The ship's captain smiles down at the newest member of her crew, having finally had a glimpse past the facade she'd held up for so long.
She puts up a brave front, this girl. You wouldn't see the fear in her eyes if you weren't looking for it—if you hadn't watched her so close these last months, watched and tested and seen how she took what you gave. But you have, and you do, and it's there—terror enough to drown in, almost.
"Lu. A skin of water and a tot of rum. Double-time."
The little mate nods and turns on her heel, heading for the forward ladder and the galley. That matter in hand, you favor your newest seaman with a broader smile than before, one that goes all the way to your eyes. Not that you're averse to seeing fear in the gaze of another—especially when that one is so physically appealing, and still redolent of her musk, and stretched full length chest heaving on the boards at your feet in not a stitch—but you've put her through a lot, these months, and she's just now put herself through much more, and she deserves to know what you think of her for it.
"Well done, my girl."
Doesn't seem to leave a mark. No surprise, maybe; she's still half mazed from her work at the capstan, and her ears are flat back, anyway.
"Emi. Emeline! Listen to me."
Hard to be gentle with command voice, but that's not what it's for; it's for commanding, and it works even here; the girl's ears swivel obediently forward to face you. Even so scared, such a good girl, this—but not now for that. Maybe later, maybe never. For now, you lift your robe's hem so's not to grind it on the deck, and take a knee beside the girl, and say still smiling but most gravely:
"Emeline, my girl—you've done us proud tonight."
That shot told. Not that you expected her to take the praise as she has, but you can hardly leave the poor girl just lying there sobbing so piteously. Your every instinct is to gather her to your breast, and so you do—twitching the robe aside first, lest her tears mark the silk.
Sobbing indeed—shaking as if with a bad grippe, hot tears soaking your fur. No idea why, but that's okay; by the convulsive clutch of her arms around your middle, she needs this embrace very much—enough that she's half squeezing the wind out of you, which is no small trick. Why doesn't matter; you are her captain, and she is yours to look after, so you hold her close and stroke her back and let her expel what she must of whatever heartbreaking sorrow this has to be.
And now Lu's back, waterskin in one hand, tin mug of rum in the other. Back, but far too wise to interfere in a moment like this; she only hunkers down, just inside arm's reach, and watches without watching lest she shame the girl now pouring her heart out in your arms, and waits for Emi to cry herself out.
That, and one other thing—she keeps an eye on Quen, too. Smart, but probably not needed; that one seems to've broken herself, when she did what she did, and you've had half an eye of your own on her anyway, and you've wrestled with Quen enough times in bed and out of it to know well she's not your equal in the realm of physicality.
Still, a sore problem there...Quen went and tried to murder a crewmate, and in the face of such a crime, the demand of discipline is clear. Clear and hard—you're going to have to swing her from the yardarm, or else show your crew that no depth of misbehavior is so foul as to be impermissible. A terrible thing, this—that to hold your crew together, you must...but Emi's sobs are tapering off into hiccups and sniffles, and if you let your face betray such thoughts as these, you'll terrify the poor girl again.
But in the meantime, Quen can serve the ship one last time before that. You raise your head from the crying girl in your arms, fix your glare, set your jaw. "Quen! On your feet!" Command voice, with the extra snap of anger, and it sets the woman shambling up off her knees—must be sore, all that time on them. No matter. "To the capstan and walk that line aboard!" And she does that, too—hands still bound, but again no matter; Emi left the pawls set, and they'll stop it snapping back. It just needs a push at the bar, and Quen can make herself useful enough at that as she is—can, and does.
And Lu's got her eye on the tall woman, anyway. You pull Emi in a little closer, rest your muzzle against her forehead again, let her finish settling herself. After a little while more, her grip of your middle eases a bit, and she draws her face away a little from your chest; matching move for move you let her pull away and look haltingly up at you again, and by the time she does, your smile is back where it belongs.