“All aboard!” came the call from Captain John Walker.
He waved on all his crew including his fellow Captain Nancy Blackett and the two First Mates, Susan Walker and Peggy Blackett. Titty and Roger Walker leapt on too, still squabbling about which positions they would hold within the crew, and finally the team was complete. Susan did a double check, for about the tenth time, that they had absolutely everything that they could possibly need, and only when she was completely happy that everything was in order, did she allow the farewells to begin. The crew bid a tearful goodbye to each and every one of the natives that had come to see them off, which consisted of Mrs Walker, Mrs Blackett and Uncle Jim, giving each of them hugs and kisses and promises to be good and not die and, yes, we have got enough food and, yes, we do have Titty’s medicine and don’t you worry, we’ll be back before you know it, before they managed to leap aboard their new ship, the District, and set sail with a cheery tally-ho and a wave.
They had been sailing all their lives and so, as a present to them all in recognition of their readiness, they had been given this rented boat with the promise of a proper sail across the seas. At first, some natives had wanted to go with them but Nancy and, later, John absolutely would not stand for it and so, after much discussion, the agreement was made that they would go alone. John and Nancy were nearly grown-ups after all, much to Nancy’s joy and, sometimes, dismay… it depended what mood she was in.
That had been a good few hours ago and they were happily sailing on course. The day was fading fast but the weather had been good – not too sunny, not too cold, enough of a wind to keep them going but not so strong they were being thrown all over the place. They were definitely much better conditions than what they had been placed in the last time they had been sailing these very waters, which Captain John did not like to remember if it could be avoided. All he could ever think of was the stress and the shock and the pressure to get them all through it. And the terror. The absolute terror of the fact that this just wasn’t a joke anymore; it wasn’t some funny little story that they would all get through in the end because they were the creators. It had been completely and utterly out of his control and yet all eyes were on him to lead the way. He didn’t dare to even fleetingly think on all possibilities that might have been, for they were far too horrendous to contemplate, even for a second. Instead he focused on keeping the tiller straight and the sails full of wind as they continued with their journey. He was just glad that this time they actually meant to go to sea.
He was brought out of his reverie by Captain Nancy.
“Captain.” She saluted. “Or should I say, Commodore…” she winked and he laughed, referencing their first meeting and the racing battle that had been fought that day. “The mates have prepared supper. I’ve already eaten so I’ll take over for the next shift; you’re free to go.” She moved forward to take his place, despite the fact it wasn’t really necessary as the conditions were so perfect, they were taking no chances. Plus, it was rather fun.
“Thanks, Nance… I mean… Captain.” John grinned at her and headed down the latch for supper.
As he was climbing down however, he couldn’t help but take one last look at her, sat, tall and proud, at the helm. She was wearing her ‘comfortables’, no matter how much everyone back home protested at such clothes on a lady of her age, and she couldn’t have looked any better in John’s eyes. They were all older now, John and Nancy at 16, and the rest not far behind, but Nancy hadn’t changed one bit – she still had the same light dancing in her eyes and the same childish fire glowing in her heart. She was contagious and John wouldn’t have it any other way. He smiled, caringly, at her silhouette, highlighted against the fading sun. And he couldn’t help but think that she was beautiful.
He clambered down the ladder to find the rest of the crew already seated, passing around food.
“Oi, Titty, stop being such a hogger and pass over the potatoes, would you?” Roger shouted, spraying food everywhere.
Susan gave him a reproachful look for speaking with his mouth full, but he was too busy gorging on the vegetables to notice.
Peggy was doing her best to dish out food in an orderly fashion but Titty and Roger were far too eager for anything even vaguely resembling order to occur. And Susan was just trying her best to make sure everyone got a fair share.
John couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle at the familiarity of the situation. The slight noise, however, brought awareness to his presence, and, the whole family immediately stood. They saluted and he saluted back.
“As you were, gentlemen.” He laughed.
“Captain,” Peggy grinned. “We have your plate all laid out here.” And she signalled to the head of the table, where indeed there was a plate piled high with food.
“Thank you, First Mates, this looks absolutely amazing.” And he sat down to eat as the whole hustle and bustle continued again. And despite the lack of natives and the fact that they were all trying to eat in a rather cramped and unfamiliar boat cabin, for John, it felt like coming home.
It was getting later and the sun was reaching out its last few rays, before it completely dipped below the horizon. Nancy shivered, it had been fine while the sun was out, but now she rather regretted her shorts and t-shirt combination, such was the tradition with her comfortables. Deciding that she had been sitting here for well over an hour without needing so much as to tweak the tiller, she figured that she could spare a minute to head down the latch and grab a jumper.
She headed over and started clambering down. She was immediately hit by the sound of much merriment from the supper happening below. When she reached the bottom, she turned, her eyes scanning the room for a suitable jumper candidate. Ergh. Hers’ were all the way over there, cramped in the corner under her bunk. But there was one of John’s, a red one, right on the end of the bed, not one metre away. She glanced over to the table where they were all sat and registered the fact that he already had one on. Right, well. He wouldn’t miss this one then, the selfish mug.
She grabbed it and was heading back over to the ladder, when her eye was caught by the crew sat down eating dinner. They just looked so happy and comforting and familiar that she couldn’t help but stand back and watch them for a second. She felt like she missed them, even though they were right there. And yet she felt happy because they were happy. She laughed at Roger spilling stuff everywhere and Susan bustling about. She even let out a girlish giggle at Titty’s apparently inappropriate story, judging by the look of shock on Peggy’s face. This was it, she decided. This was all she wanted from life. Just to enjoy the simple pleasures of these wonderful people’s company on a boat in the middle of the sea. And then she realised that the watcher, ie herself, was being watched.
She glanced down the table to catch John’s eye. He smiled at her and she smiled back without even thinking about it. They stayed locked in that way for a moment before they simultaneously blushed and looked away. But they couldn’t help themselves from sneaking a glance back with matching grins plastered on their faces. She thought she ought to explain and so signalled the jumper that she held in her grip. He nodded, still smiling, and she turned to go.
“Nance, wait.” John called. “Why don’t you come and sit with us?”
“The deck…” she protested. “The tiller…”
“Will be fine…” he assured her. “Come on, the weather’s perfectly clear and you’ve been up there alone for hours.”
“Ok,” she consented. “But only for a little while.”
They all saluted as she came to join the crew. Even John. And everybody laughed when she returned the salute with such vigour she almost knocked a jug over. Shrugging, embarrassed, she took a seat on the bench with John. The jollity continued, the room filled with mirth and happiness and pure love. And by the end of the evening, everyone had tears literally streaming down their faces from laughing so much it hurt. They were a family. A strange, young, mix of a family, but a family none the less. And nobody even seemed to notice the way that John and Nancy would always be the ones sharing the last laughs together. Or reaching out to touch the other at every possibility. Or even when John’s hand came to rest around Nancy’s shoulders, before slipping to her waist and staying there for the rest of the night. It just felt so normal. It felt so natural. It felt like home.
It was almost pitch black outside the circle of light emitting from the lamp they had hung on the deck to light up the boat. Nancy had headed up to take back her shift and make sure everything was in order for the night. She was just making herself comfortable at the tiller when a small gust of wind ripped through her thin clothes and made her shiver. Darn it. Just as she had resigned herself to a night of shivers, a familiar voice came from behind her.
“You left this downstairs.” She turned to find John holding out the red jumper she had spotted earlier. “Here.” He said, throwing it to her.
“Thanks.” She grinned, catching it and pulling it on. It reached all the way to her mid-thigh. “You’ve grown!” she exclaimed. “I remember when I was a good head taller than you!”
“Ah the good old days…” he teased, on the point of sticking his tongue out at her.
“Jim-booms and bob-stays! You can’t have grown that much. Come here.” She ordered.
He did so and put out a hand to help her up. He could see the deliberation in her eyes as to whether or not to take it, but in the end, she clearly decided she would. She knew it would not lessen his respect for her and would just be plain silly and rude, really. She clasped his hand and attempted to use purely her own strength to pull herself up. When she didn’t quite make it, he raised an eyebrow at her before easily levering her up without even blinking. He didn’t say anything though, for which she was glad.
However, now she was fully up, it was clear to see the height difference between them. They were standing toe to toe, face to face, and if John looked straight he had a pretty good view right over Nancy’s head while she was left facing his chest. He looked down at her pointedly.
“Fiiiiine….” She sighed. “I get it… I’m a midget now… you can just walk all over me…”
“Oh I would never walk all over you, Nance… I don’t think I’d want to get midget on my shoe…” he teased.
“Hey!” she started at him and attempted to attack him.
He just grinned blocking all her blows effortlessly, before grabbing her around the waist and hauling her over his shoulder. She screamed before she started laughing.
“Put me down!” she commanded with all the dignity she had left, which wasn’t much.
“Never!” he called and set off running around the deck with her on his shoulder.
She tried thumping on his back but it wasn’t much good. She even tried licking his neck but that just made him squeal and run faster. Eventually, he had had enough fun with her and put her back down in the middle of the deck, next to the latch. Flushed and glowing, neither of them said anything for a moment, just standing face to face with grins wide enough, it was a surprise they didn’t actually split their faces into two. Still without speaking, John raised one eyebrow. Nancy replied by sticking out her tongue.
Suddenly, the boat jolted and they both staggered. Trying to keep herself steady, Nancy put her hands out and gripped John’s arms. John, instinctively, grabbed Nancy’s waist. When the boat came to a rest, they both just stood, stuck with shock, in the position they had ended up in.
He really was a lot taller than her, Nancy realised. Even when he wasn’t pulling himself up, he still towered over her. Usually, she might be annoyed that someone else could then have so much status over her but she found that she didn’t really mind with John. In fact, she almost considered the fact that she might even like it. Another thing she hadn’t really come to terms with until now, was how strong he had become as well. He had clearly demonstrated it at least three times over the last few minutes, especially when he had gone so far as to actually pick her up! The cheek! But now, she could feel his biceps rippling under his thin shirt. And she couldn’t deny that it was incredibly attractive. Since when had the floppy-fringed, bed-headed, big-eyed titch she had met four summers ago become this… boy-man-thing?! The floppy fringe was still there but his blonde hair was tamed and smart and his big blue eyes held something much more now. He had grown up, she realised, and so had she.
She really was a lot smaller than him, John realised. He could have laughed at how she used to be able to tower over him and boss him around. But now, well, he thought he had proven that he couldn’t be bossed about any more. And although she hadn’t physically grown, he could see she had grown into an older girl now. Not quite a woman; no, she was far too alive to ever be one of those boring proper young ladies, but definitely… something. He could feel her waist under his hands and, giminy, she was thin! He hadn’t really thought on the fact that she would have a figure beneath the oversized t-shirts she liked to call her comfortables. He couldn’t help but wonder if her chest had filled out too without them all realising, before blushing profusely at the mere thought. He guessed he had just never realised before that Captain Nancy was, in fact, also a girl.
The moment just seemed to settle upon them; like the calm after a storm. They were frozen in their own little bubble of light and nothing else seemed to matter. Slowly, cautiously, John reached up to brush a strand of hair off her face. She responded by gently slipping her hands from his arms to his chest. Simultaneously, they thanked the dark for hiding their blushes.
“I can feel your heart beat.” She whispered… then paused. “It’s going rather fast.”
On a spur of the moment courage, he pulled her closer so their bodies were pressed flush together. Her breath hitched.
“I can feel your breathing…” he murmured. “It’s going rather fast.”
Her hands slid up round his neck, desperate to not be outdone with boldness, and she pulled herself up as far as she could. John looked down at her and, for the first time, properly looked. He searched past the outward bravado, past the tough, untouchable façade, past even his usual view of her as a friend, and found this… girl. Her eyes were only slightly wider than usual and her posture did not show its usual confidence. She was, dare he say, scared? Well, he guessed that he would have to be the Captain of this particular ship.
He looked her straight in the eye. He could see her fighting to keep up the appearance but he could see straight through it now. Slowly, he moved forwards, checking to make sure she was ok with this, but she must have been as she stood her ground. Closer, closer and closer still and yet she made no attempt to move away and neither did he. And then suddenly, they were close enough that they could feel the other’s fast breaths on their lips and sense the electricity that crackled between them.
And then contact. A feather light brush of lips; nothing more than the innocent touch of skin to skin. Gently, John pushed on, deepening the kiss slightly, nothing too drastic, but Nancy was clearly more than willing and tilted her head, pulling him closer, if that was even possible.
And then, suddenly, the latch sprang open and Susan’s head popped up. The pair leapt apart, jolted back to reality. But it was too late, for it was clearly displayed all over Susan’s face that she had seen exactly what they had been doing; if the couple of seconds before they had registered her presence wasn’t enough, the guilty blushes that were now creeping all over their faces would have been.
“Susan.” John attempted cheerily. “Are the others all in bed?”
“Yes…” Susan managed, still in shock. “Er, yes, yes, they are, safe and sound. All tucked up; snug as a bug in a rug. Er…” she tailed off.
“Is that all?” Nancy questioned, bluntly, clearly not sure what to say or do.
“I was just checking that everything was ok up here; it became awfully quiet and…” Susan trailed off, completely baffled at the whole situation.
“We’re fine.” John said, gently. “Although, I might head below deck and grab us a blanket as the temperature is sure to get quite chilly now the sun has dropped.”
Susan, apparently satisfied, disappeared down the latch, quickly followed by John.
John grabbed a blanket.
Nancy stood there, still in shock.
He moved back towards the latch.
She couldn’t bring herself to move.
He paused for a second trying to get his head around it all.
Her mind was racing with thousands of thoughts swirling inside her brain, but she couldn’t focus them to make any sort of sense.
What would they do now?
Would it be awkward?
What did it mean?
How had this happened?
Did he like it?
Did she like it?
John sighed and started to climb the ladder.
Nancy sighed and took a step towards the latch.
John remerged just as Nancy reached the latch.
“Hi.” She said.
“Hi.” He said.
There was a moment’s silence.
“Maybe we should…” Nancy faltered.
Trusting himself, John took a step towards Nancy. She stopped talking and blushed. He took another step until he was stood practically in front of her. He looked at her, leant in and kissed her cheek then moved back again. He tilted his head asking if she was ok. She smiled telling him that she was. Then nodded her head, attempting defiance, to try and regain her composure.
There was another moment of stillness.
“Oh billydogs!” Nancy suddenly exclaimed, seeming to have pulled herself together.
John barely had time to register this sentiment before he felt her against him. She grabbed his head and pushed her lips against his, pretty forcefully. He dropped the blanket he had been clutching in surprise. The effect, however, was not unpleasant as one might expect it to be, but, instead, rather satisfying. He immediately responded by wrapping his arms around her waist and nearly lifting her clear off the ground. This kiss was everything that the last one hadn’t been; here there was fire and passion where previously there had been sweetness and gentility.
John spun them and slammed her against the cabin wall. She let out this whimper that was altogether too much for John. Taking her hands, he trapped them above her head while desperately kissing her as though their very lives depended on it. Almost immediately, however, she managed to free her hands and tangle them in his hair. He pulled her up against him and lifted her off the ground. She slid her legs around his waist and he pressed them once again up against the wall.
This was how the worked best; it was the way they had always worked, and would always work. One would act and the other would respond. It was simple and easy; no need for stupid complications. They didn’t need any such trivialities, they understood each other and that was all they needed.
Eventually they came to a rest. Nancy was still leaned up against the cabin wall and John was towering in front of her, trapping her in. Their hair was ruffled, their eyes were bright. Their clothes has a deliciously crumpled look to them and they were breathing heavily. John looked at her and tilted his head. Ok he was asking. She looked him dead in the eye and leant forward to kiss him again leaving them both with dazzling grins on their faces. Act and response. Give and take. Push and pull. Simple. Perfect.
The next morning, the rest of the crew came up on deck to find the Captains curled up together at the tiller. John was propped up against the edge of the boat and Nancy was practically snuggled into his chest. He had his arm around her waist and she was clutching his other hand. The blanket was thrown over the whole package securing them in.
Susan was the first to arrive above deck and find the pair in this position. She guessed she wasn’t surprised after the events she had stumbled upon last night. However, she was almost immediately followed by Peggy and Titty who were both so shocked they didn’t even make a sound. Roger came last and the minute his eyes set upon the scene he almost fell back down the latch. Instead, he let out a rather audible gasp which had the rest of the crew shushing like mad lest they wake the sleeping couple.
Quietly they all snuck back down the ladder although didn’t exactly try and keep the noise levels down. A few minutes later, the rather bedraggled looking pair appeared at the latch. Their hands were clasped tightly together. The crew looked at them and they looked at the crew. There was a moment of silence and then Roger, unable to contain his excitement any further, started singing;
“John and Nancy, sitting in a tree…” Titty gleefully joined in. “K I S S…” Susan and Peggy shared glances before laughing and finishing it with them. “I N G!” The couple blushed but the singing didn’t stop there.
“John and Nancy…” it went again. And again. And again. Until they finally managed to regain some control over Roger and shut him up so the pair could talk. Or at least they tried. But they found there wasn’t really anything to say; they had accidentally fallen in love without them realising, now they had and they were, they guessed, together. Titty here had interjected with the all the overly romanticized stereotypes of how they had declared their undying devotion under the stars but Nancy had shut her up with a glare and a statement of if she was ever caught declaring anything then she would eat her own hat. John just grinned at her, slipping his arm around her waist and stealing a kiss. Roger ewed and Nancy stuck her tongue out at him. And as the crew set about readying themselves for the day ahead, laughing all the way, they realised that nothing had really changed.