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Found At Sea

Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

Two Years Later

 

Andy woke to find Miranda’s side of the bed empty. Dawn had yet to break and it was highly unusual for Miranda to leave the comfort of their bed for any reason that didn’t involve sighting an enemy ship. Initially, it had surprised Andy just how much Miranda reveled in being warm and cozy. She loved wrapping herself around Andy with such contentment that she practically purred. Andy, of course, was delighted to indulge her Captain at any given time, which is why it felt strange to wake without an arm around her waist or a leg flung over her own.

Stretching out a hand to the empty space beside her, Andy felt the cold sheets beneath her fingers. A forlorn sigh escaped her lips. She did not wish to leave the warmth of their bed, but Andy knew she would not fall back to sleep until she found Miranda and soothed whatever ailed her.

As she lay there trying to make sense of things, a bundle of white caught her eye. She could not fight the smile that curled her lips when she saw the small handful of flowers resting upon Miranda’s nightstand. They had clearly been taken from the larger bouquet that Andy had gifted Miranda less than a week ago after their visit to a small town off the coast of Brazil. While she was not a woman of many words, Miranda’s actions spoke for themselves.

On Andy’s own bedside table, her father’s compass held a permanent space next to whatever book Andy was currently reading. It was a constant reminder that, even though they had yet to find Andy’s parents, that they were out there somewhere and that one day they would be reunited. It had been two years since they set out to find them, but Andy had not lost faith. In the moments Andy’s doubts got the better of her, Miranda soothed her and was hopeful for them both until Andy felt better.

Even though the matter of her parents remained open-ended, Andy had gained some form of closure with her adoptive father. For weeks she had felt oddly unsettled, until she realised that she felt guilty. The last time her father had seen her, Andy had been unconscious in a bed before being stolen by pirates from their home. In fact, Andy was not certain if he was even alive - a thought that brought such a sharp pain that Andy chose to do the unthinkable and return to Port Royal. Miranda had been perplexed when Andy had broached the subject with her, but after hearing her explanation she had readily agreed.

Not three weeks later, Andy had rowed to shore, accompanied by Redbeard, Emily, and Serena. She managed to sneak up to her old home undetected, weaving through the ragged path behind the manor. Through the wide windows, she could see that not much had changed, but her anxiety did not fade until she caught sight of her father. He was sitting at his office desk, working diligently with the usual line between his brows. The familiar image had brought such a tightness to Andy’s chest that she could hardly move. Only Serena, gently guiding her away, calmed her enough to accomplish what she set out to do.

The letter she’d left in the mail slot outside the main doors was not particularly long, but Andy had spent a great amount of time drafting and redrafting it until it felt right. In it, Andy wrote that she was safe and that she had found a new life and that, above all, she was happy. She wrote of the beauty of the world, and the freedoms of the sea, and of the love she had for the people she’d found. She made sure to include how grateful she was to him for saving her, for giving her the life she’d had, and for being the best father she could have hoped to have. She wrote that, even though she was not coming back, she hoped they would meet again one day and that they could welcome each other with open arms. It was the final step to her complete liberation.

After they returned to the Pearl, Andy had found Miranda waiting on the main deck, arms crossed and shoulders taught. There was a look in her eye that Andy had never seen, and when Andy approached, Miranda pulled her close and held her so tightly that Andy could hardly breathe. She did not complain, however. She simply returned the embrace while Miranda buried her face in Andy's neck and exhaled a shuddering breath. Only then did her muscles relax. No words had been necessary, but that night Andy had made sure to be as gentle and loving as she possibly could in the hopes that it would reassure Miranda that Andy would never leave her.

Though she had left her Port Royal family behind for good and the search for her biological family had yet to bear fruit, their family aboard the Black Pearl had grown in the form of two little ragamuffins they had picked up on their travels.

They had made port in a small town near New England to resupply for their voyage south. Miranda had chosen to accompany Andy to the market, leaving Nigel, Fishtail and Roy to guard the ship. On their way through the small town and back to the ship, a young girl approached them. Her flaming red hair and dirty rags that seemed loose on her skinny form immediately endeared her to Andy and she’d been swept up in conversation with the girl. Miranda, however, had immediately realised what was happening.

Andy could only gape when Miranda suddenly whirled around and glared down at another young girl, identical to the first. With wide eyes, Andy had looked from the girl she’d been conversing with to the one behind her with her hand inside Andy’s satchel. Collected as ever, Miranda had glared at the young thief and shifted her coat so that her sword was visible. Both of the girls had backed away immediately and they’d gone on their way but Andy, somehow, didn’t think that would be the end of it. 

On their way back to the ship, Miranda had thoroughly teased her for falling for a ruse - set up by children, no less - and Andy had taken it on the chin.

“What would you do without me?” Miranda has asked with an amused smirk.

“Lose all my earthly possessions, probably,” Andy retorted, earning a delighted laugh from her lover.

Before they could board the Pearl, however, they were stopped in their tracks by the same two girls cutting into their path. They had stood there, hand in hand as bold as brass, looking up at them with pleading eyes.

“You’re Captain Priestly, aren’t you? Captain of the Black Pearl? Dragon of the Seas?" One of them had said. Andy had bitten her lip to keep from laughing as Miranda’s eyes widened. “Let us come with you, ma’am."

“Please?” the other added, pressing her palms together in supplication.

Miranda had arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms.

“Why would I allow two conniving thieves to join my crew?” Miranda had drawled. “Besides, you are far too young. Run along to your parents now and keep your hands out of things that don’t belong to you.”

“We’re twelve!” the first girl responded haughtily.

“And our parents are dead.”

Andy felt a pang in her chest. As she looked at the young girls, two mere children trying to survive in any way they could, Andy knew that she would not allow Miranda to turn them away.

“My love,” she murmured, rubbing her hand along the inside of Miranda’s forearm. “Why don’t we let them join us? They have nowhere else to go.” Miranda had opened her mouth to protest only to snap it closed again when realisation dawned on her. Andy knew what it felt like to be an orphan and the only difference - her only saving grace - was that she’d gotten lucky finding her adoptive father. Otherwise, her childhood would have been drastically different. Taking a deep breath to push the grim thoughts away, Andy persisted. “Need I remind you that you were only a few years older than they are when you ran away to sea?”

The full force of Miranda’s glare turned on her then.

“That was different.”

“Yes,” Andy agreed, and moved closer to thread their fingers together. “But does that mean they do not deserve a chance?”

With pursed lips, Miranda’s sharp eyes studied the children in front of them before she looked back to Andy’s pleading face. It was an expression Andy had perfected over the previous year, and she knew that Miranda was weak to refuse her when she used it.

“Fine,” Miranda growled. She turned to the girls once more, her expression stern and her voice low in a deadly whisper. “The first sign of trouble from either of you, I will not hesitate to leave you stranded on the reef, understood?”

Twin heads nodded vigorously before they had dashed up the ramp and onto the ship like they’d done it a thousand times before. Miranda watched them and shook her head as she sighed deeply before they followed. Andy tried to hide her beaming grin as she brought up the rear.

As it turned out, letting Cassidy and Caroline join the crew had been the most wonderful decision. They had settled into Andy’s old room with ease, perhaps sleeping soundly for the first time in their short lives, and the crew were more than happy to teach them the ways of the ship. Serena had trained them to fight, just as she had with Andy more than a year prior. To everyone’s surprise, Cara had accepted their help in the kitchen, and the twins were the only ones allowed to prepare food with her. Nigel had been hesitant at first, but the girls had charmed him, fawning over his garment designs and creations, and he had immediately begun making brand new clothes for them that actually fit.

For her part, Andy had been besotted from the very first moments. They were buoyant girls, despite their misfortune, and it was easy to get swept up in their vibrant conversation. They were incredibly funny, and far too smart for their own good. Their curiosity for the world around them reminded Andy of herself, and she was glad that she had taken them under her wing. She had never felt any particularly maternal instincts, and she knew she would never have children of her own, so over time, Cassidy and Caroline became the closest thing to daughters that Andy would ever have, and she loved them dearly.

Miranda, herself, had developed rather  a soft spot for the two of them, despite her initial misgivings. She had slowly opened up to the girls, unable to resist their charms, and after only a few weeks, Miranda was doting on them. Andy’s heart felt utterly full whenever she saw Miranda with the girls at her side, teaching them the ways of the world and listening intently to their animated chatter.

It was an endless source of amusement. Miranda indulged the twins more than anyone else, aside from Andy - the Captain had even let them braid her short hair. Andy had laughed hysterically when she walked into their chambers only to find Miranda sitting at her desk working while the girls played with her hair until it was an unruly mess, with tiny braids sticking up every which way. Not even the force of Miranda’s glare had quieted her laughter, and soon the girls had joined in, much to Miranda’s exasperation. It had made Andy fall in love with Miranda all over again.

Now, almost a year after the girls had arrived, their family felt fuller than ever. Laughter was almost a constant sound among the crew and shared dinners were a daily occurrence. Andy could not be happier, and she knew Miranda felt the same.

Which is why it was so puzzling for Miranda to have wandered off in the middle of the night.

With a sigh, Andy finally threw the covers off herself and rolled out of bed. She stumbled for a moment before putting on her favourite robe - a gift from Miranda, made of the smoothest velvet and in a deep shade of emerald green. Miranda loved how she looked in green, and Andy was not one to argue. While Miranda was all silver and blues like the raging ocean, Andy was browns and greens like the swaying trees of an ancient forest. They complimented each other perfectly - in this and a thousand other ways.

Miranda was, as Andy predicted, nowhere in their chambers and must have gone out to the main deck. It was a pleasantly chilly night after a drearily hot summer and Andy revelled in the cool breeze that brushed against her skin as she stepped out into the night. The Pearl sailed steadily through the calm waters; the bow of the ship faced the horizon right where the darkness of night was beginning to clear into the warm light of dawn.

Andy turned and lifted her gaze up to the quarter deck, where she could just see an elegant coif of familiar silver hair peeking over the railing. With a smile, Andy made her way up the wooden stairs. Draped in a midnight blue nightgown and matching velvet robe to ward off the chill, Miranda stood at the helm, her face calm and serene as she gazed towards the ends of the earth. As soon as she noticed Andy ascending the stairs, however, she smiled, her entire expression lighting up with warmth at the sight of Andy.

“So this is where you ran off to,” Andy said as she approached.

Miranda chuckled.

“I woke up earlier than usual and couldn’t go back to sleep,” she explained, raising a shoulder in an elegant shrug. “I sent Emily to bed.”

“Would you like some company?” Andy asked, and, after Miranda extended a hand in invitation, stepped closer until they stood side by side. “Why couldn’t you sleep, my love?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Miranda said.

Andy looked at her septically. Some nights, Miranda woke up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, eyes wild and pulse racing. Andy did her best to comfort her by holding her close and whispering words of comfort but she had no doubt that some nights, not even her love could erase those visions. 

The first few times it had happened, Miranda refused to divulge what had caused the night terror. Andy had accepted that there were things in Miranda’s past, fears deep in her subconscious, that Andy would never be privy to. She was almost certain that Miranda wanted to protect her from whatever horrors haunted her sleep, until one night Miranda had admitted that it was always the same dream. She dreamed that she had not been quick enough, not strong enough, and that Andy died at the hands of the Naval soldier that had attacked her so long ago.

Andy had been shocked that, of all the horrible things Miranda had seen in her lifetime - death and poverty and slavery and living cadavers - it was Andy getting hurt that woke her with such terror. Andy had been moved almost to tears; Captain Priestly was easily the most devoted, loving, protective soul to ever live. And she chose to love and protect Andy.

These night terrors did not happen often, and were usually triggered by something that had happened - like that time that Andy almost fell off a mountain side in New Spain and sprained her ankle, or that time she caught a fever for two days and Miranda had feared it was a serious illness when in fact it had only been a mild cold. 

Of course, Andy made sure to be extra careful with herself if only for Miranda’s peace of mind. She also had a great deal of experience in reading Miranda (the crew had taken to calling her “the Dragon Tamer” only a few weeks after they had begun their relationship, something Andy both hated and felt absurdly proud of). Now though, as they stood out on deck and even with her vast knowledge of Miranda’s moods, feelings, and facial expressions, Andy could not find any of the usual signs of distress that came from a night terror on Miranda’s face.

Instead, she decided to let Miranda have the benefit of the doubt, because she seemed at ease, and Andy did so love a relaxed Miranda.

“Well,” Andy said, leaning closer until their bodies touched. “I’m not particularly tired either, so I’ll just stay up here with you, if that’s alright?”

Miranda gave a crooked smile.

“Certainly, darling,” she said, and raised Andy’s left hand to kiss her knuckle beneath the golden band adorning her ring finger. The matching ring on Miranda’s left hand glinted as she steered the Pearl at a steady pace.

Andy smiled at the image. Only a few weeks prior, Miranda had casually gifted her the golden ring after they’d settled into bed together. Andy had been stunned into silence which, according to Miranda, was a rarity indeed. The symbolism of the gift and the fact they would wear their rings together like a real married couple would, stole the very breath from Andy's lungs.

Long ago, before ever knowing of each other's feelings, Miranda had asked Andy, seemingly unprompted, if she was betrothed. Andy had proceeded to tell her about Commodore Norrington's dismal proposal, which had led to a conversation about marriage and how neither of them wished to ever be wed. Miranda had been so adamantly against the idea, in fact, that Andy could vividly remember her repulsed expression at the mere thought.

Yet on a seemingly regular night, bathed in moonlight under silken sheets, Miranda was the one to offer Andy the ring, and with it, a vow to be together for as long as they both should live.

"I do not need a priest to declare our love," Miranda had said, voice soft and her expression the most tender Andy had ever seen. "And I have no love or devotion to God, but there is one person that I am devoted to above all else. There can be no other except you, Andrea. It is only you."

The words had overwhelmed her and stolen her breath. Calm and considerate as ever, Miranda had waited patiently with warm eyes and a loving smile. Once Andy had regained her composure, she had been anything but silent. She had showered Miranda with enthusiastic affection, and had expressed her love and her gratitude in every way she knew how. When Miranda had slipped the ring on her finger, and Andy had done the same to her, Andy felt like she had reached the most sublime level of happiness. Surely there was no greater joy to experience than feeling so blissfully complete.

Miranda’s arm wrapping around her waist brought Andy out of her reminiscing. With an enamored grin, Andy slipped under Miranda’s arms and rested back against her while the Captain commandeered her ship. Andy leaned her head back on her lover’s strong shoulder and felt Miranda place a kiss upon her brow. Over the passing wind and the soft, comforting sound of the sea, they each gave a contented sigh as Andy settled deeper into their embrace. 

They stood together in companionable silence, watching the dawn break the darkness over the horizon. It was the most beautiful sunrise Andy had ever seen. Stunning stripes of red and gold blended with lighter blue, and when the sun finally appeared, it bathed the world in warmth and light. Andy turned to look at her beloved. 

Miranda's hair gleamed in the purest silver. Her eyes shone the brightest blue. Her soft skin looked like the most exquisite marble, her face a carefully carved sculpture of sharp features and inexplicable beauty. Andy could not tear her eyes away. In that moment, the world around them ceased to exist. It became mere rays of sunlight in her periphery, and at the centre of her universe was the most important treasure of all.

Andy had all she’d ever wanted in life - freedom, knowledge, and adventure. More importantly though, she had found all the things she hadn’t known she needed, like family, and hope, and happiness, and the love of the most fearsome pirate Captain to ever sail the seven seas. 

She’d found home.