[personal profile] vicki595


It rains for five days.

Diana thinks that it's appropriate weather for her mood, but she's the only one who seems to find comfort in it.

She wants to hate Sveta.

Sveta is pretty. She is pretty and she makes Sue laugh and she kissed Sue (and Sue didn't seem to tell her 'no') and Diana wants desperately to hate her.

But she can't.

Sveta is staying with Sue, in Sue's cabin, and for the first two days, Diana doesn't see her at all. She doesn't even want to think about what that means, especially when she catches glimpses of Sue and can see how relaxed and happy her captain looks. It's like a punch in the gut every time, and she has to look away. She worries Caroline, who is convinced that she's sick, but even as Diana assures the young girl that she's perfectly healthy, Moe unhelpfully points out that heartsick is a kind of sick.

The third day, Sveta sits herself opposite Diana at dinner. "You must be Dee," she says with a smile, in an accent unlike any Diana's heard before. She has a pretty smile, and dimples too, and Diana feels herself returning the smile, no matter how much she doesn't want to. "I've heard all about you."

Diana's smile immediately turns to a confused frown. "You have?" She can't think who'd be talking to Sveta about her.

Sveta's smile is mischievous. "I have," she says. "You've made quite a name for yourself in such a short time."

Diana winces, and Sveta just laughs. "I think you and I could be very good friends," she declares with a wink.

Diana can't believe it at first, but Sveta is right.

She manages to find Diana at every meal, and much to her surprise, Diana finds herself enjoying the conversation with the other woman. Sveta also quickly ousts Shea as Diana's fencing teacher, unapologetically interrupting her lesson and taking over. After the rain finally stops, Shea is up on deck, leading her pupil through the motions when Sveta disrupts them, declaring that she should be the one teaching Diana.

"I teach her everything she knows anyway," Sveta says with a quick laugh, nodding her head towards Shea. Shea scoffs.

"She's full of it," Shea remarks to Diana, even as she's handing over her sword to Sveta. "But she's got some moves. And her footwork's better than anything I can do now, what with my knees." She sighs, and for the first time, Diana notices just how stiffly Shea moves as she carefully makes her way down the ladder. Sveta soon commands her attention again and when the weather permits, their sparring lessons become a daily occurrence.

After Sveta's rescue, Sue decides to stay in the north, preying on the unsuspecting French ships. There are a few grumblings from the crew, mostly from those who come from the Caribbean and other southern colonies and feel the cold much more keenly. Diana misses the warmth herself, though the cooler the temperature drops, the more Sveta seems to thrive. Diana remarks on it, and Sveta laughs, pointing out that where she comes from, it is much, much colder and tells stories of uncovered body parts freezing when you go outside. Diana shivers at the thought; she can't imagine ever living anywhere where it would be that cold.

It is thanks to Sveta that Diana gets to join her first boarding party after Sveta, with a playful wink, promises to put in a good word for her with the captain. "I promised to look after you," Sveta explains as she pulls Diana alongside her. Raiding the French ship is more boring than Diana could have ever envisioned. It's a merchant ship, and as soon as they board, swords in hand, the crew all surrenders. Diana spends her time onboard guarding a group of terrified Frenchmen huddled on the deck while her crewmates strip the hold of its cargo.

Sveta laughs at her when she voices her thoughts over dinner that night, stabbing viciously at the meat on her plate. "I know everything's not all battles and glory all the time," she says, sighing. "But I wasn't expecting to have to guard a bunch of crying men."

Sveta pats her on the shoulder as she rises. "You will soon learn to love such times," she says, an unusually serious look on her face. "Better crying Frenchmen than the alternative, yes?"

Diana freezes as Sveta walks away, the food halfway to her mouth. She had forgotten the alternative; how could she have forgotten the raid on the Spanish ship that had gone horribly wrong, resulting in the death of one of their own? She hadn't slept well for nights afterwards, her imagination running wild at just how close she had come to being a part of that boarding party and just how else that day could have ended.

She doesn't sleep easy that night either.

~*~



Being friends with Sveta has its disadvantages as well.

Diana cheers when they make port and she's not one of the unfortunate souls left on duty that night. She immediately makes plans to go ashore with Moe, when Sveta informs her that she's volunteered Diana to help move some cargo Sue has already found a buyer for.

Diana's face drops instantly and Sveta pushes her in the direction of the hold. "This wasn't what I had in mind when I heard that we're docking," she whines. "I was going to go ashore and have some fun. You know, meet some people, play some games..."

Sveta chortles. "You wouldn't be doing that anyway," she informs Diana. "You don't speak the language."

Diana is confused. "The language?" she demands. "What? I don't understand. Where are we?"

"Bienvenue à Quebec." Sveta's accent sounds even stranger when Diana doesn't understand the words, but she knows the Russian's laughing at her. Again.

She sulks silently to herself as she helps to carry a trunk through the city streets, with an equally taciturn Ice clutching the other end. In front of them, Sveta and Penny have a second trunk between them and LJ leads the way to a small tavern, carrying on a running commentary that Diana pays no attention to. Inside, Sue is casually leaning back in a chair, chatting amicably with a remarkably well-dressed gentleman, while Big Syl keeps a watchful eye out.

The deal goes down quickly, burly men appearing seemingly from the shadows to take the trunks once Sue has quickly checked the contents of a small bag passed to her by the gentleman, deeming it acceptable with a curt nod.

Diana soon learns that there is some advantage of being pressed into service when Sue flashes a quick grin at her crewmembers and calls for drinks all round, placing the order in fluent French. Sveta tosses her thanks in the same language to both Sue and the barkeep as he pours the drinks, snagging Diana's arm and leading her to a table. Even Big Syl takes the offered drink, although Diana notices that Sue has to practically force the cup into her hand, insisting that she doesn't always have to be on duty when Sue's onshore; Sue is perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

"Isn't this much better than crowding in one of the taverns by the docks?" Sveta demands with a merry laugh, knocking their mugs together. "With all the drunken sailors and the fights..."

Diana eyes her suspiciously. "You like bar fights. Or that's what you told me," she points out. Sveta ducks her head guiltily.

"Well, yes. They can be fun on occasion," she admits. "But here you have good company, good drink, people who speak the language... Is better, yes?"

Diana shrugs. "No chance of a warm body tonight though," she points out. "For me at least. It's not a problem for you, I guess," she adds bitterly, and Sveta tilts her head curiously. "You've got..."

She's cut off by a sharp gasp from Sveta, the color draining instantly from her face as her eyes focus on a spot just behind Diana's shoulder.

"Dumerc," Sveta hisses, pure loathing in her voice. Diana immediately spins around to see this woman whom she's heard so much about.

She's shorter than Diana had imagined, with dark blonde hair pulled away from her face. Her eyes dart around the room, sneering as they land on Sveta, but the true look of disgust is reserved for Sue. Something glints in her hand as she stomps towards Sue's table, kicking aside the chairs in her way. She slams a knife down into the table in front of Sue, its tip sinking deep into the soft wood.

Sue just casually leans back in her chair. "Something on your mind?" she asks coolly, tipping her hat up to meet Dumerc's glare. Out of the corner of her eye, Diana can see Big Syl start to stand and move forward to protect her captain, but she pauses when LJ lays a gentle hand on her arm.

"I challenge you," Dumerc spits. Her English is stilted, and heavily accented, but still understandable to all of the Storm's crewmembers present. "You violated my ship, you freed that putain." ("Putain herself," Sveta mutters under her breath to Diana.) "I call for vengeance."

Sue just laughs. "Really, Celine?" she asks, amusement in her voice. "I would have thought you would have grown weary of following this script by now."

Dumerc snarls, a flow of rapid French emanating from her mouth. Sue still looks more amused than scared, and makes her own response in the same language. Diana can't understand a word of it, but she's more than happy enough to listen to the way these unfamiliar words fall from Sue's lips, light and melodic without any trace of the anger which had laced Dumerc's speech.

Dumerc's face is growing redder and redder as Sue continues to talk, which only serves to seemingly amuse Sue even further.

"Enough!" Dumerc exclaims, slapping at the table in frustration. "You and me. We will let our épées speak for us."

Sue just sighs, and drains the remainder of her drink. "Very well, if that's what it will take for me to be able to enjoy a peaceful evening," she says. As she stands up, she looks around at the sound of a half-dozen chairs scraping back, Diana's included, and rolls her eyes. "I guess I'm to be the entertainment for tonight. Come on; let us get this done with."

Dumerc has a small contingent of her own waiting outside the front of the tavern, but she scowls at Diana and the rest of the small group with Sue anyway. "Follow me," she snaps, leading the small group along winding and narrow streets until the buildings end, giving way to a large courtyard. They had passed through on their way to the inn, but it had been a bustling market place. Now, with dusk falling, they are the only ones around and Dumerc stops in the middle of the cobbled square, crossing her arms and raising her eyebrows expectantly at Sue.

Diana's eyes are drawn to the steeple of the church in front of her, and wonders what her mother would say if she knew what was about to happen right in front of God's house, and then, catching herself, shakes her head slightly. Of everything that has occurred since she has left her parents, she is sure this hardly ranks on a list of things which would cause her mother concern.

Sue merely sighs again, shrugging off her jacket and tossing it in the direction of her crew. Diana instinctively catches it, hugging the smooth leather to her body and ignoring the smirk she sees playing on Sveta's face.

There's a charged silence in the air as both captains unsheathe their weapons and bow shallowly at each other. Diana finds herself holding her breath as neither makes a move; instead circling each other, holding their blades. Despite all the stories about Sue's abilities, this is the first opportunity Diana will have to see her fight, and she doesn't even attempt to hide any eagerness which may be showing on her face as she leans forwards expectantly.

Sue strikes first, with a motion that is so quick and fluid that Diana has to gasp. Dumerc is able to parry, though with no real force behind her move, and just like that, they are off. The clashing of blades is interspersed with curses from both of them and a brief moment of laughter from Dumerc, as her sword briefly nicks Sue's shirt, tearing straight through the fabric. Diana bites back a gasp, but there is no red stain following the blow; Sue herself moving faster than her clothing.

Sue doesn't laugh, even when Dumerc's sword is knocked from her hand and clatters across the cobbles. In an instant, the tip of Sue's blade is against the other woman's throat.

"Do you yield?" Sue demands, her voice cold and harsh. Diana had never heard Sue speak like this before and she feels a shiver run down her spine. She can only hope that she will never give Sue reason to speak to her in such a manner.

"I yield," Dumerc chokes, the ever-present scowl on her face, and Sue lowers her sword and sheathes it once again.

"Perhaps this shall be the last time we dabble in such a folly," Sue suggests coolly, turning around and for a moment, Diana can see traces of the governor's daughter Sue had once been. Sue's head is held high, a look of indifferent annoyance on her face as to how beneath her and unworthy of her time Dumerc was; almost as if Dumerc had merely been annoying insect to be swatted, which Sue had, in a manner of speaking, done.

Diana wonders if the governor's daughter would have ever paid attention to the smith's daughter.

Sue's whole frame relaxes after a moment, a grin on her face as she reverts back to the much more familiar pirate captain. Her smile doesn't even fade when she meets Diana's eyes, but Diana has to look away. Sue's smile still does funny things to her insides and it's not something she wants to consider right now.

For a moment, her eyes glance past Sue to where Dumerc is still standing motionless in the middle of the courtyard. The next few heartbeats happen in rapid succession, but in the bright, crystal vision of Diana's mind, everything slows down to a slow crawl. She sees Dumerc's hand go to her hip; sees her lift the pistol and bring it up to aim at Sue's back. Sue, who is right in front of Diana, reaching for her jacket and glancing across at LJ; who is unaware of just what is about to happen.

Diana is not sure if she actually sees the flash of the muzzle, but she feels Dumerc's finger pull the trigger, the quick jerk of motion like Diana's heart being ripped out of her chest. It's simply instinct which propels her forward, pure adrenalin allowing her to grab at Sue's arm and use her momentum to twist them around in one smooth motion, putting her body between Dumerc and Sue.

Somehow, she makes it before the bullet reaches them, and then they're falling. Diana curls around Sue like a shield, shifting in mid-fall so her shoulder will cushion Sue from the hard ground. She barely cries out when something sharp lances through her arm, because her heart is punching against her ribs like storm waves buffeting the smooth hull of a ship. It's much too loud in her head to feel anything but Sue's strong, warm body in her arms.

A trio of loud bangs echo in her ears, followed by a dull thump, but as Diana rolls away from Sue, cold and lumpy cobblestones pressing into her back, the only thing she's aware of is the excruciating pain in her left arm.

"Diana!"

"Dee!"

So many people are yelling her name and she wonders what she's done wrong this time. Sue's face appears in front of her, her usually perfect hair mussed, but Diana still thinks she's the most beautiful woman she's ever seen and tells her so, the words just slipping out.

"Oh, Diana," Sue exclaims, and if Diana didn't know any better, she would say that Sue looks like she's about to cry. Only Sue doesn't cry, and if she ever did, it surely wasn't going to be over Diana.

Sue disappears from her field of vision and Diana pouts a little, even as she is being pushed onto her feet and her right arm slung around a warm and solid body next to her.

"We need to get her some help," she hears Sue say, and looking to her side, she sees that it's Sue she's leaning on. Sue, who the last time she was voluntarily this close to Diana, had been drunk and Diana wonders what the special occasion is this time. It's the last thing she remembers thinking before she passes out.

~*~


Sveta doesn't know exactly what's going on, but the one thing she knows for sure is that if there is any more blood to be spilled tonight, it will be at her hands. Her left hand is steady; holding one pistol on Dumerc's companions even as she holsters the first, still smoking, with her right. Only one of them, Sveta's most frequent former jailor, Lepron, seems to have a gun of her own, though all have swords hanging from their hips. Sveta can feel, rather than see, Big Syl and Ice step up behind her but she can see Lepron swallow hard. It's currently three against five, with LJ and Penny both occupied with Sue and Diana, but Sveta has the first shot.

And they know that she'll make it.

"Allez," Sveta says firmly, her dark eyes flashing dangerously.

Lepron's eyes flicker to her captain's body, hesitating for a moment, but then nods once, pulling her companions away with her. Sveta can hear them arguing as they leave, but she can't quite make out exactly what they are saying.

It doesn't matter; she has more important things to worry about.

Sveta holsters her second pistol and turns to see Sue now standing, her face pale, with Diana unconscious against Sue's shoulder, her shirt slowly turning from white to crimson. "We need to get her some help," Sue exclaims, her voice tinged with desperation.

"We need Katie. We need to get her back to the ship," says Penny, and although she sounds calm, her pale eyes tell a different story.

"No," Sveta replies quickly. "We do not know if Katie will be there. I have somewhere else we can take her." She points towards the street at the far end of the courtyard. "Take her that way. I will catch up in a moment."

"I've got her," Big Syl murmurs as she takes Diana from Sue, easily picking her up and cradling her gently in her arms. LJ immediately moves next to Sue, who is looking down at her bloody hands with glassy eyes. Right now she is a far cry from the woman Sveta knows and loves and she offers up a quick prayer to the god she has long forsaken.

Dumerc's body is lying on the cobblestones a few feet away, and as Sveta steps forwards, her gaze hardens as she looks down at it. Her chest is covered in blood, oozing out of two bullet holes. LJ and Penny, Sveta notes, nodding in admiration at the proximity to the heart. Her eyes flicker upwards to the third bullet hole, dead center in Dumerc's forehead. Sveta's shot.

"Stuka." Sveta allows herself a slight smirk, kicking the body in the ribs as she delicately steps forwards. Dumerc's pistol lies on the ground by her hand and Sveta reaches forward to pick it up, delicately letting it swing from her fingers. It's a good piece; it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

~*~


The somewhere Sveta had been speaking of was the Hôtel-Dieu, a crowded building in which the Augustinian order of the city tended to the sick and wounded. In the midst of such a despairing mass of humanity, Sue is wishing they had just returned to the ship. They would have found Katie had she not been there.

Diana had regained consciousness on the short trip and was sitting on one of the benches, her head resting on Penny's shoulder. She's clutching at her arm, absolutely silent and staring straight ahead as Penny makes soothing noises.

Sveta had disappeared as soon as they had neared the building, claiming that she knew someone. In a building run by a religious order, it is of no surprise when she reappears being trailed by a tall, thin nun in full habit.

What is a surprise is when the nun crouches down in front of Diana and speaks. "I'm Sister Ruth," she says. "Let's take you back to a room and have a look at you." How Sveta found and befriended an Irish nun in the middle of French Quebec, Sue has no idea and knowing Sveta, is a little afraid to ask.

They all follow Diana back into the room, and Sister Riley tries to throw them all out. Sue, Sveta and Penny stand firm, refusing to leave, and Sister Ruth, shaking her head, begrudgingly allows them to stay, as long as they don't get in her way.

Sister Ruth gives Diana whiskey. A lot of whiskey. She offers the bottle around, commenting on the pale faces of Sue and Penny especially. Sue notices her hand is shaking as she takes a swig; obviously Sveta does too for she reaches out to grasp her hand, squeezing firmly.

"This is going to hurt," Sister Ruth points out as she slices through Diana's ruined shirt, tossing it in the corner.

"It already hurts," Diana slurs. Penny is at her side, and takes Diana's right hand, clasping it firmly to her breast.

"It's going to hurt more," Sister Ruth says, tipping water over Diana's arm.

Diana screams.

She passes out again, much to the room's relief as Sister Ruth cleans out the wound and inspects it.

"Looks like it was just a graze," she says, and Sue slumps against Sveta in relief. "Still plenty of opportunities for it to get infected, but keep it clean, and God willing, the only thing she'll have to show for this is going to be a scar."

"Thank you," Sue breathes, and Sister Ruth turns, a small smile on her face.

"Don't thank me, thank God, dear," she says, patting Sue on the arm.

And for the first time in years, Sue does.

~*~


The first thing Diana realizes when she wakes up is that her arm hurts. A lot.

The second thing is that the bed is moving.

Not excessively, but it takes her a good minute or two to realize that she must be back onboard the Storm and the movement she's feeling is of the waves underneath the hull. It then takes her another minute or two to remember that she sleeps in a hammock on the Storm, but she's definitely in a bed and that realization makes her force her eyes open.

She's in Sue's cabin. She's in Sue's bed.

The flickering light of a single lantern shows Sue standing in front of her mirror, carefully brushing out her hair. Diana stares, swearing that Sue's hand is shaking, but puts it down to a trick of the light. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Sue is getting ready to go to bed. Only Diana is in Sue's bed.

She manages to push herself up into a seated position, gasping slightly as her head starts to spin. She wonders if Sister Ruth's whiskey has the same recipe as Katie's moonshine.

Sue immediately turns at the sound. "Diana. Get back into bed," she says firmly.

"No, no, no," Diana declares, frowning as her words slur together. She shakes her head, and that is clearly a bad idea as the world momentarily spins. "Don't want to be a nuisance."

She could swear she'd heard Sue mutter, "Too late for that," but she has far more important things to concentrate on. Like pants. Where were her pants?

"I just need pants," she says mournfully. "Then I'll go and find my hammock."

Sue sighs, placing her hairbrush down and moves towards the bed. She places one hand on Diana's good shoulder, gently urging her to lie back down. "You do not need pants, because you're not going anywhere," she says, her voice soft. Diana stares up at her. "Even if you were able to climb the ladder one handed, which I'm not letting you do, you'll find your hammock occupied by a Russian mercenary and she's not pleasant to wake, trust me." Diana winces at that, and Sue obviously notices something is wrong as concern immediately floods her face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Diana mutters.

Sue looks skeptical, and reaches forward to brush the hair away from Diana's face. It's an unusually tender gesture, and Diana's breath catches slightly. Their eyes lock and for a moment, neither one of them is willing to move, trying to avoid breaking the spell that has apparently settled over them.

Sue looks away first, clearing her throat slightly and pulling her hand back. Diana thinks she can see a slight blush creeping up Sue's cheeks, but blames the light again. "I'm just going to, um, put out the lantern," she says. "Don't move."

Diana turns so that she's lying on her right side, her eyes following Sue even in the semi-darkness after the lantern is extinguished. The bed creaks as Sue clambers in, the mattress sinking as Sue steps over Diana's legs and lies down behind her. Strong arms wrap themselves around Diana and Sue's body, hard and warm, moulds against her back. Diana tenses instinctively, a sudden quiet gasp escaping her.

"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" Sue asks horrified, immediately pulling away, though one hand remains, resting lightly on Diana's hip.

"No... no," Diana says quickly, her heart racing. "I was just surprised, that's all. I wasn't expecting you to..." Touch me, she thinks, but the words die before they reach her lips. She is acutely aware of Sue's fingers caressing her hip, their movement so slight she wonders if Sue even realizes what she is doing.

"I'm sorry, I'll just..." Diana's never heard Sue sound so uncertain before, and she moves to cover Sue's hand with her own before Sue can remove it.

"No," Diana interrupts. She is sure Sue can hear the thudding of her heart pounding against her ribcage as she tugs at Sue's hand, and Sue's arm follows, snaking around Diana's waist once more. Diana leans back, relaxing against Sue and a satisfied sigh escapes her. She can feel Sue's heart, beating as fast as her own and ironically, that calms her somewhat.

"Diana?" Sue begins after a moment of silence.

"Mmm?" Diana is warm and comfortable. Even her arm doesn't seem to hurt as much when she's lying in Sue's embrace.

"Thank you for saving my life," says Sue, her voice barely above a whisper.

Diana tries to cuddle in closer. They're so close that it doesn't really work, but it had seemed like a good idea at the time. "I love you," she points out, a yawn escaping her. "What's one little bullet?"

She can hear the catch in Sue's breath and the arm around her middle tightens imperceptibly.

"I think I love you too."

~*~


When she wakes in the morning, Diana is not sure if her head or her arm is throbbing more. It takes her a moment to remember how she ended up in Sue's bed, and she groans as she rolls onto her back.

She'd had such a nice dream the night before, about how Sue had wrapped her arms around her and pulled her in close. But the bed she was in now was empty, and sitting up, she can see that emptiness extends to the cabin as well. It's obviously later than Diana realizes, and Sue must be off elsewhere; perhaps even off the ship, negotiating sales for their remaining cargo.

Diana throws back the blankets, swings her legs over the side of the bed and carefully pushes herself up with her uninjured arm. She needs to get out of here, needs to get back with the rest of the crew. She doesn't belong here.

Her pants are neatly folded on a nearby chair. It's a struggle to get into them using only one hand and there is a brief moment of panic when Diana, suddenly dizzy, is convinced she is going to fall over, with no way to break her descent. She is able to stabilize herself on the chair, taking a moment to breathe a deep sigh of relief before she is able to finish dressing herself.

The sun is peeking out from behind some clouds when Diana steps out from Sue's cabin. The deck is unusually empty and Diana supposes that most of the crew must be taking their leave in the city. That suits her just fine; she's not really in the mood to talk with anyone and just wants to climb into her hammock and try to sleep away this headache.

Slowly and carefully, she makes her way down the ship and is almost to her hammock when in the dim light, she knocks into someone. And promptly yelps.

"Diana!" Sveta exclaims. "I thought you would be resting." She gives Diana a stern look. "You should be resting."

"I'm going to rest," Diana grits through her teeth. "Help me get into my hammock."

"What's wrong with Sue's quarters?" Sveta demands, but she still moves to Diana's side. "She said that you would stay there for as long as you needed."

Diana looks away, pretending to concentrate on the wall opposite them. "I didn't want to get in your way," she says.

"In my way?" Sveta is obviously confused. "I don't understand."

"Well, now I'm not there, you can go back to Sue's cabin," Diana tries to explain.

It doesn't seem to clear much up. "Why would I want to go back to Sue's cabin? I mean, yes, a bed is certainly better than a hammock, but I have slept in many worse places. And you are the injured one, you should be in the bed," Sveta points out.

"Just because! I mean, it's you and her and not me," Diana says with a sigh. "I don't... I'm not supposed to be there."

Sveta just has a stunned look on her face as she stops trying to help Diana and instead just stares at her incredulously. "I know you got shot in the arm, but maybe did you hit your head when you fell?" she demands. "Or are you still drunk, yes? You are making no sense. Less sense than usual even!"

Diana opens her mouth to reply, but hesitates, unwilling to say it out loud. Right now she can almost pretend that there isn't anything between Sveta and Sue, but once those words are spoken, it will become real and she's not sure she's ready to deal with such a thing.

She's saved from saying anything by a relieved exclamation of "Diana!" and she and Sveta both turn to see Sue rushing up to them. Diana's eyes glance over her face, noting the wide eyes and the obvious relief flooding it.

"Oh, thank God," Sue exclaims. "I got back to my quarters and you were nowhere to be seen. What the hell do you think you're playing at?"

Diana just gapes. "I'm trying to get out of your way," she says, glancing across at Sveta. "So... so you two could be together again." The words come out all joined together and she can feel her heart break.

Silence is the only response, until it's broken by a peal of laughter from Sveta, who doubles over in helpless giggles. Diana can feel tears prickling at the back of her eyes and tries to blink them away. She had thought Sveta was her friend, and yet her she was, laughing manically at Diana.

"Oh, Diana," Sue says softly, completely ignoring the hysterical laughter coming from Sveta. Her whole attention is focused on Diana and Diana can't look away from her warm brown eyes. "I don't know where you got such an idea from, but Sveta and I are not together."

"You're not?" Diana asks, her voice cracking slightly.

"Not at all," Sue says, shaking her head. She looks at Diana, her eyes suddenly concerned. "Do you not remember last night at all?"

Diana narrows her eyes slightly. She has vague memories of waking up and realizing that she was in Sue's bed and then just impressions of being warm and comfortable. She remembers the fragments of her dreams and gasps. "I wasn't dreaming?" she asks in disbelief.

"Do you often dream about Sue?" Sveta asks innocently, having apparently recovered from her laughing fit.

Sue tears her attention away from Diana to stare at Sveta, her jaw dropping at her friend's question. Diana knows her face is bright red.

"No, wait. Don't answer that," Sveta says quickly, looking like she's about to start giggling again.

"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" Sue asks her pointedly.

"No, not really," Sveta replies with a shrug, either completely ignoring or missing the very unsubtle hint.

"Can you find somewhere else to be?"

Sveta sighs dramatically. "I suppose," she says. "But it would probably be better if it were you two who found somewhere else to be. It's not very private down here, you know. And I think you will be wanting privacy very soon."

Sue stares at her in disbelief for a moment and then just shakes her head. "You know, you're right," she says. Diana's head whips up to gawk at Sue, her eyes wide and hopeful. "Come on, Diana." Sue reaches forward to grasp Diana's hand, interlocking their fingers together and squeezing reassuringly. Diana's heart is racing as she allows Sue to pull her along, the beat reverberating so loud in her ears that she barely hears Sveta's parting comment of, "Have fun!"

~*~


Sue demands that Diana gets into bed as soon as they enter her cabin, and Diana immediately complies.

But much to her disappointment, Sue doesn't join her.

She fusses with the pillows for a moment, propping them up behind Diana and then starts to rearrange and smooth out the blankets, until Diana grabs at her hand, stilling it. Sue finally perches on the edge of the bed next to her, still holding onto Diana's hand. The sun is pouring in through the windows, and in the bright light, Diana can clearly see the nerves playing across Sue's face.

Diana feels her heart stutter and can't help but worry at the thought that Sue is second-guessing herself. The silence is starting to settle over them, but Diana is used to starting conversations.

"So..." she begins, trailing off as Sue's eyes snap up to meet hers.

From the moment she met Sue, Diana has always thought of her as somewhat more than an ordinary person. She's seen crewmembers throwing up their guts after a long night with Katie's moonshine for company; she's seen others in various states of rumpled undress. But Sue is the captain. She has always held herself to a standard far higher than the rest of them.

Right now, Sue stares at her with a certain emotion that Diana senses is very close to fear. But it cannot be, for Sue has never lost her composure – not in Bermuda, while she stood in silent vigil over her dead father; not when that raid on a Spanish ship left D-Nasty dead and JMac with one good arm for a long while. Even when Sue was facing down Dumerc's drawn blade, her face had been stoic, cool and expressionless.

Right now, Diana doesn't know what to think, doesn't know what to say.

So she doesn't think, she doesn't say anything. Instead, she acts.

Slowly, Diana sits herself up in the bed, inching closer to Sue. Sue just watches her silently, remaining still. It should be discouraging, but Diana realizes that no response is better than Sue simply pushing her away again.

When they are face to face, Diana leans forward - just a little — giving Sue ample time to react.

"I would," Diana begins, and then stops, her tongue darting out to lick her lips. She notices Sue's gaze flicker down for a moment as she does. Sue's eyes are dark, even though the light from outside shines brightly through the cabin windows. "I would really, really like to kiss you. If I could."

Sue swallows, and Diana watches the graceful lines of her throat; watches as Sue bites on her lip and nods, almost imperceptibly.

That's enough for Diana.

She closes the small distance between them and softly presses her lips to Sue's, but doesn't go any further. It's up to Sue to dictate what happens next. After all, she is the captain.

For a moment, Sue doesn't respond and Diana can feel her heart sink as she questions herself all over again. But then Sue parts her mouth against Diana's and suddenly surges forwards, pushing Diana back down onto the bed and pinning her there.

This, Diana thinks, this is the real Sue Bird; the woman hidden behind her public mask. With her stormy eyes and barely-contained passion in her kisses, she is far more beautiful than Diana has ever seen before and Diana drinks in the sight like a thirsty man gulps water. Sue's hands move down Diana's sides and, grabbing at her wrists, shifts her arms.

Suddenly, Diana remembers exactly why a little voice in her head had warned her that this might not be a good idea right now. The flash of pain is white-hot, shooting down the length of her arm and she cries out. She is dimly aware of the look of horror on Sue's face as she whimpers softly, clutching at her injured arm.

"It's all right!" Diana manages to gasp out, even as Sue whispers countless apologies. Her free hand grabs at Sue's questing fingers and squeezes them in an attempt to soothe. "I'm... I'm all right. Just give me a moment, ow." Her face scrunches up from the pain as she tries to concentrate on her breathing. Her eyes are watery, and she blinks frantically as Sue reaches forward to brush the tears away from Diana's cheeks.

"I'm so sorry," Sue whispers. "This is all my fault. I got you shot and then I lose control and I hurt you again."

"What? No. No!" Diana's not quite in control of herself right now. She's not really truly in control of herself most of the time, but it's especially hard when Sue is hurting herself like this. However, she's found a rather effective way of getting Sue to pay attention to her now. She tugs Sue close again and kisses her. Hard.

"It's not your fault," Diana says in a rush, the words tumbling from her mouth the moment they pull apart. "Sue, it's never your fault. Please, just hear me out."

"But you..." Sue begins. Diana leans in to try kiss her again, but Sue ducks her head away and Diana's lips land on her neck instead.

"You can't keep kissing me just because you don't want to hear what I'm trying to say!" Sue exclaims and Diana has the grace to look slightly sheepish.

"Try listening to what I'm trying to say," Diana exclaims. "I'm perfectly capable of thinking for myself." She pauses, frowns a little, and then sighs as she shakes her head. "Most of the time, at least. But I swear it's not your fault."

"Diana..."

"It doesn't matter who," Diana interrupts again, gesturing wildly with her good arm. The pain in her left has faded to a dull ache that is mostly ignorable. "Doesn't matter when. If it hadn't been Dumerc, it would have been someone else. But I love you, Sue. If that means that I take a bullet for you, then so be it."

"Diana, I..."

"She was about to shoot you! In the back! I couldn't let that happen…"

"Diana. Shut up."

Diana blinks. There's a small smile on Sue's face, one that Diana hasn't seen before. It makes her look even younger than she already is, smoothing out the worry lines that crease her brow from the never-ending battle Sue fights against the sea. She's so beautiful, Diana thinks, biting her tongue to stop herself from blurting it out. She deserves so much more than this, but Diana knows better than to say it out loud. Sue chose the Storm and her motley crew to serve as her family away from home, and Diana knows just how much family means to Sue. Sue also chose Diana, of all people, and though Diana still wonders what a governor's daughter, a pirate captain, could possibly see in her, she'll take the blessing she's been given.

"I love you, you know," Sue murmurs, brushing a few stray hairs away from Diana's face. "God help me, but I love you."

They're words Diana's always wanted to hear; words she never thought Sue would say outside of her dreams and her heart swells, feeling like it wants to explode with joy. Diana just beams. "I know."




Part 5
"Dear Jennifer"
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