Title: What Hope is There for Living When the Dead Knock At Your Door
Fandom: Ghost Ship
Series: 'Til We See the Shore
Ratings/Warnings: maybe R, warnings for canonical character death
Word Count: 5641
Disclaimer: What do you think?
Summary: Munder and Dodge were hoping for a fortune that would make their dreams come true but with evil drifting on the sea, their crew will be lucky to survive until they see the shore again. (The events of the movie itself)
There was something seriously wrong with this ship.
Munder had noticed it from the beginning, the way everything about the Antonia Graza was just a little off. Metal was his life after all and the moment the welder stepped onto that rusted deck, all his instincts screamed. Wrecks were always spooky but this ship took it to a whole new level, every room abandoned in mid-breath, and his skin crawled as they walked into its depths.
Yet there was no point in mentioning his fears to the others unless he wanted them to laugh him down, not when even Munder wasn't sure if these nerves were just exhaustion talking. For while the promise of riches had done a lot to improve their mood, the whole crew was feeling the strain of working two jobs back to back and the welder in particular was sad to leave the shore.
Honestly, the only reason he wasn't still biting off the head of anyone who came near him was because he and Dodge had spent the last few days in bed together, making the most of the little time they had. But no matter how long he had to kiss and touch his lover, to feel the other's skin beneath his hands, the welder knew that it would never be enough. It certainly wasn't enough when he had been expecting a week or two of respite before he had to put his mask back on.
So while Munder knew the pay-off would be worth it, the weight of their secret was heavy on his mind, particularly with Ferriman aboard. The pilot was an unknown variable who wouldn't have the same familiar blind spots they exploited in their crew and they couldn't risk slipping up and letting him find out.
Which meant that where he and Dodge could usually steal kisses when they had shifts together, this was no longer possible, Ferriman popping into view at the most inconvenient times. After days of this, Munder wanted to punch the pilot in his smug cock-blocking face and he was overjoyed to leave him behind on the Arctic Warrior when they finally found their prize.
However, all of this meant that the welder wasn't sure if he was just imagining things due to extreme sexual frustration and fatigue, and he tried to ignore the shiver that went through him at the feel of the wall beneath his hand. But his reputation as a welder was well-earned and everything about the metal felt sick and tainted, so he couldn't quite silence the niggling little voice in the back of his mind.
Dodge noticed his distraction of course, sending his lover a glance which questioned the way Munder was peering into the shadows of every corridor they walked down. Though it wasn't the walls that were dangerous because the welder had barely shaken his head to reassure the other man that he was peachy before the floor dropped away beneath his feet.
He didn't even have time to scream, plummeting through the deck and then jerking to a sudden stop as someone grabbed his arm. It was Epps, her grip like iron on his arms as he hung there, eyes locked on his lover's horrified face.
I don't want to die, not like this, Munder thought as he yelled for Epps to hold on, his arms aching from the pressure of her grip. Below his feet there was nothing but empty air and the welder couldn't hear what the others were shouting over the pounding of his heart.
Eventually the others managed to pull him up, inch by excruciating inch, and he could only lay there gasping in relief when he felt the deck supporting him again. The release of adrenaline made him giddy and he knew that he was babbling, but all Munder was really focused on was the comforting weight of Dodge's arm across his chest.
Once he was back on his feet, they continued their sweep of the Graza since no salvage crew worth their salt would let a little thing like a near death experience keep them from their job. But the welder's hands were still shaking several minutes later and when the group split up to run a more thorough search, Dodge dragged Munder into an empty cabin and kicked the door closed before slamming him hard against a wall.
His lover kissed him ferociously, holding his head in place as he plundered his mouth, and the welder could only groan beneath the onslaught, gripping Dodge's hips to pull him closer as he held on for the ride. There was desperation in the way the other man nipped at his lips, rough and possessive, and Munder matched him fiercely, the pain and pleasure reaffirming that they were both alive.
When the pair finally parted, Dodge sighed and rested his head on the welder's shoulder, whispering against his skin, “I almost lost – you almost died today. If Epps hadn't managed to grab you...”
“Hey, I'm all right,” Munder replied, wrapping an arm around his lover's back and ignoring his own doubts as he tried to reassure him. “It was close but nothing happened. Our job is always dangerous and I was the unlucky one this time.”
“Yeah, but you're usually more careful than that. What had your head so scattered?” the other man asked, looking up at him with worried eyes.
“I don't know. I can't explain it really,” the welder told him, staring up at the ceiling as he tried to put his thoughts in order. He knew that Dodge wouldn't laugh but that didn't mean he would believe him either, not without an actual reason for his doubts. “Something about this ship is wrong. I know it sounds nuts and maybe it is, but the metal here just doesn't feel right.” It feels like it hates us, but I'm not saying that.
“I don't think you're crazy,” his lover replied with a crooked grin. “A little weird maybe, but that's why I like you. And you're the best damn welder I've ever met so if you say the metal on this boat is strange then I believe you. If nothing else, you're usually better about checking your footing than that.”
Munder blushed slightly, always embarrassed by the other's open admiration even as he was relieved by the easy acceptance of his fears, though he could tell Dodge didn't entirely understand what the welder meant. But then again neither do I. So I should've known he wouldn't let me down. He's always had my back even when I was actually wrong as fuck.
“See that's what I mean. That floor was solid, I would've staked my life on it. Hell, I did,” Munder said with a helpless shrug, running a hand through his hair. “Of course that's also impossible so maybe my head's just fucked up after all.”
But his lover simply snorted and poked him gently in the chest. “Hey, you're the sanest person that I know; certainly saner than the rest of us crazy bastards. This ship has been adrift a long time and we've seen evidence that other people found it first, so maybe someone booby-trapped the damn thing, I don't know. However, even if there's something off about the Graza, we still have a job to do and there's no way we'd convince the others to leave now. Have you seen the way that Murphy looks at this ship? It's like he's fallen totally in love.”
“I know and if we can bring her home in one piece then we'll be set for life. Just be careful will you?” the welder asked, knowing Dodge was right and there was nothing else that they could do for now. Not that being wary would be enough if his instincts were right and this was about something more evil than any human threat.
“When am I not careful?” the blond asked jokingly before relenting beneath Munder's exasperated glare, leaning in to press another kiss to his lover's lips. “I'll watch my step if you watch yours. Now we better get back to doing our actual jobs before someone finds us here,” he added as their radio crackled on his belt. “It's time to make ourselves some money.”
While this conversation helped to reassure Munder for a time, the longer they spent on the Antonia Graza, the more his unease grew and it only got worse once they discovered that the damn ship was sinking as well. Sinking and full of bodies slaughtered without cause. So the time it would take them to repair her was time he did not want to spend within her walls and when Epps and Ferriman discovered a store of stolen treasure in the hold, the welder thought it was the answer to his prayers.
Here was a fortune in gold just waiting to be claimed, one that would let them get off this ship with money and their lives before the presence in the shadows took them out. So while he and Greer often clashed on other matters, Munder agreed wholeheartedly when the man asked, “I say we get our boat going, grab the gold, and get the hell out of here. Who's with me?”
The welder could tell that Murphy still wanted to fix the Graza because Dodge hadn't been joking when he said that their captain was in love, but once the rest of the crew voted unanimously to take the money and run, he finally gave in.
That night they lugged the chests of gold to the deck for transport while Santos and Greer got the Arctic Warrior ready and the welder was the happiest that he had been in days. In fact he was so happy at the thought of heading back to shore again that he started whistling as he worked, the notes carrying clearly through the crisp evening air.
Although Dodge and Epps shot him amused smirks from where they were packing gear across the deck, Munder just shrugged unapologetically and added a jaunty trill into his tune as he hopped back aboard the tug. We're going home rich as kings and leaving this creepy ass boat behind. Life is good and only getting better.
Up on deck the others loaded the first chest into the crane and Santos gave Greer the okay to start the engines, only for the world to disappear in an overwhelming wave of heat. Munder felt something slam into his back and he flew forward, hitting the water hard.
The welder tried to swim but his ears were ringing and his vision going spotty, every stroke an effort that threatened to be the last. He was disoriented from the blast and lost beneath the waves, his lungs burning as he fought the desperate urge to gasp for air. If I survive this, I swear I'll stop bitching about being poor, Munder thought, cursing the greed that brought them here as he struggled to reach the surface and the world finally went dark.
He woke coughing, rolling over onto his side with a groan as he spit water from his mouth. Someone ran to his side, supporting him gently and he heard Dodge ask, “Hey, you're with us again. Are you all right?” The welder groaned again and when he managed to force his eyes open, lids crusted with salt, he saw his lover leaning over him worriedly.
“I'm okay, I'm fine,” Munder said batting away the other's hands and pushing himself upright. “What the hell happened?”
“The Arctic Warrior blew up,” the blond told him, a new weariness in his voice that made the welder's heart ache painfully. Dodge was supposed to be the happy one who balanced out his bitter pessimism, not the one with sorrow in his eyes. Yet today there was only pain because that boat had been as much a home to them as their apartment, probably more so considering the amount of time they spent upon its deck.
“Shit! Just... shit,” he said, resting his head in his hands. “What about the others? Santos?” The welder could see Greer in the corner, huddled in a blanket and looking as miserable as Munder felt, but he couldn't see the mechanic anywhere and if the tug had exploded, Santos was probably closest to the blast. Indeed his lover just shook his head and Munder felt something hollow grow within his chest.
“Shit,” he said again, closing his eyes against this truth which he didn't want to face. The welder knew their job was dangerous but he'd never seen worse than injuries on any job he worked and Santos had been a friend.
While their secret required a certain amount of distance, this crew was the closest thing to family that either of them had and Munder had often been shifted over to help Santos when there was no welding to be done. Murphy had either never realized or refused to believe that the welder was useless with an engine but the mechanic had appreciated the company of someone who shared his ear-splitting taste in music and they'd spent many hours chatting while he stayed out of Santos' way, throwing him a tool when he asked.
But not anymore. Won't be doing anything anymore, will he? I knew this ship was fucking bad news. Munder clutched his blanket tighter, resting his head on his lover's shoulder as long as he dared and he couldn't believe just how fast everything had gone utterly to hell.
The welder kept hoping to wake up, that this night was just some awful dream but it was far too visceral for that. He couldn't ignore the thick scent of rust sticking in his lungs, the way salt crusted on his face and the chill of the arctic water seeping through his clothes. It coated him like a second skin, death and gasoline, and Munder was sure that he would never be clean again.
He felt raw and scattered, they all did, and it wasn't long before he and Greer took their frustrations out on each other, leaving him holding his bloody nose as the other man stalked off into the ship. Then the stress of losing a crew member apparently drove Murphy crazy and he tried to beat in Epps' head, screaming about Santos the whole time. So Dodge shoved him in the fish tank to keep him contained until he came back to his senses and the four who remained sat down to plan because the damn ship was still sinking and they were quickly running out of time.
Munder managed to hold himself together long enough to explain what they needed to do in order to survive but his nerves were shot beneath the veneer of pasted on control. On the surface the work seemed simple enough if time-consuming, do what they always did: patch the gash, fix the rudder and sail off into the sunset like they'd planned. But nothing about this job had gone as planned and the welder had a sickening sense that this was not about to change.
So he hunkered down with Dodge to wait until the dawn, sleeping fitfully if at all, and unlike the fables always promised, things did not look better in the morning. For Epps woke them with the news that Greer had fallen to his death and Murphy was still insensible, adding more weight to the burden of grief and unease that lay across their shoulders.
It was just the three of them since Ferriman was useless, just the three of them to do a job that would have been difficult with six and the welder took his lover aside to warn him once again. In between his nightmare filled naps, Munder had been thinking about the Antonia Graza and no matter how crazy it sounded, he was becoming convinced that this ship was actually cursed. Santos had known those engines like the back of his hand and there was no way he made the kind of mistake which would have caused their tug to blow like that.
No way at all and the welder couldn't shake the thought that there was something truly malevolent at work here, something that had it's own agenda and wanted them all dead. So he made his lover swear that if anything looked shifty, they were out, no risks. The welder would rather revisit Greer's hopeless suggestion of building a raft and drifting off into the arctic than lose his lover to a cursed fucking ship.
Although Munder didn't bother to mention the evil spirit aspect of his theory because Dodge believed in only what his eyes could see, and despite everything that had happened, he still had no proof that this was any more than rotten luck.
Indeed the blond scoffed somewhat at his lover's fretting, patting the welder on the arm and giving him a reassuring grin. “You shouldn't worry so much. I know this last day has been awful and you were right that this boat was going to be a problem but I hardly think I'm going to drop a torch on my foot and die. This is just a patch job after all.”
Just a patch job. Just a patch job on a ship that's killed two of us already and nearly gotten three. Munder knew that his lover tended to become overly optimistic when he was rattled but this was a ridiculous level of denial and he needed to know that Dodge would be safe. He needed to know that the other man would live because he couldn't imagine life without the blond at his side. “I mean it, Charles! At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Epps trips on a screw and drowns so if you get hurt doing something stupid I am going to kick your ass.”
“I guess I can't argue with that, can I?” Dodge relented, pressing a quick kiss to the welder's lips when Epps finally left the room. “But if we double-check everything and watch each other's backs we can do this safely, I promise. So let's go fix this ship.”
However, despite Munder's worrying, everything went fine. It went better than fine, it went perfectly and that alone would have been enough to raise the welder's hackles. They were missing half their crew, running on nothing more than fumes and adrenaline and for all their skill, there should have been mistakes.
There should have been fuck ups but every part of the job went smooth as silk and by the time they started pumping the water from the hold, the welder's nerves were wound tight as he waited for the other shoe to drop. Though he knew that his lover didn't see it that way; the other man was still the hopeful one and he took it as a good omen when they finished their repairs with hours left to spare. Dodge was ready to believe that the terrible luck which had plagued them was gone and they would be able to get out of this with both the salvage and the gold.
Which is bullshit. Sorry, love but there's a reason that I do the practical planning and you provide the dreams. Someone's gotta keep your head above water and your feet on the ground.
Still there was no point in ruining his lover's mood as long as he was being careful and in fact, when the moment came, Munder was the one who almost screwed things up. He was just so tired, working off habit and instinct more than thought, and when their second pump suddenly sputtered to a halt, the welder was halfway down the ladder to check on it before he stopped in his tracks.
What the hell am I doing? Seriously. “Dodge, what the fuck am I doing?” he asked, looking up at his lover where he stood on the walkway above.
“Um, you're going to find out what clogged the pump,” the blond replied in his best 'I-love-you-but-you-might-be-an-idiot'
“Hey, I'm serious here so listen to me. Is there any actual reason why we need to fix this pump? The hole's closed and we're not tugging her anywhere so the extra weight won't matter. And doesn't it seem strange to you that the pump broke as soon as Epps said the Graza dodged that set of shoals?”
“Of course it's weird and I know this ship has been making you twitchy, but are you sure that's enough reason to stop in the middle of a job?” Dodge asked, doubt lacing his voice. “Without the Arctic Warrior this is the only boat we have so we need to keep her afloat.”
“No, we don't. We need to bring this monster down.”
The pair turned to see Epps standing in the hatch, carrying a shotgun and looking more shaken than either of them had ever seen. She was usually the calm one but not today, her words spilling out in a mad rush of explanation that even Munder's fears did not prepare him for. Yet he believed her. He believed her even though his lover was still skeptical and the idea that Ferriman was some kind of immortal demon was a little hard to grasp. Because how else could they explain the death that ran in the Graza's wake? The deaths that cost them half their crew: Santos by fire, Murphy by water, and Greer by falling through the air.
In the face of Epps' certainty and Munder's agreement, Dodge was eventually convinced that this ship needed to be destroyed and the three of them huddled together to come up with a plan. They had to work fast if they were going to finish before Ferriman came back but they were used to making split second decisions and had the skill to know what needed to be done.
So the welder and Epps went deep to blow up the Graza and although Munder hated to let him out of his sight, his lover went topside to see about that raft. He wanted to go with Dodge, wanted to be there to watch his back as he had promised, but the blond was the best of them at improvising and Epps needed the welder's help to make sure this ship sank without chance of coming back. The pair worked as quickly as they could, attaching explosives to key struts throughout the hold and setting them to a wireless detonator so that they would have time to get clear before the whole thing went up.
“You guys almost ready to go?”At the question Munder jerked in surprise, nearly braining himself on a pipe as he turned to see his lover walking towards them and he started to worry again because this was not part of the plan. Dodge was supposed to wait on deck so that if something went wrong with the Graza's destruction at least one of them would have a chance to survive.
“Are you all right? Did you run into Ferriman?” Munder asked, moving to grab his lover's arm. But to his surprise Dodge ignored him like he hadn't even spoken. Instead the other man shrugged off his hand and stared at Epps while she finished up the last connection that would blow this ship sky high.
“What are you doing?” his voice was incredulous, almost disdainful in a way that the welder had never heard.
“What do you think I'm doing? I'm sinking the boat. That was the plan remember?” Epps replied, sending Munder a confused glance. However, he didn't have an answer for her because nothing about this was making sense at all.
“Okay right, but are you really sure you want to do that? Blowing up this ship will kill us all,” Dodge told her and the welder tried to pinpoint just what was making his skin crawl. It wasn't just the fact that his lover still hadn't looked at him or that he had apparently forgotten the plan that they had made, although those alone would have made Munder wonder if he'd been brainwashed after all.
However, as Dodge and Epps continued to argue, he realized that the other man wasn't moving right; he wasn't moving how he should. The blond had always had an easy grace despite his stocky frame but now he was moving like a predator who saw the two of them as prey and the welder couldn't escape the horrifying thought that a stranger was wearing his lover's skin. Ferriman must have gotten to Dodge somehow, yet Munder was afraid to act in case the blond had just been warped like Murphy and was still there beneath the taint.
But then the other man answered his question with the next words he spoke. “We should bring this ship in. You know she's worth a fortune and with the gold as well the two of us would be set forever. We could make a life together, just you and me. Don't you want that?” he pleaded, staring at Epps as though he loved her more than life itself and that was the last straw. The blond had always been gay as a rainbow and crazy or not, there was no way he'd suddenly turned straight.
Which means that isn't Dodge and Ferriman can't read minds, Munder thought, bringing up the shotgun to aim at the creature that had stolen his lover's face.
“Where's Dodge? What did you do with him?” he demanded, finger tightening on the trigger as the other man finally looked him in the eye.
“What are you talking about? I am Dodge. Don't you know me?” the blond pleaded. But his eyes were wrong as well and when Epps asked the welder if he was sure, he nodded sharply.
“That isn't really Dodge and I can prove it. Because Dodge would be able to answer one simple question: what is my first name?” Munder said. There was a long moment of silence and then the other man began to laugh, the welder unable to stop himself from flinching back. He laughed and laughed as though he were mad after all and then he began to change. Munder felt like throwing up as his lover morphed into Ferriman, a grotesque reshaping of skin and bone that he knew he would never be able to forget.
“You're right, I'm not Dodge. Your friend is up on deck running around like a lunatic and being about as useful. But tell me, how did you know? My illusions are perfect and I thought the ridiculous pining was a nice touch,” the creature said, a feral grin splitting his face as he began to stalk forward.
“Not perfect enough. Now stay where you are!” Munder demanded, brandishing the shotgun while he and Epps backed toward the hatch.
“There's no need for that,” Ferriman told him with a smarmy salesman's smile. “What I'm asking for is an exchange - this ship for your life. Let me take my souls down to hell where they belong and I'll let you have the fortune that you've been dreaming of.”
“Right and why should we believe anything you say?” Epps replied. “I think I'll vote for option B instead.”
However, before she could press the detonator, a pipe came out of nowhere and knocked her to the ground as Ferriman charged forward with a roar. The shotgun blast caught him in the shoulder and Munder pulled Epps to her feet, watching in horror when the other man shrugged off his injury as if it weren't there.
“I gave you a great opportunity! All you had to do was take it!” he screamed, his face twisting with anger and Epps shoved the welder toward the ladder as she yelled at him to run.
“Get Dodge and get out of here, I'll take this bastard down.”
So he ran, cursing himself for a coward all the while. But he couldn't have stopped her and getting himself killed would just waste her sacrifice. Munder could hear shouting behind him until he passed out of range and he vowed to quit smoking when his breath began to come in ragged gasps. But he could see a scrap of sky at the end of the corridor and he burst out onto the deck calling for Dodge just as an explosion went off within the ship.
The Graza shuddered violently, nearly throwing Munder to the ground, and he staggered toward the edge of the deck. He needed to get off this boat before it shattered or the weight of it would drag him down into the ocean but he couldn't bring himself to leave without knowing that his lover had escaped. He staggered again when another explosion rocked the ship and then Dodge was there, holding him upright and pushing him toward the rail.
There was love in the blond's touch and Munder knew this was the real one so he gasped out an explanation about Epps between his panting breaths. The other man shoved him forward as another shriek of tortured metal rang out through the air and then they were falling toward the sea below.
From that height the water felt like concrete when they landed but Munder was ready for it and he pushed to the surface quickly, treading water while he looked around for Dodge.
“Over here!” The welder turned his head to see the blond riding on a makeshift raft, a crazy jury-rigged combination of air lift bags and wooden planks and when he swam over to it, his lover helped him climb aboard.
They huddled together for warmth, watching in awe as the Graza tilted to sink beneath the waves and all the souls that Ferriman had stolen were set free at last. The spirits were glowing, a glittering spiral that poured into the sky to join the Northern Lights in song. Munder could have watched their dance for hours but he was brought back to himself when he shivered and remembered that they weren't out of danger yet.
“You get any supplies on this thing?” the welder asked and Dodge grinned, bright and relieved as he handed him a blanket. Now that he was looking, Munder could see that his lover had made out well all things considered, the welder recognizing a lot of gear from the Arctic Warrior tucked around the slapdash deck.
Hopefully this would be enough to keep them from freezing or starving until someone picked them up and yet the welder didn't want to think about the future; he didn't want to acknowledge all the friends that they had lost. Murphy, Greer, Santos and even Epps, all lost to the Graza's hungry evil and he would always remember how much their lives had cost.
So he tried to focus on other things instead and he couldn't help but wonder how Dodge had managed to get their rickety perch into the water in one piece. But his lover just smiled again and said that one of the ghosts had helped him, the young girl that Epps kept talking about, before he nearly fell out of the raft laughing at the surprise upon the welder's face.
However, eventually Dodge regained control of himself and nudged another bag into his lover's view. “She helped me with something else as well. Take a look at that,” he said and when Munder opened it all he could do was gape at the gleam of gold within, the bars shining brightly in the ghostly light.
“You crazy, greedy bastard,” the welder said, reaching out and kissing his lover deeply. “I told you I would kick your ass for doing anything stupid and you better believe you're in for it when we get back to land.”
“Hey, now; you said you'd be pissed if I died and since both of us are breathing you've got no case to make. I didn't want to weigh us down too badly but this will be enough to get us back on our feet and maybe even get us closer to the dreams that we've been chasing for so long. It may even be enough to give our crew the sendoff they deserve,” Dodge told him, a hint of grief in the shadows in his eyes and Munder could only kiss him again. Kiss him for thinking of their future even as the world shattered around them, for sticking with him and for loving him far more than he was worth.
“Is there something you guys want to tell me?” An amused voice asked, the pair jerking apart to see Epps hanging off the edge of their raft. But despite the question, she didn't really seem to mind and lying hardly seemed important anymore. So Munder just shrugged in answer before shifting over toward Dodge so that she could pull herself onto the deck.
As Epps lay there gasping, the last piece of the Graza sank under the sea. At the same time, the ghostly lights went out, plunging them into the dark once more. Whatever conversations they needed to have could wait until the morning; tonight the crew of the Arctic Warrior would mourn the friends they had left behind and rejoice that they had made it out themselves.
Once someone picked them up there would be time enough to agree on their story and deal with the fallout of these awful days. But while the welder knew that their lives would never be the same, the three of them had survived and for now that was enough.
Part III: Where the Future Leads