The hull was filled with complete silence for a moment. "Ca… Capt'n?" Tom then managed to stutter in disbelief.
"Who were you expecting? The ghost of Christmas past?" Lara smirked, stepping inside. Her shoulder was bandaged roughly with a piece of fabric torn off her shirt, red blood colouring the edges.
Mary piped up from the next cell. "You're not dead?"
"Nope, not quite." Lara shook her head, fishing some keys out of her pocket.
"But I… I saw you…" Tom started, walking to the edge of the cell and wrapping his hands around the bars. "You were…"
"Shot." Lara finished for him, walking to the first cell and hastily keying it open. "My shoulder hurts like hell."
"But then how did you…?" Tom continued, watching as the first crewmen were released.
"Tommy, I'd love to tell you all the glorious details, but not now, OK?"
Lara unlocked Matthew's cell. "My 'to do' list is sorta full at the moment…"
Matthew stepped out, walked straight over to her and wrapped his arms around his friend, pulling her into a hug.
Lara smiled, patting her second in command on the back. "Good to see you too, Matt."
He pulled back, looking at her a moment before shaking his head. "You know, you nearly had me fooled there…"
"Fooled?" Lara raised an eyebrow as she got a pat on the back from Mary and gave the woman a smile in return, handing her the keys to open the other
"Fooled into thinking you were a mere mortal just like the rest of us."
The captain chuckled. "I feel like a mere mortal, trust me." She tossed a disgusted look at her shoulder wound, which was throbbing painfully, then glanced around, finding nearly all the cages now opened. "Matthew, get these guys ready and knock these British off my Argo, will ya? "
The second in command let a grin cross his face. "Aye aye, capt'n."
"Walters is mine."
"Squirt, you ain't in no shape…" Cookie stated, pointing a finger at her. "That shoulder a yours ain't looking no good…"
Blue eyes pinned her down. "Cookie, no little bit of blood loss is gonna keep me from cutting this son of a bitch into so many pieces not even a biologist could put him back together." Lara stated, then turned and headed up the stairs. "Now, let's go."
The cook chuckled, watching her walk off. "Poor guy won't know what hit 'm."
"Is he sure about this, sir?" One of the
sailors asked doubtingly. "I mean, it's a fine ship and the Admiral would probably
want it restored to the fleet…"
Felton shook his head. "The captain says The Phoenix will slow us down too much. Besides, we don't have enough people to drag that ship along anyway."
"Aye sir." The sailor nodded, then walked over to one of the cannons, which another young man had just finished loading.
"Fire!" Felton called out, then covered his ears as deafening roars filled the air, cannonballs flying across the water until they hit the hull of The Phoenix, the ship creaking loudly.
Felton watched as the vessel slowly started to flood with water on one side, pulling the ship sideways. "Once more, gentlemen…"
"Oh no you don't…"
Felton jumped as he heard the growling voice behind him and he spun around, drawing his sabre to see an angry brunette closing in on him.
"You get your dirty hands off my weaponry right now…"
Felton's eyes widened as he saw more and more prisoners step onto the deck, closing in on them. "What the…"
He was unable to finish his sentence as a hard fist smacked against the side of his face, knocking him unconscious.
"Stupid hard hearing piece of squid…" Mary spit at him as Matt sped past her, lunging out and kicking a helpless sailor off the ship. "Nice one, Matt."
"Hey, I might not be good at escape plans, but I'm an ace at kicking butt." Matthew grinned cheerfully, casually smacking back an elbow and taking down another opponent.
Mary rolled his eyes at him, then defensively took up a position beside one of the canons, giving the metal a reassuring pat. "Don't you worry, precious, mommy won't let the big bad British hurt ya…" She told the cannon soothingly, glowering at a few sailors who were running towards them.
Matthew chuckled as he walked up beside her, rubbing his hands expectantly. "I'm not sure you want your kids to see this, Mary. Could get ugly."
The brunette grinned wickedly. "My kids love ugly… They take after me." She stated, before kicking out and disarming an unsuspecting soldier, watching his sabre fly up and then back down again before catching it, comfortably twisting the metal around in her hand, watching her next victim with a twinkle in her eyes. "Watch carefully children. Mommy's now gonna show you how to decapitate…"
She was tired. Really tired.
Cathy closed her eyes, trying to sleep though Karl's ranting. She'd dozed off a few times, getting absorbed in some dream. Peaceful. Quiet. But every time Karl's loud voice would barge in, pulling her back to the present. The horrible present.
"You know, you really should have some wine. I mean, this is a party after all…" Karl chatted along cheerfully. "Here, let me get you some. You want red or white?" No response. "Well, red it is…" He chuckled, pouring a glass full and then walking over to where she was sitting, kneeling down beside her. "Here." He lifted the glass to her lips. "Drink up. Be merry."
Cathy took the liquid in her mouth, but didn't swallow. Instead she spat the wine back at Karl, sending sprays of red over his clothes.
"Yuk!" The lieutenant jumped up, wiping at the stains. "Aw, I'm never gonna be able to wash those out…" He glanced down at Cathy, who'd returned to her position leaning her forehead against the pillar, eyes closed. "These were supposed to be collectibles, you know? 'The clothes in which the great Karl Walters defeated the Torment of the Southern Seas.'" He closed in on Cathy slowly. "I'm afraid you just seriously devalued this thing… You'll have to
pay for that…" He grinned wickedly. "And I know you don't have any money, but I'm sure we can agree on some…" He let a hand trail down her cheek. "…other form of payment. Don't you think so?"
"I think you should get your greasy paws off her right now." A dangerously low growl sounded from behind him.
Karl's eyes widened. No… No, can't be… Definitely not. Seriously impossible… Absolutely… The force of the blow send him flying backwards, knocking the air out of him. Crap…
"You son of a…" Lara hissed, closing in on him again. She reached down and grabbed onto his collar with one hand, lifting him up then sending him flying head first into the wooden wall. "Stay." She told him as his body slumped down to the ground unconsciously.
Hastily she turned and walked over to the huddled figure wrapped around the wooden pillar, picking up the set of keys that was lying on her desk before dropping down to a knee beside Catherine.
Green eyes stared at her for a moment, then Cathy shook her head, closing her eyelids tightly. "No. You're…" She swallowed. "You're not real."
Lara cocked her head at the blonde. "I'm not?"
Cathy vigorously shook her head. "You're just a…" She bit her lip as she felt fingers stroking her cheek. "…just a figment of my imagination."
The captain chuckled softly. "Well, this figment is gonna get you out of these chains, all right?" She informed Cathy, searching for the right key and sticking it into the lock around Catherine's wrist.
With a soft click the lock opened and Catherine felt her hand fall free. Seconds later her second wrist was freed. She opened her eyes and gazed at her hands, then glanced up at the dark haired woman kneeling beside her, who was smiling down at her. "Am I real yet?"
Pain seared through her shoulder as Cathy's arms wrapped tightly around her. She didn't care much for the pain however, since the sweetness of the moment far surpassed the costs. "I'll take that as a yes." She murmured, tactically freeing her left shoulder and wrapping an arm around her friend.
"You're not dead." Cathy managed to whisper in a husky voice.
"You know, everybody keeps reminding me of that today." She pulled back a bit, lifted her good hand and stroking some dishevelled locks out of Catherine's face. "You didn't think one little bullet was gonna do me in, did ya? I have a reputation to live up to, you know?"
Cathy managed a smile, sniffling away her tears. "Never thought I'd say this, but thank God for your reputation."
The captain laughed softly, tucking the blonde head under her chin. "Sorry I scared you." She apologised softly, gently rocking the body in her arms.
Cathy closed her eyes, taking a deep breath and soaking in Lara's close presence. "Just promise you'll never die on me again and you're forgiven."
The captain chuckled softly, gently kissing the top of the girl's head. "I promise."
"Good." Cathy murmured.
Some stirring caught her attention and she peeked over Lara's shoulder to see Karl dazedly blinking open his eyes. "He's waking up."
"I know." Lara replied calmly. "Do you wanna kick him around or shall I?"
Catherine chuckled. "You'll probably do a better job of it…" She gently patted the captain's side. "Go on."
"You'll be OK?" Lara raised an eyebrow in concern.
"I'll be fine." The blonde assured her with a smile. "Go play. I'll watch."
Lara grinned wickedly, her blue eyes twinkling down at Cathy before she stood and turned, walking over to Karl's shivering form.
Cathy watched the captain's whole composure change in the blink of an eye. The blue eyes that had been warm just before turned icily cold, hands clenching to fists.
Karl glanced up, shaking his head to clear his still blurry vision. Someone walking closer… He blinked. Again. Then his eyes cleared up and he saw Lara striding closer with determined steps. "You!" He spat at her, scrambling to his feet hastily.
"Me." Lara confirmed, then backhanded him against the door with such force the lock gave way with a crack, the door crashing open. Karl tumbled out, falling back onto the deck.
Lara closed in on him again and he scrambled back hastily, until he crashed up against a hard obstacle in his path. He glanced up to see angry grey eyes staring back at him threateningly. Moments later a sharp metal edge was pointing at his forehead.
"You blobby piece of seaweed. I oughta…" Tom's eyes narrowed dangerously, his hand clenching on the hilt of his sabre.
The skipper glanced up as Lara strode onto the deck.
"My victim. You had your fun."
Tom let out a breath in frustration, but backed off a pace.
Karl reacted in an instant, swivelling around on the deck and swiping the skipper's legs out from under him. Hastily he scrambled up, grabbing onto Tom's weapon and standing, facing his nemesis.
Lara shook her head in disbelief. "Thomas, you're loosing your touch, man…"
"You distracted me." The skipper muttered in explanation, hastily standing again and dusting off his clothes.
The captain rolled her eyes, then turned as she heard a whistle from behind her, finding Catherine leaning in the doorway casually, holding up a sabre and raising an eyebrow at her. Lara let a grin cross her face and she nodded, catching the weapon as it was tossed towards her. Then she looked back at Karl, who was clenching onto his sabre, staring at her angrily.
"Well come on…" Lara twirled the metal around her body impatiently. "Let's finish this…"
A moment of hesitation, then Karl ran forward with a yell, plunging the sabre out in front of him.
Lara easily side-stepped, fluently turning and elbowing him against the back of his neck as he passed. Karl stumbled forward, barely managing to keep upright. He straightened and swivelled around as fast as he could, to come face to face with the sole of Lara's boot. With a thud he fell back on the wooden deck.
The sun shimmered on Lara's blade as the captain brought it down towards him. Karl only just managed to lift his own weapon and block the strike, before he hastily rolled away, quickly getting back to his feet. The Curse charged at him again, but this time he was prepared and caught the blow, then pushed her off, creating some space around him for a moment.
They circled each other for a moment, judging each other. "Maybe it's better you're not dead." Karl stated, his eyes watching her every move. "This way killing you will be more satisfying.
Lara chuckled, a low sound that send shivers down his spine. "You're out of your league, Walters."
"We'll see about that." Karl retorted, then attacked, swiping his weapon at her left side.
Lara managed to divert the blow just in time, grimacing as her opponent aimed for her left again, obvious realising her shoulder wound put her at a disadvantage.
She parried his strikes again and again, managing to stand her ground. Then suddenly Karl twisted and lunged out at her other side, and Lara was just in time to block his sabre with her own. She was unable to prevent his fist from slamming against the bandaged shoulder however.
Pain seared through her body and she bit down hard to keep from crying out. She felt an elbow thump against her chin and staggered back a few paces. Her eyes flicked around, trying to find an exit, and she found one, ignoring the pain as she jumped up, flipping over Karl's body and reaching for a rope dangling from the mast nearby.
She went with the motion, letting the rope twist around the mast before it swung back towards Karl's unguarded back.
Karl blinked dazedly as Lara suddenly launched off, escaping him once again. He turned around, just in time to see the captain soaring towards him, her legs stretched out on a collision course. He wanted to back away, but was too late, feet impacting with his chest harshly, sending him tumbling backwards. He lost his grip on his weapon and it fell down several feet away from him, clattering onto the wooden deck.
Lara landed with one boot on each side of his body, towering over him. She switched her sabre back to her good hand, then lifted the weapon up above her head.
"Lara." A hand touched her shoulder and her muscles twitched uncomfortably, all her instincts wanting nothing more than to take care of this problem once and for all.
"Don't." Cathy's soft words tried to persuade her otherwise.
"Why not?" She hissed between clenched teeth, looking down at Karl coldly.
"Where will this end?" Cathy asked softly. "His father kills your brother, you kill his father, he hurts me and now you kill him?"
"Sounds like a plan to me." Lara muttered in a low voice.
Catherine shook her head. "This killing has to stop somewhere Lara, and it might as well be here… C'mon…" She gently rubbed the captain's back. "He's not worth it…"
Lara glared down into Karl's hateful blue eyes for another moment, then took a pace back. "You're right." She nodded softly, lowering her weapon slowly, then letting it fall to the ground. She glanced down at the woman beside her, managing a smile for her.
Cathy smiled back up at her, giving the captain's side a gentle pat. "Good girl."
Lara snorted. "I most certainly am not." The blue eyes took on a mischievous twinkle once more and Cathy sighed inwardly in relief, glad to see the captain had returned to her normal self.
"Matthew? Clean up this dirt for me, will ya? Put any leftovers on that raft we made and send them the hell out of my sight." She gave Karl a disgusted look, then wrapped her good arm around Catherine's shoulders and turned away from her fallen enemy. "C'mon, I hear some painkillers calling my name..."
With a growl Karl pushed himself up and reached for his boot, unsheathing a dagger hidden beneath the leather. With a flick of his wrist he sent it flying, straight towards Cathy's unprotected back.
It was almost like she heard the dagger coming. No, not almost, she did hear it. The soft sound of air splitting as the metal forced its way through. Her body moved, even though she was sure she hadn't ordered it to, twisting away and pulling Catherine behind her in protection. It was like the whole world was going in slow motion and she could see the dagger approaching slowly, drifting over. All she had to do was reach out and….
Her fingers closed over the hilt and she forced the blade to a halt. Her body spun around, her hand letting go of the dagger once again, sending it flying back in the direction it had come from.
Karl's eyes widened in shock as the metal thumped into his chest. He glared down at the blood pumping out of his heart in disbelief for a moment. His eyes lifted to see blue ones staring back at him quietly, just before his vision went blurry and darkness took over.
Lara watched Karl's motionless body for a moment, then she shook her head, letting out a breath. "Guess this circle of violence and hatred will just have to go on for another generation… Sorry…" She glanced down at Catherine apologetically.
Wide green eyes blinked up at her.
The captain's eyebrows frowned. "What?"
"You… Bu…" Cathy gazed up at her. "Dagger…" She made a grabbing motion at the air, at a complete loss for words. "How?"
Lara considered this badly phrased, but clear question for a moment. Then she shrugged. "I dunno."
"You don't know?" Catherine managed to put together a full sentence.
The captain shook her head. "Haven't got a clue. It just sorta… happened…"
"Sorta happened?" Cathy leaned closer, dropping her voice to an almost confidential whisper. "Lara, you just caught a dagger out of mid air. That doesn't just sorta happen…" She informed the dark haired woman sternly.
Lara sighed, closing her eyes for a moment. "Can we just skip this discussion for now?" She glanced down at the blonde pleadingly. "Those painkillers are really screaming their lungs out right now, you know?"
Cathy gazed up at her for another moment, then snapped out of her haze and nodded hastily, giving the captain a small push towards her room. "Sure. I need to bandage that shoulder up anyway." She shot her friend an accusing look. "You didn't tell me about that, by the way… You fraud…"
Lara chuckled, glad of the temporary change in topic. "Just a scratch…"
Cathy rolled her eyes, releasing a breath. "You and your scratches…"
Lara smiled as she followed the young woman to her room. She passed by Matthew and gave the second in command a pat on the shoulder. "Sorry I made your task of cleaning up a bit messier, Matt."
Brown eyes blinked up at her, watching her walk past, into her room, closing the door behind her. His gaze tracked back to the silent body on the deck, the dagger's hilt shimmering dully in the sunlight. "Don't worry about it…" He muttered as an afterthought, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Siddown." Cathy ordered, circling
Lara's desk and pulling open the second drawer, where the captain kept her bandages
Lara hopped onto the edge of her desk obediently, then started to loosen her make-do bandage with her right hand. She flinched as the raw skin underneath objected to her touch.
A soft hand touched her knee and Cathy lifted a mug to her lips. "Here. Drink up."
Lara glared at the contents, then shook her head. "Not yet… I'll fall asleep…"
"And that's a bad thing?" A blonde eyebrow raised at her.
"There's too much to be done." The captain stated stubbornly, refusing to drink the mixture.
Cathy gazed at her. "Lara, in the last twenty four hours you've single-handedly sacked a flag ship, you nearly got blown to pieces, you got shot, then managed to release the crew, take back the ship, fight Karl, catch a dagger and toss it into his heart… Do you really think anybody's gonna mind if you took a short nap?"
"You make it sounds so excessive," Lara grumbled. She looked into demanding green eyes again, then sighed and took the cup out of Cathy's hands, lifting it and swallowing down the herbs. "Happy now?"
"Very." Catherine grinned at her victory, then unwound the ripped piece of fabric a bit further from Lara's arm, wincing as muscles twitched uncomfortably beneath the surface. "Is the bullet still in there?" She asked softly, unrolling the bandage further.
The captain shook her head. "No, I think I got lucky… Went straight through."
Finally the bandage fell away, to reveal a small hole in the captain's shirt, the area around it stained liberally in a crimson red. "Good God… You call this lucky?!"
The captain opened her mouth to speak, but Cathy raised a finger at her threateningly. "And if you dare say this is just a scratch I'm gonna strangle you, got it?"
Lara shut her mouth again with a soft click of her teeth.
"This is not just a scratch, this is a freakin' bullet, Lara." Catherine muttered, sounding just a little upset. "I can't believe you just went ahead and fought Karl with this…"
"Well, you told me to go." Lara murmured softly.
"That's cause you didn't tell me you were bleeding to death at the time." The blonde shot back, picking up a knife and cutting open the sleeve of Lara's shirt carefully, to see angry red flesh around the still bleeding wound. "Jesus…" She muttered as she dipped a rag into a bit of water and started to clean the area around the wound.
Lara blinked up at the angry green eyes through dark bangs. "Don't be mad." She said in a soft voice. "Please?"
Cathy glanced down at her, really wanting to be angry, but feeling her heart melt as the anxious blue eyes peered back at her. "I'm not mad…" She sighed in defeat, returning her attention to the wound. "It's just that… You risked a lot there, Lara, just to kick him around a little and I just…" She shook her head. "That was dangerous."
"My life is dangerous." Lara stated, folding her hands together and staring at her intertwined fingers. "I've been shot before and I just kept on fighting… It's what I do…"
Catherine let out a breath. "I know that… And I don't want you to change or anything, but I just…" She glanced sideways for just a second. "I just want you to be careful. Cause, frankly, losing you sucks, and I'd rather not ever go through that again."
The captain glanced up at the quiet profile, Cathy trying very hard to focus all of her attention on the wound. "Hey?" She called softly, reaching out and stroking some blonde locks out of Catherine's face. "I made you a promise, right? So don't worry about me."
Green eyes tracked to hers for a moment, then the blonde shook her head a little, leaning closer and placing a kiss on the captain's forehead. "Of course I worry about you." She murmured, returning to her work. "You might not be allowed to die on me anymore, but you're still gonna get 'scratches'…" She accentuated the word, giving the captain a meaningful look. "…that someone will have to patch up."
Lara scowled, but a smile was tugging at her lips "You know, the last time someone took care of my 'scratches' I was twelve…. And it was my mom…"
Cathy chuckled, fishing for a bandage and starting to wrap it around Lara's shoulder. "Are you comparing me to your mother?"
"Oh, no way." Lara shook her head vigorously, suppressing a yawn. "You are nothing like her. She had dark hair, for one, and she was stubborn and tough and really annoying sometimes…"
"The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, I guess…" Cathy commented with a grin, wrapping the fabric around Lara's torso to keep the bandage in place.
"Hey!" The captain gave her in indignant look and a gentle poke. "I resent that."
The blonde laughed softly, ruffling the dark hair affectionately. "You being stubborn and tough and whatever else is what makes you you. What makes you special."
"I'm not special." Lara grumbled characteristically, waiting for Cathy to finish tying off the bandage before standing up.
"Says the woman who catches daggers out of mid air…" The blonde rolled her eyes , then turned and went in search for a clean shirt as Lara stripped out of her soaked clothes.
The captain let out a breath. "We're back to that now, are we?"
"Hey, if I just snatched a dagger before it smacked into your back, you'd want to know how I did that too, right?" Cathy commented over a shoulder, finding the piece of clothing and walking back with it, holding it out to Lara.
The captain glared at her for a moment, then sighed in defeat. "Yeah, I guess." She muttered, as she allowed the white shirt to be pulled over her head, trying to avoid straining her shoulder as much as possible. "I just… I dunno… It was like it wasn't even me, you know?" Another yawn escaped her and she lifted a hand to her mouth until it passed. "Like someone else just pushed me aside and took over... It was very weird."
"Hmm." Cathy muttered in agreement, steering the captain towards the bed gently, noticing the tired look on her face. "You're saying it was some kind of miracle?"
Lara shook her head, trying to force her eyelids to stay open as she laid down on the bed. "You know I don't believe in that sorta stuff… " She murmured as Catherine pulled up the covers. "I think it was just..." She voice trailed off for a moment, but she blinked hastily in an attempt to keep herself awake. "You know when sometimes when you really have to do
things because your life depends on 'm, you can just do 'm, somehow?"
Catherine nodded quietly.
"I think it was something like that…" Lara murmured, her eyes falling shut once more. "Cat?"
"Yeah?" The blonde asked, gently stroking the dark hair.
"You gave me an extra dose of those herbs, didn't you?" Came the mumbled question.
A low growl. "I'll get back at you for this when I wake up."
A smile crossed Catherine's face as she saw the captain's features slowly relax into sleep. "I look forward to it." She whispered, stroking the captain's cheek with the back of her hand. For a moment she considered curling up next to Lara and getting some sleep herself, but she reluctantly stood, knowing there were some things she had to take care of first.
The deck was bustling with activity and
Catherine waded through, getting some pats on the back as she passed, which
luckily for her wasn't too painful. Those painkillers had really performed their
magic, and though the wounds on her back were far from healed, the pain had
turned into a dull ache, which was annoying, but nothing she couldn't handle.
She just hoped
the herbs could do the same for Lara. She reached the railing and leaned her arms on it for a moment, gazing at the remnants of 'her' ship in the distance. Only the bough and a small piece of the mast were above the water's surface now.
"Chief!" Will called out to her cheerfully, hastily walking over to her. "It's good to see you're doing OK."
Cathy smiled at him. "Right back at ya, Will." She released a breath, taking a breath of the salty air and gazing out over the water to see the point of the bough slowly disappearing under water. "These have been some quite hectic days, huh?"
"Now there's an understatement." The skipped chuckled softly. "But I guess I shouldn't be complaining, right? At least everyone's alive…"
"Exactly…" Cathy agreed with a nod.
They stood side by side for a moment, then Will literally slapped his head. "Oh, I nearly forgot." He dug into his jacket and fished out a small sketchpad. "I figured you might want to have this back." He handed her the papers.
Cathy looked at the sketchpad and forced a smile. "Thanks." She muttered, tucking the notes under an arm and returning to gaze over the sea.
"You're welcome." William gave her a polite nod, then excused himself and walked off.
Catherine took a breath, then spared a glance for the pad tucked under her arm, lifting it up and flipping open a page, gazing at the drawing silently, letting her fingers slide over the pencilmarks.
It had just stopped. After she'd stayed in Sydney she'd made a few more sketches, of trees and native animals… But at a certain point… At a certain point the lines had stopped being drawings and had just been lines… It just hadn't felt right anymore… Cathy closed her eyes as she remembered the countless attempts to make the pictures come alive again. As she remembered all the times in which she'd tossed the sketchpad into a tree in rage. Remembered all the times it had fallen open on a page with a drawing of Lara in its centre, and all the times she'd just crashed down, crying until she had no tears left to cry.
"Cat!" Matthew's voice dropped in and she hastily shook of the bad memories, looking up to see the young man walk closer. He stopped beside her, placing a hand on the railing. "You look a little pale." He frowned at her in concern. "You OK?"
Cathy forced a smile for him, giving him a nod. "Fine. Just haven't been out much, that's all…"
He smiled back at her. "I guess that makes sense… How's Lara doing?"
"She's lost a lot of blood." Catherine stated, managing a reassuring smile for him. "But she'll be OK. I slipped her some extra painkillers and she went out like a light."
"Good." Matthew nodded, happy at the news. "You know, I was half expecting her to come out of that room, yelling orders to set sail."
The young woman beside him chuckled. "That's what she wanted to do, but I told her no way."
"And she listened?" The second in command chuckled. "Now there's a first…"
"For you maybe." Cathy grinned at him.
Matthew shook his head with a small smile, placing a hand on her shoulder. "It's good to have you back, you know that?"
"It's good to be back." Cathy murmured, taking a breath of the salty air.
"Sorry about The Phoenix." Matthew said softly. "We were too late, they already fired before we could stop 'm."
Catherine waved him off. "Don't worry about it… It's better this way. I don't have fond memories of that vessel anyway, except maybe the last few moments."
"I understand." The second in command nodded quietly. Then his eyes fell on the papers she was holding onto. "Would you mind explaining why my head is on top of a bunch of tentacles?"
Cathy looked down at the drawing, then up at him, a sheepish smile tugging at her lips. "Would you believe I am very fond of squid?"
A brown eyebrow raised slowly.
The blonde laughed, patting Matthew on the back. "Sorry Matt, I drew that when you were still being mean to me." She grinned at him to take the sting out of the comment. "I'll erase it, if that'll make you feel better."
"Nah." Matthew chuckled. "I think it's funny actually. Could you do one of Lara as a shark?"
Catherine gave him a look. "Sharks are mean. Lara isn't anything like a shark."
Matthew snorted. "You just wait until she wakes up and remembers what you did."
The blonde considered this statement for a moment, then shook her head. "Nah, she'll grouch a little, but that won't make her a shark…" A short pause. "I could see Cookie as a pufferfish though."
Matthew looked down at the girl, then burst out laughing. "Oh, now there's a mental picture." He let his laughter wind down, shaking his head in wonder. "You're quite something, you know that?"
Green eyes twinkled back at him.
"Figures." The second in command rolled his eyes, then he turned more serious. "Did you find out how she did the…uhm… dagger thing?"
"She doesn't know." Catherine stated, crossing her arms and leaning back against the railing. "She thinks she only did it because she had to. Some sort of instinct."
Matthew cocked his head. "And what do you think?"
A shrug. "I think she's Lara. She can do things I never thought anybody was capable of. This is just another one of those things. All I care about is that she's alive, and I'm alive, and all of you are alive and Karl's dead…" A short pause. "I hope…"
"Oh he's dead all right. I checked… three times…" Matthew laughed softly.
Catherine joined in, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath of the salty air, letting it flood her senses. "So… Now what?" She asked, looking up.
"We head for those islands, I guess."
Cathy nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Is there something I can help you with?"
A brown eyebrow raised at her. "Shouldn't you be getting some sleep yourself? I mean, it's been a pretty hectic day, and you're not really…"
The second in command winced as he heard the voice drop a pitch, in a way very similar to a certain Curse he knew.
"Would you please tell me what to do before I go and find something to do myself?"
Matthew let out a breath. "All right, I guess you could uhm… help your crew get settled or something…"
Catherine considered this for a moment, then nodded. "Not the most exciting job, but I can do that." She stated, then walked off.
Matthew watched her go with a shake of his head. "The Torment of the Southern Seas, Part II…." He shivered at the thought. "Scary…"
"Chief!" Claudia quickly stood
from where she'd been kneeling to straighten her bed and ran over to Catherine.
"Did you see that?!"
"She caught the dagger, did you see that?!"
"I'm not blind, Claud."
Claudia blinked. "Right…" She hastily ran along and followed in Cathy's tracks. "It was amazing, wasn't it?"
"Chief, could you please tell her to shut up?" Tony sighed in exasperation. "She's been going on like this for the last half hour, it's driving me nuts."
"Hey!" Claudia shot the young man an annoyed look.
Cathy chuckled. "She's just got a case of the Lara Dean haze…"
"Yeah, well, when will she get over it?" Tony muttered, leaning back on his blanket.
"Oh, you never get over it." His chief smiled charmingly. "Actually, it gets worse…"
"Ugh…" Tony hid his face in his hands. "I'm gonna go insane…"
Catherine sat down beside him, leaning back on her hands. "Well, you know what they say, T. If ya can't beat 'm…"
Tony chuckled reluctantly. "Maybe I should do just that. I have to say that dagger thing was quite impressive.. Not to mention the explosion… or the getting shot and surviving bit…"
"See!" Claudia pointed at him from where she was laying out her things on her bed. "She's amazing…"
Cathy chuckled. "Couldn't agree more."
Tony sighed in defeat. "I'm stuck with the Torment Fanclub… Great…"
"Oh, I'll be out of your hair soon. I've got a VIP arrangement." Catherine grinned at him. "Just wanted to see if I could help you get settled and if everything was OK with you guys."
"Sure." Tony shrugged. "I think everybody's found a place to sleep. That cook fixed us some excellent stew. You can probably help move a few things, but except from that, I think we're all fine…"
"Except Fletcher." Claudia piped up from her side of the room.
A blonde eyebrow raised. "How so."
"He got knocked over the head with a frying pan."
Cathy glared at the young girl for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Please tell me you're joking?"
"Nuhuh." Tony dropped into the conversation. "He was driving us crazy and that cooking lady clobbered him. He's still out cold."
Catherine shook her head in disbelief. "Poor guy…"
"He was not…" Claudia grumbled. "He was utterly annoying, chief. He kept whining that we were doomed and he kept yelling at Mr. Matthew. If she wouldn't have knocked him out, I would've."
Cathy smiled grudgingly. "That bad huh?"
"Uh huh." Claudia nodded vigorously.
"Well, I guess I can forgive Cookie then, in this case."
"You should, chief…" Tony agreed. "Besides, if you say something bad about her, you might risk she won't cook for us anymore…"
Cathy chuckled. "Ah, now I get it. She's blackmailing you, isn't she?"
"Oh, absolutely." Tony agreed willingly. "I would go to Hell and back for that woman's fish stew."
Catherine laughed, giving her friend a pat on the shoulder. "This ship is addictive, isn't it?"
"Oh yeah." Claudia agreed eagerly.
Tony grinned. "You said it, chief."
Lara blinked her eyes open, slowly. The
light that was dancing off the waves was reflected on the ceiling and the patterns
swirled around above her. Voices drifted over and she started to make out the
words as her brain awoke fully.
"We've got eastern winds, so we should adjust course just a little." Catherine pointed to a map. "I think we should end up somewhere here."
"All right." Matthew nodded. "I'll go inform Tommy…"
The captain lifted a hand and rubbed some sleep out of her eyes. "You're not taking orders from her now, are you Matt?" She managed in a hoarse voice.
Both heads shot up and looked at her. Matthew's face creased into a grin. "Look at that, Sleeping Beauty has awoken."
Cathy chuckled. "And the thorn bushes haven't even started to grow yet."
"Well, at least that saves you the trouble of cutting though 'm and kissing her awake, huh?"
The blonde backhanded Matthew in the stomach. "Would you just get out of here and go talk to Tom?"
Matt lifted his hands in defence. "Hey, I know when I'm not wanted…" He shot her a charming smile, then hastily exited the room as a pencil was tossed in his direction.
Cathy rolled her eyes at him, then picked a mug off her desk and walked closer to the bed, sitting down on the edge.
"How long did I sleep?" The captain murmured, as Cathy handed her the mug and she took a swallow of the clear, cold water.
"Twenty seven hours."
Sprays of liquid went flying across the room. "What?!" Lara immediately sat up straight in her bed.
"No, I heard ya…" The captain hastily interrupted her, having no need to hear the number again. "How much of those herbs did you give me?" She glowered at the blonde.
Cathy blinked at her innocently. "The whole bag."
"The whole…" Lara gazed at her in disbelief. "I can't believe you did that."
The blonde lifted her hands in defence. "Now look. You know you're lousy at sitting still. You would've just forced your shoulder and it would be looking a lot worse than it does now. I bet."
Lara narrowed her eyes dangerously. "That's no excuse."
"Maybe not in your opinion." Cathy stated calmly, unintimidated. "But I want to see that wound healed as soon as possible, Lara, cause I don't want to see you suffer, so I don't regret this. Even if that means you being mad at me for a while."
The captain tried very hard to keep a stern look in her eyes, but failed and just gave in, sagging back into the pillow in defeat. "All right, all right… You win… Again."
"Good." Catherine smiled at the grumpy behaviour. "How's your shoulder?"
Lara flexed the bodypart in question experimentally. "Not bad… I'm not gonna be lifting weights anytime soon, but it'll have to do…"
"You stay put. I'll get you a new bandage." Cathy ordered, then stood and walked towards the desk, rummaging in a drawer.
"How's your back?" Lara's voice drifted over.
"Better." Cathy muttered, fishing out the fabrics then straightening, sighing as she spotted Lara wobbling on shaky legs. "Now, which part of 'stay put' didn't you understand?"
Twinkling blue eyes looked up at her and Lara just stuck her tongue out in defiance.
Catherine cast a look skyward in despair.
"Hey, I stayed put for twenty seven hours. I was good." Lara pointed out to her, walking closer, each step a bit more confident.
"Sure you were." Cathy drawled, but she decided to let it go and just patted the edge of the desk, waiting for the captain to hop on before she pushed the sleeve of her shirt aside and started to unroll the old bandage. "Tell me if it hurts, OK?"
"OK." Lara agreed cheerfully, ignoring the pain. "So, what happened after you drugged me?"
The blonde chuckled. "We're headed for those islands of yours. Should be there late this evening somewhere." She informed the captain. "Matt managed to rescue some stuff from the Phoenix, we got everybody settled down, made some small repairs. I've mostly been stuck inside, Matthew told me to plot a course and stuff. He said he sucked at that… But I really think he just wanted to keep me off the deck…"
"Because of your back?"
Cathy scratched her neck. "That and I nearly got thumped out of the crow's nest by a seagull."
Blue eyes gazed at her, then Lara started laughing.
"Hey, it's not my fault the stupid bird didn't know where to fly." Catherine muttered indignantly.
"Oh yeah, blame it on the bird, why don't you?"
A blonde eyebrow raised. "You saying it was my fault?"
"You attract trouble." Blue eyes twinkled at her.
Cathy crossed her arms and glared at the captain. "I do not."
Lara grinned wickedly, then wrapped her right arm around the blonde's waist and drew her closer until they were nose to nose. "Last time I checked, trouble was my middle name."
Catherine chuckled, staring into nearby blue eyes. "Can't argue with that." She mumbled, leaning a bit closer…
The door was tossed open with a thud. "Cathy, would you believe that cook just…!" Fletcher's voice stopped abruptly. "Holy mother of…"
Cathy pulled back hastily and turned around, looking at him. "Rob…"
He took a pace back, pointing a threatening finger at her. "This… You…" He stuttered, unable to find any words, glaring at her with wide eyes. Then he spun around and hastily exited the room, the door crashing shut behind him.
Cathy let out a breath, falling back against Lara's sturdy form. "We should really put a lock on that door."
The captain chuckled softly, gently rubbing her friend's shoulders. "Don't I know it…" She pulled back a little, stroking a few errant locks out of Cathy's face. "You want me to go and talk to him?"
"Talk? You?" Green eyes looked up at her in amusement.
The captain rolled her eyes. "All right, let me rephrase that… Do you want me to yell at him and punch him into next week?"
Catherine laughed softly, giving the captain a gentle squeeze before she backed off. "Nah, I'll see if I can patch things up…" She muttered, taking a deep breath and straightening a little.
"Want me to come with you?" Lara tried as an alternative, seeing the woman's discomfort.
Cathy shook her head with a smile. "Thanks for the offer, but I think I should handle this myself. Besides, considering what you're not wearing, it might not be a good idea anyway." Catherine muttered, tugging at the captain's sleepshirt.
Lara chuckled, then waved her off. "All right, go on then. I'll fix this bandage up by myself." She nodded towards her shoulder. "Call me if you need backup, all right?"
"You bet." The blonde shot her a smile, then exited the room.
Lara leaned back against the desk, letting out a breath and watching the now closed door for a moment, doubting what to do. Her wound decided this lack of attention was no fun and poked at her nerves a little. The captain grudgingly looked at her shoulder, then unwrapped the last bit of bandage, taking a look at the wound beneath. It didn't look half bad, really. At least the swelling had gone down, and it wasn't bleeding anymore. She cleaned the wound out a little, then wrapped a new bandage around her arm.
She hastily dressed, and forced herself to sit behind her desk and not run outside to see how Cathy was doing. Stupid overprotective streak. She sighed to herself, leaning her elbows on the desk's surface and looking at the map rolled out on her table. She judged the lines and calculations. "Not bad, Catherine." She complimented her absent friend, then rolled the map up, tucking it back in her drawer.
She cocked her head as she spotted the small sketchpad that had been hidden under the paper. She smiled as she trailed the familiar cover, then flicked it open, revealing drawings of her crew, the ones Cathy had made all those years ago. Lara flicked through the pages. Tom, Mary, herself, herself, Ben, herself. The captain chuckled, then stopped and frowned as suddenly the sheets of paper remained prudently empty, the surfaces slightly rough where
an eraser had hastily wiped out the dark pencilstrokes.
No more drawings? Lara raised an eyebrow as she leafed through more empty sheets. That made no sense… Catherine loved to draw.
A knock on the door forced her out of her pondering and she looked up as Matthew poked his head in. "Hey."
"Hi." Matt smiled as he stepped in. "How are you feeling?"
Lara leaned back in her chair. "Been better, been worse…" She informed him, then cocked her head at him. "Hey, do you know if Catherine got a new sketchpad or something?"
"I've seen her walking around with that one yesterday… But she wasn't drawing or anything, she just stared at it, kinda… Then she tried to hide it when I walked up…" The second in command shook his head. "Probably not to let me see that picture with the tentacles…" He grinned wryly. "Why?"
"Just thinking…" The captain murmured, tapping her fingers on the table.
"All right…" Matthew shrugged, knowing better then to ask any further. "By the way, what was up with that Fletcher fellow? He stormed out of this room like he'd seen a ghost…"
Lara shook her head. "I wish that had been all he'd seen, then we wouldn't have had any troubles…"
Brown eyebrows contracted. "What do you…" Light dawned. "Oh… Did he…?"
The captain nodded.
"Ouch…" Matt winced. "You know, you should really put a lock on this door?"
"Yeah, I know…" Lara chuckled, then leaned back in her chair with a sigh. "Catherine went after him… I'm just hoping that scumbag isn't bothering her…"
Matthew shrugged. "Why don't you go and find out?"
Blue eyes twinkled up at him. "You know, I was hoping you would suggest that…."
Continued in Part VI