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Title: On a Cold Unfeeling Sea
Fandom: Ghost Ship
Pairings: Munder/Dodge
Ratings: R for homophobia, prejudice, canonical character death/violence
Word Count: 3755 (18,974 total)
Disclaimer: What do you think?
Summary: It isn't easy being queer salvagers (Dodge and Munder through the eyes of their crew).

Chapter 1: Murphy
Chapter 2: Epps
Chapter 3: Greer
Chapter 4: Santos


Ferriman loves salvage crews. They’re always so easy to manipulate, so desperate for one big score to free them from the hole of debt they’re mired in. And there’s always debt since salvaging is that kind of business: everyone working from hand to mouth because they have no other options or are spellbound by the siren call of the sea.

But as much fun as salvagers are to slaughter, cruise lines have always been his favorite reaping grounds. In the old days their passengers reeked of such desperation, yearning for power, romance and adventure like they’d never seen before. They didn’t need money since only the truly wealthy could afford those tickets and these high and mighty aristocrats never noticed the resentment that their lifestyle bred. They never noticed how much the sailors hated them, this festering envy giving Ferriman power like nothing else those days.

All he had to do was throw a bit of gold into the mix and suddenly these people would do anything he asked, good law-abiding citizens turned into thieves and murderers. It was so easy then and he was sorely disappointed when such ships fell out of style.

Since those golden days Ferriman has been making do with salvagers and thrill-seekers, a few souls at a time drawn into the Graza’s path. By now his ship is practically bursting at the seams with sins and silence, his quota nearly filled off that first mutiny alone. Even the innocent spirits are now tangled in his web – well, he says innocent but Ferriman has never had any illusions about the darkness in the hearts of men and most of them would have been his anyway.

He can feel these ghosts clawing at their bonds sometimes and he savors the taste of hopelessness, their misery easing the terminal boredom that he faceshere on the sea. The waiting is the most annoying part of this whole business and he has taken to taunting some of the fiercer spirits when the time starts to drag.

The youngest ghost is his favorite target since her indignation always burns so brightly and her unbridled innocence should earn him a fine bonus when this tour is done. A truly untainted soul is hard to come by so he's been careful not to damage Katie too greatly before Hell can swallow her.

Instead he allows the child her little rebellions, watching with amusement as she tries to save his victims and fails continuously. For no one really believes in evil anymore and even those who can see his ghosts will not listen to the warnings that they speak. This modern world is all about expediency and shades of grey, the god of wealth the only one that matters, and really Ferriman's work is almost too easy now.

At least it was before his ship started sinking and if he loses the Graza there will be Hell to pay. Literal Hell since his bosses won't be happy and Ferriman would do anything to escape the flames that wait for him.

Which is why he needs another salvage crew, one small and gullible and damn good at what they do.

---

It's weird to be on land again after decades out on the water and Ferriman can't decide whether or not he likes the change. He feels strangely vulnerable without his ship around him, the environment no longer bending to his control so easily. Instead he has to rely on deceit and fawning smiles to get what he wants from the world and the need to bow and scrape before these peons grates on him.

But there are some things which have improved considerably since the last time that he felt land beneath his feet and Ferriman can’t be too annoyed with a lager in his hand. He doesn’t actually get drunk anymore but he still appreciates the taste and this is a lot better than the swill that’s left on board his boat these days. The last batch of salvagers actually made their own, a sort of filthy moonshine that smelled like turpentine and if Ferriman had still had a liver, it wouldn’t have survived the week. As it was, he was just impressed that those fools managed to stay upright for more than a few hours with that stuff in their blood.

So this is definitely an improvement and Ferriman claims a corner in one of Anchorage’s many dive bars to drink away the wait. While he has a rather important deadline and the desperate faces all around him make Ferriman salivate, he needs to be a bit more discriminating this time around.

He doesn’t just need a crew with sin on their hearts and death in their future; he needs one that can actually save the Graza before their souls turn bad. Ferriman needs dreamers who will bet everything on the slim chance of success and a good story, ones that don’t look too closely at the falsehoods in his eyes. But the first group that he sees is too incompetent if their hungry faces are any indication and that one in the corner would never take the risk.

Three days pass before Ferriman finally finds the perfect targets and the search is beginning to weigh on him by then. The joys of food and alcohol fade quickly when he can't actually get drunk or hungry and he'd forgotten that salvagers were such a nosy bunch. There's always some captain bothering him about the weather up by Juneau or a drunken fool getting all territorial - as if Ferriman actually cares who's top dog in this shit hole of a place.

But finally a group rolls in laughing and joking with each other, spirits high on the success of their most recent job. The moment that they walk in the door, Ferriman knows this crew is perfect by the stains of sin and jealousy that bloom before his eyes.

There is greed upon their hearts and yet that isn't what he finds most interesting because greed is hardly something unique in this town. The bar is practically built on it, the very wood seeped in hungry desperation and that's half the reason that he chose this place. But Ferriman has never felt such a wave of jealous hate before – it wells up in the souls around him, a tantalizing feast laid out for his taking and he almost reaches out to steal them all.

It would be so very easy but without his ship Ferriman has no way to hold them and that brief pleasure isn't worth the punishment. So he forces himself to focus on his mission and it doesn't take long for him to decide that his instincts were right after all.

The captain of this crew is obviously the kind who sails for love of the ocean, all wrapped up in the mystery and beauty of the deeps. Ferriman just has to offer him a tale of tragedy and romance and this Murphy fellow will drag the rest of his crew along for the ride.

However, it is the jealousy still buzzing beneath his skin that truly decides him because there is nothing like envy to prove which crew’s the best. Salvagers always know the truth of their standings even if no one will admit them to a prospective customer and if the Arctic Warrior is not the top, she’s close enough for him.

So he dangles the promise of a fortune before them and it doesn’t take long to convince the crew of his sincerity once Ferriman reveals the photos that he made.

“Last month I was out in the middle of the Strait when I came across this,” he says, laying the images of the Graza across the table where everyone can see.

“Congratulations. You found a boat. In the middle of the ocean, of all places.” Okay, so they're a more sarcastic bunch than he had been expecting, but once the captain takes the plunge, the rest of the crew follow along just like he thought they would. Actually the only thing that they object to is Ferriman’s presence aboard their tug boat and he expected that to be a sticking point.

Salvagers are always twitchy about their vessels but he’s not exactly bargaining from a position of weakness and they bend to his whims soon enough. In fact, the captain is the one to suggest that they sail out immediately with hardly any nudging and so Ferriman finds himself back out on the ocean before the next night falls.

It’s a little harder to keep up his mask in such close quarters but it’s not like he needs these people to become his bosom friends. He just needs Murphy's crew to remain oblivious to the devil in their midst until they fix the Graza and deflecting is something at which Ferriman excels.

So he plays up the easy smiles and awkward pilot personality during the journey to his ship, quickly categorizing his companions into a few simple categories. Captain, joker, navigator – these people are easy enough to understand without digging beneath the surface and Ferriman doesn't actually care about their issues anyway.

While it is a little weird to see a woman running second on a salvage vessel and he can't quite figure out the deal with Dodge and Munder – though maybe friends have just become much more tactile since he died – this hardly matters when the rest of them are so predictable. Father issues, greed and indecision, lust and jealousy and avarice - all it takes is one little sin, one little moment of weakness to give his power access and then the rest is history.

That’s why the gold is so very important to his scheming since nothing creates greed in the hearts of men like that shining metal does. Even those who have never wanted money cannot resist its whispers and this crew is no different once he makes the treasure known.

However, the gold works a bit too well this time because the crew is suddenly voting to leave the Graza to her watery grave and run away as millionaires. A practical decision, to be sure, but also completely unacceptable and so Ferriman starts his slaughter a little sooner than he’d planned.

While he wasn't going to let any of them survive anyway, he had hoped to get the Graza fixed before killing anyone. People could be unpredictable once their friends started dying and everyone knows that welding needs a steady hand. But keeping the crew here is more important than their sanity so desperation will just have to motivate where greed has failed. Self-preservation has a way of making miracles and Ferriman isn't above moving things along.

So he blows up the Arctic Warrior with a few simple twists of his fingers, tug boats so very fragile when you fill their holds with gas. The fire takes Santos with it, one more soul added to his collection and a fine bit of leverage when Murphy begins to poke around.

The captain starts asking questions that Ferriman does not want answered and it seems that his control over the Graza’s spirits is already weakening. Because the ship’s former captain leads Murphy to the truth of his situation and in so doing condemns them both to die. Well, condemns them both to suffer since even Ferriman cannot kill the ghosts within his care. He can, however, shred the captain’s spirit into dust and agony and while he may regain his shape eventually, the scars will never truly fade away.

Murphy requires a more physical approach but Santos is quite happy to take care of that for him. The newly dead are always so angry, even more so when they die violently, and all Ferriman has to do is set Santos loose to play.

It’s an audition of sorts to see if the mechanic will be one of the ghosts that he uses to do his dirty work and he passes with flying colors to Ferriman’s surprise. But even in death Santos is clever, tricking Murphy into attacking Epps with a pipe wrench before the woman takes him out. Such chaos is the base of Ferriman’s power, mistrust and suspicion making it easy to worm his way further into his target’s minds.

So he locks Murphy in the fish tank where he can kill the captain whenever he pleases and fans Greer’s guilt into a bonfire when he starts talking of escape. Ferriman doesn’t need the navigator being the voice of reason at the moment and as soon as Greer punches Munder, Dodge is quick to drive him off.

This allows Francesca to remove Greer from the equation without interference, the man’s drunken horniness quickly overwhelming his attempts at monogamy. The singer truly is a treasure, so willing to kill for Ferriman even when she was living and somehow the fact that he murdered her hasn’t changed a thing.

Which means that the navigator isn’t there to stir up trouble when Ferriman turns the conversation to repairs again and the remaining members of the Arctic Warrior quickly come up with a plan. Admittedly, he has no idea whether or not it’s going to work since Munder might as well have been speaking gibberish for all the sense it made, but the welder seems cautiously optimistic and that is sufficient evidence for him. The whole reason that Ferriman needed experts is because he doesn’t know what he’s doing and there was no point in bringing them if he doesn’t trust what they say.

Although he does know enough to make it easy for them, debris sliding out of Dodge and Munder’s way before they can even notice them. This leaves the path to the gash clear for their equipment and it’s not long before the hole is sealed.

In fact, the three survivors seem rather surprised by how quickly their work is finished, but Ferriman can practically see them writing off the weirdness as adrenaline or luck.

Humans are good like that, always justifying away the things they can’t explain and so remaining blind to all that they should fear. Case in point, Munder doesn’t even hesitate before getting back into the water and this is the last bad decision that he will ever make. For there are so many dangerous things beneath the surface, gears and gizmos just waiting to grind someone to a pulp, and Ferriman almost feels bad when he starts them up again.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and almost means nothing to a beast like him. So Ferriman dismisses Munder from his mind as soon as he feels the welder’s heart snuff out, gathering the last threads of agony to boost his strength again.

His power has been running a little thin these last few hours, the weakness of his ship sending cracks through his foundation, and the life blood of this crew is all that’s kept him going strong this long. But now that the Graza is repaired, Ferriman can afford to play with Epps and Dodge a bit before he kills them, luring the final two into sin and sacrifice.

He doesn’t just want to take their lives; he wants to mark them like he did Greer and Santos, claim two more soldiers to aid him in his fight. Particularly since he missed his chance with Murphy and Munder, their hearts far too clean for men their age. Sure there's a few dark spots here and there but nothing like Ferriman was expecting given the shadows upon the captain's mind. Yet apparently regret does not always signify the kind of sin he needs and Ferriman will have to remember that next time around.

For the moment he's more focused on getting Dodge to shoot him since nothing says damned to Hellfire like a murder in cold blood. It's actually a little sad how easy it is to make the blond lose his temper, Dodge's first instinct to attack when threatened like some kind of cornered dog.

Although Ferriman would have expected the taunts about Epps to break the diver since he could have sworn that Dodge was pining epically. Why else would he be so willing to follow a woman's lead out on the water instead of taking her down where she deserves?

“Well, you live for her. You willing to die for her?” he asks, Dodge's fingers clenching on the shotgun that he's holding in his hands. But it's not until Ferriman starts in on Munder and the slow agony in which the welder died that Dodge finally loses it. The shells sting when they pierce through Ferriman's body, his strange state of half-dead unpleasantness doing nothing to stop the pain even if he can't actually die again.

So he lunges forward, digging his fingers deep into the diver's throat. Dodge tries to fight him of course since some human instincts are impossible to fight, but Ferriman has far more than mortal strength on his side.

When the last breath finally leaves the other's body, Ferriman drops Dodge to the floor and kneels over him, reaching out to burn his mark into his hand. But before he can touch the diver, a ghostly arm wraps around his neck.

“Don't touch him!” Munder growls, the sheer affront of being touched freezing Ferriman in his tracks. None of his spirits have ever challenged him, none of them have dared, and for good reason because as soon as he recovers from his shock, the welder goes flying across the room. Ferriman rounds on Munder with a snarl, wrapping his power around the ghost until he's choking on agony. He doesn't actually need to breathe anymore but the newly dead always keep their human mannerisms for a while, a habit that makes them easier to control.

Though apparently both Dodge and Munder have protective stupidity wired into their very atoms because just as Ferriman is ready to blow the welder into oblivion, Dodge lurches clumsily into the fray. His spirit is even weaker than the welder's and yet he seems completely willing to die again to stop the other's pain.

“What the devil is wrong with you two?” Ferriman roars as he slams both ghosts into the air, eyes beginning to glow with a burning hellish light. “You are dead! You are dead and useless and you are only delaying the inevitable. Just give up already so I can finish off this mess. My god, you salvagers are always useless but I've never run into such a fucking annoying bunch before.”

Of course, “I'm not going to let you hurt him,” is what Dodge growls in reply and Ferriman has to fight the urge to roll his eyes. These two obviously don't understand their new position and he doesn't have the time to figure out just what their problem is.

So Ferriman leaves them hanging, binds them in threads of power so that neither soul can interfere while he goes after Epps. The last salvager is the survivor of the bunch, the tricky one, and the first to realize that you can’t kill what has died. Attacking Ferriman is pointless but she’s going after the source of his power and he cannot let her sink the Graza now. So he borrows Dodge's visage to keep her off her guard and he's almost close enough to steal the detonator from Epps’ hands when he says something wrong.

Something makes her eyes narrow with suspicion, the salvager backing up slowly as she asks, “Why haven't you asked me where Munder is?”

Seriously, again with Dodge and Munder, Ferriman thinks, dropping the masquerade with a frustrated sigh. Co-dependent much? But two unruly spirits aren't going to matter once Epps is finished and her horror at his transformation is just the distraction that he needs.

A quick blow across the head sends the salvager into the water, detonator tumbling to the walkway with a clang. He’s won now, the only thing left is to squeeze the life out of her body, and he’s never been able to resist the urge to gloat a bit. It’s one of the few joys that he has in this endless limbo and Ferriman is damn well going to revel in his victory.

Unfortunately, while he’s busy gloating, Epps is busy planning and he probably shouldn’t have counted her out just yet. But most people can’t hit detonator switches with harpoon guns so Ferriman can’t really be blamed for his incredulity.

“Oh, come on,” he groans as the little red button twitches, no time to do anything else before the blast sends him through a wall. There are some downsides to corporeality when everything around him is exploding and Ferriman fades out as soon as he can think again. But it’s too late to save the Graza or even his own head because his power is slipping through his fingers like grains of falling sand. Anyone who wasn’t marked when they died is free to leave now and even some of his sinners are running for the light.

It’s all Ferriman can do to tighten his hold on the remainder, drawing them to him as he begins to sink. Now that his ship is gone, there’s nothing to tie him to the surface but he is damned enough without going back empty-handed too.

So he digs his claws in deeper to drag his ghosts down with him, dear Francesca by his side where her black heart belongs. But for every spirit that he captures, two more escape his power and Ferriman wants to growl with every joyous light that flits past. Though when he catches sight of Dodge and Munder drifting by with the others he has to stop and gape for a moment because a few things suddenly make a lot more sense. The two ghosts are tied so close together that they’re practically one person and only love makes a soul glow like that.

Well, fuck me; I can't believe I missed that, Ferriman thinks as metal creaks around him, the Graza slowly shattering into the sea. Though I could have sworn that this should have made them mine from the beginning if I’m remembering my Bible right.

Their love for each other should have marked them for eternal damnation in an instant and yet the last thing that Ferriman sees as Hell finally pulls him under is Dodge and Munder disappearing into light.


End