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Found At Sea

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PROLOGUE

 

Andrea 'Andy' Swann had no memory of her parents. She spent the first years of her life in a run-down orphanage that, by all accounts, took little care of her. Truth be told, Andy was relieved she had no recollection of the dismal orphanage or the parents who abandoned her on its doorstep. 

Mercifully, her predictably unfortunate future veered in an unexpected direction when Governor Weatherby Swann of Port Royal adopted her at the tender age of four. He was a doting - if busy - father, and Andy was given a life full of wealth and privileges. Port Royal was one of the most important coastal cities of the Caribbean - and one of the safest, too. Andy knew she was unbelievably lucky to live in such a beautiful estate where she wanted for nothing. 

She was, however, desperately bored.

All her life, while her father was off doing Governor things, Andy had taken any chance she could to steal a book or two from his extensive library. She read every day, all the time - unless she was otherwise occupied being tutored on how to be a proper lady and a doting wife. 

What a waste of time that was. Andy almost felt bad for all the teachers that had tried (and failed) to make her feel the least bit interested in "lady-like" things. Who would want to learn about embroidery and cooking when one could learn about science and art? What woman could be stimulated by learning how to make herself beautiful and how to bow correctly, when she could escape into tales of heroism and adventure, and learn about horse riding and sailing?

Perhaps Andy felt such apathy for her deportment classes because she was... different. She realized from a very young age that she was not like other people, when her interests took a turn towards certain "un-ladylike" subjects that terrified all the other children. Some adults, too. 

Her father had always discouraged any talk of pirates. Every time she tried to ask questions about the subject, he told her to not worry about such things. “A young lady like yourself should not speak of those bandits who commit such heinous crimes against the Crown of Empire,” he’d say with a scoff and a dismissive pat on her shoulder. Thus, Andy learned to keep her curiosity to herself and got her answers from the pages of her beloved books. 

By the age of eleven she was an expert at meticulously borrowing tomes from the library without her father ever knowing she’d taken them. By the age of eighteen, she’d read every single book her father owned, and some that she'd 'borrowed' from a few of the other noble estates as well. Those books were her most loyal companions, her reliable mentors. They taught her all the things she wanted to know. Well, most of them. Andy was well aware that there was an infinite amount of things out in the world that she knew nothing about. Mysteries that were still unwritten and unsolved.

Andy wanted, more than anything, to discover them all.

 

.oOo.

 

Nearly a month before her twenty-fifth birthday, her father came to her room bearing a gift from his latest voyage to the mainland.

“For my beloved daughter,” he said with a fond smile, giving her the neatly wrapped box.

“Thank you, father!” Grinning excitedly, she tore away the wrapping. She exclaimed in delight when she opened the box to find a light blue gown with intricate white lace around the neckline. “Oh, it’s beautiful!”

His smile widened and he waved at her two lady's maids to step into the room. The women, Mary and Alice, led Andy behind the changing screen and helped her into the undergarments. Mary started tightening the laces of the new corset while Andy admired the floral stitching on the décolletage. When she raised her fingers to trace the patterns of her new undergarments, Mary yanked the laces so tightly that Andy felt the wind knocked out of her. Before she could inhale fully again, the restraining bodice was tightened further, and Andy gasped.

“How is it coming along?” Her father called out.

“It’s, um--” Andy rasped, placing a hand on her chest.

“It’s all the rage in women’s fashion right now,” her father continued. “Women are wearing these new styles all over England and France.”

“They must have learnt how to live without breathing then,” Andy muttered under what little breath she could get. Alice sent her a sympathetic smile and helped her into the flowing dress.

“All done, Miss,” Mary announced after tying the bow around the waist, and the maids left the room without preamble.

Andy stepped out from behind the changing screen, rigid and uncomfortable under the tight bodice of the dress.

“Oh,” her father clapped his hands together. “Wonderful. Simply wonderful.” Andy smiled and nodded, stiffly moving to stand in front of the mirror. It was indeed a beautiful gown, probably the most beautiful one she’d ever worn, even if she was struggling to inhale fully.

"It’s perfect for the occasion,” her father continued. 

“What occasion?” Andy asked.

“Commodore Norrington is coming to town, my dear. He is a good man, a valiant leader of the Naval Fleet," her father said, and something in his voice unsettled Andy. "He would give you a good future, if you were to choose him as a husband."

The words hit Andy like a blow to her already fragile chest. She'd always known the day would come when her father took it upon himself to marry her off since Andy had never been inclined to look for a suitable husband herself. Truth be told, her father had shown a surprising amount of patience regarding the matter. Most women of Andy's age were already married, but she knew that being with a man like that, belonging to someone else and being stripped of her freedom; it sounded to Andy more like a curse than a blessing. 

Andy had spent several years now trying to prepare herself for this eventuality when her father's patience ran thin. Yet the knowledge that what she’d dreaded most in her life was finally happening felt like the drop of a guillotine's blade.

"I see," she managed. Turning to her father, she took as much of a breath as she could. "Is the choice entirely mine to make?"

The governor blinked at her. 

"Yes, my child," he said, looking surprised by the question. Andy felt marginally relieved by that. She knew many girls who did not have such a choice. 

"But don't you fret, dear, I know you will love him," her father continued. Oblivious to his daughter's apprehension, the Governor sent her a reassuring smile. "He has my blessing to ask for your hand in marriage. I have known of his interest in you for quite some time and the two of us have spoken of the matter on several occasions. Now, we must get going. He is expecting us."

"Right." Andy swallowed thickly. She made to leave the bedroom, her safe haven, when she suddenly remembered. "Oh! Just a moment, I'll be right down."

After a second's hesitation, her father nodded and swept out of the room. As his footsteps retreated, Andy moved to the vanity and opened the top drawer. Inside, she unlocked the small box containing the only truly valuable possession she had. She gently grasped the necklace and lifted it out of the box. The light reflected off the gold medallion as it swung gently from side to side. 

Andy sighed shakily, tracing her finger over the sun engraved on the pendant and the small symbols surrounding it like a halo. This was the only thing she had to remember her biological parents by. Not that she remembered them at all. But it was the sole possession her parents left to her, so it made Andy feel as though they were closer, somehow. As if she was holding a part of them with her. 

Tying the pendant around her neck so the medallion dropped low on her chest under her garments, Andy sent a prayer that it would give her the strength she'd need to get through the day. 

 

.oOo.

 

Commodore Norrington was, like Andy had expected, terribly dull. Not only was his ego far too large for Andy's taste, he was also a firm believer that snobbery and monotonous conversation about war strategies was the way to a woman's heart. Andy did her best to be polite, but the heat of the day and the scarce oxygen she could breathe was making it impossible to stay engaged in the discussion. 

As the two of them walked along the edge of the city's defensive walls overlooking the sea, Andy began to feel light headed. Perhaps it was that she hadn't had the chance to eat in several hours, or maybe it was the tight, severe fabric restraining her chest, but suddenly Andy could not breathe at all. Her feet came to a stop of their own accord. She was vaguely aware of the Commodore's incessant speech about marriage and the importance of being well-suited while Andy discreetly tried to gasp for breath. His voice sounded far away, muffled, like he was speaking through a wooden door.

"So you see, dearest Miss Swann," the Commodore was saying as he looked towards the city behind them. "I do believe we would have a bright future ahead of us, should we bond our families together. And so it is with both our best interests in mind that I am asking for your hand in marriage."

"I-" Andy's vision blurred. "I can't breathe," she rasped. A ringing echoed in her ears so loudly she barely understood what the Commodore said next - something about him being overwhelmed too? 

Whatever it was, it did nothing to pull Andy out of her stupor. Her lungs were burning, her limbs were weighed down by an invisible force, and the world turned black at the edges. She felt her body sink towards the ground like the anchor of a ship. The last thing she saw before the darkness overtook her was the ocean waves rushing up to greet her.

She did not feel anything when her body plunged into the water, nor did she notice the rippling wave of energy that surged from the pendant around her neck. 

As Andy's limp body sank to the bottom of the sea, the captain of a pirate ship sailing not too far from the island felt the rush of something indescribable course through the air like lightning. Its energy was familiar and exhilarating, a promise of victory at long last. The captain's grip on the helm tightened, and swiftly changed the ship's course towards land.

Chapter Text

When Andy's heavy eyelids fluttered open, she found herself lying in the comfort of her bed. It took several moments to regain her bearings. The evening sun shone through the open curtains, so she must have been out for at least an hour. Her body ached, and she still felt somewhat dizzy. What had happened to her?

She remembered standing with the Commodore, trying to catch what little breath she could. The world turning into a dark blur. One moment she was looking out towards the sea, the next the waves were right beneath her. 

Damn corset.

With a groan, Andy sat up and grabbed the silk gown at the foot of her bed. At least she was in more liberating clothes now: her white nightgown allowed her to breathe far more easily than the monstrosity her father had bought for her.

With a jolt, Andy snapped her hands to her chest. A sigh of relief escaped her when her fingers grasped her parents’ medallion, still safely hanging from her neck. The worst possible outcome of the whole ordeal would have been losing her only treasured possession. She couldn't care less about the dress, or the marriage proposal she vaguely remembered receiving before losing consciousness. All that mattered was that she hadn't lost her parents' necklace.

A loud, startling crash from downstairs disturbed her thoughts. It was followed by raised voices and distant shouts. Andy frowned, wondering what on earth was causing such a commotion. She carefully got out of bed and put on her shoes, wrapping the gown tighter around herself as she made her way to the door. Before she could reach for the doorknob, however, the door swung open to reveal a terrified Alice.

"Miss Andy!" she cried. "Thank the heavens you're alright. You need to leave! Now!”

"What?" Andy asked, startled. "Alice, what's--"

"You need to hurry!" Alice interrupted, frantically grabbing at Andy's arms to drag her towards the hallway. "They're coming for you!"

“What? What do you mean? Who’s coming for me?" 

Was she still dreaming?

"Pirates!" Alice went pale just saying the word. “They’re coming to the house and you’re the governor’s daughter!”

Andy reeled back. Pirates? In Port Royal? Impossible. This was the safest city in the entirety of the New World. Surely pirates would never get to it. Surely she was still dreaming. 

Ignoring Alice's pleas to leave, Andy rushed over to the window. The view that greeted her made her heart stop in her chest.

The city below was burning into flames of furious red and gold. The explosions and screams seemed to be carried within the huge clouds of smoke rising from the ashes. Hoards of townspeople ran for their lives as a band of blood-thirsty pirates fought any man who stood in their way. Terrified cries pierced through the air, but Andy heard one that sounded far, far closer.

She urned to find Alice crying for her to hurry, and it finally dawned on Andy that this was real. This was happening. Pirates were attacking her home.

"Hide under the bed and don't move," Andy said, adrenaline finally kicking her into action. 

Before Alice could reply, Andy ran from the room. There was a secret passage in the library that she’d discovered many years ago. If she could just get to it without being found - 

"There she is!" shouted a gruff voice from somewhere below, followed by thumping footfalls racing up the stairs.

Andy tried not to panic as she slipped into her father’s study. She could hear two pairs of footsteps approaching. She looked around wildly for anything that could be used as a weapon, and found one of her father’s walking sticks tucked into a corner. Pressing her back against the wall next to the door, she waited until the perfect moment.

Just as one of the men crossed the door’s threshold, Andy swung the cane with all her might, hearing a sickening crunch when it slammed against the pirate's face. The impact threw him off balance and he toppled backwards into the other man behind him. Andy took her chance and ran to the next room, the man’s furious shouts almost drowned out by another male voice yelling at him.

“Don’t let her get away!”

Andy shut the door to her father’s chambers and locked it securely with trembling hands. She didn’t have much time, and there was no way she could get to the library without the pirates catching her first. In a moment of clarity, she threw open the window at the far wall before running into the closet and closing the double doors. 

Everything went strangely quiet. The only sound Andy could hear was the thundering of her heartbeat in her ears. Her rapid breathing seemed too loud in the sinister stillness, so she breathed through her mouth and tried her best to calm down. She had just managed to even out her breaths when a terrible bang came from outside the chamber’s doors. Andy jumped, pressing herself into the furthest corner of the closet. Another bang, and this time she heard the wood shake and the door’s hinges give out.

The pirates barrelled into the room. Andy leaned forward so she could see through the crack between the closet’s doors. Their swords were drawn and they looked around wildly. One of them stepped towards the open window and glance at the ground below before turning to the other man. The pirates continued searching the room; under the bed and behind the curtains. Panic started flooding through Andy once more. It was only a matter of time before they found her.

“We know you’re here, poppet,” one of the men taunted. 

Andy’s heart froze.

“You have something of ours, you see,” the other man continued, moving closer to Andy’s hiding place. “The gold, it calls to us.” 

Andy’s hand subconsciously lifted to the pendant around her neck, feeling the weight of it against her palm. She glanced down at her parents’ medallion, the gold shining in the slim sliver of light coming from the room. Was this what they were looking for?

A shadow fell over her outstretched hand, rising up Andy’s arm and chest until the light was gone entirely. Heart in her throat, Andy looked up.

The pirate was looking right at her through the crack in the door. A sardonic smile twisted his face, baring his crooked teeth like an animal.

“‘Ello, poppet.”

The doors flung open and banged against the wall. Andy saw the silver shine of a sword coming towards her. This couldn’t be the end. Not like this.

"Parley!"

The men stopped and stared at her incredulously. Andy drew a trembling breath, trying to think over the pounding in her chest. 

"I invoke the right to parley,” she stuttered. At the men’s continued hesitation, she recited from memory one of the countless things she had studied about pirate law. “According to the Code of the Brethren set by the pirates Morgan and Bartholomew, you have to take me to negotiate with your Captain completely unharmed-”

"We know what the law means!" the man on the right snapped. His nose was swollen and crooked at an odd angle. She couldn’t help but feel pride at the damage she’d inflicted on her captor despite her meagre weapon.

After a moment of consideration, the other man nodded with undisguised irritation. 

"Alright, princess," he sneered at her. The other one strode to Andy and forcefully grabbed her by the arm. "We’ll take you to our Captain, and you will come without a fuss."

Andy was hauled from the closet and marched towards the hall, her arms restrained behind her by rough, calloused hands. She tried not to trip over the hem of her dress while she was led down the stairs to the entrance hall. When she was finally able to look up from her feet, Andy’s blood ran cold. 

Everything was in ruins. Shards of glass and splintered wood were scattered all around the floor. The main doors fell open, crippled and crooked. An unmoving body was splayed on the ground to her left. Andy felt bile rise in her throat. She forced herself to swallow and tore her gaze away. She didn’t want to see any more.

The walk from the estate to the city seemed to take forever. The pirates were quiet and walked in large, determined strides. Andy did her best to keep up with their pace while her mind raced with a million questions. Was her father alright? Why were these pirates looking for her? As much as she knew about pirates, she had never actually met one, let alone demanded to negotiate with a Captain. 

Would she even live to tell the tale?

If walking through her broken house was bad, being led through the city was worse. The streets had become a battlefield. Screams of terror and thundering gunshots tore through the air in an incessant uproar as buildings were torn apart. Andy could hear children crying. Familiar faces lay motionless on the ground. Men she knew were fighting and losing against the violence unleashed by the sea criminals.

Andy felt nauseous again. She did her best to keep her eyes on the ground.

When they got to the beach, she was lifted into a wooden rowboat as if she weighed nothing at all. As the men began rowing away from shore, Andy turned her back on Port Royal. She could not bear to witness any more of the pain that was being unleashed upon the city. Instead she stared off towards the horizon, trying to calm herself by focusing on the soft waves and the late evening sunlight twinkling on their surface like the most exquisite jewels.

A black shape at the corner of her vision made her finally turn towards the front, and in the next moment she was breathless. Any semblance of tranquility she'd managed to summon disappeared when she saw the ship she was being taken to. 

Floating regally before them, the ship looked so majestic that Andy could hardly believe it belonged to pirates. The pitch black sails were almost as dark as its wooden hull. It looked like a ghost, a shadow of black smoke rising up from the sea to touch the sky above. She may never have seen a pirate before in her life, but Andy knew exactly what ship it was.

The Black Pearl.

She’d heard thousands of legends, read about it in a hundred books. Now that she saw it with her own eyes, a surge of terror shot through her. Not only was it the fastest ship in all of the oceans, unreachable by any other, it was also feared like no other pirate ship had ever been. Its captain was the most notorious, ruthless pirate to ever sail the seas.

Nobody knew who Captain Priestly was. They did not know what he looked like, or how to capture him. They called him the Dragon of the Seas. No matter what the British Navy threw at him, he evaded arrest every time, leaving wrecked ships and lifeless bodies in his wake.

And Andy had demanded parley with him.

The more they approached, the more dread flooded the pit of Andy’s stomach until she felt nauseous. The Black Pearl towered over her like a dark omen as the little rowboat approached the side of the ship. The huge, ebony sculpture at the bowstrip was an intricately detailed siren, her hand reaching up towards the horizon, her hair flowing back in such soft waves that Andy could hardly believe she was made of wood. Andy looked up at the statue as if the siren could somehow save her from her predicament.

A rope ladder was flung down from above, landing in a heap at Andy’s feet. She jumped, startled, and looked at it with trepidation.

“What are you waiting for, princess?” her captor sneered.

Trying to ignore the pounding in her chest, Andy stood and grabbed the rope as tightly as she could. Slowly, she started climbing the narrow ladder, feeling unsettled by the view she was probably giving her captors below. It was a faster ascent than she had expected, however, and in a matter of seconds she was being hauled onto the main deck by two sets of strong hands.

As Andy tried to regain her footing, she glanced around the ship. There were only a handful of pirates on deck, all looking right at her as they approached. Feeling like a caged animal, Andy’s fight or flight response kicked in. She wondered if it was too late to jump overboard and try to somehow get away.

“This her?” a female voice asked, and Andy turned to find a tall, slim woman with olive skin and green eyes. Three small beaded braids adorned part of her wild blonde hair, and a faded scar marred her left cheek. Andy’s racing mind took a moment to be surprised at the sight a woman on board, since women on ships were typically considered bad luck. 

“Aye,” said the older man on Andy’s other side, a tall pirate with light brown eyes and greying hair.

“She invoked parley,” the gruff voice of one of the men who had captured her said as he pulled himself on deck. “After attacking Jack with a walking stick.”

Some of the crew looked at Andy in amused disbelief, others outright laughed. Andy clenched her hands into tight fists.

“I’m here to negotiate with Captain Priestly,” she said with determined intent. She was rather proud at how steady her voice sounded despite her situation. 

“Are you, now?” A bald man approached her, inspecting her from head to toe. She straightened her posture under his scrutiny and tilted her chin. That earned her a smirk as the man hummed a flat, amused note. 

“Captain,” he called, turning to the raised quarterdeck at the back of the ship. “She wants to negotiate.” 

Andy followed the man’s line of sight and felt a frisson of shock jolt through her. Her heart started racing in her chest, even as the rest of her was frozen in place. 

She watched in stunned awe as a regal, elegant, impeccably dressed woman glided gracefully down the stairs. Her eyes were a striking blue, her face all sharp features and graceful cheekbones. Short, pearly white hair was partly hidden under a black leather hat. Her expression was focused as she studied Andy. The crimson coat made of soft velvet and intricate gold details with a flaring waistline made her look both deadly and sophisticated. Her dark, knee-length boots were barely visible over the tight black trousers, and across her waist a leather sash held a pistol and a sword, its golden handle glinting under the light of the sunset. 

This woman was unlike anyone Andy had ever seen before. She was all parts intimidating, powerful, and hypnotising.

“And what is it you wish to negotiate?” The woman - Captain Priestly - said smoothly as she approached, her fierce eyes never leaving their intense study of Andy. The cadence of her voice was low, and yet carried perfectly through the air with clear precision. Andy did her best to pick her jaw up from the floor.

“I want all hostilities against Port Royal to cease, and your word that you shall never return,” Andy stated, trying not to falter in the delivery of her terms. The woman’s eyebrow twitched, but otherwise her face remained impassive.

Captain Priestly hummed, her hand reaching up to run a finger over her lower lip thoughtfully, her elbow resting on her other palm. The movement was entrancing, and Andy was having a hard time looking away. After a moment, Priestly's eyes narrowed as her hand dropped to grip the glinting hilt of her sword.

“I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request,” she drawled.

Andy paused in disbelief. Were these pirates really going to reject her, after they had come searching for her medallion? Surely the gold was worth more than needlessly attacking Port Royal. Despite the fear, Andy felt all of the anger and frustration surge through her. She had had a very long day. This might just be the last drop.

“Very well,” Andy snapped.

Moving as quickly as she could, she rushed to the edge of the ship, ripping off the medallion as she went, and dangled it over the black expanse of open ocean. The crew moved towards her, hands reaching for their weapons, until the Captain raised her hand. Everyone froze.

The Captain studied her closely with an inscrutable expression, seeming amused rather than anxious by Andy’s threat. She took a step closer, head tilting in a way that made Andy shift her weight nervously. Her grip on the golden chain tightened. There was something about the way those eyes roamed her entire being that made a shiver run down Andy’s spine. It was like Priestly was looking into the very depths of her soul.

“What is your name?” she asked.

Andy swallowed thickly, trying not to wilt under the steely gaze of the most feared pirate in the entire ocean. 

“Andrea Swann.”

“Is that the name you were given at birth?”

“Um,” Andy stuttered, completely thrown off balance. “N-No. I was born Andrea Sachs before my parents--”

“Sachs,” the Captain hummed, her eyes glinting. The corners of her lips twitched into the shadow of a smirk. “Alright. We have an agreement, Miss Sachs. I will cease the attack on Port Royal and vow to never return if,” she paused, and her voice deepened when she continued, “You give me that medallion.”

It dawned on Andy then that she would have to give up her most treasured possession, the only thing she had to remember her parents by. This necklace had been a source of comfort all of her life. It was a part of her. 

Nevertheless, the medallion was a small price to pay for Port Royal’s safety.

“Fine,” Andy said, spine straightening. “But how can I know you’ll keep to your word? Pirates are known liars and thieves. Why should I trust that you’ll keep up your end of the deal?”

Ocean blue eyes turned thunderous. The Captain stepped closer until there was a mere two feet between them. Traces of her perfume reached Andy’s nose - a perfect blend of sandalwood and jasmine, dark and musky. Up close, the woman looked larger than life, her eyes an intense blue, the lines around them only making their beauty more pronounced. She was both terrifying and ethereal. Andy felt her breath stutter in terror.

“Firstly, I am a woman of my word,” Priestly sneered, stepping ever closer. Andy was forced to move away until her lower back was pressed against the wooden rails of the ship. “Secondly, we are not thieves. We only take that which has been left abandoned or forgotten.”

“And also the riches stolen by greedy men,” one of the pirates quipped, a young man with a ginger beard. His proud, amused smirk died on his lips the moment Priestly turned to cast the full power of her icy glare upon him. Everyone seemed to hold their breath for the long, silent second she stared him down. He shrank back and lowered his eyes to the floor. When Priestly turned her attention to Andy once more, the man's body slumped with relief.

“So you see, Miss Sachs,” she continued, her voice unwavering. “Unless you want your city to burn to the ground, I’m afraid you have no other option but to trust my word despite your reservations. Otherwise Port Royal will be nothing more than a vestige of the British Navy’s former glory.”

Andy’s hopes crumpled. She couldn’t let her people suffer for a piece of jewellery. Trusting the word of this vicious pirate was a risk she’d have to take. Without letting her thoughts or her emotions hinder her further, she brought the necklace away from the edge of the ship and dropped it upon the captain’s outstretched hand. 

Long, elegant fingers closed protectively around the medallion. Priestly drew a sharp breath as she looked upon the necklace with triumph in her eyes. For a second she seemed almost human. The next moment, however, the Captain turned on her heel and began striding back towards the quarterdeck.

“Serena, sound the retreat. Roy, help them aboard when they arrive. Everyone else, to your stations! Prepare to sail!” Everyone scrambled away to do her bidding. “Nigel, Emily, show our guest to her new quarters.”

No sooner had the command left the captain’s mouth that Andy was grabbed by the bald man and a young woman with fiery red hair. Andy tried to jerk away from them, but they were too strong. They pushed her towards the stairs leading below deck.

“Wait!” she cried, fighting against the two pirates' grip. “What about our deal?” she shouted at the captain’s retreating form. “You have what you wanted, now let me go back to land!”

Priestly turned to her, a taunting sneer on her lips.

“That was never part of our agreement, Miss Sachs. I have further use for you yet,” she drawled. Blue eyes gleamed with the finality of Andy’s doom. “That’s all.”

With that, the most feared pirate across the seven seas waved her hand in a dismissive gesture and Andy was dragged down the stairs despite her frantic struggling. She was pushed through the gun deck, past the countless cannons, guns, and gunpowder kegs. Andy nearly stumbled over her own feet at seeing the sheer amount of lethal weapons aboard.

When they reached a small chamber at the back of the ship, Andy was pushed through the doorway so suddenly she nearly lost her footing.

“Welcome to the Black Pearl,” the female pirate - Emily, was it? - snarled in a strong British accent before she slammed the door shut. A second later, Andy heard the latch on the door lock with an unwavering clang.

Despite the hubbub of the ship, the room was quiet. The cannons had stopped firing and the sound of a lonely word faded in the wind. Andy could just make out the distant noises of the crew upstairs over her own gasping breaths. She couldn’t believe what had happened. She was now a prisoner on the Black Pearl. Her life was in the hands of the most vicious captain to roam the seas. She didn’t understand why this had happened to her, or what Captain Priestly wanted with an orphan girl and her medallion.

A cold breeze made her skin break out in goosebumps and only then did she realise she was trembling. She turned around and took in her surroundings, trying with all her might not to panic.

As far as rooms went, it wasn’t terrible at least. There was a bed, smaller than the one she had at home. A chest of drawers with a bowl and pitcher set atop, and an even smaller table. A bookshelf covered the entirety of one of the walls, filled to the brim with all kinds of tomes. Anger flared in Andy’s chest. They were probably the spoils of war and pillaging; it wasn’t as if pirates were avid readers.

Three small, circular windows let in the fading light as the day waned. One of them was open, letting in the breeze that had drawn her from her thoughts, and Andy went to close it. She was dismayed to realise that the windows were far too small to fit through.

As she sat down upon the bed, her body seemed to lose all its energy from one moment to the next. It felt like days had passed since she’d woken up that morning and tried on the new dress her father had bought for her. 

God, her father. 

Andy’s heart dropped with heaviness. How would he take the news of Andy’s capture?

With her stomach in knots, Andy weakly crawled onto the bed and curled up into as tight a ball as she could. Closing her eyes, she tried not to think too much about whether or not her loved ones were still alive, or whether her hometown would recover from the vicious pirates' attack. She tried even harder not to wonder what would happen to her. 

She failed.

Chapter Text

Andy jolted awake when the door burst open. She was disoriented and exhausted, as if sleep had only made her more tired than she was before. Pushing the covers off in an attempt to wake herself up better, she paused. The texture was all wrong. The blanket felt rougher than her usual bedsheets, and heavier too. 

Suddenly, she remembered where she was and what had happened to her. She bolted upright, looking around frantically. Horror dawned on her as the small room she’d been locked in the night before came into focus. She was a prisoner of the Black Pearl. Part of her had believed it was all just a bad dream, that Port Royal had never been attacked and that she would wake up in her bed like any other regular day.

How long had she even been asleep? 

Glancing at the windows, she could see the dark night sky pierced by moonlight that filtered through the thick grey clouds.

“Captain Priestly has requested your presence for dinner.” 

Andy jumped at the voice and turned to see the redhead pirate - Emily - standing in the doorway. Andy stared at her with a combination of confusion and dread. The pirate rolled her eyes impatiently at Andy’s hesitation. "What are you dallying for? The Captain does not like to be kept waiting."

Andy scoffed in disbelief, outraged at the audacity of Priestly.

"Well, you may tell your Captain that I am disinclined to acquiesce to her request.”

Emily raised her eyebrows at Andy's waspish rejection. Andy herself wasn’t even sure where her courage - or foolishness - came from.

"She said you’d say that," Emily scowled. She stalked forward with a menacing hand placed on the sword strapped around her hip. It made Andy’s whole body tense in sudden terror. ”The thing is, it wasn't a request so much as a demand. You're on the Black Pearl now, so you best get used to following the Captain's orders. Now stop being a brainless imbecile and move."

No matter how much she hated it, Andy knew the woman was right. She no longer had the upper hand, if she'd had it at all to begin with. Whatever Captain Priestly wanted from her, Andy would have no other choice but to give it.

"Fine," she conceded reluctantly. She got up despite her body's demand to simply curl up in a corner and pretend everything was nothing more than a bad dream. Unable to forget the decorum drilled into her brain all her life, she ran her fingers through her loose curls and patted down her wrinkled dress in a weak attempt to make herself look presentable.

"No need for that.” The bald man from earlier swept into the room. He dropped a dress on the bed next to Andy while she tried to recall his name. Nigel, maybe? "Don't dawdle. Emily will help you dress if you need assistance."

Without preamble, he glided back out of the room while Andy stared at Emily incredulously.

"Well?" Emily snapped.

Trying not to dwell on how vulnerable she was, Andy took off her gown and folded it up neatly. It was her only possession now, the only thing left from when her life was her own.  

Standing only in her underdress, Andy felt more exposed than she had ever done. Eager for any distraction, she picked up the ruby red gown and immediately hesitated. The dress was all that was offered to her; the dress, and nothing more.

"Um," she started, turning slightly to look at Emily but keeping some of her modesty. "I've not been given any support.”

Emily frowned. "Support?"

Andy let out a sharp breath. "A corset."

The redhead snorted. "Oh, those hideous contraptions women are meant to be tortured with?" Andy couldn't really argue against that description. "We don't wear those here. The dress has laces at the back for 'support' without having to wear those godforsaken corsets." Emily spat and rolled her eyes, as if Andy was supposed to know that. 

Andy looked back at the dress and realised that there were indeed laces down the back, similarly structured to those of a corset, but the material of the bodice was softer and lacked any stiff steel bones. The design was so different from anything else Andy had seen or worn before. Instead of pompous layers and unnecessary ruffles that was the norm in high-society women’s fashion, the dress was slimming and feather-light.

With no little amount of interest, she put the dress on and tightened it to fit her figure. She refused to ask for the pirate's help, so she did her best to tie the laces together even though it was a strained, awkward position for her arms. Once she was done, she couldn’t help but admire the way the gown fell to gently kiss the floor. It was light and airy and more comfortable than anything Andy had ever worn.

Satisfied with her appearance, she tried to tame her wild curls into tidy waves before turning to face her fate.

"Alright," she said, releasing a deep breath. "Take me to her."

The Captain's chambers were upstairs on the main deck. Emily didn't say a word as she pushed Andy through the gun deck and up the stairs to the double doors covertly placed between the twin staircases leading up to the quarterdeck. Emily knocked twice on the heavy wood and paused fleetingly before opening the door. She gave Andy a meaningful look and jerked her head towards the entrance.

Andy took a breath, and stepped through the doorway.

"Ah, Miss Sachs," Captain Priestly said in a smooth, low voice as she rose from her seat at a desk at the far end of the room. The older woman moved so regally she seemed better suited to be the refined queen of a palace instead of an immoral pirate captain.

She wore a tailored grey velvet frock coat that perfectly complimented her hair. As she came closer, Andy noticed the silver buttons and subtle embroidery at the edges, paired with a white silk blouse underneath. The Captain’s short hair was flowing freely without the leather hat, leaving a forelock to fall limply beside her left eyebrow. The black trousers from earlier remained, but the knee-high boots had been replaced by shorter heeled ankle boots. Gold hoops dangled from her ears, matching the rings on her fingers and brushing against the skin of her neck when she moved. 

Andy forced herself to look away.

Like its inhabitant, the large room seemed fit for royalty too. Traces of sandalwood and jasmine lingered in the air, and candles flickered on almost every surface. Four tall windows on the furthest wall overlooked the infinite expanse of sea. Placed strategically in front of them was the desk upon which the Captain had been working on, overflowing with scrolls of parchment and maps. 

On the wall to the left were two impressive bookcases filled to the brim with thick tomes, in front of which sat a beautiful french loveseat and an armchair. Andy felt compelled to go inspect the collection, but she forced herself to stay in place and study the rest of her surroundings. Behind a divider towards the back of the room, she caught a glimpse of a neatly made four-poster bed with silk sheets that looked incredibly soft, and a copper bath tub tucked in the corner beside a white vanity.

All in all, the Captain’s chambers was unlike anything Andy had expected. Everything about Priestly was unlike anything Andy had expected.

The centrepiece of the room was a large oak table that held a full course meal. Andy was arrested by the sight of a large turkey with roast potatoes, bowls of steamed vegetables, and fruit. Her mouth watered.

Seeing the expression on Andy’s face, the Captain gestured to the dining table.

"Take a seat," she said.

Andy did as she was told, choosing not to argue for the sake of her empty stomach. Priestly sat down across from her, nodding for her to begin eating.

She tried to keep to her impeccable table manners, but Andy soon found herself devouring the food like a woman starved. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten. She’d skipped both breakfast and lunch because of the whole ‘Commodore Norrington and the cursed corset’ debacle, so it was nearing twenty four hours without a single bite to eat. 

She was so hungry, in fact, that she was too busy savouring the delicious food to notice how intensely she was being watched by the woman across from her. She managed to finish off two plates’ worth of food before she looked up and locked eyes with the Captain - who had not eaten anything at all.

“Why not have an apple for dessert," Priestly offered, holding out the red fruit with a vivid gleam in her eye.

Andy’s stomach sank like lead. Something about that look didn't sit well with her. What if they'd done something to the food? What if she had just fallen straight into another trap?

Andy jerked away from the hand reaching towards her across the table.

"What have you done?" she demanded, trying to keep her voice from trembling. "Did you poison me?"

Priestly scoffed and dropped the apple on the table with a huff.

"If I wanted you dead, you already would be," she stated simply. Something about the way she said it made Andy feel like she was telling the truth. Then again, pirates were notorious liars.

"So you don't want to kill me?" Andy asked tentatively, her foolish heart daring to hope that her fate was not quite as bleak as she'd thought.

"Don't be ridiculous," the Captain said, looking genuinely offended.

"But--" Andy stammered in her confusion. "I've heard stories! I know of the atrocities you've done, how the Black Pearl leaves trails of bodies--"

"And in any of those countless stories," Priestly interrupted, her quiet voice as sharp as the blade strapped around her hips. The temperature in the room seemed to drop with the coldness in her eyes. "Have I ever killed a woman?"

"Um," Andy hesitated, caught completely off-guard by the question. She thought back. In all that she had read about Captain Priestly and the Black Pearl, the horror stories revolved about murdered men, razed cities and naval battles at the ruthless hands of the fearsome pirates. She could not remember a single one that mentioned women being harmed. Then again, it was hardly unusual for women to be excluded from such tales. "Well, uh, no but--"

"You want to know why I have kept you here," the older woman stated, clearly running out of patience.

Andy cleared her throat and did her best to pull herself together. She did want answers, after all.

"Yes," she admitted.

"Hmm," Priestly hummed, leaning her elbow on the table and running her forefinger over her lips as she gazed at Andy with calculating eyes. "Do you know what this is, Miss Sachs?" she pulled Andy's medallion from beneath her blouse where it had been hiding against her bosom. For some reason, Andy felt her cheeks warm.

"It's my necklace," she replied, although she was coming to realise that it was far, far more than that. “The one my parents left me when I was born.”

"This is Aztec gold. One of eight hundred and eighty-two identical pieces," Priestly said, touching the golden medallion with delicate fingertips. "Do you happen to know the story of Cortez and the cursed gold?"

Andy shook her head, afraid to break the stillness that seemed to settle over the other woman. 

"Back when General Cortez was cutting a bloody swath through the New World," the Captain began. "A High Priest gave him all the gold they had - on the condition Cortez spared the townspeople's lives. Of course, Cortez did no such thing. He was a greedy, bloodthirsty man after all. So the Priest, with his dying breath, called on the power of their heathen gods to put a curse on the gold. If any mortal, compelled by greed, took so much as a single piece, then by greed he would be consumed. He would be punished for eternity and forced to pay with blood."

Andy listened attentively, although she wasn’t sure what any of this had to do with her. She'd never believed in curses and spells, truth be told.

"The very next day," Priestly continued. "As Cortez sailed off with the cursed gold, something went wrong. The ship was wrecked, and every man aboard perished except one. Cortez survived long enough to hide the gold on a nearby island, impossible to find except to those who know where it is. He died in that forsaken place, and over time the dark magic of the gold seeped into the land. It became an island of death. Isla de Muerta."

Andy let out a shuddering breath. She had never heard the whole tale before, but she had definitely heard of Isla de Muerta. She’d read the terrible things that happened to those who found it, all the lives that had been lost without a trace.

"Uh," she said, clearing her throat. "How do you know the curse really exists?"

"Because, Miss Sachs," Priestly smiled unpleasantly, and Andy got an uneasy feeling in her gut. "You are looking at the proof."

Andy frowned, confused. Surely what the older woman was suggesting was not true. The Captain pursed her lips and reluctantly began to elaborate.

"Twenty-six years ago, my crew and I found Cortez's gold. We didn't believe the curse was real, just an old tale to frighten children.” She paused and considered Andy for a moment. “The only superstitious one was your father."

The words took a moment to register in Andy's mind, but when they did, it was like a blow to her stomach. It felt like all the air had been knocked out of her and she couldn't get it back. She sat, frozen, staring at the woman with wide eyes.

"My-- My father?" She managed to croak, ignoring the tremble in her voice.

"Oh yes," Priestly said. "I remember Henry Sachs. He was a great pirate. A good man. He wasn't keen on us taking the gold, but,” she twirled the pendant between her fingers. “Who could resist the allure of such treasure?”

"My father," Andy repeated, still trying to understand the words she heard.

"Was a pirate, yes," Priestly repeated impatiently, as if she hadn’t just thrown Andy’s world off its axis. Then she continued, unfazed:

"The gold made us richer than we had ever been. We spent it and traded it for drink and food, on luxury and pleasant company. But the more we spent, the more we came to realise," the Captain swallowed thickly. Her pale face seemed set in stone, but her eyes shone with something dark and painful. Andy wanted to look away, but couldn't. 

"The drink could not sate us. The food turned to ash in our mouths. No amount of pleasant company could ease our torment. Emotions faded and became forgotten memories of when we were alive." Priestly's jaw clenched as she let out a sharp breath. "We are cursed for eternity to live without truly living."

Andy could not move, could not even think of anything to say. She was reeling from learning her father was a pirate and now she was trying to understand this terrible curse. It all seemed like one terribly elaborate dream. 

"Is there any way to break the curse?" Andy automatically asked the first question she could formulate despite her overwhelmed state. 

"Actually, there is," Priestly said, turning the medallion around and around with her fingers. "There is only one way. All the scattered pieces of the gold must be returned, and the blood repaid by the ones who stole it. We have restored all the coins over the past two decades, save for one.” She held up the medallion, stroking her thumb over it. “The last piece. As for the blood…" Sharp blue eyes looked at her then with ill intent. "Well, that's where you come in."

Terror seeped into Andy's veins. Her heart froze in her chest for a stuttering second before starting to thunder against her ribcage. She understood now. Her father - a pirate - had stolen that gold coin, and now they needed his blood. Except her father was gone. It was Andy that would be forced to pay with blood. Her blood. 

All the gruesome ways they might kill her came to mind and filled her with panicked dread.

She had to get away. It didn't matter how. She was not going to die like this, forced to pay for the greed of a bunch of pirates. She'd rather be eaten by sharks.

Jumping up from her seat, she grabbed a knife from the table and ran towards the door. Somewhere behind her, she heard a chair scrape and tip over as swift footsteps followed her. Just when she was about to break free, a hand reached above her shoulder and slammed against the door before she could open it. She was trapped.

"None of that now," Priestly cooed, her breath shifting the hair right beside Andy's ear. 

This was her chance. She had to escape. She had to survive.

Andy turned as quickly as she could and used used the momentum to bring her arm towards the captain with as much force as she could muster. There was no time for hesitation. She stabbed the pirate through the heart.

Andy expected Priestly to stumble back, to react to the pain in any way or, better yet, drop dead so Andy could make her escape. But the Captain did no such thing. She did not stumble, nor did she flinch. There was not even a hint of discomfort on her cold expression. Instead the silver-haired woman chuckled darkly, as if amused by Andy's attempts to fight back and escape. 

"Feisty, aren’t we?" Priestly tusked. Moving her hand off the door, she grabbed the knife and pulled it out of her chest like it was nothing. Even to Andy’s untrained eye, the blood on it was scarce and seemed too dark. Not a single drop stained the white blouse. The Captain raised a sardonic eyebrow. 

"What part of 'cursed for eternity' did you not understand, exactly?"

Andy felt sick. 

Heart in her throat, she flung open the door and ran out onto the main deck. The sight that greeted her there was so horrific that Andy thought she would lose all she had eaten. It was unlike anything she could have ever imagined. This was far, far worse than even the worst of nightmares.

Under the moonlit sky, skeleton corpses moved as if they were alive. The shadows cast by the sails bathed them in fragments of darkness and made them appear dismembered. Their bones looked old and rotten, their eyes were hollow and black. Torn scraps of faded clothes hanging limply from their decomposing bodies did nothing to cover the garish sight of their remains.

Andy must have made a noise, although she wasn’t aware of it. Her mind and body felt torn apart as she scrambled to understand the horror she was seeing. She was too terrified to move even when the skeletons began prowling towards her.

“So you see, Miss Sachs?" Priestly's voice said from behind her. Andy spun around and saw the Captain hidden in the shadows of the doorway, blue eyes glinting in the darkness. "The moonlight shows us for what we really are. We are not among the living, but neither are we dead."

Two pairs of bony hands grabbed her by the arms, and Andy screamed. She struggled fiercely, only to realise a moment later that she didn't stand a chance against an entire crew of undying pirates. Too horrified to look elsewhere, she kept her eyes on the ground as she was pushed past Priestly to the stairs. She felt that intimidating gaze following her, boring into her back. Despite the warm night, Andy shivered violently. 

Once they were downstairs, Andy felt the hands holding her become softer, somehow; more human. With a great deal of fear and a racing heartbeat, Andy chanced a look at the person on her right. 

She stared at the tall, beautiful woman that she’d first seen when she boarded the ship. Her blonde hair and olive skin looked as if nothing had happened; as if she hadn't been an undead corpse seconds earlier.

The person to her left was Emily. She was huffing and mumbling something under her breath in angry tones. and though she couldn’t make it all out,  Andy had no doubt it had something to do with her. When they got to the "guest room", Emily shoved Andy inside and gave her a thunderous look.

“Don't you ever try something like that again," she snarled. "We have far better things to do than to be your personal guards, you insufferable, spoiled cow!"

The other woman watched with a sad expression as Emily stalked away before she turned back to Andy.

"Don't mind her," she said in slightly accented tones, her voice soft and honest. "She's just… We've all lost a lot, been through a lot. We just want this whole thing to be over."

Andy just stared. Now that she was back in the relative safety of this room, away from all of the monstrosities, her mind scrambled to catch up with everything she'd seen.

“Just,” the woman sighed and inadvertently broke into Andy’s thoughts. “Don't try to escape again, okay? It really isn't going to work and you might get yourself hurt. Just stay put until we reach Isla de Muerta. Everything will be alright."

The pirate offered Andy a kind smile - the only form of kindness she’d received so far - but she was too shaken to acknowledge the gesture. The woman left without another word, and Andy was left alone at last.

Breathing became more and more difficult as her frenzied thoughts finally caught up to her. It felt as if a bucket of ice had been dropped over her head, spurring her into mindless action. She tugged and pulled the laces for what seemed like hours until she finally got the dress untied and let it drop to the floor. After slowly crawling onto the bed, she pulled the covers over her body and curled in on herself. 

Everything felt surreal. This didn't feel like her life anymore. Her mind heaved under the jumbled thoughts that ran around in furious circles with no end. The curse, the undead corpses, her father, her looming death. It was all muddled and intertwined like a tangled spider web she couldn't escape from. Despite feeling drained, despite her body's need for rest, Andy could not calm herself. She shut her eyes tightly in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. 

She would not allow herself to cry no matter what had happened. She would not cry after all the terrible things she had learned about her past and her future. She refused to let herself be that weak.

The tears fell anyway.

Chapter Text

Andy stayed in her room long after the sun rose. She had spent the night tossing and turning, the mere thought of leaving the bed was exhausting. Not that she would be able to go anywhere anyway. She was a prisoner, after all. Part of her didn’t even want to leave. She was still too shaken by everything that had happened the night before.

Her biological father had been a pirate, and he left her with a cursed medallion that had brought the most feared pirates of the New World right to her doorstep. She'd been living with a target on her back all her life and she'd never even known it. And now, her life would be cut short because of it. She was so angry at her father. She had been betrayed by a man that was supposed to take care of her, because as far as she was concerned, this was all his fault. 

Mostly, though, she was angry at herself for being foolish enough to invoke parley in the first place. She walked right into the lion’s den and she did so voluntarily.

The faint morning light shone brighter as the day wore on, and still Andy did not move. She’d decided that, seeing as she didn't have long to live, she might as well start preparing herself for her death. 

Some time in the early afternoon, once the sun had passed above the view of her tiny windows, there was a knock on the door. Andy absently wondered why on earth her captors bothered with such a common decency.

"Come in," she said, her voice strained and hoarse. 

The door opened, and the tall blonde pirate came in carrying a tray full of food.

"Hey," the woman greeted with a small smile. “Capt'n told me to bring you some food since you didn't come up all morning." She lifted the tray in offering. 

Andy scoffed. She was told to stay put and now she was being chastised for not joining them for breakfast?

"I'm not hungry," Andy deadpanned, rolling over to face away from the woman.

"It's really good," the pirate insisted. "Vegetables and rice, with some grapes and an apple for dessert."

Despite Andy's adamant claims, her stomach growled loudly enough that she knew the other woman heard it. With no little amount of embarrassment, she peeked over her shoulder to look at the food being offered. It really did look quite appetising.

"Fine," Andy relented, choosing to swallow her pride. It wouldn't do her any good anyways.

She flung the covers aside and rose from the bed as the pirate set the tray down on the small table. Unable to forget her manners, she sent the woman a tentative glance. 

"Thank you," she mumbled, sitting down and quickly tucking into her food. 

"No problem," the woman said. She picked up the dress Andy had worn the previous night from the floor and straightened it out before she gently laid it on the bed. "My name's Serena, by the way."

Andy looked at the woman in surprise.  

"Andy," she answered eventually.

Instead of leaving as Andy had expected her to, Serena sat at the edge of the bed and looked at her intently. 

"You don't have to stay cooped up in here and starve yourself, you know," she said. "You can come up for fresh air whenever you want. We don't bite."

Andy stared at her incredulously. 

"You think I want to spend time around the pirates who plan on killing me just to break a curse they brought upon themselves?"

Serena reeled back.

“Kill you?" Serena asked with a deep frown. "Did Miranda not explain it to you?"

"Miranda?" Andy's indignation ebbed marginally at the woman's obvious confusion. 

"The captain," the pirate quickly corrected herself. "Did she not tell you?"

“Tell me what?" Andy asked. “She told me that you need my blood to break the curse.” She tried very hard to not focus on the fact that Captain Priestly's name was Miranda. Andy had to admit that it suited the regal, cold woman.

"We only need a few drops of it!" Serena clarified, looking aghast. "You thought we were gonna kill you?"

"Um," Andy stuttered. 

Had she blown last night's conversation way out of proportion?

"Miran- the captain would never do that," Serena stated with absolute certainty. "She's an honourable woman."

"Oh," was all Andy could say. She was so overwhelmed with relief that she couldn't even bring herself to scoff at the idea that the most ruthless pirate to roam the Seven Seas was anything close to honourable.

"So you see? It was just a misunderstanding," Serena said, leaning forward with a bright smile. "No need for all of this," she gestured her hand towards Andy.

Considering Andy must look like death warmed over after a night of pure anguish, Serena probably had a point. Andy's mind, however, was too busy processing the magnitude of the conversation to feel self-conscious about her appearance.

She was not going to die. She was not going to be killed by these pirates. 

She was going to live. 

The sheer relief made her feel faint.

In her state, Andy didn't process the next words before they tumbled from her mouth. 

"I'll just have to make sure not to cross paths with you at night."

The garish image of walking cadavers flashed through her mind before she realised that one of those same cadavers was sitting next to her. Thankfully, instead of being angry or offended, Serena just chuckled. 

"I don't blame you. You get used to it eventually," she said with an indulgent shrug. After a moment, however, a sadness filled her eyes and the smile fell away. "I remember how horrible it was at first. To see my family turned into these monsters, to look at my own hands and find decaying bone instead of skin."

Andy swallowed thickly, trying to imagine what that must be like. She felt sick just thinking about it.

"Your family?" 

Andy wanted to steer the conversation away from such a heavy, obviously painful subject Then she caught herself and wondered why she was making small talk with a pirate like she was having tea with one of her noble friends back in Port Royal.

Serena nodded and latched onto the topic change. "I never met my biological parents, and even if I had, I would probably be - at best - working in a brothel or - at worst - have been sold into slavery if Miranda hadn't found me.This crew is the closest thing I have to a real family."

Andy leaned back in surprise.

"How old were you when she found you?" she asked. 

"Oh, I was not yet sixteen. She found me begging at a port off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. I don't know what she saw in me, but she offered me a place in her crew, a roof over my head, and a safe place to live my life with my freedoms intact.”

Andy sat back, speechless. The thought that the terrible Captain Priestly - Miranda - had sympathy for young orphan girls was too much. She could hardly believe it.

"So, now that you know that you aren't going to be some sort of blood sacrifice," Serena said with a humorous smirk. "Do you want to come upstairs with me? I promise the fresh air will do you a world of good."

Andy considered the proposal for a moment. She was still on edge from all that she'd learned, but this new information had birthed more burning questions in her mind. The answers would not be found in a book this time - this was something she would have to study first-hand.

For a moment, she contemplated what ten-year-old Andy would have thought had she been taken aboard the most famous pirate ship in the New World. She would have probably squealed with excitement and jumped up and down at the opportunity to finally learn about piracy from actual, real pirates. The notion moved Andy, and she let out a deep breath.

"Alright," she finally agreed. Serena beamed.

"Great!" she exclaimed. "Let me get you something to wear."

Andy watched as Serena confidently crossed the room to the small chest of drawers and began looking through them.

"Here," she said, throwing a pair of black trousers over her shoulder. An emerald green blouse with flaring sleeves followed, and then a thick leather belt. Andy just barely managed to catch them before they landed in a heap on the floor. Turning back around with a triumphant grin, Serena placed her hands on her hips.

"It's pretty hot today so I don't think you'll need anything else," she added. Then her eyes widened. "Unless you'd prefer a dress? I'm sure I can find one, just let me--"

"No!" Andy interrupted quickly, and Serena froze in her rummaging through the other drawers. "No, this is fine. I, um, I've never worn trousers before. I'm kind of curious."

At Andy's confession, Serena blinked in surprise.

"You've never worn trousers?" she asked, as if the mere idea of a woman not wearing them was beyond reason. Andy thought of how all the people she knew back home would react similarly to the idea of a woman wearing trousers. She nearly burst out laughing as she imagined what her father's face would look like if he saw her dressed in these clothes. 

"Well, it's not really done where I'm from," Andy explained. "It's unlady-like to wear anything other than a dress, and a corset, of course."

Serena gasped in horror. Andy smiled at the reaction, and a weight lifted from her shoulders. It felt like she hadn’t smiled in weeks.

"I suppose here at sea, there aren't many rules like that," Andy continued. She wondered what that would be like- to live free of the rules that so belittled and undermined women like herself.

“It's much easier," Serena said with a shrug. "You don't have to keep up appearances or do anything you don't want to do."

Most of Andy's life had been about keeping up appearances and being forced into things she wasn't the least bit interested in. Being afforded such freedom actually sounded really nice.

"Anyways, get dressed," Serena said, changing the subject. "I'll go get you a hairbrush and a pitcher of water to wash your face. You can probably have a bath this evening, if you like. What shoes do you have?"

Andy pointed at the shoes she'd been wearing when she was captured: simple white shoes with no heel or laces. Serena nodded.

"Those will do until we find you better ones. You look like you might be my size. I'll be right back."

Serena walked away, leaving a silence in her wake that gave Andy a much-needed moment to gather her thoughts.

She wasn't going to die. She was on the most infamous pirate ship in the world, where her own biological father had sailed, and she wasn't going to die. As strange as it was, Andy couldn't help but feel that maybe this was meant to happen to her. Despite the horrors she'd witnessed the night before, and how most of the pirates had treated her, maybe this would be a good opportunity. This could be a chance to learn about all the things she'd ever wanted to know. More importantly, this could be a chance to learn about her father and perhaps even her mother.

Maybe Andy would finally discover the answers she'd been searching for all her life.

 

.oOo.

 

Serena had been right. The fresh air did help Andy feel more like herself again. The smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing against the ship. The sunlight’s reflection on the sea made the horizon seem infinite, and as she looked out over it, Andy felt less like a prisoner now. In fact, she had never felt so alive.

“Better?” Serena asked, standing beside her. 

Andy turned to look at her. The breeze ran gently through her blonde locks, and she looked over the ocean with a peaceful expression.

“A lot, actually,” Andy said. She bumped their shoulders together in an effort to be friendly with the one nice person she'd met. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Serena asked genuinely.

“For being kind to me,” Andy answered honestly. “No one else has been particularly polite towards me, let alone kind.”

Serena looked at her with understanding.

“I know they can be a bit rough around the edges. Especially Emily. But they’re not really like that, I promise. It’s just--” Serena paused, taking a deep breath and turning to look out over the open ocean once more. “We’ve spent more than two decades sailing all over the world trying to break this damned curse. We’ve sacrificed a lot, and we’ve had to do things that we’re really not proud of. This way of living… it takes a toll on you. We have the desires of the living but we have no way to satisfy them. It’s like we’re dying of hunger and thirst, but we don’t die. We don’t feel anything, not even for the things we used to love the most. Living without emotions, without beauty or joy,” she sighed. “It destroys even the purest of souls.”

Andy’s heart clenched in sympathy. It sounded like a waking nightmare to live in such a way. Serena, Emily, Captain Priestly, everyone on this ship had been suffering this curse for almost as long as Andy had been alive. Part of her wanted to reason that these pirates had brought it upon themselves when they chose to steal the cursed gold, but a much bigger part of her knew that the penance was far worse than the sin. It was a punishment that nobody deserved.

“So,” Serena continued. “When the day comes that you’re so close to finally being free again - to being alive again, it’s torture to wait even an hour longer. We’re closer to getting our lives back than we’ve ever been. And you,” Serena turned to Andy. “Andy, you’re the key we need to finally be rid of this torment. But you must understand how hard it is to depend on someone we don’t know and,” she winced. “Don’t trust. That distrust makes people fearful and angry. They lash out and intimidate needlessly. I know it’s no excuse, but I’m just trying to make you understand that the people on this ship are not evil. Certainly not in the way landfolk make us out to be.”

Andy did not know how to respond. She stood quietly, mulling over Serena’s words and trying to put herself in the shoes of the crew. Andy always been told that the empathy in her heart knew no bounds. She’d always felt deeply for the people around her and for the characters in her books. She had even been known to shed a tear for the pirates who were hanged for their crimes. Indeed, if there was one thing Andy truly believed in and relied on, it was kindness.

Being taken prisoner by pirates had tested that kindness, but Andy knew that desperate people took desperate measures. Pirates or not, walking cadavers or not, they didn't deserve to spend eternity under this curse. Death by hanging seemed merciful by comparison.

“So, you’ve decided to join us at last, Miss Sachs,” a smooth voice broke through her thoughts like a perfectly wielded blade.

Serena and Andy turned to find Captain Priestly standing regally before them. Andy was once again struck by the elegance with which Priestly carried herself. Dressed immaculately in a white blouse, dark grey velvet waistcoat and matching overcoat with silver buttons that flawlessly complimented her hair, she looked larger than life.

“I invited her to come on deck and she agreed,” Serena said, jerking Andy out of her reverie.

“Yes,” Andy said lamely, realising that she’d been addressed and that it would be impolite not to respond. “It’s much nicer up here."

Priestly tilted her head contemplatively, looking Andy from head to toe. Andy tried not to squirm.

“Leave us,” the Captain said at last. 

Serena sent Andy a reassuring smile before walking away. When they were alone, Priestly stepped closer, and Andy suddenly felt small and silly. 

“I’m sorry about last night,” Andy blurted the words before thinking better of it. She blinked in surprise as soon as they left her mouth. Shouldn't she be the one receiving an apology? The Captain raised an eyebrow at her, and Andy let out a sharp breath. Well, it's not like she could take it back now. “I, uh, misunderstood you when you spoke of needing my blood. I thought, well--”

“You thought I was going to kill you,” Priestly finished dryly finished. She looked perfectly unbothered by the fact that someone had just accused her of murderous intentions. Then again, she was a pirate.

“Yes," Andy admitted. Could anyone really blame her given the circumstances, though? "I realise now that when you said you needed my blood you did not mean my life. I suppose that in the moment there was so much I was trying to process that I panicked and--” she could feel herself beginning to ramble and bit her lip to stop her tirade. “I apologise for attacking you. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

For a long moment, Priestly just looked at her with an indefinable glint in her eye. By the infinitesimal quirk of the woman’s lips, Andy was willing to bet the captain was amused at her expense. 

Great. 

“No, Miss Sachs, you did not hurt me. Although I have heard you are quite adept at attacking unsuspecting pirates, if Jack’s face is anything to go by,” Priestly answered at last, her lips twitching once more before she pursed them into a thin line. “Regardless, I cannot feel anything, remember?”

“Oh,” Andy said, feebly. “Right.”

A silence fell over them as the Captain leaned her forearms on the railing of the ship and gazed out over the water. Andy watched her carefully, gathering her courage to take a leap of faith.

“I want to help you," Andy said, and immediately found herself on the receiving end of an intense, glinting gaze. Andy knew that she should probably think this through better, but something told her this was the right thing to do, and her instincts were hardly ever wrong. 

“Now that I know you don’t plan on killing me," she continued. "I’d like to help you break the curse.”

“Do you, now?” Priestly asked. Purred, really.

“Yes,” Andy said firmly, trying her best to sound confident. “Although I don’t appreciate the forceful kidnapping,” Andy dared, sending a meaningful look to her companion. Priestly’s eyebrow rose elegantly in response. “I am willing to go with you to Isla de Muerta and give you my blood. As a free person.”

The captain stared at her with her lips pursed in thought. After several moments in which Andy tried to slow the rapid beating of her heart, Priestly tipped her head.

“That is greatly appreciated, Miss Sachs," she stated, but her face remained unreadable. "Of course, we will take you back to Port Royal safe and sound afterwards.”

“Call me Andy, please,” Andy said. “I’ve never really been a Sachs.”

She wasn’t sure why she was offering her assistance to the most feared pirate in the entire ocean, but she figured that it was much better than to be locked away in that small room fearing for her life. Besides, the offer to take her home was unexpected but nice, all things considered.

“I will call you no such thing,” Priestly rebuffed. Andy immediately redacted her thoughts as she tried not to take offense. “Andréa will do, I suppose.”

Oh.

The way Andy’s name rolled off the captain’s lips was unlike anything she’d heard before. All her life, Andy had disliked her given name, had thought it too plain and boring. But now that it had been said by this woman in such a manner, it sounded beautiful and refined; like liquid gold.

“S-Sure,” Andy stuttered.

Priestly looked at her again. Andy suppressed the urge to fidget, and instead dared to maintain eye contact, straightening her posture. The fact that she was two inches taller than the notorious Captain Priestly added little to her confidence. The pirate tilted her head to one side and hummed at the back of her throat. Andy didn't know what to make of it, but before she could start to question herself, the captain spoke once more.

“That’s all.”

With that, Captain Priestly turned on her heel and strode away. Andy was left staring at her retreating form, wondering what on earth just happened.

"So," Serena said, coming up beside her less than five seconds later. "Did that go well?"

"Uh," Andy said, not really sure how to answer that question.

"It was interesting to watch, I'll tell you that," Serena said with a grin. “Come, let me introduce you to everyone. You ever been on a ship?"

Andy turned to follow the tall blonde as she started walking to the other side of the main deck.

"My father used to take me on some of his shorter voyages when I was younger," Andy answered with a small smile. The memories of that time in her life were bittersweet. Back then, she was just a child; carefree with no expectations forced upon her. As soon as she'd turned twelve, however, her father had placed her in the care of governesses and tutors to teach her how to be a lady. She and her father had started spending less and less time together after that. Part of her wished they could go back to that simpler time.

"Well then, you’ll have some idea of what goes on aboard a ship, then.” Serena said, snapping Andy out of her melancholy. "But I'll bet next year’s share of the loot that you've never been on a pirate ship."

Andy couldn't help a grin. “You are correct. I've read a lot about pirates though. My father kept a lot of books and scrolls on the subject, and I've read every single one of them."

Serena stopped and stared at her in surprise.

"So that's how you knew about parley?" she guessed, looking impressed.

Andy shrugged. "I know a lot more than people often assume."

"Being underestimated has its benefits," Serena nodded sagely. "Take Cara, for example." She nodded towards the forecastle at the front of the ship, where a woman Andy hadn't seen before sat writing on a piece of parchment paper. She was a short, stocky woman with unruly dark hair. She wore a dress beneath an apron covered in flour and stains. "She's the cook. A lot of folk might underestimate her, because she's small. I mean, how dangerous can a cook really be?” Serena grinned. “Well, trust me, she's a lot fiercer than she looks. She can be just as deadly as the rest of us.”

Andy tried to imagine the woman in combat, and had to admit that it was a rather difficult image to conjure up.

"And then there's Roy," Serena continued, gesturing at the older man with grey hair that Andy had first seen when she'd boarded the Black Pearl. He had a wise face that showed signs of his age, but he looked like a gentle soul. He reminded Andy a little of her father. "He's quiet, but he's lived his whole life at sea. I'm pretty sure he's been on Miranda's crew since she became a captain,” Serena shewed her lip in thought. “That must be some thirty years ago now. Anyway, he's the cooper; in charge of the barrels and the shipment. Plus he plays the guitar like nobody's business."

At that moment, Roy seemed to sense someone was looking at him, because he turned towards Serena and Andy. He sent them an honest, crooked smile and tipped his hat. Andy couldn't help but smile in return.

"That one over there is Redbeard," Serena said, and Andy immediately understood why he was addressed as such. The young man with the vibrantly ginger beard was the same man who'd interrupted the captain during her negotiation with Andy. He sat at the far end of the deck surrounded by tools, cutting up a stack of wood into precise pieces. 

"He's the architect. He's got a hand for fixing any part of the ship that has been damaged or broken. Fair warning though - he’s a bit of a troublemaker. Miranda had to intervene after a prank of his almost went wrong. I think she would have dropped him at the next port if he wasn't so goddamn good at his job and loyal to boot."

Andy cringed in sympathy. She didn't really want to imagine what exactly it was like when the cold, stern Captain intervened in a situation like that.

"Oh, and there's Jack," Serena gestured at a strong-looking man, around six feet tall. Andy recognised him as one of the men that had captured her. His nose was still crooked at that unnatural angle. "I understand you met him in less than stellar circumstances, especially since you pretty much broke his nose. But he's a surprisingly kind man. He writes poetry and songs for us to sing when it takes our fancy. He's the boatswain - takes care of the ship like it's his baby.

“And that's Fishtail, his cousin." The man next to Jack was a hair shorter, but looked just as strong. Andy recognised him as the other man who had captured her. "His real name is Oscar, but everyone calls him Fishtail because he's the only one of us who has seen a real siren. Has the scars to show it, too, when the creature tried to drag him underwater. Few men live to tell the tale. He's one of the most experienced gunners out there. No one can man a cannon like him. He's got the best singing voice out of all of us, too.”

To say Andy was baffled to learn that the men who had seemed so deadly to her were actually poets and musicians was an understatement.

"And you see those fellas up on the masts and on the foredeck?" Serena asked, pointing up at the sails above them and then to the front of the ship. “That’s Bill, Suarez, Jocelyn, and One-Eyed Jones, but everyone just calls him Joey. They're the henchmen, as it were, but they're also great with the sails. Bill is a surprisingly good violinist, Suarez handles gunpowder like he was born in it, and Joey has an amazing hand with a shotgun. Jocelyn is as nimble as an octopus, and she's great with a crossbow too. And ol’ Eagle Eye up there on the crow's nest has the best eyesight of anyone I've ever met. He can spot a ship or land from miles away.

"Then there's Nigel," Serena said, turning to look at the bald man Andy had met when she'd arrived. He was at the quarterdeck manning the helm, looking towards the horizon. "He's the quartermaster, the one with the most authority - after Miranda, of course. He's her right hand man, and one of the few people who really know her, I think. His organisational skills are out of this world, but he's even better at designing and making clothes. A lot of what we're wearing has been tailored by him. That dress you wore last night, too, in fact."

Andy blinked in surprise. The dress had been so perfectly made that she would have never thought it was created by a pirate and not a professional designer. 

"And you've met Emily, of course," Serena continued with a small, affectionate smile. "She's an amazing navigator. We've never gotten lost thanks to her. She's been studying the stars and the planets since she was very young, and has made some of the best sailing charts anyone has ever seen. The only person who knows the subject better than Emily is Miranda herself.

"And I suppose that leaves me,” she grinned. “I’m the doctor. I'm a pretty good surgeon, too, if I do say so myself. I've been studying medicine ever since Miranda found me, and it's my main job here, but I'm also the best sword fighter out of all of these crooks. The only one who's ever beaten me is Miranda, not that it comes as much of a surprise. I swear that woman is an expert at pretty much everything." Serena rolled her eyes good-naturedly and turned to Andy with a cheeky grin. "I could teach you the basics, if you like. I've always been a firm believer that all women should know how to defend themselves."

Andy nodded absently, but Serena didn’t seem bothered. Even though Andy wanted to take up the proposal immediately, her mind was spinning with the lives and personalities of the feared pirates of the Black Pearl. She never would have guessed that pirates were interested in poetry and fashion and music. The only way they'd ever been described was as violent, ruthless, and evil men.

It seemed like she had a lot to learn. She was, however, more intrigued now than she'd ever felt before.

 

.oOo.

 

Early that same evening, after washing herself with a pitcher of water in her room, Andy was invited to join the crew for dinner. Despite her initial hesitation, she followed Serena to the forecastle. Everyone was already sitting around a large table in the center of the room, where Cara was placing overflowing dishes of food. When the pirates caught sight of Andy, a hush fell over the room as they all turned to stare at her.

Andy shifted awkwardly until Serena stepped up next to her.

"Andy here is joining us for dinner," she said confidently to her crew mates. "I've explained the little misunderstanding and she's more than willing to help us out now she understands better. So try to find your manners, will ya? I know it’s difficult, being filthy pirates and all, but just try.”

The banter fell flat and there was a moment of silence as the crew studied Andy. She had no idea the thoughts that crossed their minds as their faces remained impassive. She was just considering a hasty retreat to her rooms when Roy, who was sitting closest to her, pushed a chair out from under the table and nodded his head. Andy smiled gratefully at him and took a seat.

The moment she sat down, everyone went back to their conversations as if nothing was amiss. Serena took a seat in the empty space between Andy and Emily, for which Andy was grateful. Emily still seemed to have a particular apathy towards her.

"Will the Captain be joining us?" Andy asked in an attempt to make conversation.

Nigel snorted and shook his head.

"The Captain prefers to eat her meals in private," he explained. Andy felt a pang of something undefinable, and put it down to hunger.

"She loves her privacy, that one," Redbeard said with a smirk and an eyeroll.

"No disrespecting the captain," Cara snapped as she walked by him with a tray of food, her accent thick and melodious. "You know she's the best in our game and you would be far worse working under anyone else. She's earned the right to eat wherever the hell she wants." She glanced around the table, raising her eyebrows. "Now what are you all waiting for? Eat!"

At her command, everyone started digging in. Andy helped herself to some of the roasted chicken, beans and potatoes after Serena nudged her encouragingly.

"Mm," she hummed at the first bite. "This is delicious, Cara," she dared to say. Some of her dinner companions stopped eating and sent her envious looks. Emily's was the dirtiest by far.

"At least you get to taste it," she sneered.

Andy blinked in surprise.

"Do you not taste anything?" She asked.

Emily opened her mouth to reply with another biting comment, but Serena placed a gentle, forestalling hand on her arm.

"No," Serena answered with a sad smile. "It tastes more like sand than anything else. We still need the nutrients like any living person, but..." she shrugged, and lifted the forkful of food to her mouth. 

"Wow," Andy muttered. "That's terrible, I'm sorry."

"Yes, well," Emily sniffed, seeming appeased under Serena's touch. "You get used to it eventually."

"It's worse not being able to enjoy a drink," One-Eyed Jones chuckled. The eye not covered by his eye patch crinkled at the corner with his smile. Several of the other pirates raised their glasses in agreement.

"Or some pleasant company!" Redbeard leered suggestively, laughing as he nudged Bill.

"Belay that crude talk in front of our guest," Nigel ordered, giving him a stern look.

"You've never met a pirate, have you?" Fishtail suddenly asked Andy. Everyone around the table turned their attention back to her. “The way you were acting when Jack an’ meself came ta get you, I thought for sure you had, but now I’m willing to bet my right arm that you've never come face to face with a pirate before."

"But how’d she know about parley," Jack wondered, looking back at Andy thoughtfully. "You even mentioned the Brethren laws and its founding fathers,” he frowned and touched his nose. “After you took a cane to my face, of course.”

"Um," Andy winced and shifted under the weight of the attention she was receiving from every pirate in the room. She wasn’t going to apologise for defending herself. She was actually quite proud of herself for thinking on her feet and fighting back. "No. I mean- I've never met a pirate, that's true, but I've read a lot on the subject since I was very young. Even though my father tried to forbid me," she finished with a mumble.

"Really?" Nigel asked curiously.

"Yes," Andy stated, raising her chin rather proudly. "I know all the pirate laws from memory, I've studied the trade and some of the most prominent pirates to date. I even read about Captain Priestly, though there wasn't much to read other than, uh," the crimes and atrocities she's committed. "Her acts of piracy over the past three decades."

Everyone stared at Andy with barely concealed surprise, and even Emily looked somewhat impressed.

"Must be the Sachs blood in her," Jocelyn quipped.

"Aye," Bill said sagely. "Once a pirate, always a pirate."

Andy had to admit there was some logic in that argument. Maybe the reason she'd always had a fascination with pirates was because it was in her lineage. Andy stayed quiet for a moment, mulling over whether she really wanted answers to the questions that kept running through her mind in endless circles. Part of her was fearful to finally learn the truth, but she desperately wanted to know. 

After some consideration, she came to a decision.

"What was my father like?" Her voice came out quieter than she'd intended, but it seemed to catch everyone's attention.

"Well," Nigel started after a pause. "Henry was a good man, a great sailor. He kept to himself and didn't make much fuss. But he sure loved the sea. He'd get jittery if we spent too long ashore."

"Why did he leave?" Andy asked. 

She'd always assumed that her parents had died, but now that she knew her father was essentially immortal, she was filled with a burning desire to know the truth about her parents. Nigel shifted in his seat and glanced at his crew.

"No one really knows," he admitted. Andy deflated. "All we know is he lost himself after the curse. He started acting strange, and considering he was a very respectful man; always quiet and even tempered, I think he had a row with the Captain. The only person who has a better idea of what happened to him is probably the Captain, to be honest."

Andy bit her lip in frustration. One step forward, two steps back. The chances of getting the answers she sought from the intimidating, mystifying Captain were slim at best.

Wonderful.

"Don't go thinking you can just assault Miranda with all your nonsense questions," Emily snarled suddenly, making Andy jump.

Andy stared at her in surprise at the outburst and raised her hands in surrender.

"I won't," Andy assured. 

Emily sent her one last glare before returning her attention to her food. Andy couldn't help but wonder about these strange, curious personalities, all living together on this ship. She wanted to know more about how they had all ended up here; why they had chosen such a life.

"Were you all born into piracy, then?" Andy asked, feeling slightly more comfortable now that her dinner companions seemed to indulge her instead of treat her like a prisoner. Well, save for Emily, of course.

"Not all of us," Nigel said. "We all have different reasons for being here."

"What are they?" Andy blurted the question before she could think it through. Everyone turned to stare at her again. "I meant no offense," she clarified. "I've just always wondered why people would choose, um, this life instead of a more… traditional one. Everything I've ever read about pirates suggests you are nothing vulgar and evil criminals, but I'm starting to think that's not entirely true."

There was silence while they all seemed to mull over her words. For a long moment, Andy doubted she would ever get answers from them.

And then, Cara spoke.

"I was a slave,” she murmured. “Miranda bought me from my master, just to set me free. I don't know why she did it, even after all these years, but I'm grateful. After she gave me my freedom, I asked to stay in her crew instead of going back to land where I could be forced into slavery again. She accepted.”

Andy's stomach churned at the mention of slavery. It was one of the things she loathed most about their society, how unjust and macabre it was. Ever since she was old enough to understand it, she had thought it cruel and unjust. She always begged her father not to own slaves either. She couldn’t bear the thought of her own family abusing other people in such a way. She was certainly glad that Cara had escaped that life. And all thanks to a supposedly evil pirate Captain.

"I came from a very poor family," Fishtail said. Andy turned her attention to him, surprised at his candour. He seemed more like the silent, brooding type. "My father left us when I was twelve, and my mother got very ill. I was an only child, so it was up to me to feed us both. Nobody would hire me because I had to look after her, so as soon as I was old enough I joined a crew. It pays well, and I can send my mother all the support she needs. I fell in with this lot after my ship ran aground. They found me clinging to a rock off the coast of Madeira.”

Andy couldn’t believe her ears. Looking at Fishtail, with his large physique and intimidating face, one would never guess he was actually a caring son doing all he could to help his ill mother. She tried not to look as shocked as she felt.

"I was going to be married," Jocelyn said, playing with her array of necklaces. "To a very boorish man. I was only seventeen, and I didn't have a choice, but I knew that if I married him, it would be the end for me. So I ran away in the middle of the night. I came across Miranda a few days later, lost in the woods. She saw the state I was in and, after I told her why I had fled, she offered me a better life. I had nothing to lose, so I agreed."

Andy swallowed thickly. The reminder of an arranged marriage hit a little too close to home, and her heart went out to Jocelyn. There was no denying that living on this ship was a far better life than what would have awaited her at the altar.

One by one, all the other pirates told their stories. Roy had been born to sail the seas, and after his wife died there was nothing left for him on land; Redbeard had escaped a broken home and found a better family among Miranda's crew; Suarez fell in love with the sea when he sailed to the Caribbean from Spain but no merchant ship or Naval Fleet would hire him until Miranda took a chance. Emily had always dreamed of being a navigator just like her father. She’d spent her life studying the stars, but women were considered bad luck and she’d been thrown off many a ship before Miranda found her.

The last person to share was Nigel, and he looked at Andy thoughtfully.

"I don't have a sad, unfortunate tale to share," he said, measuring his words carefully and looking at Andy with barely hidden mistrust. "Suffice to say, I left developed society,” he sneered.Because of its prejudices and intolerance. Life on the Pearl means I can be free to be myself."

Andy felt a pang in her chest. She could quite easily guess the hidden meaning in those words. Her father and everyone else around her had spoken in hateful whispers of those with perverted minds who went against the laws of nature and God. Andy, personally, had never understood why it was so wrong. Why was love such a terrible sin? If God had created them thus, how could it be so unnatural? Every time someone had uttered such hateful comments, she’d always feel shaken and out of place, like an iron claw was scratching at her chest. In the end she learned to either change the subject or leave the conversation entirely.

After hearing everyone's stories, Andy felt like a new person. The more she learned about these people, the more she felt like everything she'd read about pirates was based purely on prejudice and fear. They were described as one-dimensional, barbaric monsters who committed crimes against society. When Andy looked around the table, however, all she could see were people. People who had been through hardship, misery and injustice, and who were now cursed in such a monstrous way that their feelings were stolen from them. They were still human beings, nonetheless. 

There was still one person she hadn't heard about, and that individual was the one who intrigued Andy the most.

"And what about Miranda?” she dared to ask. When all eyes turned to her, Andy wilted. “Uh, I mean- Captain Priestly," she quickly amended. Serena gazed at her with a serious, contemplative expression.

"Nobody knows much about Miranda," she answered. "She's deeply private, and no one really knows anything about her personal life, let alone her past. We've all learned not to pry."

Something in her voice alerted Andy to the notion that Serena meant for her to follow that rule too. There were nods of agreement from practically everyone, and Andy decided not to push the matter further. Her interest was piqued, however. She'd always been a fan of mysteries, after all, and Captain Priestly was turning out to be the most enticing mysteries of them all.

The rest of dinner passed in an array of conversation and scattered laughter. Andy sat back and watched, hardly daring to believe that she was among the most notorious pirate crew of their time. She could clearly see comfort and familiarity in their interactions. There was an easy banter and a deep understanding between every member of the ship. Even Emily seemed to relax and shared a chuckle with Nigel and Serena.

She couldn't help but reflect on the personal accounts she'd been told. She'd been brought up with riches and luxury, but deep down, she knew that she never really fit into that life. She was still just an orphan; a child born from poverty who got lucky. She wondered what would have happened to her if she hadn't been adopted by her father. Who was to say that she, herself, wouldn't have turned to piracy in order to survive? 

Maybe everything wasn't as black and white as she'd been told. She knew, despite her station, that society favoured a few over the many. It was impossible to be ignorant of that fact in the circles she travelled. Her father’s peers were just like him; wealthy white men. Many of them were not as scrupulous as her father, however, and boasted countless slaves from the Caribbean or Africa. They would treat them like they were cattle instead of human beings, and their greed made them rich beyond necessity while thousands starved to death. 

Andy couldn't blame any of these individuals before her, who had been rejected and neglected by society, for seeking out a better life and building a family of their own. Andy wanted so much to learn more about this crew; about their experiences and their motivations, their bonds and their personalities. 

After all she’d learned today, it felt like she was on the verge of a precipice. Once she stepped over the edge there would be no going back.

She wondered if she’d ever want to return at all.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Andy left her rooms out of her own volition. She’d gone to bed earlier than the crew the previous night, so that she didn’t have to see them turned to corpses again. None of the pirates seemed particularly bothered or insulted by it, so Andy had bid them goodnight and retired to her rooms. After realising that she would not be murdered in cold blood, she'd slept deeply, finally getting some proper rest after the emotional upheaval and life-changing events of the past two days.

After dressing in yesterday’s trousers and a clean burgundy blouse she found in the clothing chest, she had no qualms about going up to the main deck. Everyone was already going through their tasks and the ship was buzzing with activity. The air was crisp, the sun bright, and Andy took a deep breath as she watched the endless waves rolling over the horizon.

“Good morning,” Serena said, siding up to Andy with a smile. “Didn’t expect to see you up here.”

Andy shrugged lamely, returning the smile. “Didn’t really see much sense in staying cooped up in that room anymore.”

Serena grinned at her. “Would you like to have breakfast with me? I was just heading over there with Emily and Jocelyn.”

“Sure,” Andy agreed, following the blonde to the forecastle where they’d had dinner the previous evening.

Upon their arrival, Jocelyn smiled brightly at Andy while Emily scowled.

“Good morning,” Andy offered as she sat down at the table.

“Morning to you too, Andy,” Jocelyn said, offering her a plate of bread, butter, eggs and beans. “Cara just made this batch so it’s nice and warm.”

“Thanks.” Andy eagerly took the plate. She was starving. 

As the four of them tucked into their food, the pirates spoke about their morning duties. After several minutes of Andy quietly listening, a lull in the conversation gave her the opportunity to ask one of her countless burning questions.

“So,” she began tentatively, and three pairs of eyes looked up at her. “I read that female pirates are rather rare, especially captains. They’re considered bad luck by a lot of the male pirates. How is it that the men here do not try to force you off the ship?”

“Why do you care?” Emily scowled before any of the others could respond.

“I’m just curious,” Andy amended, wondering what on earth she'd done to warrant such hostile behaviour from the woman. “I’ve been reading about pirates all my life, and that is something I never fully understood. Why are women considered such a bad omen?”

“Oh, because they’re treated so fairly where you come from,” Emily snapped.

“Emily,” Serena tried to appease.

“I never said that,” Andy responded. She could feel her patience towards Emily running thin. “I know perfectly well the way women are seen and treated in, uh-” she stuttered and barely just managed to swallow down the words civilised society. “Where I come from. It’s why I want to know your experiences living as pirates.”

“We’re all lucky to be under Miranda’s command,” Serena piped up before Emily could come up with another snarky reply. Andy sent her a grateful smile. “She makes sure we’re taken care of, and never tolerates any type of mistreatment towards us. The crew is our family, and they treat us with respect. Some of the men may look like brutes, but they’re good people. As for other pirates? Well, we don’t really deal with many of them, since we mostly keep to ourselves.” She gave a cheeky grin, leaning towards Andy. “And those who dare approach us are too afraid of Miranda to act like, well, pirates.”

“There have been cases, though,” Jocelyn added. “I mean, many years ago when the crew was new and Miranda had just been made captain, a lot of the pirates resented a woman being Captain. They disrespect her; challenged her to a battle. One crew member even tried to steal the Pearl.” Jocelyn shared a devious smirk with her fellow sisters. “Every single pirate who challenged her suffered the consequences. Not all of them ended up dead, but it was enough. Now everyone knows: those who challenge Captain Priestly or her crew end up in Davy Jones’ Locker.”

“There's no one like Miranda,” Emily breathed reverently. Andy found it rather amusing, considering her usual cynicism. “Nobody can do what she does. Men can only dream of commanding the seas like she does.”

“It’s so strange,” Andy mused. “Everyone I know has heard tales of the Black Pearl and Captain Priestly, yet nobody actually knows anything about her. Not even the fact that she’s a woman! I’ve read hundreds of books where she’s mentioned, and not one of them even hints at it. I don’t understand how she remains anonymous despite being one of the most feared Captains in all the oceans.”

“That’s because no pirate who knows who she is would reveal her identity,” Jocelyn explained. 

“They either respect her for what she is, or fear her wrath,” Serena added. “Besides, no pirate in their right mind would give our enemies any ammunition against any of us.”

“Your enemies?” Andy asked, more than a little intrigued.

“All pirates have one common enemy,” Jocelyn said gravely. “And despite our differences, we would join forces if we had to in order to defeat them.” She looked at Andy pointedly, but Andy frowned in confusion.

Emily rolled her eyes impatiently and snarled, “Your people.”

Andy blinked, taken aback. “My people?”

“The Naval Fleet has been hunting down pirate ships for decades,” Serena explained. “And where they stop, the East India Trading Company begins and they’re-“

“Worse!” Emily snapped. “They’re torturing us. Enslaving us. Killing us by the dozens. They treat us like vermin. If we get captures, we suffer a slow and painful death, and for what? They too are liars, thieves, and murderers! There is not a single treaty that they have upheld, no land that has not been conquered and enslaved for their own greed. And they dare call us pirates.”

“Emily,” Serena placed a comforting hand on the redhead’s arm, trying to calm her ire. “Please.”

Emily scoffed in indignation, but Andy hardly noticed.  Her mind whirled as she tried to process all she’d been told. Was it true? Of course, Andy knew of the killing of pirates. She knew of the public hanging ceremonies - had been forced to attend as a child until she begged her father to stop demanding it of her. And of course, the Royal Navy nobody would never admit that pirates were being tortured and enslaved by the thousands.

It was so wrong. In fact, she shouldn’t be surprised at all. She’s heard whispers and muffled arguments from her father’s colleagues about prisoners and slave trading and punishing all who defied the Crown. Now, she wished she’d paid more attention to the truth of their words.

“But,” Andy asked, trying to word her query as delicately as possible. “If pirates kill and steal as they do, should they not be punished?”

Emily’s face went red, and Andy immediately regretted asking the question. Serena put her hand on Emily’s shoulder once again and mercifully spoke before she could open her mouth.

“That’s the thing, Andy,” she said, not unkindly. “The British have done monstrous, despicable things. When they took these lands from the native people, those they didn’t kill, they enslaved. . If you do not belong with them, are are an outcast, a criminal. Countless people are tortured and killed for refusing to obey the rules forced upon them by aggressors who stole our land.”

“Oh,” Andy breathed shakily. Nobody had ever explained it to her in such a manner. All her life, she read of the misdeeds of pirates. She’d been told tales of those good and honourable who served King and Country. History had been manipulated to favour the victors: the noble white man who spread the word of God to save the savages of uncivilised lands. But now Andy could finally see past the veil that had been forced over her head. Everything she had been told her entire life was a lie. She, just like everybody else, had been fed constant excuses to explain away slavery, oppression, and genocide.

Andy felt sick to her stomach.

“Hey,” Serena said softly, taking Andy’s cold hand between her own. “It’s okay. It’s not like it's your fault. They don't portray themselves that way, so how could you know?It’s the best kept secret in the Empire.”

"Every story has two sides to it," Jocelyn agreed. "You've been told one side your whole life. Now you get to learn the other."

Andy nodded, trying to compose herself. She was struggling to imagine how she could go back to Port Royal and be around the very people who benefited from such a horrendous system. How could she even look them in the eyes again, knowing the amount of suffering and pain they were causing? 

Oh, God. Her father was one of them. Andy felt sick all over again.

“Let’s put all this away now," Serena said, seeing the crumpled expression on Andy's face as she tried to take deep, even breaths. "You're not to blame for any of it, and you can be free from it all if you choose to be." She sent her an encouraging smile, and Andy felt somewhat mollified by her words. "Now come on. I told you I'd teach you sword fighting, and there's no time like the present."

Andy blinked.

"Wait, what?"

The words were barely out of her mouth when an excited Serena pulled her up from her chair and out of the room.

 

.oOo.

 

After changing into a pair of black boots Serena gave her, Andy had her hair pulled into a tight braid by Jocelyn while Serena went off to accost Redbeard. By the time Andy climbed up onto the main deck, Serena was standing proudly with two thin wooden swords and a smug smirk on her face.

After a quick glance around, Andy saw that there was an audience. Emily was watching with barely concealed interest, no doubt anticipating the spectacle that would be Andy's first ever attempt at sword fighting. Roy, Jack, Fishtail and Redbeard had abandoned their duties and were sitting to one side, smoking cigars and drinking out of flasks. Suarez sat at the forecastle deck, while Bill, Joey, and Eagle Eye watched from the sails' masts. Even Cara had wandered out of the kitchen to witness the upper class lady handle a sword.

Not that they were real swords, thankfully. Andy felt immediately relieved.

"Here," Serena said, handing the smaller sword to her. "Hold it like this."

Andy copied the way Serena gripped the handle. She moved her arm around, adapting to the weight in her hand.

"Okay, now," Serena said, and took a few paces back. "Footwork is one of the most important elements of sword fighting. Make sure you shift your weight properly, and that you don't trip over your own feet."

Serena started moving from side to side, and Andy matched her footwork as well as she knew how. After a few minutes of learning how to step around and angle her body in different directions, Serena nodded.

"Good. You're light on your feet," she said, and Andy beamed. "Now let's see how your reflexes are, shall we?"

Before Andy could react, Serena flung her arm towards Andy and struck her on the shoulder.

"Ow!" Andy yelped, clutching her throbbing arm.

Emily laughed loudly, and a few other chuckles filled the air. Andy glared at the woman.

"Ignore them," Serena said. "I didn't hit you that hard, but now you know what's coming try to evade my sword."

And with that, Serena started slicing her sword through the air, and Andy stopped thinking about anything else that wasn't related to dodging the attacks as much as she could. She ducked, twisted, and jumped out of the way while trying to deduce how her teacher would move next. It was much more difficult than she thought, and she soon found herself moving backwards while Serena moved closer and closer.

Andy's back hit the wall behind her, and when Serena lifted her arm to strike again, she reacted on instinct. The sound of wood striking wood rang out when she lifted her sword and blocked Serena's attack. Both women held their positions, swords pressing against each other, as Serena nodded, looking impressed.

"Very good," she said. "Your reflexes aren't as bad as I thought, although we have to work on your anticipation."

"Well yeah," Andy smirked. "I've never done this before, remember?"

Serena chuckled.

"Alright, let's start again."

For the next several hours (Andy lost track of time trying to keep up with Serena's instruction) the two of them worked on technique, reflexes, arm movements, and classic forms of attack and defence. Andy's head was swimming with all the information, and her body ached. She'd worked up a sweat under the heat of the sun, and she was panting for air after the tenth repeat of an overhead attack.

"Can we take a break?" Andy said, breathing harshly. 

"Sure," Serena said. She didn't look as tired as Andy, but she too was sweating and flushed. "You're a lot better than I thought you'd be. A natural, if you ask me."

"Really?" Andy asked in disbelief. “Doesn’t feel like it."

Serena laughed. “The first time is always the toughest. You'll get better at it, I promise. Now go cool down. We can keep going later this evening."

Andy nodded, relieved, and turned to go freshen up in her rooms. As she turned towards the stairs near the quarterdeck, a strange sensation curled down her spine. She glanced up and found herself caught in the gaze of sharp blue eyes. Andy froze. 

Captain Priestly looked striking from this vantage point. Her velvet coat was unbuttoned, and the long coat tail was swept up by the wind in waves of burgundy. A golden brooch was pinned at the base of her throat where the ruffled collar of her white blouse began. She wore a black bodice that perfectly hugged the curves of her torso beneath her bosom, held together tightly by four gold clasps trailing down her front. Matching black tailored trousers seemed to cling to her legs like a glove - legs that were accentuated by heeled knee-high leather boots. The golden sword around her hips reflected the sunlight in flashes and her droop earrings gently caressed her neck with every tilt of her head.

She looked ethereal.

But what was most captivating of all was the expression on the Captain's usually impassive face. Under the partial shade of her leather hat, she was gazing down at Andy with amusement and something that looked like intrigue? Captain Priestly was studying Andy like she was something unique, something worth studying. For some reason, it made Andy's stomach feel unsettled, as if it was splitting open and snakes were slithering around her insides. She felt it warming her chest and disrupting her breath.

Unsettled by the sensation, Andy forced herself to look away and hastily made her way down to her rooms. Once there, she closed the door firmly behind her and shut her eyes. 

What on earth was that? Why had she felt so strange and twitchy?

Dehydration. It was probably dehydration. With a firm shake of her head, she went to the large bowl and pitcher. She splashed her warm face with the cool water and let out a long breath.

There. Much better.

 

.oOo.

 

A hefty lunch, another two hours of sword fighting, and a thorough wash later, Andy made herself comfortable on the forecastle deck with a book taken from the shelf in her room. She had been both perplexed and gleeful when she’d found a copy of it aboard a pirate ship, of all places.

It was only late in the afternoon, so the blistering heat of midday had dulled into a pleasant warmth. The sky held not a single cloud, and it was so blue that it was impossible to see where the sky stopped and the ocean began.

Andy sat there for a long time, watching the waves before her as she contemplated a million things. Her father had always said she had an overactive mind. When she was a child, he'd meant it as a compliment. As she grew, however, his tone became admonishing. Andy had never been sure why it had been an asset as a child and a burden as an adult, but it burdened her now as it swirled around and around in endless circles.

There were so many things to think about after her conversation with Emily, Jocelyn, and Serena. If learning the truth behind her biological father wasn't enough, then finding out about the reality of the world certainly pushed Andy farther away from all she had ever known.

Her past life. 

Such a strange way to put it. But that's what Andy felt like. It was as if everything had crumbled around her and she had seen the world for what it truly was. She felt shame at being so oblivious, of turning a blind eye to the truth. She was angry at the injustice of it all and repulsed at the idea that she had dined and befriended so many people who inflicted so much pain and suffering on innocent people.

Everything was different now. Andy felt like a new person. It was both liberating and daunting in equal measure.

She let out a sharp, frustrated breath. Maybe her father had been right - she needed to stop thinking. With that, she straightened her spine before snapping open the book and forcing herself to concentrate on the written word.

She had barely gotten through the first paragraph of the book when a shadow fell over the pages. She looked up only to find the blue eyes of Captain Priestly looking down at her, so much like the sea around them. The woman had removed her hat with the arrival of the cooler evening breeze, but nothing else had changed about her imposing, beautiful ensemble. Andy had to force her eyes to focus solely on the imperial face instead of wandering over the rest of her.

“I must say, that was a rather engaging spectacle earlier.” The captain smirked. Andy felt herself blush. “I cannot recall ever seeing a lady such as yourself wield a wooden sword in such a manner.”

“Serena said I did very well,” Andy defended herself. “She said I have a natural talent, in fact.”

“Hm,” Captain Priestly hummed, and tilted her head as she regarded Andy thoughtfully. “I expected worse from you, I’ll admit. What are you reading?”

“Um,” Andy stuttered, trying to catch up with the sudden topic change. “Aphra Behn.”

“Ah. Let me guess: The Adventure of the Black Lady?”

Andy blinked up at the older woman. “How did you know?”

The Captain gave a one-shoulder shrug and looked out towards the horizon. “You seem like the type.”

“It’s a good book,” Andy found herself defending her person once again. The book was about an independent woman who finds refuge from an unwanted marriage. What woman would not admire such an inspiring tale?

Captain Priestly gave her a knowing look.

“I never said it wasn’t,” she responded. “I myself used to enjoy reading it on occasion.”

“Oh,” Andy said lamely.

She wasn’t sure what else to say at the far-away look on the Captain’s face. All traces of amusement or mockery disappeared into an emotionless expression as the older woman looked out over the sea.

“You’ll be able to enjoy it again soon,” Andy said hesitantly, hoping she wasn’t putting her head between the fangs of a wolf.

The Captain’s eyes fluttered as Andy’s words seemed to bring her back from wherever her thoughts had taken her. She looked at Andy with an unreadable expression on her face, and Andy tried her best not to fidget under the intense gaze. Finally, Captain Priestly inclined her head, her silver forelock brushing over her eyebrow with the movement.

“Well,” she began. “Until then, you may help yourself to any books you fancy, including the ones from my personal library.” Andy’s eyes widened in surprise at the offer. “You’re our esteemed guest, after all, Andrea. What’s ours is yours. That’s all.”

And with that, Captain Priestly gracefully turned on her heel and made her way towards the quarterdeck. Andy’s eyes followed her elegant figure as she ascended the stairs and took control of the helm from Nigel. She stood tall and proud as she confidently commandeered her ship, silver hair swept back by the breeze.

Andy looked away from the captivating image. She thought over their exchange, trying to understand why the Captain would seek her out for what seemed like out-of-the-blue small talk. And had she really offered Andy access to her private library? 

What’s ours is yours.” What was that about?

With a firm shake of her head, Andy told herself that it was futile to try and understand this elusive woman who was becoming more and more intriguing. Perhaps she would accept the strange offer, if only to get closer to dismantling the mystery that was Captain Miranda Priestly. 

Andy let out a long breath, and turned the page to continue reading where she left off. She was surprised to find small, hand-written notes on the page margins, the writing elegant and sharp. Andy felt like laughing. Writing her thoughts and analyses on the edges of her personal books was something she’d done since she could remember, and to find that a pirate on this ship partook in the exact same dedicated activity was both ridiculous and incredibly amusing. Biting her lip to ward off a full-blown chuckle, Andy wondered which member of the crew was behind it. 

All of them seemed as unlikely as the next until she had an errant thought. Could it be Captain Priestly herself? The woman seemed like the type to possess an active mind, and Andy could certainly imagine her writing in such neat penmanship. It seemed as though Andy had all the more reason to accept the offer to borrow books from the Captain’s vast collection.

With a grin and a subtle eye roll at her frivolous thoughts, Andy continued reading, taking the time to study the handwritten notes full of insights and astute comments. Andy had never enjoyed a book quite as much as she did now.

Chapter Text

Andy had always loved early mornings. Ever since she was a little girl, even on days where she had nothing to do for hours, she would wake up early just to watch the sunrise. Those bittersweet memories prompted her to go up to the main deck just before dawn the next day. There was peacefulness in watching the sky turn different hues of pinks and blues, but despite all of the beautiful sunrises she’d seen in her life, nothing could compare to seeing it quite like this.

As the day broke and light began to creep over the horizon, the sky exploded in an infinite array of colour that stole the breath from Andy's lungs. Above the infinite expanse of marble blue that seemed to magnify and reflect the vivid colours, the world was set alight. By the time the sun finally rose over the edge of the world, Andy was already smiling.

The faint sounds of the crew mulling about the start of their morning routines could only just be heard over the gentle waves rippling against the ship. Andy took a deep breath of the crisp salty air and closed her eyes as the sun warmed her face. 

She remained in that trance-like state, feeling blissfully unburdened despite her circumstances. Normally, her mornings were composed of grueling superficial ablutions for a day of tepid interactions with close-minded people. Moments like these, where she could simply be herself and forget about everything else, were often nothing more than a mere passing wish.

“I never took you for an early bird,” came a cheerful voice from behind her. 

Andy smiled as Serena came to stand beside her.

“Good morning to you too,” Andy answered, fluttering her eyes open to look out towards the beautiful sunrise.

“Enjoying the view?” Serena asked knowingly.

Andy hummed. “It’s quite the vision.”

“Well you better make the most of this little respite because after breakfast I’m dueling you again. Today we’re going to work more on footwork and attacking techniques, I think.”

“No rest for the wicked,” Andy conceded with a sigh, turning to Serena at last. 

“I see Cara heading to the kitchen,” Serena said. “What do you say we go give her a hand setting the table? We usually take turns helping her out and today the task falls on me.”

“Sure,” Andy said. “Would you give me a minute? I’ll be right there.” Serena smirked at her with a knowing glint in her eye. Andy shrugged lamely. “I’m making the most of it.”

With a rueful chuckle, Serena made her way over to the forecastle. Andy returned to the vision before her and silently took it in for a long moment. Once she felt satisfied, she turned to follow Serena’s footsteps and was arrested by the sight of Captain Priestly standing tall up on the quarter deck. 

The mysterious woman watched over her crew like royalty overlooking her loyal subjects. She was dressed in a beautiful black velvet cloak that almost brushed the floor behind her heeled boots. It was unbuttoned to reveal a pearly white silk blouse and black leather vest. Her hat kept most of her hair hidden from sight but did not keep the warm morning sun from shining on her face so beautifully. 

She must have felt Andy watching her, because suddenly those piercing blue eyes found Andy’s and did not look away. Andy’s heart stuttered in her chest. The Captain gazed at her with candid curiosity, and something else that looked entirely too much like cunning for Andy’s comfort, but she refused to look away. 

Andy’s reluctance to break their connection earned her a subtle quirking of lips. Captain Priestly elegantly tilted her hat at her just as Nigel walked up to take his place by her side, and she turned her attention to her right hand man.

Letting out a slow breath, Andy composed herself before quickly retreating to the forecastle. She didn’t allow herself to analyse what it all meant. Why she got such a thrill when the Captain looked at her. Why she felt such incomprehensible admiration for her poise, among other things. And, more than anything, why she needed to know more about the mysterious woman that ruled the seas with an iron fist. 

Instead, she asked Serena for her instructions and got to work. The blonde smiled at her while setting down plates on the big, round table, and suggested she help in the kitchen. Andy took the task with eagerness, and crossed the threshold into the kitchen at the back of the room.

“Good morning, Cara,” Andy greeted the short woman hovering over a large stove.

“Buenos días, Andy,” Cara said, barely looking away from the huge frying pan fizzling in front of her. 

“Is there anything I can do?” Andy asked. She saw a small mountain of potatoes placed upon a cutting board on the table at the center of the room. “Should I start peeling these?”

She took a step towards them, but was jolted back by a curled tea towel whipping the air in front of her.

“No!” Cara admonished sharply. Andy looked at her, startled. “My kitchen, my rules. Only rule is nobody touches the food except me. If you want to help, put the table and prepare the place for when the barbarians come for breakfast. I’m the only one who cooks, got it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Andy quickly said, lifting her hands placatingly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

Cara gave her a crooked smile. “S’okay. I like to scare people. But now you won’t forget, no?”

“Definitely not,” Andy agreed, a smile tugging at her lips. Serena had definitely been right about the fierce cook. “I’ll go help set the table then.”

“You do that,” Cara said, turning back to the stove.

Andy shook her head and made her way back out to the dining room. Serena looked up at her with devilish schadenfreude. 

“You set me up!” Andy accused, crossing her arms. Despite the sliver of embarrassment, she could not make herself sound remotely angry. After all, pranks were a part of the camaraderie amongst a crew.

“Maybe,” Serena blinked at her innocently. “I think Cara needs a little entertainment now and then, that’s all. She does feed us delicious food, even though we haven’t exactly been able to appreciate it in twenty years.”

Andy sighed, blowing her bangs away from her face. “So, are you gonna tell me what I can actually do?”

“Depends."

“On what?”

“Are you willing to get your hands dirty?” Serena said, raising her eyebrows challengingly.

Andy smirked.

“You bet I am.”

 

.oOo.

 

Like the previous day, Andy and Serena headed out to the main deck after a hefty breakfast, hair pulled back and swords at the ready. The crew gathered around to watch once again, but this time Captain Priestly herself stood upon the quarter deck, leaning her forearms on the railing as she watched from above. 

With the sun higher up in the sky, her hat drew dark shadows across her stony face, leaving only her soft lips and sharp jawline visible. She looked as imposing as she was magnificent. Andy dared to glance at her for a fleeting moment before Serena snapped her attention back to the task at hand.

“Now,” the pirate began, spinning her sword in an elegant circle through the air. “We’re gonna work on your footwork more today to work up your defense, and then we can start with some basic attack techniques.”

Andy nodded, shifting her grip on the handle of her weapon. At least this was better than a walking stick.

She barely had time to prepare herself before Serena launched her attack, and Andy only just managed to jump out of the way. For the next two hours she did her best to keep her limbs intact, ducking, lunging, and jumping away any time Serena’s sword came at her. It was exhausting to be constantly moving, always hyper aware and trying to foresee what attack would come next, but Andy did love a challenge.

They took a break when the sun burned too brightly in the sky to keep going, and Andy felt like plunging herself into the ocean to cool down from the vigorous workout. She ungraciously slumped on the stairs, mindful of her bruised hip from falling earlier in an attempt to dodge one of Serena’s frontal attacks.

Leaning her head back so her face was under the mast’s shadow, she fanned herself weakly with her hand. Her cheeks were flushed, her chest glistened with perspiration, and all the muscles in her body ached. Never in her life had she been through such physical effort. She licked her parched lips and tried swallowing despite her dry throat.

As if summoned by her thoughts, a water skin appeared before her, held in a strong, elegant hand. Andy’s eyes rose to a delicate wrist and continued up a toned arm wrapped in simmering silk until she found a defined collarbone peeking through the low collar of the blouse. Suddenly she realised she was staring at a great deal of soft skin, put on display by one too many buttons undone. Andy’s eyes snapped up to the woman's face.

“Here,” Captain Priestly offered smoothly. “We cannot have our esteemed guest fainting dead away on our watch.  What would people take us for?”

Andy felt her breath catch, even though she was certain that she had already gotten her breathing back under control. And when had the captain shed her coat? Oddly embarrassed, she lowered her eyes to the floor. Her cheeks felt even warmer, and she cleared her throat as she eagerly took the offered pouch.

“Thank you,” she rasped, and proceeded to down the cool water like her life depended on it.

In her eagerness, she let the droplets of water trickle down her chin and neck, blissfully cooling the overheated skin. When she had finished drinking, she let out a relieved breath.

“Thank you,” she repeated with a steadier voice. She lifted her gaze to the woman standing before her. 

And immediately froze. 

Those ice blue eyes were looking at her with such intensity that time seemed to slow down. With bated breath, Andy watched as the captain’s gaze followed the rivulets of water she could feel trailing down her chin, her neck, her chest. The Captain studied her figure, looking so captivated she seemed to forget herself. 

Suddenly self-conscious, Andy shifted where she sat. The subtle movement made Captain Priestly’s eyes jump up to her face again, where they locked with her own.

“You need to work on finding your opponent’s weakness,” the Captain finally spoke, tilting her chin towards the sword lying forgotten beside Andy.

“Oh,” Andy said dumbly. “Uh-”

“Serena, for example,” Captain Priestly continued, as if she hadn’t heard Andy at all. She turned to look at the pirate in question, sitting across the main deck with Emily. “She has a weak ankle. Sprained it a few times in the same place. One might throw her off balance if one knows how to take advantage of it.”

Andy didn’t know what to make of the advice, or even how to respond. But before she could open her mouth to say something - anything - the captain turned to her with those piercing eyes once again.

“I’ll leave you to figure out which one it is.”

Captain Priestly did not wait for an answer before she turned and swept away from her. The heeled boots resonated upon the deck of her ship with each confident stride, and though she tried her best not to stare, Andy had a nagging suspicion that she failed.

 

.oOo.

 

The Captain had not been lying. For two hours, Andy put her advice to good use, experimenting with different attacks to see which ones would be most effective in throwing Serena off balance. The first time it happened, when her friend’s eyes widened as she almost toppled over trying to avoid Andy’s sword, she almost could not believe it. After finding the weakness she'd been looking for, Andy was more invigorated than ever. The exhaustion fell away from her body and she found herself grinning widely throughout the rest of the combat.

She could also feel the warmth of a steely gaze watching her from above. That certainly helped.

When they finally called it a day, sometime in the late afternoon, Andy wiped the sweat off her brow as Serena watched her with narrowed eyes.

“How did you do that?” she asked breathlessly.

“What?” Andy said innocently, while she too caught her breath.

“Whatever the hell that was. It’s like you knew just what to do to throw me off balance.” Serena waved her arm towards the empty space on the main deck where they’d been practicing. She had a small smile on her face though, and something told Andy she was more confused than angry.

Andy’s eyes flicked up towards the Captain, standing tall and regal as she faced the horizon from the quarter deck.  She must have felt Andy’s glance, however, because her face tilted ever so slightly before looking back at Andy. Her expression was unreadable, but Andy could have sworn she saw those lips twitch into a subtle smirk before the Captain returned to watching the never ending sea.

“I just wanted to figure out your weakness,” Andy said, returning her attention to Serena. The blonde raised her eyebrow, and Andy shrugged. “Someone told me that it’s important to use your opponent’s weakness to your advantage.”

Serena hummed, looking impressed. “Pretty good advice. Whoever told you must know what they were talking about.”

Andy nodded, and took advantage of Serena’s contemplative silence to gulp down more water from the water skin that Captain Priestly had given her earlier. As she closed her eyes in bliss at the cool water soothing her parched throat, she missed the thoughtful glance Serena sent their Captain.

“Well done today,” Serena said as soon as Andy had finished drinking. “You’re getting better at it already. I thought it would take you ages, but you’re already improving very quickly.”

Andy grinned. “Thanks. I've always strived to be the best I can be.”

“That’s a pretty good attitude to have,” Serena smiled. Then she shoved Andy slightly. “Now go wash up. You stink.”

“How rude!” Andy gasped in fake outrage. “You don’t smell too good either you know.”

Serena rolled her eyes and was about to reply when something caught her eye. Andy followed her line of sight until she found Emily beckoning the blonde. Serena's face lit up in a blinding smile.

“I’ll see you in a bit,” she said, and took her leave before Emily could add another reason to hate her.

In the quiet of her rooms, Andy took her time washing herself thoroughly. Despite her best efforts, her mind kept wandering to the fascinating subject that was Miranda Priestly.

Out of all the people on the ship, she was the one person Andy just could not figure out. As a matter of fact, it was more than that - she needed to unravel the mystery. Andy had a million questions, like why Miranda became a pirate and how she rose to be the most feared individual in the ocean. More possibly, she wanted to know why Miranda had chosen to help her today. And so, so much more.

Andy’s eyes landed on the water pouch the Captain had given her. Perhaps returning it would be a good enough reason to find the Captain later, and try to open up a conversation with her. Her father had always said it was best to make hay while the sun shines, even though he'd never cut a piece of straw in his life. 

Andy knew the Captain was intelligent; she could see the wisdom in those sharp blue eyes. She was well spoken, too, and the way she moved belied a level of sophistication that usually pertained to upper class society. And there was no denying that was also incredibly beautiful. Her face was the perfect combination of elegance and fierceness, her hands soft and unblemished despite so many years in the sun, her skin --

Andy’s thoughts screeched to a halt. What on earth was she doing? What did it matter what Miran- Captain Priestly looked like? 

Andy shook her head to clear her mind. The heat of the day and vigorous exercise must have gotten to her. Besides, Andy was curious by nature. She always wanted to know as much as she could about any subject or person that caught her attention, and anyone with this sort of inquisitiveness would find Captain Priestly a fascinating topic. Especially if she was the one who seemed to hold the answers to so many of Andy’s questions. Her interest was perfectly normal.

Everything was perfectly normal.

 

.oOo.

 

Andy paced around the room, rummaging through the sea chest for something to wear. She had already gone through five different outfits, but none of them seemed adequate for what she had planned. She ran her fingers through her newly cleaned hair, still partly damp and falling around her shoulders in soft waves. If only she had some of her clothes from home, perhaps this wouldn't be so difficult. 

As she turned back to pacing, something caught her eye. Hidden at the bottom of the chest was a beautiful silk dress, pearly white with silver embroidery at the hem and décolletage. It reminded Andy of some of the dresses her father had bought for her, and with reverent fingers she retrieved it from its place to lay it out upon the bed. 

It was perfect.

Careful not to wrinkle it, she slipped it on over her bodice, feeling the silk run over her skin in the softest of caresses. After tying the laces down the back, she turned and looked at herself in the small mirror on the washstand. 

It was a perfect fit, comfortable and smooth, hugging the curves of her body and gently falling to kiss the floor beneath her feet. The slim sleeves hugged her arms and cut off below her elbows, leaving her delicate wrists bare. She pushed her hair back over her shoulders, admiring how the neckline showed the perfect amount of skin, just enough to hint at her sharp collarbones and the swell of her breasts, but not enough to be distasteful.

With a satisfied smile, she put on her shoes and picked up the waterskin before heading up to the main deck.

The sun painted the sky in ribbons of red and gold as it drifted down over the horizon. A pleasant breeze fluttered through her hair, and she closed her eyes for a peaceful moment. 

"Looking good, Sachs!" Serena's voice approached, and Andy smiled without opening her eyes. 

"Thanks," she said, and blinked her eyes open to look at her friend. "Found it in my room and it's far too beautiful not to wear it."

"I'll tell the crew not to be too messy while we eat dinner. Wouldn't want to ruin it, ey?" she grinned, and started walking to the forecastle.

"Actually," Andy said, and Serena paused mid-step. "I might be a moment, if that's alright. I wanted to do a few things first."

Serena's eyebrows rose, but she nodded. "I'll see you later then, My Lady."

With an exaggerated bow, she retreated, and Andy rolled her eyes at the theatrics. She glanced at the setting sun once more before moving to the back of the ship.

Standing before the double doors, Andy suddenly felt nervous. So much so that she didn't even stop to admire the beautiful carvings upon the black wood, which no doubt would have caught her attention under normal circumstances. Instead, she fidgeted with the water pouch in her hands, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. 

This was fine. She could do this. The Captain had been kind to her recently, all things considered, hadn't she? Andy should just stop being a coward and knock. It was as simple as that.

Taking a deep breath, she lifted her hand and knocked on the door to the Captain's chambers.

Barely a second went by before a smooth voice spoke from the other side.

"Come."

Andy's heart started beating faster for some reason, but she ignored it. Another deep breath to steel herself made her feel marginally better about things.

She opened the door, and stepped inside.

Chapter Text

When Andy entered the Captain's quarters, the woman was sitting at her large, oak desk and did not look up from her work despite Andy’s presence. The waning light from the windows fell upon her back and enhanced her silhouette beautifully. Andy spent a moment wondering whether the captain had strategised where the most flattering light was in the cabin and put her desk there, or whether it was just good fortune.

Shaking off her frivolous thoughts, Andy approached tentatively, trying to make as little noise as possible. The Captain seemed enthralled by the stacks of papers and books lying atop her desk, and the last thing Andy wanted to do was disturb her. She, herself, had often been in that state of complete concentration, so she waited patiently a few feet away. Besides, she was quite content to admire the woman before her while she could. It appeared that Miranda had changed her outfit and looked resplendent in a flowing silver coat. 

Andy's curiosity inevitably got the better of her and she peered over at the papers, trying to ascertain their use. Some of them were maps, but a great deal of them were scrolls filled with endless writing. Most were in English, while others were written a language Andy didn’t recognise. She watched as the Captain wrote copious notes, her fingers gently grasping the raven black quill, swirling confidently and leaving a trail of neat, elegant writing.

Very familiar writing.

Andy smiled, feeling a warmth bubble in her abdomen at finally having proof that the notes on the pages of The Adventures of the Black Lady belonged to the woman working so diligently before her. Her smile was almost a grin when blue eyes finally looked up.

The Captain froze; the pen paused above the page and a drop of ink landed at the edge if the paper. Andy held her breath as that sharp gaze trailed down her body slowly, studying her, before ascending again until their eyes locked. The Captain licked her lips, and seemed to come back into herself as she placed the quill in the ink well. She leaned back in her seat, her hand dangling delicately over the edge of the arm rest. 

“Miss Sachs,” she said, her voice low and raspy as if she hadn’t spoken for hours. She reached across her desk and lifted a goblet of amber liquid to her lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I am almost certain that I asked you to call me by my given name,” Andy replied with a smile, not sure where this sudden bout of courage came from.

A blonde eyebrow rose at the familiarity, but Andy clearly saw the corner of the Captain’s mouth twitch upwards before she took a sip.

"Very well, Andrea,” she conceded, the name all but dripping from her mouth. She placed her drink back on the desk. “Did you need something?”

A strange sensation came over Andy upon hearing her name upon the Captain’s lips for the second time. Her spine tingled in a way that was foreign and uncomfortable. The bout of courage from before left her as she puzzled over the feeling, and suddenly she didn’t entirely know what to say.

“I, uh,” she began, fingers clenching nervously. The reflexive movement brought to mind why she had come; the weight in her hand grounded her. “I came to return this to you.”

She lifted the water skin, taking a step closer to place it on the edge of the table. Captain Priestly looked at it with an amused expression.

“You are welcome to keep it,” she said. “I have plenty of others, and I dare say you need it more than I.”

“Right,” Andy stuttered. “Because of the curse.” She wanted to smack herself; she sounded like a babbling fool.

The Captain nodded her head regally, something bright flashing in her eyes. 

“Hmm.”

Andy shifted her weight, hands clasped together. She had countless questions to ask and so many things she wanted, yet she didn’t know how begin. The crew had made it clear that Captain Priestly was unapproachable, and that Andy should not pester her with questions. But the Captain was the only one who might know what happened to her father, and Andy was certain that if she didn’t ask, she would regret it all her life. And yet, that intimidating gaze was making Andy’s heart thunder in her chest, and really, she shouldn’t abuse Miran- Captain’s Priestly’s kindness. 

“You want answers to your questions,” the Captain suddenly said, jerking Andy out of her spiraling thoughts. 

Andy’s jaw slackened, wondering how it was possible that the woman before her knew that. Before she could ask, an elegant hand waved dismissively through the air.

“You’re not particularly difficult to read,” she said in explanation. “You should work on that.”

“Right,” Andy said once again, wishing she could string more words together. “I mean, yes, that’s why I really came here. But I don’t want to impose, and I understand if you--”

“Stop rambling. I will indulge you, although I shall choose not to answer if a question is beyond my limits.”

“Oh! Of course,” Andy said enthusiastically, a grin forming on her lips. She couldn’t believe her luck. Surely, this would be the most educational and rewarding conversation she’d ever had with any other person in her life.

“First, let us move somewhere more comfortable.” 

The Captain stood gracefully and took off her coat. Andy once more found herself admiring the woman’s beauty and style. She wore a deep blue blouse that brought out her eyes. It had loose, flowing sleeves, but it was tight around the chest and abdomen, and she’d left the top few buttons undone. Instead of her signature black trousers, she wore light grey ones that seemed almost skin tight and matched the colour of her hair at the nape of her neck. A silver belt around her hips contrasted the colours perfectly, and the buckle gleamed in the candle light, along with the rings on her fingers and the golden chain around her neck. 

It was then that she realised the Captain had no intention of taking off Andy's necklace. She probably hadn't taken it off since that first night. For some reason, her heart rate picked up at the knowledge that the medallion that had so often been nestled in Andy’s chest was now hidden under layers of silk upon Captain Priestly’s bosom. Even worse, Andy realised that she was staring at the woman’s chest, and hastily turned away as heat crawled up her neck and onto her flaming cheeks.

Taking a deep breath, she followed the Captain to the main table and waited for her to sit at the presiding chair before taking a seat herself. In the same place she’d sat last time, on the chair directly to the Captain’s right. It was strange to think how much had changed since their first meeting. It felt like it had been weeks ago and not just mere days. 

“So,” Captain Priestly began, reaching for a decanter filled with wine. “You wish to know about your father, I presume. Wine?”

“Oh, um, yes please,” Andy answered, with a startled blink. She reached for one of the goblets at the center of the table and offered it while the Captain poured her a hefty glass. “And yes, my father is what I want to know about the most.

Captain Priestly gave a rueful chuckle. Andy beamed at the sound. 

“But not the only thing?”

Andy gave a one-shouldered shrug and an impish smile. “I’m a very curious person by nature, and pirates have always fascinated me, even as a child.”

The Captain hummed. “Ah, yes. Serena did mention that.”

Andy didn’t know how she felt about the Captain and Serena talking about her, but reasoned that Serena was too good a person to gossip unkindly like most of the women Andy had met in Port Royal, so she refrained from commenting on it.

“I don’t really know where to start,” she confessed. Her fingers started to fidget nervously. “There’s so much I want to know. Like what my father was like, why he became a pirate, how he disappeared, why he left me--”

The Captain raised her hand, and Andy fell quiet.

“I’m sure we will get to all of that in due time. But first, have you had dinner?”

Andy wilted back in her chair. “Not yet, no.”

“Well, I’m sure we will be here for quite some time. Give me a moment to tell Cara to bring food enough for two. Do make yourself at home, I will return post haste.”

Andy watched the Captain get up from her place and exit the room in her usual elegant fashion. The door shut behind her, and Andy took a deep breath.

She looked around the room, taking in as many details as she could. As was her nature, she was most intrigued by the myriad of books lining the huge shelves. She figured it was okay to explore them while she waited, so she stood and made her way to the other side of the room.

There were leather straps holding the books in place to keep them from falling with the motions of the ship, so it was difficult to read some of the titles. Andy was too afraid to misplace them to take them out of their rightful slot, so she made do with reading what she could on the spines. 

Most seemed to be about sailing, navigation, astronomy, and geography, but there were several other tomes about science, history, and most surprisingly, more than a few fictional novels. Andy recognised some of the titles - far more than she thought she would, considering this was a pirate ship. She’d have never guessed that her taste in literature could match that of a notorious pirate Captain.

Her eyes caught a particular title she was all too familiar with. It was one of her favourite books, and she had read it multiple times over the past few years since its publishing. She raised a hand to it and reverently touched the spine with her fingertips.

“It is quite the masterpiece.”

She jumped at the sudden voice and whirled around to find the Captain leaning elegantly against the table, watching her closely. She raised her hand to her racing heart, trying to calm herself. How had she gotten there without Andy hearing her? 

“I apologise,” Captain Priestly said, although the quirked lips told Andy that she was not sorry at all. “I did not mean to frighten you.”

“It’s alright," Andy answered with a smile. “And I agree.”

“Agree with what?” The Captain tilted her head.

“It is a masterpiece.”

Soft lips quirked again, and Andy felt a frisson of pride run through her.

“You may borrow it, if you like. Shall we continue our conversation?” She stood and made her way back to her place at the head of the table. 

Andy didn’t answer, and instead quickly made her way back to her own seat. 

“Now,” the Captain started, leaning back in her chair with a full goblet of wine. “Where shall we begin?”

Andy bit her lip, warring with the amount of questions flowing through her mind. There were so many, and she wanted to know so much that she wasn’t sure what to ask first.

“I can see you have a vastly active mind,” Captain Priestly observed. Andy blushed. “I shall start from the beginning, and you may sort through those burning questions in due time.”

“Alright,” Andy answered, relieved.

“Henry Sachs joined my crew when I first became Captain some twenty nine years ago,” she began, and Andy leaned forward, hanging onto every word. “He was one of my most trusted men, hard working and more respectful than most. I cannot tell you the exact reason he turned to piracy, he rarely spoke of his life before stepping onto my ship. My guess, however, is that he fell on hard times. Work was difficult to come by. He was a blacksmith, and times were rough for men like him. There was already a well-established smith in most of the port towns and he was not interested in going inland to farm. He was free spirited and more open-minded than a hundred men combined.”

Andy smiled as relief washed through her. She’d been so worried that her father had been an awful man, one of the “vile pirates” everyone had warned her about. It was comforting to know he was the opposite of that.

“Once he came onboard,” the Captain continued. “He relished being at sea and learned his way quickly around a ship. He learned how to fight, too, but then again he already knew his way around a sword. Perhaps that’s why you have such a talent for it.” 

Captain Priestly looked at her pointedly, and Andy couldn’t help but beam at the praise with a blush warming her cheeks.

“On one of our rare trips to shore, he fell in love with a Cuban girl; Benita was her name. He asked if he could bring her aboard. I do not think she was treated well where she came from, so, despite my misgivings, I agreed. A year or so after that, we found Cortez’ treasure, and Benita found she was pregnant. Your mother did not want to have her child at sea, she wanted the stability of being on land until at least after you were born. So they left.” The Captain’s brow furrowed, and her eyes lowered as she became lost in thought. “I’m not entirely sure where they went, but by my estimates, the effects of the curse must have hit Henry when you were less than a year old. I’m not sure what happened to him, nor your mother, after that.” 

Andy’s heart sank in her chest, and she felt a painful pang of disappointment. 

“They never returned, and, though we looked, they were impossible to find as we sailed the world looking for the gold. The piece that he took became the bane of our existence. Henry had not wanted to take it, but Benita convinced him that it would be the only way to give you proper care. I regretted the decision for years. We searched and searched, and always came up empty handed. All of the other pieces were restored some nine years ago, so you can imagine our despair. We’d almost given up hope of finding the missing piece.” Captain Priestly lifted her gaze to look right into Andy’s eyes, the blue so intense that Andy could see the reflection of the flickering candles in its depths. “Until we found you.” 

Andy's breath caught. 

“Oh.”

It was the only thing she could muster in the moment, lost as she was in the eyes that seemed to stare into her very soul. She felt a frisson of something flow through the space between them, like lightning. There was hardly any emotion to be found in the other woman’s expression, but Andy finally realised the magnitude of her role in the lives of everyone on this ship. Humbled and feeling rather off-balance, she lowered her eyes and broke the intense connection in order to process everything.

Captain Priestly seemed content to let Andy have her moment of quiet. She leaned back further into her chair, her head tilted back against the backrest as she looked at Andy through hooded eyes.

Andy was hardly aware of herself or her surroundings. Her mind was running a mile a minute, wondering where her parents were. She could not help but wonder why they gave her up, why they never looked for her despite the invaluable piece of gold they’d left her with. She conceded that raising a child under the curse would likely be unbearable, but did they really have to abandon her the way they had? Feeling more than a little despondent, Andy absentmindedly lifted the goblet to her lips and took a sip.

Deep, rich flavour exploded on her taste buds, and it was enough to bring her out of her somber thoughts. She blinked down at the wine, humming in appreciation.

"This is delicious, Captain Priestly," she said, unable to ignore years' worth of proper manners drilled into her head.

The Captain flicked her fingers dismissively, her rings reflecting the light and catching Andy's attention. 

"I'm glad you can enjoy it enough for the two of us."

Andy was once again reminded just how awful the curse was, and immediately regretted her slip.

"I'm really sorry," she said, lowering her eyes.

"Whatever for?"

"For everything. The curse. It's needlessly cruel. I can't imagine what it must be like."

There was a heavy silence. After a moment Andy worked up the courage to look up, only to find the Captain looking at her intensely, head still tilted back, her long neck poised in an elegant arch.

"Many people would say we deserve it. After all, we're vile, lying thieving pirates, are we not?"

Something in her tone made Andy feel deeply ashamed. Then she realised that Captain Priestly was quoting what Andy had accused her of being when she'd first boarded the Black Pearl. Her throat tightened with guilt, and she swallowed thickly to ease the pressure.

"No, you're not," she said, with as much honesty as she could muster. “I was wrong to accuse you of those things. I have learned so much since I came here, and I've come to realise how manipulated I've been my whole life. Besides, no person should live like this, without emotions or the things you love, or even the ability to enjoy a glass of wine."

The pirate gave a dry, humourless chuckle, and her eyelids fluttered closed. Andy watched her silently: the long lashes casting shadows upon her cheeks, the strong set of her jaw, the way her neck moved as she swallowed.

"The glass of wine is the least of it," she said, voice quiet and eyes still closed. The air around them seemed to change, like something heavy and significant was unfolding. Andy stilled, fearful of making any noise, not daring to even breathe.

"I have not felt anything for twenty four years. Not the wind on my face, the spray of the sea, the moonlight on my skin. Not the silk of my gowns, nor the sweetness of an apple. Not the touch of a loved one."

Andy was shocked at the honesty and the depth of feeling coming from the usually stoic Captain. She had no idea why she, of all people, was allowed to see this side of her, or how she should respond. Her heart went out to the woman in front of her, but she knew that nothing she said could make things better. Regardless, she felt the need to say something. 

Anything.

"You don't deserve any of that," Andy said, voice hoarse with empathy. "I'm so sorry."

Blue eyes snapped open. Whatever they found on Andy’s face made the Captain straighten in her chair, a flash of bitterness contorting her features. Andy froze under the withering glare she received.

"I do not want nor need your pity," the Captain spat. A mask of icy indifference slammed back into place, yet her eyes belied her fury.

"Captain," Andy started, trying to back track whatever turn the conversation had taken.

"Don't," she ordered, her voice a deadly whisper. "Get out."

"No, that’s not what I--"

The Captain stood abruptly, pressing her palms on the table and leaning forward to looking down her nose at Andy. For the first time, she looked every bit the deadly, ruthless pirate the world feared. Andy's words died in her throat.

"Get. Out."

Despite the fear, Andy had a moment of clarity. Or perhaps foolishness. Captain Priestly needed her. Everyone on this ship needed her more than she did them. The Captain could react in anger, push away her sympathy if that was what she wanted, but she could not harm Andy in any real way. They needed her.

Her fear abated enough to stand and hold the Captain’s gaze. Priestly seemed taken aback by Andy’s defiance, but her face remained stony and sullen.

“I will do as you asked,” Andy conceded, making her way to the door. Before opening it, she turned to look over her shoulder. “By the way,” she called out. The Captain had slumped back in her chair, but she turned to face turned to her once more. “Pity is not what I feel for you. It is something else entirely. Your inability to interpret that is not my fault.”

Andy felt satisfaction warm her chest when the usually composed Captain dropped her immaculate persona for the briefest of moments. Blue eyes widened and her lips parted in shock. Andy allowed herself a second to savour the expression before turning on her heel and throwing the door open. 

A startled Cara stood with her tray full of food just outside, arm reaching out towards the door. Andy stepped aside, sending her an honest, apologetic smile.

“Sorry, Cara, it seems that I won’t be dining here, after all.” Before the cook could reply, Andy stepped around her and strode away, quickly making her way to the safety of her chambers. 

Once there, she shut the door behind her more forcefully than necessary and leaned back against it. Her heart was racing. She’d just outwardly defied the notorious Captain Priestly, and not for the first time either. This felt different, though; more personal, somehow. Her mind rushed over the disaster of the past two minutes and she questioned her own actions until it all became muddled and incoherent. There was only one clear thought making it through her distress.

What on earth just happened?

Chapter Text

Yet another night was spent tossing and turning, and still Andy couldn’t figure out why Captain Priestly’s opinion mattered to her so much. The pirate’s feelings should have little to no importance whatsoever on her bearing. Yet Andy was riddled with guilt over the events of the previous evening. Time and time again, she tried to analyse what had caused the Captain to snap; what she’d found in Andy’s words or expression that made her so angry. With how little she knew about the woman, it was a wasted effort. 

Andy was also discombobulated beyond belief, for amidst the fear of the Captain’s fury, she’d also felt something else. Something so very different that Andy couldn’t put her finger on it. It bothered her immensely.

When she woke up at sunrise after a meagre few hours of restless sleep, she was reluctant to even get out of bed. She wasn’t sure how she would face the Captain, but was certain that they would run into each other if Andy ventured out onto the main deck. The thought of seeing her in the light of day after what happened last night made Andy anxious enough to curl up on her pillow and force herself back to sleep.

She dozed for what seemed like hours until there was a stiff knock upon her door. Still groggy and tired, Andy groaned and rubbed her eyes as she rose from the bed. When she opened the door, she was surprised to find a scowling Emily on the other side holding a tray full of food.

“Breakfast for your highness,” she snarked.

Andy blinked at her in puzzlement, and apparently her moment’s pause was too long for the redhead. The pirate pushed her way into the room and brushed past Andy, who reflexively stepped out of her way just in time to avoid getting knocked over. After setting the tray on the table, Emily rounded on Andy with her arms folded across her chest.

“Um,” Andy started, unsure what to make of the situation. “Thank you?”

“Don’t thank me.” Emily narrowed her eyes. “The Captain ordered me to bring this to you. Apparently she thinks I have nothing better to do than play Kitchen Maid to our prisoner.”

“Oh.”

Now Andy really didn’t know what to make of the situation.

“If your ladyship needs anything else,” Emily continued, ignoring the baffled expression on Andy’s face. She bowed sarcastically before straightening up once more, her face full of disdain. “Do not come to me. Got it?”

“Yeah,” Andy mumbled. “No problem.”

The words were barely out of Andy’s mouth before Emily pushed past her and slammed the door behind her, leaving Andy alone once more.

She stood in the middle of the room, still trying to catch up with the hurricane that was Emily. Slowly, she approached the tray upon the table. It carried two plates filled with an omelette, bread, an assortment of fruits, and a tall glass of water. But what caught Andy’s attention the most was something that was definitely not meant to be eaten.

She lifted the worn book from its place at the corner of the tray, tucked under the napkin. Andy traced the familiar title with her fingertips. Of their own volition, her lips turned up into a smile. 

 

.oOo.

 

Once she'd finished her breakfast, Andy finally decided to get dressed in a simple ensemble of dark trousers and white tunic before going up to the main deck. After taking the tray to the kitchen, she went to perch on her favourite place at the front of the ship. She settled down to read all about the mystical city where women of old lived together in divine harmony, but she hadn’t even opened the book before someone sat down beside her.

“So you finally decided to join the living dead,” Nigel said, tipping his hat towards her.

Andy smiled at him, amused by his dark sense of humour.

“Good morning to you, too,” she replied.

“And what is that?” Before she could react, he snatched the book from her hands and read aloud, “ ‘The City of Ladies.’ Hmm. Don’t think I’ve read this one.”

“It’s very good,” Andy said, reaching to take it back. Nigel gave it freely, studying her closely.

“So you’ve read it?” At Andy’s nod of affirmation, he turned to look at the open sea before them. “I know someone else who’s also read it. In fact, I think it might be one of her favourites, and she’s very particular about who gets to touch her treasured books.”

Andy didn’t know what to say to that. In mystified silence, she sat quietly with the weight of the knowledge Nigel had just dropped on her. Was she somehow special? She didn't understand why she seemed to be such an exception to how Captain Priestly treated others. First answering Andy’s questions, then opening up to her about the curse, and now lending her cherished books from her allegedly very private collection. It was baffling.

“Look, kid," Nigel said, interrupting her derailing thoughts. When she turned to look at him, he had an inscrutable expression on his face. "I don’t know what happened last night when you had dinner with the Captain, but she was on the warpath this morning. I saw her tell Emily to bring that tray to you, and I know this book is from her personal library.”

Andy tensed. She felt like she was being interrogated for a crime she could not recall committing. A big part of her wanted to defend herself, to say she didn’t do anything wrong, that it was Captain Priestly who had reacted in anger over something meaningless. But she stayed silent, listening as the Captain’s right hand man continued:

“Now, I don’t need to know the details. Matter of fact, I don’t want to know. But here’s a word of advice from someone who has been close to Miranda for decades.” He seemed very serious, and Andy leaned closer in anticipation of whatever wise guidance was about to be bestowed upon her. “Miranda does not apologise. Ever. Well, not verbally, at least. She can’t afford to show weakness or sentimentality. Her station as the ruthless Captain Priestly depends on a finely constructed persona. One slip, and the consequences could be disastrous for us all.”

After a moment’s consideration, Andy nodded in understanding. It made sense, she supposed. So much depended on the Captain, so many people relied on her ability to be a good leader to her crew. It was definitely impressive and worth admiration and respect. Yet Andy couldn’t help but think about the kind of burden that would be, the effects it could have on a person after so many years of carrying that weight upon their shoulders.

“On the rare occasion that she does apologise, it’s usually in the form of an olive branch.” Nigel waved at the book clutched in Andy’s hands. “Like this one. So take it from me - accept this act for what it is and don’t hold anything against her. We’ve all been through hell and back, and sometimes we let it affect the way we act. It's no excuse, but deep down she's a good, honourable woman.”

Once again, Andy had no idea what to say, or even think. Thankfully, no answer seemed to be required. Nigel gave her a pat on the shoulder before hauling himself up and walking away without waiting for a response. Andy was left staring out at the horizon, mulling over the quartermaster’s words. 

She looked down at the book in her hands and traced the spine with her fingertips, wondering what to do. Part of her wanted to talk to the Captain, to thank her for lending her the tome and to make sure there was no anger or resentment between them. However, after Nigel’s words, she also wanted to take some time to reflect, to try to understand the Captain’s gesture on her own before rushing off to get answers. It went against her nature; she always sought answers as quickly and efficiently as she could. This time felt different somehow, though she couldn't explain why.

Besides, she hadn’t read this book in a long time. It would be nice to find comfort among its pages once more.

Opening the well-worn book to the first page, she smiled. Just like before, there were several annotations on the margins in that familiar, elegant script. Forgetting all about her previous turmoil, Andy settled in to read the beautiful words and perhaps gain a little more insight into the intriguing mind of Captain Miranda Priestly.

She had read through almost half the novel when someone else slumped down next to her. Andy jumped, startled out of her reading stupor.

"Sorry," Serena grinned at her mischievously. "Didn't mean to scare ya."

"I quite believe you did," Andy rolled her eyes, closed the book and turned towards her friend.

"What can I say?” Serena grinned. “You looked like you needed some company. I don’t think you’ve looked up from that book in almost two hours."

Surprised, Andy looked up to the sky only to find the sun had lowered into late afternoon light.

"Oh," she offered lamely. "I hadn't realised."

"What are you reading that has you so hooked?"

Instead of giving a verbal answer, Andy held up the book for Serena to see. The blonde blinked in surprise, taking the book from Andy.

"Miranda gave you this?” she asked in disbelief.

"Yeah," Andy admitted, looking away. She wanted to talk to someone about all that had happened last night, but she still felt so unsure. It felt like she was betraying Miranda somehow. Which was ridiculous, of course. These were her thoughts and feelings, and hers alone.

"What's wrong?" Serena asked. Andy returned her attention to her friend, who was looking at her with concern. 

Maybe Captain Priestly had been right. Maybe she was too easy to read.

"Nothing," Andy lied, biting her lip. She felt anxiety rise up again in her chest, and that awful, alien feeling returned to torment her some more. Andy had never been one for confrontation and arguments - it was probably why she was so shaken up about this whole mess. The Captain was an intimidating, respectable, terrifying woman, and Andy hated being at odds with people. 

Yes, that seemed perfectly logical. 

And yet.

She sighed in defeat. 

"Actually, there is one thing."

Serena raised her eyebrows and wordlessly moved closer as if sensing the importance of Andy’s next words.

"The Captain and I had a sort of... disagreement last night."

"Ohh," Serena enunciated slowly. "That explains her mood, and I was wondering why you didn't show up for breakfast. Emily told me Miranda ordered her to bring you food around noon?"

"Yes, she wasn't too happy about that," Andy retorted.

Serena snickered. “That’s an understatement. Do you wish to talk about what happened?"

"Would that be alright?" Andy asked hopefully. "I don't want to talk about it, if it's not my place."

"Not your place?" Serena asked, baffled. She leaned closer and grabbed Andy’s hand earnestly. "There's no such thing as 'your place’ on this ship, in this life, Andy. You should do what feels right, always."

The words struck Andy like a physical blow. All her life, she'd been told she had to be ‘put in her proper place’ and to stay there no matter the issue. However, all Andy had ever wanted to do was to run free and explore the world around her. Hearing her friend say those words so matter-of-factly made Andy's heart squeeze inexplicably.

"Okay," Andy whispered with a grateful smile, trying not to let herself become too emotional at the revelation. She took a settling breath before finally allowing herself to verbalise the cause of her troubled state. "The Captain and I were meant to have dinner together so she could tell me about my parents. It was good to hear about them, but then we began talking about the curse. She told me what it felt like, how horrible it is, and I… Well, I told her how sorry I was - how sorry I am that you’ve all had to live like this for so long. Which is true!” Andy said fervently. “I really am sorry this happened to you. But she got angry and snapped at me about how my ‘pity’ was unwelcome, and then ordered me to leave. I only just managed to defend myself before I left. And then she sent Emily to bring me breakfast and this book as if nothing had happened."

She held up the book, more than a little amused at Serena's dumbfounded expression and decided to elaborate.

"We talked about it last night after she caught me looking at it on her bookshelf. It really is very good, it’s about a group of women who--"

“Wait,” Serena waved her hands in an exaggerated gesture, interrupting Andy before she could babble on through a literary analysis of the book. "Wait a minute. So you, Lady Miss Sunshine with the innocent doe eyes, showed sympathy to the fearsome Dragon of the Seas like it's nothing, to a woman that has never received much honest, human compassion before and therefore doesn't know how to accept it without being suspicious? Well of course that’s what happened. She lashed out and you defied her, even though nobody defies Miranda and walks away unscathed.” Serena scoffed in disbelief. “And then, she apologises in the form of a beloved book of hers that she never lets anyone touch?"

"And breakfast," Andy mumbled weakly, suddenly feeling very small and very foolish indeed.

"And breakfast," Serena amended, still sounding slightly awed. "You know, Sachs, I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like you. I don't think she has, either."

Andy blushed. Was she really that strange? She'd always felt different and out of place back home, like she never truly fit in with the people around her. Here, though, she'd felt more at ease after realising that her life was not in danger. She felt no need to censor herself, and was comfortable enough to do all the things she'd always wanted to do without feeling like she was breaking some kind of law. And yet, despite the difference to the home where she’d grown up, she didn't quite fit in here either.

She could feel a headache beginning to throb between her brows.

"What do you suggest I do?" Andy asked.

"Honestly?" Andy nodded, and Serena continued with a smile. "I'd just accept the apology, such as it is. She doesn't offer those easily, trust me. And from what it looks like, I think you've both reached an understanding of each other and what happened last night, no? So there’s no need to bring it up again."

Andy tilted her head. That made a lot of sense, actually. She felt like, in the past several hours, she had come to know and understand a lot of things about the woman behind the Captain’s pirate persona. It felt like a sort of victory, and Andy couldn't hold back a smile. Serena grinned and nudged her.

"Ah, there’s the cheery Miss Sunshine we all know and love! Now, come with me," Serena said, standing swiftly and stretching her arms above her head. "Get ready to learn the real meaning of defeat. After what you pulled yesterday, I demand a rematch."

Andy groaned.

"Do we have to? My muscles still hurt. You are a demanding task master. I’ve had governesses that were softer than you."

"It's for your benefit," Serena shrugged, then pulled on Andy's arm until she was forced to stand up too. "Now come on! I'm sure the Captain is eager to watch the show, too."

Andy frowned. She looked toward the rear of the ship, where Captain Priestly was standing at the quarterdeck, hands poised on the wooden railing as she watched over her ship with a keen eye. She looked as magnificent as usual. Her velvet coat was a shade of such a deep purple it gleamed almost black, contrasting beautifully with her white blouse and high-waisted trousers. When she turned to face the starboard side of her vessel, her hat cast a shadow upon her face, until all Andy could see was the elegant curve of her neck, her strong jaw, and the outline of her chin and lips.

"Hey," Serena said, startling Andy with a quick snap of her fingers in front of her face. "What are you waiting for? Let's go!”

Andy allowed herself to be dragged down to the main deck, valiantly fighting off an embarrassed blush from getting caught staring at the Captain. The moment she grabbed hold of her sword, however, she forced herself to focus. She gripped the handle tightly, shuffling her feet into position, and took a deep breath.

For two hours, Andy gave everything she had into training. Her moves were more precise, her arms stronger as she wielded the sword through the air. There was an inexplicable energy moving through her. It was invigorating in a way she hadn't felt before. She felt confident. Hopeful. It was such a stark contrast to how she'd felt last night and earlier this morning.

By the time Serena called an end to their training, Andy was glistening with sweat and panting in exertion, but her eyes were bright and her smile true. When she looked up toward the quarterdeck, she saw the Captain still standing where she'd been before Andy and Serena had begun their training. 

This time, however, the Captain was looking back at her. Andy couldn't help it: she smiled at her. At the gesture, Captain Priestly's posture seemed to lose some of its tension, the sharp line of her shoulders relaxing to a more natural stance. She gallantly inclined her hat towards Andy in acknowledgement. 

With a new type of energy coursing through her, Andy turned away and went to fetch a pitcher of soap and water. Once in the privacy of her rooms, she washed herself thoroughly before she took the time to make herself look presentable. She found an off-the-shoulder white blouse and tucked it into a simple forest green skirt. She made quick work of braiding her hair so that it fell over her collarbone, with a few tendrils escaping to curl around her face and neck. 

By the time she returned to the main deck, the evening sky was alight with hues of purple and red. Andy looked around the ship, smiling at some of the crew members that were either working or lounging around enjoying the final rays of the setting sun. Emily was at the helm, with Serena sitting near her on the railing, legs swinging back and forth. 

Most notably, the Captain was nowhere to be seen, so Andy took a leap of faith.

She knocked twice on the doors to the Captain's quarters, but there was no response for a long moment. Andy's face fell. She was about to turn away when the door opened slightly, just enough for Captain Priestly to peer at who was calling upon her. Andy smiled at her hopefully.

"Oh," the Captain said, seeming surprised to see Andy at her door. "Do come in."

The Captain stepped away from the door, disappearing further into the room. Andy pushed it the rest of the way open before stepping inside and closing it shut.

When she turned back around to meet the other woman, the vision that awaited her made her freeze.

The Captain was wrapped in a silk grey robe cut below her knees. And nothing else. Not even her usual pieces of jewellery. She had clearly been in the midst of a bath; her face was freshly washed, her hair slicked back. Her skin glistened in the warm amber light that flooded in through the tall windows. She looked soft. Andy couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. Against her will, her eyes roamed the woman before her, admiring the shape of her strong calves and thin, elegant ankles; the outline of her thighs where the robe clung to her wet skin; the subtle dips at her hips and the curve of her waist; the way the robe fell open past her collarbones. Crystal beads of water yet to be dried adorned her neck and chest better than any jewels ever could.

Andy's fingers twitched.

The subconscious movement spurred her to take a shaky breath, only then realising she had forgotten to breathe altogether since the moment she laid eyes on the Captain.

"If you'll give me a moment," the older woman said smoothly, seeming unbothered by her state of undress despite Andy's inability to look away from her. "Please make yourself comfortable in the meantime."

Before Andy could muster a response, Captain Priestly turned and walked to the other side of the dividing screen. Andy couldn't help but watch her go. She felt dazed, only managing to snap out of whatever trance she'd befallen when the Captain was completely out of sight.

With a firm shake of her head, Andy made her way to the other end of the room, trying to distract herself with the impressive collection of books the same way she'd done last night. In the stillness of the room, however, it was impossible not to hear the sound of silk as it moved on the other side of the screen. It was followed by quiet footsteps, the creaking of wooden doors and drawers opening and closing, the shuffling of clothes slipping over bare skin.

Andy's stomach felt strange, and she struggled to find a reason for it. It was probably due to the nerves, she mused. She had never been particularly good with confrontation after all, so reconciliation was not something she had a lot of experience with. Sitting on the loveseat, she forced herself to relax. Nigel had said that the Captain didn't like to speak of matters already laid at rest so perhaps there wouldn't be any kind of confrontation at all.

Footsteps approached from behind, and soon Captain Priestly elegantly lowered herself onto the armchair across from her. Andy turned to her with a smile, and took in the woman's new appearance. Tucked into loose cream trousers, she wore a loose silk cerulean blouse with a wide neckline that fell low off one shoulder. Andy had never seen her look so casual. It was an entrancing sight, with the slope of her neck and the curve of her shoulder making Andy lose any semblance of concentration. Her hair was still wet, but her forelock had escaped and brushed over her eyebrow. An eyebrow that raised questioningly at Andy's continued silence.

Oh. Right.

"Hi," Andy said lamely.

"Good evening, Miss Sachs," the Captain said smoothly. Andy must have made a face, because she quickly amended herself by adding, "Andrea."

Andy couldn't help a smile, already feeling more comfortable. Still, the air was heavy with something unspoken. 

"Thank you for the book," she said, figuring this was the best way to start.

"It's nothing," the Captain dismissed her gratitude with a wave of her hand. But after talking to Nigel and Serena earlier, Andy knew for a fact that it was, indeed, something. In that moment, she made the decision.

"No, it isn't."

The Captain blinked at her, looking taken aback by Andy's response. Then her expression turned amused and she let out a low chuckle.

"You know," she said, elegantly leaning back into her seat as if it were a throne. She studied Andy closely with enchanting eyes. "Nobody has ever defied me quite like you. No one else has dared."

Andy was at a loss for words.

"I-"

"No, no. That wasn’t a question." The Captain cut her off. "It wasn't a reprimand, either. If I'm completely honest, it's rather amusing."

Serena's comment about Andy being innocent, doe-eyed Miss Sunshine came to mind, and she felt indignation flare up in her chest.

"None of that now." The Captain raised a mollifying hand towards her. Because of course she could see right through Andy and read her every emotion like an open book. "You should take it as a compliment. When my crew brought the wealthy daughter of a governor onto my ship, I was prepared to deal with a spoiled brat who would test my patience beyond belief with her hysterical crying and pleading and other such nonsense. You, on the other hand…"

The Captain tilted her head, trailing her eyes over Andy's figure pensively. She leaned her elbow on the armrest and lifted a hand to her chin, running a finger over her lips in an entrancing manner. Andy shifted under the weight of her gaze.

"You, with your defiance and your curiosity and your eagerness to learn. You have surpassed all my expectations, Andrea. And I don't often find myself pleasantly surprised."

Something rose in Andy at the Captain’s words, and she basked in the warmth. It felt a lot like pride, but it wasn't that exactly. No, Andy had never experienced this feeling before. It was as unsettling as it was pleasant.

"Wow, I, uh," Andy stuttered, and realised she was smiling shily despite herself. "Thank you?"

The Captain's lips lifted into a subtle smirk. The expression was so genuine it took Andy a moment to regain her train of thought.

"You broke all my expectations, too," Andy finally said. "You're not what I imagined you to be, Captain."

The woman hummed pensively, crossing her legs and relaxing further into her seat. After a moment of contemplation, she finally spoke.

"When it's just the two of us, you may call me Miranda."

Andy stared at her, dumbfounded. She had not expected to be given such a liberty, so all she could do was sit in utter shock.

"It's only fair, after all, Andrea," the Captain - Miranda said. Her usually serious expression was softened with amusement. Combined with the flowing clothes and her damp hair brushed away from her face, she had never looked so relaxed in Andy’s eyes.

"It would be my pleasure," Andy acquiesced at last, tasting the next word as it rolled off her tongue and savouring the moment with delight. "Miranda."

 

.oOo.

 

They reached a new understanding of each other that night. It helped Andy feel more at ease around the ship and its crew. For the next several days, Andy and Miranda spent more and more time together. It was tentative at first, especially since the older woman was used to fiercely guarding her privacy and keeping her distance from others. Andy didn’t mind though. She was patient, and knew not to push beyond the boundaries the Captain set. She let Miranda approach her whenever she wanted, and always made sure to notice the Captain’s mood so as not to impose her presence if it was not desired. 

It appeared to be the correct approach, because each day Miranda would find Andy on deck and spend more and more time with her. Seeing this, the other members of the crew started warming up to Andy too.

Thus, she settled into a routine. In the mornings, after breaking her fast with the crew, she would train with Serena when the sun was still fairly low and the heat more manageable. After two or three hours, she'd wash herself and change before going up to help Cara prepare lunch. Sometimes, if Cara had everything in hand, Andy would help clean the ship instead. It was good to feel useful, and the crew seemed to appreciate her efforts.

In the afternoons, after her chores were through, she spent time learning the ways of the ship. As the crew became more at ease with her presence, they gradually began treating her as one of their own. They enjoyed Andy’s curiosity and positive nature, as well as her friendliness and easy laughter. Most of them took her under their wing, or would sit with her in the less busy hours to play music and tell stories.

She was learning more than ever, thanks to them. Redbeard taught her how to rig a sling and hang over the side of the boat ro repair the hull’s exterior (Miranda had nearly flung him into the sea when she had caught them, much to Andy’s amusement). Fishtail gave her lessons with all of the weapons, including letting her shoot one of the swivel guns. Roy walked her through his duties and taught her ten different knots that she would need to secure the barrels. Even Emily begrudgingly answered questions about the stars and navigation, although Serena was always there to placate her. Nigel seemed to have become especially fond of Andy, allowing her to shadow him as he took command whenever the Captain retired to her chambers. Apparently Andy amused him enough to keep him entertained when he commandeered the helm.

The highlight of her days, however, came in the evenings. It was not a daily occurrence; sometimes she would dine with the crew until late into the night. But some evenings, she would dine with Miranda.

Andy never could have guessed that talking to Miranda could be so fulfilling. She was incredibly cultured and intelligent, with a dry sense of humour that was as sharp as her tongue. She had tales of adventures and adversities that Andy could not get enough of, and she indulged Andy's curious nature when it led her to ask a myriad of questions. With the many tales the Captain shared, Andy felt more connected to her parents than she’d ever thought was possible. It made their absence more bearable.

Surprisingly, Miranda seemed almost as curious about Andy's own life. She enquired and listened attentively when Andy told her all about her adoptive father, her happy childhood, all the liberties she'd enjoyed until they were taken from her when she became "too old to behave in such a fashion". The Captain even put up with Andy complaining about all of the things she'd been forced to do, or been forbidden from doing simply because she was a woman, always looking more amused than annoyed. 

It was after one particular snarky comment about corsets and proper posture that Andy heard Miranda laugh for the first time. A deep, melodious laugh that lit up her features beautifully. The corners of her eyes crinkled with mirth, and the lines adorning the corners of her mouth made her look happy and carefree. After that precious moment, Andy knew she had to make Miranda laugh again.

Beyond the personal, Andy also told her of all the things she had read, the fascinating subjects she loved. Her face lit up whenever she spoke of her passions. Miranda would often relax into her seat, leaning her chin on the palm of her hand as she watched Andy ramble about music and literature and history. She would ask insightful questions, or relay some of her own vast knowledge and wise opinions on a subject. It made Andy feel special, like she had finally found someone with a keen enough mind to match her own.

Those moments filled her with happiness, but some of her most treasured pastimes were those when they wouldn’t talk at all. They got into the habit of sitting in comfortable silence, lounging in Miranda’s quarters while they read. Some nights, Miranda would join her, but on others, she would pour over maps and tend to her duties while Andy curled up in the armchair and read any book that caught her fancy. Miranda was very generous with her literature, and Andy treated this as the privilege it was.

She couldn't remember a time in her life when she'd felt more stimulated or content. Every day, she learned something new, something that she'd never been able to find among her books. She was making friends with the unlikely, but ultimately good, group of people who had the most fascinating stories and ways of thinking. And most of all, she was slowly getting to know more about the intriguing mystery that was Captain Miranda Priestly.

On the twelfth day of her stay aboard the Black Pearl, Eagle Eye invited Andy to join him up at the crow's nest at the top of the main mast. Andy hesitated only momentarily. She was not particularly good with heights, but the opportunity was far too appealing and she accepted after Nigel gave her an encouraging nudge.

The climb up was incredibly challenging. Andy's legs shook as she concentrated on every step, but Eagle Eye led her patiently and calmly until at last they made it to the Nest. Only then did she allow herself to look beyond her grip on the mast.

The sight that greeted her was beyond anything Andy could have ever imagined.

The sea looked like a dream in its calm, crystalline infinity. The sun reflected off the surface in stripes of gold and white, and the sky was so clear that it was difficult to differentiate where the sea ended and the sky began. Andy had never felt such euphoria in her life. If she kept her gaze on the horizon, she could pretend that she was a bird soaring at the top of the world, liberated and carefree. She leaned against the railing, spreading her arms against the wind, basking in the feeling of the breeze whipping through her hair as the ship soared across the sea. The ecstasy she felt in her chest fought to break free until she could not hold it back any longer. She let out a shout of pure joy, throwing her head back and sending a grateful prayer at the heavens.

In her exhilarated state, and so high up as she was, she didn't see the pair of fond blue eyes watching her in amusement from below.

 

.oOo.

 

Later that evening, Andy stood at the foredeck of the ship, leaning against the railing. It had become her favourite spot to be alone with her thoughts. The sun was still shining brightly, but its heat was not as strong, and it bathed the world in a beautiful golden glow.

For the first time in her life, she could honestly say that she understood something completely. There was beauty in living out at sea, where everyday tasted of freedom and adventure. It made Andy contemplate how she had lived without knowing this feeling. It was no wonder so many people chose to live like this instead of on land where rules, expectations, and injustice wore people down to their bones. Here, everyone could choose their own destiny.

"You are beginning to understand." 

Andy jumped, whirled around to face Miranda, and promptly lost her breath the moment she laid eyes on her. Miranda was dressed in tight dark trousers that hugged her hips and matched her boots, but what caught Andy’s attention was Miranda’s tailored, form-fitting coat - if one could call it that. It looked almost like a mixture between a cape and a skirt. It was long on the left side of her, falling gracefully to below the knee, but the right side was cut off at the waist, where the material followed the contours of her body almost as tightly as a corset. It was held together by three black leather belts that wrapped around her ribs towards the right, and the collar was wide and sharp, falling open to reveal a triangle of perfect skin. The sleeves cut off at her shoulders, and would have left her arms bare to Andy’s gaze had it not been for the thin silk blouse she wore underneath.

Despite her dark attire, she was a breathtaking visage glowing in golden light. The sun must favor her above all others, Andy thought, because it embraced her figure like she was made of liquid gold, and it draped a shining, pearly halo over her silver hair. She was all smooth skin and warm blue eyes as she approached, and Andy forced herself to swallow past the lump in her throat.

"Hello to you, too," Andy answered with a pointed smile before tearing her eyes away, back to face the sea. Miranda came to stand beside her, imitating her posture by leaning her forearms on the railing. Sandalwood and jasmine surrounded Andy in perfect harmony as it always did when Miranda was near. It took Andy a moment to return to herself. "And what is it that I'm beginning to understand?"

“Why we choose this life." Andy turned to face the Captain even as the other woman kept her eyes set on the ocean. "Why we live at sea, away from all the laws of land that do nothing but tie us down. I believe you’re starting to understand the feeling that comes from looking towards the ends of the earth knowing that nothing can hold you back.”

"What feeling is that?” Andy asked, although she suspected she already knew the answer.

Miranda finally turned to face her with an unguarded expression.

“Freedom.”

Andy nodded slowly. She knew exactly what the other woman meant. She'd been feeling it more of late: the tranquility that came from breathing in the salty air while looking around the wide expanse of blue. It was peaceful, as if the ship and her crew were the only thing in existence, with the ocean and the stars as their faithful companions.

"Are you married?"

The question threw Andy off-guard, jolting her out of her daze to find Miranda watching the horizon once more.

"Pardon?" Andy said, not sure if she had heard correctly.

Miranda rolled her eyes, and Andy remembered keenly how Emily had given her a huge list of things to avoid around the Captain, one of which was making her repeat herself. That particular conversation had happened several days ago, yet Andy had soon dismissed half the "rules" Emily had said as utter nonsense. After all, Miranda allowed Andy to ask plenty of questions, and she didn’t seem to mind at all when Andy requested to borrow books from her private library. 

"I asked if you're married," Miranda repeated. She still hadn’t raised her gaze from the ocean.

"Oh," Andy said. "Well. It's funny actually. The day your men brought me on board, my father had arranged for me to meet a potential suitor. Commodore Norrington. Ugh." Andy huffed, shuddering in disgust. "It was awful, of course. He had no inclination to learn about me, or my mind or my interests! He talked about nothing but war strategies and kept insisting that he is the best officer in the entire Royal Navy." She blew the hair off her face with an indignant huff. “I’m afraid he was rather boorish.”

Miranda chuckled quietly. She always seemed particularly amused when Andy would get frustrated or miffed by something. 

"I take it you rejected him, then?" she asked.

"Not exactly,” Andy shook her head in amusement. In hindsight, the entire situation with the Commodore had been utterly absurd. “He did, actually, propose, but I was wearing this French corset, you see. It was so tight that I passed out and fell into the sea from the top of the city wall before I could give him an answer."

At that, Miranda's head whipped towards Andy, eyes widening.

"You what?"

"I know, it's ridiculous," Andy shrugged, smiling self-deprecatingly.

"You could have been seriously hurt!” Miranda exclaimed in outrage. “Those foul torture devices should be banned for all eternity.” She finished with a growl.

Andy felt touched - and amused - by Miranda’s indignation. Her expression softened despite the growing scowl on the other woman's face.

"It's alright," Andy said with a gentle smile. "I'm fine now. It was just a silly accident."

Miranda huffed, turning back to look at the horizon.

With the comfortable lull in conversation, Andy let her mind wander to the woman standing by her side. Had she ever been married before she became a pirate? Or was she with someone now? Then again, wouldn't the curse get in the way of that? Andy lost herself in thought, trying to theorise the possibilities and logistics of maintaining a romantic relationship with such a curse impeding emotions and feelings. 

"I can practically hear the gears in your brain turning," Miranda drawled after a long moment. Andy turned to her once more, forcing herself back to the present. "What is that mind of yours thinking about now?"

"Uh, well," Andy stuttered, uneasy. She was hesitant to ask her burning question. It was rather personal, and Andy did not want to cross a line. But then again Miranda had asked her, so it couldn't be that bad, surely? 

Squaring her shoulders, she decided to go full speed ahead despite her reservations. 

"Were you ever married?"

The other woman's face soured, eyes becoming downcast as a frown deepened the thin line between her brows. The mood seemed to drop in free fall, and Andy immediately regretted asking such a question. 

"No," she finally replied, voice devoid of all emotion. "I knew from a young age I would never marry."

"Oh," Andy said quietly. 

An odd sense of relief washed through her, but it was quickly replaced by worry as she watched the Captain carefully. Her lips were pursed, her jaw clenched, and a deep frown darkened her features. Andy wanted to smooth away the lines on Miranda's somber face, to make her smile again and take away whatever it was that haunted the older woman.

"For what it's worth," Andy started, taking a leap of faith. "I'm glad you didn't. Otherwise you might not have become the fearsome Captain Priestly, and then who would rule the seas and torment even the most fearless men?"

Andy's teasing tone and genuine smile seemed to do the trick. Miranda's solemn expression faded away as her lips twitched up into a smirk. After a moment, she turned to face Andy. Blue eyes were filled with something Andy couldn't begin to unravel.

"For what it's worth," Miranda answered, repeating Andy’s words back to her. "I'm glad you didn't accept Commodore Norbert's proposal. He sounds absolutely dreadful."

Andy laughed, both at the way Miranda had butchered the man’s name as if it were the worst of insults, and the way her nose scrunched in disgust. It was a strangely adorable expression. Andy's easy laughter brought a full smile from the Captain. It lit up her face more than the sun itself, her eyes crinkling at the corners and her elegant cheekbones becoming even more pronounced. Andy tried her best to commit the image to memory. 

It hit her, then, just how beautiful the other woman was. It was more than just her regal bearing and striking clothes. It was everything about her, from her elegant features, to the way her eyes occasionally lit up in amusement or interest, to the remarkable colour of her hair. Andy wasn't blind, she already knew Miranda was an attractive woman. But in that moment, with the sun draping her in gold, the curve of her smile hit Andy like a cannonball to the chest.

She probably looked pretty stupid while all this went on in her mind, staring as she was, but if Miranda was bothered by it, she didn't show it. In fact, she watched Andy with undisguised amusement. It made Andy's heart clench. She opened her mouth to say something, anything --

"Redcoats!" came a shout from high above. Miranda immediately straightened, looking around as Eagle Eye continued to shout: "Navy ship on our tail!"

The crew ran to the edges at either side of the main deck, leaning over the railings to assess the ship running full sails and flying the British Ensign. Andy stood on her tiptoes until she caught sight of the vessel from this level above the deck. The ship was indeed trailing after them, though it was still only a small figure far out at sea.

She turned to Miranda only to find her looking through her silver telescope at the Navy ship. Her lips were pursed and all traces of amusement had vanished. The Captain pressed the telescope shut and returned it to her pocket before addressing her crew.

"Their gun ports are open; their cannons bared. They intend to attack," she called out with a steady, commanding tone. Everyone turned to her, prepared to receive orders. "All hands to battle stations! Haul on the main brace and ready the guns! Load the front and starburst cannons. We face them head on!"

A burst of activity started on deck as all the crew members ran to their tasks, splitting up with well-known practice to ready the ship for battle. Nigel shouted more orders as he went, and even Cara seemed to be arming herself.

Andy watched the commotion, frozen to her spot. Her heart was racing. She had never been in a ship battle before. She barely had any experience in combat. Serena had only let her replace her wooden sword with a real one just four days ago!

Miranda turned to her, grabbing her shoulders with a firm grip. It was enough to shock Andy from her ensuing panic. Though this was the first time Miranda had touched her, she was too overwhelmed to even notice.

"It's alright," Miranda said in a calming voice. "I will keep you safe. We all will. You will come to no harm. Do you understand?"

Andy didn't trust her voice, so she just nodded.

"Good," Miranda said, pulling Andy along to follow her. "Stay close."

They made their way through the bustling main deck until they reached the stairs up to the quarterdeck. Emily was manning the helm, but Miranda brushed her aside.

"Arm yourself, then to your post."

Emily nodded and scurried away, not sparing Andy a single glance as she took off to do the Captain's bidding with a determined stride. If only Andy could be that confident. It was then that she realised that she was the only real mortal on this ship. The others would be okay no matter what happened.

"I-I thought the Pearl was the fastest ship on the Seven Seas,” Andy asked, her voice trembling despite her best efforts to keep her composure. “Can't we just outrun them?" Andy asked, forgetting herself.

Miranda did not seem bothered by Andy questioning her orders. Instead, she took a moment to explain.

"If we outrun them, we risk them trailing us to Isla de Muerta. We are only a few days' away and do not have sufficient provisions to play cat and mouse with a naval vessel. Since it seems that they plan on attacking us anyway, it's best to face them head on." Miranda turned to her, seeing how anxious Andy truly was. "Trust me, Andrea."

Andy looked at her. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and tried to take a deep breath. This was Captain Priestly, the Dragon of the Seas. More than that, she was someone who Andy considered a… friend of sorts. If Miranda said that no harm would come to her, Andy was willing to believe her.

"Alright," Andy relented, letting out a shaky breath. "I trust you."

Miranda smiled at her, and that reassured Andy almost as much as her words.

"Now go get ready," the Captain said. "You will need a sword and pistol. Ask anyone who is near if you need any help. When you're ready, come up here, beside me. It will be safer for you to be out in the open when we're under cannon fire."

Andy nodded quickly. Her fear was slowly turning into pure adrenaline, and she could feel her leg muscles tense.

"Mark the date, Andrea," Miranda continued with a dark, eager glint in her eye. “Today, you fight among pirates."

Chapter Text

The Black Pearl was majestic when armed for battle. The Jolly Roger whipped in the breeze as they unveiled full sails to catch the wind. Andy felt the ship lurch like it had been roped to wild horses as it took off. When Captain Priestly turned her course around to face her enemy head on, the air onboard rippled with anticipation and frenzied energy. 

Andy stayed close to Miranda at the helm, watching with a mix of fear and excitement as the distance between the two ships quickly dissipated. Dressed all in black, Captain Priestly was at one with her ship. It was a striking image: the two most imposing figures of the seas blended together into one. 

“The wind is on our side,” the Captain proclaimed. 

She was completely in her element, steering her vessel into battle without a hint of fear or apprehension. Andy couldn’t help but admire her: the notorious Dragon ready to attack any who dare defy her.

“Cannons ready!” Nigel called from the main deck below.

“Wonderful,” Miranda murmured. The smirk that curled her lips was unlike any Andy had seen before, filled with an intensity that was both thrilling and terrifying. Andy shuddered as the Captain turned towards her. “Let’s get this started, shall we? Fire the front.”

“Fire the front!” Nigel shouted.

A second later, Andy jumped a foot in the air when a terrible booming noise pierced through the air as the twin cannons at the front of the ship fired against their target. One of them missed, creating a great splash in the water just to their left, but the other hit the target and tore through the top of the hull. Seconds later, the Pearl fired again. Both shots hit their target this time, ripping through the ship without mercy and bringing down their main mast in a crumbling heap of splintered wood and ripped cloth. Andy could hear the enemy’s shouts from where she stood. 

“Starboard cannons!” Miranda commanded. Her hands tightened on the helm as the Pearl closed in on the Navy ship. “Hold for my mark.”

The Captain steered the ship westbound until both vessels were almost parallel to each other, some thirty feet between them. Just before the front of her ship was lined up with the enemy’s, she turned to Andy for a fleeting moment. 

“Brace yourself,” she said, before facing forward once again. “Fire all!”

Andy had read about far off lands trembling as if God himself had shaken the earth. She had read stories of men begging for mercy in the midst of battle. None of it could have prepared her for what it would feel like to experience it herself. Thunderous explosions met between the two ships as the two vessels unleashed their cannons upon each other. The Pearl shook with each blow that managed to hit, and Andy held on for dear life. She glanced at the enemy ship, watching as the Pearl’s cannons tore through the hull and broke through the remaining masts. Men in red uniforms were running and shouting amidst the chaos. Some screamed in agony as they were hit by the explosions, some fell overboard and plummeted into the dark sea below. It was horrific, yet Andy could not look away.

With the wind in its favour, the Pearl was lethal. She moved quickly, firing relentlessly and tearing through the enemy, who could hardly keep up with such an assault. She was almost past the Navy vessel when more than two dozen soldiers swung ropes from the masts and flew through the air towards them. Most managed to land on the main deck, swords drawn and ready to attack. 

Andy watched, frozen in place, as half of Miranda’s crew raced on deck and threw themselves into combat with a shout. The sound of swords clashing and guns firing rang out through the air, almost as loud as the cannons had been.

“Go to my chambers,” Miranda urged her, raising her voice over the cacophony of war. “We're past their cannons now, so it’s safe to be inside. Go!”

Andy didn’t have to be told twice. She rushed down the stairs and turned towards the doors she had become so familiar with. Just as she reached to open them, she heard a shout behind her. She turned just in time to see a soldier, sword raised high, running towards her with a snarl. Andy instinctively raised her own sword, blocking his attack. The blow reverberated up through her arm and into her neck in a painful spasm, making her heart pound so loudly it almost drowned out all other noise. She barely had time to regain her composure before he was swinging his sword through the air again. 

Trying her best to keep up her defence, her mind scrambled to remember all the things Serena had diligently taught her. She wielded her weapon as best she could, jumping and ducking away from his relentless onslaught, trying to predict his every move while searching for any visible weakness, just like Miranda had taught her.

This only gave her a few minutes, however. Her handful of lessons could not compete with the experience of a Naval soldier. With a particularly vicious blow, the man finally struck her. Searing pain flared in her bicep, shooting down her arm and weakening her grip on the sword. Not a second later, another devastating hit against her sword knocked it from her hands into the air. It landed several feet away, too far for her to even try getting it back. 

Andy’s heart leapt to her throat. In her despair, she clumsily grabbed for the pistol in her waistband, but didn’t even have time to charge and aim before the man backhanded her across the face. The pistol fell from her grasp as she cried out, falling back against the doors in a dizzying heap. The acrid taste of copper flooded her mouth and she shook her head to clear the ringing in her ears. She shuffled sideways and desperately tried to get away from her attacker, but she fell over her own feet and landed harshly on the wooden floor. The man prowled closer. His eyes shone with bloodlust; his mouth twisted in a grotesque snarl. A predator about to attack its prey. 

Andy had never encountered a more terrifying sight.

“Filthy pirate,” he spat, raising his sword with lethal intention. “I’m gonna enjoy breaking you.”

This was how she died. Right here, on The Black Pearl. Murdered by a vengeful soldier who mistook her for a pirate. One of her own people, blinded by his own deadly verve. 

This would be her end.

She braced herself, curling up protectively even if it would do nothing to save her. Her killer sneered at her and raised his sword higher. She could already feel her vision darkening as he swung it towards her in a lethal strike.

A figure suddenly leapt between them.

Andy’s heart stopped beating. 

She watched in horror as the sword pierced through Miranda’s chest, coming out dark and bloodied through her back. She vaguely heard herself scream, but it felt like char burning up her throat.

Time stood still. Miranda didn’t flinch, despite the sword impaled through her chest. The attack hadn’t even made her stumble.

Frozen in place, Andy watched from the side as Miranda tilted her chin, her profile bathed in sunlight. The Captain glowered with unrestrained fury at the shocked man in front of her. He stumbled back, pulling the sword from between her ribs with a gruesome sound as it tore through her flesh. His dark expression turned terrified as the Captain stretched to her full height.

“You have made your final mistake,” she said in a quiet voice. Andy had never heard her sound so deadly.

She raised her sword. 

The man paled.

Frozen in place on the floor, Andy watched the Captain wield her weapon with vicious intent. She attacked relentlessly, again and again, forcing the man to stumble away from Andy. He was barely able to defend himself, scrambling to keep up with the woman's forceful blows. The sound of iron striking against iron rang through the air in morbid cadence. Andy couldn't tear her eyes away.

The Captain was truly on the warpath now. She posed such a striking image, magnificent in her strength and dexterity, yet devastatingly fatal in her rage. She was the eye of the hurricane; she attacked without reserve, savoured her enemy's terrified expression and his hopeless efforts to keep her at bay. Yet somehow even in her fury, she was graceful, her usual poise and elegance unshaken even in battle.

As the combat moved to a crescendo, when Andy's attacker held his sword up high to block Miranda’s downward attack, she changed the course of her weapon so quickly that Andy barely even saw it happening. With the full weight of her power, Miranda stabbed her sword through the man’s abdomen with a lethal lurch.

Andy could not process the horror she bore witness to as the man collapsed to the ground. His eyes were wide, his mouth open in a gurgling moan. He pressed his hands against his middle until they were covered in his own blood. 

Miranda barely paid attention to the dying man bleeding out by her feet. Another armed soldier ran towards Miranda with the same foolish belief that his crewmate had. She didn’t even flinch. With more finesse than should have been possible, Miranda turned to her new opponent with a ferocious snarl curling her lips.

Andy pressed herself back against the double doors behind her. She was too terrified to move or even look away. Miranda had her back to her now, fighting close enough that nobody would be able to get to Andy without going through her first. The Captain slayed man after man like they were nothing, tearing them apart with a vicious smile upon her beautiful face. They fell to her feet, bleeding and lifeless under her ruthless sword. 

They never stood a chance.

As the last man fell, Miranda breathed out a great sigh and dropped her arms to her side. She glanced down at the carnage and then, as if remembering, rushed over to Andy. With shaking legs, Andy tried to stand. When she wavered, the Captain didn't hesitate and reached down to help her to her feet with steady hands. They did not let go, even as Andy fell back to lean heavily against the doors.

She suddenly felt so weak. The only thing grounding her was the steady pressure of Miranda's hands at her shoulders and the hints of sandalwood and jasmine in the musky air.

The Captain's expression seemed worried as she scrutinised the younger woman. Her eyes roved over Andy’s body searching for wounds before settling on her face.

“You are injured.” Her hand lowered to gently hold the elbow of Andy's wounded arm.

Oh. She'd almost forgotten about that.

Andy turned to look down at her arm and saw blood seeping through the fabric of her white blouse. Not trusting her voice, she stared numbly at the open cut that was beginning to burn in agony. 

A soft warmth landed on her jaw, and she raised her eyes to find Miranda studying her face. She watched the Captain’s frown deepen as her free hand tilted Andy’s chin with her fingertips. Her thumb traced the edges of her mouth delicately, touching the skin just below the cut spitting her bottom lip with utmost gentleness. It made Andy swallow thickly, wincing at the revolting coppery taste still coating her tongue. 

Despite how fiercely destructive the Captain's hands could be, her touch was surprisingly soft; feather-light. It settled something deep inside Andy. It brought her back to life.

“Did he hurt you anywhere else?”

Even her voice was soft. It calmed Andy almost as much as her hands did.

“No,” Andy rasped, finally feeling strong enough to speak. 

All her mind could focus on was Miranda's eyes burning into hers, the tender touch upon her face. Her heart was no longer pounding wildly inside her ribs. The pain of her wounds seemed to have dulled, overpowered by the warm sensation of Miranda’s touch against her skin. She was hardly aware of the way her body was shaking.

“Serena!” Miranda called out, not looking away from Andy’s eyes.

The blonde came quickly, and Miranda stepped back with a deep frown and pursed lips. Andy immediately missed her comfort.

“Oh, merciful Davy Jones,” Serena exclaimed, stepping closer to examine the wound at her shoulder. After poking and prodding a little, she breathed out a sigh of relief. “Looks worse than it is. The cut isn’t very deep. We just have to make sure it doesn’t get infected. Same with the busted lip. Come on, Andy, let me patch you right up.”

Serena wrapped an arm around her, letting Andy lean on her. The blood loss and the shock were making her lightheaded. As Serena led her away, Andy looked back over her shoulder and met Miranda’s eyes. She refused to look away from the intense blue watching her go, until she was ushered into the forecastle, leaving Miranda behind.

 

.oOo.

 

The wound was, indeed, not very deep. After having the blood cleaned off, Andy sat patiently on the foredeck as Serena inspected her arm. 

All around the ship, the crew set about hauling countless soldiers’ lifeless bodies overboard, repairing the damage from the battle, and sheathing away the weapons. Miranda was nowhere to be seen, but the rest of the crew bustled about with an ease that came only from experience. Under normal circumstances, Andy would have been greatly amused to watch Redbeard's time to shine as he barked out orders and set up a workstation in the middle of the main deck.

These were not normal circumstances.

Andy was feeling a mix of overwhelming emotions that she just could not begin to process. On the one hand, she felt completely useless. Rationally, she knew that she had done the best she could and that she should not feel bad for her lack of experience. On the other hand, she was still reeling from the battle. 

Strangely enough, she wasn't particularly moved by the amount of death and destruction she'd seen. What she'd witnessed in Port Royal seemed far worse in comparison. Besides, the other ship had aimed to attack first and it was their soldiers who jumped aboard the Pearl with the intention of executing its crew. She wondered absently if they had realised who they were attacking, or if they had really been foolish enough to believe they could bring down the notorious Captain Priestly and her crew.

No, what had Andy so unsettled was Miranda’s ruthless killing. Over the past few days, Andy had almost forgotten she was in the presence of the most notorious pirate captain to ever sail the seas. Miranda had shown Andy glimpses into the woman behind the persona, the softness and the kindness and the sorrow hidden behind a tower of ice, and Andy had gotten swept up in it.

"This may hurt," Serena warned. 

Andy was so lost in thought that she barely heard her. Only the sudden, burning sensation on her arm made her snap back into the present with a pained cry.

"I know, I know," Serena said soothingly, rubbing her thumb over the crook of Andy's elbow, right where Miranda had held her earlier. "It hurts like a cat-o-nine, but it's important to clean it so it doesn't get infected."

Andy hissed when Serena poured more of the alcohol onto the open wound. She could almost feel her skin peeling, and she had to blink back tears from her eyes.

"Almost done, I promise," Serena murmured, cleaning the wound one last time. Andy's hands curled into tight fists and her jaw clenched to keep from making another sound. "You're lucky he didn't puncture the artery or any of the muscle tissue. I don't think he even got the vein, otherwise there would be a lot more blood. What a useless sardine of a man." Andy must have made a face, because Serena immediately continued in a rush. "I mean, I'm glad he was useless! Really, I'm… I'm very glad you didn't get badly hurt."

Andy forced a smile, touched by her friend's sentiment.

"Thanks," she said. "But I think the useless sardine is actually me."

"What?" Serena asked, brows furrowed. "Wait. Don't tell me you feel bad about this?" She waved at the cut on Andy's arm. "Are you joking? You were amazing!"

Andy lowered her eyes.

"He nearly killed me," she rasped. 

A deep sigh was Serena’s response and her face softened as she looked at Andy.

"Listen," she said gently. "You've only just started learning, and being thrown into battle like that, unprepared and with Naval soldiers no less… Don't beat yourself up about it. You defended yourself. Admirably. You didn't panic or run away or cry hysterically or beg for your life. That's already better than half the people I've seen fighting for the first time. The first battle is always the worst, so stop giving yourself such a hard time. Besides, there's no way Miranda would have let anyone seriously harm you."

Andy let out a shaky breath, letting her friend's words calm her. She was being too hard on herself, but deep down she knew it was also a coping mechanism. What her mind really wanted to focus on, was something else.

"She saved my life," she whispered, hardly aware she'd said the words aloud.

"I saw," Serena muttered.

"She was so…" Andy closed her eyes. There were no words to describe how Miranda had been in the midst of battle.

"I know," Serena said. "She's intense. But when something or someone threatens what she cares about, she doesn't hold back."

Andy's eyes snapped open.

"Now, let me take care of that," Serena continued, as if she hadn't just dropped a metaphorical bomb on Andy's lap. With gentle hands, she tilted Andy's head up to treat the wound at her lip.

This time, Andy barely acknowledged the pain. Her head was reeling, turning Serena's words over and over again. 

Did the Captain really care about her? Was that why she had been so vicious in Andy's defence? She'd looked both magnificent and terrifying in her unbridled fury, but was protectiveness over Andy the reason for it all?

Her heartbeat picked up with the notion. Andy could admit to herself that she cared about the Captain. She would probably fight just as savagely if someone were to harm Miranda. But did that mean Miranda cared about Andy, as a person? Or was she just protecting Andy's blood?

"Almost done," Serena announced, looking over her work with satisfaction. "If at any point the bandage bleeds through, let me know and I'll replace it."

Andy nodded dumbly. Her legs were steadier now as she stood up. She couldn't sit still anymore; she needed to move, she needed to do something. 

She needed her brain to stop obsessing over Miranda.

"Thanks," she told Serena honestly, squeezing her arm. "I'm gonna go help out on deck."

"You shouldn't exert yourself," her friend warned as she gathered up her healing supplies. "And be careful with your arm. The wound stopped bleeding but if you open it further it could start up again."

"I'll be fine," Andy dismissed her concerns with a vague wave of her hand, and set off to the main deck.

Redbeard was still working on repairing the broken parts of the ship.

"Anything I can do to help?" she offered as she drew nearer.

He looked up at her from his place sprawled on the floor and immediately grinned.

"Why, yes my Lady," he said, drawling out his nickname for her. When he saw her bandaged arm and swollen lip, however, he frowned. "Are you alright? You don't have to work, if you're not up for it."

"I'm fine. Honestly. I want to help."

Redbeard studied Andy closely, looking for any signs that she wasn't fit to work. Her expression was sure though, unwavering in her certainty. And the Captain was nowhere in sight.

"Alright," he agreed. "Here, you can start by taking these to Jack. He'll know what to do with them."

He handed her an armful of chopped up wood, and she took them carefully, minding the splinters and Serena's words about straining her wound.

"Sir, yes, sir," she exclaimed sarcastically, earning an amused snort from him.

For almost an hour, Andy helped the crew with the repairs. Playing messenger between people, taking things from one place to another, holding thick pieces of wood in place while Jack nailed them into the damaged parts. Even her long neglected sewing skills finally proved useful as she helped Jocelyn mend the tears in the sails. It kept her busy enough that her mind finally calmed down and she was able to think more rationally.

Miranda was what she was. A ruthless, fierce pirate queen that commanded the seas with an iron fist and took down all those who dared oppose her. Andy knew that. She'd known that even before she boarded The Black Pearl. 

Watching her in action had stirred something unfamiliar in Andy, but in the new clarity she felt,  she refused to let it change anything about the way Andy saw her. Miranda was still Miranda. Andy just had to reconcile with the fact that the woman she'd grown so fond of could also be a killing machine when idiotic men tried to bring her down. Besides, a part of Andy - a rather big part at that - couldn't help but feel exhilarated at the notion that Miranda had fought so ferociously to protect her, regardless of her reaction to it at the time.

A warmth spread from her chest down to her belly. She didn't realise she was smiling until Nigel sidled up to her with a raised eyebrow.

"What's got you so cheerful?" he asked. "I would assume you'd be feeling the opposite. First battles can be particularly grim."

"Oh, nothing. Happy to be alive, I suppose," Andy lied, quickly trying to school her features. She wasn't sure she did a particularly good job. 

"Hm," Nigel hummed. He studied her intently until she shifted her weight nervously. "How's your arm?"

"Not too bad," she said. It was true. It only hurt when she lifted her arm too high or moved it very suddenly. "My lip hurts worse, actually. My teeth keep rubbing against the cut."

"Ouch."

"Yeah."

Nigel kept staring at her for a long, quiet moment. It was unsettling, and Andy finally snapped.

"What is it?"

"Nothing," he said, raising his palms placatingly. She waited expectantly, knowing that it wasn’t nothing. "It’s just that I've never seen the Captain fight quite so… viciously in a very long time." 

Andy froze. Something in his tone told her that he knew more than she did.

"Well," Andy started, not really sure how to respond. "She is the ruthless Dragon of the Seas, isn't she?"

"True," Nigel snorted with an amused shake of his head. "I'm just glad you're okay, kid. I mean that."

His tone was honest, and softer than Andy had ever heard him speak. She smiled warmly at him, reaching up to give his arm a gentle squeeze.

"Thanks, Nige," she murmured, genuinely touched by the sentiment.

"Don't mention it." He waved her off with an impish grin. "Now come on, Cara has made a veritable feast for us. I bet you could use some food." As if on cue, Andy's stomach growled loudly. An embarrassed blush tinged her cheeks pink as Nigel chuckled. "I knew it. I've seen you running around the ship, eager to help like an adorable little assistant. But most of the work is done now so it is time for you to relax."

She hadn't realised how much tension she'd been carrying around until those words seemed to drain it out of her. After taking a deep, settling breath, she gestured for him to lead the way.

Dinner was surprisingly lively, despite the events of the day. Each member of the crew approached her at some time or other to check on her and praise her bravery and resilience during the battle, which Andy found incredibly sweet. It made her feel much better about her failure to protect herself. Redbeard was especially attentive in gratitude for Andy's help during the aftermath and even Emily had a (somewhat) positive remark.

"Congratulations, Princess," she said, her usual snark absent from her tone. "You got your first ever battle scar. It'll be a nice little story to tell your grandchildren."

Nigel covered his rueful chuckle with a cough while Serena rolled her eyes. Andy simply sent a smile her way.

"Thanks, Em."

After so many days on this ship, she'd learned not to rise to Emily's baited words. The few times she had, was to nonchalantly but firmly correct her or retort with a witty response. Apparently, that approach was the correct one, because Emily's vitriol died off after a few days and was replaced by a strange, begrudging respect.

The rest of dinner was spent with the crew, reminiscing about other infamous battles they’d lived through and jesting with each other about the worst fighters of the group. Andy was surprised to learn that Fishtail was deeply uncoordinated and terrible at sword fighting, thus his preference of manning the cannons. It felt good to laugh and feel included in the conversation. It slowly erased the heavy burden that the battle had dropped on her shoulders. However, despite the jovial conversation and good company, Andy felt like something was missing.

Once she'd finished eating, Cara adamantly rejected her offers to help clean up, so Andy grabbed an extra pitcher of water and returned to her room to get cleaned up. It felt wonderful to cleanse herself of the trying day. Mindful of her arm and lip, she made sure to thoroughly scrub the dirt and sweat off her skin until she felt almost brand new.

Pulling on her nightdress without moving her arm too much was a struggle, but after tugging and shifting for a few minutes she finally managed to get it into place. The moment she was finished, it was as if all her energy had suddenly vanished. She was completely drained. Her eyes stung with exhaustion and drooped against her will. She crawled onto the bed, pulling the covers over herself and arranging the pillow so her wounded arm could rest upon it. A jaw-splitting yawn made her body melt into the mattress. She pulled the pillow closer, hugging it to her chest and curling herself around it.

Before she knew it, she was fast asleep.

 

.oOo.

 

Softness and silver. Jasmine petals fell like snowflakes all around. The spray of the sea cooled her skin as blue eyes gazed at her. Delicate fingers caressed her jaw, leaving a tender trail of warmth in their wake.

"Andrea."

Andy sighed, closing her eyes and tilting her face into the hand cupping her cheek. She had never felt such bliss.

"Andrea," the voice repeated, sounding muffled. "Run."

Cold. 

Terrible, terrible cold. 

The sudden absence of the warm touch left her shivering. She opened her eyes, only to be met with horror. The soldier's corpse stood before her, a macabre grin twisting his features. Teeth sharp, eyes black. 

Vengeful.

"You're mine now," he sneered, his voice distorted and hollow.

Pain surged through her. When she looked down, a sword had pierced her chest, tearing through her ribs and her back. Her mouth fell open in a terrible scream, but no sound came out. She couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. All she knew was agony unlike any other.

The man stepped closer. Blood and decay permeated the air. It seeped into her mouth, coated her teeth and tongue, slithered down her throat until she was choking.

He twisted the sword with a vicious smile.

Andy wanted to scream. She wanted to fight back, wanted to put a stop to this torture. But she couldn't move. 

"You're mine."

Andy jerked awake. She panted for air, swallowing back the cry that threatened to tear up her throat. Her skin was cold and damp; the night gown stuck to her back and chest. She was trembling and nauseous.

Images flashed through her mind, making her shudder. Andy pressed her hand against her chest, scratching at the wound she’d just seen there and finding nothing. She looked again, rubbing the skin as if to make sure that she was still alive.

A dream. 

It had just been a dream.

Never in her life had she had such a terrible nightmare. It felt so real. She could still taste the thickness of death, the grotesque decay of flesh and bone. Her room felt far too small, like there was not enough oxygen in it. With unsteady legs, Andy stumbled from bed and grabbed the long white robe folded over the chair. She tied it absently around her waist before escaping.

Being as quiet as possible, she tip-toed up to the main deck. The night sky was devoid of many stars, but the moon shone bright and the air was crisp as Andy took much needed lungfuls of it.

Leaning heavily on the railing, she gazed out over the water, opaque in the deep, yet shimmering with the moon's silver reflection on the surface. Keeping her mind blank was an almost impossible challenge, but Andy was determined not to recall the terror that had haunted her sleep. Long moments of quietly watching the waves roll by calmed her nerves. Until she heard a noise behind her.

Her heart leapt to her throat. She tensed up, ready to spin around.

"Don't," said a very familiar voice, halting her in her tracks. "Please, don't turn around."

"Miranda?" Andy said, even though she already knew the answer. 

She gripped the railing tighter, forcing herself to stay in place. In an instant, she realised the reason for the strange request. The moon was out, which meant the Captain did not look like the living, breathing woman Andy had come to care for. The mere fact that she'd said the word "please" shocked Andy.

"I wanted to come and see you," the older woman said from behind her. "Are you alright?" 

"I'm fine," Andy lied. The tremble in her voice betrayed her.

She heard Miranda step closer, coming to stand mere inches away. The urge to turn was nearly overpowering, but Andy stayed put. She would respect the Captain's wishes. She also wasn't sure she wanted to see the beautiful woman turned into a deadly cadaver. It would certainly give her more night terrors than she could handle.

The thought reminded Andy of her nightmare, and what had prompted all this in the first place.

"Thank you," she whispered into the cool night air.

Despite her best efforts in the aftermath of the battle, Andy had not been able to stop thinking about how Miranda had saved her life, taking a literal sword through the chest for her. Not that she'd felt it in the least. Regardless, the act alone was enough for Andy to be indebted to her.

"For what?" Miranda asked, sounding genuinely puzzled.

"You know."

Andy tilted her head to the side, peering at the ground behind her out of the corner of her eye. She could see the faint outline of the Captain's shadow traced upon the dark floor.

"I couldn't find you after the battle, but I wanted to tell you," Andy continued, turning back to face the ocean. "Thank you." 

A beat of silence. Then another.

"I wasn't sure you'd want to see me."

Miranda's voice was so quiet, Andy was sure she must have misheard.

"You saved my life," she said, feeling perplexed and saddened at once. "Why would I not want to see you?" 

No answer was offered. The silence stretched between them, laden with unspoken words. Andy felt frustration begin to seep into the unsettling mix of emotions she felt. 

"We will arrive at Isla de Muerta in two days' time," Miranda said with flatly, completely ignoring Andy's question. "After that, we will take you home."

Andy's heart dropped. A deep, despairing anguish flooded her, drowning out everything else. Her chest felt too tight, like something inside her wanted to tear itself apart. It was ridiculous. She should feel glad - no, overjoyed that she would soon be back home. Instead, all she felt was pain; a terrible sense of loss.

She was so, so foolish. How could she ever think Miranda truly cared about her? Even if she wanted to, she couldn't. The curse would never allow her to. She only wanted Andy for her blood. That is why she saved her, why she fought so fiercely to protect her. Andy was the key to the crew's freedom and nothing more. 

She had never felt so insignificant in her life. Miranda obviously wanted to be rid of her as soon as possible, and who could blame her? Andy smiled bitterly. It wouldn't be the first time someone abandoned her. She should be used to it by now.

Captain Priestly's footsteps retreated. With each step further away from her, Andy felt tears gather in her eyes. They spilled over her cheeks as the doors to the Captain's chambers slammed shut, leaving behind an empty silence.

Leaving Andy alone in her grief.

Chapter Text

By the morning, the Pearl was ready to set sail again. The crew was vibrating with eager energy, buoyed by their victorious battle and restlessly anticipating the moment their curse would be broken.

Andy couldn’t blame them; after more than two decades of living through such hell, she'd be feeling just as impatient. She would have joined them and revelled in their high spirits if it weren’t for the emptiness in her chest. Instead, she sat at the very front of the ship, away from everyone else as she gazed out to the horizon. She needed some time to herself.

The sky was blanketed with huge grey clouds. Not a ray of sunlight broke through the fog and that suited Andy just fine. She was detached from everything around her. A numbness had settled into her bones and her body felt weighed down by an invisible force.

The thought of returning to Port Royal - leaving behind this ship and its crew and the freedom she’d revelled in for almost a fortnight - made her feel like she couldn’t breathe. She felt like the sky itself was bearing down upon her, pressing its weight on her shoulders until all she wanted to do was sink to the depths of the ocean just to escape for a while. 

She knew she was being melodramatic. It was ridiculous really. She should want to go back home, back to her father, but the truth was she couldn't fathom having that life anymore. Her stay aboard the Black Pearl had opened her eyes to the wider world, a better way of living. Despite the dangers of the sea and all the forces searching to hunt down pirates, it was a small price to pay for freedom. She would rather live dangerously than trapped in an invisible cage where she could hardly even breathe.

But she could breathe here. The brisk sea air and the endless expanse of ocean felt more like home now than her house ever had.

Then, there was the matter of Miranda. The mere thought of the older woman made something sharp and cold pierce her chest. It robbed her of oxygen, made her feel heavy and though she did her best to keep the matter out of her mind, something inside her felt broken all the same.

Andy’s mood must have been evident, because nobody interrupted her sulking. Considering the living situation on The Pearl, it was rather admirable how much the crew respected each other’s privacy. 

At one point in the afternoon, Serena called her for lunch, but Andy waved her away with a weak smile and a feeble excuse. Her friend sent her a concerned look, but Andy ignored it. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. All she wanted to do was sit exactly as she was, staring into the horizon and trying to savour any sense of liberty she could muster despite her sorrow. 

Time was running out. 

The clouds turned ominous; the sea grew tempestuous and the waves crashed against the boat more violently than before. When the first drops of rain fell, Andy tilted her face towards the sky and let them run down her face. Thunder grumbled in the distance as the dark clouds closed in all around, threatening to unleash a storm upon them. 

Andy refused to move from her place. Despite the weather, the air was warm. The rain cooled her skin. It made her feel alive.

She didn’t know when she started weeping. Her salty tears left warm trails down her cheeks, intertwining with the drops of rain in smooth rivulets upon her skin. It was so liberating. She used to always hide her tears, scurry away into a dark corner or cry into her pillow to muffle her grief. Now, she let them fall freely, allowing herself to feel her emotions in their entirety.

If there was one thing she'd learned from this experience (and truly, there were countless things), it was never to take for granted the simple act of feeling.

“Andy!” Nigel called from somewhere behind her, his voice carrying over the sound of the pouring rain. “Get inside, you’ll catch a cold!”

“Come on, Andy! You have to eat!” It was Serena’s voice this time.

A smile broke over her lips despite her tears. Andy had never caught a cold in her life, and she still wasn't hungry in the least. She just needed more time. 

“I’ll be fine,” she called back, voice hoarse from the hours spent in silence.

“Suit yourself,” Nigel answered.

She heard Emily ask in a quieter voice, and presumably to her fellow crew mates, “What’s gotten into her?”

Andy let out a breath, her heart squeezing in her chest. 

Yes, she would miss this terribly. 

 

.oOo.

 

Eventually, Andy did get cold, despite her claims that she would be fine. The sun, what she could see of it, was beginning to set over the horizon, taking most of the day's warmth with it.

There were still a handful of people on deck; Emily manning the helm, Roy and Suarez supervising the sails, and Eagle Eye up at the crow's nest watching for any more Navy vessels. It seemed that nobody wanted to waste any more time despite the bad weather. Everyone was eager to get to Isla de Muerta to put an end to the curse once and for all. Andy thought it likely that Miranda would have ordered them to keep sailing through the night instead of anchoring to sleep.

After the afternoon in the rain, her hair and clothes were soaked through. The air was still heavy, but the wet clothes were starting to bother her. She glanced up at the few people on deck, alert and determined as if the rain didn't faze them at all. 

Being by herself suddenly lost all of its appeal. The time alone had done her good, but Andy didn't want to be alone anymore. If her days on this ship were numbered, the least she could do was make the most of it. This was the greatest adventure she would ever have and it was likely that the memories would sustain her for the rest of her dull, suffocating life married to some boring man and forced to relinquish all the things she loved. She had to savour every second she had left.

As she stood to go change her sodden clothes, her stomach rumbled loudly. She hadn't realised how hungry she was. Maybe she should have accepted Serena's offer earlier. Shaking her head at herself, she quickly went to get changed before heading to the forecastle.

Redbeard saw her first. He sent her an easy grin and patted the empty chair beside him in invitation. Andy smiled fondly before taking the offered seat. Serena wasted no time and turned to her immediately.

"About time," she said, but her tone was light and affectionate. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Andy said with a reassuring smile. Despite the heaviness in her chest, she felt better just by being here. Maybe spending most of the day by herself under the rain wasn't the best coping mechanism. "You?"

"Feeling pretty damn good," Serena answered with a beaming smile, not pushing further on the matter. Andy was grateful. "Only two days to go. Yesterday helped - one last battle as immortal beings, so we had to make the most of it. Oh!” She made a face. “I bet your bandage got wet, didn't it? Here, let me change it real quick. Roll up your sleeve for me, will you?"

Andy couldn't help but feed off Serena's mood. Her joy was contagious. Andy's smile felt less strained as she watched Serena scramble around for fresh bandages and carefully wrap Andy's arm with it while the crew continued with their merry chatter.

"You," an accented, stern voice called from behind her. Andy's shoulders immediately scrunched up to her ears. "You don't like my food no more?"

Andy sheepishly looked over her shoulder. She was vaguely aware of conversation dying down around her as she looked up at Cara. The cook's arms were crossed, her posture stiff like that of a berating mother's.

"No! Not at all, Cara," Andy answered truthfully. She tried to make herself look as innocent as possible as she continued, "Your food is always delicious. I just wasn't hungry earlier. But I am now and I’m more than happy to eat whatever you made."

That seemed to placate the older woman. She scoffed and uncrossed her arms with a stern look.

"Vale," she said with a huff before going into the kitchen to retrieve a plateful of food and a goblet. She wagged her finger in front of Andy's face. "No more skipping meals, entendiste?"

The table relatively heaved under the pile of fish and baked potatoes that was set in front of her, and Andy’s mouth watered immediately.

"Thank you!" She sent a beaming smile to Cara before eagerly tucking into her food. 

After so many days breaking bread with the crew, she was used to the envious looks she received while she ate. Granted, they were less hostile now that they had accepted Andy into their circle, but it was still a little disconcerting. 

"What's the first thing you're going to do when the curse is broken?" she wondered aloud, and everyone around the table seemed to take a moment just to think about it. Their expressions lit up despite the sorrow that usually clung to them. Andy's heart ached at the sight.

"I'm gonna eat until I burst," Redbeard said. He was practically drooling as he eyed Andy's plate, so she comically protected her food with her arm. He rolled her eyes at her in response.

"I'm going to dress in my finest silk shirts," Nigel said, eyes glazed over. 

"I'm gonna drink so much rum," Jack added. His cousin nodded eagerly. 

"I'm going to make the most delicious cake," Cara announced. "And I'm going to eat it all myself."

Exclamations of outrage and indignation broke out. Jocelyn begged dramatically to be allowed a piece of cake, Fishtail offered a handful of money while loudly bartering one too, and Redbeard got down on one knee in front of Cara while she theatrically rejected them all. Amongst the rowdiness, Andy gazed around with a grin, trying to engrave this moment into her most treasured memories.

While the good food and better company had reanimated her, it was getting late and Andy could still feel the weight of something obscure and bitter pressing down upon the deeper crevices of her chest. Nigel and Serena sent her concerned glances as she tried to muffle her third yawn in as many minutes, but she waved them off. She opted to bid them all good night before heading out to the main deck. It was still raining, but far less heavily now.

As she made her way across deck to go to her rooms, the doors to the Captain's chambers were thrown open, spilling light across her path. 

Andy froze.

Sharp ocean eyes locked with hers, the blue so dark it perfectly matched the overcast sky. Something painful shot through Andy's chest. Her throat tightened, and she had to swallow harshly past the lump that formed there.

The Captain strode across the deck and despite her sudden urge to escape, Andy was rooted to the spot.

"Andrea," Miranda said softly. Andy felt like weeping all over again. "Are you alright?"

No. No she was not alright. 

Miranda stood before her, looking achingly beautiful in her white blouse and cerulean blue coat, turning darker and darker in the rain. The Captain studied Andy with a furrowed brow, her lips tightened into a firm line. Small droplets of water clung to her eyelashes like the most delicate pearls and Andy wanted nothing more than to gently brush them away. Smooth silver hair was getting damp under the rain. It reminded Andy of the time she'd found Miranda having just finished bathing; hair slicked back and a mesmerising expanse of glowing skin hidden, just barely, under a thin layer of silk.

"Andrea?"

Andy blinked rapidly, trying to pull herself together. When had breathing become so difficult?

"Fine," she said weakly. Her voice barely carried over the splatter of rain and the crashing waves. She cleared her throat, then tried again. "I'm fine."

Miranda frowned at her. She opened her mouth to say something else, paused, then appeared to change her mind.

"How is your arm?" she asked at last.

"Uh," Andy stuttered. "It's fine."

She despaired at her sudden inability to converse like a normal person. 

"Hmm," Miranda murmured. The line between her elegant eyebrows deepened. There was something in her tone that sounded a great deal like worry. 

Andy forced herself to remember that Miranda didn't care. Andy was just a means to an end for her. A very crucial one, certainly, but still no one of any importance. She refused to allow herself to get her hopes up. Not again.

"Well,” Miranda said absently. “Be careful not to let the bandage get wet," Miranda continued. "It could get infected, otherwise."

Andy's voice caught in her throat, so she just nodded. Miranda was studying her once again, her sharp eyes roaming her body as if looking for answers to an unspoken question. It made Andy uncomfortable. She wanted to hide away until she figured out why she was being so foolishly emotional.

"Good night, Miranda," Andy managed to rasp, unable to ignore the politeness so thoroughly drilled into her brain. 

As discreetly as she could, she stepped around Miranda's unmoving figure and continued on her way to the safety of her room. Once the door was shut behind her, Andy let out a trembling breath. Something was tearing at her chest. It was breaking through marrow and cartilage, threatening to slice itself out of her. Part of her wanted to run away and never see Miranda again; to be rid of this feeling forever. A bigger, more irrational part of her felt like the only way to stop this was to be close to the other woman. Andy cherished their time together, deeply, and would miss her terribly once Andy was back on dry land in Port Royal. She had never felt more protected, more understood than when she was with Miranda. 

But she'd also never felt such agony. And all because Miranda, a ruthless pirate, was not inclined on having a useless, weak, spoiled little rich girl on her ship. She was actually honouring her word that she would return Andy home safe and sound. So why did her heart feel like it was tearing itself apart? 

She had never felt like this before. It was like all those things she had read in her beloved books, when the fair lady would break the hero's heart and --

Oh.

Oh.

No. No, it was impossible. It was absolutely, completely absurd. She must be losing her mind. 

And yet. 

Oh.

Deep down, something finally - finally - clicked into place inside her. Suddenly everything made sense. Andy had never understood the whispered confessions from the few female friends she'd had, about their feelings towards boys. She could never relate to the poems and the songs that revered those of the opposite sex. She always felt so sick to her stomach just thinking about having to marry a man and go through the revolting act of having to bear his children. She had always wondered what on earth women saw in men that was so fascinating, to the point some of them would willingly want to spend all their lives devoted to one. 

The only person who fascinated her to such a degree was Miranda. Her beauty made Andy recall a thousand verses. Her mind was a rich, captivating ocean and Andy hopelessly wanted to drown in it. She wanted to run her fingers through Miranda’s silver locks, soothe the line between her brows, trace her fingertips down Miranda’s elegant neck and watch the goosebumps rise beneath them. She wanted, more than anything, to find out if Miranda’s lips were as soft as they looked.

Oh God. 

Oh God, oh God, oh God.

This was a nightmare. A terrible, awful nightmare. Miranda was the Dragon of the Seas, the most notorious pirate captain there had ever been. She was closed off and intimidating and didn't care about Andy at all. She had attacked her home, kidnapped her, killed men right in front of her like it was an everyday occurrence. Andy should not - could not - be having such impulses. 

Then again, Miranda had saved Andy's life. She had protected her, indulged Andy’s thirst for learning and answered all of her curious questions. She had regaled her with stories about the world Andy so desperately wanted to experience. And, she had told Andy everything she knew about Andy's own parents. She'd even opened up about the curse that tortured her for the past two decades. She trusted Andy with her books and allowed her to read in her chambers; in her private sanctuary aboard the ship. And then, when Miranda smiled in that genuine, luminous way. She looked so very beautiful that Andy’s heart felt as if it were going to tear right through her chest.

So many conflicting thoughts warred inside her mind. They spun her around and around in a constantly contradicting web of confusion. It made her lightheaded. Her heart pounded in her ears and her lungs felt as if they would never draw breath again.

She had to pull herself together. She would not allow this to ruin her. And she knew, deep down, that Miranda Priestly could ruin her without any effort at all.

Pushing off the door, she dropped onto the edge of the bed. Despite her best efforts to keep her composure, her eyes filled with tears.

Like the rain above them, she let them fall.

 

.oOo.

 

Andy spent most of the night tossing and turning, lost inside her mind. It was exhausting. For hours, she studied her entire life from a new perspective. She searched for any hint that what she'd realised about herself was not really true, that it was just some foolish feelings brought on by the trauma of the battle and the dismal weather.

It only led to disappointment. Nothing else could explain the way Andy had always felt towards a romantic entanglement with a man. Certainly, nothing else could explain why she had taken so fondly to her governess when she was eleven years old and why Andy had been so distressed when she’d moved across the country to get married. Nothing would ever explain better why she was so heart broken at the thought that soon she would be back in Port Royal, never to see Miranda again.

The only thing she had learned from her derailing thoughts was that her feelings were undeniable. No matter how torn her mind was about everything, how overwhelmed she felt at her discovery, deep down in her heart she knew the truth. This inconceivable, life-changing revelation that would alter the trajectory of her life forever, was boiled down to the visceral reactions she felt whenever she thought of Captain Miranda Priestly.

Miranda, who was unlike anyone she'd ever met and unlike anyone she'd ever meet. Miranda, with her sharp, witty mind. Miranda, with her mesmerising beauty. Andy was enthralled by the occasional glimpses she caught of the kind, gentle woman behind the mask of the fearsome Captain Priestly. She couldn't get enough. It would never be enough.

Finally, after hours of dwelling and berating herself and obsessing over a million different things, Andy was certain of one indisputable fact.

Miranda could never know.

It would break Andy's heart even more than it already was if Miranda sent her away in disgust. She feared Miranda’s loathing more than anything. Even though she knew their days together were numbered and in the end none of it would matter, she wanted Miranda to remember her with at least some fondness. She wanted Miranda, as unlikely as it was, to feel the loss of her presence on her ship when Andy was eventually left behind.

So, no. No matter what happened, no matter how Andy felt, Miranda could never know.

With that last thought, Andy curled up in bed and held her pillow tightly, feeling so drained that she barely noticed herself slipping into a restless sleep.

Chapter Text

Andy barely saw Miranda the next day, for which she was grateful. Staying in her room had begun to make her feel so claustrophobic that she desperately needed some form of distraction from all the thoughts warring inside her head.

For the most part, she spent the afternoon and part of the evening with the crew, helping them prepare for their arrival at Isla de Muerta the next day. They were all planning to celebrate with a feast, and Cara had saved some of the best food they ransacked from Port Royal and the Naval ship for the big dinner where the crew would finally be able to taste it. 

Like the day before, the crew was buzzing with pent up energy and unbearable anticipation. The sun was out, however, and not a cloud in sight. Most of the crew were out on deck, making plans or talking amongst themselves or seeking some quiet to process the upcoming changes. 

The Captain, however, was nowhere to be seen. Not once did she leave her chambers, and it made Andy feel both relieved and concerned for the older woman.

She was determined not to dwell too much on her newfound feelings for Miranda. Realising such a crucial thing about herself took time to process, but mostly it made Andy feel like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Like she finally understood herself in her entirety, to the very roots of her person. 

Having romantic feelings for Captain Priestly, however, was a tougher pill to swallow. Thus, trying to avoid thinking too much about it seemed like the best course of action.

At one point in the late evening, however, Andy left the forecastle with the intention of getting some much needed rest. She had been running around ragged all day, scrambling to escape the nagging voice at the back of her head that kept wanting to seek out the object of Andy's… Affections? Infatuation? She didn't even know what to call it.

Therefore it hit her like a ship's anchor when she looked up to find the source of her torment manning the helm.

Miranda stood tall. Beautiful. Majestic. Andy's brain helpfully supplied a thousand different words to describe her in that moment, but not a single one did her justice. Andy couldn't help but gaze at her, frozen in place as her heart raced inside her chest. It was as if Andy was seeing her for the first time. As if all this time Andy had been wearing a dark veil over her eyes. Andy's breath caught in her chest and the universe opened up above her.

A breeze lifted the hem of Miranda's dark coat, her limp forelock gently resting atop her left eye. Coated in the waning sunlight, Miranda lifted an elegant hand and with long fingers gracefully swept her hair away from her face. Andy could swear that the air smelled of jasmine and sandalwood, even all the way from her place on the main deck. It made breathing even more difficult. The urge to go to the Captain and run her fingers through those windswept silver locks was stronger than anything Andy had ever felt before. It was a physical pain, the ache so sharp that for a moment Andy wondered if she should go to Serena for help.

But no. No, Andy simply had to pull herself together. That was all. She could do this.

Despite not wanting to leave this ship, part of her wished time would hurry up so she could be put out of her misery.

 

.oOo.

 

Andy wasn't entirely prepared for her prayers to be answered. It certainly hadn’t felt like an entire day had passed when Eagle Eye yelled from the crow's nest.

"Land, ho!"

Everyone dropped what they were doing and rushed to the bow. Before them, Isla de Muerta loomed dark and ominous under the blood red sky. The evening sun was only just setting, but Andy felt like all the light had seeped out of the world. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself, but all the air left her in a rush when she felt a very familiar presence standing next to her.

Despite the warring emotions that overwhelmed her, Andy could not stop herself from turning to her new companion.

There was not a hint of fear in Miranda's ice blue eyes as she gazed at the cursed land before her. She stood tall, chin tilted proudly as if she were greeting an old foe.

"Are you ready?" she asked, her voice smooth and deep.

Andy swallowed thickly, willing her voice to work despite the tight knot lodged, once again, in her throat.

"As ready as I'll ever be," she wavered.

Miranda, dressed in dark velvet and white silk, turned to meet her gaze at last. Their eyes locked, searching one another for unspoken questions and nameless answers.

"It will be alright," Miranda finally said softly, comfortingly, breaking the heavy silence between them. Her expression softened, the tension around her eyes and mouth dissipating before Andy's eyes.

Andy offered an unsteady smile, touched at Miranda's attempt to calm her nerves. She gave a weak nod, and that seemed enough for Miranda. The older woman turned to her crew, back in her Captain persona as she squared her shoulders and barked out stern orders.

"Hands to stations! Prepare to free the anchor and ready the boats!"

Everyone scrambled to do her bidding, beyond eager to get to the island and end their curse once and for all. Andy stood there watching them for a moment before turning back to face the most cursed place on earth, looming increasingly larger as the Pearl approached.

The anchor was released and three rowboats lowered onto the sea far enough away from the island to avoid the sharp rocks, but close enough that they would not have to row too far. Andy stood close to Serena and Emily as they all gathered on deck, awaiting the Captain's instructions. Miranda turned to her crew as soon as the boats hit the water.

"I rarely let you choose who is to stay behind guarding the Pearl, but I'm in a rather jovial mood," she said with an easy smirk. Some of the crew laughed, and Andy couldn't help a smile. "So, who volunteers to stay behind?"

To Andy's surprise, Emily stepped forward.

"I will, Captain."

Miranda tilted her head in acknowledgement, her eyes flicking to the rest of the crew.

"Anyone else?"

Andy felt something brush her arm and Serena stepped past Andy, coming to stand beside Emily.

"I'm staying too," she said, no hint of question in her tone.

The two women gazed at each other, and Andy watched as Miranda's expression softened. The others, too, smiled at each other like accomplices, and Andy's brows furrowed. She felt like she was missing some crucial information, an inside joke she had not been made aware of.

"Very well," Miranda stated, before turning to the rest of her crew. "The rest, to the boats. Nigel, Andrea, with me."

Andy was surprised to be addressed directly, but Miranda had already turned away.

"Hey there, boat buddy," Nigel said, coming to stand beside her. "You ready?"

She wondered why everyone kept asking her that. How could anyone prepare for something like this?

Instead of replying, she just nodded. Nigel hummed in acknowledgement before he pulled her along and helped her climb down into the boat. Andy settled in the rowboat next to him, nudging his shoulder with her own endearingly. Redbeard and Cara sat behind them while Roy gripped the paddles in a firm grip. Redbeard in particular seemed especially jittery and, after his second shaky sigh, Andy turned towards him only to find Cara wrapping a comforting arm around his shoulders. Like a child seeking his mother's comfort, Redbeard cuddled up to her and she soothingly ran her fingers through his flaming red hair. Touched by the scene, Andy turned to face forward again, feeling she was intruding on a private moment between the two.

In doing so, Andy realised that Miranda was sitting by herself right in front of her. After spending so long trying to avoid her, now there was nowhere else to turn. Andy had actually missed her presence the last few days, and her eyes betrayed her once again by focusing on the statuesque woman. The Captain sat ramrod straight, the short hair around the nape of her neck peeking out from under her hat. Her pronounced cheekbone and nose cast shadows on her features in the waning sun. She was the picture of composed tension, the air around her simmering with something Andy couldn't describe.

Andy forced herself to snap out of it, and tore her eyes away. It was a challenge to focus on something else, but she at last found some semblance of calm watching the rough crashing of waves upon the sharp edges of the dark rocks that no doubt tore more than one vessel asunder. The nearer they drew to the island, the higher the rocks rose above the water, and soon Andy realised that they weren't going to disembark on a beach at all.

Instead, their small army of boats approached a gaping cave that looked pitch black even in the darkening ocean. The faint remnants of light dimmed around them the further in they went. All around them the water turned into an opaque well of liquid ink. It was far more unsettling than Andy had ever thought possible, until Nigel expertly lit a lantern and hung it on the hook at the bow. The rest of the crew followed suit and the darkness gradually abated as at least one lantern was lit in each of the other rowboats. Andy felt some of the tension leave her.

"Is that better, your highness?" Nigel asked, but there was no snark in his tone. He was looking at Andy with sympathy, and the gesture calmed her more than anything else.

"Much better, thank you," Andy answered, sending him a grateful smile.

Before long, they arrived at the back of the cave. To the right was a small plane of smooth rock and bars drilled into their edges. They made quick work of disembarking and securing the boats before Nigel pulled a rusty torch from the wall and lit it, illuminating the path forward. A tunnel lay ahead of them leading further into the depths of the cave. Andy followed Nigel as he led the way, acutely aware of Miranda falling into line behind her.

The air was stale, made much worse by the smoke from the torches and the dampness clinging to the walls. It was the most claustrophobic place Andy had ever experienced. She feared that the tunnel would cave in on them, or that there would be no end to it, or that perhaps they would run out of oxygen and suffocate. Despite her fears, Andy tried to keep her breathing calm and even. Until she tripped and lost her footing. She cried out, arms outstretched in a pathetic attempt to break her fall.

The impact never came, however. A strong pair of hands gripped her waist and pulled her back into a lean body before she could hit the ground.

Miranda held her there, firmly but gently, for a moment longer than was completely necessary. Soft warmth pressed against Andy’s back and. Her skin burned where the hands held her waist. The hairs at the nape of her neck shifted with Miranda's breathing, and Andy couldn't suppress a shiver.

"Are you alright?" Miranda murmured softly.

"Y-Yes," Andy managed to rasp. Her heart was racing in her chest. She could hardly draw any breath. She had to get out of this tunnel.

"We're almost there," Miranda reassured, giving her a gentle push.

As if under the Captain's command, Andy's feet started moving again. She instantly missed Miranda's warmth, but could still feel her following closely behind. Andy tried not to let herself think about the feelings that were boiling through her, and instead focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

Miranda was right, as usual. A handful of meters further, Andy saw the end of the tunnel. Her jaw dropped at the sight that greeted her. The tunnel opened up to a huge chamber that seemed impossibly immense considering the narrow path they’d had to endure. Several lit torches adorned the walls, bathing everything in a low, flickering glow. Andy couldn’t help but wonder how they had been ignited in the first place, and how their flames had continued to burn despite the seemingly deserted cave. There were sharp, sword-like rocks hanging from the ceiling and casting ominous shadows upon the floor. Heaps upon heaps of twinkling treasure were piled on every available surface. In the centre, surrounded by a dark stream of water, lay a mountain of gold, upon which rested a huge, tomb-like chest. It seemed to give off its own light and the carved golden Aztec symbols were blinding in their intensity. Andy had never seen it herself, but she was certain that the chest held Cortez's cursed gold.

Once Andy had finally stopped gaping at her surroundings, she became aware of Miranda coming to stand beside her, with the rest of the crew gathering behind them. Though they’d seen it all before, they too seemed to be taken by the sight before them, although certainly for different reasons.

After a heavy silence, Andy heard Miranda take a breath and then the first step forward. They all followed her as she led them into the middle of the chamber. Everyone gathered around the stream with well-versed ease. They were somber yet seemed more alive than Andy had ever seen them. She looked around at all the faces she had become so familiar with over the past two weeks; everyone she had grown to care for in a way she'd not done with anyone else. Only after Miranda tilted her head towards her did Andy follow her across the stream, careful to step on the stones that led to the centre island. Miranda kept a wary eye on her in case she tripped again, and Andy sent her a tremulous smile in thanks. She couldn't manage anything more than that.

This was the moment that they had been waiting for.

Despite the sheer volume of feelings swirling in her, Andy tried to ignore all of them. Her anxiety over what this meant to her own future was loudest of all. This moment would signal the beginning of the end to her time with this crew; this family. No matter how much Andy fought it, or how many times she reminded herself that she was only setting herself up for disappointment, a small flicker of hope ignited in her chest. She could not help but think that, perhaps, given time, she might not have to leave after all. Maybe the crew would accept her as one of their own. Maybe Miranda would learn to care for her. Maybe Andy would not be left behind.

Adamantly dismissing such foolish thoughts from her mind, she climbed the island until she came to stand beside Miranda. She tried to keep her eyes away from the older woman, but found it an impossible feat.

"For twenty six years," Miranda began, standing taller as she spoke. She looked beyond magnificent in the glinting light. "We have been tortured in the most unimaginable way. The punishment and suffering; disproportionate to our crime. We have stared death in the eye and become monsters under the moonlight. We have been deprived of everything worth living for. But no more. Today, we live again!"

Cheers echoed through the cave, growing exponentially as Miranda put her heel against the top of the chest and, with a powerful shove, pushed the heavy lid clean off. Inside were hundreds of medallions perfectly identical to Andy's - eight hundred and eighty one to be precise. Miranda's chin tilted upwards as she watched over her roaring crew before turning her attention to Andy. As soon as they locked eyes, the young woman's heart leapt to her throat. 

The Captain stepped closer and unsheathed a knife from the belt around her waist. Carefully, she gripped the blade and offered the handle to Andy, who took it with a trembling hand. Next, she unclasped the medallion from around her neck and held it in her open palm. Andy took it from her, her fingertips accidentally brushing against soft skin. She felt warmth spread up her arm like wildfire. Her breath stuttered in her chest, and she quickly moved away.

With the new space between them, Andy's attention returned to the matter at hand. The fear she'd felt earlier returned with a vengeance; her heartbeat pounded in her ears as she closed the distance with the chest. She outstretched her hand over it, palm outstretched, and placed the knife on it, ready to cut through her own skin.

Gentle fingers wrapped around her wrist, stopping her from slicing her hand open. Startled, Andy turned to see Miranda standing much closer. The pirate's expression was soft as she looked at Andy.

"Waste not," she said quietly. "The amount of blood vessels in your palms will make you bleed a lot, and it will take longer to heal."

Part of Andy's brain was certain that Miranda was explaining something completely logical, but her brain was having a great deal of trouble catching up with her words instead of fixating on her proximity and the fingers pressed against her pulse point.

"Do it here," Miranda continued, turning Andy's arm over so that her palm was facing down. She tapped the outside of her arm below her elbow, several inches under the healing battle wound. A finger traced in a downward motion where Andy was supposed to cut.

It made Andy's knees feel weak. That peculiar warmth from moments ago returned, but this time it spread past her shoulder and to the rest of her body. Only when Miranda released her and stepped back once more did Andy manage to breathe again. Forcing herself to concentrate on her task, she placed the knife where Miranda had touched her. The cool blade was a jarring sensation against her heated skin.

It was beyond ironic how afraid Andy had been when she'd been taken to the Black Pearl. Now here she was, overwhelmed by the strength of her feelings towards the notorious Captain Priestly and about to willingly spill her own blood for her. She wondered if the act would mean anything to Miranda, beyond breaking the curse. She wondered if Miranda understood the magnitude of Andy's devotion, or if she even cared. Maybe Andy was just losing her mind. She'd certainly been through enough since boarding the Black Pearl. If she thought about it too much, she felt the urge to crawl out of her skin and sink into the depths of the ocean.

She didn't want to think anymore.

Tightening her grip on the knife, she sliced through her skin with a determined swipe. The blade was so sharp she didn't feel it at first and was genuinely shocked as  blood spilled from the wound. She had to bite her lip to keep from making any noise as it started to burn. It was far from a deep cut, but it was enough and the pain pulled Andy's mind from all that she wished to run away from. If anything, it pulled her back together again. 

"You did well," Miranda murmured low enough for only Andy to hear. She stepped closer, and tenderly held Andy's wounded arm. With the other, she gestured for Andy to hold the medallion over the chest and, once she did so, turned her arm over so the blood dripped from the open cut onto the coin.

Crimson flowed over gold, trailing like rivers between the symbols. Andy watched with morbid fascination as her own blood circled the sun at its centre and, as Miranda let go, she let her wounded arm fall to her side. Her pain was all but forgotten in the wake of Miranda wrapping her hand over Andy's and closing both their fingers around the medallion.

"Begun by blood. By blood undone."

The warm hand holding Andy's stretched open and let go, and she instinctively did the same. The medallion dropped from her grasp.

Time felt distorted as the necklace fell through the air. Andy could feel Miranda holding her breath beside her. The crew seemed frozen as they all watched the last medallion descend into their new beginning.

The sound of gold hitting gold reverberated through the still silence. There was a moment of immeasurable tension before a ripple of energy shot through the air, fierce and untamed and powerful. Andy heard a quiet gasp beside her, and turned to look at Miranda. The older woman held so still she seemed frozen, but her eyes were wide and her lips parted in a shuddering breath.

Andy was vaguely aware of the crew's joyful cries as they hugged one another, their triumphant raucous echoing in the cave. It was a moving scene, yet all she could focus on was Miranda.

The Captain was looking out over her crew with a tidal wave of emotions flooding her bright blue eyes. In her expression, Andy could see the relief and the euphoria, the triumph and grief as nearly three decades' worth of unimaginable pain was lifted from her elegant shoulders.

And her eyes.

Breathless, Andy watched those usually cold blue eyes shine with unshed tears. Something indescribably beautiful swam in that watery gaze, so pure and honest that Andy felt it like a sharp blow to her chest. She stared in awe, unable to move or speak, hardly even daring to breathe for fear of breaking such an extraordinary moment.

Miranda turned to look at her, and Andy was lost.

The Captain was glowing, more than any gold or gem around them. Her skin lost its dull pallor and now looked impossibly soft; her hair doubled in volume and that formerly limp forelock now curled daintily above her eyebrow; her eyes looked lighter, like a calm sea on a warm summer day.

She was so beautiful.

The words felt weak and inadequate even as they fluttered through Andy's mind, but she was unable to form any other thought. She was utterly mesmerized. For the life of her, she could not tear her eyes away. All the air in the room seemed to have vanished, and Andy felt like the only way to stay alive was to look at the magnificent woman beside her.

Then Miranda smiled, and Andy was truly done for. She watched with a stuttering heart as Miranda's lips quirked into that familiar yet small smile. Except this time, Miranda did not stop there. Her lips kept curling until she was smiling widely, showing perfect teeth and full lips. The laugh lines around her mouth and eyes became more pronounced as her watery gaze remained trained on Andy. She was utterly radiant in her happiness. Andy lost all her breath all over again at the stunning sight.

Warmth touched her wrist, and Andy looked down to see Miranda taking her hand. Delicate fingers intertwined with hers in the most perfect way. A shuddering breath left the older woman's lips and a faint tremor shook her hand. Andy looked up just in time to see Miranda's eyelids flutter, threatening to spill the tears gathered there.

If Andy thought she was lost before, she was sorely mistaken, for this was much, much worse. It felt like her body was going to be consumed, or combust, or something equally life threatening, because there was no chance she could survive such sweet but painful tenderness. 

"Thank you," Miranda whispered, so softly she practically mouthed the words. "Thank you, Andrea."

Not trusting her voice, Andy nodded and gently squeezed Miranda's hand in return.

After a long moment spent locked in each other's gaze, Miranda slowly let go and stepped away. Andy desperately wanted to protest, to pull her back until they stood closer, but bit her tongue instead. Miranda straightened her shoulders, as if preparing herself to go back into her Captain persona, but the tears remained in her eyes and her smile never wavered.

Only then did Andy realise she was smiling too.

Chapter Text

Their return to the Pearl was unlike anything Andy had expected. The crew talked excitedly amongst themselves, debating the best ways to celebrate and listing all the things they were going to indulge in now that they were able to feel again. Fishtail sang a happy tune while Jack smacked a steady beat against the rowboat. An amused Nigel and Cara were being entertained by Redbeard as he gestured wildly and energetically about something. Andy wasn't paying attention though; she was too busy being distracted by Miranda.

Like before, Miranda was sitting at the front of the boat, looking regal and calm despite the life-changing events of the evening. The setting sun illuminated her face, painting her golden at the edges like gentle strokes of a paintbrush wielded by the most devoted artist. She had composed herself; her eyes dry yet lively as she fondly watched over her elated crew. Andy was entranced. Miranda still looked like herself, yet something was inexplicably different. She looked, impossibly, more beautiful - more alive. Andy was not certain how she would survive the next two weeks aboard the Pearl without her feelings becoming so blatantly obvious. She was in too deep, and it was terrifying.

Once they made it back to the ship, Andy was surprised to see Serena and Emily sitting closely together, their hands clasped and their smiles blinding. Andy had never seen Emily smile like that, yet everyone acted as if it was perfectly normal. When Serena saw Andy, she leapt up and flung her arms around her with such strength they nearly toppled over. Andy laughed as she returned the embrace, squeezing her friend tightly.

"You did it!" Serena exclaimed. "Thank you, Andy. Thank you, thank you!"

"Oh, hush, I didn't do anything!" Andy giggled. Serena's boundless energy was truly contagious.

"You did more than you know."

With a blush, Andy looked away.

"Serena's right," Emily said, approaching them. As soon as she was near, Serena stepped beside her and wrapped an arm around her waist. Andy tried not to stare, even though she was taken aback by their continued proximity. They must really be the closest of friends.

"Thanks, Em," Andy said with honest gratitude. The redhead was looking at her without any of her usual hostility. Instead, she was looking at Andy with what seemed, remarkably, like gratitude.

"Gather ‘round, you sea dogs!" Nigel raised his voice over the excited chatter on deck. "We have some overdue celebrating to do. Prepare the torches and the table. Tonight, we feast like kings and queens!"

Cheers and excited murmurs were his response as everyone went to do his bidding. Andy looked around, wondering where she should help out, and noticed there was someone missing. Miranda was nowhere to be found, but there was a sliver of light emanating from beneath the doors to the Captain's chambers. Sinking disappointment made Andy's stomach feel suddenly heavy, even though she understood the older woman’s need for privacy right now. It must be such a heavy burden, sometimes, to be the person responsible for an entire crew. Especially one as close as this one. 

Perhaps Miranda would join them later. Maybe she just needed a short respite to collect her thoughts, and then she would emerge in all her magnificent glory to celebrate with the rest of them.

Andy could do nothing but hope. After all, she lived on it.

 

.oOo.

 

Partying with pirates was unlike anything Andy could have ever predicted. She had been to many government balls and banquets, but this was just as sumptuous and far more entertaining. Heaps of delicious food were laid out on the table, the wine and rum flowed freely and the crew were boisterous as they indulged properly for the first time in twenty six years. Andy could barely keep up, so she was satisfied with simply watching with a tall glass of wine in hand.

To her left, Serena and Emily sat together, sharing a plate of food and grinning wider than Andy had ever seen them do. To her right, Nigel and Redbeard were talking loudly across the table with Fishtail and Jocelyn. Across from her sat Roy and Cara, who were talking quietly while they ate. Well, Roy was quiet - Cara got increasingly louder with every goblet of rum she drank. Andy couldn’t hold back a laugh as Cara sloshed a bit onto her lap, but Roy merely smiled and mopped it up for her.

Knowing that she would never again experience this, Andy tried her best to savor the remarkable evening, but a part of her was still crestfallen by Miranda's absence. She wanted the Captain to see how happy everyone was. 

She wanted to see Miranda happy too.

"...And of course we can't forget about the person who so willingly helped us achieve all of this. Andy, Your Highness," Nigel said with fond amusement, breaking Andy out of her stupor. He stood, his glass raised as he looked down at her. With a wry grin and a shake of her head, Andy lifted her glass in response. "You have our eternal thanks. To Andy!"

"To Andy!" Everyone chorused, drinking in her honour.

"To Andrea."

Andy's breath faltered in her throat when she heard that voice. Slowly, she turned in her seat to find Miranda leaning elegantly against the main mast. As their eyes met, Miranda raised her goblet in Andy's direction and refined sip. At some point, she had changed her clothes, leaving behind the coat and white tunic for a light blue, silk blouse that brought out her eyes. The neckline fell low on her sternum and the long sleeves flowed like water, making it appear as if she were floating. The white trousers that haunted Andy’s dreams hugged every curve of her legs so snugly that Andy wasn’t sure they could be real. Captain Miranda Priestly looked like an early morning in the midst of spring, when the sun rose over the mountains and bathed the sky with its warmth. Andy couldn’t help but bask in her glow.

"Miranda!" Nigel greeted her loudly, spreading his arms haphazardly and spilling some of his rum in the process. "There you are, old girl. Come join us!"

Apparently, Nigel had really taken to his drink. Instead of a sharp reprimand, however, Miranda just chuckled. She was clearly in good spirits, because she stepped forward and stood at the head of the table between Nigel and Andy.

Redbeard noticed and scrambled to retrieve an extra chair. He rushed to put it in place for Miranda where she stood, giving her a cheeky grin.

"Good to have ya back, Captain," he said, doffing his hat to her.

"Thank you, Redbeard," Miranda said smoothly with a small smile, and elegantly took the proffered seat.

That familiar smell of jasmine and sandalwood surrounded Andy the moment the older woman sat beside her. She watched as Miranda relaxed in her seat, legs crossed elegantly and her free hand reaching up to lightly caress the silky neckline of her blouse.

Andy couldn't help the timid smile she flashed at the Captain while a swarm of butterflies fluttered away in her stomach. The older woman's elegant fingers, adorned with a sparkling sapphire ring, trailed smoothly where the blouse kissed her skin. 

Up and down. 

Up and down. 

Andy remembered the feeling of those fingers intertwined with hers so clearly that her hand burned with the memory. Entranced, she watched soft lips press against the rim of the goblet and took note of the way Miranda's sharp jawline cast shadows as she tilted her head back. Her throat moved when she swallowed, her eyelids fluttered in pleasure at the heavy taste of wine.

Suddenly, Andy felt feverishly hot. A blush rose to burn her cheeks, and something uncomfortable curled in her lower abdomen. Before she could force herself to look away, those blue eyes snapped towards her. Heart in her throat, Andy looked away, trying to hide her face from the knowing gaze that watched her so intently. She gulped her wine to drown out the embarrassment of being caught staring in such a manner, and thus missed the self-satisfied smirk that curled on the Captain's lips.

 

.oOo.

 

It didn’t take the crew long to be wildly drunk and utterly jovial. They had gone so long without properly drinking that their tolerance was nearly as pitiful as Andy’s. 

It had barely been two hours and they were all two sheets to the wind. Suarez had brought out his guitar and was just managing to play a lively tune while Eagle Eye set a steady rhythm with a cajón . Jack, Jocelyn and Redbeard sang merrily beside them and, across the deck, Nigel and Fishtail were dancing together - more like stumbling - while Roy and Cara seemed much lighter on their feet. The rest of the crew remained seated, chatting and laughing amongst themselves as they watched.

Andy was partaking in the latter. A haziness had settled over her after nursing her wine for most of the night. She hadn’t ever felt so light. It was like she weighed nothing at all, like she was completely boundless and carefree. She was so content that all her worries had dissipated, like smoke rising from the ashes.

After a particularly sharp turn to a merry little jig, Nigel tripped over Fishtail’s feet. He made a strangled noise and almost fell face-first onto the floor if it weren’t for Fishtail’s quick reflexes. The taller, muscular man lifted Nigel effortlessly, holding him by the shoulders and dangling him a foot into the air. It was such a ridiculous scene, made all the more hilarious when Nigel wiggled in protest like a fish out of water. Andy couldn’t help but throw her head back and bark out a laugh.

“I’ve missed this,” Miranda murmured, so quietly that she may have been thinking aloud. Nevertheless, Andy turned to her.

She was rewarded with that unrestrained smile that she’d grown so fond of. Once again, looking at the older woman made Andy’s heart squeeze in a way that was becoming all too familiar. Yet Andy couldn’t bring herself to dwell on it. Her feelings were real, nothing would change that, and in the end she would end up back in Port Royal anyway. So, she decided that she would allow herself to indulge. She would look and feel as much as she could manage while she still had time.

Miranda turned away from watching Nigel trying to wrestle with Fishtail and locked gazes with Andy. Though Miranda was still composed, her eyelids looked heavy and there was a faint blush to her cheeks from the wine. It was incredibly endearing.

“It is all thanks to you, Andrea.”

Andy waved her off. She had received so much praise and gratitude for willingly spilling her blood in order to break the curse, but she believed it beyond ridiculous. It was the least she could do. The crew, this band of cut-throat pirates, had taught her so much about the way the world worked, about herself and her own life. They had given her freedom, too. They didn’t deserve to continue living under such an unbearable curse.

“It’s really nothing,” she said with a small smile. She wasn’t sure why, but after three (four?) glasses of wine, she couldn’t not smile when speaking to Miranda. Not that they had spoken much during dinner. For the most part, Miranda had been quietly listening while Andy had been pulled in all sorts of conversational directions.

“I disagree,” Miranda answered, her voice unwavering. “You are undoubtedly the exception. I would wager that you would not find anyone on land who does not believe us to deserve the curse placed upon us. Or they would have been an absolute headache," she drawled with her signature eye roll. "But you surprised us all. You understood, you sympathised, and you did not treat us like vermin even though your head had been filled with all sorts of terrible stories about pirates. So no, Andrea. It was not nothing. It certainly isn’t to us. Just look at Emily and Serena; Your sacrifice has brought them back to each other.”

Andy frowned. What did Emily and Serena have to do with any of this? She looked around and noticed that they weren’t at the table and they weren’t dancing either. Andy continued to search for them, and finally spotted them on the forecastle deck. It was dark and there was a torch just within her vision making her strain to see past it, but Andy could see the two talking before moving closer, embracing, and --

Andy’s lips parted in shock.

They were kissing.

Not like friends. 

Like lovers. 

The sight made Andy’s heart race, and she tore her eyes away with a furious flush crawling up her cheeks. She could feel her palms sweating, and she gripped her goblet so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

Emily and Serena. Everything fell into place in an instant - the reason they had chosen to stay behind while the rest of them went to break the curse, why nobody seemed fazed by their close proximity, the constant touches and smiles… The realisation made Andy lightheaded.

So, Andy was not the only one with such... peculiar tastes. Then again Andy had never wanted to kiss another woman except Miranda, so she wasn’t really sure what she was.

Remembering the woman beside her, Andy’s gaze leapt to Miranda, only to find blue eyes trained on her. She wondered if Miranda had even looked away. Probably not. Andy knew her well enough to know that Miranda had probably seen Andy’s expression and, knowing how inept Andy was at hiding her emotions, Miranda could probably tell exactly how Andy felt. She closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath before looking back at the Captain, who still had not taken her eyes off her. 

Miranda was so beautiful.

The blush on her cheeks, the light from the lanterns dancing in her eyes. Andy decided that she would very much like to kiss her in this moment.

Her derailing thoughts screeched to a halt. No, she could not entertain such matters, especially while being under Miranda’s scrutiny. Andy shook her head, trying to get her wits back. The wine had made it difficult to get her mind in order, so, for good measure, she clamped her lips together to stop herself from blurting out something she would later regret. Just because Emily and Serena were in an openly affectionate relationship - a relationship that Miranda seemed to approve of, Andy’s brain helpfully supplied - did not mean that Andy should go around kissing Miranda. Women. Whatever.

An embarrassed blush warmed her cheeks, no doubt making her alcohol-flushed face even redder. It was only made worse when she glanced up again and Miranda smirked at her. The knowing glint in her eyes caused Andy’s breath to leave her in a rush.

“Hey, princess!” Redbeard called loudly from across the deck. Andy was relieved by the distraction, really. There was only so much she could take.

“You called?” she answered with an exaggerated posh accent, earning her a few laughs from the crew members that were paying attention. Andy heard something deep and quiet come from beside her, and she could have sworn it was Miranda chuckling.

“Y’know any songs?” He slurred, smiling widely.

“Hm,” Andy thought, fingers stroking her chin comically as she pondered the question. “Oh! I do know one! I’m not sure it’s a pirate song, exactly, but close enough.”

The party cheered and the dancers shuffled out of the way so Andy could stand near to the musicians.

“I haven’t practiced for years, so no teasing, got it?” she warned sternly, shaking a threatening finger.

“Quick, everyone hide the walking sticks!” Jack quipped. An outburst of boisterous laughter broke out, and Nigel actually cackled. Andy crossed her arms and huffed, even though she was holding back her own mirth.

“Careful, Jack, or I might have no choice but to give you another black eye.”

After the ensuing laughter quieted down around her, Andy took a deep breath, willing herself to concentrate. She may not have practiced in a long time, but she’d always loved singing. All of her music lessons as a child had been her favourites. Even though she was not accustomed to performing in front of large crowds like this, she felt comfortable with the crew and the wine had loosened her inhibitions. Besides, there was no way she could do worse than Redbeard’s off-key warble.

The only person that made her really nervous was the silver-haired woman across the deck.

She closed her eyes, took another breath, and began:

My heart is pierced by Cupid,

I disdain all glittering gold,

There is nothing can console me,

But my jolly sailor bold.

The crew fell silent. Andy felt them watching her as she sang the haunting melody. When she moved to the next verse, a soft, mournful guitar tune joined in, but Andy refused to open her eyes. She was swept up in the song, moved by the newfound meaning it held for her.

His hair it hangs in ringlets, his eyes as black as coal,

My happiness attend him wherever he may go,

From Tower Hill to Blackwall, I’ll wander, weep and moan,

All for my jolly sailor, until he sails home.

A noise brought Andy out of her stupor, and she opened her eyes to find Miranda sitting some feet in front of her. The woman had placed her goblet on the table, but her unwavering eyes remained fixed on Andy’s. 

Their eyes locked together in such an intimate way that Andy knew she would never meet anyone like the Captain again. Nobody would ever compare. No one could ever hope to captivate Andy the way Miranda did. Andy would always carry the spectre of Miranda with her, never to be forgotten. 

The thought made her heart squeeze painfully in her chest and Andy let her emotions spill past her lips as she sang the last verse, her eyes never leaving those that gazed at her with such intensity.

My heart is pierced by Cupid,

I disdain all glittering gold,

There is nothing can console me,

But my jolly sailor bold.

When the song came to an end, raucous applause burst from the crew shattering the stillness of the night. It startled Andy, jerking her back to reality and breaking her away from the Captain’s gaze. Nigel stumbled up to her with a wide grin and patted her roughly on the back.

“Well I’ll be damned!” He exclaimed merrily, and Andy found herself smiling back. “Her ladyship can sing! When were you gonna tell us?”

“I-”

“Andy, that was amazing!” Serena said, barrelling into her for a tight hug. 

Andy laughed at her friend’s enthusiasm, especially when she saw Serena’s eyes were shining with emotion. Emily was standing close, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. Andy had no idea when they’d joined the rest of the crew, but was happy they enjoyed her singing. For some reason, knowing the two of them loved each other made her fondness for them grow; there was something deeper connecting her to them, now.

“I must admit, Sachs,” Emily drawled. “You’ve got a good set of lungs.”

“Good set of lungs?” Redbeard protested full of indignation. “She’s got the most beautiful voice I ever heard! Name one person who can sing better, go on!”

With no little amount of stubbornness, Emily placed her fists against her hips as the two redheads began a heated dispute on the best singers they knew, and then shifted to debating singing technique versus musical talent. Andy, Nigel and Serena watched the two with amusement, quietly discussing each argument amongst themselves as Suarez began playing a lively tune once again. The rest of the crew began talking and dancing once more, some even joining the spectacle that was becoming the debate. Eventually, Redbeard got bored of verbally sparring with Emily and dragged her into the dancing fray despite her indignant protests. Serena laughed uproariously and refused to interfere when her paramour sent her a look pleading for help.

Off to the side, Andy felt warmth suffuse her. She wrapped her arm around Nigel’s and leaned her head on his shoulder, contentedly watching the chaotic yet immensely entertaining scene unfold. Distracted as she was, and with her keen desire to stop thinking about Miranda for a while, she was completely oblivious to the blue eyes that still watched her from across the deck, shining with something remarkably like fondness.

Chapter Text

Andy had a serious problem. 

She could not, for the life of her, keep her eyes off Captain Miranda Priestly. It was ridiculous, but if Andy thought the Captain was beautiful before, she was breathtaking in the light of her freedom. No longer bound by the curse, she was radiant; a worthy competitor to the sun itself. 

And Andy could not get enough.

She caught forbidden glimpses of painfully tender moments that made Andy want to weep and laugh and hug the other woman. Sometimes, the Captain would close her eyes and tilt her head back to feel the ocean breeze caressing her smooth skin and combing through her silver hair. Other times, Miranda would take a deep, long breath, like she was savouring the sea air, or she would smile gently when reading or listening to her crew laughing together.

It was tearing Andy apart. She could feel a physical ache in her chest every time something made Miranda smile and she had to fight the impulse to move closer. She wanted to run her fingers through that soft hair and wrap her arms around her. But since she could not indulge in any of those things, she made do with looking as much as she could.

The strangest, most impossible thing, was that Miranda looked back.

Andy's lungs forgot how to draw breath when she first caught Miranda gazing at her. It happened late one evening, when Miranda was in control of the helm. Andy was sitting on deck reading yet another book that Miranda had lent her. It was most curious that the tale was about two women, one of whom visits the other for a loving, bittersweet goodbye before departing on an eternal journey. It was the most beautiful and heartbreaking story Andy had read in a long time and she could not help but see similarities in her own situation. She wondered if Miranda could too.

She’d been deeply engrossed in a particularly bittersweet passage when she caught sight of the Captain ascending the steps to the quarterdeck. In that single moment,  she forgot all about the book. Unable to help herself, she eagerly took in the older woman's exquisite appearance.

At some point in the evening, Miranda had disposed of her hat to let her hair flow freely in the breeze. She looked incredible wearing a form fitting, crisp white shirt with long flaring sleeves and a silver brochure tying the collar together at the hollow of her throat. A black bodice was wrapped snugly around her waist, gently cupping her chest and wrapping around her curves in the most perfect way. Her signature black trousers were tailor-made to fit her figure and the impossibly high heeled boots defined her toned thighs and graceful calves. 

Andy drank it all in like a woman dying of thirst in the midst of a dreadful drought. 

When she finally raised her eyes to focus on the Captain's face once more, she found herself rooted to the spot, pinned down by brilliant blue eyes. Her breath caught in her chest and despite willing herself to move, her body completely betrayed her and shut down completely. Miranda was bathed in golden light and she tilted her head elegantly, her forelock gracing a perfectly arched eyebrow. She was more beautiful than all the treasures on Earth, Andy was certain.

And she was looking right back at her. 

She always felt a frisson of heat when she was Miranda's main focus of attention. It made her feel self-conscious, but also inexplicably alive. A blush bloomed on her cheeks when Miranda slowly trailed her gaze down Andy's body, taking in the off-the-shoulder white blouse tucked into her forest green skirt that fell in waves all the way to her ankles. When they reached the simple black boots, Miranda's eyes rose until they met brown ones once more.

A fond smile twitched at the corners of Miranda's lips, but before it could bloom into a real one, the older woman turned away.

Andy was left dazed, with no little amount of confusion as to what exactly had just happened. The way those eyes looked at her, drank her in… it had felt like a warm caress. It made Andy's pulse quicken until she felt like something inside her would burst.

She really needed to pull herself together. She tried, she really did, but it was nearly impossible, given the numerous times their eyes crossed paths in the following hours. She could not even lose herself between the pages of The Apparition of Mrs. Veal. It was only when Serena sat down next to her that Andy finally managed to focus on something else.

"I have got good news for you," Serena said with a bright smile. "We're stopping at Tortuga to resupply, so you'll be staying for another week!"

"What?" Andy nearly dropped the book right off her lap.

"Captain's orders. We'll make port in four days or so given the winds," Serena shrugged, then frowned in bewilderment. "Although I'm not sure why we have to go all the way there. We still have plenty of supplies to get us through until we drop you off home, safe and sound."

The rest of Serena's words were lost to Andy. She could barely hear over the pounding in her ears. Instinctively, her eyes sought Miranda out, flitting over the deck until they found her standing by herself at the front of the ship, turned away from them to face the horizon. Andy's thoughts were a whirlwind of conflicting emotions that left her feeling light-headed.

Did Miranda just postpone their arrival to Port Royal? For her? Surely not. The very idea was completely absurd. Yet Andy felt taken by it.

With tentative hope blooming in her chest like flowers in the warmth of spring, Andy could hardly pay attention to that aggravating, pessimistic voice inside her head. Deep down, she knew it was silly to jump to conclusions - even sillier to get her hopes up - but she just could not bring herself to care anymore. 

She had more time now. That's all that mattered.

After forcing herself to bring her focus back to Serena, Andy was happy to lean back and chat with her friend until the blonde saw Emily emerge from the forecastle. The redhead gave her a pointed look while gesturing to her. Serena immediately jumped to her feet. 

"Duty calls, princess," Serena said with a little curtsey. The happy grin that took over her features when she turned to her beloved made Andy's heart clench. "See ya later!"

"Bye!" Andy called back. 

She watched as Serena practically skipped across the deck and wrapped her arms around Emily's waist. After a few quiet words and smitten smiles, they leaned closer still and shared an affectionate kiss.

"Those two make me sick," a sarcastic voice came from behind Andy.

She turned to face Nigel, who was also watching his two crew mates with a fond smile. After glancing at her briefly, Nigel lowered himself to sit beside her and the two turned back to find Serena and Emily bickering playfully. More specifically, Serena was taunting Emily while the latter rolled her eyes, lips twitching with contained amusement.

"They fell in love many years ago, before we were cursed," Nigel said suddenly. "It was incredibly entertaining to watch Serena completely tear down Emily's defences. Like a puppy taming a tiger." He chuckled quietly, but his smile fell a mere moment later. "Then we found that damned gold, and their feelings for one another just vanished. Went up in smoke. They knew they still loved each other, of course, they just didn't feel it. I think they had it much worse than the rest of us because of that."

It was unimaginable the kind of pain and despair one must feel in such a situation. Andy's heart went out to her friends, who definitely did not deserve to go through such torture. Fiery temperament and British snobbery aside.

"Do you have a problem with it?" Nigel asked somberly.

Startled, Andy turned to find Nigel studying her closely. He looked more serious than she'd ever seen him, and knew that she had to choose her words carefully.

"Not at all," Andy answered softly, looking away. "It was just a surprise, that's all. I never considered that women could fall in love like that. It- well," she let out a trembling breath. She considered lying, but part of her desperately wanted to confide in someone. She wanted, needed all these thoughts and feelings somewhere outside of her own mind. The confession left her lips before she could even consider the words. "It has helped me feel less alone."

She kept her eyes on the floor, afraid to see Nigel's expression despite his obvious support for his friends. This was still so new to Andy. It felt like she'd been teetering at the edge of a cliff all her life and she'd finally gathered enough courage to jump. Whatever was to greet her at the bottom was a great unknown, but the fall was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

"I see," Nigel said.

In the ensuing silence, she could feel his eyes on her but she couldn't look at him. Instead, she hunched her shoulders and waited for the inevitable with a racing heart.

She barely managed to keep from flinching when he placed his hand gently on her shoulder.

"You don't have to feel bad, you know. I know it's hard, but people like you and me, and those two, and others in this crew I shall not mention, we are never truly alone. The world may try to tell you that - may even succeed in doing so - but never forget that love is never wrong. It is not something to be ashamed of or be punished for. It is the most valuable thing we have. And we must cherish it always."

As Andy absorbed the heavy weight of his words, her eyes involuntarily flicked to Miranda once again. There was an immediate warmth that grew in her chest like a steady flame. It seemed to be burning brighter and brighter the more time Andy spent in Miranda's vicinity. 

Maybe Nigel was right. Maybe love was meant to be treasured, no matter what form it came in. Maybe Andy shouldn't feel ashamed or unworthy because of it. Maybe, just maybe, love was something she could let herself feel instead of repress. 

She had more time now. She refused to waste it.

"Thanks, Nige, I really appreciate it," she said distractedly, pulling herself up to her feet. "I'm sorry, I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Sure thing," he waved her off with his usual smirk, except this time it was accompanied with a knowing twinkle in his eyes that Andy chose to ignore for her own peace of mind. 

Mind racing, she made her way across the deck towards the lonesome figure at the front of the ship.

If Miranda showed no objection to Emily and Serena's relationship, surely that meant that she would not be as repulsed by Andy's feelings as Andy had originally feared. At the very least, it was unlikely that she would think Andy an abomination.

Besides, didn't Nigel say there were others in the crew like them? Andy's brain wandered, trying to figure out who it could be. Maybe Fishtail? He seemed to have a certain affinity towards Nigel. Or maybe it was Eagle Eye, always so quiet and private? What about --

Oh, God. 

Was Miranda --

Andy's brain screeched to a halt. The notion was inconceivable. She could not even fathom it, for surely Andy's heart would burst right out of her chest. As it was, she stumbled over her own feet at the mere suggestion. 

Pulse racing, she approached Miranda while taking deep, steadying breaths to compose herself. The Captain seemed lost in thought, her unfocused gaze downturned towards the sea below. At first, Andy felt a pang of concern. She found she did not like the idea of Miranda feeling burdened or upset. Yet the closer she got, the more she could see that the older woman was, in fact, smiling. It was a small, unconscious smile, but a smile nonetheless. It warmed Andy from the inside out and put her mind at ease.

When she was practically standing next to her, Andy heard a splash from the water and reflexively sought out the sound.

There, close to the surface of the water, a mere ten feet from them, were two majestic blue whales. One was much larger than the other, leading the younger calf as they swam in front of the ship. The baby seemed playful, passing time with a game of catch using the edge of the ship's bow as the Pearl steadily sailed behind the two. The mother swam languidly, spinning gracefully through the water without a care.

"Wow," Andy breathed. 

Next to her, Miranda softly hummed in agreement, never taking her eyes off the water.

"They only give birth once every two to six years," Miranda spoke quietly, as if afraid of scaring off the whales. "It is incredibly rare to find a mother with her child swimming together, let alone so close to a ship."

Andy turned to look at her, and was once again taken aback by the older woman's immense beauty. She looked relaxed and soft and utterly lovely as she basked in the marvels of her beloved sea.

"It's beautiful," Andy murmured, not sure whether she was speaking about the whales or the woman in front of her.

"Yes," Miranda nodded, but her expression became more somber as the charming smile fell from her lips. "I wish people would leave them well enough alone."

There was a bitterness in her tone unlike anything Andy had heard before. She was well aware of the way humans hunted whales incessantly, with such vicious cruelty that Andy could hardly stomach the thought. Certainly, the sadness and resentment in Miranda's voice was completely justified. It was awful knowing that the people hunting down pirates were also responsible for the awful, violent destruction of such innocent sea creatures, such majestic beings that were a crucial part of the beauty of living at sea.

The injustice of it all made Andy angry, but the look on the Captain’s face was so forlorn that before she could think better of it, she reached out and gently placed her hand over Miranda's.

Miranda’s eyes snapped towards her, blinking in surprise at the unexpected touch. Andy's intention was to comfort using simple physical contact with the older woman - something she had been all but craving as of late - but perhaps she had overstepped. She swallowed thickly, taking a moment to savour the feeling of Miranda's soft, soft skin before pulling away.

Long, elegant fingers delicately wrapped around hers before Andy could break their connection. Andy's heart immediately froze. After a gentle squeeze, Miranda pulled her hand away to rest atop the wooden railing, close enough that their pinky fingers brushed.

Andy tried to fight back the blush that threatened to overtake her cheeks. Flustered by the unexpected - but more than welcome - affection, she lowered her eyes to resume watching the whales, desperately attempting to quiet down her raging thoughts. Miranda, on the other hand, continued to gaze at her for a moment longer before she too turned to watch the whales. Even after the majestic animals sank towards deeper waters, the Captain remained by Andy's side.

Chapter Text

Tortuga was unlike anything Andy had expected. 

She had obviously never been to a pirate island before, so as the Pearl began her approach to make port, Andy was vibrating with excitement. Serena had warned her to stay close, and Andy was more than happy to oblige, but she was still eager to explore the place. She knew full well that she would likely never get another chance to visit such a place, so she was going to make the absolute most of the opportunity.

Once the ship was securely moored, Nigel gathered the crew and divided them into two groups. Andy fell into place next to Serena and Emily. Roy, Redbeard, Cara, Fishtail and Suarez also joined them with cloth sacks and straw baskets. At Nigel's command, they disembarked, and for the first time in almost three weeks, Andy set foot on land.

The town buzzed with loud chatter and vibrant colours and the potent aroma of spices. Rum flowed freely from bottles to goblets in every corner. There were men and women dressed in ways Andy had never seen before, draped in silks and fabrics that perfectly complimented all shades of skin. She could hear folk speaking English, Spanish, and French, and other languages that she’d never heard before. There was so much to take in, so many things to be fascinated by, that Andy was completely swept up by it all.

“Come on, your highness,” Emily called out over her shoulder with undisguised impatience.

Andy stopped gaping at her surroundings and picked up her pace to catch up with the group. She only just managed not to barrel right into a group of children running past her in a raucous symphony of giggles and high-pitched shrieks. It brought a smile to her lips.

They made their way to the main street, past small wooden houses and bars bursting with people even at this early hour. In the main square, a colourful market was brimming with food and fabrics and artefacts from all over the New World. Perhaps beyond that, too. 

Andy took it all in with wide eyes. People laughed uproariously and spoke in unrestrained tones, including the women. It mattered not how proper or polite they sounded and Andy couldn't help but admire this way of socialising. There was no snobbery, no calculated words that disguised true intentions, no false pretences or uptight men looking down their noses at everyone.

The women seemed free of it all, too. They laughed and spoke just as loudly as the men, they drank just as heartily, and nobody spared their behaviour a second glance. Some wore dresses that were extremely low-cut, almost indecently so, and Andy had to tear her eyes away from them with flaming cheeks. 

With her new-found… affinity for the fairer sex, Andy found herself hyper-aware of the feminine physique that was flaunted in every corner of the town. A few women actually smiled at her with salacious winks. It made her heart pound in her chest. Not because she was particularly interested in them, of course - only one woman held the entirety of Andy's affections - but because she was shocked at the open flirtation towards their own gender.

Was it always like this here? Did women enjoy all these liberties without reproach from their fellow men? Andy was sure that their behaviour and fashion choices would outrage everyone she knew back at Port Royal. In fact, the same could be said about the men. This place was like a haven at the ends of the earth, away from the strict rules and prejudices of ‘refined society’.  

Truthfully, Andy wouldn't mind living like this, despite the unclean environment and the sometimes violent behaviour from some of the men. They had freedom to do what they wanted and be who they were, and that was the most important thing Andy could think of.

Their small entourage spent about an hour at the market, going through all the stalls as they made their way through the list of necessities Nigel had written. Andy smiled in amusement as she watched a glowing Cara almost drool at the amount of fresh food on display, and Roy stuck by her side to make sure she didn't over indulge. Apparently, according to Serena, it was a fairly common occurrence.

Nigel, for his part, made a beeline for the stall bursting with silk and lace and dozens of other luscious fabrics. Redbeard, Fishtail, and Suarez made their way to the one full of building equipment, leaving Andy, Serena, and Emily to search for the remaining items on the list.

As they walked by a gardening stall, a familiar scent caught Andy's attention. She was immediately drawn to it, and searched her surroundings until she found the source.

There, in a small corner of the stall, was a huge bouquet of jasmines.

Instinctively and without much consideration, she approached the woman selling them.

"Excuse me," Andy started politely, but was cut off by the vendor before she could get another word out.

"Well 'ello, love!" the woman greeted jovially. She had specks of grey amidst her dark hair, and the lines around her eyes and mouth deepened as she smiled. "Haven't seen you around 'ere before. First time?"

"Yes," Andy said, unable to keep from smiling at the bubbly friendliness. "I'm Andy, lovely to meet you."

"Same to you, dear! Name's Lily."

"What a perfect name," Andy chuckled, gesturing at the flowers all around them.

Lily laughed, shaking her head. "Ya know, you're not the first person to tell me that! So what can I help ya with? You after anything in particular?"

"Yes, actually. I'd love some of those beautiful jasmines."

The woman's eyes lit up.

"Ooh, a very fine choice! Grab as many as you want and we'll come to an arrangement, shall we?"

Andy beamed. This was definitely not how things were done in Port Royal. With eager hands, she arranged a delicate bouquet of the white flowers. When she had gathered more than enough, she looked to Lily for further instruction.

"All done? Nothing else catches your fancy?"

"No, thank you," Andy said, smiling down at the flowers. "This is everything I need."

"Suit yourself. So, since this is your first time, I'll walk you through it. What can you give me in return? Has to be a fair trade."

Andy blinked at her.

"Oh! Uh," she patted down her skirt, ruffling in the side pocket and extracting a few small coins. "Would that be enough?"

"Hm," Lily raised her eyebrows as she counted the money offered. "Normally I would ask for more, but I'll make an exception for ya. Choosing the flower of love and sensuality must have a good reason, ey?" She sent Andy a suggestive wink before snatching up the coins and immediately turning to her next client with equal amounts of boisterousness. 

Andy stood back, blinking at the flowers in her hands. Love and sensuality? She'd had no idea that's what the flowers symbolised. Then again, of course they would. 

They suited Miranda perfectly.

Unable to help herself, she brought the bouquet up to her nose and inhaled. The heady fragrance filled Andy's senses until she was lightheaded with the phantom of Miranda’s presence. 

Blinking out of her stupor, she found Serena and Emily a few stalls further, and ran to catch up to them. It wouldn't be long before they returned to the ship and took sail once again, and she was determined to enjoy every second as much as she could.

 

.oOo.

 

The warmth of the golden evening light and the gentle rocking of the ship as it sailed steadily north did nothing to calm Andy's nerves. 

They'd boarded the ship a mere two hours ago and immediately set sail once more. Andy had stalled the actual execution of her ridiculous plan by washing herself thoroughly and having a quick dinner. She'd even sought out her friends for some conversation, but everyone seemed worn out by the trip to Tortuga. Apparently, being alive was pretty exhausting.

She'd also gone to great lengths searching for Miranda, telling herself that it was merely to appraise the Captain's mood. After all, she was known for bouts of bad humour that Andy tried to avoid. She supposed that everyone had their bad days, although Miranda’s seemed quite intense. As it was, Andy had looked everywhere and hadn’t come across even a glimpse of the white haired woman since their return to the Pearl.

When she asked Nigel about the Captain's whereabouts, he informed her that Miranda had been in the storage area at the deepest part of the ship for the better part of two hours, looking for God knows what. It confused Andy greatly. She never thought the Captain would take it upon herself to waste her time with such a menial task. She usually preferred to command her crew to carry out the chores she did not deign to do herself. Of course, Andy was far too nervous to dwell on it properly and she'd simply sought yet another way to distract herself.

Now though, she could put it off no longer without admitting her own cowardice. Anxiety boiled in the pit of her stomach and for the first time, the steady rocking of the ship made her nauseous. 

She was greatly embarrassed to have thought this was a good idea. It was ridiculous, not to mention childish and overly sentimental. There was no good reason why she should put herself through this kind of humiliation. 

With that last discouraging thought, Andy surrendered to her cowardice. She grimly let her hand fall from where it had been ready to knock upon the Captain's door and stood there for a moment longer trying to dismiss the disappointment that flooded her. If only she were brave enough to give a beautiful woman a simple bouquet of flowers, maybe Andy would feel less of a failure.

Just as she was about to retreat with her tail between her legs, the door in front of her swung open. She paled, frozen in place as her heart leapt to her throat. 

Miranda paused mid-stride and blinked in surprise at the woman standing outside her chambers. After a few, agonising seconds, her eyes flicked down to the flowers clutched in Andy's hand. A curious eyebrow rose elegantly.

Oh, heavens.

"Uh, hi," Andy stuttered, grasping for any sort of coherent thought swirling around in her suddenly blank mind. "I just, well, I was at the market earlier and, um, I saw these and I just- I thought it would be nice to get them, you know, because you-- and they're so pretty, so, uh," Andy breathed in sharply in an attempt to stop her rambling and thrust the flowers towards Miranda. "Here."

Andy's cheeks were burning in embarrassment, and she wished the ship would open up beneath her feet so the ocean could swallow her whole. It didn't help that Miranda had crossed her arms, leaned her shoulder against the door frame, and watched Andy's little speech with an amused tilt of her lips and twinkling blue eyes.

"Why, that's so very thoughtful," she said with barely concealed amusement before taking the offered flowers.

Andy sagged, feeling boneless and beyond mortified. When Miranda raised the flowers to her nose with a small, tender smile, however, Andy forgot all about her embarrassment. The older woman looked so utterly lovely, so achingly beautiful as she breathed in the sweetness of jasmine and touched the soft petals that Andy immediately decided it had all been worth it.

Blue eyes rose to her face once more, shining with a charming expression.

"Come in for a moment while I put these somewhere," Miranda instructed, turning on her heel and walking back into her chambers.

Andy meekly followed and took the opportunity to watch the Captain while no one was looking. Miranda, unsurprisingly, was beautiful as always. The flowing indigo blouse paired with light grey trousers brought out the shades of blue in her eyes and the silver tones of her hair. Gold and emerald earrings dripped from her ears, bringing attention to her elegant neck and the collarbones peeking from under the hem of her blouse.

Andy tried not to stare too hard, but it was proving more and more difficult with each passing day. The other woman was far too captivating and beautiful to look away. Adding Andy’s growing feelings to that and she found it impossible not to stare.

Only when the flowers were safely placed in a vase with water at the centre of the dining table did Miranda turn around, and Andy quickly lowered her gaze in turn.

"Come." Miranda tilted her head towards the door. "I have something for you, too."

Without saying a word, and trying to keep her eyes from lingering on the other woman, Andy followed Miranda onto the main deck and up the stairs to the quarterdeck. Emily was manning the helm, but immediately stepped back when Miranda took control. 

"Find somewhere else to keep yourself occupied, Emily," she commanded.

"Oh," Emily said, visibly taken aback. Her eyes flickered to Andy before settling on Miranda once more. "But I thought-"

"That's all." Miranda flicked her fingers in dismissal, not even sparing her another glance.

After narrowing her eyes at Andy as if it was her fault that she'd been dismissed, Emily left the two of them alone. With a rueful shake of her head, Andy turned to look at Miranda. 

And promptly lost her breath. 

It was always such a potent sight: the Captain, beautiful and regal, standing tall as she commandeered her ship; hands confidently holding the helm; waves of silver hair flowing freely in the breeze; exaltation shining in her eyes despite her serene expression. Andy took it all in - all the small details that painted the breathtaking scene. For all her years to come, she would remember this moment again and again, and take solace in its transcendence.

After a deep breath, Miranda turned to her with a thoughtful expression. She took a step back and extended her hand towards Andy. The sun glinted on the golden rings wrapped around her fingers. Miranda's hand reached for her in the same way a gentleman would propose a lady to a waltz.

Andy froze at the realisation of what she was being offered.

"Oh," she breathed. "Really?"

Miranda rolled her eyes, but there was no malice behind the gesture.

"By all means, move at a glacial pace," she drawled.

That jerked Andy into motion, and she quickly closed the distance between them.

"Place your left hand here," Miranda instructed, standing mere inches behind her. Andy gripped the helm where Miranda's hand had been. "And with your right," she continued, taking Andy's hand in her own. She guided it to a lower part of the helm, and Andy took hold of it as told. "Just like this."

Andy's heart was pounding. Her lungs seemed to be too big inside her ribs, barely able to get enough air. She was hyper aware of Miranda's proximity, of the warmth radiating off her body, her steady breath teasing the hair at the back of Andy's head. It was intoxicating.

"Good," Miranda praised softly, making the fine hairs on Andy's neck rise. "Watch your posture."

Warm hands came to rest upon her hips, burning her skin there despite the layers of her skirt. Miranda guided her with firm gentleness so that Andy's hips were parallel with her own, a mere inch between their bodies. Despite the closeness, she didn't move away, and the pressure of her hands made Andy want to close her eyes to better savour the sensation.

"Hm," Miranda hummed softly. A subtle yet undeniable shiver trailed down Andy's spine. She could practically feel the vibration of the sound coming from Miranda's chest against her back. "Not too dreadful for a novice, I suppose. Now keep your eyes on the horizon and let it guide you." 

The hands at her hips tightened briefly before slowly, slowly falling away. Miranda moved to stand by Andy's side, their shoulders almost brushing.

Andy was finally able to breathe again. She did as she was told and kept her gaze forward, even though all she wanted to do was turn around and face the woman standing so close. Her knuckles had turned white with the tightness of her grasp on the helm. There was a familiar warmth in her cheeks, and her lungs still burned.

Deep breaths. She needed slow, deep breaths. It took some effort, but she managed to calm herself enough to loosen her grip and slow her pulse to a somewhat normal rhythm. 

As a distraction from her body's visceral reaction, Andy did as Miranda instructed and focused on facing ahead. The sun was setting on the horizon; its orange glow painted the sky in reds and pinks, reflecting on the open ocean like a blanket of shimmering gold. Despite her near heart failure just a moment ago, Andy was overjoyed. It was exhilarating to be at the command of the ship, sailing towards such beauty with the wind on their side. 

She could almost imagine what it must feel like to have the power to choose her own heading. To travel the world to her heart's desire and chase each sunset until the morrow. The very idea, the complete freedom of such a life, was too overwhelming for Andy to dwell on it.

Andy chanced a glance at Miranda. The captivated expression on her face was more mesmerising than any sunset. It squeezed Andy's heart until she was forced to turn away, lest the pounding in her chest interrupted the delicate moment. 

With her eyes fixed forward once more, she let her mind wander freely in the comfortable silence. The only sounds that accompanied them was the faint chatter of the crew below and the waves softly rocking against the ship. Andy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing herself to savour the moment like it was her last one on this earth.

Together, they sailed towards the sunset in quiet companionship until a million stars lit the sky.

Chapter Text

Time slipped away from her. She filled her days doing as much as she could, savouring each moment like it was her last. Keeping busy was the only thing that made her rapidly approaching departure somewhat manageable. Andy knew she would miss the crew terribly, so she made sure to enjoy their company as much as she could. She helped with the daily duties; she threw herself into sparring with Serena; she learned how to play the guitar courtesy of Suarez, and helped Nigel make beautiful clothes.

Most importantly, she spent time with Miranda.

She didn’t want to push, because she knew the Captain was rather reserved and liked her peace and quiet. However, ever since Tortuga, they were spending more and more time together. They grew closer, more than Andy had ever dared hope for. They had dinner together frequently, and at least once a day Andy went to Miranda’s chambers and they both spent an hour or two reading in comfortable silence. 

Well, Andy read while Miranda worked. Sometimes, the older woman would indulge her by talking Andy through her work process and teaching her all the things Andy had never found in books. She had never learned so much so quickly in her life; by the end of the week she had the world map practically memorised from all the times Miranda told her stories of all the places she’d been, and was confident in her knowledge of basic astronomy. Furthermore, Miranda let Andy peruse her science books, not just her works of fiction. The sea creatures and the faraway planets among their pages fascinated Andy. Miranda even let her join in her rounds of the ship, and occasionally even offered Andy the privilege to command the helm.

It was easily the most intellectually satisfying relationship Andy had ever had. She felt like she'd finally met her match - someone who did not treat her curiosity as a burden but as a virtue worth encouraging. Miranda herself was astoundingly knowledgeable and passionate about all the subjects Andy took an interest in. More than that, their easy companionship led to witty banter and deep discussions that made Andy’s feelings deepen beyond comprehension. 

Somehow, Miranda had dug a hole inside Andy's chest and planted a precious seed that was steadily growing into something beautiful. Despite the inevitable pain Andy would have to endure once she was left behind at Port Royal, she was certain that Miranda would remain safely tucked into her heart for a very, very long time. She could already imagine herself: standing by the shore watching the Pearl sail away forever. She would spend her days thinking about her time among its crew; remembering the notorious and beautiful Captain Priestly every time she caught the faintest hint of jasmine, everytime she read a new book or gazed upon the horizon.

Indeed, she would mourn the absence of the formidable woman that had changed her life forever, but that was a problem for future Andy to deal with. For now, she still had time. A few scant days, but Andy would make them count.

“Hey there, sailor,” Serena called out, and Andy snapped out of her musings. Turning to face her friend, she watched Serena, Emily and Jocelyn walk across the main deck towards her. “Penny for your thoughts?”

Andy smirked. “Just thinking about how I’m going to enjoy putting you on the deck when we train tomorrow.”

Serena scoffed. “Andy, you couldn’t knock me down even if you tried.”

“Oh, yeah? Wanna bet?” Andy straightened to her full height, planting her fists on her hips when Serena stepped closer in a comically threatening manner.

“Settle down, children,” Emily drawled, rolling her eyes at their antics.

“Quite right, Emily,” a soft voice replied. They all froze. Emily’s eyes widened comically, a furious blush rushing to her cheeks at the rare praise from her superior - if one could call it that.

As if in unison, they all turned to face Miranda, who was approaching them with smooth, confident strides. Serena stepped away, but Andy hardly even noticed. All her attention was caught by the woman walking towards her. When blue eyes locked with her own, Andy couldn’t help but smile. Miranda’s lips quirked infinitesimally in response before she turned back to Emily.

“How are the preparations for this evening coming along?” she asked.

“Everyone has their duties and Cara is already working on the food. We still have a couple of hours, but we’ll start setting everything up soon,” the redhead replied.

“What’s happening this evening?” Andy asked with a confused frown. 

“At the end of each month, the crew throws a party. It’s a bit of a tradition. It keeps morale high and we have something to look forward to each month,” Serena explained.

“Wait," Andy asked, eyes widening with realisation. "Today is the thirty first?”

“Yes, why?” Emily drawled, looking at Andy like she was missing an important part of her brain.

“Oh.” Andy mumbled. Time really had ceased to exist since she boarded the Pearl.

“What is it?” Serena asked, moving closer to Andy in concern.

“Nothing, it’s silly, really-”

“Andrea,” Miranda said smoothly. Andy looked over and winced at the look of concern she was receiving.

“Fine," Andy deflated, reluctant to give in for some unfathomable reason. "It really is silly, and not a big deal at all, but, well, today is my birthday.”

Jocelyn clapped her hands together and Serena immediately lit up.

“Andy!” she cried out in delight. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

“I forgot!” Andy crossed her arms defensively.

“Honestly, Andrea,” Miranda said with an amused smirk curling at her lips. “And here I thought nothing slipped your brilliant mind.”

With a warmth flooding her cheeks, Andy lowered her eyes in embarrassment and missed the exchanged glances between the three younger pirates. Before the ensuing silence could last longer than a second, Serena did a little gleeful dance before turning to her fellow crewmates.

“Well, now we have another thing to celebrate tonight!” 

“I’ll go tell Cara, she’ll definitely want to make a cake for this,” Jocelyn said before taking off towards the forecastle. 

“Come on, Em.” Serena took her partner’s arm and pulled her away with a mischievous grin. “We’re going to spread the news.”

Andy glared at her as the two retreated, leaving her alone with Miranda.

“They’re going to make a big deal out of this, aren’t they?” she groaned.

“Absolutely,” the Captain confirmed with a knowing smirk. “We haven’t celebrated a birthday in more than two decades.”

“Fair point,” Andy conceded. “Still, I don’t like a fuss.”

Miranda huffed in amusement.

“I’m sure there are worse things.”

“Easy for you to say. When’s your birthday anyways?”

“That is none of your concern,” Miranda said with a haughty sniff, but the whole Dragon of the Seas demeanour no longer worked on Andy. Instead, she once again crossed her arms and stubbornly waited with raised eyebrows. Eventually, Miranda rolled her eyes and conceded. “October twenty-fifth.”

“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Andy teased.

“Careful,” Miranda warned, but there was mirth shining in her light blue eyes. “It would be such a tragedy if you were forced to walk the plank on your birthday of all days.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Andy waved her off in a bored manner. “Let me know when you come up with something original for my untimely demise.”

Miranda raised an eyebrow at the challenge. “Alright then, what shall it be? Fed to the sharks? Struck by lightning? Used as a make-shift anchor?”

“Getting better, Captain,” Andy sassed, unable to keep the grin she’d been fighting from finally making an appearance.

“Such high praise.” Miranda fanned herself theatrically. “I may swoon.”

“Oh, hush,” Andy replied, enjoying their banter. “I could charm your socks off if I wanted.”

“By all means, do attempt it. But don’t push yourself too hard, it may cause you brain damage.”

“Another successful coup by the infamous Captain Priestly,” Andy exclaimed, dramatically raising a hand to her temple. “Leaving a girl forever impaired due to your high standards.”

This time, Miranda chuckled, and Andy couldn’t help laughing at the ridiculous turn in conversation. Her chest felt warm from the inside out when blue eyes locked with hers, filled with amusement and that special fondness that seemed to be reserved only for her.

She would miss these interactions the most.

 

.oOo.

 

It was clear the crew had been holding back from having a proper celebration, because they went all out for Andy’s. The lanterns and tall torches were already lit despite the amber light from the sunset. Most of the crew were sitting on scattered chairs, barrels, and on top of the upside-down rowboats. As Jocelyn predicted, Cara baked a cake big enough for what seemed like fifty people, and there was a delicious banquet spread out on a table set out on the main deck.

Of course, everyone indulged, and not two hours had gone by before the crew was drunkenly bawling an off-key rendition of “For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow”. Andy, also feeling rather merry after two glasses of wine, could only laugh at the uproarious performance before her. Even Miranda, sitting back against a high-backed chair she’d had Redbeard carry down from her cabin, couldn’t help an amused smile as she watched the scene unfold. She didn’t join in the singing, but she was the first to raise her glass to Andy when the song came to an end. Cheers broke out as everyone clapped and toasted Andy’s honour. It brought a blush to her cheeks.

The crew’s high spirits knew no bounds, and soon a space was cleared as a make-shift dance floor. Suarez played a lively tune that contrasted greatly to the belting of jumbled lyrics by Jocelyn, Roy, and Eagle Eye, as well as Fishtail’s smoother vocals, practically drowned out by the others' cacophony. Redbeard dragged Cara to the dance floor, ignoring the older woman’s protests and twirling her in a dizzying circle. They were soon followed by Serena and a reluctant Emily. In no time at all, most of the crew - save Miranda and the “musical” group - were spinning and stomping and holding on to one another when gravity betrayed them. The wooden floor creaked under their buoyant energy, but nothing could stop the celebration.

Andy took a deep breath and smiled as she watched the uncoordinated, comical performance. Serena had been right that first day Andy had spoken to her: these people were a family. It was unconventional, certainly, and more than a little peculiar, but it was theirs. Andy would give anything to be a part of it. A familiar dread crept into her mood. This ship felt more like home than Port Royal ever had. These supposedly fearsome and vile pirates had accepted her more readily than anyone else in her life. They lived passionately, and were free to pursue whichever destiny they desired. They cared for and respected each other more than all the so-called “civilised” people Andy had ever met.

And in two day’s time, she would have to say goodbye to them all.

The heaviness in her chest and the bitter-sweet taste in her mouth faded when she was startled out of her musings by a bouncing Serena. Honestly, the blonde sometimes reminded her of a puppy. Eager hands wrapped around one of Andy’s wrists and pulled her right off her seat.

“Come and dance, Andy!” Serena encouraged enthusiastically, cheeks flushed from the plentiful drink and energetic dancing.

“Yeah, princess!” Nigel called out with a teasing grin. “Show us the moves of a proper lady!”

Andy rolled her eyes but couldn’t fight a smirk. “Oh, alright. Let me finish my drink first.”

“Chug it!” Emily dared with a challenging look. “Or is that too vulgar for such a distinguished damsel?”

Andy tilted her chin defiantly before standing on the chair. A few of them cheered and laughed when they  realised what was about to happen, and Andy definitely couldn’t back out now. She puffed out her chest, took a deep breath, and brought her goblet to her lips.

With the rowdy encouragement from the pirates, Andy began. Her drink was half-full, and the wine burned down her throat, but she had a competitive spirit and a stubborn streak, so she forced herself to down the entirety of her drink in one go. When she swallowed the last mouthful, she flung her arms out in victory. Her triumphant shout was echoed with exuberant cries and a round of applause, and Andy stumbled out of her chair with only a slight wobble.

When her feet were firmly on the floor, Serena dragged her to the dance floor to join the rest of the crew. Andy laughed loudly. The alcohol warmed her belly, and the company warmed her heart. She lost herself in the music, letting herself be spun and twirled by her friends. At one point, Nigel grabbed her hand, wrapped an arm around her waist, and proceeded to waltz with her in such a ridiculous, exaggerated manner that Andy was almost breathless with laughter. Serena stole her away after a while, taking her hand and Emily’s until the three of them were spinning in a dizzying circle. Redbeard was next to join, then Jocelyn, then Nigel again and the rest, until they were all dancing in a wide ring.

At one point, Serena pushed her into the centre of the circle to cheers from the rest of the crew. Andy couldn’t even bring herself to be embarrassed. The alcohol had loosened her inhibitions, and she felt so at ease with the people surrounding her that she simply let herself go. Arms spread wide, a beaming smile upon her face, she closed her eyes and tilted her head back while spinning in place until she was dizzy.

The song came to an end, and everyone let out cheerful shouts at the magnificent group performance. Andy couldn’t hold back the happy laugh that escaped her breathless lips. She felt euphoric. Flushed and panting for breath, Andy’s eyes subconsciously found Miranda in her moment of unrestrained joy. The older woman had abandoned her place at the table in order to stand closer, leaning against the main mast. Dressed in hues of white and gold, she seemed to glow under the lamp light. She looked relaxed, her expression soft but undoubtedly amused. Her eyes locked onto Andy’s and soft lips quirked up before she raised her goblet to hide her widening smile.

“Sing for us, Andy!”

Andy’s head reflexively snapped to her left, where Redbeard was grinning at her from ear to ear. His comment caught the attention of Cara, who bustled towards Andy with her usual confidence.

“Oh, yes, Andy! You must!”

“Oh no, again? I don't-” Andy’s protests were immediately shut down.

“Please! You have such a lovely voice, we must hear it again,” the chef insisted.

“No, really, I-”

“There’s no point in fighting her,” Serena warned, thrusting a newly filled goblet into her hand. “You should know that by now.”

It was true, of course. Cara was easily one of the most stubborn people Andy had met (surpassed only by Captain Priestly herself), and quite honestly one of the most intimidating too. Andy rubbed her eyes and let out a breath.

“Fine,” she grumbled. Gleeful cheers were her response.

“Any requests, señorita?” Suarez asked graciously. 

“Um,” Andy stuttered, taking a moment to think about it. 

There was one song in particular she’d always loved, and it was certainly the best one to do her voice justice. While everyone made themselves comfortable back on their barrels and boats and some even laid out on the deck, Andy quietly spoke to Suarez. She was  relieved to learn he knew the song by heart. Feeling better now that she would not be singing a cappella, Andy took some much needed gulps of wine before setting the goblet aside. She gave Suarez a nod and, as soon as the first slow chords of her favourite song rang out, she immediately relaxed into the music. After a deep breath, her eyes fluttered shut as the words slipped from her lips.

The water is wide, I can’t cross o’er

And neither have I wings to fly

Give me a boat that’ll carry two

And both shall row

My love and I

“Ooh, I love this one!” Redbeard whispered from somewhere to her right, and Andy reflexively opened her eyes. The crew was staring at her with pleased expressions, basking in the smooth cadence of her voice. Andy kept singing, a faint smile on her face as she gazed around her impromptu audience.

A ship there is and she sails the sea

She’s loaded deep as deep can be

But not so deep as the love I’m in

I know not if I sink or swim

It was only when she began singing this particular part of the song that Andy realised just how much she felt the words. They perfectly expressed how she felt towards Miranda, the fascination and reverence and yearning. The pain that would come with her departure. A familiar heaviness settled on her chest, lacing her voice with a melancholy she had not allowed herself to express. Unable to resist, Andy dared look at the object of her affections. She very nearly stumbled over the words when she caught sight of the Captain.

Miranda was gazing at her with such an unguarded expression that her eyes seemed to glow. She looked ethereal in the warm, golden light of the flickering torches. Andy could not look away. Something indescribable shimmered in the deep blue eyes Andy had come to adore. Miranda was looking at her as if Andy held the moon and the stars themselves at her fingertips.

Time seemed to slow down as they watched one another. There was a keen sense of dèja-vu; the scene was almost exactly like when she’d sung on the night they broke the curse. Except, this time, Andy knew she had very little precious time left. This time, Andy knew for certain that what she felt for Miranda was not something she would be able to simply move on from or forget. No, a love like this would last a lifetime.

With a stinging sensation in her eyes, she sang the last verse to the woman who had stolen her heart.

The water is wide, I can’t cross o’er

And neither have I wings to fly

Give me a boat that’ll carry two

And both shall row

My love and I

There was a heavy silence even after the last drawn-out note from the guitar faded away. The crew was looking at her with awed expressions, but Andy only had eyes for one woman. Then thundering applause broke through the air like the roaring of canons, and Andy was yanked back from her daze.

“Okay,” Redbeard said amidst the uproar, pausing in his clapping to wipe his eyes. “That’s officially my favourite song now.”

Andy smiled at him shakily. She had poured her heart into the song, and was feeling rather overwhelmed. Before her emotions could throw a wreck into her fragile composure, Serena leapt up from her place and wrapped Andy in a tight hug.

“That was amazing!” she cried.

The weight on Andy’s chest lessened in the wake of her friend’s cheerfulness. 

“Thanks,” she managed weakly, managing a steadier smile.

“I have something for you. Don’t move.”

Serena dashed off somewhere, and Andy was inundated with praise for her performance. Andy let herself bask in the moment. Redbeard went so far as to hug her around the waist, lift her off the floor, and spin her around in a circle as Andy let out a peal of laughter.

“Let her down, bruto!” Cara admonished, swatting his arm when he did as told.

“That’s no way to treat a Lady,” Roy added, coming to stand next to Cara. The cook nodded firmly before sending him a subtle smirk.

“It’s fine,” Andy stepped in, hating the crestfallen look on Redbeard’s face. She sent him an honest smile. “It was fun.”

Redbeard beamed at her before turning to Cara and sticking his tongue out at her playfully. An indignant huff was his response, but before she could give him a piece of her mind, Serena barrelled into the scene once more.

“Ta da!” she exclaimed with a grin. In her hands, she held the wooden sword Andy had learned to fight with on her first few lessons and presented it to Andy. “A little gift to remember us by.”

Andy’s throat constricted as she looked at the crafted sword. It was such a thoughtful gift that it made her chest swell with emotion.

“Thank you,” she whispered with an unsteady voice. Taking the sword, she let herself feel grounded by its steady weight in her grasp. “I, thank you. This means so much.”

With a soft smile, Serena stepped closer and wrapped her arms around Andy tightly. Andy held her close, closing her eyes as the hug both comforted her and saddened her. She could not even imagine how difficult it would be to say goodbye.

“Now, now, children,” Nigel said, stepping into the fray. “She’s not leaving just yet. Let’s leave the sentimentality for later, shall we? Besides, I have something here that’s better than any sword. At least she’ll be able to use it.”

Serena let her go with a small chuckle, and Andy turned to find Nigel looking at her with raised eyebrows as he held out a bundle of deep red and gold. Uncertain, Andy just looked at him in bafflement until he gestured at her impatiently. She carefully took the offering from him. It unfolded in her grasp, and her eyes widened when she saw the beautiful gown, all silk and lace.

“Red is your colour, so I made this for you," Nigel said with a proud smirk. "I’m sure there is some fancy dinner party you can wear it to. Plus, no corset. You can just lace it up at the back.”

“Nigel,” Andy breathed. “It’s so beautiful.”

And it was. This gown was better than any she’d ever owned before. It had an off-the-shoulder cut with gold trim along the hem and the skirt fell in simple, flowing waves to the floor. Andy already knew she would treasure this gift forever.

"Go on, try it on!" Serena encouraged excitedly, pushing Andy towards the stairs.

"Alright, alright, I'm going!" Andy laughed.

She quickly made her way down to her room, the dress in one hand and a lantern in the other. Once there, she made quick work of stripping before trying on her new gown. The smooth silk felt divine as it slipped over her skin. It was, as expected, a perfect fit. It curved in at the slope of her waist and enhanced her chest, bringing attention to her collar bones and narrow shoulders. Nigel had been correct. Red was definitely her colour. It brought out her eyes and the rosy blush of her cheeks. She wasn't sure how he'd done it, but Nigel had somehow perfectly crafted a dress that was so very Andy.

Feeling more beautiful than ever, Andy returned to the main deck. As soon as she stepped into the warm light of the flickering torches, conversation dropped to a hush. Everyone stared at her, but Andy only paid attention to one reaction in particular.

Miranda had been in conversation with Nigel, but froze mid-sentence the moment her eyes found Andy. She trailed her gaze down Andy's body with reverence, taking in all the fine details of the dress and setting Andy's skin ablaze. When her blue eyes rose back to Andy's face, Miranda did not look away as she murmured something to Nigel who, in turn, beamed with pride.

"Isn't she just?" he said to his Captain before walking towards Andy, arms outstretched. "This has to be one of my finest works, if I do say so myself."

"It's perfect, Nigel, thank you," Andy gushed, making to step into his embrace.

"Ah, ah, ah," he admonished, placing his hands on her shoulders. "No hugs or you'll wrinkle the fabric."

Andy grinned and rolled her eyes before planting a firm kiss on his cheek.

"Thank you," she repeated, voice soft and quiet.

"Least I could do, princess," he said with a gentle smile. "Think of me whenever you wear it, alright? Although I have a feeling you won't get very far."

"Sorry?" Andy asked, confused by the glint in his eye. "What do you-"

"Andyyyy!" Serena cried, unable to keep herself away any longer. She had definitely indulged in a vast amount of drinking tonight. "You look amazing!"

In her excitement, Serena took Andy by the shoulders and shook her in such a way that Andy couldn't help but bark out a laugh.

"Honestly, Serena, unhand her!" A stern British voice admonished. Emily pulled her paramour away, sending a judgemental glance over Andy's new attire. Her once over contrasted so much to Miranda's it was almost startling. "You look passable."

"Such high praise," Andy faux gasped, pressing a hand to her chest dramatically. "I feel faint."

Emily rolled her eyes at Andy's sass, but Serena and Andy shared mischievous smirks.

The celebration continued in full swing. Andy tried to be mindful of the dress, but it was rather easy to be careful when she had Nigel and Emily supervising her. Eventually, after a few more hours of drinking, laughing, and dancing, the crew slowly began to recede with stumbling steps. 

Andy stayed behind, needing a moment to herself. She felt so light; weightless even. The night breeze made the silk of her dress brush against her skin in soft waves and only added to the feeling that she was floating. It was so quiet, the still night air only disturbed by the push and pull of the sea and the spluttering torches.

Andy made a half-hearted attempt at straightening up the place, lifting up a few fallen chairs and picking up the scattered bottles. Thankfully, she’d set them down at the opportune moment, because a voice speaking from somewhere behind her made her jump out of her skin.

“None of that, Andrea.” 

Andy whirled around, heart pounding with adrenaline.

“Miranda!” She gasped, raising a hand to her chest in a feeble attempt to settle herself. “You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“My apologies,” Miranda drawled. By the amused smirk curling at her lips, Andy had a firm suspicion that she was anything but sorry. The older woman looked so beautiful in the moonlight that Andy didn’t have the heart to hold it against her. 

“I did come here with honourable intentions," Miranda continued.

Andy swallowed thickly at that.

“Oh?”

“I'd like to show you something.” Miranda tilted her head elegantly in invitation, her forelock curling over her left eyebrow. “Come.”

Andy meekly followed her to her chambers. She immediately relaxed as she crossed the threshold, revelling in the soft candlelight and the scent of sandalwood and jasmine she had become so familiar with. She looked around the room fondly, noting with glee that the flowers she’d given Miranda were still alive and well cared for in a vase on her desk. It made her heart swell with fondness.

She moved deeper into the room and continued to look around, engraving all the finest details in her memory. She trailed her fingers over the polished surface of the oak dining table, breathing in the scent of Miranda’s perfume in the air. 

At some point during her stay, this room had become a place of comfort and tranquility. Beloved memories were scattered around her. So many, in fact, that they completely drowned out the terror of Andy’s first night until it was a vague, clouded fog. Instead, she saw herself sitting in the loveseat reading while Miranda lounged in the armchair with a glass of wine. She saw them dining together and talking about a thousand fascinating things, sharing pieces of themselves that felt more valuable than all the silver and gold in the world.

They were memories Andy would always keep with her, locked away for bittersweet remembrance. 

“I have something for you,” Miranda suddenly said, breaking Andy out of her daze. 

Andy turned towards her, and promptly froze. Miranda was standing closer than Andy had realised. She stood so close, in fact, that Andy was able to make out the specks of emerald and gold in the blue of her eyes. Her heart started pounding inside her chest as if it wanted to tear its way right through her ribcage.

“Y-You didn’t have to,” Andy stuttered, unable to forget her manners.

“Oh, but I do,” Miranda insisted. A small, secret smile curled her lips. The kind of smile she occasionally sent Andy when their eyes crossed paths across the main deck. “I most certainly do.”

Something in her low, deep voice made Andy’s breath catch in her throat. Her lips parted as she tried to breathe, and Miranda's eyes flicked down to follow the subtle movement of her mouth. In an instant, Andy’s lower abdomen was set ablaze and wound up so tightly it was nearly painful. The foreign sensation was so powerful that it made her lightheaded. Miranda subconsciously licked her own lips, and Andy felt like she might faint. 

Her raging pulse thundered in her ears, her skin was on fire, her vision narrowed until all she could see was Miranda. Suddenly she was hyper aware of the short distance between them, how she could almost feel the warmth of Miranda’s body, a warmth she was desperate to reach out to - to touch and embrace and kiss and --

Miranda took a step back and her eyes lowered towards the ground. Andy felt like she’d been doused in cold water. She took quiet, gasping breaths, trying to regain her bearings despite the dizziness that had overtaken her. Only then did she realise that Miranda was, in fact, not looking at the floor, but to the item she held in her outstretched hands.

Andy swallowed thickly. Her fingertips accidentally brushed over Miranda's skin as she took the proffered item. Heat warmed its way through her hand and up her arm to settle deep in her chest, but Andy refused to acknowledge it. Instead, she focused on studying the object. 

It was a small silver box attached to a matching silver chain, but it was so old and unused that it had rust growing in from one of the corners. There were hints of scraped moss and scuff marks around the edges. After a moment of curiously looking it over, Andy realised that there was a perfect, precise cut through the middle - an opening.

With a frown, Andy carefully opened the box. The old hinges squeaked and struggled against the movement, but when Andy at last managed to pry it open, she realised it was not a box at all. 

It was a compass.

“I was going to give it to you as a parting gift, but I feel like this is a far better occasion,” Miranda spoke softly. Andy finally raised her eyes towards the Captain, noting how gentle her expression was as she regarded Andy. “I was not sure it was still here after all these years, but I’m glad I found it. I hope it guides you to where you wish to be.”

Andy’s confusion must have shown on her face, because Miranda’s lips twitched into a gentle smile. 

“It belonged to your father.”

Andy felt the words like a blow to her chest. Her throat tightened as she lowered her eyes to the compass once more. This was the most thoughtful gift anyone had ever given her. And Miranda had given it to her. The needle pointed ahead of her, right at Miranda, but it trembled slightly when her hands started shaking. To her dismay, her vision blurred with tears that she valiantly fought to keep from falling.

The loss of her parents was something Andy had been burdened with all her life. She had almost gotten used to the dull ache in her chest where an emptiness dwelled. Now, however, after learning the truth about her parents, the curse, the terrible tragedy that had forced them to give her up, it was like she was feeling their loss for the very first time.

Despite her best efforts, a tear spilled down her cheek. She hastily wiped it away, taking a shuddering breath in the hopes that she would not fall apart completely. When a second followed, however, Miranda slowly lifted her right hand to Andy’s cheek, brushing the tear away with the tip of her thumb. The touch calmed something inside Andy, and she was finally able to look up into calm blue eyes. 

“They would be so proud of you, Andrea,” Miranda murmured softly.

Andy’s resolve crumbled. Her face broke down in grief as salty rivers of sorrow trailed down her cheeks. Instead of moving away, Miranda stepped closer, raising her left hand to gently cup Andy’s cheek too. The feeling of her thumbs soothingly caressing her cheekbones was unlike any comfort Andy had ever known. Through the tears clouding her vision, she could see Miranda gazing at her with such understanding in her expression, so much warmth and tenderness in her eyes, that Andy felt completely and utterly seen.

Under Miranda’s patient gaze and reassuring touch, the ache inside Andy’s chest gradually lessened until she didn’t feel so empty anymore.

“Sorry,” Andy croaked, sniffling as quietly as she could and lowering her eyes in embarrassment over her little display. “I don’t know what came over me, I-”

“None of that now,” Miranda interrupted softly. Her right hand lowered to cup Andy’s chin, lifting her face until they were eye to eye. “There is no need to apologise.”

Instead of protesting, Andy let the words reassure her. Despite the Captain's sheer power of death and destruction, Andy had never felt safer than in Miranda’s presence. Her eyes were warm and gentle as they studied Andy’s face, her touch was tender and delicate against her skin.

“Are you feeling better?” she asked softly, her fingertips briefly stroking the edge of Andy’s jaw as she dropped her hands completely.

Drawing a calming breath, Andy realised that she did, in fact, feel better. It was as if she’d been carrying around a weight without even realising it, and she had finally freed herself of it in the comfort of Miranda. 

Miranda, who had given her the most beautiful of gifts.

Miranda, who had not judged her or sent her away, but offered solace and compassion instead.

Miranda, the one Andy loved most.

“I am,” Andy answered eventually. She cleared her throat in an attempt to make her next words sound less parched. “Thank you.”

“There’s no need to thank me,” Miranda said with an amused fondness in her eyes. 

“No, there is,” Andy insisted. She looked down at the gift in her hands. It was, without a doubt, the most valuable of treasures. Andy raised her eyes again, hoping her expression conveyed just how touched she was. “Thank you, Miranda. For everything.”

Miranda smiled indulgently, tilting her head in a subtle nod. Just this time, she gave in. 

“You are most welcome, Andrea.”

 

.oOo.

 

Andy couldn’t sleep. No matter how much she tried, she could not stop thinking about Miranda’s gift. Lost in her musings, she stared at the compass where it sat on the table next to her bed. 

It was such a sentimental gesture, now that Andy thought about it. Romantic, even. Not to mention the lengths Miranda had gone to in order to find the lost compass. Andy remembered clearly, upon their return from Tortuga, Nigel telling her that Miranda had been searching for something in the dark, damp hull of the ship for two hours. Surely it was not a coincidence.

“I hope it guides you to where you wish to be.” 

If Andy didn’t know any better, there could easily be a hidden meaning behind the words. After all, the compass had pointed right to Miranda when Andy opened it. Warmth filled her chest when she thought about the way Miranda had comforted her while Andy released the emotional burden she’d been carrying for solong. 

The memory of how close Miranda had stood, how her touch had felt as it trailed over Andy’s cheekbones and down her jaw, made that warmth spread lower to that place that had coiled and burned under Miranda’s heated gaze before she’d given Andy her gift. There was something in those eyes in that split second that made Andy want to burn up in flames.

Despite her lack of experience, Andy knew some things about lust. Most of her life, she’d been told that it was not an emotion any respectable woman ought to feel. Her aunt, the only other woman in Andy’s rather scarce family, had taken it upon herself to talk to Andy about such matters in preparation for the day Andy was to be married. It had been the most mortifying conversation Andy had ever had with anyone, and not just because it was with her adoptive father’s prudish older sister.

“That part of your body is not to be explored, Andrea,” she’d said sternly, her thick glasses making her sharp eyes seem owlish as she lectured her niece. “It belongs to your husband, and it is purely to bear his children. Do not fret if you do not enjoy the process, it is a duty like everything else you will do for him. And if it hurts at first, that is normal. Just lay back and bear with it until he is finished. You will make a good wife that way.”

Despite only being sixteen at the time, Andy had already developed a rebellious streak, much to the misfortune and exasperation of her relatives and tutors. She had always been curious about all things, so why should this be any different? Especially something regarding her own body. The way her aunt had described it sounded like the most awful fate. Was Andy just supposed to let her husband hurt her and use her body with no autonomy of her own? How absurd.

So, of course, Andy had gone against her aunt’s strict words. It had only happened twice. The first time she had… explored herself, Andy hadn’t felt much at all. Mostly, she felt uncomfortable and unsettled. It hadn’t felt right at the time - perhaps because she’d treated it like a science experiment and nothing else - but a few years later, she had tried again. 

The second (and last) time was very, very different. Earlier that day, she’d gotten tailored by a new seamstress - a beautiful woman with green eyes and full lips. She had been a lot more forward than Andy’s previous seamstress. Her soft hands had touched Andy’s shoulders and thighs and hips in a way that had made her pulse quicken. For the rest of the evening, Andy had felt too warm, with an almost constant blush on her cheeks.

That night, in the privacy of her chambers, she had closed her eyes and imagined the sensation of those touches again, and before she knew it her hands had wandered beneath her nightdress. The moment her fingers reached her own heated skin, she’d been alarmed to feel wetness there. For a moment, she thought she’d gotten her monthly bleed earlier than usual, but there was no blood. More than a little curious, Andy had tentatively explored the supposedly forbidden part of herself.

It had felt like electricity the moment her fingers pressed against a particularly sensitive spot. So intense was the sensation, in fact, that Andy’s mind had gone completely blank and her breath had left her in a rush. Inspired, she continued, wondering how in the heavens her aunt could possibly tell her that such pleasure was immoral and sinful when it felt so very good.

Then, out of nowhere, green eyes and full lips flashed before Andy’s mind in such an unexpected manner that Andy almost bolted upright in shock. With laboured, gasping breaths, Andy had stared at the ceiling with widened eyes.

After hours of making herself sick with worry and repulsion, she eventually convinced herself that it was just a meaningless lapse of her brain and buried the experience in the farthest recess of her mind. She’d found a new seamstress, and never dared explore herself in such a manner again.

Of course, now that she understood herself better, she knew that it was not a meaningless lapse of her brain after all.

So yes, Andy may have never kissed anyone before, but she knew with certainty that there was more to her body than just child-bearing for some man she’d be unfortunate enough to marry. There was something far greater, far more wonderful than the nonsense her aunt had attempted to drill into her.

Andy wanted nothing more than to explore that wonder with Miranda.

Up until tonight, Andy had firmly believed that her feelings were unreciprocated, that Miranda would never feel the same depth of emotion and adoration that Andy felt for her. After all, it’s not like Andy had been on the receiving end of lust from anyone, at least not to her knowledge. She had no experience, and thus did not recognise the signs of being the focus of someone's affections.

But the way Miranda had looked at her earlier, how her eyes had darkened when she’d gazed at Andy’s lips… If that was not desire, Andy could not imagine what was.

Against her wishes, her mind ran away from her. Suddenly all she could think about was what Miranda’s body might look like under her clothes, how her skin might taste under Andy’s tongue, how her lips would feel against her own.

Overtaken with a sudden restless heat burning her from the inside out, Andy threw the covers off her body and jumped out of bed. The room felt too small; it was as if all the air had seeped out in a single moment. With her cheeks flushed scarlet, Andy grabbed her silk gown before rushing from her rooms.

As silently as she could, she sneaked past the slumbering crew sleeping soundly on their respective hammocks before climbing the stairs up to the main deck. The moment the cool night breeze greeted her, Andy let out a pleased sigh. The salty air cooled her skin and cleared her mind of all the inappropriate thoughts that had been plaguing her for the past hour.

With her new sobriety, however, Andy came to the realisation that she was not alone.

The lonesome figure at the edge of the deck stood beneath a sea of a million stars, bathed in the pale light of the full moon. An iridescent silk nightgown draped her body in waves of pearly white. Silver hair shimmered like a halo, gently moved by the breeze. Tones of jasmine and sandalwood drifted in the wind until they enveloped Andy like a soft caress. 

Gazing out over the infinite expanse of ocean beneath her, Miranda looked like the most beautiful hand-carved sculpture. She was transcendent, cast in a beacon of moonlit rays that adorned her in ethereal shadows of silver and ivory. She was as complex as the universe above them. There was blood on her hands but honey in her veins. Andy’s existence began and ended with the curve of her lips, the curl of her hair, the blue of her eyes. She was everything.

This was more than just lust. More than love, even. There were no words in any language that could describe the depth of Andy’s feelings for the lonesome woman before her.

Andy could not turn away from the sight, nor was she strong enough to deny the pull in her chest that made her instinctively move forwards with quiet footsteps. When she was a mere few feet away, a floorboard creaked under her weight. Miranda’s posture tensed.

"Don't turn around," Andy blurted, remembering the words Miranda had said to her when their roles had been reversed on that fateful night more than a fortnight ago.

At the sound of Andy's voice, Miranda's posture lost its tension. With an amused smile and an arched eyebrow, she turned to look at Andy. For a moment, Andy forgot everything other than the sight before her. If she'd thought Miranda was beautiful before, she was breathtaking now that Andy could see her face.

"You're not a monster, Andrea," Miranda answered with a teasing expression, her voice filled with fondness.

Andy continued her approach until they were standing together, with a scant few inches between them.

"Neither are you," Andy said. She bit her tongue to keep from confessing all the words running wild in her mind about how Miranda was the opposite of a monster. She was incredible and wise and kind and thoughtful and so, so beautiful.

In response, Miranda scoffed and rolled her eyes. "I'm sure the rest of the world would agree with you."

Andy shook her head in mock exasperation but could not come up with a clever response. Standing so close to Miranda, the enigmatic scent of jasmine and sandalwood was so strong and sweet that Andy felt lightheaded. With how stunning the older woman looked and the flame of hope burning brightly in her chest, Andy needed to calm herself lest her heart give out. 

Forcing herself to turn away from Miranda took far too much effort. With a shaky sigh, she leaned heavily against the railing, counting the stars just to keep her mind distracted. Miranda let her have a long moment of peaceful quiet, turning back to continue gazing at the immense universe above them. The sound of the waves soothed Andy, and she let out a slow, deep breath that seemed too loud in the comfortable silence.

“Andrea," Miranda said softly. "Are you alright?” 

Andy finally turned to Miranda, only to find her peering at her with a concerned expression.

“Yes,” Andy replied. Her crying earlier had released so much tension and sorrow that she felt cleansed. And knowing Miranda felt… something for her that was more than merely platonic friendship made Andy finally feel at peace with her own feelings. It was the most exhilarating, heartening relief. “I really am. Are you?”

Miranda didn’t answer directly. She simply hummed low in her throat before turning her reverent gaze towards the moon shining brightly above them.

“You know,” she began after a long moment, with a soft voice and a softer expression. “One of the things I missed the most in the past twenty-six years is this. Being able to look upon the moon. She has always been a great comfort to me. A constant companion. When I was a girl, I would sit by my window for hours just to look at her." Andy's heart clenched at the image of a young Miranda curled up on a windowsill in the middle of the night. She wanted to hug the other woman until the melancholy disappeared from her face, never to return. "Even during the worst of times, I never felt truly alone, because I knew that each night, whether I could see her or not, the moon would be there with me.” There was a short silence as Miranda scoffed at her own words and rolled her eyes, but Andy could only watch in awe as the woman in front of her bared her heart as if Andy was worthy of it. “It sounds ludicrous, I know, but I never realised just how important it was to me until I could no longer stand under the moon without turning into a monster. I missed her company, the feeling of her light upon my skin. It was one of the most unbearable aspects of the curse.”

A line formed between Miranda’s brows as her face fell into a frown. She seemed lost in thought, but Andy stayed quiet to not interrupt her. Despite knowing how fortunate she was to be hearing Miranda talk of such private matters, she couldn’t help but hope that she would be allowed to hear more.

She was not disappointed.

“Under the effects of the curse, you can stay in touch with the superficial feelings, like anger and frustration and despair.” Miranda swallowed thickly, her gaze lowering to the dark depths of the ocean below. “But you lose the deeper emotions. Grief and joy and love. It leaves you hollow; a shell of the person you once were. For twenty six years, I lost myself to the consequences of my decisions.” Sharp blue eyes suddenly raised to lock with Andy’s. Miranda looked at her with the most vulnerable expression Andy had ever seen on her, full of honesty and affection and something much, much deeper. “For twenty six years, I did not feel anything. Until you.”

Those two simple words stole the very air from Andy’s lungs. The earth seemed to tilt as Andy’s safely guarded emotions unraveled free from her grasp. In that moment, she realised she could not leave this ship without taking a leap of faith. Even if it broke her heart, she would regret it for the rest of her life if she did not do this.

So without a second thought she stepped into Miranda’s space, cupped her jaw, and kissed her.

At the first touch of their lips, Andy knew she was forever lost. All she could focus on was the sharp gasp released against her lips, the softness of Miranda’s mouth, the warmth of her body, the pounding in her own chest. She could not think, could not even concern herself with the repercussions of her recklessness. She could not bring herself to fear the danger of her heart breaking, never to recover again.

Because Miranda was kissing her back. 

Chapter Text

Andy feared she would float away into the night like a drifting star that had finally found home. The universe began and ended with the gentle pressure of Miranda's lips, the soft skin beneath Andy's fingertips. Any lingering doubts disappeared the moment Miranda's arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer.

When their bodies touched, melting into one another, Miranda exhaled shakily. The touch of her lips against Andy's was painfully tentative, as if she was afraid that Andy would push her away.

That was the last thing Andy wanted.

For the first time in her life, Andy finally felt like she belonged. She'd been born to be wrapped in Miranda's arms, to feel her smooth skin wrapped in silk and lace. It was better than she could have ever imagined.

But Andy wanted more. After weeks of yearning to be closer to Miranda, of discovering just how much she wanted the older woman's touch, of grieving her unrequited love, Andy could not hold back. She pressed closer to Miranda still, weaving her fingers into the soft silver locks as she deepened the kiss. 

The arms around Andy's waist tightened. A quiet moan escaped Miranda's lips, and Andy's body began to burn in earnest. She whimpered, swept away in the sensation of lips caressing hers, of trembling hands rising to trace the curve of her waist, her shoulders, her neck. Miranda's breathing hitched when Andy's lips parted, and before she knew it, the kiss became anything but tentative.

Andy felt consumed. Miranda's hands were everywhere at once. Her tongue touched Andy's in such a way that made a burning heat flare in the pit of her stomach. She could feel Miranda's body melding into hers so perfectly, her soft breasts pressed against Andy’s and their thighs intertwined. They fit together like they were made to be, just like this. 

When Miranda's hand rose to tangle in Andy's hair, pulling at her scalp deliciously, a needy moan was ripped from Andy’s mouth. Miranda trembled against her and her lips left Andy's in such a sudden movement that Andy instinctively swayed forward, seeking more.

Instead of granting Andy another kiss, however, Miranda pulled her into a tight embrace. Her rapid breaths brushed against Andy's cheek, and she could feel Miranda's racing heartbeat against her own chest. Despite all the overwhelming sensations hindering her thoughts, Andy pushed through the thick fog of desire to realise that Miranda was just as affected as she was.

"Miranda," she whispered in a shaky exhalation.

Instead of responding, Miranda’s arms around Andy tightened and she turned her face until it was nestled in Andy's neck. The warm, shuddering breath against her skin sent shivers down Andy's spine. At a loss for words, Andy simply hugged her back, letting the now familiar scent of jasmine and sandalwood consume her. She delighted in the feeling of Miranda's heart beating in tandem against her own, the soft hair brushing her cheek. It was more than Andy had ever thought possible.

When they had sufficiently calmed themselves, Miranda pulled away, just enough to gaze at Andy without breaking their embrace.

"Andrea," she whispered reverently. Her hand rose to Andy's cheek, trailing down her cheekbone until she gently cupped her jaw. The expression on her face was so tender that Andy felt a pang in her chest. Miranda’s throat worked as she swallowed thickly, and a pretty blush rose to her cheeks. "Will you accompany me to my chambers?"

Andy did not have to think twice.

"Yes."

In a daze, she followed closely behind Miranda, their hands clasped together. All Andy knew was the soft skin under her palm, the way Miranda's silk robe fell off her shoulder to reveal the thin strap of her nightgown, the way her body moved with each step she took. It was the most mesmerising sight, and Andy could not tear her eyes away. 

Before she realised it, they were safely inside Miranda's chambers. It could have been like any other time Miranda had invited Andy to dine together or read the countless books on Miranda’s shelves. Only this time, Andy was led to the hidden area behind the cream divider.

The bed was unmade - the silk sheets flung to one side and one of the pillows in disarray. The room was bathed in soft light from two flickering candles framing the bed. It cast a warm glow upon Miranda's skin and made it look softer than anything Andy had ever seen. She had the sudden urge to press her lips against it.

With a surge of courage, she indulged herself.

Miranda's body shuddered against hers when Andy's lips landed upon her bare shoulder in a tentative kiss. Hearing Miranda’s gasp was enough to encourage Andy for more, so she held nothing back. Following her instinct - and the many dreams she'd had of doing exactly this - Andy trailed kisses up the curve of her elegant shoulder. Miranda’s hand rose once more to tangle in her hair, pulling Andy closer still. With newfound urgency, Andy pushed the thin strap aside to make her way further up until she was kissing Miranda's neck, beneath her ear, over her jaw.

Miranda groaned as if in pain, and Andy pulled back, worried that she'd done something wrong. Just as she opened her mouth to ask, Miranda pulled her forward with unexpected strength, clashing their lips together in a searing kiss. They both moaned in cadence at the contact, getting swept up in each other until Andy felt like she couldn't breathe.

Reluctant as she was to pull away despite her ever increasing need for air, Andy broke the kiss. They stared at each other, their chests brushing as they rose and fell with each panting breath. The sight before her made Andy's thighs clench involuntarily.

Dark pupils eclipsed thunderous blue as they took in Andy's every feature with the same reverence she had bestowed upon the moon. Miranda's lips were red and swollen, her cheeks flushed an alluring pink that went down her neck, all the way to her chest and below the hem of her nightgown. Andy couldn't stop looking at her, drinking in the sight like a woman starved. Her hands tightened around Miranda's waist, pressing their hips together. Miranda's eyelids fluttered at the movement, and before Andy could brace herself, she was being kissed senseless once more.

Miranda’s lips worshipped Andy’s mouth, then her jaw, her neck, her collarbone. With every touch, the fire in Andy's abdomen grew more and more. Breathless whimpers escaped her with every touch of warm lips on her heated skin. Miranda kissed her way lower until she had to move Andy's nightdress aside in order to continue her exploration. Without a moment's hesitation, Andy's hands rose between them to undo the buttons of her own nightdress. 

Miranda inhaled sharply. She looked at Andy with unsure eyes, and Andy nodded. Still Miranda remained hesitant, so Andy grasped her hands and placed them on her own shoulders, over the straps of her dress.

Miranda's fingers trembled as she carefully slipped Andy's nightdress off her shoulders until it pooled in a silken heap around her bare feet. Her darkening eyes roamed Andy's nude figure and set her skin ablaze. Andy could see Miranda holding her breath while she drank her in, and conflicted emotions flickered through her expression as she tried to keep any semblance of restraint. 

When Miranda moved forward to pull her close once more, however, Andy lost herself in the sensation of silk caressing her bare skin. Gentle fingers traced down her chest, her back, the dip of her waist. Soft lips ardently kissed everywhere from Andy's mouth, to her neck, to her collarbones in seemingly aimless impulses of want. Andy gasped for breath as she held onto Miranda's strong shoulders for dear life. She had never felt wanted like this - needed like this, as if Miranda would die if they were to part ways.

Andy needed Miranda too, though. She needed to see and touch more of her, so she pushed Miranda's robe off her shoulders. Before Miranda could react and before Andy could get distracted by the sheer silk and lace so beautifully draped over Miranda's body, she tugged the straps down toned arms until the garment fell to the floor.

Nothing could have prepared her for the beauty of Captain Miranda Priestly. Nothing else in the world could compare. Andy's breath caught as she took in the sharp collar bones and proud shoulders, the perfect breasts pebbled tightly under the heat of Andy's gaze, the dip of her waist, her soft stomach, the strong outline of her thighs.

Andy had expected Miranda’s beauty to be immeasurable, but there was something else she had not predicted. 

Her chest tightened painfully at the array of scars she found scattered over Miranda's body. There was a thick white line at her outer hip in a perfect horizontal line; a faint circular scar from a bullet wound at her bicep; a jagged mark below her ribs and at her upper thigh. Most prominently, however, was the deep gash in the center of her chest. It looked more recent than the rest, like it had not been there long enough to grow as silver smooth as the others. The dawning realisation of why that was, made Andy want to weep.

That scar had come from the sword of the man who had attacked Andy. When Miranda had used her body as a shield and stepped between Andy and death.

Unable to withstand Miranda’s nervous expression and the distance between them any longer, Andy pulled Miranda into her arms, pressing their bodies as close as she could. She could not begin to grasp how good it felt to have Miranda’s skin pressed against her like this. Warm and soft and perfect. It made Andy's throat tighten. With gentle hands cupping a perfectly defined jaw, she kissed Miranda with as much devotion as she could muster, trying to convey with touch alone the depth of her love.

Wrapping her arms tightly around Andy, Miranda kissed her back with a new kind of need. Her lips felt perfect against Andy's; desperate and all-consuming. Barely aware of anything aside from Miranda's mouth, Andy did not feel herself being gently guided backwards until she was lowered onto the soft mattress. She was too far gone to even feel anything but need as Miranda followed after her without parting from her lips.

With Miranda's weight on top of her, her smooth skin touching her everywhere, Andy felt like she could die from pleasure. She had never felt so connected to someone; had never even imagined it was possible to feel like this.

The muscles in Miranda's arms and back shifted and flexed as she moved her lips away to kiss Andy's cheeks, her brows, her jaw. When she moved down to her sensitive neck, Andy realised that Miranda's lips were moving in ways that felt like more than just kissing. It took Andy several moments to realise what the faint words murmured against her skin were. 

"Let me, let me, let me…"

Miranda was trembling above her. Andy lost her breath when she realised why. It was taking visible effort for Miranda to hold back, to keep herself from going too fast or being too rough in her eagerness. She was just as desperate as Andy - if not more so. Surely after decades of numbness, her body would feel so responsive. No wonder Miranda’s ministrations were so eager, but Andy could also see the silent battle the Captain was fighting within herself. 

Andy felt so grateful for Miranda’s thoughtful consideration, but it was completely unnecessary. She wanted Miranda to make Andy hers; to sate her hunger again and again until neither of them could move. 

All she wanted was Miranda.  

"Yes, Miranda, yes," Andy breathed. She blindly reached for her lover and pulled her closer until they were eye to eye. Beneath the ardent desire in dark blue eyes, she could see the uncertainty and fear that plagued Miranda. Andy cupped her cheeks, bringing her closer still until she could press their foreheads together. "I want to be yours. Make me yours, Miranda, please."

Miranda's resolve crumbled. With newfound urgency, she trailed open-mouthed kisses down Andy's body as she laid between Andy’s thighs. For a moment, she paused in her erratic descent to take Andy's nipple between her lips, ripping a loud moan from Andy's throat. Miranda hummed and laved her tongue over it, sucking until Andy arched off the bed. Andy had no time to catch her breath as Miranda quickly continued leaving kisses down her abdomen to the apex of her thighs. 

Before Andy knew what was happening, she was enveloped in the most incredible heat. Miranda’s tongue swept through her wetness, stealing all the breath from Andy’s lungs. Miranda moaned loudly against her skin like she had finally found sustenance after a lifetime of starvation. The feeling made Andy's hips lurch against Miranda's mouth until strong hands held her still against the mattress. With a guttural groan, Miranda buried herself deeper into Andy with an urgency that made Andy's whole body shudder with the force of her pleasure.

This feeling was beyond anything she could have ever imagined. Her aunt had been so very wrong. It didn't hurt at all; and there would be no laying back and bearing it. This was an ecstasy so profound that Andy's body came alive with unbridled lust. Over the rushing, pounding pulse in her ears, she distantly heard herself moaning and crying out without restraint. She could hardly believe that such sounds were coming from her. 

When Miranda's hands released her hips to map the contours of her body, Andy's body moved on pure instinct, chasing the pressure of Miranda's perfect mouth. Restless hands touched her everywhere, gripping her thighs, her waist, her breasts, pressing down right below her belly button just so. 

Andy lost herself to the sensation. Her pleasure was mounting and coiling inside her, twisting her body tighter and tighter until Andy felt she would snap. Her breathing came in stuttering gasps. Miranda's tongue circled her entrance once, twice, three times before moving up to press against something that sent shockwaves through Andy's body. Instead of roaming around and drinking her in the desperate, frantic way it had done before, Miranda stayed right there, tracing tight circles until Andy's thighs began to shake. With heaving breaths, Andy tore her eyes open and looked down.

The sight that met her broke something inside her.

Miranda Priestly lay between Andy's legs, silver hair disheveled and cheeks flushed with need. But most captivating of all was the way intense blue eyes were looking right up at Andy. Dark and hooded, they did not look away as she moaned against Andy's flesh. Delirious in her desire, she brought one hand between Andy's thighs and rubbed her thumb against Andy's entrance with just the right amount of pressure. Her lips wrapped around that sensitive spot, and not once did she tear her gaze away. 

Suddenly, Andy's entire body was torn apart with waves of burning ecstasy. Stars erupted in her vision. Her body tensed and shook uncontrollably, head thrown back and mouth parting in a silent scream. The blinding pleasure was overwhelming, searing through her with relentless force. Even when her thighs clamped shut, Miranda did not stop. She continued rubbing and sucking and moaning until the sensation became too much and Andy jerked away. Miranda groaned in protest, chasing after Andy's trembling hips. Only Andy's weak whimper made her reluctantly pull away.

With a shuddering sigh, Miranda kissed her way up Andy's body until she was able to lay beside her and pull her close. Barely aware of her own body, Andy buried her face in Miranda's neck, trying to catch her breath. Her heart was racing, her body quivering with lingering shocks of pleasure that pulled weak gasps from her lips. Miranda kissed her forehead and gently combed her fingers through Andy's hair, mindful of the tangled tendrils that stuck to her damp brow. 

Eventually, Andy's body sank into the mattress, boneless and relaxed like never before. Her pulse returned to a more normal rhythm and she finally remembered how to breathe. With the latter came the familiar scent of Miranda, accompanied by something deep and musky that made Andy's stomach clench.

Her eyes fluttered open. Miranda's panting chest came into view when her vision managed to focus, and Andy realised the state Miranda was in. Her breathing was too fast, the crimson blush continued to adorn her perfect skin, and there was a vein in her neck that fluttered enticingly. Before she could second guess herself, Andy brought her lips to it. 

Miranda gasped. The pulse under Andy's lips quickened, and Andy's desire roared back to life in a heartbeat.

She pushed Miranda onto her back, following her with her lips until she was laying on top of her. An insatiable hunger seized her as she trailed her mouth everywhere she could reach. She licked and sucked and bit, leaving marks all over Miranda's chest and neck, delighting in the moans and whimpers that escaped the other woman. Andy didn't know what she was doing, but she let Miranda’s needy sounds guide her. She paid special attention to a delicate freckle beneath Miranda's left collarbone before continuing her descent until she had her mouth descending to a full, soft breast. The rosy nipple hardened under Andy's tongue, and she immediately became addicted to the sensation. 

Miranda gasped, arching into her with a breathless moan, and tangled her hands in Andy’s hair. Andy's hand came up to join her ministrations so she could put her mouth on Miranda's other breast, pulling and sucking both in tandem until Miranda was gripping her hair almost painfully. Her chest heaved with each breath, her legs parted to wrap around Andy's waist. Andy felt Miranda's short curls brush against her abdomen fleetingly before wetness coated her skin, and she couldn't help but moan with the knowledge that Miranda wanted Andy as much as Andy wanted her.

Far too soon, Miranda pulled Andy away from her chest. Andy whined in protest, but was quickly silenced by Miranda's mouth. They both moaned into the urgent kiss, and Andy noticed that it tasted different now.

When Andy realised that she was tasting her own desire on Miranda's tongue, she was certain she would combust. She instinctively pressed down with her hips as a throb of desire shot through her. Miranda gasped and arched into the movement, pressing herself against Andy in a way that made everything feel dizzy. 

Miranda looked on the verge of fainting. There was a sheen of sweat covering the edges of her hairline, her neck, and her chest. Her cheeks were flushed scarlet, her eyes glazed and unfocused as she panted and moaned. Andy wanted, more than anything, to watch her come undone. To bring her to the same heights that Andy had felt under her mouth.

Snaking a hand between their bodies, Andy trailed her fingertips down a soft stomach and through the patch of soft curls until she reached the silken wetness at the apex of her thighs. Miranda’s eyes flew open and focused on Andy. She bit her lip and gripped Andy tighter.

"Tell me what to do," Andy breathed. She swirled her fingers experimentally. Purely by chance, her fingers ran over a small bump, and Andy realised that this was the same place that had made Andy feel so good that she could have died.

It seemed to have the same effect on Miranda, because her lips fell open and a loud moan slipped from them.

"J-Just touch me," Miranda rasped. "I'm so close."

Andy was not entirely sure what that meant, but she was not about to question Miranda. Instead, she rubbed that spot again, drinking in the vision of Miranda crying out and arching under her touch. She couldn't resist and reached down to kiss her throat, licking and biting until faint marks bloomed on Miranda's blushed skin. She tasted so good. Andy knew she would never get enough of this.

"Andrea - ah!" Miranda gasped, and Andy nearly lost her composure at hearing Miranda moan her name like that. "Inside. I need you inside me."

Andy hesitated, unsure of how to achieve that. Seeing her pause, Miranda released the grip of her legs around Andy's hips, letting them fall open until they were bent at either side of Andy. Without preamble, she grabbed Andy's hand and guided her fingers further down.

"There," Miranda bit her lip again, and Andy had to refrain from reaching down to kiss her. She wanted to see Miranda’s face for this.

Tentatively, she moved her fingers against the place where Miranda had positioned them. There was more wetness here, more heat. Andy barely had to add any pressure at all before her finger slid inside Miranda.

Blue eyes fluttered and soft lips parted as Andy's finger was enveloped tightly. It was a strange sensation, to be inside someone like this, but Andy did not dwell on it. She was too taken by the look of rapture on Miranda's face.

"More," she panted, and Andy did not hesitate.

Pulling her finger almost all the way out, she added another one, and slipped them in all the way, as deep as they could go. Miranda's hips arched into Andy's hand. Her hands scrambled to grip the bed sheets; her eyes squeezed shut; her lips parted in a perfect 'o'.

Oh.

Andy's breathing quickened at the sight before her as she began to move her fingers. Miranda's body undulated against her, setting a firm pace that Andy was more than happy to follow. When she experimentally curled her fingers, Miranda slapped a hand over her mouth to muffle a scream of pleasure.

With increasing urgency, Andy did it again, pressing her fingers to that same place with every thrust. Miranda's hips quickened to a frantic rhythm that Andy did her best to keep up with. Her moans and whimpers were the sweetest sounds Andy had ever heard, and she revelled in each and every one of them.

When Miranda started biting her knuckles to keep her noises at bay, however, Andy felt a surge of possessiveness grip her. She wanted to hear Miranda at the heights of passion. She needed it. Careful not to lose her rhythm or the angle of her fingers, Andy draped herself over Miranda, pulled her hand away from her mouth, and pinned it to the bed beside her. There were teeth marks on her knuckles from where Miranda had bit into the skin, and the sight alone made Andy's thrusts quicken in unbridled lust. Miranda moaned loudly, freely, and Andy kissed her neck once more.

"I want to hear you," she said, kissing her again, this time in the sensitive place below her ear that made her shiver. Miranda moaned again and Andy couldn't silence her own sound of pleasure. She felt drunk with desire for the woman writhing beneath her. " Miranda."

Suddenly Miranda's hands were in her hair, pulling her away from her neck so she could kiss her lips instead. It was messy and passionate and not at all like the tentative first kisses they'd shared just moments before, but it filled Andy with heat. She pressed closer still, deepening her thrusts to match the frenzied movement of Miranda's hips. In this new position, the heel of her palm pressed against that sensitive spot, and it was that last touch that made Miranda fall apart.

Her lips wrenched away from Andy's, falling open in a strangled scream as she threw her head back. Her eyes squeezed shut, the vein in her neck pulsed in time with the tight squeezing around Andy's fingers. Her entire body froze, tensed and coiled so tightly it seemed close to snapping apart.

And through it all, Andy kept thrusting and curling her fingers and pressing against that special spot. She could not tear her eyes away from Miranda. For long, immeasurable moments, Miranda’s body shook with pleasure until she sobbed and weakly grabbed Andy's hand to make her stop.

Andy's movements ceased. Miranda shuddered and fell limp, melting against the mattress, panting and flushed and completely spent. 

Carefully, ever so gently, Andy withdrew her fingers, drawing a faint whimper from Miranda. Unable to restrain her grin, Andy let herself fall beside her lover, throwing an arm over her waist and moving close. She admired Miranda's profile while the older woman caught her breath, her breasts rising and falling hypnotically. Her eyes were closed, her cheeks still tinged pink, and strands of her hair were sticking to her damp skin. 

She had never looked so beautiful.

With a smile, Andy raised her hand and moved Miranda's forelock aside. The touch made Miranda blink her eyes open. At the sight of Andy’s smile, Miranda's expression softened until she gazed at her with such tenderness that Andy felt her heart squeeze in her chest.

"Hey," Andy said softly. She could not remember ever feeling this happy.

Miranda's lips formed a beautiful smile, crinkling the corner of her eyes like the finest silk and lighting up her face.

"Hello to you, too," she answered. Her voice was husky from her rather vocal expressions of pleasure. Andy felt a throb between her legs.

Miranda casually reached for Andy's hand draped across her waist and brought it up to her lips. She kissed each knuckle softly, reverently, and then placed their linked hands upon her abdomen. Her thumb traced Andy’s smooth palm almost subconsciously. Andy had never seen her so relaxed.

At that moment, holding hands with Miranda in bed, sweaty and sated, she knew that she could not live without this. It would be unbearable to live the rest of her days without Miranda after knowing such blissful happiness. Just the thought was like a knife tearing through Andy’s chest. Before she could even consider her words, they spilled from her lips in a desperate whisper.

"Let me stay," she said, voice thick with emotion. Miranda's grip on her hand tightened. "Please. Please let me stay."

Miranda swallowed thickly. Her eyes shone bluer than a clear sky on a summer's day, full of warmth and joy and something much, much deeper.

"Yes," Miranda breathed, and whatever she saw on Andy’s expression made her eyes glisten. "Yes."

Andy was so overwhelmed that she felt light headed. The grief she had been carrying around over her imminent departure was released in a sob. Miranda pulled her close, hugging her tightly until all Andy knew was the perfect way in which their bodies fit together. Overcome with elation, Andy kissed Miranda everywhere - her brow, her cheeks, her nose and chin and lips. Miranda chuckled at the jubilant display of affection, delighting in Andy's attention.

"Thank you," Andy exclaimed between exuberant kisses. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

With a smile, Miranda rolled on top of Andy and kissed her gently. It was chaste at first, with soft smiles and Andy's joyous laughter in between each tender press of lips. Then Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's neck and pressed their chests tightly together, and their desires flourished once more.

Andy wrapped her legs around Miranda's hips the same way Miranda had done to her. The feeling in the pit of her stomach was back - that stirring heat that begged for Miranda's touch.

"I want your fingers," Andy breathed against soft lips, and Miranda gasped. There were no feelings of embarrassment or uneasiness. She had never been happier, had never felt safer than in Miranda’s arms. "I want you inside me, Miranda."

With an eager moan, Miranda reached a hand between her legs. She was still wet, her desire for Miranda a constant thrum in her body. Still, Miranda took her time teasing her, touching her slowly and deliberately. Andy shuddered. She was still sensitive from before, but she loved the way Miranda's fingers felt against her.

Andy could feel the smirk curling Miranda’s lips as she traced ardent kisses down her jaw to her neck. It took no time at all for Andy to find herself panting, writhing her hips helplessly, chasing after Miranda's fingers.

After a sudden bite to her shoulder, Andy felt herself clench around nothing. The emptiness became unbearable. She needed Miranda inside her; she wanted to fuse the two of them together so that she could always feel the pleasure of Miranda's skin against hers.

"Miranda," she moaned with so much need that Miranda growled at the wanton sound. "Please."

Andy's begging seemed to finally break through Miranda's tenacity. Long, sure fingers lowered to her entrance, circling it and thoroughly coating them in Andy's desire.

"Tell me if it hurts," Miranda said, looking at Andy intensely. "Promise me."

Andy nodded quickly.

"Yes, fine, I promise, just - please - "

Her words died in her throat as a single digit slid inside her with barely any resistance at all. Andy's mouth fell open. A breathless cry escaped her lips when Miranda curled her finger and pressed against a place deep inside her that made her whole body shake. 

Miranda's breathing was ragged when she leaned close to Andy so that they were pressed chest to chest once more.

"So good," she spoke into Andy's ear, voice deep and laden with lust. "You're being so good for me, Andrea."

Andy felt herself clench at the praise and they both moaned at the sensation.

It was like a dam broke. Miranda became even more enraptured, reaching down to pay attention to Andy's breasts with her eager, talented mouth. Her toned muscles rippled with her movements, entrancing Andy with the sheer power of the woman above her.  Where Miranda's hand was gentle down below, her mouth licked and sucked in a frenzy. She scraped her teeth over Andy's nipples, sucked them into her mouth, rubbed her tongue all over the generous breasts until there was not an inch of skin untouched by her mouth.

It drove Andy wild. She held onto Miranda's firm shoulders and gripped her hair, arching her back to grant the older woman better access. This was even better than before. Andy felt owned, entirely possessed by Miranda in the way she'd desired most.

She wanted more.

"Miranda," she moaned, and canted her hips upward. "Oh God, please, more."

Miranda moaned around her nipple before removing her mouth. She held herself up on her free arm and locked her gaze with Andy's. Her expression alone made Andy clench around her fingers. Midnight blue eyes watched her intently as Miranda withdrew her finger. 

Just as Andy was about to protest, a second digit joined the first and entered her slowly, so slowly, until Miranda's knuckles were pressing against her entrance.

Andy’s eyes fell shut in rapture. She felt so full of Miranda that she lost her breath. It was Miranda kissing her neck; Miranda whispering sweet words in her ear; Miranda inside her.

And then Miranda was moaning her name and rubbing Andy's sensitive flesh and Andy knew nothing except the ecstasy that shot through her body even more intensely than before. She threw her head back, trembling and calling out her lover’s name like a prayer until she could take no more. She collapsed into a breathless heap, a steady pulse of pleasure between her legs.

Dazed as she was, she barely felt herself being held in Miranda's arms. It took longer to regain her bearings this time. Her pulse was still thrumming in her ears and down below, and she drew shuddering breaths that smelled of jasmine and sandalwood and something entirely Miranda.

When she came back to herself, she could feel Miranda tracing her fingers down her spine while the other hand brushed through her hair. She hummed in bliss, reveling in the tender caresses.

"Are you alright, darling?" Miranda asked softly.

Andy smiled. She very much liked the sound of that. With a sigh, she shuffled back just enough to gaze up at Miranda.

"More than alright," she grinned. "I could get used to that."

With an amused smile, Miranda raised an eyebrow.

"And what, pray tell, would 'that' be?"

"All of it," Andy answered earnestly. "Being here with you. Making love. Hearing you call me 'darling' ."

Miranda's smile grew. Andy's heart skipped a beat, like it so often did lately, at witnessing such a beautiful sight.

"Is that right?" Miranda teased, smirking now. 

"Oh, absolutely. In fact," Andy said, pushing on Miranda's shoulder until Andy was stretched on top of her. Despite how breathless and spent she had felt a moment ago, Miranda's expression - and her voice and her body and everything about her - brought Andy a newfound energy. "I think I'd like to try something else I might want to get used to."

Miranda chuckled, looking at Andy in a mixture of surprise and wonder. Sure hands descended from Andy's shoulder blades to her hips and further down.

"Really? Are you quite certain, darling?" Her hands squeezed Andy's backside, pulling their hips flush together.

"Mhm," Andy hummed in delight, dropping a kiss on the side of Miranda's neck. "I am absolutely positive."

With a reassuring smile, Andy made her way down Miranda's body by kissing a steady trail down her chest. She spent some more time indulging herself by putting her mouth all over Miranda's breasts, licking and biting and sucking until they were puckered and red under Andy's tongue. Miranda hummed and moaned above her, letting Andy explore to her heart's content. Andy thought that there was little else she could remember enjoying more than this.

As she continued mapping Miranda's body, determined to find all her sensitive spots that made those delicious sounds come out of her pliant mouth, Andy realised there was something else equally important she wanted to do. Having more patience now than she'd had before, she made sure to kiss all of Miranda's scars within reach - especially the one below her sternum, the reminder of how Miranda had taken a sword through the chest to protect Andy. She kissed it repeatedly, reverently, all around the wound while Miranda's hands tenderly ran through her hair. 

No words needed to be spoken. They both understood.

Soon, however, Miranda's hands began pulling her away from the scar - whether from lustful impatience or discomfort at such vulnerable sentimentality, Andy was uncertain. Regardless, she eagerly continued on her way down Miranda's body. She kissed and licked around her belly button, to the sensitive skin of her supple hips, revelling in the feeling of the twitching muscles jumping and tensing beneath her lips. By the time she came to lay between Miranda's parted thighs, her lover was panting and holding tightly onto the bed sheets.

Andy made herself look at the sight before her. She had never looked upon a woman's sex before, so she had nothing to compare it to, of course. Nevertheless, she found herself immediately entranced by how delicate and pink and wet Miranda was. It made Andy want to have a taste, but first she wished to explore Miranda’s body some more. So, with careful, feather-light kisses, Andy made her way from the inside of Miranda's knee to the juncture between her thigh and her hip.

The scent was different here, musky and dark. Miranda's desire glistened at the inside of her thighs, and Andy got a brief taste as her lips inched even closer. She was intrigued: it was neither sweet nor sour, but it was soft and sultry. Andy could get used to it.

Instead of diving right in like she really wanted to, she decided to torture Miranda some more. She let out a long breath just over Miranda's sensitive skin, watching as the short curls shifted. Miranda's hips twitched in anticipation, and when Andy looked up at her she could see Miranda holding her breath and biting her lip.

With a mischievous smirk, Andy moved down to Miranda's other thigh to bestow upon it equal attention as its twin. The second she moved away, Miranda groaned in frustration. Andy chuckled, resuming her path of kisses. Andy’s mouth got closer and closer to her target, until all she had to do was lean forward.

With an experimental stroke of her tongue, Andy parted Miranda's folds and pressed against the wet skin there. The loud moan that came from Miranda was utterly sinful. Andy made sure to keep her eyes open so she could see every expression Miranda made. This time, the taste of Miranda’s desire was stronger. 

Andy could certainly get used to this, indeed. 

With an amount of confidence that did not match her experience, Andy dipped her tongue again, exploring all of Miranda in a languid swipe from entrance to the apex of her sex. She was rewarded with another choked moan, only this time Miranda's hips thrust up against her mouth.

With newfound vigour, Andy explored at her leisure, lapping and sucking and discovering all the most sensitive spots that made Miranda writhe and gasp and moan. Like her own experience, she had to grip Miranda's hips and pin them to the bed in order to take her time. 

When she dipped her tongue inside for the first time, Miranda actually whimpered. The sound made Andy so wild with lust that she proceeded to thrust her tongue in and out repeatedly, as deep as it could go, mimicking what Miranda’s hands had done to her. With an unrestrained moan, Miranda lifted up onto her elbows and looked down at her. She began to thrust her hips, undulating her body in decadent waves and grinding against Andy’s mouth as she threw her head back in exaltation. 

Andy let her, and put her hands to better use all over the soft, soft skin at her disposal. She gripped the thighs at either side of her head, scratched a trail up the curve of a hip and the dip of her waist, palmed the tender breasts that she had become so enamoured with. She was utterly insatiable in her worship of Miranda's body.

"Andrea," Miranda panted. Her chest was rising and falling in quick succession, flushed pink again and glistening with a sheen of perspiration that Andy found much too enticing.

Andy lost track of time, enthralled with exploring and edging Miranda again and again. Her chin was dripping with wetness, her tongue full of Miranda’s taste. The needy sounds torn from Miranda's throat were growing louder, and her thighs were trembling uncontrollably, and Andy knew she had finally found where she belonged.

"Andrea - ah! - darling," Miranda begged in a breathless plea. "Please."

With that simple word, uttered with so much desperation, Andy had the sudden need to be inside her lover again. She moved one of her hands away from Miranda's writhing hips, placing the other firmly below her belly button the way Miranda had done to her earlier. With her free hand, she slid two fingers inside and moaned.

Miranda fell back onto the mattress with a keening cry. The thighs around Andy's head tensed and strong hands dug into her scalp to press her even closer. Andy watched with greedy eyes as Miranda tossed her head fervently, her back arching when Andy's fingers curled again. Her words of “yes” and “there” and “oh, Andrea” turned into broken moans and gasps that made Andy double her efforts. With her free hand, Andy pinned Miranda's hips down into the mattress, feeling wild with an insatiable need to give Miranda everything she wanted.

When Miranda looked down to send Andy a pleading look, her dark eyes glazed and hooded, Andy knew this was exactly what she'd been waiting for.

Without breaking eye contact, Andy dared to add a third finger. Miranda's lips parted in a silent cry, her brows drawn together in an expression of ecstasy. Her body shook violently, her hips jerking involuntarily against Andy’s mouth. Andy could feel her fingers being squeezed tighter until she could hardly move them. She curled them once more, wrapped her lips around that little bump that held so much pleasure, and sucked.

Miranda seized, going completely rigid as the breath was knocked out of her. She threw her head back, her eyes squeezed shut, and from her parted lips tore a loud, choked wail of pleasure. Still, she held Andy's face against her, her hips writhing despite Andy's attempts to still them. It did nothing to deter Andy from her enthusiastic ministrations; she kept sucking and thrusting, even as Miranda’s thighs clutched her head in a vice grip and her walls tightened around her fingers. She refused to stop until Miranda's body completely gave out.

When it finally did, collapsing into a heaving, trembling mess, Andy took deep, gasping breaths between licks and kisses. She kept her fingers inside, gently massaging Miranda through the aftershocks, enjoying her choked little moans and the way her body trembled.  

Eventually, Miranda’s hips jerked away from her. Andy groaned in protest and followed the movement to keep her mouth pressed against Miranda's sweet, wet skin. She wished to stay here for longer, to savour Miranda until her jaw hurt. Every little move tore weak moans and shudders from Miranda, but her sounds of pleasure soon became dull whimpers and helpless pleas, and her hands tightened in Andy's hair to pull her away. With a forlorn sigh, Andy let go. She sat back on her haunches and felt warmth suffuse her chest as she admired the woman before her.

Miranda was still panting - gasping, short bursts of air through her lips. Her skin was flushed and glistening, her heaving chest illuminated beautifully by the flickering candles. Her hair was in disarray, sticking to her brow and neck. There were teeth marks on her lower lip, and she had a hand flung over her eyes as she attempted to recover. 

With a satisfied smile, Andy made her way up the bed, lying close to Miranda but without touching her excessively. Her instinct told her that Miranda needed space, that she was overstimulated enough without Andy touching more of her overheated, sensitive skin. Instead, she was content to watch Miranda recover, feeling very proud of herself and so deeply in love that her heart felt like it had grown twice its size.

When Miranda's breathing had calmed into a steadier rhythm, Andy tentatively reached for Miranda's hand that was sprawled on the bed between them. Miranda twitched at the unexpected touch, but then held onto Andy tightly. After lowering her other hand, dazed blue eyes turned to blink at her, and Andy couldn't help the besotted smile that curled her lips.

"Are you alright?" Andy asked gently, the same way Miranda had done before.

The corners of Miranda's lips quirked.

"Oh my," she rasped and frowned at the hoarseness of her voice. She cleared her throat and swallowed thickly before she continued, her tone filled with amusement. "I sure do hope you'll get used to that."

Andy laughed and leaned closer to press a kiss against Miranda's lips. Of all the enticing sounds Andy had heard in the past hour, Miranda's carefree chuckle was the sweetest.

 

.oOo.

 

They talked about everything and nothing for a while. They were both utterly spent, but neither of them wanted to fall asleep. So, they held each other close and enjoyed each other's company instead.

Andy was surprised by how comfortable and happy she felt despite the life-changing events that had transpired between them. She had not known what to expect - mostly because it felt ridiculous to pre-meditate an event that, before tonight, had seemed completely impossible. Now, resting her head on Miranda's chest, gently tracing the scars adorning her body as she revelled in the sensation of their skin pressed together, Andy could not feel calmer. She felt safe. Happy. And she could tell Miranda felt the same.

They had not spoken words of love, because it did not seem appropriate. It was too soon; and besides, Andy reasoned, three meagre words were not enough to encompass all that Andy felt for Miranda. 

Some day, in the not so distant future, they would speak of love, of being made for each other. But that was for another time, when they grew ever closer and learned everything about one another.

So instead they spoke of whatever wandered into their minds. Not much had changed in their ability to speak freely or relax in comfortable silence, except now Miranda's hand played with Andy's hair, and Andy's wandering fingers occasionally traced the outline of Miranda's breast, and their bare skin touched everywhere.

"May I ask you something?" Andy murmured, absentmindedly tracing the scar on her chest. Miranda hummed as a response, nuzzling the hair at the top of Andy's head. "It's rather personal," Andy warned.

Miranda's deep chuckle reverberated through her chest against Andy’s cheek. 

"After tonight, darling, I doubt there is anything too personal to share with each other, wouldn't you say?"

Andy grinned. "Good point." Then she tilted her head so she could look in Miranda's eyes. "Will you tell me how you became a pirate?"

There was a short moment of silence as Miranda turned to gaze at the ceiling. "Hm."

Andy shifted closer, trying not to get nervous that she had said the wrong thing and ruined the pleasant atmosphere. From a few observations here and there, Andy had gathered that Miranda's past was not a happy one, and not just because of the curse.

"You don't have to tell me," Andy murmured, placing her palm flat over Miranda's chest, stretching out her fingers to better feel the steady heartbeat underneath. “I understand if you don’t want to. I just - I want to know everything about you.”

In response, Miranda softly kissed Andy's forehead and held her closer. After another long stretch of silence where Andy had given up on receiving an answer, Miranda finally spoke.

"I came from a very poor family," she began in a quiet voice, her gaze lost in phantom memories. "Dirt poor, really. My mother was a common maid that jumped from one employer to the next. My father was a fisherman with a gambling problem. He was not a nice man."

Andy listened attentively. She was more than a little surprised that Miranda had such a background - the woman spoke and moved with such poise that she could easily fool anyone into thinking she came from wealth. Regardless, Andy's heart went out to her. Her father had only ever been kind to her, and she’d always felt blessed. The thought of Miranda’s father treating her badly made her press her body closer to Miranda, seeking to offer comfort.

"When I was ten, my mother got a job at a Lord's family estate, and she took me with her so I could apply for the seamstress vacancy. Small fingers and steady hands. I got the job and, when I wasn’t working, became a companion to the Lord's daughters, who were around my age. They taught me to read and write, and helped me realise that  I much prefer the company of women to that of men."

Andy blinked in surprise at the offhand comment. Only a few conversations prior, she had confessed to Miranda that she was the first person Andy had ever wanted and that she hadn't known she liked women until very recently. Miranda had responded by holding her tighter and kissing her gently, but Andy had felt too nervous to ask about Miranda's own experience, since she obviously had more than Andy herself.

Now she understood why that was - Miranda's 'awakening' had not been like Andy's. She'd known practically all her life. She'd had plenty of time to process and explore her feelings and desires for the fairer sex. Part of Andy felt envious that Miranda had been with other women before her, but the other part was happy that Miranda had been able to have that freedom. Andy wondered how different her own life would have been had she realised her love for the fairer sex sooner, if she would have been happier.

"A few years later," Miranda continued, bringing Andy out of her musings. "The family we worked for moved away to France. My mother and I were left without a job, and then we found out my father had wasted away all our earnings on gambling and booze."

A gasp left Andy before she could reign it in, but luckily Miranda did not care, or did not appear to notice. She continued, her voice becoming thick with emotion as she told the next part of her story.

"Since we had no money, and my father's job didn't pay enough to sustain us all, especially with the debts he owed, he gave me an ultimatum. I could either marry into a rich family, or I would have to sell my body for scraps."

"What?!" Andy cried in outrage, lunging upright to look down at her lover with wide, horrified eyes. She felt her stomach coil with nausea and her pulse rage in her veins like molten fire. Miranda's hand soothingly caressing her waist did nothing to calm her distress.

"Don't fret, darling. I did nothing of the sort," she reassured, pulling Andy back down to reclaim their previous position. Andy swallowed past the lump that had formed in her throat, trying to calm herself. "Since I refused the second option, he took it upon himself to find me a suitable husband that would save us from starving to death. He found many willing candidates but only one with any means to pay off his debts: Stephen Tomilson. A man more than twice my age that was easily the foulest, most horrible man I'd ever had the misfortune of meeting." Miranda sneered, spitting out the name like it was poison.

"How old were you?" Andy dared ask.

"Fourteen."

"Dear God," Andy shuddered, and held Miranda tighter.

"Faced with the prospect of becoming that man’s property, I decided that I was not beholden to my father. I gathered the bare essentials and left in the middle of the night," Miranda continued, her posture losing some of its previous tension. 

"Just like that?" Andy asked. She could not imagine doing such a drastic, dangerous thing at that young an age.

"Just like that," Miranda confirmed with a small, amused smirk at Andy's disbelief and indignation on her part. "I managed to disguise myself as a man - well, a boy at the time - and I got hired on merchant ships. Over the years, I learned how to keep my real identity a secret. Luckily I've never had particularly… shall we say, significant assets."

Relieved that the mood had lightened, Andy pouted and cupped one of the assets in question.

"Well, I'm significantly fond of them."

"Really?" Miranda asked with raised eyebrows and a tone full of sarcasm. "My, I never would have guessed."

"Ha ha," Andy rolled her eyes, but could not fight a smile when she caught the amused twitching of Miranda's lips that Andy had come to recognise as a sign that she was trying very hard not to laugh. "So that's how you started? Disguised as a boy working on merchant ships?"

"Yes," Miranda answered, once again starting the process of running her fingers through Andy's hair. It was something she seemed particularly fond of. "Eventually I got tired of following orders, but I knew a woman would never be allowed to commandeer a merchant vessel. So I sought out other means to gain power and independence."

"Piracy?"

"Correct," Miranda said, tapping the tip of Andy's nose with her finger. "That's how I got the most experience. Then when I was twenty or so, I I joined the crew of The Black Pearl. The Captain was a selfish bastard who only looked out for himself and stole from his crew, so it only took me a year to lead a mutiny. One would say it is the worst way to take power, but I could not stand by and let him treat us like he did."

"The valiant Captain Priestly, defender of the disfavoured and discarded," Andy gushed theatrically, earning a derisive snort.

"You’d better not go around telling people such nonsense," Miranda threatened, but there was a distinct lack of bite to her tone, and her eyes shone with something that thrilled Andy as she rose to tower over her imperiously. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

"And what if I do?" Andy teased with a mischievous grin.

There was a dark glint in those bright blue eyes as Miranda pulled Andy against her, wrapping her hand gently but firmly around Andy's neck. Andy's abdomen immediately tightened and was set ablaze. Her smile fell as her lips parted, and she tilted her head back, offering up her throat.

"There will be dire consequences," Miranda murmured, her voice smooth like dripping velvet.

Overcome, Andy surrendered to Miranda's mouth, and the hand still wrapped around her delicate neck.

After more time spent exploring each other to their heart's content, they lay spent and sated, wrapped up in each other. Now that Andy's time was no longer running out, she was finally able to relax for the first time in weeks. She was sore and exhausted, but her heart felt warm and full. The comforting knowledge that they had all the time in the world to spend together brought a soft smile to her lips. 

Eventually, the cadence of Miranda's steady breathing and the safety of her embrace lulled her to sleep.

Chapter Text

Waking up in Miranda’s arms was a revelation. Andy was certain that the heaven she’d been told about all her life was, in fact, not real, for she found true heaven when she opened her eyes. 

Soft morning light poured through the velvet curtains, bathing the room in wisps of gold. The silk sheets felt smooth against her, but Miranda’s skin felt better still. The older woman’s warm body was pressed against her back, and strong arms were wrapped around Andy’s middle as if Miranda was afraid she would leave. Of course, that was the last thing Andy would do. There was nowhere she would rather be than in this bed while Miranda’s steady breathing tickled the back of her neck, where her face was tucked into the curve of Andy’s shoulder.

Andy could never have imagined that she could feel so utterly complete, so blissfully happy. Her chest ached with love for the woman holding her. Carefully, she turned in the circle of Miranda’s arms until she was facing her, and promptly lost her breath.

No words could describe the beauty of Miranda in slumber. Her face was softened in sleep, her expression so tranquil that all the fine lines that usually adorned her face were smoothed out like the finest silk. The hair that Andy adored so much was in disarray after she’d run her fingers through it countless times during the night, and that silver forelock fell across her brow in silver waves. In the soft morning light, Miranda’s pale lashes seemed to shimmer against her closed eyelids. Her lips were parted ever so slightly as she breathed, and her chest rose and fell in a way that had Andy entranced. She could not keep her eyes from tracing the curve of Miranda’s breasts, across soft, perfect skin and over a sharp collarbone, following the elegant curve of a shoulder, the long expanse of neck that bore the faint mark of Andy’s lips.

Andy felt her heart leap at the vision before her. Even after exploring each other so thoroughly the previous night, Miranda’s body was like a siren’s call, and Andy was helpless to refuse her. Her chest was an open flame, burning through her until she could not hold back. She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss upon Miranda’s cheek. When that garnered no response, Andy placed another at her brow. Miranda hummed in delight, but still she did not wake. With an indulgent smile, Andy delicately traced her lips over Miranda’s eyelids, down the bridge of her nose, over her cheekbones and across her jaw.

“Mm,” Miranda hummed again, and this time she shifted and pulled Andy closer.

When Andy moved back to look at her, there was a small smile playing at the corners of Miranda’s mouth and blue, hooded eyes blinked at her with a heaviness brought by the remnants of sleep.

“Good morning,” Andy breathed, keeping her voice quiet and gentle. Miranda’s smile grew.

“It most certainly is,” she purred, her voice low and husky. It sent a shiver down Andy’s spine.

“You’re so beautiful,” Andy confessed reverently without a second thought.

A deep chuckle was her response as Miranda pulled their bodies tight together and nuzzled Andy’s cheek.

“I could say the same for you.”

Andy grinned and had the sudden urge to kiss Miranda. So, she cupped Miranda’s cheek and tilted her face until their lips met. It felt as thrilling as the first time.

“Did you sleep well?” Miranda asked when they parted. Her fingers trailed down Andy’s spine, setting the skin there ablaze.

“Very much so. Did you?”

“Best sleep I’ve ever had,” Miranda confessed, and Andy beamed. Blue eyes trailed down to Andy's lips, and then further down below the open sheets between them. “Now that we’re awake, however, I suggest we fill our time with more… productive activities, wouldn’t you agree?”

Andy squealed as Miranda’s strong arms tightened around her waist and rolled her until she was laid on top of Miranda. In the midst of her laughter, Andy revelled in the feeling of Miranda’s body under her, their skin pressed together deliciously.

“Why, Captain Priestly,” Andy teased with a wide grin. “Are you suggesting we spend the morning in bed instead of tending to our duties? How scandalous!”

Miranda’s eyes glimmered as a smirk curled her lips.

“That is exactly what I’m suggesting. In fact,” she lowered her hands to Andy’s thighs and swiftly parted them until they were framing her own hips. Andy’s breath caught. “I command it.”

“Well,” Andy breathed. She rolled her hips and bit her lip when she felt Miranda’s skin brushing against the most sensitive part of her. Miranda's eyes darkened; her hands tightened their hold on Andy. “Who am I to defy the great Captain Priestly’s orders?”

“Quite right,” Miranda said, and pulled Andy closer until all her weight fell against her and their chests were pressed together.

Despite her best efforts, a moan escaped Andy’s lips, but it was quickly muffled by Miranda’s mouth.

More than an hour passed before they tore themselves away. Miranda insisted they get dressed, since Andy's stomach had begun to rumble - much to Miranda's amusement and Andy's embarrassment.

Unsurprisingly, Miranda's poise did not abandon her despite her flushed, damp skin and disheveled hair. Her movements were elegant and fluid as she stood and washed herself before dressing in her favoured flowing silk blouse and dark trousers. She left the top buttons undone, and wrapped a golden necklace around her neck so the oval pendant fell low on her chest. Andy watched, entranced, as Miranda bent at the waist to lean closer to the vanity mirror and effortlessly slide in a pair of golden hoops into her earlobes. When she straightened up, the Captain was immaculate as ever, even if she chose not to wear a coat to finish off her signature style.

Andy, for her part, was not as composed. After being under Miranda's fervent affections and losing herself in pleasure, her body felt boneless; her legs trembled as she stood unsteadily, and there was a pleasant ache between her thighs.

When Miranda caught sight of her attempting to stand, a knowing glint shone in dark blue eyes, and Andy scowled at her.

"Here," Miranda offered, handing over a forest green blouse and cream trousers. "You may borrow these, if you like."

Despite the nonchalance in her voice, Miranda's lips curled into a smirk as her eyes trailed over Andy's naked body, gleaming in victory at the flush creeping up Andy's chest. With a huff, Andy took the clothes and glared as defiantly as she could while bare and aroused under the Captain's devouring gaze. Miranda raised an eyebrow in response. Her smirk turned into a smile as she swooped in to kiss the pout off Andy's lips.

It was impossible to stay defiant after that.

After they had made themselves presentable, and after Andy had made sure Miranda's collar covered the mark Andy had left at the sensitive spot where her neck met her shoulder, they were ready to leave the privacy of the Captain's chambers. For a fraction of a moment, Andy felt nervous about facing the crew, but Miranda's arm circling her waist distracted her from thinking too much. A gentle kiss upon her cheek, then another on her lips, and Andy's anxiety melted away like a glacier under the summer's sun.

The moment Miranda opened the door, however, their peace was shattered.

"Captain!" Nigel yelped, jumping away from the door and lowering his hand, which had been raised to knock. He quickly composed himself under Miranda's raised eyebrow. "We have a situation."

Andy stood back and watched as Miranda straightened and walked onto the main deck. Nigel, Emily and Serena quickly fell into step behind her, not even glancing in Andy's direction.

"There's a storm," Emily said, more agitated than Andy would have predicted regarding a little foul weather. Then again, Emily was almost perpetually agitated about something.

With a rueful shake of her head, Andy trailed after them, listening as Nigel and Emily explained the situation.

"It looks bad," Nigel said. "And it's right on our course."

He gestured towards the bow of the ship, and in the distance Andy could see it: huge, black clouds rolling in the horizon like ominous phantoms ready to unleash their fury upon the sea. Even at such a considerable distance away, the roaring thunder could be heard as clearly as if it was above them. Andy understood now. This was no regular storm.

"We don't have enough supplies to try to go around it, and we can't predict how many miles it goes on for," Emily continued, bringing Andy's attention back to the small group in front of her. 

They had come to stand at the bow of the ship. Miranda stood tall and confident, hands clasped behind her back as she contemplated the huge clouds blanketing the horizon in darkness. Nigel stood to her right, while Emily and Serena took up her left side. Emily was gesturing wildly, and not even Serena's steadying hand on her back seemed to calm her.

"We could slow our course and keep our distance, but that might delay us," she exclaimed. "We're less than two days' from Port Royal, and we only have enough supplies for three or four days at most! We could perhaps-"

"We are no longer going to Port Royal," Miranda interrupted, her voice calm and sure.

The ensuing silence was louder than the storm ahead. Andy watched as Emily's eyes widened comically, her mouth dropping open in shock. Serena straightened sharply, and Nigel's eyebrows shot up like bullets.

"W-We're not going?" Emily stuttered.

"No."

Miranda turned away from the horizon and locked eyes with Andy. In an instant, her expression softened and her eyes filled with warmth. It was such a beautiful sight, such vulnerable openness, even in front of her crew. Andy found it impossible to look away and, for a moment, she forgot about everything else. 

Miranda had kept her promise to Andy. She had given Andy everything she'd always wanted. Andy would have a life of freedom and adventure. They would spend infinite more nights together; Andy would wake up in Miranda's arms with each sunrise; they would have all the time they wanted to be together and see the world and find new reasons to fall deeper in love.

In that moment, with their gazes locked and a lifetime of promises floating unspoken between them, it was just the two of them in the world.

"Oh my god."

Andy was jerked from her reverie only to find Emily's appalled expression staring at her in shock.

"Oh my god!" Emily repeated with dawning realisation.

Serena clapped her hands in front of her mouth to muffled an excited squeal, bouncing on her toes as she looked from Andy to Miranda repeatedly.

"Y-You…" Emily rasped. She was unable to finish the sentence, and instead covered her pale face with trembling hands. "Oh my God."

With an astounding amount of self-control, Serena composed herself and took hold of her beloved's shoulders to steer her away towards the helm. As they shuffled past Andy, she sent a wide, beaming grin that told Andy everything she needed to know about how her friend felt regarding Andy staying on board. Andy smiled back, knowing Serena would unleash the full potential of her unbridled glee when they were alone. For now, Serena led a horrified Emily away before the redhead could do or say something in front of her Captain that she would later regret.

Nigel, for his part, was far too calm. He sent Miranda a knowing smirk, which the Captain pointedly ignored, before sauntering towards Andy.

“I told you, you wouldn’t get very far,” he said with a grin, and sent her a wink before walking away.

The tension in Andy’s body left her in a rush. Well, that could have been a lot worse. Andy had never doubted that she could trust Serena and Nigel, but she had not predicted that she and Miranda would be so obvious about their affection for one another. She had clearly been naive to think she could keep her heart hidden away when it came to her love for the older woman.

The woman in question tilted her head elegantly and Andy would have felt nervous stepping closer if it weren’t for the clear amusement dancing in her blue eyes.

“I think Emily took it well,” Andy said, earning a deep chuckle from Miranda.

“How perceptive of you,” Miranda drawled, but there was no snark in her tone. In fact, she looked relaxed as she leaned back against the railing. She gave Andy's form an appreciative once over, leaving a trail of warmth in her wake. “My clothes look rather exquisite on you, darling." An elegant hand reached out to Andy in the same way Miranda had offered Andy the helm a few days prior. "Come here.”

With a shy smile, Andy stepped closer still until she stood directly in front of the Captain. Miranda’s arms wrapped around Andy’s waist, and the mirth in her expression made Andy’s heart melt.

“May I kiss you?” Miranda asked softly.

Andy’s breath hitched. She had always assumed that Miranda’s privacy was one of her most valuable treasures, and that they would have to be discreet outside of the privacy of her chambers. 

This had never been anything that Andy felt hindered by; in fact, she understood and appreciated it. After all, she was still only starting to accept that she was attracted to the fairer sex, and the relationship between her and Miranda was still so new. The devotion was there, Andy knew. She could see it in every word, every touch and look shared between them. It was almost too good to be true. Andy could not think about it too much without feeling lightheaded. She’d never thought she would be fortunate enough, worthy enough, for Miranda to love her in return.

So when Miranda looked at her as she was doing now, with such hope and warmth and tenderness, Andy could not deny her. It did not matter that they were in public, or that she could feel some of the crew members peering at them from the main deck. All that mattered was that Miranda was holding her close, and asking Andy to take the final leap with her.

“Are you certain?” Andy asked, wanting to be sure before giving in. “The crew-”

“Will find out one way or another, sooner or later,” Miranda said confidently. She raised a hand to cup Andy’s cheek and her voice became softer as she continued, “There is nothing to fear. You are safe here, and loved. You are a part of this family now, Andrea.”

Something inside Andy’s chest crumbled and mended itself back together. Overcome by her lover’s words, her eyes burned with emotion. With her voice caught in the tightness of her throat, Andy's response was pure instinct. She closed her eyes and kissed the woman she loved.

 

.oOo.

 

For the next three days, Andy and Miranda barely left each other's side. They spent the majority of that time in Miranda's chambers, reading and talking and learning a thousand new ways to love each other. It was as if the world ceased to exist altogether - Andy’s existence began and ended with Miranda.

In the rather limited time Andy did spend with the crew, Serena's enthusiasm was almost too much, and Emily was practically foaming at the mouth as she glared at Andy. Nigel, for his part, had an air of superiority coupled with his knowing smirks and witty comments. The rest of the crew looked at Andy like she had moved a mountain with her bare hands. She could only take so much before retreating to the safety of Miranda's chambers once more. 

She was already overwhelmed trying to process the new course her life had taken, while being blown away by having Miranda as her lover. She needed time to settle into things with some peace and quiet. Luckily for her, Miranda seemed to be of the same mind.

Thus, they focused on each other. They spent time learning more about one another and getting accustomed to the intimacy of their relationship. Andy had never had someone to kiss and touch whenever she pleased, and she had never received such attentive affections from anyone before. She told Miranda this, which earned her a sympathetic hum.

"I admit, I've never been one to have such things either, but I want to have them with you. If you're amenable."

There was a smirk curling her lips as she finished the last sentence, and Andy all but jumped on her.

"I am inclined to acquiesce to your request," she teased, fondly remembering their verbal sparring on Andy's first evening on the Black Pearl. Instead of answering, Miranda laughed and pulled her into a kiss.

Those three days were spent sharing laughter, food, books, and parts of themselves like the most precious gifts. Andy was in awe of Miranda's beauty and fascinating mind, and she made certain the older woman was well aware of Andy's admiration. Miranda herself showed such openness and tender affection that Andy could never have imagined she held. However, she was admittedly relieved that despite this newfound gentleness, Miranda still had her sharp edges, her witty sarcasm, and her overall moodiness that Andy found endearing more than anything else. She was in love with every aspect of the fearsome Captain Priestly, and she could not be happier.

Andy did feel a little guilty, though. Three days felt like enough time to adapt into her new life, and she did miss her friends. She felt it was most rude of her to not spend any time with them, so on the fourth day of eating in Miranda's chambers, Andy decided to suggest something different.

"I'd like to dine with the crew this evening," she said over the top of the book she'd been reading.

They were stretched out on the loveseat, each reading their own tomes - Andy's was a fictional novel, while Miranda's was a book about a voyage to India. Andy was tucked against the corner, with her feet propped up on Miranda's lap while the older woman trailed her hand from her knee to her ankle.

"Of course," Miranda answered smoothly. A pale eyebrow arched elegantly as she peered at Andy. "You are not, in fact, my prisoner here."

"Not anymore," Andy teased with a grin. Miranda rolled her eyes. "Will you join me?"

Miranda's hand paused on its path down Andy's shin, and she tilted her head in that peculiar way she did when she was contemplating something.

"I'm not accustomed to sharing meals with them," she replied. "It is not a Captain's place to interfere with them when they're off duty."

Andy frowned at that, but chose not to argue. She'd learned early on that arguing with Miranda about how she commanded her ship was not a good idea.

"Alright," she nodded, yet could not stop herself from adding: "I'm sure the crew would welcome you, though, so if you change your mind, my offer still stands. Besides," she reached for Miranda, squeezing her knee. "I'd like you to be there."

Miranda gave a non-committal hum and returned her attention to the book at hand. Andy understood the matter had come to an end, so she settled deeper into her pillow and carried on reading. Miranda's hand continued to caress her leg.

That evening, Andy went to the forecastle for dinner. She felt a little nervous, because she understood that her dynamic with the crew had changed the moment she became Miranda's paramour. She’d noticed how the crew looked at her differently, and an anxious part of her worried that their treatment of her would change too. Perhaps they would treat her as less of a friend, and be more distant. Or perhaps they would disapprove of their relationship altogether, believing Andy to be unworthy of their Captain, that their relationship was unnatural and sinful. Out of all of Andy’s fears, the latter one was by far the worst.

The moment she entered the forecastle, however, her worries slipped away.

Everyone was already seated, and Cara was admonishing Redbeard for something or other. Emily and Serena were talking quietly, while Nigel and Fishtail laughed loudly over the rest of the conversations. The door shut behind Andy, and Serena was the first to see her.

"Andy!" Serena leaped up from her chair and threw her arms around Andy in a tight hug. Andy immediately relaxed. "Are you dining with us?"

"I am," she said. "Sorry I haven't been very sociable lately, but I wanted to see you all. I've missed you."

"We missed you too," Serena said with a gentle smile. "Come, sit next to me."

As it so happened, nobody treated her any differently. Well, Emily still glared daggers at her, but it seemed she'd calmed down somewhat over the past few days. Nigel sat to Andy's left, and he patted her on the back when she sat down.

"Well, look who finally deigned to bestow her royal presence on us common folk," he drawled, but his tone was amused and his smile true. "Good to see you, Princess."

Andy rolled her eyes at the familiar nickname, but she couldn't fight back a grin.

"It's good to be here," she said. "So, did anything happen while I was hiding away?"

Nigel snorted and, with the help of Serena, proceeded to tell Andy a few anecdotes of any importance that happened. Most notably, Cara and Roy had gotten drunk together one night and ended up falling asleep side by side on the main deck, and now there was a somewhat subtle bet going around the rest of the crew regarding how long it would take them to finally be together. 

Andy had to physically restrain herself from jumping up in glee. Cara would certainly not appreciate it, and she still intimidated Andy - more so than anyone else on this ship, now that Miranda did not frighten her. Much.

In a matter of minutes, Andy was laughing and conversing with everyone around the table. Nobody treated her any differently, apart from the few contemplative or approving glances she received, but it was a weight lifted off her shoulders that what Miranda had told her was true. Maybe she really was part of this family now. Her throat tightened with emotion just thinking about it.

Just as Cara set down the last plate of food, the door to the forecastle opened, and Andy froze in surprise when she saw who was at the other side.

Captain Miranda Priestly stood tall and regal as she glanced around the room. Her expression was calm and aloof, but Andy could see the tension in her shoulders, the lines around her eyes and mouth. The conversation died down immediately, and Andy almost winced at the strange tension that filled the air. Miranda was a force of nature, always commanding attention and drawing all eyes no matter where she was, but this time felt different.

"Captain," Nigel stood in greeting, and the rest of the men scrambled to follow suit. "Is there anything you need?

Miranda's jaw clenched, but she stayed quiet. Her eyes landed on Andy, the expression on her face so unrecognisable that Andy's heart squeezed in her chest. For the first time, Miranda looked genuinely unsure and uncomfortable. Andy decided she did not like that look at all.

With a wide smile, Andy jumped up from her chair and gestured with her hand for Miranda to take the proffered seat. There was only a second's hesitation before Miranda's posture straightened and she strode into the room like it was the most normal thing in the world for her to join her crew for dinner. She elegantly took Andy's vacated seat and sent Andy a grateful look. Andy gently squeezed her shoulder in response.

When the crew finally realised what was happening, they jumped back into their abandoned conversations. Andy could at least appreciate their discretion, even though they did look baffled by their Captain's sudden presence after thirty years of taking her meals alone.

Cara set an extra plate for Miranda, giving a knowing little smile that Miranda ignored. With her hand still gently poised upon her lover's shoulder, Andy looked around for a spare chair. Noticing this, Redbeard jumped into action and raced across the room to grab the only spare one left, before setting it down next to Miranda. He bowed with a flourish towards Andy, earning a laugh for his theatrics. It was the perfect ice breaker.

Andy took the empty seat, squeezing Miranda's shoulder one last time before letting go. Miranda sent her a fond look, all bright eyes and gentle curve of her lips. Then her expression became stern.

"We shall not speak of this," she said, but her tone was too fond to come across as haughty as she'd intended.

"I didn't say anything!" Andy defended herself with faux indignation.

"You didn't have to," Miranda deadpanned. "I can see it written all over your face."

Miranda waved her finger towards Andy's face with a disapproving purse of her lips, but Andy just rolled her eyes. When she looked back towards Miranda, the banter seemed to melt away, leaving honest expressions on both their faces that spoke of words they had not yet said.

"I'm glad you're here," Andy murmured. Her heart felt so full of love and happiness in that moment, sitting next to her beloved and surrounded by her newfound family.

Something in her voice, or maybe her eyes, made Miranda's expression soften, and Andy knew that if they were alone, Miranda would have kissed her. Instead, she hummed in that quiet way of hers before tucking into her food. On Miranda's other side, Nigel leaned closer to murmur a few words, redirecting her attention toward his right hand man. Andy watched them with a smile until someone poked her shoulder.

"Hey," Serena said with a knowing grin. "Enough swooning. When are we going to sword fight again?"

Andy laughed, and felt utterly content.

 

.oOo.

 

Serena was, in fact, not the person Andy decided to sword fight. The morning after their dinner with the crew, and after a night spent thoroughly worshipping Miranda’s body, Andy was feeling particularly smug. The way Miranda had cried out and trembled beneath her made her feel invincible, so as they got ready to eat breakfast, Andy had barely considered the words before they flew out of her mouth.

“I challenge you to a duel.”

Miranda startled and looked at her with raised eyebrows. Andy did so love catching Miranda off guard.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me,” Andy said with a smirk. She made her way over to her stunned lover, wrapping her arms around her shoulders and pressing their chests together suggestively. Miranda’s bewilderment faded in an instant. “I challenge you to a duel.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Andrea,” Miranda drawled with a roll of her eyes, but her hands came up to rest on Andy’s hips. 

“I’m not,” Andy insisted. “Who better to teach me than the ruthless Captain Priestly herself? That is… unless you’re too intimidated by me.”

Miranda let out a bark of laughter at that.

“Me? Intimidated?” A sharp eyebrow rose. “Do you know who you are speaking to?”

Andy narrowed her eyes defiantly, valiantly fighting back a smile at the laughter dancing in bright blue eyes. An amused Miranda was so very enchanting, after all.

“I regret being the bearer of bad news, darling,” Miranda continued. “But nothing intimidates me, let alone a proud little rich girl who only held a real sword for the first time less than a month ago.”

Andy gasped in mock outrage, placing a hand over her chest theatrically.

“You wound me, Captain!” she exclaimed. “I shall be even more insistent on this duel now. Since I am merely a proud little rich girl with hardly any fighting experience, surely you have no reason to say no?”

With their easy banter and shining eyes, Miranda’s pursed lips hardly had the intended effect. After a moment of contemplating one another - Andy’s expression defiant, Miranda’s thoroughly amused - the Captain tilted her head.

“All right,” she declared. “I accept your challenge. But don’t come crying to me when you endure a humiliating defeat.”

“Just you wait, Captain,” Andy shot back, and pinched Miranda’s side for good measure. Miranda squirmed away from Andy’s wandering fingers and sent her an incensed glare. Luckily, Andy was no longer affected by such things. “Just you wait.”

Less than two hours later, after a quick breakfast of eggs and fruit, they stood in the middle of the main deck, swords drawn and standing tall. The crew had gathered around to eagerly watch them, and Andy tried to fight back the nervousness that threatened to spill over her. It had seemed like a fine idea at first, but now, standing before the fearsome Captain Priestly in all her glory, with her glinting sword and sharp blue eyes, dressed in a flowing black coat that looked more like armor, and with the entire crew watching from the sidelines, Andy knew this would not end well for her.

Of course, Miranda would never hurt her. Andy still vividly remembered the way Miranda had defended her against the Naval soldier. How she had been like a wild animal, raging and ferocious; how she had run to Andy afterwards, her agonised, worried eyes and tender touch as she assessed Andy’s wounds. 

Miranda would never hurt her, no, but Andy was sure she was about to endure an embarrassing public humiliation.

“You can always back out, you know,” Miranda said with a knowing smirk. “Admit defeat, and I shall honour your wishes.”

“No, thank you,” Andy politely declined. She adjusted her stance so her feet were further apart, knees slightly bent. “It’s not like I can demand Parley now, is it?”

Miranda’s low chuckle washed away Andy’s nerves like water. There was scattered, muffled laughter from the crew, and Andy grinned.

“As you wish,” Miranda conceded, and made the first move.

Andy could tell Miranda was going easy on her - she was not using nearly half the strength Andy knew she had, and her attacks were predictable and slow enough that Andy could easily defend herself. The only issue was Miranda’s bemused expression. Her lips were curled at the corners, and her eyes glinted with glee and something darker, more provocative - the kind of look she got whenever Andy took the initiative in bed. It was utterly distracting, especially because Andy could feel the heat of Miranda’s gaze blooming in the depths of her abdomen even as she tried to keep her mind on the task at hand.

She needed some form of advantage. If she was going to be defeated, Andy was going to at least put up a fight. So, when Miranda swung her sword to her right in yet another predictable move, Andy shot to the left and arched her sword towards Miranda’s abdomen. Miranda had the reflexes of a wild cat, however, and easily blocked Andy’s attack. Surprise flashed in her eyes, and then something that looked a lot like pride. Andy sent her a grin. 

From the sidelines, Serena cheered, and Andy glanced at her reflexively. In that small instant, however, Miranda twisted her sword once more and Andy hastily drew hers up until they clashed in a cross and stayed there. With a triumphant, arrogant smirk, Miranda leaned closer.

“Never take your eyes off your opponent, Andrea.”

“Well, that shouldn’t be a problem right now,” Andy replied softly, batting her eyelashes. “Since I find it almost impossible to take my eyes off you.”

Miranda snorted at the obvious flirtation, then tusked as she quickly moved away.

“You must do better than that to distract me, darling.”

“Who said I was trying to distract you?” Andy asked, and did her favourite attacking manoeuvre. Miranda easily blocked it, raising a sardonic eyebrow at the obvious move. “Maybe I was telling the truth, dearest one.”

“Be that as it may,” she drawled, and sent an attack of her own. Andy evaded it, but she could tell Miranda was getting more into her fighting spirit. “They don’t call me Dragon of the Seas for nothing, dear.”

For the next hour, Miranda thoroughly reminded Andy that her generous, gentle lover was, indeed, the most deadly pirate of all. Miranda did not go too hard on her, mercifully, and Andy knew she was being uncharacteristically benevolent. Regardless, Andy was finding it more and more difficult to keep up. She gave all she could, of course, and was thoroughly proud (and more than a little aroused) at seeing Miranda’s cheeks flushed from exertion, tendrils of hair sticking to her nape and brow. Andy herself was in a much worse state, and she could tell by the way Miranda’s eyes eagerly drank her in that her opponent was having very similar feelings.

Miranda’s sword shot through the air, and in her attempt to avoid it, Andy stumbled before falling on her backside. She took a moment to catch her breath, already knowing that the duel was coming to an end. Miranda seemed to read her mind, for she came forward and offered Andy a helping hand. Andy glared at it, then at Miranda, but where she’d expected to see taunting arrogance, she only found amusement and warmth.

“Truce?” Miranda offered with a soft smile.

Andy rolled her eyes, but accepted the offered hand. Miranda lifted her up easily, and Andy was once again taken by the sheer strength and power of her lover. The heat that had blossomed at certain points during their match now came back with full force, and she almost lost her breath when she came face to face with the object of her adoration.

“Truce,” she breathed. 

“Hm.” Miranda’s eyes flickered all over her face, down her neck, before she seemed to snap out of whatever reverie had overtaken her. Andy wished she could say the same for herself. 

She vaguely heard Miranda address her crew, the soft, commanding voice steady as she ordered everyone back to their duties. Miranda’s hand at her lower back led Andy towards the Captain’s chambers, and her heart sped up faster than it had during the entirety of their duel.

The moment the door shut behind them, Miranda pushed Andy against the wall, pressing their heated bodies together and kissing her as if they had not kissed for months. Miranda’s hands roamed Andy’s body, gripping her hips, her thighs, her breasts, until Andy was breathless. It was almost too much.

“Water,” she rasped. “Miranda-”

Miranda groaned, but pulled away enough to fill a goblet of water from the table. She passed it to Andy, who gulped it down eagerly while Miranda kissed and licked her neck, trailing the droplets that ran down her throat as she drank. When Andy’s thirst was sated, she offered the goblet to Miranda, who downed the remaining water before dropping it with a clang that did nothing to distract them from the urgent matter at hand. Andy was about to propose they divest of their clothing and at least go to bed when Miranda lips took hers in a fervent kiss.

Andy moaned and gripped at Miranda’s strong shoulders, feeling lightheaded. Miranda seemed in a hurry this time, after days of taking their time exploring one another, being gentle and rough and giving Andy everything she didn’t know she’d wanted. This time, Miranda was in a frenzy, kissing and licking and biting everywhere she could reach, her hands roaming all over Andy’s body with ceaseless intent.

Before Andy knew it, Miranda had her hand beneath her trousers and her fingers were sliding inside her with hardly any effort at all. Overcome, Andy threw her head back and bit her lip to silence a loud moan. She got lost in the sensation of Miranda, trying to keep quiet as Miranda’s mouth devoured her and her fingers set a quick, hard pace between her legs. Andy clutched at Miranda’s shoulders, her hair, the lapels of her coat. Her knees were trembling so much that the only reason she remained upright at all was Miranda’s body pinning her against the wall.

It took no time at all. Miranda curled her fingers in that way that drove Andy crazy, and her thumb pressed against that special, sensitive spot, and Andy’s whole body shook as she was plunged into waves of heat and ecstasy. She lost control of herself entirely, and would have screamed her release if it were not for Mirand’s mouth muffling her sounds of pleasure.

When Andy finally came back to herself, she was slumped against the wall in a breathless heap, with Miranda’s fingers still inside her, her body steady and warm against Andy. Miranda’s face was buried in the crook of her neck, and the tension had completely faded from her shoulders, as if taking Andy so thoroughly had brought her equal amounts of pleasure and left her sated and relaxed.

“If this is what I get for duelling you,” Andy rasped. “I might have to challenge you more often.”

Miranda chuckled against the sensitive skin of her throat, and gave her a playful nip for good measure.

 

.oOo.

 

Andy knocked on the dark oak door three times, and patiently waited for her lover’s smooth voice to grant her entry.

Even though the Captain’s chambers had been Andy’s abode for the past several weeks, Andy took care to respect Miranda’s privacy when she was busy working, or in one of her moods. Sometimes, Miranda needed to be alone in her own private haven, away from her responsibilities as Captain of the most notorious pirate crew to sail the seas. Andy could understand. It’s why she occasionally used her old room to lounge and read without having anyone around. 

Truth be told, she usually went to her favourite place, at the bow of the ship, if she wanted to be by herself for a while and bask in the freedom and happiness of her new life. Sometimes, however, she wanted to be away from other sounds of the crew at work, or simply somewhere where nobody could perceive her, so her old room suited her just fine on those occasions.

Regardless, she was always invited to Miranda’s bed every night, and Andy would never reject such an offer. For someone who had never had to share a bedroom - let alone a bed - with someone, Andy had taken to it very easily with Miranda. Despite the Captain’s prickly, often brooding demeanour, she was surprisingly generous of her time and space. At least towards Andy. She knew better than to take such a wonderful thing for granted.

So, Andy’s possessions had been brought up to Miranda’s chambers, and the older woman had not hesitated in making space for them. Certainly, Andy did not have much to her name, but she appreciated the gesture regardless.

Not only had Andy easily taken to sharing a bed with Miranda, she had also taken to love making with utter ease. Even Miranda had seemed surprised. As it turned out, Andy was born to love women. Or one woman in particular, at least. There was nothing Miranda could ask of her that Andy was unwilling to try, and her curiosity for the world around her was also very much present in their bed. She had often caught the look of wonder or awe, or even bafflement on Miranda’s face when Andy proposed that they try something new. Or when Andy would worship Miranda for hours on end, never tiring, her passion never dulling, until Miranda begged for mercy.

That in particular was Andy’s favourite thing to do. She had become addicted to driving Miranda wild with desire, to making her lose all semblance of control or self-restraint, and then, when Miranda was trembling and desperate, Andy gave in and loved Miranda as thoroughly as she could, for as long as she could, until Miranda could take no more.

“Come,” Miranda’s voice carried through the door.

Brought back into the moment, Andy almost snickered at Miranda’s perfect timing. Careful not to spill either of the goblets she carried, she pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Miranda was at her desk, pouring over maps and scrolls with undivided attention. The waning sun shone through the tall windows behind her, draping her silhouette in gold. She was dressed in silver and white, and for a moment Andy thought that if angels did exist, they would look remarkably like the woman before her.

With a smile upon her lips and a familiar warmth in her chest, Andy glided further into the room.

“Hey,” she said softly, rounding the desk to lean against it beside Miranda and placing one of the goblets down.

Miranda hummed distractedly, her eyes flitting over the page before her. Andy knew very well that Miranda, when concentrating on a task, got completely swept up in it. Andy herself had been the subject of such devoted attention, and it was something she cherished about her lover. Luckily for her, Andy had a secret weapon to distract Miranda.

“I brought wine,” she said, using that tone of voice that made Miranda lose her composure.

Miranda blinked and looked up, seeming surprised to see Andy standing there.

“Oh,” she said, and Andy watched as her expression softened until she regarded Andy so tenderly that her heart ached. “Andrea.”

The mere sound of her name rolling off Miranda’s tongue with such warmth and affection made Andy’s smile widen.

“Hello, beautiful,” Andy said, and leaned down to kiss her.

This time, Miranda’s hum was one of delight as their lips brushed.

“Hello yourself,” she murmured. “What time is it?”

“You’ve been here for almost four hours. I thought I would bring you an appetizer before we go join the crew for dinner. Cara made roasted turkey with potatoes and vegetables.”

“Roy’s favourite,” Miranda quipped with a small smile. She reached for the goblet Andy had placed on the table and tilted it towards Andy. With an indulgent smile, Andy clinked their goblets in the same manner they always did before indulging together.

After they revelled in the deep flavour of wine, Miranda sighed and relaxed against her chair.

“Thank you,” she said, bright blue eyes gazing up at Andy.

“Of course.” Andy did not have to ask why Miranda was thanking her. She already knew.

“Now, then.” Miranda grasped Andy’s wrist and pulled her until Andy dropped onto her lap. Andy laughed and tried not to spill any of her drink. “Tell me what you’ve been up to, darling.”

With Miranda’s body pressed against her, and her strong arms wrapped around her waist, Andy could not help but melt into the sensation. Thank the heavens Miranda’s chair was large enough to be a throne, and Andy was quite comfortable sitting across Miranda’s thighs. She tucked her legs together so they pressed against the side of Miranda’s hip, and wrapped her arm around Miranda’s shoulders.

“Not much.” Andy shrugged. “I’ve just been reading and talking to Nigel. He told me to tell you that we’ll be making port in Tortuga in about two day’s time.”

“Wonderful. You could buy me more flowers while we’re there,” Miranda teased.

Andy rolled her eyes. “We’ve been through this. I had no idea what I was doing back then.”

Miranda chuckled. She was always amused by Andy’s initial attempts at wooing Miranda, even though Andy hadn’t known that was, in fact, exactly what she’d been doing.

“Thankfully, I stepped in so you wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown about how to romance a pirate Captain. It all worked out in the end, didn’t it?”

“Hey, I figured a few things out on my own.” Andy remarked, and raised her eyebrows defiantly. “I kissed you first, remember?”

“How could I forget?” Miranda said, smiling, and then leaned forward to kiss Andy. 

It really did feel like that first time they kissed, alone amongst the waves and bathed in moonlight. The thrill was still there, Andy’s body still came alive with Miranda’s touch. She wondered if the sensation would ever fade. She hoped it wouldn’t.

When they broke apart, Andy sighed contentedly, and settled further against Miranda’s chest.

“What are you working on?” she asked, glancing at the scattered parchment on the desk.

“I’m debating where our next destination should be, and working out potential passages and headings that would be best for this time of year,” Miranda answered, picking up a large map and offering it to Andy.

Andy took it and inspected it, studying the precise, faint lines Miranda had marked on it, both old and new. Miranda was a woman of action, always searching for the next big project, an adventure, a treasure to be found. She sailed the world with firm intent, leading her crew from one place to the next.

“What are your options?” Andy wondered, eagerly anticipating wherever Miranda took them next. 

They’d sailed south for several weeks, exploring the coast and the islands they came across. According to Nigel, they had not done so - leisurely exploring the world just for the sake of it - in a very long time. Andy had a suspicion Miranda had chosen to do so now because of Andy. The expression on Miranda’s face was always tender and besotted whenever Andy admired something beautiful or got excited about an unknown place. It made Andy fall even more in love with her for it.

Instead of answering immediately, Miranda regarded her silently for a moment, until Andy turned to look at her.

“Where would you like to go?” Miranda said softly. Andy blinked, taken aback. Miranda smiled, amused by her astounded expression. “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?” Miranda repeated. Her grip tightened around Andy’s waist, and she tilted her chin towards the map. “The world is ours, Andrea.”

“Oh,” Andy breathed. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she was momentarily dazed by Miranda’s words. Miranda’s expression. Miranda’s power, granting Andy the freedom she’d always dreamed of. It took several moments for the overwhelming emotions to calm, and once she had a clearer head, words tore past her lips without a thought. “I want to find my parents.”

She surprised herself with her answer. Truthfully, she had not even considered the notion, had not known it was what she wanted until she said it aloud. Miranda, however, looked calm and unfazed. She nodded and brought Andy closer still.

“Alright,” she said, and raised a hand to run her fingers through Andy’s hair soothingly. “We will find them. I’ll take care of it.”

Andy felt an entire lifetime’s worth of loss and grief slowly slip away from her. A heaviness she hadn’t known she’d been carrying lifted from her shoulders, and the absence of that pressure made her body melt into Miranda. She tucked her face into Miranda’s neck, inhaling the comforting scent, and closed her eyes. Miranda’s fingers continued to gently stroke through her hair, her other arm wrapped around her middle, and Andy knew that everything would be alright.

Andy felt overwhelmed once more, but for an entirely different reason. Her eyes stung with emotion as her hold on Miranda tightened.

“I love you.”

The whispered confession fluttered against Miranda’s skin, but Andy dared not open her eyes. She knew Miranda cared for her just as deeply, but Andy had never said those words to anyone before, and it was more terrifying than anything Andy had ever done. More than fighting the pirates that invaded her home, more than standing up to the fearsome Dragon of the Seas, more than realising her true feelings for Miranda, or buying her flowers, or kissing her under the full moon. But Andy’s fears dissolved into nothingness as Miranda’s fingers left her hair and cupped her jaw to tilt her head so their eyes met.

Miranda’s blue eyes shone brighter than Andy had ever seen them. She gazed at Andy with reverence and adoration and happiness and a thousand other emotions that stole Andy’s breath away.

“Andrea,” Miranda murmured, her voice quiet and laden with meaning. “My darling Andrea. I love you, too.”

Andy barely felt the tears that spilled over cheeks. The beauty of Miranda, the look in her eyes and the softness of her face mesmerised Andy. She was swept up in it all, in the love between them, in the feeling of relief and joy, of finally being home.

With the most tender smile, Miranda cupped her cheek and leant forward, and Andy closed her eyes when she felt Miranda’s forehead lean against her own. Letting out a shuddering sigh, she let herself relax, soothed by Miranda’s thumb gently wiping away her tears.

“I love you.”

They stayed close together, breathing the same air, foreheads touching. In the quiet of their chambers, they had engraved themselves to one another, sown their hearts together as one.

They remained holding each other even as the sun sunk into the sea, and the moon rose to light their way.

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.