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backstory chapter ahoy-hoy

Having excised the entirety of PB before the Cliffs of Insanity, it became necessary to work in what actually got us (or at least Westley and Nate and everyone) to that point. Hopefully the pace will flow okay overall, but there was no way around it without short-changing the story and the emotional anchor of the characters. As it turns out, the decisions and interactions made around the Fire Swamp are the crux of the shape of the journey.

Title: The First-Love Fall
Ficverse: Leverage & The Princess Bride
Series: The Princess Bride Job, 5/18
Rating: Gen / PG-13
Length: 1600 ish / 29,500 ish
Characters: Nate, Westley
Summary: Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles. And hitter, hacker, grifter, thief, mastermind.
Notes: Herein we take a breath, and have some conversation and backstory. (And, like the vines, Westley setting out for America was in the book.)
Disclaimers: Yeah. None of it's mine, apart from the idea to mix'n'match, and in abstract that's not mine either. I am now directly lifting some lines from the PB screenplay, as if anybody can't tell.
Spoilers: Perhaps a little for The Bottle Job (2.11 of Leverage), playing a little with some of the hints about Nate's past generally. And, of course, still a whole lot for The Princess Bride.
Concrit: go for it

Previously, on "The Princess Bride Job":
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four

Chapter Five
Up on deck, the Revenge had the living, eagerly straining feel of a vessel at speed, the warm wind whipping through hair and clothes, seaspray saturating the air with the smell of salt. The sun skated out from behind grey clouds, filling the world with glare, then hid again. At the bows, Westley was leaning easily into the movement of his ship in spite of his broken leg, staring blankly ahead.

Nate joined him silently.

After a few minutes, Westley glanced at him, then back out to sea, his hand seeking out the contour of the bow and rail as though to draw on its fierceness. “She’s a good ship,” he said, inconsequentially. “Sound.” He eyed Nate again, acknowledgement in his nod. “Like your people. You were right. I’ve never seen better.”

Nate nodded back, waiting. If he’d learned anything about Westley, it was that he opened up when and how he liked. It was probably hard-wired in his genetic code, to be honest.

Finally, Westley sighed. “Remember when I contacted Dad?”

Nate almost laughed. Did he remember? The phonecall from his father five years ago felt like yesterday, unwelcome and out of nowhere, but the opening words had electrified him. Need your help, boy. Your brother’s gone missing.

Which, considering that Nate had never known he had a brother, led to quite a complicated conversation.

“Mm-hm,” he said.

To give their father what credit was due, he hadn’t known either. Discovering a full-grown son from an affair in an obscure corner of Europe, who’d been taken in by a farmer when his mother died, and who was now coming to America to make his fortune, was shock enough.

Learning not two weeks later that his newfound son’s ship had been attacked by pirates had galvanized Jimmy Ford to call his other son, and the two of them burned through contacts and favors on both sides of criminality until they located Roberts. Whatever their differences, family was family.

“Did I ever tell you why?”

The question seemed to be bigger than just tracking down a lost father. “Why...?” Nate prompted.

Westley paused, looking away. “Why I wanted to come to America. Why I decided to find Dad, to see if he could help me.”

He hadn’t. Looking at him now, Nate recalled the lithe stripling he’d first met on the deck of this very pirate ship. Who’d stood and moved and spoke as though he didn’t even notice the daily threat of execution Roberts held over his head; so effortlessly golden that he won hearts just standing there, a quality he had to have gotten from his mother. Yet, under all that, even as young as he was, he’d been as cagey and canny as either his brother or his father.

Within five minutes of meeting him, neither his brother nor his father had been any more anxious about the potential execution than Westley was.

“There was this ... girl.”

At the quiet snort, he looked up, then shared Nate’s sardonic smile. “There always is,” said Nate.

“Yes,” Westley agreed. “Nathan, she was....” He trailed off, then shrugged at the inadequacy of mere words. “She was the most sublime creature it’s possible to imagine.”

He noticed Nate’s veiled scepticism, and nodded as though accepting its validity, but held his ground on the statement anyway. “It’s true. I grew up with her, on the farm. She was ... beautiful.”

Nate grew almost uncomfortable at the soft note in Westley’s voice, like an intruder upon something sacred. Westley stared out to sea, looking far beyond the horizon of the visible. “I’ve never seen that kind of beauty.... She was so perfect in it, inhabited it so purely.” He shook his head. “She was incapable of ever being less than all she is. She may not be smart or very good at anything much, but everything she does and is, is done with total purity. Everyone felt it. You can’t describe it.... You couldn’t not love her. I didn’t even try. I just drowned in it.”

Nate remembered those feelings, the passion of a love with no benchmark, how the sun had risen and set with Maggie. He watched his brother in silent sympathy, detecting the sour gnawing below the words and memories.

“Every day, I told her. Not the words. She didn’t want to hear them. But I told her. Everything I did was for her, to please her.” He picked at the ship’s rail, then faced Nate and smiled, half bitter, half resigned. “I was happy. Even if she never loved me, it was enough to be there, to love her.”

Nate voiced his fairly simple deductions. “So ... this princess...?”

Westley swallowed and looked away. “Buttercup.” Her name was a reluctant breath squeezed from his lungs, and yet a confession so reverent that it raised goosebumps.

This job was definitely taking shape. “Right,” said Nate gently. “Well, we’ve got her now, she’s safe ... I mean, apart from the Fire Swamp, obviously, but –”

Westley cut him off scorchingly. “She’s engaged.”

“Yeah ...” said Nate slowly, not entirely understanding, seeing there was more to this. A simple engagement, even to a crown prince, even in total, perfect purity of being – whatever that meant in the real world – couldn’t withstand Westley at full tilt, going after something he wanted.

Westley had regained his cool, or at least the appearance of it, and seemed willing enough to keep explaining himself in response to Nate’s confusion. “I’d have stayed there forever, as things were.”

Nate wondered about that. He’d met more than a few people at the very top of their respective games; worked with four of them, in fact. Westley was as ruthlessly driven as any of them, perhaps more; but then, maybe he really could have turned that dedication to harnessing all his brilliance and talent to a meager farm in a nothing country.

The very idea was repugnant. Whatever the cause, and whatever the result, Nate was glad it had broken him loose. But he didn’t interrupt.

Westley’s laugh was cynical. “And then, Nathan, I discovered she loved me back.” Nate winced, wishing he couldn’t now see where this was going. “Loved me as truly as I loved her. It changed everything. I had nothing. No money, no prospects, nothing to offer her, nothing of what she deserved. But I had a father, somewhere in America, where fortunes are made, and I had will enough to succeed.”

That, he had. Nate remembered how, in the end, neither he nor his father had argued with Westley, or tried to strong-arm Roberts, when Westley elected to stay and take his chances on the ship instead of the new world. It was no surprise when he eventually inherited the Revenge, along with the name of her pirate captain. Nate had never been all that happy about that part, yet while he and his father had lapsed back into sullen estrangement with one another, he’d taken any opportunity to catch up with his little brother when travelling nearby. Sometimes, family was family in different ways.

“I set out, believing in her. Believing in her love and her faithfulness.” Westley took a moment, mustering the bitter words. “Now she’s engaged.”

They stood in silence, each in their own world, rocking with the motion of the ship.

“I feel like I’m going crazy,” Westley admitted after a while. “Hearing her voice ... I wasn’t prepared for that. Being here, unable to do anything....” He shook his head, revealing something of the storm inside. “I thought I’d hate her, that I couldn’t forgive her, but... I don’t even know what I’m feeling.”

Nate could offer some wry compassion on that score. “It happens.”

It was received in kind. “So I’ve discovered.”

As Nate processed the story, the situation finally began to make sense to him, although there were still a few details that didn’t. For confirmation, he asked, “Look ... tell me if I misunderstood this, but she knew you’d been attacked by Roberts?”

Westley frowned, questioning the relevance. “You heard her just now. She wanted some revenge for losing me. Cold comfort, I suppose.”

Nate persisted with the line of reasoning. “Then, given Roberts’ reputation of, you know, killing everyone –” which Westley had found quite creative ways to maintain, although Nate suspected he hadn’t always kept his hands free of blood, “– wouldn’t she have thought you were dead? For the last five years?”

“Does it matter?”

Nate felt a little flumoxed. “Ahh ... I don’t know? Maybe.”

Westley stared at him as though he were being totally unreasonable. “This was true love, Nathan! Once-in-an-age-of-man, everlasting, stuff-of-legends, true love!”

Caught in the sweep of Westley’s passion in spite of himself, Nate was beginning to wonder if Westley wasn’t right, and that he was the one being unreasonable. Then he shook his head, reasserting some measure of common sense. “And isn’t Humperdinck lawfully entitled to marry any single woman he wants, in Florin?”

Westley lifted his chin. “True love waits for true love,” he said simply, his composure and conviction carrying the point. “True love prevails. Anything less is a travesty and a betrayal.”

Nate sighed, conceding. Who was he to argue the integrity of true love? He studied Westley, who in the wake of his declaration looked more forlorn than Nate could ever remember. Time to be a big brother, then. “Well. That leaves you with just one question.”

Westley looked at him, curious.

“Are you going to trust true love to prevail?

Chapter Six


( 2 speakses — have a speak )
Mar. 26th, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
Wow, I'm so impressed with how you melded the two canons together. I was wondering what Westley and Nate's history would be, and you totally made it work! I love this line:

Which, considering that Nate had never known he had a brother, led to quite a complicated conversation.
Mar. 26th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad it works outside my own head and actually makes sense to others.

The basic shape was there from the beginning, but the details were quite fun to figure out. One of the biggest problems was reconciling Nate, of all people, being that close and trusting with a pathological killer-pirate. Once you actually think about it, it doesn't work at all....
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