Where the Water Roars
Chapter Nineteen: Breaking Rules
It was eerie to see smoke on the water. It was slowly drifting tendrils, curling upwards from the violent storm raging around them. The ship was in a frantic dash to find safe harbor behind one of the small islands to ride out the storm. Matt felt that the storm was a bit of a godsend, giving the already weary crew a nature sent break. He didn't want them becoming so worn down that they couldn't work when they were on the crab. They were mentally broken down too- everyone was worried about Kyle, even more so after his blackout on deck. The small Greenhorn gave off the air that he was alright, but everyone could see his smiles were not as bright or cheerful as normal and it was beginning to become unsettling.
Matt was quickly beginning to realize that Kyle wasn't the only one on board having problems. Alex was being ripped to shreds as he watched his brother slowly fall apart and to make matters worse, nothing Alex did seemed to help. There was a simmering jealousy burning in those green eyes every time Jack did something that made Kyle truly smile or laugh and Matt didn't want it to boil over. He knew that Alex would be quick to defend his brother if he thought that Jack was being too forward for even a second.
As if their lives weren't twisted enough, Matt was more than aware of his growing attraction to Alex. It was hard not to be attracted to Alex. Despite his large stature, Alex was kind and gentle and his interactions with Kyle had shown Matt how deeply Alex cared for those he loved. Of course, given his chance, Stephen had come along and ruined everything yet again. Now he had no doubt in his mind that Alex would associate him as the brother of the man who had broken his Kyle and the brother of the man who was trying to help Kyle; no real leverage of his own. The eight year age gap was also a problem. And on top of all of that, Alex Anderson was as straight as they come. Matt couldn't stop staring though; Alex was a wild flame that just drew him in.
And now, as Matt had come back from his shower, he wasn't surprised to see that Alex was just sitting out on deck amid the snow storm on a sorting bucket that he had turned over. His back was to the wheelhouse and Matt couldn't see what he was looking at, but Matt had a feeling that he knew where Alex was. He was feeling lost and simply staring, something to which Matt was no stranger to. He had an itch to talk to the younger man and when Kat came up to offer relief duty; he jumped at the chance, completely missing the knowing smile on her lips. Donning a coat over his hoodie, he pulled on rain gear and walked out onto the deck to try and easy some of Alex's turbulent emotions.
"Alex?" He questioned gingerly, coming to stand next to his fill in crew member.
Alex didn't say anything and didn't even turn to look at Matt. He twitched slightly when Matt rested a hand on his shoulder, but didn't move afterward. Matt studied him, trying to wrangle an emotion from his blank face. Alex's normally curly hair was tangled and wet from the wind and water, and hung around his face in a haphazard fashion. His eyes were ringed with dark circles, a sign of sleep deprivation and heavy worry. They made him seem gaunt as Alex possessed porcelain white skin unlike the dark and tanned skin of his two brothers. It was strange and unsettling to see the strongest and most intense of the Anderson's broken down into a grief stricken mess.
"It's not easy," Matt stated, talking loudly to be heard over the roaring winds and waters, "being an older brother. We have to watch our little brothers try and make their own way, and we know we can't do it for them or else they'll never learn. The best thing we can do is be there when they fall so we can pick them up and help put them on their way again."
"I failed him Matt."
Alex's deep voice was barely heard over the roar, but Matt picked up on the self loathing that was present in it. Matt wasn't sure if Alex was more torn about his brother's condition or the fact that he blamed himself for not being there to help Kyle.
"You can't always be there for him. It's not your fault Alex."
"Don't tell me it's not my fault," Alex bitterly snapped and Matt removed his hand from Alex's shoulder. "I promised that I would always be there for him and that I would always protect him and now this…" he didn't finish but returned to blankly staring at the ocean around them. "It's not fucking fair."
"Most things aren't," Matt said, sitting down on the bucket next to Alex, almost to where they were touching. "But the only way to get through them is to wait and see what tomorrow brings. Sitting in a pool of regret doesn't really do anything."
"I'm sure that's easy for you to say." Alex mumbled and Matt bit back a sarcastic laugh and his mind strayed to his hidden compartment.
"You know, once your wife cheats on you and then leaves you and you lose custody of your only child and then you wake up in the hospital only to realize you also failed at killing yourself, the world doesn't look as bad." He said nonchalantly and Alex gave him a sideways glance.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know," Alex told him awkwardly.
"Not many people do." Alex was immediately humbled by Matt's show of trust in telling him something so personal. "I thought that I had let Elise down after I found out that she was cheating on me. That if only I had been there for her, she wouldn't have looked for someone else. You know, if I had been a better husband and all."
"You can't stop someone from cheating on you, it's her own decision," Alex told Matt, turning around to face him.
"I figured that out eventually." Matt smiled wryly at Alex. "But the point I want to make is that you can be the best brother in the world and try your hardest, but some times things happen outside of your control."
"But-" Alex began to protest but Matt quickly cut him off.
"But nothing, Alex; you got there when you did and helped Kyle. Shit happened but you prevented worse things from happening. He will never think that you didn't try your best to help him."
"How do you know that?"
"I don't for certain, but I don't think Kyle could ever think any less of you."
Alex was silent again, but Matt could see the wheels turning in his head. He prayed that what he said had made sense to Alex. Matt wanted the lost and pained look on Alex's features gone and the old Alex back. The Alex with that smooth smile and smoldering eyes that reduced Matt to a stuttering little boy every time it came his way; the Alex who looked at him and connected with him like Elise had never been able to do. Alex the fierce warrior and protector was who he wanted on his ship, not Alex the silent sufferer.
"Thank you Matt," Alex said after another moment's pause, and he stood up.
Alex extended a hand to Matt to help him up off the bucket and Matt hesitantly accepted it, secretly marveling at Alex's strength as he pulled him up. Snow had settled on his coat and he gingerly brushed it off, careful not to rub it in instead and get wet. A small smile came onto Alex's face as he brushed the snow out of Matt's hair and Matt felt himself faintly blush. He was glad that it was so cold that his cheeks were already red or else Alex would have noticed it.
They walked into the mudroom and Matt waited for Alex to strip off his deck gear. He held the door open for him and they walked into an empty galley. Everyone had already eaten and showered, and were getting as much sleep as possible.
"Can I talk to you after I shower?" Alex asked Matt, as he went to fetch clothes out of the room he was sharing with Jack.
Matt nodded, mentioning that he'd have Kat fix him a plate of food to bring up with him so he didn't have to eat alone. Alex gave a little smile, and watched Matt walk up the stairs to the wheelhouse.
'God, he has such a cute little ass,' Alex muttered silently in his head as he quit ogling his temporary captain and turned to the hallway.
Sharing a room with Jack was a little tense. Generally speaking, he thought Jack was a decent guy. There were some unsettling rumors about him and his time on the Orpheus, but Alex tended to ignore the rumors after he had been the subject of more than a few harsh ones. He had heard nasty rumors about Matt too, but those seemed even more ridiculous than the ones about Jack. Rumors aside, Alex wasn't too happy about the fact that Jack was cozying up to Kyle. Alex had inquired to whether or not the rumors were true and was met by a rather tightlipped Jack who had firmly stated that he didn't talk about the past. What Alex hated even more than Jack's refusal to address what had happened on the Never Land, was the gut feeling that Alex had that made him trust Jack. He knew he could trust him, because he saw the way that Kyle looked at him and knew that Kyle wouldn't put that much faith into someone he couldn't trust.
Opening the door to their room, he noticed that Jack wasn't in there, and figured that he was probably in the wheelhouse with Kat or sitting in Kyle's room keeping him company. He was glad; he didn't want to get into another argument with Jack over the best course of action of what to do about Stephen and his crew. Alex wanted to report them to the authorities while Jack wanted to take care of it on his own. Alex didn't think that was a very good idea for he knew if Jack didn't kill Stephen than he definitely would. Promising Kyle he wouldn't hurt Stephen was one promise he wasn't too keen on keeping.
Grabbing his clothes, he made his way to the bathroom, still damp and hot from the last person who used it. Stripping off his work clothes, which were soaking from perspiration and stunk to high heaven, he sighed as the warm water took the grime of work off his skin. Wetting his hair, or rather re-wetting it as it was already soaked from sweat and sea water, he rinsed it out before applying a hefty dose of shampoo to it. Lather, rinse, repeat. After making sure the smell of being on deck was gone from his hair, he grabbed a bar of soap and scrubbed away the rest of the dirt and residue from being outside for so long. He scrubbed harder than normal, willing the uneasy and dirty feeling to leave him, but it had become a permanent feeling since Kyle had been attacked.
When he was as clean as he thought was possible for the time being, he turned the water off and dried himself. He wanted to talk to Matt. Ever since their night at the Rockthrow, when Matt had watched his back when he pummeled Stephen in the face, he felt a strange attraction to the older captain. When Matt had cleaned the cuts on his hand, he felt an unknown pull to him and the feel of Matt's lips brushing against his knuckles almost had Alex throwing the blond down on the table in front of everyone at the bar. He thought, if he wasn't imagining things, that Matt returned the lingering stares and was possibly interested in taking their tentative friendship further. Alex had no doubt in his mind that if Matt hadn't passed out a few minutes after they had returned from the Rockthrow, that their drunken adrenaline filled bodies would have taken them to the next level. Alex didn't do one night stands, though he might have made an exception.
He pulled on his boxers and light cotton sleeping pants and didn't bother with a shirt. They kept the interior of the ship at 80 degrees to help them keep warm when they came in off the deck. Hanging his towel to dry on the rack; he quickly stashed his stuff back in his room before slowly treading to Kyle's room and opening the door.
The fact that Kyle was asleep was the only thing that kept Alex from ripping Jack away from his little brother, who lay sleeping in his deck boss's arms. Jack was also asleep, face buried in the messy waves of Kyle's hair, clinging tightly to the recovering greenhorn. Alex scowled at them for a few minutes before he noticed how well Kyle was sleeping. His little brother had been caught in nightmares and every time he had fallen asleep and Alex poked his head in he could see Kyle's fear of falling back into them was taking a toll on his recovery process. But in Jack's arms, Kyle looked at peace and Alex let out a defeated sigh. He knew that some part of his anger and dislike of Jack was the jealousy and resentment of being replaced as Kyle's protector. Alex was having a hard time letting his brother go.
He jumped as he felt a hand on his arm and he turned to see Kat looking at him inquisitively. Alex had never spent an extended period of time with his older brother's girlfriend, but he had quickly learned why Jeremy liked her so much, and would even venture to say that Kat reminded him of his mother. He shut the door and followed her out into the kitchen, where she began putting together a plate of food for him to eat.
"I know that you're taking Jack's attraction to Kyle a little hard," she said quietly, not wanting to wake anyone up. "But he isn't going to hurt Kyle." She looked over at him. "I think he'd rather die than hurt Kyle."
"I know, it's just a little hard to deal with right now," he told her, taking the plate she handed him. "I just can't help but to think he has ulterior motives."
"Alex, do you know anything about Jack's past?" Kat sounded truly sad and Alex was instantly curious. "When Jack was nineteen, Stephen found him fooling around with one of his ex-shipmates. He told their parents, and their dad kicked Jack out. He didn't have money to finish college and he took what little he did have and came up here to find my dad and Matt.
"He felt like a charity case, so he got a job working for Cole Donovan, and I'm sure you've heard the rumors. When Cole was arrested, the rumors got worse and no one would hire Jack. But by then, Matt had his own ship and he hired Jack to be his deck boss. Something happened to Jack while he was working for Cole, and none of us know what it was. Ever since then, he doesn't think he's worthy enough to be with anyone and he shrinks away from relationships. Something fucked him up pretty badly and he threw himself into work and watching out for Matt so he wouldn't have time to lead a real life." She sighed. "But then Kyle came along and something changed."
She stopped talking and grabbed a sponge and began scrubbing at the stove top and Alex was startled to see a few tears making their way down her cheeks. He had never seen her cry before, not even after witnessing some of her brutal arguments with Jeremy.
"Kat?" He spoke her name softly.
"I just want them to be happy." She chucked the sponge angrily against the wall and crossed her arms across her chest. "Everything always looks so good and then Stephen has to fuck everything up for them." She stared at Alex and he felt fury rolling off of her in waves. "Matt and Elise got divorced because she was cheating on him with Stephen and Matt tried to kill himself when he didn't get custody of Abigail. Jack has been the best brother in the world by moving in with Matt and caring for him, giving up his life to help his brother. He finally found someone to make him happy when Stephen fucked it up again." She wiped angrily at her eyes. "Alex, if you only saw the way they looked at each other you would know they were right for each other. I guess Stephen saw it too, that's why he stuck his ugly bastard nose in their business. I hate him!"
She picked up the sponge and returned to her ferocious scrubbing. Alex stared at her with wide eyes. He didn't know how to respond to that. He placed a hand on her shoulder and was startled when she turned around and hugged him, sobbing into his shoulder. Was she always this emotional?
"Don't hate Jack for holding onto the only happiness he's had for years," she cried and Alex immediately felt guilty for how he treated Jack. "He wants to help Kyle so badly and it's tearing him apart because he blames himself for what happened."
Kat quickly pulled herself together and Alex saw a hidden strength in her that made his already formidable respect for her grow even more. She wiped at her eyes again and placed a kiss on his cheek and motioned for him to go and talk to Matt. Nodding, he grabbed his plate and headed upstairs.
Alex's emotions went in a complete turn around as soon as he hit the top of the stairs. Whereas Kat had put him in a guilty state, looking at Matt ignited something in him and all previous thoughts left his mind. His first day on the Tigerlily had him realizing watching Matt steering the boat was incredibly sexy. There was a fierce concentration in those blue eyes as they watched the waves and other obstacles around them and he found himself wishing that Matt would look at him like that. Matt was always chewing on a pencil or smoking, and Alex always wanted to snatch whatever was in Matt's mouth out of it and run his fingers over those pale lips to see if they were as smooth and cool as he imagined.
"What did you want to talk about?" Matt asked him, jarring him out of his wicked thoughts, and Alex sat in a chair on the other side of the wheelhouse and began to eat.
"I don't know what to do," Alex told Matt amid bites of his sandwich. "Nothing I do helps him and I spend half of my time beating myself up and the other half wanting to beat Jack up." He put his sandwich down, appetite gone. "I've never felt like this and it's driving me insane."
"I don't think beating yourself or Jack up will solve anything." Matt said lightly, shifting the boat into automatic and coming over to sit across from Alex.
"I know it won't," Alex grumbled, pulling out a pack of gum and offered a piece to Matt, who declined. "Doesn't mean I still don't want to do it."
"You help him more than you know. When people are hurt, they don't always seem like they want the help they are given, but they need it." Matt's voice was very soft and Alex detected the slightest bit of pain with it; he was still recovering from something and Alex deduced it was the divorce. "If they don't have anyone to fall back on, they just fall deeper into their problems and soon they're hurting themselves more than anyone else can." He shook his head and looked up at Alex. "It won't happen to Kyle. He has too many people that care about him."
"I don't know what to do when we get back to Seattle. I don't want him to be alone because I'm afraid Stephen will try to finish what they started."
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Matt hesitantly put his hand over Alex's and was relieved that Alex didn't flinch away. "We'll protect him, I promise Alex."
Alex looked at where their hands were touching and looked up at Matt. He believed him; he knew that Matt wouldn't make him a promise that he couldn't keep. He wasn't sure if he was imagining it, but he thought he saw a light blush on the captain's face and his thoughts returned to the night they came back from the Rockthrow. And was Matt staring at Alex's bare chest, or was he imagining that too?
"Matt, do you remember anything after we got in the truck after we left the bar last week?" Alex asked, completely changing the topic, and Matt suddenly withdrew his hand and began nervously cracking his fingers.
"No," he said hesitantly.
Matt's unexpected embarrassment had Alex smiling softly at him. Matt turned a shade darker red and Alex had to restrain himself from doing anything rash. Alex's smile deepened as Matt grew more discomfited. So Matt hadn't been ignoring it- he had completely forgotten it.
"Ummm I, uh, I-I don't…" Matt stuttered and trailed off, looking at Alex with a mortified expression. "If I d-did or said something of-offensive, I'm sorry." He turned even redder as Alex's smile turned absolutely devious. "What happened?" Matt returned to staring at his hands.
He nearly laughed as he delighted in how Matt looked like he wanted to throw himself off the side of the ship. But then Alex lost all common sense as Matt looked up at him, the blond captain completely self conscious and vulnerable in a beautiful moment that Alex knew was rare. To hell with rank and order, to hell with all the shit that was happening around them, to hell with the rules about relationships onboard, and to hell with the consequences; Alex leaned across the table and kissed Matt.
"You kissed me and told me you didn't want to spend the night alone," he whispered into Matt's ear before sitting down with his smile and adding with a nonchalant smirk, "At least, that's what it sounded like, before you passed out."
"I'm sorry!" Matt choked out; face burning, lips tingling, and unable to make eye contact with Alex. "I didn't mean- sometimes I-"
"Did you mean it?"
"What?" Matt stopped stuttering and looked across the table, to where Alex was regarding him with a lazy grin.
"Did you mean it? Would you ask me it again?"
Matt was more embarrassed than he had ever been before. He looked down at his hands as he attempted to string words together. How do you tell another man that you've fallen for him? He figured when this conversation happened that Alex would punch him in the face, not lean across the table and kiss him. Did he mean it, or was he just toying with him? But Alex did come back on their boat and had spent the last few days acting like nothing had ever happened. Was it possible that Alex would have said yes?
"Yes, I would ask you again."
Alex chuckled and a long pause followed, both men a bit at odds at what to do. Alex felt like he couldn't move; it had taken more out of him to admit that he felt something for Matt than he had thought and the realization floored him. The fact that it wasn't one sided made it even more real and he couldn't stop grinning to himself.
"Alex?" Matt said uncertainly, pulling Alex out of his thoughts.
"I would have said yes," was all Alex said before pulling the captain up onto the table and brushing against Matt's lips with his own.
The captain tasted of chocolate and tobacco as Alex flicked his tongue over Matt's bottom lip, gaining permission to explore deeper. Matt's hands quickly became entangled in Alex's hair as they gave into the pent up frustration that each felt. Alex was surprised at how much easier it was to kiss a man than a woman. He didn't feel like Matt was going to break and Matt pushed back just as hard instead of giving in like a doll.
Just as hands were beginning to wander, a wave jolted the side of the ship, sending Matt flying off of the table and into Alex. He ended up straddling Alex on the floor and he grinned down at him before leaning over to continue their kiss. Matt couldn't quite place what Alex tasted like; a little peppermint from the gum but something else that was completely foreign and Matt couldn't get enough of it. He ran his fingers down Alex's bare chest- it was just as firm as he had imagined it to be. He felt Alex unbuttoning the shirt he had on and he ripped it off, buttons flying, without breaking their fierce lip lock.
Skin lay against skin and it felt like fire was burning between them as they sought to explore each other further. No words were exchanged, no noises made for fear of waking someone, but each knew what the other was thinking, what the other was feeling. They had no doubts in their mind that it would have gone further than Alex's pants being yanked off while Matt's were already thrown across the room if another wave hadn't jolted the ship hard enough to throw Matt completely off of Alex. There was a loud series of crashes downstairs and Matt knew that the hit was hard enough to jar the contents of the kitchen.
They quickly reached for their strewn about clothing as they heard the commotion downstairs; neither wanting to be caught with their pants down. Matt jumped back to the controls, taking the ship off of automatic, still flushed red and breathing heavily from his brief encounter with Alex.
"I should go and help," Alex muttered as he finished tying the drawstring of his pants.
"Alex, you're not playing me, are you?" Matt asked awkwardly, the lingering doubt that had driven him to the bottle was coming back as he realized what he had just done. "I don't fool around anymore, I'm too old."
"You're not old," Alex told him, stealing a kiss. "I want you, I'd never play you." He kissed him again.
"Good." Matt broke the kiss as he heard someone running up the stairs. "We'll finish this later. That's an order."
"Aye-aye Captain," Alex said with a cocky wink. "I look forward to breaking rules with you."
Thank you to Amelia and MamaDuck, you are both more appreciated than you will ever know.
Thank you for the reviews on the last chapter. I know I promised to post this soon after the last chapter, but shit happens.
I don't want to say that I'm taking a break from writing this story, but I'm at a bad place in my life right now and writing isn't high on my list. I had to move to Washington DC at the end of the summer from Atlanta, and spent most of the summer with limited internet access. My best friend/roommate/muse for this story decided that she no longer wanted me to be in her life due to misunderstandings that we had and I couldn't stay in Atlanta without someone to live with and a reason to be there. I gave up a lot to stay with her (ie a job in Boston and graduate school in New Zealand) only to to be thrown to the wind. Therefore, writing about any type of relationship hasn't been my strong point since then.
Because of the "sob story" above, I can't promise regular updates. But I promise that I am not giving up on this story and have it outlined and am currently writing the next chapter and have written other parts as well. If you've stuck with this story this far, I won't leave you in the dust.
If you want to be my new muse, email me. Position includes emails back and forth a few times a week, snail mail packages containing written work (I find it easier to have actual, physical written out things as opposed to email) and candy for being patient, and my undying gratitude. Condescending 'reviewers', psychopaths, and narcissists need not apply.