[personal profile] vicki595

~*~


Diana doesn't really know anyone on the ship yet, something which is all too apparent when she arrives in the galley. LJ is just leaving, nodding curtly as she passes Diana on her way out, Penny is napping and she has no idea where Sue is, leaving her standing awkward and alone in the doorway. The noise in the galley drops as she enters, but picks up again a moment later as the cook slops something unrecognizable down on a plate for her. Diana nods her thanks, and hesitates momentarily as she looks out at the groups of crew members congregated around tables. LJ's words the previous night about the unhappiness amongst some of the crew regarding Diana's presence onboard means that she is reluctant to simply barge her way into a group.

"Come sit with me," says a voice behind her, and Diana startles, turning to see that Sue had quietly appeared from somewhere. She steers Diana over to an empty table in the corner. "I'm sure you'll get to know everyone soon enough, if you're truly serious about staying onboard, but like this I can imagine they're a bit overwhelming."

"Just a bit," Diana admits, even though she usually prides herself on not being overwhelmed in crowds. She takes a first hesitant bite of her dinner, and is surprised that it doesn't taste as bad as it looks.

"One of Shea's better attempts," says Sue, after her own first mouthful. "I dare say Penny will have you assisting her in here at some point. Can you cook at all?"

Diana winces. "It's not really a strength of mine," she admits, glancing around the galley for inspiration to change the conversation. They had discussed her lack of skills more than enough the previous night and it's not a subject she wishes to continue. She spots a young girl in the middle, surrounded by laughing crew members. She can't be more than ten, attacking her meal with gusto and pausing briefly to punch the woman next to her in the arm.

"Who's that?" Diana asks curiously, nodding in that direction.

Sue looks across at the mass of people and frowns. "Who's who? You'll have to be a little more specific."

"The kid," elaborates Diana. "She's a little young to be a pirate surely."

For a moment, she thinks she sees a flash of sadness pass across the captain's face. "Well, we didn't recruit her, if that makes you feel any better," she replies. "That's Caroline. She's the only survivor of a merchant ship that we ran across about six months ago. They'd been attacked and everyone on board killed or left for dead. We found her sobbing over her mother's dead body."

"Oh," says Diana softly, before frowning. "But if the ship had already been attacked, why did you board?"

She is momentarily distracted when Sue flashes a wicked grin in her direction. "Pirates seek treasure, and for most, it is gold and jewels and rum and that's what they take. But then they leave behind other things, such as clothing, or tools, or seeds, or, my own personal favorite, books. While they may not necessarily be as quite profitable, we can either use them ourselves or sell them on at much less risk," Sue explains. "You'll find that we are quite practical people. We may not be quite as glamorous, or earn the same as our male counterparts, but we get by and we have our own successes."

Diana nods slowly, turning her attention back to Caroline. "Why did you keep her?"

"Simply put, she has nowhere else to go," sighs Sue. "Her entire family was killed on that ship, and when we tried to place her with friends on land, she didn't want to leave us. We'd rescued her, and in her mind, the only place she feels safe is here on the Storm. Perhaps I should have insisted that she couldn't stay and she would have adapted, but I'm very fond of Caroline and was loath to simply abandon her." She smiles, shaking her head. "This solution is by no means perfect, but I'm hoping in a few years, she will be able and willing to go ashore and build a life for herself there."

Caroline suddenly seems to notice Sue's presence in the galley, and jumps up from her seat, cramming the last of her bread in her mouth and darting over. She spares Diana the briefest of glances, before she drops down on the bench next to Sue.

"We were just talking about you, Miss Caroline," says Sue and Caroline swallows her mouthful and grins.

"Good things about me?" she demands. "Because I've been good today. I helped LJ earlier, and then I sat and did my work, and I even finished all those sums that Mrs. Burke wanted me to do."

"It does sound like you have been good today," says Sue with a warm smile, wrapping an arm around Caroline's waist to briefly hug her.

Diana sees the smile grow even wider; sees the unabashed hero worship in the young girl's eyes. If Sue thinks that she can get this girl to leave a life on the seas to build a life without her, then she is not quite as infallible as Diana believes.

Not that Diana can really judge Caroline. After all, Diana had fallen in love with Sue at practically first sight and would do anything for the captain to smile at her.

"I do try," says Caroline, glancing again at Diana. "Sue, who's that?"

"Ah, Caroline, this is Diana," Sue replies. "She's hoping to join the crew, so she's under Penny's tutelage under we make port."

"I'm going to join the crew too someday," says Caroline, missing the pained look that briefly flashes across Sue's face. "Sue says I'm too young right now, and I have to finish my education. That's why Mrs. Burke is on the ship and I do all the work she wants me to do, even though I don't really like all of it. I really hate Latin most of all. It's boring, but Sue says that it's necessary and she knows Latin, so it must be important."

Caroline looks up at Sue adoringly, and Diana notices the slight blush filling Sue's cheeks. "Whether I know something or not is not an indicator of its importance," she says firmly. "It's merely a reflection on my own education, nothing more."

Caroline has a thoughtful look on her face as she digests what Sue has just said before she turns to Diana. "What sort of education did you have?" she asks. "Did you have to learn Latin as well?"

For a moment, Diana is frozen, terrified of a girl just a little over half her age. Caroline gazes up at her, her expression openly curious, and slowly Diana relaxes. There is no malice here, no disapproval in this young girl, and Diana finds herself recounting a few fond memories of her father’s smithy.

"You can make swords?" Caroline exclaims, excited. Diana glances at Sue and notes the indulgent look on her face.

"Well, my father can. I just helped," Diana says. "Although he didn't really make swords that often. Mostly it was things like andirons and wheel rims and horseshoes. He shod a lot of horses."

A small furrow appears on Caroline's brow, and Diana recognizes that same expression as one she's seen many times before, on the faces of the young boys that watch in awe as her father works.

"How do you know when the sword is done? And where does the metal come from? And what happens when..."

"Caroline," Sue touches her shoulder, gently interrupting the barrage of questions. "I think Mrs. Burke is looking for you."

The girl looks up and makes a face. "But Sue!" she whines. "I'm not yet done asking Diana questions! You always tell me how important it is to seek knowledge; I'm trying to seek more knowledge here!"

Diana grins, utterly charmed. "Maybe next time, Caroline. I'll tell you how to temper steel. How about that?"

Caroline's eyes light up. "You promise?"

Sue chuckles softly, ruffling Caroline's hair, and Diana can’t help but match the girl's enthusiasm. "Yes, I promise."

~*~


The first few days are a blur to Diana. Penny introduces her to most of the other crew, their names all running together so that when she sees them again, the best she can do is raise a hand and smile in greeting.

She knows Shea, and as Sue had predicted, Penny sends her to assist in the galley on her fourth day onboard, after the heavens open and rain starts to pour from the sky. She doesn't mind the rain and tells Penny as much, and Penny laughs.

"It's not that I'm trying to save you in particular from it," she points out, wiping her sleeve across her face. "No one's out there unless they've got to be. You don't got to be out there, so you can make yourself useful below decks and if you're lucky, maybe Shea'll have some stories for you."

Shea does have stories, lots of them. She had been an original member of the crew; before Sue had been captain, before they had turned to piracy. Diana doesn't mind galley duty so much with Shea telling her stories.

Especially when they're about Sue.

"And then she strode in, a woman on each arm, and Syl was following her empty handed and I thought Rizz was going to kill her then and there... That meat ain't going to cut itself, Dee."

Shea is the first to call her Dee and the name spreads across the ship. Diana likes it. It makes it feel like she's part of the crew.

Sue still calls her Diana. And she likes that too, how her name sounds when it's coming from Sue's lips. She can't help but fantasize what it would be like to hear it breathed from underneath her, or cried out in a moment of passion.

Diana suddenly yelps as her knife slips and slices across her hand. Shea swears, yanking Diana's hand away from the food and pressing a damp rag against it. The blood quickly soaks through and Diana feels a little lightheaded.

"That's what you get for being away with the fairies," snaps Shea, and Diana opens her mouth to retaliate, but Shea pushes her towards the door. "Get on with you and go and see Katie. And try not to bleed on the decks on your way there."

Diana stumbles down through the ship, grabbing at the nearest crew member on her way to ask where she was supposed to see Katie. She recognizes the woman as Big Syl as soon as she looks up, and Syl smiles gently at her and with one firm hand on Diana's arm, takes her straight to Katie herself.

Katie is as unsympathetic as Shea was.

"You know you have to pay attention when you're using knives," she lectures. "Just because you think it's a boring task being in the galley, doesn't mean that you can stop thinking."

Diana squirms in her seat, both from the discomfort in her hand and because of Katie's words. She keeps quiet, not wanting to point out that she had been thinking and that her thoughts had just been completely inappropriate to the situation. Or most situations really.

Diana doesn't know what it is exactly about Sue Bird, but there's something about her that has drawn Diana's full attention.

She's sure the fact that Sue's a beautiful woman has something to do with it.

Diana wants... no, she needs to speak to the captain alone, but on a small ship, it seems like no one is ever alone. Especially not Sue every time Diana catches even a glimpse of her.

The only time Diana has been truly alone with her for any length of time had been on the first day they had found her, and LJ had taken her up to the captain's quarters. She quickly deduces that the only way she is going to be able to speak to Sue alone is to sneak away, after Penny laughs off her suggestion that she could have a private meeting with the captain. Penny always seems to end up laughing at her, and Diana tries not to pout at that.

The first time she tries to sneak away, she is caught by Shea and unwillingly dragged back to the galley to help serve dinner, as long as she thinks she can "handle a knife like a grownup this time."

The second time, Penny spots her lurking on deck and fifteen minutes later, she is forced to climb up to the crow's nest to then be quizzed on the Storm's rigging.

Her third attempt, late after dinner and in the darkness of night, is finally successful. She rushes in, her cheeks flushed with victory.

Sue looks round in surprise as the sound of the door slamming. "What are you doing?" she demands.

Diana has momentarily lost the power of speech. Her ill-advised dash into the captain's quarters has coincided with the exact timing of Sue changing into her nightclothes and the flash of bare skin before the white cotton slips down is burned indelibly into her mind.

"I know what I can use to repay you," she blurts, and Sue raises an inquisitive eyebrow.

"By all means, tell me what it is you have to offer," she says, even as she unknowingly distracts Diana again by pulling her hair down out of its tight ponytail and letting the dark locks cascade across her shoulders.

Diana steps across towards Sue, seemingly entranced. "Me," she breathes softly, leaning in to kiss her.

But Sue steps aside, placing out her hand to catch Diana as she stumbles forwards. The look on her face can only be described as sad, and Diana turns away from her. But Sue reaches across to tilt Diana's chin upwards, forcing her to meet Sue's warm brown eyes.

"No, Diana," she says firmly. "Your body is never an acceptable option for payment of any kind. And I shall not be the one to corrupt an innocent girl like yourself."

Diana can feel herself flushing bright red. "But I'm not so innocent," she points out, trying to suppress the sudden vivid memory flash of prickly straw pushing against her back and warm skin against her front. "You heard the rumors about me."

"Rumors should always be taken with a pinch at salt at the very least," says Sue. She suddenly laughs, breaking the tension which had fallen over them. "Why, if I was to believe the rumors they say about me, I've fathered a child in every port we have made berth!"

Diana feels her heart racing faster as she realizes what Sue is implying with her seemingly inconsequential anecdote. "But if the rumors are true and I truly am not innocent?" she persists. "What then?"

Sue sighs. "There is a difference between sharing yourself with another for love, or for comfort, and giving your body as a form of payment," she says, her hand moving to gently cup the side of Diana's face. "I've seen what that does to women, how they're not really there when you look at them. They dress up in their finery, they laugh and flirt with you, but inside, they're barely alive. I would rather take no payment from you, than take it in that manner, although I'm sure it will not come to that."

"But what if I want this?" Diana breathes. "What if I lo..." She is cut off by Sue's finger moving to rest upon her lips.

"It's been mere days," says Sue. "And there is a fine line between gratitude and love." Diana opens her mouth, not exactly sure what she's going to say, but Sue interrupts her again. "Ah, let me speak. I'm the captain of the ship which allowed you to escape an uncomfortable situation at home. And when you were found as a stowaway, I treated you as a passenger, rather than as a criminal. I have agreed, against my better judgment, to give you the opportunity to earn your way onto my crew, instead of insisting that you depart at the earliest convenience. And I don't think you quite realize that you don't actually know me. You may watch me from a distance, and think you know what you see, but you would do well to take note that all that glisters is not gold."

Diana doesn't really understand the last part but she wants to tell Sue that she is wrong; wants to show her she is wrong. Instead she just nods. Sue leans forward, and for a split second, Diana hopes that she has misunderstood Sue's speech. But Sue merely kisses Diana's forehead in the same manner Diana's mother had often done, although perhaps Sue lingers a fraction too long before she pulls back.

"Now, I'm sure Penny must be wondering where you have got to," Sue says briskly, even as Penny herself bursts in through the door, her hair loose and feet bare.

"Good God, whatever happened to knocking!" Sue exclaims, throwing her arms up in disgust. "Did I miss a mutiny or something where you all voted that I no longer have a right to privacy in my own damn quarters?"

Diana looks sheepish, but although Penny sends a puzzled glance in her direction, Sue's rebuke seems to fall on deaf ears.

"There was a fight below decks," says Penny, her eyes frantic. "Those involved are all cooling their heels in the brig for the night, but, Sue, LJ got hit. That God-forsaken woman got her in the head with an elbow when she was trying to break it up. Katie's in with her now."

Sue goes to reach for her pants, frowning. "Do you have any idea what provoked this?" she demands. "Or who the instigator was?"

Penny shakes her head, although she's matching Sue's frown. "Scuttlebutt says it was Whalen, which I find hard to believe, though she was definitely part of the fray. Katie thinks she might have broken her nose, so she's in her cabin rather than the brig right now," she says, slowly starting to calm down. "I think you should leave the investigation until morning. Let them suffer through the night, and see what LJ can tell you. She wanted to come up and talk to you herself, but Katie was having none of it."

Sue pauses to contemplate Penny's suggestion, and then nods slowly. "I would like to have her account before I confront them," she agrees. "Is there anything else you need from me before you return to LJ?"

Penny hesitates, and glances again at Diana, who has been standing in the middle of the floor, unabashedly eavesdropping. She blushes, and drops her gaze to the floor at Penny's look. "Dee needs someplace to stay tonight," Penny says. "I've got to have LJ in with me, but LJ said that she can't kick Diana out to bunk with the rest of the crew."

"You said Whalen was in with Katie, so perhaps I could have Caroline in with me," suggests Sue, but she doesn't sound very convinced and Penny shakes her head.

"It's late, Sue, and she's most likely sleeping," Penny points out softly. "I know it's not the best option, but if Diana could stay with you, just for tonight. Please?"

Sue just sighs. "Just for tonight," she says firmly. "And only because it's you and LJ."

Penny throws her arms around Sue and hugs her. "Thank you," she whispers, turning with a quick admonishment of "Be good" to Diana, as if she was a mother dealing with a recalcitrant child, before she darts out of the door.

The tension which settles as soon as the door closes behind her is uncomfortably thick, and Diana finds herself fighting a blush as she peeks up at Sue, who is just standing there. She manages a small, slightly strained smile when she spots Diana looking across at her.

"I was just going to read a little before bed," she says. "I, uh, would you like something for yourself?"

Sue waves her hand in the direction of a bookcase, which Diana hasn't even noticed it before and she just finds herself staring. She's never seen so many books before in her life. At home, there is just one large Bible and even Mrs. Conlon, who had offered lessons to all the town's children, has only four books in her parlor.

Diana had never been really interested in her lessons, and had spent most of time in them staring out of the window, before her father had decided she had received enough education. She knows her numbers and can write her name, but reading is a different story altogether. She heard enough of the Bible every Sunday that she hadn't been interested in learning to read just so she could read it for herself.

But with all these books in front of her, the last thing she wants to do is admit to Sue that she doesn't know how to read. Sue clears her throat impatiently, and Diana startles.

"Maybe we could talk instead?" she suggests, a little loudly. "And I could get to know you?"

Sue just looks at her critically, before a flash of realization crosses her face. "Diana, do you know how to read?" she asks softly.

Diana knows she is blushing again, and hangs her head in shame. "Not really," she mutters.

"It is not an uncommon thing, and nothing to be ashamed of," says Sue. "I apologize if I made you uncomfortable with my presumption. I sometimes forget that when it comes to education, Bermuda is rather ahead of the rest of the colonies."

"Bermuda?" queries Diana, glad for a change in subject. She looks across at Sue, tilting her head inquisitively. "Where is that? I've never heard of it."

Sue beckons her across to the table and pulls open a chart. She points to a small island in the middle of the ocean. "That's Bermuda," she says, before tracing her finger straight across to the left until it hit land again. "And that's roughly where your home town is, to put it in context." She points at another point, further up the coastline. "We are currently around here, and in the next few days, we shall be arriving here, in Philadelphia. Where I shall, once again, give you the option of returning to shore."

Diana is just staring at the chart, fascinated. "Where is after Philadelphia?" she asks, reaching out for the chart, although she let her hand just hover over the surface.

"Perhaps Boston – here," said Sue, pointing further north. "Or we may head out to Bermuda. It will depend on what happens in Philadelphia."

"How does this work?" Diana demands. "I mean, how do you know where the ship is on this? And how do you know you're right?"

Sue groans lightly. "Navigation is not a subject to be started at this late hour," she says. "Nor is it something you can understand without a basis in mathematics. Perhaps you can ask Penny to add it to your training if you decide you are truly serious about pursuing a path in it. But from what she tells me, you're more likely to excel in physical pursuits and I would suggest following your strengths. However, the reading is definitely something that we will certainly have to rectify, if you are to stay onboard. And I presume we should add writing to that as well?"

"I can write my name," says Diana, a little defensively.

"That's a good start," says Sue, smiling warmly at her, and Diana's heart skips a beat. "I'm not trying to make you feel bad. There are a number of crew onboard who have gone through the same lessons you will take. It is nothing to be ashamed of."
Diana just shrugs, still rather embarrassed. "Maybe you could teach me?" she asks hopefully.

Sue focuses her attention on rolling up the chart again, not making eye contact with Diana. "I don't think that would be a good idea," she says. "I think you will find that there are a number on board who will be better teachers for you. Perhaps you could even join Caroline and her governess for lessons. I'm sure she would enjoy your company."

"Perhaps," echoes Diana uncertainly.

"At any rate, it is something for another day," declares Sue. "We should retire for the night. I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow, and I would presume you do too."

Diana nods, eying Sue's bed; a place which has featured heavily in her dreams and fantasies. But she has never imagined crawling fully clothed into it, pressing herself as close to the hull of the ship as she can manage as to leave as much space as possible for Sue. Her eyes never leave Sue as she moves to extinguish the lanterns before throwing back the blankets and curling up on the edge of the bed. The chasm between them seems impossibly large to Diana and she has no idea how to bridge it. Diana feels like she wants to cry, even though she never usually cries at anything. But the kiss on the forehead gives her some hope that just maybe the gap between them is not as insurmountable as she fears, and that Sue's speech is not the end of this particular tale.

Diana gazes at Sue, pale and ghostly looking in the light of the moonlight creeping through the windows, and listens to the sound of her breathing deepening and evening out as she finally falls asleep. She has to fight the urge to reach out and touch her, to run her fingers through her hair. "I do love you," she whispers. "I'm going to prove it to you. Somehow."

How she is going to prove it, Diana doesn't know and it's a concern that keeps her awake half the night. When she finally succumbs to sleep, it is restless and fitful and when she wakes early the next morning, she's bleary eyed and sluggish.

Sue is already up and dressed, sitting and writing at her desk. She turns to awkwardly smile at Diana, and despite her apparent ease in falling asleep the previous night, she also bears the signs of a troubled night.

"It's still early if you wish to try and sleep again," she tells Diana, who slowly pushes herself into a seated position and rubbing at her eyes.

"No, no, I'm awake now," says Diana. "What are you doing?"

"I was writing a letter to my sister," replies Sue, laying her pen down. "It's a bit of a redundant exercise, as I will be seeing her in person in a few days, but it's become rather a habit of mine to write to her whenever I have an issue I feel I need to discuss with someone."

"You can discuss your issues with me," Diana suggests, as she scrambles inelegantly out of bed.

Sue just laughs. "No, Diana, I really cannot," she says, looking at her pointedly. It takes Diana a moment to realize that perhaps she herself is one of Sue's issues and has to fight back a sudden blush.

~*~


Sue taps lightly on the door and is relieved when the familiar drawl of her quartermaster and first officer calls for her to enter.

LJ is still lying in her bunk, her face paler than usual with the exception of a large red bruise on her temple. She smiles when she sees Sue.

"You should see the other guy," she cracks, starting to push herself up into a sitting position. Penny pushes her back down again.

"Katie said you're to rest today so stay down," she says, her voice low, but firm.

"I feel fine," LJ tries to argue, but Sue knows that she'll never win this argument against Penny.

Especially not when Sue agrees with her.

"Just follow the doctor's orders," Sue says, closing the door behind her and leaning against it. "I'm rather confident we won't sink the ship in your absence."

LJ scowls slightly, but nods, wincing a little at the action. Penny just gives her a triumphant look, before turning to Sue.

"Just quickly, before you two get down to the matter at hand, did Dee give you any trouble last night?" she asks innocently.

Sue can feel herself starting blush. "No, no trouble at all," she says quickly, her voice perhaps a little higher than usual. "Although after this mess is sorted, remind me that I want to make some adjustments to her course of study."

Penny just nods, a curious look on her face and Sue turns to LJ.

"So what the hell happened?" she demands.

"I was with Katie and we were heading to the galley to grab something to eat and I heard some of the crew arguing," LJ began. "I hung back to see if it would blow over without my intervention, but then I saw Whalen take a swing at Lennox and it got bad, real quick. I went in to break it up, got hit by D-Nasty's elbow and that ended things pretty quickly. Whalen was bleeding pretty bad so Katie took her to her quarters, and then I got a few of the crew who had been off to the side and not involved to take the rest to the brig for the night."

Sue pinches the bridge of her nose. "What exactly was the fight about?" she asks with a sigh.

LJ looks away, and doesn't seem to want to meet her eyes. "It was about you," she says quietly. "You and Diana."

"What exactly about me and Diana?" Sue asks slowly, her voice tight. "There is no me and Diana." She tries not to think about the night before; about how Diana thrown herself on Sue and how Sue, despite every part of her body screaming at her to accept, had turned her down. About how she had found herself this morning curled around the warm figure in her bed and had to force herself to move before she had done something stupid.

LJ looks uncomfortable. "Lennox was saying that she's only still onboard because you're messing around with her," she replies. "She called her the "captain's little pet" and she said that didn't know why Penny was pretending to teach her how to be a sailor because it was obvious that the only thing she's good for is being on her back and spreading her legs."

Sue is furious, clenching her fists at her side. "LJ, would you deny that perhaps the time has come for Lennox to leave this ship?" she asks, her voice cold.

"In which manner would she be leaving?"

"In Philadelphia, after we dock tomorrow," replies Sue. "As deplorable as I may find her words, they are not reason enough to maroon her. But you said it was Whalen that threw the first punch?"

"She was defending you," says LJ. "Said that Lennox was talking shit like usual, and if she knew what was good for her, she'd shut her mouth. Lennox said "Make me," so... Whalen did."

Sue groans. "Alright, so everyone who participated in the fight is restricted to the ship while we're docked in Philadelphia," she suggests and LJ nods automatically, wincing at the action. "If Katie's cleared her, Whalen is confined to the brig on basic rations until we dock, and I'm sure Penny can find something appropriate for her to do to keep her busy while we make port."

"Galley floor needs scrubbing?" Penny suggests, and Sue just waves her hand dismissively.

"Something like that, exactly," she says. "I don't need to know the exact details. What about D-Nasty? I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt that hitting you was an accident, but this isn't her first clash with you."

LJ shrugs. "Brig and basics until we dock, same as Whalen?" she suggests. "We can't prove that it wasn't an accident."

Sue nods. "I'll go down after breakfast and break the news to our merry band of miscreants," she says. "I'm not above letting them stew a little longer. You just take care of yourself. I'll send someone along with breakfast for the pair of you. And, Penny, try and get some rest as well – you look almost as bad as LJ does!"

Penny frowns and opens her mouth to protest, but Sue has already slipped out of the door.




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