Hannah stepped from the hallway to utter and complete stunned silence. She turned back to look at Katie, who smiled and motioned her forward. She walked further into the living room and noted the odd expressions on Jack's and Frank's faces. Her forehead scrunched up in confusion and she looked back and forth between them.
Hannah's voice seemed to break the spell that held them, and Jack blinked as he finally rose to meet her. His grin was huge as he reached out to take her hands.
"Hannah, you look fabulous. Absolutely stunning. And the dress...." Jack's voice trailed off and he gestured at the gown that had taken both Hannah and Katie almost an hour to get Hannah into and settled. There were real, honest-to-God petticoats, layer after layer of them done in very fine, white linen. Hannah had insisted on the linen... the thought of muslin against her skin made her itch. The underskirt was a deep emerald green silk.
The overlay and bodice were both a mint green silk, and the bows tied around the skirt were emerald velvet. The neckline scooped low enough to hint at the cleavage hidden beneath the material, and the short sleeves that were pulled off Hannah's shoulders showed off her musculature to its best advantage. Hannah had pulled her hair up, leaving her back bare and adding to her distinguished, grown-up air.
Jack circled her, then reached into the pocket of his over tunic. "The time has come," he said as he draped an emerald necklace around Hannah's neck and began to fasten it. She reached up hesitant hands towards it.
"Trust me, Hannah. You will understand soon enough." He came round to stand in front of her again, and leaned in to kiss her cheek. "I love you, little Hannah."
For some reason, the sentiment made her eyes water, and she blinked back tears before she responded, "I love you too, Uncle Jack." She took a moment to take in his attire, and she smiled. "You look quite dashing."
"Hey! What about me? What am I??? Chopped liver??"
Hannah bit her lip to keep from chuckling at Frank's plaintive plea. But she dutifully turned her head and studied him. Both men were dressed in the tunics and trousers of the mid-eighteen hundreds. Long, dark pants topped short boots. White shirts were nearly hidden from view by dark cravats, waistcoats, and long overcoats. Jack wore a black suit, and Frank brown to compliment Katie's yellow dress.
"I think you both look very handsome," Hannah finally commented. She turned to her friend. "What do you think, Katie?"
"I think I'm glad I don't have to get dressed like this every day," Katie grunted as she eased her hoop skirt through the doorway. She had opted NOT to wear the authentic petticoats, having no desire to cart around an extra thirty-five pounds on her person. The hoop was more awkward though, since there was very little give in the wire.
Hannah chuckled and gestured towards Katie. "Uncle Jack? How are we gonna get to the meetinghouse? There is no way we'll all fit in the car."
"Oh, no cars tonight, Hannah. Tonight we travel into town in style."
Just then, a jingling was heard outside the front door, and after a moment, a knock was heard. Jack offered his arm to Hannah, and saw Frank extend the same courtesy to Katie. "Come, my dear. Your carriage awaits."
Hannah stepped outside and swallowed a gasp at the Cinderella style coach that sat at the door. She turned to Jack with a question in her eyes.
"It sits in pieces in a small shed behind Jacob's house most of the year. Then a day or two before the ball, he and his family get it out, put it together and spiff it up just for this evening. This is how everyone travels to the ball, if they don't walk. I scheduled our time with Merry," he said before she could ask. "That is why I was adamant about your needing to be ready on time."
He handed her up into buggy, then offered his hand to Katie. She took it and stepped inside, and the two gentlemen followed. Then they were off to town.
Hannah was thankful to touch her feet to earth again. She hadn't realized the ride into town was so long; nor had she understood how rough and rocky it was without shock absorbers. She was thankful for the layers and layers of linen she had on right then, though. Katie hadn't fared so well, and stepped from the carriage rubbing her behind.
"Ow, damnation! That hurts. I think I'm bruised now."
Katie chuckled and looked around while waiting for her husband and Jack to exit the coach. The meetinghouse looked a lot different that it had the day before. There were pine torches lighting the entire building and the windows were opened wide. All the tables had been removed and the cane back chairs had been scattered around the room. The electrical and sound equipment was gone or covered to such a degree as to be unrecognizable.
The few wood tables set up in the corners were covered in linen, crystal and china. Food covered with wire mesh lids sat on one table, and punch sat on another. Three musicians sat on a raised platform at the far end of the room.
Merry met them at the door. "Welcome! Welcome to the Pirates' Masquerade Ball!" She motioned to the feathered mask Hannah wore. "What a lovely mask!" Merry exclaimed as she drew them into the room. "Now the masquerade's rules are in effect. Until the Pirate Captain appears and unmasks her heart's desire or arrives, everyone needs to stay masked. Until then, there is food and drink and the musicians will be playing for dancing soon. Almost everyone is here, so please, enjoy yourselves."
"Has she ever unmasked anyone?" Katie asked. She flinched at the strength of the grip Hannah had on her hand. They were both fairly certain of the answer, but her giving voice to it still made Hannah nervous.
Merryweather chuckled. "Only once... in ." Her eyes grew thoughtful. "That was the beginning of the legend." She shook herself out of her reverie as another group of party-goers made their way in the door. "If you'll excuse me...."
A thrill chased itself over Hannah's spine at Merry's words. Now she understood at least part of the legend. They moved further into the room, ever mindful of the full skirts they wore. Jack carefully seated Hannah, and moved to get them both some punch. Frank led Katie out onto the dance floor as the musicians began playing.
The first hour or so, Hannah spent alternately dancing and resting. The dress was heavy, and much hotter than she'd imagined it to be. And without the air conditioning she was accustomed to, it was necessary to sit out every other dance to rest and cool off a bit. She soon learned to be grateful for every bit of breeze she felt.
A flattering number of men had requested a dance, and Hannah was being approached by the next in line when a hush fell over the room. She couldn't help the involuntary gasp that fell from her lips.
There in the doorway stood Donovan, resplendent in all her pirate glory, and surrounded by her crew. They made a striking picture, and all eyes in the room focused on them intently.
Jack stared unabashedly at them. This was the first time in his many years of attending this party that he ever remembered the pirates bringing such attention to themselves. In fact, this was the first year in memory that he recalled seeing more than a wisp of anyone besides Donovan herself. He held his breath, waiting to see if the prophecy would come to life.
Hannah had the time to wonder why this was a masquerade ball when it was so apparent exactly who the pirates were. Then they were moving directly towards her and she stopped wondering about anything in light of how spectacular Donovan looked. Hannah felt her jaw drop open and had to consciously take herself in hand. As Donovan drew near, Hannah felt the blood rush through her body at the consuming expression in the fierce blue that regarded her and dropped her eyes to the floor. She felt the gloved fingertips caress her chin before gently lifting her face until their eyes met.
Donovan smiled, and Hannah grinned nervously in return. Donovan was immersing her in the sheer sensuality she was emitting, and it was making her feel warm and giddy and absolutely wonderful.
Without a word, Donovan slid an arm around Hannah's waist, and led her out onto the dance floor. The musicians didn't hesitate, but immediately began playing a hauntingly sweet melody for the two of them to dance to. The floor cleared until only the two of them were left.
Hannah opened her lips to speak and was silenced by Donovan's fingers. So instead Hannah took advantage of the fact that Donovan was no longer holding her slightly apart from the Captain's own figure with her lead hand, and wrapped both arms around Donovan's neck.
Donovan accepted the new hand placement gracefully, locking her arms around Hannah's waist and slowing their steps to mere movement back and forth in virtually the same spot. She felt Hannah's sigh of contentment through her shirt as the blonde head came to rest on her chest. Donovan smiled again and leaned her cheek on Hannah's hair.
They weren't alone, but to them, it was as if the world had passed them by for a timeless moment.
In the meetinghouse, people from two separate timelines watched as the joining between them happened, and marveled at the miracle it was.
Jack smiled, realizing that the legend and prophecy he had been studying for the better part of his life was being fulfilled in front of his eyes. He thought back to the discussion he and his brother had had when they understood that the fulfillment of the prophecy lay not with them, but with Michael's daughter Hannah.
"Are you sure, Jack?"
Jack nodded heavily, his green eyes looking squarely into the equally green of his brother's. "Yeah, Mike, I am. The legend is vague, but the diary is crystal clear."
"The legend says that she will unmask the Beloved Green Eyes she has been searching for at the masquerade ball. That this will be the one she has been seeking, and when the two become one that they will not be seen nor heard from again in our lifetime." Jack nodded his agreement with Michael's assessment. "So what new part of her diary did you suddenly come across that you think this is going to be Hannah and not you or me for God's sake? Jesus, Jack! She's a fifteen-year-old child!"
"Michael, please! Calm down and breathe, will ya? You're making me nervous, and this is hard enough for me as it is!"
Mike blew out a breath, and stopped pacing, taking a seat in front of his brother. "I'm sorry, Jackie. I know...."
"No, no you don't, Mike! All my life, I dreamed... I hoped... and now...."
Michael sat quietly for a moment. "You're right, Jack. I don't know how you feel. But I do care, ya know. You're the only brother I've got, and you're my best friend."
"I know, Mikey. Thanks. I just...."
"Why do you think Hannah is tied to this?" Mike asked when the silence began to grow uncomfortable. "Aside from the fact that we know there is a family connection between us and Donovan Scott, why do you think Hannah is gonna be the one to fulfill the legend? What did the diary say?"
"It describes her, Michael. It talks about the green eyes that we all have, but it describes Donovan's lover as a woman. We may both have the same eyes as Hannah, but it is for damned sure no one is gonna mistake either of us for women!"
"But why Hannah, Jack?? Why her and not her children, or her children's children?"
"That more than anything is a hunch, but I'm going with my gut here. Things have been happening closer together... more often. I think it is a fair summation to say that it will happen in our lifetimes. The only one of our line it could possibly be is Hannah."
Mike ran a hand through his hair. "God, Jack. I don't know if I am ready for that. It means I am gonna lose my baby to a woman of myth and legend." He straightened in his seat and his eyes took on a steely resolve. "Before I allow Donovan Scott to abscond ANYWHERE with my daughter, I think she and I need to have a serious father/suitor talk. When should she and the Maiden be in the Triangle again?"
Jack consulted his charts and the diaries again. "According to the schedule she's been keeping, she should be back in less than two weeks."
"All righty, then. Let me get packed up and ready to go. I'm gonna go out and find Donovan Scott and see just what her intentions for my only child are. Then we'll see about giving them my blessing."
"Are you sure about this, Mikey? It's my turn...."
"Yeah, Jack. This is something I have to do. You can go to
That had been their last conversation about Donovan or the difference she would make in Hannah's life. As he watched the two of them melt into one another, he remembered Mike's final words as he admonished Jack to take care of his little girl.
"I think you would have been proud of me, brother. I know you'd be proud of her."
Merryweather heard Jack's whisper, though she didn't understand the words he said. She moved closer to him even as she kept her eyes glued to the tableau that was unfolding on the dance floor in front of her.
"They make a beautiful couple, don't they?" she asked as Hannah buried herself further into Donovan's neck. They had all but stopped moving, content to simply sway in one place in time to the music. She wondered at the brief glimpse of sadness that flitted through Jack's eyes. It was gone before he looked down at her and smiled.
"Yes, they do," he answered. "I was just thinking how proud of Hannah Michael would be if he could see the woman she's grown into."
"How would he feel about seeing the fulfillment of the prophecy; of laying the legend to rest?"
Jack gave this question due consideration, keeping his eyes on Donovan as she slowly leaned down to capture Hannah's lips. He watched for a moment longer; they all did, until the embrace grew so intensely, passionately intimate that propriety demanded everyone look away and give the couple as much privacy as they could considering the circumstances. He focused his attention strictly on Merryweather and answered her.
"Sad, happy, a little disconcerted, a little overwhelmed. A lot like I do at this moment, I expect."
Merry nodded her understanding. "I can see that. It is almost, I don't know... bizarre to see something like this come to pass. It's something you hope for, but never actually think you'll have a chance to be a part of."
Jack agreed silently, though he certainly had other thoughts on the matter. He didn't share them though. Doing so would have required a far greater and much more detailed explanation that he was able or willing to give.
The room felt Donovan and Hannah separate more than they heard anything, and almost as one body, all eyes returned to the couple alone at the center of the dance floor.
Donovan stepped back from Hannah and dropped to one knee in front of her. One hand flew to Hannah's mouth when she realized Donovan's intent. The other was captured in Donovan's hand, and Donovan gently caressed the appendage for a long moment while she swallowed hard and composed herself. It seemed she had been aiming towards this for a long time, and now that it was upon her, all her words had deserted her.
Hannah understood Donovan's nervousness; it was similar to what she herself had felt when she realized that the legend was coming to life before her eyes. Tenderly Hannah removed her hand from her mouth and reached down to cup Donovan's chin.
Donovan lifted her eyes to be met with love and compassion, and suddenly her nerves settled, and she remembered everything she wanted to say. She lifted Hannah's hands to her lips and kissed them both, before clearing her throat and starting to speak.
"Hannah, Beloved... legend has it that the Pirate Captain is destined to meet her future, fall in love and propose on the night of the Pirates Masquerade Ball. That I would be able to walk right up to my heart's desire and sweep her off her feet."
The room was so silent that even breathing sounded harsh, and everyone heard Donovan swallow before she continued.
"But the legend never counted on us, did it? It could not fathom the truth that is the two of us." She smiled, and grinned when Hannah smiled in return. "It was entirely correct about us in some ways, though. You are my future; I did fall in love... deeply, passionately, irrevocably."
She swallowed again and took a deep breath. "So tonight, in front of all these witnesses... in front of your family and friends... in front of my crew... I am asking you for my heart's desire. I am asking you to marry me, and stay with me for the remainder of our days."
Hannah swallowed hard, knowing the words were coming, but unable to stop the thrill that ran through her when Donovan said them aloud. She gently tugged on their joined hands and Donovan rose to her feet. In words she knew only Donovan and Jack would completely understand, Hannah replied.
"Whether we share one lifetime or many, past, present or future we are soulmates. I never believed in the concept until my dreams became my reality, and now I will do anything to keep the reality I have with you, Donovan. Whatever life we share is perfect for me, because we share it together."
Donovan smiled rakishly at her. "Does this mean yes?"
She reached up and untied Donovan's mask, wanting to see her whole face when she answered the question. "Oh yes, my love. This means yes. This means yes forever."
Hannah pulled Donovan's mouth to her own, and the ship's Captain went with it to the cheering of everyone in the room. She awkwardly managed to loosen the ties on Hannah's own mask, and as soon as she could manage, threw the offending bit of costume into the crowd without opening her eyes of breaking the kiss.
Jack reached out and caught the mask, and the party geared up to full speed.
It was an oddly eclectic bunch, and for this one night it was physically impossible to tell who belonged in the past and who belonged in the future. At this time, in this place, everyone belonged to the here and now, and only the present existed. The torchlight made everyone look a little bit extraordinary, and except for the fact that some were dressed as pirates and others were dressed as islanders or colonists, there was no way to tell that the people coexisting in the room together were living in time periods one hundred and fifty or more years apart.
Jack smiled as he watched the interaction around him. Except for himself, Hannah, and Donovan, no one knew the significance of what was happening. Most saw it as fulfillment of a legend. Only the three of them understood the immensity of the occasion, and of the three of them, only he understood the true ramifications of what had and was happening.
For a very long time, to those watching, at least, Hannah and Donovan stayed wrapped around each other on the small dance floor; not moving in time to the music around them, but swaying to a rhythm only the two of them could hear.
"They make such a striking couple," Katie commented to Jack as they danced around the room together. "You think I'll be able to pry Donovan away to have a word with her? I think I have earned the right to ask a few questions."
Jack had to laugh at the almost plaintive whine that came from Katie. He'd been fairly certain this would happen as soon as Donovan and Hannah were together here. They had completely put everything but each other out of their reality and were wrapped together in their own little world. And the need to interrogate Donovan was about to overwhelm Katie.
"Calm down, Katie. Hannah knows you wanna talk to Donovan. I'm certain she'll make sure you get a chance to talk to her." Katie looked at him skeptically, and Jack chuckled again. "Then again, maybe not. Given what she and the boys did to Frank...."
"Exactly," Katie replied sardonically, before watching the couple leave the dance floor and walk out onto the cooler veranda.
"Are you all right, Angel? We have to leave shortly, you know," Donovan commented as they made their way to the outdoor porch. The meetinghouse had become unbearably stuffy and Hannah had finally asked Donovan if they could get some fresh air. One look at Hannah's flushed face had convinced Donovan of the need to get outside post haste.
"Yes, love. I'm fine. It was just getting warm in there and this dress is much harder to manage than I ever expected it to be. I didn't realize the yards and yards of material it took just to be considered properly attired in your day and age. I could easily give up the finery of a lady for the comfort of a man's clothes."
Donovan nodded her understanding. "Yes, I was not unhappy to give up the layers upon layer of clothing required to be a lady, and I gave them up long before I ever had to actually wear them. I never understood the point of making women so direly uncomfortable for the sake of looking proper. Where is the practicality in that?"
Hannah leaned forward and captured Donovan's lips in her own. "I love you, and I like the way you think."
Donovan returned the gesture wholeheartedly before pulling back for air. "Shall I get you something to drink, Beloved? You look quite flushed again."
"I'll bet... I feel pretty flushed right about now."
"Let me get you something cool to drink then. It will give you a chance to cool off before we have to go in again to say our goodbyes."
"You take such good care of me, Donovan."
"It is my honor and my privilege, Hannah, and one I intend to have for the rest of my life. I have something to give you when I return." Then without another word, the Captain turned and made her way back inside the meetinghouse.
Katie saw her opportunity to talk to Donovan alone when she stepped back across the threshold. She followed Donovan to the drink table and waited until she picked up two glasses of punch before she approached her.
"Donovan? Excuse me... Captain Scott? May I have a word with you privately?"
Donovan turned her attention to the woman addressing her, her brow furrowing as she tried to place her in her memory. Finally, she asked, "I'm sorry... do I know you, madam?"
"No, Captain. We've not been formally introduced." She offered her hand. "I am Katie, Hannah's friend. I thought we could talk a minute."
Donovan acknowledged her greeting with a nod, then held up the cups to show why she didn't accept the proffered hand. "If you would like to come along with me to take this to Hannah, you would be welcome. Otherwise, I am sorry, but I will not leave her alone to converse with you, no."
Katie couldn't help but be impressed with Donovan's devotion to Hannah, and nodded her acceptance of Donovan's terms. She followed Donovan back out the door, lagging a step or two behind to observe their interaction again.
Donovan offered Hannah a cup of punch that was received with a grateful smile. Then Donovan said something and motioned behind her, indicating Katie's presence in the door way. Hannah looked directly at Katie, then nodded to Donovan reluctantly. Donovan took her hand and sat down, and Katie made her way forward to them.
For a long moment there was silence as Katie reflected on the obvious devotion that ran between them. Though newly married herself, she recognized what they had between them as something rare and special... something so many couples, even those deeply in love were not fortunate enough to encounter, much less experience in their lifetime.
"It's the real thing, isn't it?" she finally murmured, looking between them. "What you have together, what you share is not put on or made up, is it?"
"Did you think it would be, Katie?" Hannah asked with disappointment clear in her tone. "Did you think that because we are both women it would be any less real than it is for you and Frank?"
The hurt in Hannah's voice cut through both Katie and Donovan deeply, though for different reasons. Donovan could feel the ire rising in her blood, and it was only Hannah's hand in her own that kept her grounded. For Katie, the mistrust was painful, and she was impelled to answer the charges.
"No, Hannah. No! You know me better than that. I didn't mean it to come out the way it sounded." She lifted her fingers to her lips and took a deep breath. "What you have is beyond love, Hannah. It is all that and more, and I'm so happy for you. You held out for your heart's desire and you found one another because of it."
Hannah lifted Donovan's hand to her lips and caressed it gently with her lips. "You're right, Katie." She spoke to Katie but she never took her eyes off Donovan. "What we have is beyond imagination, beyond price, and I'm glad I waited for it. It's incomparable."
Katie turned to see Donovan's reaction. Donovan lifted her free hand to cup Hannah's cheek, and she in turn kissed their joined hands. "Yes, it is," she whispered, her gaze never leaving Hannah's face.
"Um, Captain Scott? Donovan?" Katie waited until the blue eyes tracked to her and she was certain she had Donovan's attention. "Can I ask you something... best friend to perspective suitor?"
"You may ask. I do not have to answer."
Katie nodded in acknowledgement. "Very true, but I think you will." She giggled at the raised eyebrow, not the response that action usually elicited. "I want to know your intentions, Captain. Hannah has been my best friend all our lives, and I want some assurances she will be taken care of."
Donovan rose to her full height, towering over Katie and glaring down at her. Katie didn't flinch or step back, earning her a surprising smile from Donovan before the Captain pulled Hannah up to stand beside her. She wrapped an arm snugly around the trim waist and stood as closely as the dress would allow.
"There are no guarantees in life, Katie, but I promise you I will love, honor and protect her forever and beyond. She gives my life meaning and joy, and I intend to bring the same to her in return. Is that satisfactory?"
Katie stood still without speaking for another long moment, then lifted up on her tiptoes and kissed first Donovan and then Hannah on the cheek. "That is more than satisfactory. It is a beautiful sentiment, and I hope it is something you are both able to make a reality for one another. You have my blessing and my wishes for a long and happy life together."
She stepped away and found her hand caught in Hannah's free one. "Thank you, Katie. That means so much to me."
"You're my best friend, Hannah. It's wonderful to see you finally settled and at peace. You'd better keep in touch, though. I don't want to lose my connection with you either, just because you are across the ocean."
"I will, Katie. We should only be gone a few months. I promise you will get to hear about everything as soon as we get home."
They embraced again, and Katie was gaze was snared by Donovan's. "Thank you for caring about her, Katie," Donovan said. "I am glad to know Hannah has a friend like you who looks after her best interests."
"Keep her happy, Donovan," she advised again, taking another step towards the door.
"I will, Katie. I will do my very best for her."
"That is all I can ask then. Safe journey to you both," she said before crossing the threshold and rejoining the party that was still in progress.
Hannah and Donovan turned to face each other then, embracing again before Donovan pulled away and extended both hands towards Hannah. Hannah accepted them without thought and followed easily as Donovan led the way to the door.
"I think it is time for us to go, Angel. It is time to begin our journey and our lives together."
"Together," Hannah commented as she allowed herself to be pulled along into the meetinghouse. "I do so like the sound of that."
Just as they reached the threshold, Donovan pulled Hannah to a halt. Hannah looked up at her askance, having difficulty enough finding her balance without being yanked off-stride.
"Sorry, my love," Donovan muttered. "I nearly forgot." She reached into the sash tied at her waist, sliding her long fingers into a hidden pocket and retrieving an object from it. She smiled, then turned her attention to Hannah.
"My family have long been people of the sea, and the story goes that one night many years ago during a fierce, raging storm, my great-grandfather Ephraim fought his way to an island for sanctuary. After the storm passed, he and his crew took a couple days to look around, collecting fresh water and whatever fruit they could find."
"In the midst of their search, so the story goes, Ephraim found a small chunk of rock whose shape reminded him of home. He figured that to be lucky, and put the rock in his pocket, and the men continued searching for necessary supplies."
"At the end of two days, they had scavenged all they could from the small island, and they loaded their ship and headed back out to sea for home."
"For many years, the rock traveled the seas with Ephraim, and it was passed from father to son to son again. It was when it came into my father's possession that it became of interest to me."
"You see, I have had the opportunity to study many things in my travels, and one subject of interest to me is geology. When Papa gave me the stone, I understood its importance immediately, and I asked for permission to open it." Donovan smiled in memory. "Papa looked at me rather oddly, but he granted my request."
"You see, Hannah, I had been dreaming of you, and I knew I would find you and I wanted to be ready. So when I realized that the stone held an emerald, I opened it knowing that someday I would be able to offer it to you."
Donovan unclenched the fist that she'd held closed, and extended her open palm to Hannah. Hannah couldn't stop the gasp that shivered through her, and she lifted a hesitant hand towards it before dropping that hand to her side, and raising the other to the stone on her neck.
Donovan caught the hesitation in Hannah's expression, and took Hannah's left hand in her own. "It was made for you," Donovan whispered, before sliding the ring onto Hannah's finger. "A token of my love and a symbol of my devotion to you." She pressed a light kiss on the ring.
Hannah stared at the ring. It was a square cut emerald, a green so deep that she could actually see hints of blue fire flashing in the heart of the stone. She turned her attention to Donovan, who was biting her lips in anticipation. Hannah wrapped her hands around Donovan's neck, and the Captain automatically rested her hands on Hannah's waist.
"It is a perfect combination of the two of us, and it's beautiful... just like you. Thank you, love. I wish I had something to give you in return."
"I have my whole world in my hands, Hannah. I don't need anything else." She cut off Hannah's protest with a searing kiss, and when they separated, Hannah took a deep breath before speaking.
"I'm still gonna get something for you. I don't know what or when or how, but I will find something that will show the world that you are mine."
"People only have to see me look at you to know I am well and truly caught, but I will be very glad to wear whatever token you see fit to bestow."
"Good answer, Captain," Hannah answered with a twinkle and a smile. Donovan gave her a courtly bow.
"Thank you, my dear. I thought so. Now come. It is time for us to say goodbye. Already the men have left for the ship."
Hannah took Donovan's arm, and allowed herself to be escorted through the meetinghouse. For the most part, folks let them pass through without stopping them, but when they reached Jack, they stopped by mutual, unspoken consent.
Donovan took Hannah's hand and put it in Jack's then stepped back to allow them a moment to say goodbye privately.
Jack smiled with tears in his eyes. His heart was breaking, and yet at the same time he had never been as happy for Hannah as he was at this moment. She was radiant and the happiness she felt was so obvious that he couldn't help but share her joy. Jack took her in his arms and hugged her like it was the last time he would be able to embrace her.
After a few moments, he stepped back, and looked directly into Donovan's eyes. She stepped forward and rested her hands on Hannah's shoulders. Hannah leaned into the touch, but didn't release Jack's hands. He returned his attention to Hannah.
"I'm so glad you figured out the pieces of the puzzle, Hannah. And I'm really glad I got to see the culmination of all that research and the fulfillment of the legend."
"Thanks, Uncle Jack." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for so many things. I'll keep a detailed diary for you, and share it with you when I get back."
He nodded, but didn't answer. After another minute, he focused on Donovan. "You take care of her, Donovan. She is very precious to me."
"To me as well, Jack. I will cherish her always. I give you my word."
"Then go with my blessing, both of you."
Jack and Hannah shared a final hug, and he and Donovan exchanged a last look. Then Hannah and Donovan stepped out the doorway into an unexpected slight chill in the air, and boarded the carriage to head out towards the port.
A carpetbag sat at Donovan's feet, and Hannah raised her brow in mute question. "Yours?"
Donovan shook her head. "No." She reached down and opened it up. "I believe it belongs to you."
The second brow joined the first, and Hannah asked, "Are you sure? I've never seen it."
Donovan nodded. "Yes, but the envelope on the top has your name on it. I am almost certain it is yours."
"Okay," said as she took the bag from Donovan's hands. Then the buggy was stopping and the driver hopped down to let them out.
"Thank you, driver," Donovan said, handing him a coin. She then turned to help Hannah step from the carriage. Hannah was grateful for both sets of hands as she maneuvered through the small doorway. The driver released her as soon as she set foot on the ground and grabbed the bag, handing it to Donovan when she reached for it.
"Thank you, sir," Hannah said quietly as the man tipped his hat to her. Then she took Donovan's hand and walked with her down the dock, not noticing when the carriage simply vanished from sight.
Mama was waiting at the end of the dock. "My blessings on you both, children. Safe journey."
"Thank you, Mama," they replied in unison.
"Take care of one another and we will see you next trip." They hugged her in turn and whispered their goodbyes then moved to the ship.
They stepped on board and Donovan accepted the salute with a nod. "Are we ready, Mr. Merryweather?"
"Aye, sir. The tide has turned and the crew is waiting your orders, sir."
"The order is given, Mr. Merryweather. Raise the anchor, Mr. Trilby, and set the sails. It is time for the Warrior Maiden to sail for home."
A cheer went up from the men at her words, including those who moved to man the oars down below. Mr. Merryweather accepted the responsibility of pulling them out of the dock from her with a nod, knowing she needed to get Hannah settled into what was going to be her new home for the next few weeks at the very least.
Hannah wedged herself into the tiny passageway behind Donovan, swearing to herself the entire way. She vowed to stick to trousers and shirts if it could be managed on this trip. There was no way she was going to cope with fashionable skirts and petticoats on this ship for the next few weeks and keep any semblance of ladylike behavior. She was already ready to scream and the passageway was only two steps from the bottom of the stairs to Donovan's door.
Hannah couldn't contain the gasp the slipped from her lips when Donovan whisked her into her arms before crossing the threshold. It wasn't particularly graceful, since Donovan had to turn sideways and wriggle them through, but at last she achieved her goal and held Hannah in her arms as she kicked the door to the room shut behind them.
They remained that way for a moment while Hannah looked around the room. Her eyes blinked rapidly several times as she tried to come to terms with the difference a few days had made in the room's appearance. She looked up at Donovan for an explanation.
"Harold's punishment," she said succinctly. "It was his job to convert my quarters into our quarters and insure that you would be comfortable during your stay with us. It is highly uncommon for a Royal Navy non-prison vessel to carry passengers of any kind, and almost never females. Sailors are a superstitious lot, you know." Donovan grinned at the irony of her statement, and Hannah chuckled.
"I am glad you are here, Hannah. I have waited a lifetime to have you with me."
"I have waited a lifetime to be here with you Donovan, but, um... won't you get in trouble for having me here? I mean... this is a vessel of the Royal Navy, and you are her MALE Captain? Won't it start talk to be seen with a female on your ship and more to the point, in your quarters?"
Donovan stepped over to the bed and lightly placed Hannah on its covers, but not before brushing a kiss across the blonde locks first. "I love you," she said quietly, "and I appreciate your concern for me and my career. The truth is it really does not matter to me. What goes on aboard this ship stays with this ship and her crew. My men and I have been together for many years, and we've learned to trust our lives and our secrets to one another. No one outside this crew will ever know where you slept on board. The men like you and would never sully your reputation like that."
Donovan smiled at Hannah's bashful blush. "You blush beautifully, you know," she said, chuckling when the red color deepened even further.
"Do they really, Donovan?" Hannah glanced up into Donovan's eyes now despite the blush. "Do the men really like me?"
"Yes, Angel, they unquestionably do. For many reasons."
"Well, they certainly have made me feel welcome here." There was a sudden shift in the boat, and Hannah reached her hands out to clasp Donovan's. She looked up in anticipation of the forthcoming explanation.
"We are pushing back from the dock. Would you like to go topside and watch?"
"Actually," Hannah replied as she held onto Donovan for balance and stood on wobbly legs. She turned and presented her back to Donovan whose eyes widened when she saw the row of tiny little buttons. "Could you undo me, please? If I don't get out of all these layers and into some sensible clothes soon, I may have to scream."
Donovan swallowed and did as she was bidden, then scampered for the door. "I'll just wait outside," she said before closing the door firmly behind her. Hannah stared at the door for a long moment, wondering where Donovan's shyness had suddenly come from. Then she shrugged and wiggled out of the dress and began to unlayer her petticoats.
It took a good five minutes to get completely undressed and folded and put away. The dress she'd hung in the small closet space, but even without the undergarments it took up her whole side. She sighed. There was nothing to be done for it now. Instead, she decided to hunt for her new clothes.
Hannah was fairly certain they were in the drawers in the chest, but her curiosity about the carpetbag was overwhelming and she found herself sitting naked on the small bed opening up the bag.
The note on the top was in Jack's firm handwriting. She recognized it easily from the many notes and letters he'd written to her while she was growing up. The paper was thick, almost parchment-like, and the ink... well, it was different than any she had ever seen. She opened the envelope, and slid the paper from it, opening it with a crinkly sound. Her eyes skimmed the page, then returned to the top to read fully.
My Beloved Niece Hannah, (it read)
So much has happened so quickly, and I know that when you leave tonight, the odds in my seeing you again are very slim. My work is finished, and getting you off safely with Donovan was the last thing I had to do. Everything from here on out is up to Fate. Not that it isn't normally, but this is different. I no longer have a goal to fulfill... except that trip to Alaska. Never quite made it there.
In any case, I want you to know how proud I am of you... how proud your Mother and Dad would have been as well could they have seen what a beautiful, loving young woman you turned out to be. I thank God everyday for the fact that I got to be a part of your life. And that I got to see the fulfillment of the legend.
The ring enclosed is actually the ring your dad gave to your mom when they were married. I thought you might want to have it to give to Donovan. It seems very fitting.
As for the rest of what is in here, take a deep whiff. I did some research on the internet after you told me about Donovan, and found this chocolatier has been around for almost two hundred years. I thought you might appreciate having a taste of home available to you while you were gone, and FedEx delivers here for the right price. J
Go and be happy, Hannah. You have found your future in the past, and it makes my heart glad to know that soulmates can come together across time and space. I love you.
Always your favorite uncle,
Hannah just sat still for a moment, soaking in the happiness the note and gesture provided and the heartache the words also caused. She took a deep whiff and allowed the fragrance of chocolate to waft across her senses. She was so engrossed in the experience that she didn't hear the door open until she heard Donovan's indrawn breath.
Donovan whipped around to face the door. "I beg your pardon, Hannah. I thought you would be dressed by now. I, um...."
Hannah felt somewhat emboldened by Donovan's uncharacteristic shyness, and she took the two steps necessary to reach the Captain while still completely nude. She wrapped her arms around Donovan's waist and felt the faint tremor that ran through her body as well as the sub-vocal whimper that emerged from her clenched jaw.
"Donovan? Why do you turn away from me?" She laid her head on the strong back. "You've seen this body, you've loved this body." She lifted her head and urged Donovan to face her. "Has something suddenly happened to change how you feel about that?"
Donovan felt the heartbreak in Hannah's voice and couldn't refuse her siren's call. She turned and looked at Hannah, careful to let Hannah see all the love and longing she felt as she perused the beautiful body that stood proudly before her. Hannah felt herself flushing under the weight of desire in Donovan's eyes.
"Oh, Angel," Donovan whispered as she cupped Hannah's face in her hands. "It is not a lack of desire for you. Waiting to consummate our love in this reality has been..." Donovan bit her lip and dropped her eyes. "It is something I desire above anything else. But I promised you... I promised both of us time and courting and...."
Donovan stopped speaking when fingertips covered her lips. "Donovan, I understand that this may not be the time and the place for us to be together intimately. It is a small ship and there are no secrets here. My presence alone could cause resentments with the crew, and I don't want to make things worse. But please don't push me away. You are the one stability I have here."
Donovan kissed the fingers that were caressing her lips, then she cleared her throat of its hoarseness. "Then you must not tempt me, Beloved. It is hard enough to control the desire I feel for you when I look at you without having the enticement that is you for me so blatantly offered to me. Show me some mercy, Hannah."
"I can do that." Hannah turned Donovan around to face the door. "No peeking, love."
Hannah dressed swiftly in the first outfit she found provided for her, marveling at the intricacy of the tiny stitching, and the comfortable simplicity in the clothing that Satosh had created for her. This outfit was a light blue linen with short sleeves that reached down to Hannah's knees. There were trousers that went with it of the same material, and it was covered with a delicate embroidery. She pulled the pins from her hair and picked up her brush before she felt it pulled from her hands.
Hannah nodded and presented Donovan with her back once more. When the blonde hair was smooth and untangled, Donovan handed the brush forward to Hannah and placed a light kiss on her cheek. "Come, Angel. There should still be a bit of light left on the island."
They walked topside hand in hand to begin the voyage that would take them home together.
The first two days Hannah didn't see much of Donovan except at mealtimes and at night. Donovan never failed to accompany her to bed, though all they did was spend time holding one another and kissing. It occurred to Hannah that Donovan was an exceptional kisser, not realizing that Donovan thought the same about her.
Their days were spent topside, though Donovan was infinitely busier than Hannah. Hannah still managed to find tasks that she could perform without interfering with anyone else's duties or the running of the ship. It didn't hurt that she could watch Donovan doing what she was born to do and did so naturally. Hannah took great delight in seeing Donovan command her ship and to watch the crew follow her leadership.
The weather had been beautiful and Hannah had been thankful that she wasn't plagued by seasickness. She hadn't expected to be, but one never knew, and she recalled that several of the women in her family line seemed to suffer from it. It was late morning of the third day when things took a turn for the worse.
The call to batten down the hatches was her first clue, and Hannah's eyes warily tracked to the line of clouds the sailors' eyes seemed to be drawn to. It was when the first mate asked to escort her to the Captain's quarters that she became concerned.
"Mr. Merryweather?" She tried very hard to conform to the proprieties of the ship.
"Please, Miss Hannah. The Captain is concerned for your safety, and I assured him I would see you below decks. The approaching storm is fierce and the Captain would feel better if you waited in his cabin."
Even though Hannah knew of the need for the crew to refer to Donovan as a man, she still found it terribly disconcerting, and had to make an effort not to correct the pronoun. "And what of the Captain, John?"
"The Captain must stay topside to guide us through the storm, Miss Hannah." The first swell hit the ship and made it lurch heavily to one side. John Merryweather was a man long used to the sea and her treacherous ways and had braced himself for the onslaught. But Hannah was still learning, and would have fallen if not for his strong hands that caught her own as she stumbled towards him.
"Please, Miss Hannah. Let me get you settled in the Captain's quarters. He will do nothing but worry about you until he knows you are taken care of, and we need him to focus on pulling the ship through the storm."
Hannah nodded her reluctant agreement, even as the first wave of nausea roiled in her gut. She clutched the first mate's arm convulsively, and clamped her jaw together. John Merryweather looked at her green tinged skin and groaned silently. This had the makings of an ugly experience for the lot of them.
"Miss Hannah," he asked solicitously. "Are you all right?"
"John, help me get to the bed to lie down," Hannah muttered through clenched teeth.
The first mate did as he was asked, and in short order Hannah was laying on the bunk she and Donovan shared. He pinched the nerve between her thumb and forefinger with his fingers, and she felt the nausea ease though it did not disappear completely. She looked at him in amazement.
"All good sailors learn the necessary pressure points early in their careers. This type of weather makes us ALL queasy." He proceeded to show her several more pressure points on both her hands and her feet she could use before excusing himself and returning to the deck with her promise that she would remain put.
It was several hours later and nearly dark when Hannah heard Donovan squish into the cabin. The pressure points were helping, but she was still somewhat disoriented and a little nauseous. So she kept her eyes closed and continued to focus on her breathing... an exercise that seemed to help her concentrate away from the roiling feelings she was still experiencing.
She listened as Donovan changed clothes, wishing she felt well enough to peek but afraid to chance it. Hannah heard the comb being pulled through wet hair, and silently counted the strokes it took for Donovan to pull free of the tangles. Finally, she sighed in relief when the long, surprisingly warm body curled around her own, and she gratefully permitted herself the luxury of sinking into it with contentment at the respite she felt from the storm in Donovan's presence.
Donovan ran light circles on Hannah's stomach, easing the upset that had been there for hours. Hannah sighed aloud.
"How do you feel, Angel?"
Hannah entwined her hand with Donovan's and smiled. "Much better now that you're here. Is the storm over?"
"I am sorry I could not get here any sooner."
Hannah squeezed the hand caught in her grasp. "I do understand, Donovan. Your first duty is to the ship and crew, and as part of that crew on board this ship, I greatly appreciate that fact. Is the storm over?"
Donovan bit her lip and nodded. "Mostly. Mr. Merryweather is guiding us through the outer edges." The broad shoulders shrugged. "I needed to be down here with you, and he knew it. He practically pushed me off the bridge."
Hannah chuckled silently and caressed the hand she still held in her own. She realized right then that not only had she not yet given Donovan her mother's ring, she still hadn't seen it herself. Her curiosity was almost overwhelming, but she decided she was much too comfortable to move from her present spot. She made a mental note to check it out at her first opportunity though, and turned her attention back to Donovan.
Donovan felt the laughter run through Hannah's slight frame, and didn't realize that her attention had wandered to the matter of rings. Donovan leaned up on an elbow and looked down into Hannah's still smiling face with a pout. "You are laughing at me, madam."
"Not at you, my Captain." She turned in Donovan's arms until she was completely on her back and Donovan was cradling her gently. "I am simply chuckling at the whine you affected in your voice."
Now the beseeching took on a growly tone, though the pout remained. "I do not whine."
"Okay," Hannah agreed amiably, glad for the distraction their banter provided. The combination of Donovan's presence and the lessening of the storm coupled with their conversation was making her feel more human by the minute. "You don't whine." Donovan smiled at Hannah's easy acquiescence. Then Hannah spoke again. "But you do have the most adorable pout."
The pout turned into a scowl and Hannah's chuckle became all out laughter. She reached up a hand to smooth the lines from Donovan's forehead and slid down to trace the high cheekbones and the full lips. It didn't take much encouragement on Hannah's part at all for Donovan to bend her head and capture the lips beneath her own.
Hannah tangled her hands in Donovan's dark hair, holding her willingly in place until they had to separate for air. She smiled up into blue eyes that smiled back at her.
"Have I mentioned how really good you are at that?"
The smile on Donovan's face widened into a grin. "No, but the feeling is mutual."
"I know something else," Hannah said.
"What would that be, Beloved?"
"This is a much nicer cure for seasickness than pressure points," Hannah stated with conviction.
Now it was Donovan's turn to chuckle. "Then by all means, perhaps we should continue... for strictly medicinal purposes of course."
"Oh no. I want to continue for purely personal, selfish reasons."
A dark brow rose. "Oh?"
"Yep," Hannah answered casually as she snuggled closer into Donovan's arms. "Medicinal purposes aside, I just like kissing you. And I want to keep kissing you just because I like it so much."
Donovan appeared thoughtful for a long moment, then she shrugged. "Very well. I believe I can live with that arrangement."
"Oh you can, can you, Captain?" Hannah tugged on Donovan's head until their lips were a mere hairsbreadth apart. "C'mere, beautiful." It was the last of their discussion for quite some time to follow.
The next day passed unremarkably for Donovan, except for the odd prickling in her fingertips and the tingling of her spine. Something was afoot, but whether it lay in the frustration she felt building during her kissing sessions with Hannah or whether it was because Hannah herself had been missing from the deck for the better part of an hour or if was simply a premonition of some sort, Donovan could not have plainly said. What she did know was that she was getting antsy, and Hannah's arrival from Donovan's dreams to her reality had changed the Captain's perception of a lot of things.
Donovan smiled. Most of the changes had been positive. It was just on days like today when something was off-kilter and Donovan couldn't seem to put her finger on precisely what that something was that she found herself agitated and out-of-sorts.
She turned her attention to the crew, wondering if any of them sensed anything amiss, but from the looks of the activity on deck she was the only one who felt anything unusual in the air. She turned her head as her first mate came up beside her.
"Good afternoon, Captain. Lovely weather after the storm, is it not?"
"Aye, Mr. Merryweather. It certainly is. And I thank you for showing Hannah the pressure points yesterday. They made a great deal of difference in her coping with her first rough seas."
"It was little enough to do for her, sir. Her being here has made a big difference in morale."
Donovan cut her eyes at Merryweather. "A good difference or a bad one?"
The first mate's eyes popped from his head. "Surely you are not serious sir! A good difference, of course! Aside from the difference she has obviously contributed to your happiness, she has taken time with the men. Helping with work around the ship, telling stories; I understand she has even charmed Cookie into letting her help out with tonight's meal."
The Captain's brows rose into her forehead, and Donovan's eyes opened wide in shock. "You jest!"
"No sir!" Merryweather answered solemnly. "My word as an officer."
Donovan shook her head in disbelief. "I should not be so surprised, but I am certainly impressed," knowing what a hard sell Cookie was. The galley was considered sacred, and even she did not venture into his domain without an invitation. She turned her attention back to the first mate. "No problems, then? No grumbling about her presence here?"
Merryweather swallowed. "There have been one or two murmurs, sir, but I am keeping an eye on the malcontents. Do not let it concern you, sir. This crew would sacrifice much for Miss Hannah."
Donovan clapped him on the shoulder. "Thank you, John. It is good to know she is so highly though of." She looked around again. "Now if you would kindly take the helm, I will see where Hannah has disappeared to."
John chuckled even as he assumed the wheel. "Try the galley, sir. I heard her mumbling something about baking a chocolate cake when she passed me on the way downstairs more than an hour ago." He shrugged. "It did not make sense to me either, sir, but I have long given up trying to understand women... present company excluded of course sir."
Donovan chuckled and headed downstairs.
Hannah was indeed in the galley, though she had stopped at their cabin first. She really did want to surprise the crew with a chocolate cake. All the men had made her feel welcome, and except for one or two who sent her ick meter off the scale, they had all been kind without seeming to infringe on her personal space. But more than that, she wanted to see the ring Jack had given her. Now that she'd been reminded of it, her curiosity was killing her.
Donovan was busy with various ship's matters and Hannah saw her opportunity to escape undetected. She wasn't trying to hide anything from Donovan, but she did want a chance to see the ring before she offered it to her.
She slipped into the cabin and took the carpetbag from its place near the dresser. The scent of chocolate wafted up when she opened it, and Hannah felt her mouth water involuntarily from the smell. She lifted out the small bag that lay on top of several metal tins of what she assumed were the chocolate.
The weight of the sack surprised her, and Hannah noted her fingers were trembling as she pulled the drawstrings open. She held her hand beneath the opening and let the ring fall into her outstretched palm. Then she gasped at what she saw.
The ring was a plain gold band, wide enough to reach from knuckle to knuckle. Across the top sat a square cut carat weight diamond, with a smaller round cut stone on either side. The stones, remarkably enough, were blue diamonds the shade of Donovan's eyes.
The crackling of paper brought Hannah back to reality, and she reached inside to pull out a faded, yellowed note addressed to her. She noted the date, and saw it was her birth date, and realized the note was from her father written on the night of her birth... the night of her mother's death.
My dearest Daughter Hannah, (it read)
My heart is filled with joy, and yet is breaking as I write this note to you. Tonight your mother and I were blessed with your birth, and then in a cruel twist of fate, your mother was ripped from my arms. I try to take comfort that she will watch over us from heaven, but it does little to help the agony my soul feels having lost her presence here with us.
I wish you could have known your mother, little one, and I will do my very best to make sure you do in every single way I can. She was a wonderful woman, and we were both so happy when we knew we were going to be blessed with you in our lives.
I hope when you read this you will have found the man of your dreams, and will be ready to happily settle down with him. That is what your mother and I both wanted most of all for you, Hannah... your happiness. I hope I can be parent enough to teach you to be the kind of person who brings happiness to others, for that is how you will find happiness for yourself.
When you do find that special someone, Hannah, I want you to have your mother's ring. She didn't want the typical wedding set, and what she ended up with was a compromise between us. It may not be your size; it is hard to tell since you are only a few hours old, and your mother and I were similar in size. But I hope either you or the one you love will be able to wear this ring with all the love and happiness your mother and I shared during our time together.
Even if you choose never to use the ring, I hope you will keep it as a reminder of your mother and the love we both had for you. I will put it away for now. Somehow, I will know when the time is right to share it with you. For now, though, I want you to know that we love you, and I thank God for leaving you with me. You are my one true joy now, daughter.
Always your loving father,
And in remembrance of your loving mother,
Hannah could see the tearstains her father had left on the paper all those years before and she wiped her own eyes as she lifted the paper to her lips and kissed it before replacing it in the bag. She'd find the perfect time to give the ring to Donovan soon. Then she slipped the ring around the necklace she still wore and grabbed a tin of chocolate from the carpetbag. With a deep breath, she put the bag away and headed out the door towards the galley, intent on making chocolate cake for her Captain and the crew.