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On a Cold Unfeeling Sea - Chapter 4: Santos

Title: On a Cold Unfeeling Sea
Fandom: Ghost Ship
Pairings: Munder/Dodge
Ratings: R for homophobia, prejudice
Word Count: 3024 (15,219 so far)
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


People think that Santos doesn’t notice things and sure the mechanic doesn't usually make a big deal out of his observations but that doesn't mean he's blind. In fact he probably could have had a thriving career in blackmail if he had been the type to care about the secrets that other people want to hide.

But the mechanic doesn't care; live and let live has always worked for him. Maybe it's an Australian thing – and really he's getting tired of no one believing that's where he comes from – or maybe it's just his own personality. Whatever the reason, Santos has always preferred to use his powers for pranks and party tricks and he's a good enough mechanic that he's never needed to resort to anything nefarious in order to get a job.

Case in point, all it took to get him this one was one rather stressful skills test and Santos had never been so happy to have scary sisters as he was after that. Because trying to check an engine beneath Epps' icy stare of implied criticism was a whole different ballgame from the usual work he'd done.

However while the other salvager can definitely be a hard ass, she only goes ballistic when someone does something idiotic, and she's a whole lot of fun otherwise.

The two of them actually get along really well these days, probably better than Santos does with Greer in all honesty. The other man is just a bit too judgmental and serious, refusing to recognize that the mechanic can do his job just fine even when goofing off.

Epps gets that and has never asked him to be anyone different, though he knows the hammer would come down swiftly if his work ever suffered due to that. But Santos appreciates knowing exactly where he stands with someone and so her sudden shiftiness arouses his curiosity. All he did was ask about the new guys, a perfectly valid question after Dodge and Munder kind of just show up one afternoon.

The mechanic doesn't actually mind the lack of notice since this isn't the first that Murphy has hired someone to round out their crew last minute, but he's never taken on two at once before. So Santos can't help but be curious about them and Epps' reaction when he asks his question is definitely weird.

Because she does that twitching thing she does every time she's hiding something and the mechanic has never seen that response directed at him before. Honestly, the other salvager usually errs on the side of being overly blunt when she doesn't want to talk about something so he finds it very unsettling when Epps just mutters something noncommittal and walks away.

Of course that really only makes the mechanic more curious and once he starts looking, it doesn't take him long to realize what she had been talking around. Dodge and Munder aren't exactly secret masterminds after all and Santos has always tried not to let his own assumptions blind him to the truth.

So while the other men are professional when they're working and he never actually catches them doing anything, their relationship with each other is not that hard to see. It's visible in the way that Dodge always seems to know exactly where the welder's standing and makes sure that he's taken care of before looking to himself. It's obvious in how the two men are so ridiculously comfortable with each other that they remind Santos of his parents, the whole 'old married couple' vibe impossible to miss.

Which all means that the two of them are more than fuck-buddies or the other kind of justifications that you sometimes get out on the sea. Dodge and Munder are in an honest-to-god monogamous relationship with each other and the mechanic can kind of understand why Murphy and Epps have decided not to speak of it for now.

Because the crew of the Arctic Warrior has never had any sort of detailed conversations about their political beliefs so Murphy probably thinks that Greer and Santos would take the information badly and the captain wouldn't want to screw up their dynamic in the middle of a job.

But the truth is, the mechanic really doesn't give a damn about Munder and Dodge's relationship; if anything he actually kind of admires the courage that it takes to be gay salvagers. Even if they aren't advertising it at the moment, the pair obviously told Murphy and that right there takes balls.

Besides, one of the mechanic's cousins came out not that long ago and Rodrigo is one of the sweetest kids that you'll ever meet so Santos is hardly going to go queer-bashing after that. Munder actually reminds Santos of him a bit with his gangly awkwardness, although he's a heck of a lot better with a blow torch than 'Drigo will ever be, and that may be part of the reason that the two of them get on so well.

So really Santos doesn't see any reason to freak out and he just sits back to enjoy the squawking when the guys finally decide to tell everyone. And there is squawking because Greer takes the revelation about as well as the mechanic thought he would.

Which is to say that he reacts with disbelief, incredulity, and a whole lot of denial before he's done.

But first the navigator makes the most entertaining faces and it's not like Dodge and Munder need Santos to come to their defense. Not when Dodge's tongue is sharper than the mechanic's could ever hope to be and he seems like the type who would throw the first punch. Throw the first one and the last one if it came to that.

So Santos stays on the sidelines as Greer attempts to wrap his mind around the fact that men can actually love each other, the navigator largely failing at this task. Instead he mostly manages to insult the welder without thinking and after the fourth time she has to separate him from the others in order to avoid a brawl, Epps decides to step in.

She doesn't exactly solve the problem by drowning it in alcohol, although that's certainly the most pleasant way the mechanic's ever seen someone try to overcome bigotry. It actually works in a way since Greer apparently forgets to be weirded out by Dodge and Munder once he's smashed enough, but it's not exactly a long term solution if Epps doesn't want the Arctic Warrior to run in circles all the time. Because they do actually need their navigator sober no matter how much fun that might be.

Of course, hangover aside, Greer's mortification when he finally wakes up the next morning actually serves her purpose well enough. Because even if his opinion of the other men hasn't changed, his sense of honor keeps him from being too loud about it anymore.

Even if it's not ideal, this at least lets Greer and Dodge work together without snarling anymore and so Santos puts the whole mess from his mind until their job is done. They can worry about the navigator's prejudices once they're back on land again and he'd rather spend his time getting to know the new members of their crew instead. He wants to know who they actually are not who they were pretending to be in order to avoid hurting his non-existent sensibilities.

Because their lives are so wrapped in each other that all of their stories had been filled with pregnant silences, moments where the mechanic had to pretend that he didn't know how much they cared. But now Dodge doesn't have to bother with inventing fake conquests whenever they're hanging out together and Munder has finally lost some of his awkward reticence.

So Santos soon discovers that the welder has a knack for awful stories, the kind that go on and on without ever getting anywhere but are somehow still hilarious. Munder's also a surprisingly good person to talk to about whatever and he's the first person who doesn't roll his eyes when Santos starts waxing poetic about his car again. Oh, he gives him shit for it but it's more of a friendly ribbing than any kind of judgmental thing.

The mechanic doesn't get on quite as well with Dodge – the man has shitty taste in music after all – but he still likes him well enough. So he doesn't even hesitate before moving to stand with Epps and Murphy when Crawford shows his ugly mug on the dock in Anchorage.

Though to be honest Santos would have done it anyway just on principle since the other captain has always been a dick of the worst kind. He couldn't even remember the mechanic's name during the one job they worked together and spent three months calling him “the Mexican” instead. While that was slightly better than being called “hey you,” thinking about it still ticks Santos off something fierce and he really wouldn't mind punching that smug bastard in the face.

Sadly he doesn't get his chance because Crawford is too much of a pussy to actually fight even with six guys at his back and the mechanic has to bite back a laugh when the lot of them slink off. So he throws a few insults after them just to rub in their cowardice and then puts the whole encounter from his mind.

The mechanic has better things to think about, like the ice cold beer that's waiting for him once they get their prize detached and the Arctic Warrior all sorted out again. Or he could imagine the new compressor which Murphy promised he would finally get around to buying during this shore leave. The thought of having one of those beauties to tinker with makes the mechanic positively giddy and he joins Epps on the dock with a grin.

The two of them usually head over to the bar together and while Munder decides to join them this time, their friendly banter still flows easily.

---

That evening sets the tone for the next few months and for the first time, Santos feels like the crew of the Arctic Warrior is becoming a family. Sure Greer still has issues but his girlfriend seems to have them well in hand and as much as they love to give the navigator shit about his relationship, Delia really is good for him.

Dodge and Munder have grown more relaxed as well, the blond finally starting to believe that the others aren't going to turn on them at the first opportunity. It's kind of sad that it's taken this long to sink in even after Murphy faced down Crawford for the pair but Santos can't really blame him for his wariness. He's seen some of the prejudice that gays face back home when visiting Rodrigo's family and there's a reason that he taught his cousin how to fight. But salvagers are an even more insular bunch and if Santos were in Dodge's shoes he'd want eyes in his back.

Particularly considering the way that Crawford and some of his friends like to lurk in the background, glaring at Munder like they want to rip him apart with their bare hands. The mechanic can't imagine hating anyone enough to put forth that kind of effort and he always keeps a watchful eye on his crewmates when the redhead is around.

He's not too worried about Dodge since a few friendly dust-ups have proven that the other man can kick ass when necessary but Munder hadn't been joking about his uselessness in a fight. Santos is pretty sure that his youngest cousin could take down the welder without breathing hard and all attempts to teach him anything haven't ended well.

Instead the rest of them have come to an unspoken agreement of sorts, everyone keeping an eye out for Munder so that no one manages to corner him without someone else around. For while Dodge usually takes care of it, he can't always be there and Santos figures he could probably use a break sometimes.

Actually the mechanic can tell that both men appreciate it even if they never acknowledge it as such. To be honest, Santos would be kind of embarrassed if either of them actually thanked him for his efforts since he's just trying to do what he thinks is right.

No one wants to lose Munder to some asshole's bigotry and some of the stories that the welder has told him make him want to cringe. Because there's a reason Dodge hates Crawford, a reason involving cracked ribs and threats of broken fingers along with the kind of abuse that Santos wouldn't wish on anyone.

Munder's a welder, that's his entire livelihood right there, and the mechanic isn't the only one who doesn't want to see him harmed.

He can't be when Murphy's got a weirdly paternal thing going and Epps seems to see the guys as a combination of friends and the little brothers that she's never had. Even Greer has finally remembered that he actually likes Dodge as a person, not that the man is ever going to admit this truth out loud. But Santos can see it and he's pretty happy with the way things are turning out for his pseudo-family since he had been getting tired of breaking in new crew members all the time.

Their job is hard enough already and he prefers to know that he can count on his crewmates when something invariably goes wrong. There's a certain level of familiarity needed to make a tug run smoothly, if only so no one tries to kill each other after a few months at sea, and that's hard to find when people keep quitting every other week.

But these two seem like they're going to be sticking around for the long haul, particularly since they don't exactly have any better options on the ground. Not when Santos is pretty sure that no other tug in Anchorage would allow them to sprawl all over each other like that.

Although he doesn't actually catch them kissing until almost a year after they join the Arctic Warrior and even that is hardly anything risque. But they had had a close call on their current job earlier that morning, Munder's oxygen tank getting punctured when the wreck shifted unexpectedly. If Dodge and Epps hadn't been right there, the welder never would have made it back to the surface before he suffocated and it had been a near thing even so.

So if the blond's hands tremble a bit as he removes Munder's mask, no one calls him on it and Santos has to admit that his own knees are a little weak right then. While this job is dangerous, he's never lost a crewmate before and he definitely doesn't want to change that pattern now.

Dodge takes the welder below to check him for shock while the rest of the crew stows their equipment back where it belongs. But there isn't much for the mechanic to do at the moment and so he goes down to check on Munder himself because the other man had been far too pale when the mask came off.

However, when Santos gets down to the galley, he can hear the two of them talking and quickly decides that he probably shouldn't just barge in because the diver's voice still has an edge of panic to it when he asks how Munder is.

“Dodge, I promise you. I'm all right,” the welder replies softly, though Santos thinks he's trying to reassure himself as much as his partner now.

“You can't do that kind of thing to me. My heart can't take it,” is the response, Dodge's voice more vulnerable than Santos has ever heard before. He's usually the strong and stoic one, the one who shows no fear, but apparently a threat to Munder is all it takes to shatter him.

“Well it's not like I did it on purpose and I'm hardly going to stop working just so you don't have a heart attack. It's not like it's all that much safer on land for us.” While Munder's words are a bit tetchy, through the crack in the door the mechanic can see that he's wrapped an arm around Dodge's shoulders, his other hand stroking the blond's back reassuringly. The mechanic is definitely starting to feel like he's intruding but he's also kind of curious, and so his feet stay planted right there in the hall.

“I know, I know. Though at least there I've got the rest of the crew to help watch out for you, Just be careful, yeah?” Dodge leans up to kiss his lover then, capturing the welder's lips a little desperately. The two of them move together with the ease of long familiarity and while Santos is slightly uncomfortable, he also has to recognize how well they fit like that.

Somehow it doesn't look out of place as their kiss deepens, it just looks completely natural, and the mechanic backs away with a smile on his face. Those two deserve some privacy for their reaffirmations, though he trusts they'll manage to stop before the clothes come off.

But for now he may as well go check on his engines so that everything is in tip-top shape when their crew is ready to start the job again. Because Santos knows that this scare is hardly more than a bump in the road and he fully expects everyone to work twice as hard just to prove that they can handle it. That's what a good crew does and the Arctic Warrior's current salvagers are quickly proving to be one of the best.

Which is good for him since he's been able to save money much faster lately as he waits to buy his gorgeous classic baby, the one that will make the mechanic's life complete. Santos loves that fucking car and someday soon she's going to be waiting for him every time he gets back to shore again.


Chapter 5: Ferriman