again.
On the second night she manages to doze despite the chill in the air. The second day, however, is the most miserable thing she’s ever experienced in her young life. As they travel farther south the days had been growing ever warmer, but this is by far the warmest day yet. The sun bears down on them all, but while the men shed their coats - and some even their shirts - she has no such option. Her throat is impossibly dry, her lips crack painfully. Running her tongue across them does little to moisten them and leaves a bitter iron taste in her mouth. The brightness of the sun makes her head pound even harder than before, and from time to time strange colors dance in her vision.
She’d cry if she could, but her eyes feel as dry as the rest of her.
This time when Marshall approaches she can’t stop herself from begging, though her voice rasps horribly. “Please, please, I need...I...please…” It doesn’t even make any sense, but he garners the urgency, regardless, and brings the flask to her as quickly as possible. Calloused fingers slide under her chin, as if he’s unsure whether or not she can keep her head up on her own. She’s grateful. She’s unsure of just the same thing.
He forces her to take it slowly once again, and she squeezes her eyes shut in between gulps, trying to savor the water as much as trying to block out the sun’s rays. When the water is gone, though, and Marshall begins to screw the lid back on, she opens them, blearily, to look at him. His coat is missing and his shirt is unbuttoned. She’d blush if she had the energy.
“I don’t...I don’t think I can…”
He gives her that half-smile again. She thinks maybe it’s a sympathetic smile, but she’s really in no condition to judge such a thing. “It’s only one more day. You’ll make it.”
That night her mind is filled with nonsensical thoughts and imaginings of people she knows for certain aren’t there at the time. Her husband’s face morphs into the Captain’s and back again. Her parents stand to the side and tell her what a good match it is, Marshall tells her she’ll make it, all while the Captain gropes her and berates her for not having children and Charles pulls the rope around her tighter, tighter, until she can’t breathe and can’t feel her limbs. She’s not sure whether she’s awake or asleep for any of it, she just wants it to end.
The third day passes without her really being aware of it. One moment it’s nighttime, the next the sun is climbing up into the sky, burning at her skin once again, and the next she’s falling, ropes finally gone, body collapsing to the deck without anything to stop it.
“Permission to take her to her bunk and get her some food, sir?” she hears, barely, as if from a great distance away.
Perhaps the permission is granted, perhaps not. All she knows is that she’s picked up, hefted over a broad shoulder like a weightless sack of flour, and she groans with the change in position and altitude. Again, time passes without her knowing, and when she’s aware of the world again she’s lying in her hammock, in the blessed dimness of the bunk room, and Marshall is there, with another flask and a bowl of something that smells wonderful.
“Hello there, Miss Gray.” His smile is a bit brighter this time. “You made it.”
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