Eye of the Needle

Part III

Phillip yawned as he settled back into the comfortable desk chair, gazing contently out the large window. He picked up his glass from the table, sipping the wine he'd found in one of the cabinets. "This is just too good to be happening." He grinned happily as he took another sip. There was only the matter of the Torment herself, but he'd send men out. She couldn't have gone far and a sailor without a ship was like… Like a successful captain without a bonus. He chuckled, closing his eyes contently. 

A hard knock on the door disturbed him in his peacefulness and he looked up in irritation. "What?" 
A younger man stepped into the room, dropping his head in obedience. "I'm sorry to disturb you captain, but you're wanted on deck, sir." 

Phillip stepped outside, pulling his coat tighter as the wind swept around him. He stepped over to the railing, gazing out towards the beach. There was a woman sitting on a horse, surrounded by his men. The younger man led him towards the small rowboat and Phillip sat down, waiting for two others to take the oars and start rowing towards the beach. 

The sand grinded beneath his boots as he stepped onto the earth. The blond woman was sitting quietly, a dark shape lying limply over the horses neck. He looked up at her quietly. "What is it you want?" 
She smiled. "It's not what I want, sir. It's what you want, and how much you're willing to pay for it." She stated, then lifted up the dark head by the hair, showing him the face that was edged into his memory in a deep blood-red color. 
"You've captured the Curse?" 
"Yes." The woman smiled again. "And she's all yours… in return for a safe trip to Sydney and a bit of change for me to live off for a while." 
Phillip was silent for a moment, staring at her. "You realize I can take her from you in a flash. Kill you and she's mine, without paying you one penny." 
A low chuckle. "True." The woman stated, then lifted the small dagger she was holding in her right hand. "But she'd be dead. And if I'm not mistaken, she's worth a lot more alive, isn't she? All I'm asking is a safe journey, which is free for you to give, and maybe a pound or two… Now, isn't that worth capturing her alive?" A cruel smile crossed the girl's face. "Tormenting her is a lot more fun when she's able to scream for help, isn't it?" 

The captain gazed at her for another moment, then he started laughing. "It surely is." He turned to his men. "At ease. Henry, take our Curse down to the hull." He looked up at the woman before him. "If you'll allow us?" 
"Do we have a deal?" 
Phillip smiled. "You have my word, miss." 
She nodded, then negligently pushed the shape before her off the horse, making it fall to the ground, thumping down on the sand with a loud thud. 

Phillip grinned, then stepped closer and reached up a hand to help her off the horse. "I am surprised at your harshness, miss. Delighted, but surprised nevertheless." 
The woman accepted his hands and softly slid off the horse. "The name is Catherine. And when you've been stowed away in a dark hull for the last year or so, harshness is not hard to muster, sir."
"Phillip." Phillip stated, taking her arm as he watched as his nemesis was rowed towards his ship. "Captain of this ship, but at the rate this is going, soon to be Admiral." 
Catherine laughed softly. " And well disserved it is, captain Phillip. After all, catching the Torment of the Southern Seas single handily is not something that can be done by any man, now is it?" 
He laughed as well, understanding she was not going to tell the governor the real story, when they got to that stage. "No it isn't, my lady, it certainly isn't." He smiled, supporting her as she stepped into the small rowboat that was waiting for them, then stepped in himself and sat down beside her. "I'll have a room made ready for you." He looked at her ragged dress, falling of her thin form. "And some new clothing would probably be appropriate as well." 
She smiled another charming smile. "You are too kind, captain."
"Not at all, my lady, not at all." He answered pleasantly as he climbed on board his ship, then reached down and took her hand. "I would be quite honored though if you would privilege me with your presence for diner this evening. I'm quite curious about the details of this remarkable capture." 
"It would be my pleasure, sir." 
"Excellent." Phillip turned to one of his crew. "Take this lady to her room and make sure she's looked after." He gave the man a meaningful look, unseen by Catherine herself, then turned back towards the girl. "I'm afraid our roads must part here for the moment, miss. I am looking forward to our diner this evening."
"So am I, captain." Catherine stated with a sweet smile, then she turned towards the sailor, who offered his arm gallantly, and she was led off towards her room.

Phillip gazed after her for a moment, turning his head as his lieutenant stopped beside him. "What do you make of her, Patrick?"
The lieutenant seemed to consider this for a moment. "I'm not sure captain. But one thing is sure though. She seriously hates Lara Dean. Our former Curse has a bump on her head the size of the governor's ego." 
The captain laughed softly. "That big huh?" Another chuckle, then he sobered. "I do not trust her, Patrick. But she intrigues me. And since she doesn't pose any harm, I see no reason to kill her just yet." A grin as he looked at his lieutenant. "But arrangements might have to be made later on." 
Patrick nodded. "Understood, sir." 
"Good." The captain smiled, then walked his lieutenant towards the stern. "Send out word that Lara Dean has been caught. Captured, by me personally." He gave Patrick a meaningful look. The lieutenant just nodded in understanding. "And send out a patrol to search for the soldiers that were send east. I bet our friend there didn't just find that horse walking around freely."
"Yes, sir." 

Lara stirred, an immense pain shooting through her head instantly. "Ouch." 
"Lara?" Rattling sounded behind her as Matthew moved closer to the bars that were separating them. 
The captain sat up quietly, touching the bump on her head tentatively, then looked in disbelief at the chains locked around her wrists. 
"Lara? Hey? Are you OK?" 
The dark haired woman managed to straighten and she shuffled over to the bars herself. "I've had better days." 
Matthew took a breath, then reached his hand through the bars and touched hers. "I'd like to say it's great to see you, but considering the circumstances…" 
"What happened?" Lara asked softly, leaning her head against the cold metal of the bars. 
"The obvious." Matthew stated with a sigh. "We managed to get through the Eye, but unfortunately, so did they. We tried to out sail them, and I pulled the ship in here to hide, but they probably saw us, and blocked the exit. I knew it was hopeless. I had no choice, so I surrendered… And here we are now…" 
Lara nodded softly. "You did right Matt." 

"Uhm... excuse me?" 
Lara looked up to see an older man peek at her from the cell across from her, holding onto the bars with both hands. She raised an eyebrow at him. 
"The girl… That was with you, Catherine… Is she…?" 
Blue eyes turned icily cold. "You speak her name again and you're dead." 
The man staggered back. "But…"
"How do you think I got this?" Lara hissed, pointing at the bump on her head in anger. "Or did you think I knocked myself over the head?" 
"She'd never…" 
Lara narrowed her eyes at him. "She betrayed me. I trusted her and she betrayed me. Now you so much as mention her again and I'll rip out this steal door here and beat you over the head with it… Got that?" 
The man nodded softly, then stepped back quietly, looking around in complete disbelief. 

A few moments passed, then there was a rattling of keys and the sound of the outer door opening. Footsteps echoed through the hull and finally the captain's long form appeared. 
"Well well." A wicked grin crossed his face. "I see our precious guest has awoken."
Lara looked up and straight into his gray eyes. "Phillip." 
"I'm honored someone so famous as you are, remembers an insignificant little captain like myself." Phillip told her in utter politeness as he stepped into the cell she was in. "Now, I believe I owed you something." He took on a pensive look for a moment as he walked to stand before her, then his face lightened. "Oh yes, now I remember." 
The blow of his fist slammed into her stomach and for a moment she gasped for breath. 
Phillip laughed. "Remember that Lara? Remember when you took my ship from me?" 
Lara looked up at him, then managed a grin. "Oh yeah, I sure do." 
A booted foot against her knee made her wince in pain. 
"Oh, you think you're so tough, don't you?" Phillip hissed at her, grabbing onto her hair and pulling her head up sharply. "Well, the roles are reversed now. I'll get my revenge on you. The governor wanted you alive, but he didn't say you had to be in perfect shape." A wicked grin crossed his face. "But I see your little friend has all ready taken care of that part for me." 
Blue eyes narrowed dangerously. 
Phillip chuckled again, then stepped back. "I'd love to continue this wonderful conversation, but unfortunately I'm expected for diner. Want me to send your regards?" 
"You can tell her I hope she rots in Hell, where she belongs." 
Another laugh bubbled up. "She'll be pleased to hear that from you." He stated, then turned and walked out of the cell, locking it behind him. 

Catherine straightened the sea green fabric of her dress before entering the captain's quarters behind the younger sailor that had led her there. 
Phillip stood from behind his desk and dismissed the boy with a single swipe of his hand, then walked closer, bowing politely. "You look astonishing miss." 
"Thank you." She acknowledged his compliment gracefully, then took his arm as he led her over to the small table that had been placed in the center of the room. Cathy noted that Lara's bed had been shifted, as had some of the chest and cabinets. She sat down as he pulled out her chair for her, then sat down himself. "Wine?" 
Cathy shook her head. "Just water please." 
Phillip nodded, pouring the liquid into her glass. "Well, miss Catherine, I have to say, it's been quite a day…" 
"I have to agree with you captain." Cathy stated, sipping her drink. "And I'm quite sure you're eager to hear my version of it." 
Phillip chuckled softly. "You're very perceptive, my lady." 
Cathy smiled, then cut off a small piece of meat from her plate and chewed on it. "Well, I'm quite sure your prisoners told you that your Curse was washed off the ship, just like I was. We ended up on a small beach, in between huge cliffs. I realized I needed her to get out of this troubling situation. We traveled on until we met your men a few days ago. Lara was already tired out after some fight she got into with one of the wild beasts of this rugged country, and she had a tough time fighting off your men. When we reached this alcove I realized I no longer needed her friendship, but yours…" A smile crossed her face. "And she was the way of acquiring it. Considering the state she was in and the fact that she trusted me, delivering her was not much of a problem… More a pleasure really." 
Phillip laughed softly as he chewed his diner, then swallowed. "I have a hard time believing that you would betray her so easily just because it was beneficial to you, if you don't mind me saying, my lady." 
Cathy nodded, settling back in her chair. "I don't mind, since you are correct, captain. Lara hurt me and it was just gratifying to return the favor." 
Phillip shook his head. "She was a fool then, hurting one as beautiful and charming as you." 
A smile crossed the woman's face. "You flatted me captain." 
"I'm simply stating the truth, my lady, honestly." 
Cathy inclined her head gracefully, before spiking another piece of meat onto her fork. "This is really delicious." 
"My cooks prepared it especially." 
"My compliments." 
Phillip shrugged with a smile. "Anything for you, miss Catherine." 
Green eyes peeked up at him. "Anything?"
His smile grew broader. "Almost anything." 
"Well…" Cathy started, leaning a bit closer. "I do have one favor to ask of you." 
The captain's eyes trailed down for a moment, then quickly back up to her face again. "What might that be?" 
"I'd like to visit your prisoner." 
A dark brown eyebrow raised. "What for, if I may ask?" 
Cathy leaned back again, smiling at him. "I want to see her in the place where she kept me. I want her to feel every retched moment I lived through and I want to see her suffer through it." A dark grin crossed the girl's face. "And add to the suffering, if possible." 
Phillip gazed at her for a moment. Then burst out laughing. "Miss Catherine, you are a woman after my heart." Another chuckle. "Permission granted." Now he leaned forward himself. "If you return afterwards and tell me all the horrible details." 
A grin spread across the girl's face. "Most definitely, sir." 
"Good. I'll have one of my men escort you."
"Thank you captain, I'm very grateful." 
A wicked grin crossed the captain's face. "My pleasure, really." 

Lara looked up as she heard the door open again, followed by two sets of footsteps walking down the stairs. Soon enough she saw the guard and Catherine stop in front of her cell. 
Catherine turned towards the soldier. "Open it." 
"I wouldn't come in here." Lara hissed with narrowed eyes. "I have a very efficient way of dealing with vermin." 
Cathy seemed to ignore her, staring at the soldier. "Open it." She repeated again, in a lower voice. 
The guard seemed to hesitate for another moment, then pulled out the key out of his left in his pocket and unlocked the cell door, swinging it open. 

Cathy edged past the guard, then strode inside, locking her eyes with the prisoner. 

The blow swiped Lara's head aside, her skin heating painfully. She looked back into the green eyes, which turned moments later. 
"Leave us."
"But…" The guards argued. "Miss, the captain told me…" 
"When I need you I'll yell. Whether you're in here, or just outside the door, doesn't really matter, does it?" She raised a blond eyebrow at him. 
The guard sighed, then straightened. "No miss. I'll be right outside." 
"Good." Cathy stated, then turned back again and waited for the boot steps to recede and the outer door to close with a thud. 

"Did you have to hit me so hard?!" Lara hissed, an outraged look on her face. 
"I had to make this look convincing, right? Don't be such a baby." Cathy muttered, kneeling down before her and fishing a key out of a small pocket. 
"Baby?! Do you have any idea how many times I've been smacked up today?" 
Cathy rolled her eyes. "First you start telling me all these macho stories about having daggers spiked through your stomach, and now you start nagging." The girl shook her head, keying open the chains around Lara's wrists. "Consider it payback for that vermin remark of yours." 
The captain chuckled as she softly rubbed the red skin on her arms while Cathy unchained her feet. "There's not that many men on deck, but they're all heavily armed. It's almost dark out, so if you wait a few more moments it'll be easier to strike." 
"OK." Lara agreed, standing as her feet were freed. "How about the key?" 
"I swiped it off the guard when I walked into your cell. I'll have to slip it back into his pocket or he'll notice. He'll come down to lock this door again and you can nail him then and unlock the others." 
"Perfect." Lara agreed with a nod. 
"I'll keep the captain entertained, repulsive as it is." A breath. "God, Lara, he's so slimy." 
Lara chuckled softly. "I know. Be careful though, I don't think he trust you yet." 
"I know, he doesn't have too, as long as I keep him busy for a little while longer, that's fine by me." Cathy stated with a sigh. "But get this all over with quick OK." 
"Deal." Lara smiled as green eyes looked up at her.
Cathy softly touched her cheek, which had turned slightly red. "Sorry." 
"Don't worry about it. It's for the greater good, right?" 
The girl smiled. "Right." A moment, then she looked up at the closed door. "I have to get back, or he'll get suspicious." 
Lara nodded. "Be careful." 
"You too." Cathy stated softly, before walking out and up the stairs. 

Lara looked after her, then turned to stare into hundreds of completely stupefied eyes. "What?" 
Matthew blinked at her. "This… this was all a hoax?" 
Lara chuckled, then found a spot in the shadows as she heard boot steps echoing down the stairs. 

"If we get out of this alive I'm gonna sign you up for the theatre." Matthew shook his head as he rubbed his wrists. "Both of you. That was one hell of a performance." 
"Thank you." Lara chuckled, unlocking the Tom's hands. "I'm sorry we had to lie, but we couldn't afford anybody slipping up. You know how fast rumors can go." 
"Hey, anytime you wanna lie to save my butt, that's just fine by me, cap." Tom muttered as he stood and stretched. "God that feels good. My respect for all of you just jumped two notches guys, I'd never been able to stand this for long." 
"It's not like we had a choice." Mary stated as she dragged the guard's limp form into Lara's former holding. 
"Well, I think it's about time we reclaim our freedom." Lara stated, unlocking the next door. "And that goes for everybody." She looked at her former captives. "Fight with me?" 

A man in his mid thirties stood and faced her. "Nothing would please me more, capt'n." He extended his hand and Lara took it. "John." 
"Lara." The captain stated, letting a grin cross her face. "Catherine speaks well of you." 
"That lass should after the stunt she just pulled on me." 
Lara chuckled, then turned to sea most of the captives now untied and forming a circle around her. "OK, listen up everyone. Here's the plan." 

"I take it your meeting went well?" 
Catherine straightened the fabric of her dress then sat down on one of the chairs gracefully. "Very well actually. To see her in chains was…" A grin crossed her face. "satisfying." 
"It is, isn't it?" Phillip smiled. 
"So, when will we be departing?" Cathy started conversationally. 
"Soon hopefully." Phillip settled back in his chair and took another sip of his wine. "Repairs are nearly done. With some luck we'll be able to depart tomorrow afternoon or so."
"That's quite good to hear sir." Cathy smiled, shooting a quick look towards the door. "I'm quite looking forward to finally seeing this Port Jackson." 
"Well, don't expect too much, my lady. It's mostly a convict colony. There's a few settlers though, pubs and hotels. Houses for the governor and his men. Nothing much yet, but it's a nice setting. The country is very dangerous though, as you might have noticed." Phillip watched the green eyes dart across the room nervously and frowned. "Are you all right, my lady? You seem rather nervous…" 
Cathy looked up quickly and managed a smile. "My apologies. It must be all the sudden comfort after these horrible days… And I'm quite tired." 
"Maybe you should get some rest than, miss." Phillip suggested, standing up. "I don't wish to keep you from your needed sleep." 
"No, no." Cathy managed hastily as she lifted her hands. "Really sir, I'm all right." 
"No, really, I insist." Phillip continued, stepping slightly closer to the door. 'I…" he stopped suddenly, as a scream sounded from outside. "What the…?" A knock sounded door and he walked over quickly, pulling the door open. "Sir!" An out of breath soldier faced him, his clothes hanging ragged from his body. "The convicts sir, they've…" His sentence stocked in his throat, his face distorted in pain as he reached or his chest, then fell backwards. 

Phillip looked up, the deck crawling with men and women. A sudden movement caught his attention and he looked up into piercing blue eyes. His nemesis was holding a smoking pistol in her hand, and pointed it straight for him. In a flash he pulled the door closed and fumbled with the key, locking it behind him. A thud as the bullet edged it's way into the wood. 

He turned, to find Catherine standing behind the desk, pulling out one of the drawers. 
"It's not there." Cathy looked up at him with wide eyes. Phillip grinned humorlessly. "The pistol you're looking for… I took it out of that drawer." He lifted the gun in his hand. "You were in with them all along, weren't you?" 
Catherine backed away slowly. "You… You're mistaken… How could I have…" 
"Don't play games with me!" His gray eyes fumed with rage. "You go and visit her and now this… Too coincidental, isn't it?" A devilish grin crossed his face. "Well, if I'm gonna die I might as well take the Torment's little friend down with me. 
Cathy backed against the wall, loosing her balance and slipping down to thud onto the floor, looking up and into the guns barrel fearfully. "No…" 
Phillip laughed as he pulled back the safety catch. "Bye bye." 

"Damn it." Lara cursed as she saw the fired bullet edge into the wooden door. She elbowed aside an onrushing sailor, then pushed off and flipped over a few more. Another three men came rushing on, and just when she was about to launch out for them another blade took care of them for her. 
"Go!" Matthew yelled as she saw John step up on the other side of her clearing her way for a moment. 

A few steps and she reached the door, pushing against it and finding it locked. A few paces back then she set her shoulder against the door. 

A loud thundering inside the room as a pistol fired made her heart stop then redouble. "Catherine!" She yelled, then slammed into the door with all her strength. 

A smack and the door flew open and she raced inside. Her mind was a blur, all she could see was a shape standing before a slumped form lying against the wall. One, two steps and she vaulted forward, grabbing the man around the waist and taking him down before his gun fired again. They struggled, rolling across the wooden floor. Lara managed to end up on top, overpowering him with her weight. Her fist impacted with his cheek harshly, bleeding his nose. 

Phillip struggled against the pain, desperately trying to free his hand, pulling the gun towards his enemy. 
"Oh no you don't." A deep voice burred, then with a smack against his upper arm she dislocated his shoulder. The pain seared through him and instinctively he let go of the weapon. 
Lara grabbed onto the gun, then lifted it at him. "Bye Phillip." 

A breath, then she made a quick decision and turned the pistol, smacking the hilt against the captain's head harshly. He dropped down unconsciously, limply lying under her. 

A moment she sat silently, closing her eyes. Then a soft moan behind her caught her attention. Two steps and she knelt down in front of the girl's body. "Catherine?" She touched the girls cheek softly.
A moment of silence, then deep green eyes blinked and stared directly into hers. 
A huge smile crossed her face in relief, as the aching in her heart stopped instantly. "You OK?" 

Catherine looked up at her for a moment, her eyes blinking as her brain tried to grasp the situation, then she just grabbed onto the captain's sturdy form and pulled her into a hug, burying herself into Lara's shoulder. A sob escaped her. "Oh my God…" 

For a moment Lara stiffened, then she let her muscles relax and hugged the girl back, pulling her closer with a sigh. "Hey, it's all right. It's over." 
She felt a nod against her shoulder, then Cathy pulled back. 
"Sorry." She managed, wiping the few tears of her face. 
"It's OK." Lara smiled at her, softly touching her cheek. "Did he hurt you? I heard the gun go off, I thought…" 
Cathy swallowed, shaking her head softly. "He fired, but the sound of you coming through the door freaked him out, and he missed." Her eyes shifted as she looked at the bullet hole in the wooden wall, an inch or so from where her head had been. "Barely." A breath as she lifted a shaking hand, pushing back her disheveled hair. "That was too close…" 
"Sorry, I'll try to take over the ship faster next time." 
A smile broke through on the girl's face and she laughed softly. "Next time I'll get caught and you can suck up to the captain, OK?" 
"Deal." Lara smiled back at her, pushing a blond lock back behind her ear. 

Blue eyes turned to find Tom standing in the door opening, trying to repress a smile. 
"Sorry to disturb you, captain, but you're wanted on deck." 
"We'll be right there." Lara smiled at him, then motioned for the limp form lying a bit off. "Get some guys and get this piece of crap down to the hull for me, will ya Tom?" 
Tom chuckled, and saluted her cheerfully. "Aye aye captain."

Lara stood and stretched, then reached down a hand. "Come on." 
Cathy happily took it and let herself be hauled up, the reached over and wrapped an arm around the captain's waist. Lara didn't flinch this time, but draped an arm over her shoulder in return. 
"So." Cathy stated, moving towards the door leading onto the deck. "I guess that makes three huh?" 
"Three what?" 
"Three times you saved me… I'm really gonna have to start working on paying you back." 
Lara chuckled softly, squeezing her shoulder as they exited the room and a cheer rose around them as men and women closed in on them. 

Matthew walked up and pulled Lara into a hug. "You know you keep amazing me, my friend." 
The captain chuckled, patting him on the back. "Can't let myself get predictable, now can I?" 
Matthew laughed, letting her go, then turned towards the blonde form, surrounded by some of the former convicts and walked towards her. She turned as he approached. He looked at her for a moment in silence. "I was wrong about you. I was wrong about a lot of things." 
Cathy looked at him for a moment, hen smiled. "Don't worry about it." She stated, patting his shoulder. "You were only looking out for her, that's not a crime." 
"I was protecting her from the wrong things unfortunately." A smile as he clasped onto her hand. "I won't let that happen again." 
"Deal." Cathy grinned. 

Lara let herself be pulled along by congratulating hands for a while, mutedly listening to the words praising her with a smile, remembering the last time it had been like this. Then suddenly a louder voice edged over the turmoil. "Captain!" 
She looked up to see Tom standing at the railing, motioning for her, a blank look on his face. She frowned, then stepped forward, people moving backward as she did so. She felt Matthew step up behind her. 
"What is it?" She asked, looking at Tom as she stepped closer. 
The skipped just turned and pointed. 

Lara looked aside and saw the hundreds of small lights blocking the opening to the open sea. In the shimmer of the darkness she could make out three large ships, the English blue barely seen flapping near the crow's nest. The firelight reflected of the cannons that were lined up along the decks.
"Holy mother of God." Matthew muttered, staring into the distance. 
Lara sighed, hiding her head in her hand for a moment. "This is just not my day, is it?" 

It took Matthew a few moments to get his brains working again, then he turned to face his captain. "Lara, we can't fight these guys." 
"I know." Came the quiet answer. 
"They'll kill you." 
A breath as the second in command viciously searched his mind. "Take the rowboat." He stated, urging her towards the opposite railing. "You could row to the shore, take the horse… They'd wouldn't catch you…" 
Brown eyes looked into intent blue ones. "Lara, you have to get out of here…" 
"No." Lara shook her head firmly. "I'm not gonna run." 
"But Lara…" 
"I said no." The blue eyes narrowed as Lara's voice raised slightly. "I'm not gonna be some refugee in the middle of nowhere while you're all locked up by them." 
"At least you'll be alive, you'll…" 

A soft hand on her arm made Lara turn. Green eyes looked up at her softly, then her eyes crossed the horizon. "English ships?" 
The captain just nodded. 
Cathy let her eyes drop, then she lifted them again. "Lara, they'll kill you…" 
"I know." A breath. "Catherine, I won't leave this ship. I can't run, not anymore… I'm tired of hiding…" 
Green eyes looked up at her quietly for a moment, then they dropped. "I know." 

"Captain." Tom stepped closer. "They're signaling. They want permission to come aboard."
"Permission?" Lara muttered, sparing Tom a quick look. "That's new… They developed a sense of sarcasm." She chuckled, but nobody joined in. "Sign back, permission granted." 
Tom gave her a nod, then lit a torch and waved it back and forth towards the ships in the distance. 
Moments later a small rowboat from the lead ship moved closer towards them. 

Lara straightened her shoulders, watching the boat approach quietly. Beside her, she heard Cathy shakily take in a breath. She looked down on the fair head for a moment, the ruffled the blond hair. "It'll be OK." 
Green eyes blinked up at her. "Will it?" 
"For you, yes." A smile. "I'll take care of that myself, somehow. I promise." She pulled the girl closer for a quick hug. "Now go. Stand with John." 
Cathy blinked the tears from her eyes, then shook her head, pillowing her head on the captain's shoulder. 
"Catherine, if they think you're with me, they'll hurt you. Go stand with your friends."
A shaky breath as the girl looked up. "I am." The green eyes turned away, watching as the boat came closer and rope ladder was tossed down.

Lara quietly shook her head at the stubborn girl, but pulled her a bit closer nevertheless. A quick breath as she straightened, hearing the ropes crack as they supported the weight of a man. 

Moments later a young face appeared. Blond hair, pulled back and a short stubbly beard. Bright blue eyes, almost matching her own. He flapped his long gray coat on board before stepping over the railing himself, soon followed by two well armed soldiers. 
From the corner of her eye she saw Matthew reaching for his pistol and she gave him a warning look. 

The man glanced around the crowded deck, sparing a glance at the limp soldiers lying in corners of the deck. Then he looked back up again. "I'm looking for Lara Dean?" 
"That would be me." Lara stepped forward slowly, distancing herself from the rest. 
He looked at her quietly for a moment, then smiled. "Kennard Steward, admiral of the English Royal Navy." He stated, extending a hand. 
Lara frowned, then took the offered hand. 
"Would it be possible to talk to you in private for a moment. I have a business proposition for you." 
The captain blinked, then shrugged. "Sure, just uhm…" She pointed towards the door to her cabin. 
Kennard nodded, then stepped towards the door. 
Lara exchanged a completely rattled look with Matthew, then followed him, pushing open the door for English man to enter. 

Lara sat down behind her desk and motioned for the admiral to sit down as well. He did, leaning back in his chair calmly, studying her for another moment. Then chuckled. "I have to say, when they spoke of the Curse back home, I never expected this battered and bruised wordless woman." 
Lara watched him for a moment, then chuckled softly. "You caught me on an off day." 
"Well," he smiled at her. "With some luck, I'm about to make this day a whole lot better…" 

Catherine head shot up as the door opened again, and the blond haired man strode out, giving them all a polite nod, before grabbing onto the rope ladder and lowering himself towards the rowboat. Murmurs drifted up around her, but she ignored them and walked towards the door to Lara's quarters, slipping inside quietly. 

Lara was leaning against her desk, silently, a look that could best be described as stupefied on her face. 
The dark head looked up, then smiled at her. 
"Are you OK?" She stepped closer softly. 
Blue eyes blinked at her for a moment. "It's over." 
Over? Alarm bells went off in Cathy's head. "Is he taking you away, he's not going to…" 
"No no no." Lara hastily shook her head. "That's not what I mean, it's… I mean all of this." She indicated her cabin, the ship. "It's…" A breath as she hid her head in her hand for a moment, then looked up at Cathy with a stupid grin on her face. "The king of England has forbidden that any more captives are send to Australia. Everyone who's been brought here are no longer imprisoned…" A short pause. "We're free, Catherine." 
Catherine was at a loss for words for a moment. "Free… you mean…?" 
Lara nodded, then wrapped her arms around her friend, lifting her off the ground and spinning around. "Yes." She whispered. "That's exactly what I mean." She felt arms wrap around her and smiled, closing her eyes happily. Then she looked up to spot Matthew in the door opening. 
She released Cathy with a pat on the back, then walked towards him. "Matt…" 
He looked at her quietly for a moment, then took two steps forward and enfolded her in a hug. They stood like this for a moment, then pulled back. "Really?" Matthew managed. 
"Absolutely." The captain smiled. "It's all over Matt…Well," She grinned. "Not quite all…" 
Cathy cocked her head. "What do you mean?" 
"Sit down." Lara ordered, walking towards her desk and perching on the edge of her desk. Cathy sat down in one of the chairs and Matthew walked up behind her, leaning on the back of the seat. 
"Well," Lara started. "The king has ordered the governor to give the convicts their freedom, but our good friend is not about to let his cheap labor go." 
"So that's why they're here." Matthew commented, referring to the ships. "To reinforce the law." 
Lara nodded. "Exactly. The thing is, they way outnumber him, but they're not to familiar with the territory, his defenses, all that." A moment as she glanced from one to the next. "They want our help."
Matthew chuckled. "Now that's a new development." 
"I know." Lara grinned. "Thing is, the king can't just get away with pardoning me, it'll seem weak to the people, he can't have that. And he can't have it seem that he's admitting to having been wrong…So he offered me a deal. I get scrapped from the history books and everybody's pardoned."
Catherine blinked at her. "You're kidding…" 
"Nope. He wants the people to forget about me… Rumors go fast, if my name is not mentioned again, it won't be long before everyone forgets the Curse ever existed." A shrug. " I don't mind that one bit actually. A lot of people died under my hand. Maybe it's better to have that bit of history erased…" 
Cathy nodded softly. "Maybe… So you told him yes?" 
Another shrug. "I said I had to discuss it with my crew." Then a smile crossed her face. "But I did tell him the odds were in his favor." 
Matthew shook his head with a smile. "Well, you'd better get the Hell over there and tell him we agree before he takes back his offer." 
Lara stood and walked over to them with a grin. "OK… Let's do this then. Matthew, tell Tom to send a flare up. That's the sign we agreed on…. I'll go and tell the others. " 
Matthew touched his temple. "Aye aye captain." He stated cheerfully, before striding out of the room. 

Cathy watched him go, then stood herself and joined the captain towards the deck. "I still can't believe it." 
Lara sighed contently. "Me neither." 
"You sure this isn't some trick?" 
Lara shrugged. "Not really. But his story is pretty convincing. And it's either believing this, or being keelhauled. I think I picked the better deal." 
"I think so too." Cathy smiled as they excited the cabin and walked onto the deck, facing hundreds of questioning eyes.

Catherine watched the commotion on the deck from her spot on the bough. The soldiers that were still alive had been taken downstairs and were locked up. Now the deck was full of people trying to find a spot to sleep in. Some of the sailors had switched places with their new friends to provide a night of matrassed comfort for them. Lara had offered up her room as well, but everybody had denied politely, seeing the captains battered state. The large gash on her forehead was quite evident and the captain had retreated to her room to stitch the wound up. Too late, she'd stated before walking off, it would leave an ugly scar now. But at least this one would remind her of good memories, she'd added then, with a twinkle in her eyes. Cathy smiled as she turned and glanced out at the shore, leaves barely seen blowing in the shadows. This was her new home now, she realized. She could go back to England, in theory, but in her heart she knew she'd never survive such a journey again. It would take off another year of her life… It was a strange thought, as she realized she would never see her mother again, or her brothers… Her house, the street they'd lived in… Strange to think about how far away they were now, miles and miles away, on the other side of the world… She glanced around again, breathing in the cold but fresh smell of the night's air. A nice part of the world though, she told herself quietly as she gazed up at the starry sky, finding patterns she'd never seen before. 

Lara turned as the door was pushed open and Cathy walked in, closing the door behind her. The girl turned to face her, chuckling at her stitching and her grim look. 
"It's not funny." The captain replied grumpily, shooting herself a look in the mirror, the stitching standing out starkly against her skin. "I look like bloody Frankenstein." 
Cathy laughed, stepping closer. "Vanity does nothing for you Lara." 
"I am not vain!" The captain shot back indignantly. "It's just…" 
"Don't worry about it." Cathy chuckled, seating herself in the captain's deckchair. "It'll look macho at that captain's meeting you have to attend tomorrow. You'll have a tough story to tell the others." 
"I got attacked by a cat. Yeah, great story."
"It was a panther, not a cat." Cathy corrected, spinning around in the chair. "That's quite something you know…" She stopped and looked up at her friend. "How are you feeling otherwise? Did you clean out those other wounds?" 
"Yes mom." Lara joked, rolling her eyes at the girl. " It's fine, really… they're healing quite nicely actually…" 
Cathy smiled at her, leaning back in the chair. "Good."
Lara smiled back at her, then walked over to her bed, ripping of the sheets. "OK, I'm gonna burn these now." She sniffed the sheets, then wrinkled her nose. "Bweh." 
The blond woman behind her laughed, as Lara walked over to the door and deposited the bundle outside, taking a new set of sheets out of one of the chests next to her desk and tossing them on the bed. "You up for a nightcap?" 
"That depends on what a nightcap is." Cathy returned, never having heard of the word. 
Lara chuckled, walking over to her desk and pulling open a drawer, then taking out a full bottle of red wine and placing it on the wooden surface. "This is a nightcap." 
"No, this is a bottle of wine." Cathy countered. "And I've never actually had any wine before, so I'm not sure if that's a good idea…" 
Lara lifted an eyebrow. "Never?" The girl shook her head. "It's about time you started then." The captain grinned and placed a glass in front of her. "Just try a sip, if you don't like it, I'll get you some water." 
"OK." Cathy shrugged, watching Lara pour a bit of the red liquid into her glass. She reached out and lifted the glass, swiveling the wine around a bit before taking a tentative sip. "Hmmm…" She considered for a moment, tasting the wine. "That's quite nice actually. Makes you all warm inside." She then stated, lifting the glass again and then draining the rest of it's contents. 
"Whoa, hey, don't do that…" Lara warned her, hastily taking the glass from her. 
"Why? I.." Cathy blinked as the wave of alcohol reached her brain. "Oh oh…" 
Lara chuckled. "You're supposed to sip it." 
Cathy shook her head, trying to clear her mind. "You know, I've noticed you always tell me these things AFTER I've actually done something stupid…" 
Another chuckle as Lara settled back in her chair, sipping her wine before placing her glass back on the desk. "Sorry, I'll try to read your mind from now on so I can warn you beforehand, OK?" 
"OK." Cathy agreed cheerfully, as she reached for the bottle and poured herself another glassful. 
"Hey, easy on that, OK? I don't wanna have to carry you off afterwards…"
Cathy shrugged. "You've done it before." 
The captain shook her head, but refrained from comment. She did however put the cork back into the 
bottle, and hid it behind the desk… just in case…

"Well." Cathy stated conversationally, supporting her head on her hands as she leaned over the table. "I think I can consider this the weirdest day of my life so far." 
Lara chuckled. "Now what makes you say that?" 
"Oh, I don't know." The girl shrugged. "Maybe the smacking down armed English soldiers early in the morning clued me in… or clubbing you down with a branch…" 
"Oh yeah, I remember that bit." Lara muttered, rubbing the bump on the back of her head. 
"Or maybe it was riding onto a beach on horseback and being surrounded by guys with guns…"Cathy continued. "That never seemed to happen back home either… You know, I think you attract misfortune…" 
"Me?" Lara pointed a thumb at herself. "Hey, I never got into half this much trouble until you came along, you know?" 
"You saying it's my fault?" Cathy raised an eyebrow at the dark haired woman. "Oh come on, what could an innocent little city dweller like me have done." 
"Now who was the one that jumped off the boat again?" 
"I didn't jump." Cathy told her sternly. "I washed. Besides, that was because of the storm, the weather, that had nothing to do with me." 
"Right." Lara muttered, watching Catherine drip the last few drops of her second glass into her mouth. "I think it's about time to turn in."
Catherine considered this for a moment, then suppressed a yawn. "Right, that might be a good idea." She stated. "I'll see you tomorrow then. I'll have to get my blanket and.." She stood, then grabbed onto the table for support. "Whoa…" 
Lara quickly reached out and took hold of her arm. "I warned yaw." She chuckled, getting an annoyed look from Catherine. "Well, I did…" 
"Hmm.." Cathy muttered, shaking her head. "Hey, did you know the boat was spinning?" She then informed the captain. "That's good, maybe it'll compensate for the motion of the waves." She reasoned, taking a step forward and immediately stumbling back into Lara's arms. "And maybe not." 
Lara shook her head softly, then guided the girl over to her bed. "You just get some sleep here, OK?" 
She stated, seating the girl on the bed's surface. 
"No, I'll be fine, I should…" She stated, getting up only to be pushed down again. 
"You should get some sleep." Lara stated, before walking over to her side of the bed. "And I promised you a bed to sleep in tonight, right? You don't wanna make me break my promises, now do yaw?" 
Cathy considered this for a moment, then shook her head. "Nope." She said, starting to pull off her slippers. "Wouldn't want that." She slipped out of her dress then slid under the sheets. Happily she pillowed her head on the soft feathery surface of her pillow, watching Lara blow out the candle on the desk and then hearing the captain walk back. 
She looked up at the ceiling quietly, watching the waves play with the moonlight on the wooden panels. "You know Lara?" 
"Hmmm?" Came the sleepy grunt from beside her.
"I'm starting to like the sea a bit… you know why?" 
A sigh "Why?" 
"It's nice like this at night… Sort of like a cradle, rocking you to sleep… You know, I remember…" 
"Catherine." Lara interrupted. "You know why I like the sea?" 
Cathy cocked her head. "Why?" 
"Cause it's nice and quiet at night." 
"Cause it's…? Oh…" Cathy tapped her finger against her temple. "Gotcha." 
"Good." Lara muttered, turning to lay on her other side. "Night Catherine." 
"Sweet dreams." Cathy said back, sliding a bit closer and touching the captain's arm.
A moment of hesitation, then the arm lifted and wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her closer. "I will." Came the burred response. 
Cathy smiled as she snuggled closer into her new favorite spot. "Yeah, me too." 

Lara tied the cloak around her neck as she stepped closer to the railing. "Matthew, you ready?" 
"Absolutely." Her second in command stated, straightening his shirt. "Mary'll be up in a minute. I told her to drop all the weaponry." 
Lara chuckled. "She must feel horrible now. I don't think she and her saber have ever been separated." 
"I could say the same about you." Matthew grinned.
"Nah." Lara waved him off. "I'm a true pacifist, you know that." 
"Right." Matthew laughed, then hopped down and into the small rowboat.
Mary came strolling up. Lara gave her look, then extended a hand and raised an eyebrow at the girl. Mary rolled her eyes, then flapped open the her vest and pulled out the pistol, handing it to Lara with a grim look on her face. 
"And how about that knife?" 
Mary threw up her hands. "Look, capt'n, it's well hidden in my boot. They won't see it, I'll feel a whole lot better." 
Lara shook her head at her, but smiled. "Oh all right…" She leaned closer. "As long as you don't tell Matthew anything about the dagger hidden up my sleeve, OK?" 
Mary laughed softly, patting the captain on the back. "Gotcha." She stated, before lowering herself into the rowboat and seated herself behind the oars. 

"Tom?" Lara motioned the skipper forward. "You're in command now, OK. If anything does go wrong, I want you to get the hell out of here, anyway you can. Any signs of trouble and you start rowing people ashore, dig?" 
"Aye aye, cap." Tom nodded at her. "And good luck." 
Lara smiled. "Thanks Tommy. See yaw in a bit, OK?" She stated, before lowering herself down the ropes. She pushed the boat off as Mary started rowing, then seated herself and watched quietly as they neared the English ships.

Later that morning Catherine blinked open her eyes. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, glancing around her for a moment at the empty bed and room. She frowned, then sat up. "Ugh." Instinctively she grasped onto her head, trying to stop it's painful throbbing. "Ouch." She sat silently for a few moments, as her headache eased, then stood. She picked a wooden cup off Lara's desk and dipped it into the barrel of water, taking a sip of the cold liquid. A look out the window showed they were still anchored in the small alcove. She could just see the sun out the window if she pressed against the glass and looked up, meaning it had almost reached it's zenith. Lara had let her sleep in. She quietly shook her head at the absent captain, then walked back over to the bed, stepping over the dress she'd dropped beside the bed. 

Dressing up didn't seem appropriate though, and since she had no other clothes she walked over to a pile of Lara's neatly folded shirts and pulled one over her head. She regarded herself in the mirror for a moment, then laughed at her reflection. The shirt reached down to her knees, the sleeves dangling halfway down her upper arms. "I don't think this'll be a fashion trend, Catherine." She informed herself with a chuckle, then fished around in one of the chests, finally finding one of Lara's belts and tying it around her waist. 

The skipper looked up at the sound of the familiar voice. "Well, g'morning Cat." He smiled at her as the girl stepped up the stairs to where he was standing. "Lovely outfit yaw got there." 
Catherine grinned back at him. "Well, it was either this or wearing the salty rags I've had on for the last year or so, I figured this'd be more comfortable." 
"Right you are." Tom smiled at her. "Captain's gone over yonder." He stated, pointing at the three English ships clustered together. 
"Thought as much. I'm not happy about her letting me sleep in… I wanted to see her off…" 
"It was a long day yesterday, Cat, you deserved some sleep." The skipper shrugged.

Catherine leaned both hands on the railing, gazing at the ships in the distance. "Do you think this is a hoax, Tom?"
Tom glanced at her for a moment, then shrugged. "Can't say. Don't think so… They have the force to easily overpower us. We're no match for them and they know it. If they wanted us dead, we'd be dead now…"
Catherine nodded quietly. "I guess…" She muttered, then turned to face the skipper. "Is there anything I can do this morning? I know I'm not much of a sailor, but I'd like to make myself useful." 
Tom shrugged. "Not really. Everybody's already been put to work, making repairs and stuff, so that's all taken care of…" A moment of thought, then suddenly loud yelling erupted from the kitchen below them and moments later a bunch of fish were launched onto the deck. Tom watched the spectacle, then scratched his neck and sheepishly grinned at Catherine. "How good are you at cooking fish?"

"I ain't doing it." 
"Ow, come on Cookie." 
"Nope." The shorty, chubby, dark skinned woman crossed her arms. "And no nagging from you is gonna get anything done Tommy. You just send some fellows out to catch me some of those hopping thingies or something or other. I've had it with these blasted fish!" 
"Calm down, girl, calm down." The skipper lifted his hands in defense. "I'm sorry about the fish Cookie, but you know how lousy we are at catching meat, right?"
"Good for nothing sailors." Cookie muttered, glowering at him. 
"I'm just here to tell you you can take the day off. Catherine here will take over for yaw." 
Cathy stepped from behind Tom's sturdy form, shyly wiggling her fingers at the cook. "Hi."

The woman eyed her for a moment, then raised an eyebrow at the skipper. "That little things gonna cook for all of yous?" 
Cookie rolled her eyes. "Yeah right. Well, I'm telling yaw Tommy, I'm not gonna leave my kitchen in the hands of the ignorant. I'm staying right here…" She gave Catherine another look. "She can help me though." 
"Yippee." Catherine muttered under her breath, making Tom chuckle. 
"Thanks Cookie." He smiled at the cook, then turned to Catherine and patted her on the shoulder. "Good luck." 

"So you're the little thing the captain saved?" 
Catherine looked up at the woman, who had walked back to her stove and was stirring in a large black pot. "Yes, that's me." 
"Thought as much." Cookie nodded. "Pass me the salt." 
Cathy glanced around the room, spotting the salt, then handing it over hastily. "Here." 
The woman took it, then shook the small container above the pot, then stirred some more. "So you're the one who stirred up all this commotion too? Pepper."
Cathy handed her a wooden device and nodded. "I guess, yeah… I didn't mean to…" 
"Nah, it's a good thing yaw did." Cookie informed her, without looking up. "This here people were ready for some change. Here, stir this." She handed the wooden spoon to Cathy, then walked to the small table and picked the large cooking knife off it's surface. "Lara's a nice kid, but she's stubborn as hell."
Cathy chuckled, stirring the soupy substance in the pan. "I'll second that. She got attacked by this big cat a couple of days back, but she wouldn't even let me look at the wounds. Said they were just scratches." 
Cookie snorted. "Oh yeah, that's Lara all right. She should've brought the stupid beast along though, we'd finally have a decent meal here." 
"Do you really hate fish that much?"
Cookie glanced up. "Girl, there are only so many things you can do with these here fishies." She stated, cutting the head off one of the sea creatures with one single snap of her knife. "And every single night these blasted beasts are on the menu. It would be nice to just have some steak, once a month or so, yaw know?"
"See your point." Catherine nodded quietly. "Couldn't you keep chickens on here or something? You'd have eggs and meat…And they only eat grains and stuff, not too hard to carry along…"
"Chickens…" Cookie fell quiet for a moment, considering this. She drummed her fingers on the table's wooden surface. "Yaw know kid, that's not a bad idea… Lara's gonna object though." 
"Oh, the brat'll find something to nag about. They'll make a mess out of her ship, they'll make to much noise…" 
Catherine chuckled. "How do you just get away with calling her a brat? I don't think anybody else on this boat would even dare call her anything but captain." 
Cookie laughed as she walked over to the stirring girl, dumping some chopped up fish pieces into the soup. "You've got lots to learn kiddo." She grinned. "I can say anything 'bout anybody cause they need me. Who's gonna cook their stinking fish otherwise? Being a cook puts yaw in a privileged position, honey, remember that. Besides, I like the brat and she knows it…" She cleaned her hands off on her apron. "But don't you go atelling her I said that, y'hear?" 
Cathy smiled. "Not a word from me, I swear." 
"Good." The cook nodded, then dipped a spoon in the soup and tasted the mixture. "Hmm…" She muttered, then handed the spoon to Catherine. "What do yaw think?" 
The girl sipped the soup, then swallowed. "Not bad… A bit more salt maybe…" 
"That's what I was thinking." Cookie grinned, then patted Cathy on the back. "You're not bad kid, I'll make a chef out of you yet…" 

"Well, if there's gonna be a battle, it's gonna be here." Lara pointed at a spot on the map that was lying in the center of the oval shaped table they were sitting around. "He's got a fortress placed on one of the islands here. Some cannons and stuff. The soldiers that aren't on the boats will be here." She pointed at the docks on the western part of the alcove Port Jackson was nestled in. 
"How many ships does this guy have?" An older captain regarded her with some suspicion. "They tell us he has 7 battle ships or so." 
"Six now." Lara grinned. "He's got two more ships, but they sailed out a while ago, on exploration. I doubt they're back yet."
Another younger captain by the name of Christopher leaned back in his chair. "This shouldn't be too hard then. We've got ten ships here… We can just power in there…" 
Kennard shook his head. "I bet he's got some surprises waiting for us when we get there."
"He'll probably try to circle us." Matthew added, ignoring the looks he was getting from some of the Englishmen. "Push us into here, so he can use the cannons on the mainland." 
"I agree." Kennard stated. "We should try to take those out as fast as possible." 
"The bigger boats could draw some of the fire." Christopher added. "Then the smaller ones can sail to shore and take care of the men there." 
Approving mutters and nods around the table. 
"Very well." The young admiral stated, standing up, soon followed by the other captains. "We'll work out the details as we sail closer. Dismissed." 

Everybody walked out, leaving only Lara and himself. "I'm sorry about them." Kennard stated, walking closer to the captain. "You have to understand they've seen you as an enemy for a long time."
"That goes both ways." Lara retorted simply.
The admiral smiled. "I guess it does." He straightened his jacket. "I'd like you to take command of that vessel you captured. It's better equipped than your ship is. Besides, I don't think we want to sail all those people on there into a battle such as this one. I'd rather have them stay back on your ship until everything is taken care off." 
"Agreed." Lara nodded, walking outside. "I'll make sure we're ready to sail tomorrow morning." 
"Excellent." Another smile. "Thank you for your help."
"My pleasure." The captain inclined her head towards him, then grabbed hold of the rope ladder and lowered herself down into the small rowboat.

"Ignorant pieces of squid." Mary muttered as they rowed out of hearing range. "I was this close to turning them into shish kebab, I tell yaw." The woman stated, holding her thumb and index finger mere millimeters apart.
Matthew pulled on the oars. "Right there with yaw." 
Lara grinned, leaning back in the boat. "We didn't kill them, they didn't kill us… I think it went quite well…" 
"Aw, come on capt'n, they were treating us like pieces of trash."
Lara shrugged. "They hate us just as much as we hate them. But we need each other now, that's all there is to it."
"Well, I guess that Kennard fellow is pretty much OK." Matthew muttered, then pulled in the oars and tossed the rope that was rolled up at his feet up over the railing of their ship. "Yo Tommy!" 

Moments later Tom poked his head over the edge of the ship, before tossing down the ladder. "G'day to y'all." He greeted them cheerfully as Lara pulled herself up. "How did it go Cap?" 
"Not too bad." The captain informed him as she swung her leg over the railing. "How'd it go here?"
"Made some last repairs. We moved some of our stuff over to the Governor's former boat, like you said. Most of the guys are settled in."
"Perfect." Lara muttered absently as she let her eyes drift over the deck. 

Tom watched her for a moment, then grinned. "She's not on deck captain. She wanted to help out so I send her down to Cookie's…" 
Lara's eyes widened. "You did what? What did you want to do, kill the girl?" 
"Oh, she's quite alive, cap, really." Tom chuckled. "I'll go move my stuff now." 
The captain gave him a suspicious look, then shook her head and wandered over to one of the doors, pulling it open and descended the few steps down to the kitchen. 

Voices drifted up as she walked closer. "Oh, you should've seen her face when she bit into that. Eyes almost popped out of her skull." A chuckle. "But she didn't say a word and ate the whole lot… " 
More laughter as Lara took the last few steps down and saw two woman sitting across the table from each other. 

She cleared her throat, then watched as green eyes lifted, then smiled. "Oh hi. We were just talking about you." 
"So I gathered." Lara drawled, stepping closer, before dropping her voice. "And if you ever try to dump chili peppers into my food, I'll have to punish you severely, got it?" 
"Oh shut it squirt," Cookie pointed a knife at her as she paused in skinning her apple. "You can save that intimidation stuff for the sailor boys, OK?"
"Here here." Cathy added with a grin. 
Lara lifted an eyebrow. "What are you trying to do Cookie? Start a mutiny from the galley here?" 
"Now there's a thought." The cook laughed. "Don't worry, captain, just exchanging words with the kid here."
"I didn't realize you were close." Lara crossed her arms an glared at the two. 
"Recent development." Cathy grinned at her.
Cookie chuckled. "You can fish the sorts of her out of the sea anytime, Lara, much more useful than those damned fish of yours." 
Lara merely rolled her eyes at the woman. 
"And don't you start with them eyes young lady." The cook warned her in a dangerous tone. She gave Cathy a nudge. "You go on kid, make sure she behaves, OK? If she gives yaw any trouble you know where to come, eh?" 
"Absolutely." The girl gave the woman a smile. "Thanks. I'll be back for diner, OK?" 
"You'd better be." Cookie warned her with a glint in her eyes. "Now shoo, the both of yaw, I've got miracles to perform." 

Catherine chuckled as she exited the kitchen behind Lara. "She's so funny." 
"Funny?" The captain gave her an outraged look. "She's hell on wheels, that's what she is." 
"Nah, she's sweet." Cathy objected. "She tells the best stories too." 
"Don't you go spreading those, you hear? I've got a reputation to maintain." 
Catherine giggled. "Well, Lara, I hate to tell you, but after that story about you being chased around the boat by a pair of jellyfish, your rep is in shatters." 
"Oh great…" Lara muttered, pushing open the door to her room and letting Cathy enter before her. "She just had to tell that one, didn't she?" 
"It was funny."
"No it was not. Have you ever been stung by one of those? Hurts like hell…" 
"You poor thing." Cathy drawled, chuckling as Lara rolled her eyes. "How are your 'scratches' doing by the way?"
Lara sighed as she sat down, then untied the bandana she'd been wearing and revealed the stitching on her forehead. 
"It's a bit swollen." Cathy stated, softly touching the pink skin. 
Lara regarded the wound in the mirror for a moment. "It'll need new stitching." She commented, then pulled the dagger out of the sleeve of her shirt. She lifted it to cut through the rope, but it was taken from her hands before she could even start. 
"Let me do that." Catherine stated, then softly slid the blade through the first bit of rope. Lara flinched as it snapped open, but stayed still as Catherine did her work. "There." She stated, pulling the last bit of rope from the captain's skin. She glanced down at the tense features. "You OK?" 
Lara managed a smile. "Fine." She gritted her teeth as Catherine cleaned the wound. 
"Do you want to stitch yourself? I know you get a little skittish when people come at you with sharp pointy things." 
Lara chuckled, then smiled up at the girl. "I don't think you can lethally wound me with a needle." A grin. "Go on, I trust you." 
The girl smiled back at her gratefully and leaned closer, gently puncturing the skin just under the wound. A few more precise movements, then Cathy softly pulled the rope tight, pulling the skin closer together. 
"Done." She stated softly, cutting off the leftover string. 
"Thanks." Lara smiled. "You're really good at that, you know? You've got gentle hands." 
Cathy shyly looked down at her as she cleaned the last bits of blood of the captain's forehead. "Thank you." A shrug. "I just had lots of practice." 
Lara raised an eyebrow at her. "How so?" 
"I have two brothers." 
The captain chuckled. "I knew siblings had to be handy for something." She stood and stretched. "You up for some lunch?" 
"I've had some. But I'll keep you company." Cathy stated as she put the needle and thread into one of the drawers. "Hope you like fish soup." 
"As long as it's digestible." Lara muttered, opening the door and letting Cathy pass before her.

"Hmm." Lara swallowed. "Hey, this isn't bad." 
"Of course it isn't." Cathy grinned, leaning back against the side of the boat. 
"Oh, aren't we confident." The captain lifted another spoonful of soup. "Oh, by the way, my compliments on your charming outfit." 
Cathy chuckled. "Sorry. There was just nothing else to wear, so I…"
Lara quickly waved her off. "'s Okay, don't worry 'bout it. But I think we'll have to look out for something a little less revealing. You're gonna catch a cold this way."
Cathy shrugged. "I've worn less in the cold London winters. I think I can handle this." 
"Well, I'm not taking any chances." Lara stated, waving a spoon at her. "I'll have a talk with Mary. She's about your size I think…" 
"Oh, I don't wanna be a bother, I mean…"
"Nonsense." Lara fished the last bit of soup out of her bowl, then looked up and spotted the crewmember in question. "Hey Mary!"
Brown eyes turned her way, then the young woman walked over. "Captain?" 
"See if you can fit Catherine here into some of your old clothes, OK?" 
Mary shot a sideways glance at the girl, then looked back up at Lara. "Aye captain." 
"Good." Lara gave Catherine a pat on the back. "You go on, I'll meet up with you later." 

"Thanks for helping me out on this." Catherine broke the silence, trotting after the pacing Mary. "I really appreciate…" 
"I'm just following orders." 
Great… Catherine sighed as Mary pushed open the door the quarters she shared with some of the other sailors, then walked over to one of the beds. The woman dug under her bed, then turned and tossed some clothes at her. "Try these." 
Green eyes regarded her for a moment. "I'd rather not if you're gonna hold it against me." 
Brown eyes stared back. "I won't, so try 'm." 
Perfect… Cathy unfolded the pair of leather pants that had been tossed at her and tried them on. They were a bit too big, but they were comfortable nevertheless. She untied Lara's belt and strung it through the loops on her new trousers. "So…" She started, not looking up. "What did I do wrong?" 
"Nothing… yet." 
Cathy looked up in surprise, then chuckled as she unbuttoned a white shirt. "What do you think I am, a spy?"
She heard fabric shift as Mary shrugged. "I don't know who you are." She stated simply. "All I know is that my captain risked her neck for you twice now, even though she knows nothing about you…" The bed creaked as the woman stood. "My job is to protect my captain from any danger. So don't expect me to start praising your name like the rest of these people anytime soon." 
Catherine straightened her shirt, then looked up. "When will you be 'praising my name' then?" 
Mary crossed her arms. "When you die to save her life, we'll talk." 
Cathy nodded. "OK…" Then she turned and headed for the door, leaving the woman behind. "Thanks for the clothes."

Lara piled the last of her books into the wooden chest, then lifted it onto her shoulder. She walked out of her room, then crossed the wooden plank to her new ship. 
Her new room was about the same size as her old one, though the glass window looking out over the waves was a bit smaller. She'd had Tom and the others bring her desk over, but she'd left her bed behind, as it didn't fit through the door. How the former captain had managed to get the bed in place remained a mystery. 

She lifted the chest off her shoulder and placed it beside her desk, pulling some of the books out and lining them up on her desk. "That'll do." She muttered, glancing around the room. "Not perfect, but you'll do." 
The captain turned around to see Matthew blocking the entrance. "Sorry, just talking to my new ship." 
Matthew chuckled as he walked in, closing the door behind him. "I figured as much. Don't feel bad, I've been giving the wheel reassuring pats, telling her she was a 'good little ship'." 
Lara laughed, settling down on the corner of her desk. "I'm glad it's not just me. So, what's up?" 
"I've just been walking around a bit, checking our status. Figured you'd want to know." 
"Do tell." Lara grinned, crossing her arms.
"We've got ten cannons. Four up on deck, on each side, and two down below. We've got some supplies, flour, some fruits, meat..." 
"Cookie'll be thrilled." Lara commented, getting a chuckle from her second in command.
"Our good friends were also nice enough to bring along a cartload of weapons. Extra guns, sabers, daggers… AND…" Matthew smiled. "…gold." 
A dark eyebrow lifted. "You're kidding."
Matthew just shook his head. 
"How much?" 
"Enough to supply us with for quite some time." 
A huge smile crossed the captain's face. "Excellent. I think our luck is changing Matt." 
"Who knows…" 
Lara grinned, then straightened. "I want Toby and Rob to stay on the other ship. I'd don't want them to get involved in a battle this big." 
Matthew nodded. "I agree." 
"I think I'll leave Parker in charge. He'll follow orders and won't do anything foolish. Let him pick six other people." 
"You think that'll be enough?" 
Lara shrugged. "It'll have to be… Some of those people from the hull must have some talent for dealing with the sailing life, he can teach them a thing or two, get them to do some work, I don't think they'll mind."
"Some of our former captives have asked to come along. About twenty guys…" 
The captain shook her head. "No…" 
"Lara think about it." Matthew insisted. "They're strong and we could use any hand we can get. Even if we'd only let them do some of the work on board, it'll give some other people here time to rest and prepare…" 
The captain dropped her eyes for a moment, then raised them again. "OK… But no more than twenty. And tell them the risks that are involved before they decide, OK?" 
"You've got it." Her second in command stated. 
"If they still wanna come, get them to move over any stuff they have and find them a place to sleep." 
"Aye aye." Matthew gave her a pat on the shoulder. "I'll take care of it, no worries." 
Lara stepped forwards and they walked outside onto the deck. "Be sure to get some good sleep tonight, I want you to take up day shifts from now on. I'll stay up tonight, get into the rhythm before we leave."
"You've got it." Matthew grinned then stretched. "Well, I'd better get the last of my stuff moved over. Talk to you later, Lara." 
"Yeah." The captain watched her second in command walk out the door, then stood herself, straightening some last things before stepping outside. 

She took the few steps up to the stern. She walked over to the wheel, leaning her crossed arms on it's surface and glancing out over the deck. "So what are we gonna call you, huh?" Lara murmured to the wooden surface. " 'Loyalty to England' isn't really appropriate anymore, is it?" 

Movement caught her attention and she smiled as she spotted her blond haired friend, crossing the plank towards the new ship with wobbly steps. Green eyes glanced across the deck, then spotted her. The girl smiled, then made her way up the stairs. "Hey."
Lara smiled back. "Hi." 
"So, what do you think?" Cathy extended her arms and spun round once, showing her new outfit from all angles. 
The captain regarded her for a moment, then grinned. "Nice. Looks good on you." 
"Thanks." Catherine smiled. "So, what are you doing up here, all by yourself?" 
"Thinking… I was just trying to find a nice name for this ship, I wanna have it changed before it sets sail." 
Catherine nodded, then tapped her temple in thought as she glanced across the length of the ship. Then her head shot up, and she regarded the captain. "Argo." 
Dark brows frowned. "What?" 
The green eyes dropped. "It's… My grandmother used to tell me stories when I was little. About people from really, really long ago… They were nice stories, about hero's and…" A shrug. "It just seemed appropriate… But if you don't like it, I didn't mean to…" 
"Catherine." Lara interrupted her rambling with a smile. "I like it." She grinned as the girl sheepishly glanced up at her, then looked around the ship again. "And you're right… it seems… right, somehow." 

They were both silent for a moment, standing on the deck silently, watching the sun turn a bright red as it edged closer and closer towards the horizon. 
"So." Catherine broke the silence, not looking up. "Where do you want me to put my stuff. I mean there's not a lot to take along, but I'd like to…" 
"You are not coming." 
Cathy glanced up into bright blue eyes. "You're not gonna leave me here Lara, I'm not…" 
"Don't even try Catherine." Lara stated, circling around the girl and heading down the stairs. 
"Lara!" Cathy ran on behind her, catching up, half way down, blocking the captain's path. "Come on, after all we've been though..." 
"That's exactly why you're staying on that other ship. I'm not gonna place you in harms way again." The captain stated, dodging the girl's form again.
"Look…" Catherine ran after her, grabbing onto her shoulder and making Lara turn around with an annoyed look on her face. "I can be useful to you." 
A dark eyebrow lifted.
"I can cook." 
A sigh as Lara walked into her room. "So can I." 
"Lara, Cookie told me what happened last time you tried to cook for this ship. The crew was sick for days." 
"I used some wrong herbs." Lara muttered, ruffling through some papers. 
"Well, you don't want your people to get sick right before a big battle, right? And besides, with all the planning and sailing, you won't have any time anyway, right?" 
Blue eyes glanced her way for a moment, then dropped back down. 
Catherine grinned, then continued. "You could use a good cook, now that Cookie will stay on the other ship. You'll need someone who knows the 'One hundred ways to cook fish' manual by heart…" 

A sigh, then Lara tossed up her hands, turning and glaring at the girl. "Fine." 
"Yes." Cathy muttered under her breath as the captain strode closer. 
"But you're gonna have to stick to some basic rules." 
Cathy shrugged. "I think I can do that." 
"Rule number one." Lara lifted a finger at her. "The cook will not meddle in the captain's business." 
"I don't…." A dark eyebrow lifted and Cathy sighed. "Oh, all right, all right." 
"Rule number two: The cook will stay out of trouble and when there's fighting going on up on deck she'll go down into the galley and stay there until all's nice and safe." 
Catherine muttered something but waved an approval. 
"And last but not least, if the cook ever tries to outsmart her captain again, she'll have to suffer sever punishment. Got it?"
A grin as the girl glanced up. "Aye aye captain. "
Lara rolled her eyes, then walked around her desk and dropped into her chair. "You can stay here. I'll be taking the nightshift from now on so you can sleep in my bed." 
Catherine smiled at her, as Lara fidgeted with some papers, trying to look busy. "Thank you." 
Blue eyes looked up and met hers. "You're welcome." 
A moment of silence, then Cathy cleared her throat. "Well, I'd… uhm… I'd better go get my stuff…" She managed, then shuffled out of the room, leaving the captain in silence.

"Would you be careful!"
Catherine rolled her eyes. "Would you stop worrying, please?" She dipped the brush into the jar of paint once more, then drew another line on the boat's bough. She was sitting on a small wooden board, hanging on two ropes, jars of paint standing beside her. She'd painted over the old letters and was now carefully edging a swirly ‘A' on the bough's exterior. 
Lara paced around on the deck of her old ship, shooting glances at the girl from time to time. "Why couldn't you let me paint the stupid letters!?"
"Hey, who's the artist here?" Cathy turned around and gave her a look, before turning back and starting on the ‘r'. 
"You're also someone who constantly stumbles into trouble and I'm sick and tired of fishing you out of those salty waters, you hear?"
"Nag." Catherine muttered. 
"What did you say?"
"I said, 'naturally'."
"You did not."
"Did so."
"Did not."
"Do you really want me to repeat what I said."
Lara considered this for a moment. "No."
"Then shut it and let me finish."
The captain grumbled something and turned around, giving the smirking faces around her an angry stare. Matthew strode up and leaned over the railing with a grin. 
"Don't you get any bright ideas." Lara gave him a suspicious look. 
"Me? Never." Matt looked at her innocently. 
"Right." The captain muttered, then watched as the paint jars were pulled up. Catherine stood and stepped aside, balancing dangerously on the board, then pointed proudly at her new creation. "What do you think?"
Lara sighed, then smiled grudgingly. "Beautiful." She admitted, watching as the swirling golden letters reflected a glimpse of the fading sunlight. "Now will you just get back up on deck?!"
"Sure." Cathy smiled, while two of the sailors started to pull the ropes up. Lara shook her head and walked over their wooden bridge towards her new ship, followed by Matthew.

Catherine pulled herself over the railing and back up on deck, wiping a few smudges of paint from her face. Matthew grinned at her as he stepped closer. "Well, you're quite the talent, aren't you? Cooking, drawing, and now painting…"
"I have many skills." Cathy stated cheerfully. 
Lara found this funny and laughed, getting a grin from Catherine. "So now that the painting is done…" The captain turned to Matthew. "…are we settled?"
Matthew considered the question for a moment, then nodded. "Yup, I think so." 
"Great. Go and see how Cookie's getting along with our diner, then…"
"Diner…" Cathy clasped a hand in front of her mouth. "I completely forgot." Then she raced off towards the galley, crossing the wooden plank across the two ships at a frightening speed. 
Lara rolled her eyes, watching her go with a smile. 

A knock sounded on her door and made the captain look up from the book he was reading. Cathy poked her head around the door's edge, then smiled at her. "Hey."
Lara smiled back at the girl. "Hey yourself."
"Got you some diner." Catherine informed her, walking in and handing the captain a plate.
Lara took it, putting it on the desk in front of her. "Thanks." She motioned the girl into a chair across from her. "Wow, no fish."
Cathy chuckled. As she balanced her own plate on her knees, poking her fork in a bit of meat. "I know. Cookie was so happy about the meat she completely forgot to be mad at me for being late."
Lara swallowed some food down with a grin. " Lucky you. You don't want to suffer the wrath of Cookie, really."

They chewed on in silence for a while. Lara turned over a page of her book, studying the next intently as she cleaned the last bits of food off her plate.
"What are you reading?" Cathy asked intrigued, placing her empty plate on the wooden desk.
Lara looked up at her with a grin. "How to become a loyal English citizen in a hundred pages."
Cathy snorted. "You"ll need more than a hundred pages for that." 
"Hey!" Lara gave her a hurt look, before letting a smile cross her face and pushing the open book towards the girl. "Some book from a new English author. It's about a boy who looses his mother at childbirth, gets put into an orphanage and gets in lots of trouble… He ends up stealing too. Reminded me of the good old days." Lara chuckled, leaning back in her chair.
"Sounds nice." Cathy muttered, studying the gold letters on the cover intently. 
"You can read it if you want." Lara said simply, watching her. 
Cathy shook her head. "I can't." 
A dark eyebrow raised. "Why ever not?" 
"I can't read." 
"You can't?" 
Cathy shook her head. "Most people can't, you know? Reading is for the elite."
Lara chuckled. "Never knew I qualified as elite." Cathy managed a smile for her. The captain stared at the sad eyes for another moment, then caved in helplessly. "Want me to teach you?"
The green eyes across from her lit up immediately. "Really?" Cathy asked, eyes sparkling. 
Lara shrugged. "Sure. I mean, I won't be much of a teacher or nothing. I don't want you to get…" Her sentence stopped abruptly as a kiss was placed on her cheek, before Cathy happily started bouncing across the room. "…too excited." Lara finished, blinking. 
"I always wanted to learn how to read. And write. I love stories, but I always had to wait around for someone to tell me some. It would be so great if I could read them myself…" Cathy babbled on happily, letting her hands slide over the soft covers of Lara's books. "Can you teach me to read this one?" She took the thickest book out of the row and held it up. 
"Uhm… I…" Lara shook the flow of words and events out of her head, clearing up her foggy mind. "That's a bit hard to start with, really." She then informed the girl. "Why don't we start with the basics, OK?"
"Sure." Cathy agreed amiably, pulling up a chair and sitting down beside the captain, looking up at her in expectation. 
Lara shook her head with a smile, pulling a piece of paper out of a drawer and picking a pencil off her desk. Drawing neat lines on the paper she started to print down the alphabet, Catherine watching the black lines intently. 

Wax dripped down along the side of the candle as it burned down further and further, indicating the hours that had passed. 
"S…H…I…P… Ship." Cathy yawned, trailing the word with a finger. 
"Exactly." Lara complimented her with a smile. 
Cathy leaned her elbow on the table's surface, supportin
g her head. "And that's…" She peered at the text. "That's ‘cat' right?" She asked, pointing at another word. 
"Uhuh." Lara nodded, then traced the sentence. "It says: ‘The cat watched the fish swim in the water.' See, that means fish and that's…" She let her voice trail off as her eyes spotted the now sleeping form, balancing her head on her hand. 
A smile crossed the captain's face, as she lifted a hand and gently pushed an errant lock out of the girl's face. "You should've told me you were tired." She informed her in a whisper, then stood with a grin. "I've carried you across half of this world by now." She chuckled softly, then wrapped her arms around her slumbering friend. Catherine mumbled something inaudible into her shoulder, remaining fast asleep. 
Lara walked over to her bed and placed the sleeping girl on its surface, gently tucking up the covers around her body. Then she turned back to her desk, pulling open the bottom drawer and taking out a bottle of red wine. She took a glass off a shelve, then walked towards the door, closing it softly behind her. 

The deck was deserted and dark, only the moonlight supplying some illumination. Lara found her way up to the stern, and settled down against the back railing with a sigh. She pulled the cork out of the bottle, then poured some of the red liquid into her glass. She took a sip, letting the wine roll around din her mouth before swallowing it down. The wind stirred up and circled around her, the cold pulling at the drowsiness that was trying to get her to sleep. She took another sip of wine, letting it warm her from within as she took a deep breath of the salty air. 

Sydney was close now and with that her newfound freedom. No more raids, no more angry stares from convicts, no more running from the law. It would be hard with their former means of income gone and some of her crew would probably leave her, now that there was no need to run from the English any more. But they'd make it, they were survivors after all. She'd been wanting to explore this region for some time now, stories of islands in the south peeking her curiosity. So things would be great, really. Right? Right… 

Lara swallowed, staring at the shadows the moonlight was casting across the deck. Then why did she want nothing more then to turn her ship around and sail in the complete opposite direction? Head out to the most disserted part of the oceans and never return to land again? 
Lara chuckled self depreciatively, shaking her head. "Oh shut it. You know exactly why…" She informed herself sternly, leaning back and looking up at the star filled sky. 


When they'd reach Port Jackson, Catherine would stay there and she'd leave. Lara had no illusions about that. She was a sailor, the girl was a land lover… That's the way things were…
But why exactly did that bother her so much? After all, she'd known the girl for what? A week?

The captain pulled a knee up and wrapped an arm around it, balancing her glass on the surface. 
Of course the girl'd turned out to be a good friend and of course she wouldn't like to see that leave, but this… This went far deeper somehow… She'd never been one to make friends easily, yet she'd let this young convict in without even thinking. She didn't want her to leave... 

Lara sighed, shaking her head at herself. "She not some sort of puppy Lara, you can't just keep her." The captain told herself. "She'll stay in Sydney and be better off for it. What would she be doing hanging around a grumpy old sailor like you for anyway, huh?" She leaned back, draining the last bit of wine from her cup. Quietly she listened to the soft hissing of the waves rushing onto the beach, letting it sooth her aching soul. 

Cathy tiredly peered open her eyes. "Huh?"
"Breakfast time, miss Cook."
Catherine grunted, then pulled herself upright, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. A look outside showed a still, black world. "It's still dark out." 
"Yes it is." Lara agreed simply, closing the curtains so it would stay that way. 
Cathy sighed again, then swung her legs our from under the covers and started to get dressed. "So what do you usually have for breakfast around here? Lemme guess, it includes... fish…?"
Lara chuckled, "Usually, yeah. Sometimes bread or cereal if we have it available. Biscuits or something of the sort…"
"Biscuits for breakfast?"
The captain shrugged. "They last real long. We can keep ‘m lying around for ages before they spoil…"
Cathy winced. "Spare me the details, please." Her motions stopped for a moment, then she gave the captain an apologetic look. "I fell asleep on you last night, didn't I?"
Lara grinned at her, nodding. 
"Lara, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean…"
"Don't worry about it." The captain shook her off. "You were tired, I shouldn't have pushed you so long…"
"You didn't push me…" Cathy retorted. "I just really want to learn and… But I guess I cant learn to read in a night, can I?"
"Nope." Lara agreed, then she shooed the girl out. "Now you go and make breakfast, or you'll have Matthew coming after you."
"Oh, now that's scary." Cathy chuckled, then hastily left the room, heading for the galley. 

Not long after a familiar knock sounded and Lara pulled herself up in bed. "Yes, Catherine?"
Cathy poked her head around the door. "How'd you know it was me?"
"No one else would be foolish enough to disturb me when I'm trying to sleep." Lara grumbled, then grinned. 
"Watch it captain. If you keep threatening me like that you won't get your breakfast." Cathy pointed a finger at her, then walked closer to the bed, balancing a tray. 
"In that case I take everything back." The captain cheerfully informed her. "Breakfast in bed. Now this is service." 
Cathy laughed, placing the tray into her friend's lap. "Here you go."
"Thanks." Lara studied the content of her breakfast more closely. "Hey, where's my fish?"
Another laugh as the girl pointed at a bowl of soup. "Really small cut bits in the soup." She informed her captain. "Hope you like it."
Lara lifted a spoon to her mouth and tasted. "Yup, I do." She stated, getting a beaming smile in return. Another spoonful, then she waved the piece of cutlery at the girl in warning. "Now don't you go causing any trouble today, you hear?"
"Me?" Cathy pointed a thumb at her chest innocently. "Cause trouble?" 
The captain rolled her eyes at her. "Yeah you. Just listen to Matthew today, OK? And don't go jumping overboard or something."
"Aye captain." Cathy saluted in an over exaggerated manner, before turning back towards the door, wiggling her fingers at the captain a she reached the doorway. "Sleep well, Lara."
"Behave!" Lara called after her, then chuckled as Cathy stuck her tongue out at her before closing the door behind her.

"Hey there lass." 
Cathy looked up and beamed a smile at John, who walked towards her. "Hi John. How's things?"
"Pretty nice after that healthy breakfast of yers." The older man informed her cheerfully, patting her shoulder. 
"Glad you liked it." Cathy grinned at him as they walked along the deck. "So, what's your job for the day?"
"I'm making fishnets." John informed her proudly, showing her his newest creation. "Just tying a bunch of knots in pieces of rope… Richie's been working on them sails… Been hit by one of those beams twice now. He's got a bump on his head the size of this here ocean."
Cathy tried to repress a giggle, wrapping an hand over her mouth. "Poor guy…"
"Ya make it sound so convincing…" John chuckled, then looked up as a motion behind them caught his attention. "G'day Mr. Matthew."
Matthew nodded at them politely. "John. Catherine." He smiled at the girl. "Sleep well?" 
"Quite." Cathy informed him with a grin, then crossed her arms over her chest. "So… what do you want me to do?"
The second in command raised an eyebrow. "Want you to do? You cook, right?"
Cathy rolled her eyes. "I don't wanna be locked in that galley all day… I mean, I can do stuff around here, right? Tie off some ropes, help John here with those nets…?"
Matthew shook his head. "You do realise that if you get into any trouble Lara's gonna kill me, right?"
The girl tossed up her hands in despair. "Why does everybody think I'll get in trouble?"
Matthew scratched his jaw, avoiding her eyes. John cleared his throat. 
Cathy looked from one to the other, then shook her head and turned on her heels, walking towards the galley. 
Matthew suppressed a laugh, then ran after her catching up. "Just kidding. I think I can find something for you to do…" 
Cathy turned and looked up at him. "Really?" 
"You bet. I'll make a sailor out of you yet, miss Catherine."
Cathy chuckled, then followed Matt as he walked up to the stern. 

Lara's internal clock went off right on schedule and with a yawn the captain pushed herself upright. A reddish glow found it's way past her curtains. Lara stretched, then swung her legs off the bed and stood, walking towards the chair she'd laid her clothes over. She dressed, pulling on her boots last before she stood and walked towards the door. Voices sounded from outside. People laughing and talking. Lara pushed open the door, making her way onto the deck.

The captain smiled at the familiar voice, then suddenly halted as she realised exactly what direction it had been coming from. Slowly she let her eyes drift up until she spotted a cheerfully waving form high up in the crow's nest, dangling over the edge dangerously. 
"Catherine! I told you not to get into trouble!"
"Do I look like I'm in trouble?" Cathy yelled back cheerfully.
"Yes you do. You have the potential to fall 50 feet. Now get the Hell down here!" Lara stated, pointing at the deck for emphasis. 
"Make me."
Lara took a deep breath, then released it. "What did you say?" 
"Make me." Cathy chuckled wickedly, enjoying her teasing.
"Why you little…" 
Matthew, seeing the risk of the situation escalating, hastily ran up, grabbing onto Lara's shoulders. "Relax. Calm yourself. Deep breaths."
Lara shot him an icy stare and he hastily diverted his eyes to glance up at Catherine, who was leaning across the crow's nest. "Catherine. Would you PLEASE come down here now?"
Even from the long distance Cathy's flashy smile was obvious. "Sure, Mr Matthew." She answered sweetly, then made her way down the ropes, not doing too bad of a job at it really and managing to find her way down to the deck. 

Lara shook her head, then turned to Matthew, who was standing beside her. "You let her go up there?!"
"Well, I didn't actually let her… the girl sort of has a mind of her own, you see…" Piercing blue eyes scrutinised him and he sighed, tossing up his hands. "What was I to do Lara, pin the girl down?"
"Would you stop picking on Matthew…?" 
Lara turned to find the girl in question standing behind her. 
"It was my fault. I went up there against his orders. I was bad." Cathy admitted, easily keeping eye contact with the captain.
Lara sighed, then dropped her head. "All right, all right… Whatever…"
Cathy smiled happily, then took hold of the captains arm, tugging her along. "Tom has been teaching me how to sail. I took the wheel today."
"How far are we off course?" Lara asked in a low voice to the quietly following Matthew, who chuckled as the captain got an angry stare from frowned green eyes for her comment. 
"I made a fishingnet too and look…" She tugged Lara along the last bit towards the stern, then rummaged between some of the ropes that were lying around and extricated a folded piece of paper, handing it proudly to the captain. 
Lara unfolded it, then stared at the shaky letters with a smile. "You wrote your name…"
"Good huh?" Cathy confirmed proudly. "Matthew helped a bit with the spelling. I forgot the h." She chatted along, pointing at the letter slightly elevated and squished in between the 't' and 'e'. I wrote your name too… Yours was easier, you have better letters."
"Better letters huh?" Lara smiled as she turned over the page and stared at her own name, the first L being more a drawing than a letter. "Nice."
"You can keep it." 
A dark eyebrow raised. 
"You have to save it for later, when I'm a really famous writer. You'll have my first words, that'll be worth loads of money then…"
"Right…." Lara drawled with a grin, then folded the paper back up, sticking it into a pocket. "Well, thank you for this literary treasure, miss Dickens."
"You're welcome." Cathy replied cheerfully, then took off and bounded down the stairs again. "Have to go get diner." She called up as an afterthought before ducking down the hall into the galley. 

Matthew chuckled as he watched her go. "Sometimes I can't believe that's the shattered figure you picked off that deck about a week ago, Lara." He commented to the captain as he tapped Tom on the shoulder and took the wheel from him, adjusting course slightly to follow the group of English ships sailing in front of them. 
"Me neither." Lara agreed, leaning against the mast and watching the movement on deck quietly. "It's good though. With that attitude of hers she'll survive in Sydney easily."
Matthew glanced at her, remaining silent for a few moments. "It's gonna be strange when this is over. You know, without…" He indicated the deck and it's people. "…all this."
The captain nodded her head. "Yeah, I know." A pause. "I was thinking about that last night… I… I wanna keep on sailing, I don't think I can handle settling down in any one place…"
Matthew looked up and smiled at her. "I'm glad we agree on that then." 
Lara smiled back at him, obviously relieved. "You think we'll have many left when we sail from the Port?"
Matthew shrugged. "Enough, I think…"
"Good… I was thinking about sailing south a bit, explore for a while…"
"I'd like that." Her second in command agreed, gazing out across the sea quietly. "They say the southern islands are very beautiful and mostly uncharted… Should provide a nice challenge."
"Yeah…" Lara said softly, letting out a breath. "Should be fun." Another moment of silence, then Lara patted Matthew's shoulder. "I'll go get some diner, then come up here and relieve you." She stated, before heading down the stairs.
"Take your time." Matthew called after her, before returning his attention to the sea ahead. 

The steps coming down the steps alerted her of another presence and Cathy looked up to see her captain walk down into the galley. "Hey there."
"What's cooking?" Lara asked, sniffing appreciatively. "Smells good."
"Thanks. Here, try some." Catherine lifted up a spoon with some sort of stew on it and extended it to her friend. Lara walked closer, then closer her mouth over the spoon and tasted. "Nice. Is there fish in here?"
"Yup, but it's well hidden by a zillion herbs." Cathy cheerfully informed her, stirring her creation. "Hand me a bowl, will ya?" 
Lara let her eyes slide across the room, finally spotting the required object and handing it over. Cathy added some last herbs, then filled the bowl and handed it back to the captain. "There ya go."
"Thanks." Lara took the offering and then found a spot on the small kitchen table. "So, you had a good day today, huh?"
"Oh yeah!" Cathy stated enthusiastically, looking over her shoulder. "It was great, I learned so much. And I know you didn't want me to go up into the crow's nest, but there's such a great view from up there. All sea and land in the distance and I could see all the people on the other ships."
"Just be careful up there. If you fall out you'll be quite dead." Lara informed her, taking a bite of her diner. 
"Could you teach me how to swing on those ropes."
The captain's head shot up. "Excuse me?"
"You know, when you jump out from up there and hang on to the ropes and just go..." Cathy circled her hands around in a flying motion. "Like that…"
"Do you know how long it took for me to learn how to do that? It's very hard… You just stick to climbing in stead of flying, OK?"
Cathy gave her a look and sighed. "OK…"
Footsteps came closer, then Lara let her now empty bowl sink down in a bucket with water. "Don't give me that look." Her voice burred into Cathy's ear.
The girl glanced up at her . "What look?"
"That very sad, innocent, disappointed look. It's not gonna work."
Cathy considered this for a moment. "It isn't?"
"Nope." Lara grinned, shaking her head. 
"Well, that's a first..:" Cathy muttered, then laughed as Lara attempted to look annoyed. "But it's OK, I learned enough today anyway…" She stated, turning back to her stew and staring to fill more bowls. "I'll get you to teach it to me some other time."
Lara looked down on the blond head, then managed a sad smile. "Right." 
Green eyes looked up at her with a twinkle. "Is that a challenge?"
The captain let the smile grow, making it more convincing. "Maybe it is…"
Cathy laughed, pulling another bowl closer. "Watch it captain, if you wait long enough, you just might get what you wish for."
"I hope so." Lara stated, taking hold of another one of the bowls. "But I doubt it." She shot a smile in Catherine's direction, then turned back towards the stairs. "I'll take this up to Matthew."
Catherine watched her go with a puzzled look on her face. "What's up with you, Lara?" She wondered out loud as she heard the door close. Then she silently shook her head, continuing with her work pensively.

Night fell once more and Lara ordered her nightcrew to light as many lanterns as they could. She'd positioned her ship in front of the English fleet now. As she knew the area better it'd be easier if she led them along the coast at night, she'd reasoned with Kennard, and the officer had agreed. The ships behind her were mere lights in the distance. Lara leaned on the wheel calmly, taking a deep breath of the night air. She loved sailing at night, when the moon was up and reflected of the sea so brightly. Things were so nice and calm at this hour, not even the sounds of seagull's crying out. Just the ship, the sea and her. Lara smiled, closing her eyes for a moment.

Ben came trotting up the stairs, saluting as he got closer. "All's well captain." 
"Great." Lara smiled at him. "Think you can keep her straight for a moment?" She asked the boy, indicating the steeringwheel. "I wanna have a look around, check some stuff."
"Sure, capt'n." Ben nodded enthusiastically. 
"Good." Lara left the boy on the stern and walked along the deck, nodding to the few members of her crew. She walked past the ropes, seeing if they were strung tight and hadn't gotten stuck anywhere. 
Finally she checked if the forward sails were tied down securely, then leaned over the railing, content with the state of her new ship. The ship bounced up on the waves in a soothing motion, breaking trough the water with a soft splash. Movement caught her attention and in the moonlight dolphins' faces popped out of the waves around the bough, jumping up cheerfully. The whole scene brought a smile to her face and she relaxed a little, letting her mind drift. It drifted to times before, and her mother singing to her before bedtime, a song in a strange language from long ago. She hummed along softly, slowly starting to remember the words. 
She stopped abruptly though as feet shuffled behind her and she spun around to find Catherine watching her. She stared at the girl for a moment. She'd washed, her wet hair shimmering in the moonlight and she'd slipped into a shirt, getting ready for sleep. She managed a smile, then turned her gaze back to the restless sea. 
"You have a beautiful voice." Cathy whispered quietly, stepping up next to her. 
Lara shrugged. 
"No, really." The girl argued softly. "You have…" She fell silent for a moment. "It's nice out here tonight."
"Yeah." Lara nodded, glad at the chance of subject. "It's calm now. Silence after the storm I guess."
"Yeah." Cathy bit her lip, then stared up at the quiet profile beside her. "I guess I just wanted to come and say goodnight. So,… goodnight"
Blue eyes turned her way and Lara smiled down at her, her face hidden in shadows. "Sleep well, Catherine. I'll see you in the morning."
"Yeah." Cathy wanted to turn away, but then reconsidered. "I'm sorry I… I disturbed you just now… I didn't mean to barge in, but…"
"It's OK." Lara interrupted her, then watched green eyes track up to hers in uncertainty. "Really."
Cathy nodded. "OK…" She turned away again, then sighed and turned back. "If something's bothering you, and you wanna talk about it…" Her sentence trailed off as she looked down. "I could…uhm…"
Lara watched the bent face for a moment, then chuckled softly. "Nothing gets by you, does it?"
Green eyes peeked up with a slight smile and Catherine shrugged. 
The captain shook her head softly. "It's nothing… I… I'm just a bit worried about the oncoming battle and all…"
"Oh…I should've thought of that, I guess..." Cathy muttered softly, then remained silent for a moment. "I'd better butt out and go to sleep huh?" She said, then turned away again. 
A soft touch on her shoulder stopped her. "Catherine?"
Catherine paused for a moment, then looked back. "Yeah?"
"You're welcome." A smile crossed her face and she softly touched the captain's arm. "See you tomorrow."
"Good night." Lara smiled back at her, then watched her walk off before turning towards the sea once more, closing her eyes as she let out a deep breath. 

Part 4

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