At the Norrington house, right around bedtime, Nicollette stood in the doorway of the kitchen with Edmund Jasper, Norrington’s butler, and observed the disarray in her midst.

“This is a hot, steaming pile of excrement,” Nicollette remarked.

“I concur, milady,” Jasper agreed grimly.

Jessica’s fit of emotion had culminated in the near destruction of the kitchen. Flour was strewn upon every surface, and the Mistress herself was covered in it. Dozens of loaves of bread of varying sizes and shapes rested on available surfaces. The air was stifling with heat and fury. Nicollette valued her life, but she knew if Jessica wasn’t stopped she’d go through the complete supply of flour for the entire month. Unfortunately Walmart hadn’t been invented yet.

“I’m going in,” she muttered and rolled her shoulders. She executed a couple of lunges for good measure. “Cover my back, Jasper.”

“You’re a brave young lady, Miss Smith,” Jasper said. Words, Nicollette mused. As it always did whenever she tried to approach Jessica in a rage, “Golden Queen Galaxia” played in her head. It was a shame no one would get the reference.

She sucked in a breath and darted into danger. Jessica currently pounded into a mound of dough with enough force to knock it into the middle of the Earth. Nicollette wasn’t sure how her arms were keeping up at this pace. Or how the house hadn’t collapsed into itself. As she inched closer, she found that Jessica was muttering under her breath. “Um, Jessica?” Nicollette hedged.

“…that bloody piss-for-brains wanker…ordering me around like me knows what’s best…I ought to chop off his genitalia…” And at that moment she picked up a rather large meat cleaver and hacked into that poor, defenseless flour with one decisive move.

Nicollette yelped and had to keep herself from spontaneous urination. Heart racing, she grabbed Jessica’s wrist with a vise-like grip that still didn’t feel quite strong enough.

“Jessica?!” Nicollette cried. “Earth to Captain Jay! This is Starfleet, do you copy?”

Confusion broke through Jessica’s anger. “What?” she asked, genuinely perplexed.

Nicollette waited a long, humming moment before she spoke. She made sure her gaze did not leave the other woman’s face. Or the weapon in her peripheral. “Jessica, it’s me, Nicollette. Do you know what day it is? What’s your birthdate? Do you know who the President is?”

Jessica sighed in frustration and yanked her arm out of Nicollette’s grasp. Luckily she put the cleaver away. “What are you bloody going on about? I know damn well what day it is.”

“O…kay.” Nicollette nodded slowly. “But are you aware that you just made like 150 loaves of bread? I’m pretty sure that’s an all-time record. You need a rest, girl. And maybe a nice bubble bath with some fragrant salts…”

As her steam started to dissipate, she deflated then rubbed her eyebrow with the back of her dusty hand. “I’ve made a mess, haven’t I?”

Nicollette could see the downturn of her anger and where it was heading. “Eh…you know…I mean…” Oh screw it. “Okay yeah. This is a pretty big mess. This is the Mount Vesuvius of messes.” Jessica sniffed and it was an ominous sound. “But we got this though! Hey Jasper!”

Jasper appeared cautiously in the doorway. “Yes, milady?”

At the sound of his voice, Jessica turned sheepishly. “Oh Jasper, I am so sorry that I threw that loaf of bread at you. I was…rather upset earlier. Can you forgive my foolishness?”

“Apology accepted, milady,” Jasper said kindly, bearing no ill will whatsoever. “Now perhaps we should make amends of this mess before the Master arrives home.”

Jessica, as if awoken out of a dream, blinked and looked around. “Why, that’s strange. It seems rather late.”

Nicollette and Jasper shared a glance. “Yes, and so we oughta get crackin’!” Nicollette suggested, grabbing a rag and some soap with gusto. As Jessica followed suit, and Jasper went to put the the loaves away, she hoped that the clean-up efforts would steer Jessica away from the more obvious question: Where is Commodore Norrington?

* * *

The man in question lowered his spyglass and stifled a yawn. The waters were calm this evening, a fact that did not assuage his fatigue in the slightest. Below him his younger officers took up posts as well, while the others—more senior officers—had the luxury of getting most of their sleep while it was dark. He kept things as fair as he could, especially after the events of the past several months. In a couple of weeks it would be inverted. Perhaps the evening watch wouldn’t be so bad, considering he might not want to go home.

As he collapsed the spyglass, the gold on his left hand glinted in the moonlight. Thinking of his wedding day, he slid the circle off his finger to read the inscription. Through every storm, my love shines for infinity—Jessica.

He smiled faintly, thinking of that very last storm, the worst one. They had been up against Jessica’s aunt who wielded a powerful enchantment to control a legendary sea dragon through Claudia, and Jessica, according to the folklore that her grandfather had imparted upon her, possessed the means to end the dominance—with her katana.

He had begged her, as the sea thundered around them, to allow for him and his crew to withdraw in the Dauntless. The risk had been too great. His intention had been to take her with him but she ardently refused. If this is the sum total of the significance of my life right here right at this very moment, then…the risk seems fair enough. After that statement, she’d hugged—not kissed—him and whispered, This is the chance for you to fulfill your mission, Commodore. Take it.

She had meant with her death and the safe return of Claudia, he would be absolved of any wrongdoing and receive the promotion that Cutler Beckett had promised him. She had gleaned during their time together searching for her sister that both of those things were important to him. In the end, Jessica barely escaped death—but he had been the one to strike Delia Vargas with the killing blow.


Norrington was jolted out of his reverie by a familiar but unexpected voice. He turned to find Governor Swann walking toward him appearing as puzzled as he himself felt. He had not seen the Governor this close since Elizabeth and Will’s wedding (his own had been prepared hastily, and the Governor had not been able to attend when it occurred).

“Good evening, Governor,” Norrington greeted him, frowning. “It’s rather late for you to be out. Is everything all right?”

“I am perfectly fine, and I daresay it is rather late for you as well.” He tilted his head and peered more closely at the younger man. “I can detect the weight of marital problems on you, Commodore Norrington. They are not an easy weight to bear.”

“It’s nothing,” Norrington assured him, hoping he sounded blithe enough to escape this impending conversation.

However, he was too transparent. Governor Swann smiled knowingly. “I had heard that the Captain is worried about you,” Swann remarked. It took Norrington a moment to realize his source was Elizabeth. He hated the idea of being the subject of town gossip, and conversation between friends seemed more palatable. “Should she be?”

“Some of the new officers are a bit inexperienced,” Norrington revealed. “Nothing a little arduous training won’t cure.”

“That’s the thing about women. They often notice things that we men tend to gloss over. Your wife absolutely stunned me the first time I saw her and I will never forget it.”

So this is Captain Jay. I expected—

A man? 

“I think she stunned us all a bit that day in the harbor,” Norrington recalled.

Governor Swann chuckled. “Oh no, Commodore. I wasn’t referring to that, although that was an adequate showing of her character. I had crossed paths with the Captain before she was a captain. It was in London, right after her mother died.” He paused for a moment and looked out over the expanse as Norrington looked at him avidly. “I am not entirely sure she remembers. I barely remembered it myself until a few weeks ago. Elizabeth had been a small child, and I had been dealing with my own loss. It had been after some state function for His Majesty, and it appeared that her father was attempting to match her with some inept courtier who could barely keep his hat on straight before he was making eye contact with another girl. She couldn’t have been any more than twelve, but she took a look at that young man, then looked at her father and said, Father, I deserve better than this. She didn’t raise her voice or cry. She made the assertion like it was a natural fact. Father, I deserve better than this. And when her father argued, she excused herself in the middle of his tirade, and merely walked away.”

Norrington tried to imagine Jessica as a young girl, a smaller version of her current self. She rarely spoke about her childhood except to recount the injustice inflicted by her late father. She avoided the subject of her mother the way a person protected a throbbing wound. Most of his body of knowledge in that regard had been supplied by Admiral Merrell during that theatrical dinner at Fort Hamilton. Other details Claudia had reluctantly given him. It may have been the tragic fact that both of them were virtual orphans, but he hadn’t imparted much information about his parents, either.

“But I digress, Commodore,” Swann said, warding off the detour with a wave of his hand. “I hardly mean to bore you with my memories. Obviously I hold your wife in high regard, and with good reason.” He placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Whatever it is that is troubling you both, I assure you, can be amended. Will you please try? Even if the circumstances are…let’s say, a little more complicated than they seem on the surface?”

Norrington smiled faintly, understanding his meaning. “Yes, Governor Swann, I will.”

* * *

After a couple of hours, and some elbow grease, the kitchen gleamed clean once again. Jessica tiredly thanked Jasper for his help before Nicollette whisked her away for a bath. Well, in current terms. Nicollette didn’t feel like screwing with history anymore than she already had by trying to explain indoor plumbing.

As Jessica freshened up and dressed for bed, she too noticed her wedding ring. In her life as a pirate, she had donned gaudy and more expensive pieces, but nothing meant more to her than this simple inscribed gold band. She sighed and glanced at the clock on the wall.

Stop it,” Nicollette chided as if she were speaking to an errant puppy. Jessica whirled around in surprise. Nicollette was giving her a stern look that she felt was hardly warranted.

“What are you on about now, Nicollette? I haven’t even done anything.”

“Girl, I can tell you’re over there moping.”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “If you’re referring to my subdued countenance, I am simply questioning the events of this afternoon.”

Nicollette crossed her arms over her chest. “Jess, I hope you’re not to say what I think you’re about to say.” When Jessica said nothing, Nicollette emitted a noise that sounded like she was being strangled. “Captain, you are legit the baddest bitch this side of the Atlantic. And you’re going to let some silly boys whose balls have barely dropped steal your self-confidence? You used to eat assholes like them for appetizers!”

“I’m married now,” Jessica pointed out, cringing on the inside at the flimsy statement even as she spoke. “I am someone’s wife. A Commodore’s wife, lest you forget.”

“It doesn’t mean you’re dead,” Nicollette muttered. “They need to learn some respect.”

Jessica shook her head tiredly. If she gave in to that voice that echoed Nicollette’s sentiments, she feared she’d find this life she created utterly lost. “I’m not the one to teach them.”

“The hell you aren’t!” Nicollette shifted, deciding to take another approach. “Okay, okay—fine. So they’re off-limits. Then let Norrington handle them.”

As Nicollette expected, that made Jessica even more agitated. “I can hardly go to my husband whenever I have a disagreement or someone addresses me with an offensive word. Yes I’m his wife, but I’m not a simpering fool.”

Nicollette stared at her for a long moment before speaking again. “All right, Captain Jay. So there seems to be an issue here that you and Commodore need to resolve. A pact needs to be made between both involved parties.”

“That would be fairly simple…” Jessica made an expansive gesture to include the room. “…except the Commodore isn’t here.”

Nicollette made her way to the doorway muttering about cell phones and GPS tracking. She called out for Jasper who appeared as if conjured out of thin air. “Are you in need of me, milady?”

“Jasper,” Jessica began slowly, “where is my husband? I think you know.”

The older man looked slightly uncomfortable. “You have judged correctly, Mrs. Norrington. He sent a note by messenger while you were…occupied.”

Jessica rose in alarm. “Is he all right?”

“I am sure he is perfectly fine aside from his needing a good night sleep.” Jasper’s tone carried an undertone of chiding in it which made Jessica lower her head. Frowning, she went to the closet and perused the rack. She settled on a jacket and threw it over her arm while she rummaged on the floor for footwear.

“You’re not going to Fort Charles are you?” Nicollette asked, the pitch of her voice rising a couple of octaves. “At this time of the night? Where you might get…shot?”

“Perhaps I am,” she murmured. “Like you said, there is an issue here that the Commodore and I need to resolve.” She said nothing more as she stalked out—in her bedgown, no less—pulling on her boots and the Commodore’s jacket. A few seconds later, the front door opened and closed.


“Well…at least she isn’t armed,” Nicollette noted.

“Things are looking up, milady,” Jasper remarked, and then the duo bid each other good night. Nicollette decided she wasn’t going to worry about it anymore unless either the Commodore or the Captain came up missing.

* * *

At this time of the night, the town of Port Royal was winding down from its evening, and its upstanding citizens were making their way home while the more adventurous types continued their evening activities. Jessica, oddly clad in her night gown, one of her husband’s jackets and her favorite boots, marched through the town without paying attention to any of them. They seemed to be benign, and behaving, so there was no reason for her to intercede.

Unfortunately, one of them decided to intrude upon her journey.

A young woman in boy’s clothes and a tricorn hat darted out of a tavern yelling at the top of her lungs. Based on her tone and choice of words, she had been addressed with unwarranted disrespect. Jessica nearly lashed out with annoyance before she realized who had stumbled into her arms.

She blinked down at her baby sister in shock. “Gretchen?”

The raven-haired young woman blinked at the familiar address, then paled considerably when comprehension dawned. “Jess? What are you doing here?” Her shock quickly was overcome by bemusement. A frown marred her pretty features. “And why are you in your nightgown?”

“Come back ‘ere you bleeding ‘arlot!” exclaimed a rough male voice. Jessica, tired and more susceptible to her baser urges for violence, cracked her knuckles and excused herself for a moment. When she returned, those ribald shouts were replaced with cries of pain in her wake. Her eyes were dark with fierceness as she pulled her sister away from the scene amid the stares.

“What were you doing there?” Jessica demanded archly. “That is no place for any sister of mine. You should be at home with Claudia and Samantha.”

Gretchen rolled her eyes, showing her youth, and shook her head. “As if we didn’t encounter worse places during our travels on the Diamond. I can take care of myself, hermana. Besides, I’m not the one who looks out of place at the moment.” She tilted her head when Jessica remained stonily silent. “I heard about the dust-up at the Fort between you and ol’ Norrie. I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” Her green eyes brightened with anticipation. “Are you going to go get him? Right now? Is that why you’re in your nightgown?” She sighed gustily. “That is so romantic. Please tell me I can watch.”

Jessica, on the verge of fussing at her little sister over her misplaced optimism, had a sudden thought. After the events earlier that day, her husband might have ordered them not to grant her entry. She fumed, filling with steam again, and placed her hands on her sister’s shoulders. During one of her detainments she noted the watch pattern. She hoped her husband hadn’t changed it yet.

“Gretchen,” she began, “I need your help.”

* * *

Very close to midnight, Commodore Norrington heard a ruckus.

He had been deep in thought, mulling over his conversation with Governor Swann and the information he sought out as a result. What he learned from his inquiry into the events in the courtyard troubled him greatly and nearly culminated into him yanking some officers out of slumber for a dressing down. He changed his mind after an attack of prudence and decided to address his officers in the morning as a whole.

The high-pitched sound of a woman’s laughter and drunken babbling bounced off the walls. He could not hear exactly what was being said since he was too far away to discern the individual words but he could tell whatever it was came from the entrance. Brow furrowed, he removed his spyglass and scanned the expanse. From this distance, he could see Murtogg and Mullroy attempting to subdue a dark-haired female who stumbled with every step. Her words were thick with inebriation and gaiety, and it was clear that she intended no harm. However, a nagging suspicion crept up his spine. Something about that girl was familiar…

A flash of brightness went across his scope then disappeared. Eyes narrowed, he lowered the spyglass and relied on his natural vision. A few feet inside the entrance to the Fort, mostly hidden in shadow, was a very discernible shape of a human clad in a pale shade. He peered through the spyglass in the general direction. He saw nothing but wall…crept left…nothing but wall…crept left…nope, still the wall—there. He hovered for a moment and spied the pale visage of the form scaling the wall. The woman shifted and her gaze narrowed onto him. He knew those eyes.

The blood turned into ice in his veins. That blasted woman. “Dammit,” he swore and went for the nearest staircase.

She must have seen him move and darted out of the cover of darkness. Before she could move back into safety she had a dozen muskets pointed at her. Steady, Commodore, he cautioned himself. He stopped himself from shouting at the last minute, realizing that the predicament could escalate very easily if he lost his calm.

“Don’t move,” she was ordered by a voice that sounded like it was barely out of puberty.

“I mean no harm,” she insisted with her hands raised. “I just came here to find my husband.”

“A likely story,” one of them said. Another woman was pushed unceremoniously into the middle along with her. She had been the source of the noise, Norrington figured. “I wager she is in collusion with this one.”

Mullroy, who disliked seeing this treatment of the two unarmed women, spoke up. “Perhaps she is actually trying to find her husband.”

“She is!” the younger woman exclaimed with a baleful glare for anyone who disagreed. “He’s around here somewhere and if you’ll find him for us—”

“Wait,” Murtogg said to his comrade, appearing dubious. “What if she’s telling a lie? She sort of looks familiar. She kind of reminds me of that pirate we had stashed in the prison last summer. What was that moniker she used? Paul O’Shea?”

His wife rolled her eyes in an expression that reminded him of Jack Sparrow. “It’s Jay. Captain Raul Jay. It’s Spanish.”

Mullroy brightened with comprehension. “That’s the one!” Then he sobered. “Wait, does that mean you’re a pirate?”

The younger woman winced at his wife’s forbidding expression. She looked like she wanted to chew Mullroy’s head off. The revelation heightened the intensity of the moment and Norrington quickened his pace.

“State your intentions, pirate,” one of the other officers demanded.

Since she probably had petticoats older than he was, she raised an exasperated eyebrow. He could tell she was resisting the urge to strike the boy. “I do believe you should afford me some respect, young man. Or is it possible that you have no esteem for the female gender and would like to learn very quickly?”

“And who are you to demand such respect?”

“Would you like to test me and find out?” Jessica challenged.

Before the young man could counter, Commodore Norrington entered the scene with an unreadable expression. His hands were clasped behind his back, allowing for him to assume that stiffened posture that was his trademark and to mask their trembling. No one moved except to shift out of the Commodore’s path. He regarded his wife with a steady eye of a man who was starting to realize the depth of his lover’s feelings—and that they were slightly dangerous.

“How did you get in?” he inquired.

Shrugging as much as she could given the limits, she replied, “Employed a diversion so I could sneak past the guards.”

The other woman, whom the Commodore recognized as now as his youngest sister-in-law, threw up a spunky wave. “And I was said diversion,” she announced. The muskets moved closer. “Hey watch it there, mate! You could hurt me with that thing.”

Norrington gazed at his wife unwaveringly for a long, tense moment. She stared back, valiant and proud, but also terrified. “Stand down,” he ordered. The muskets lowered and the officers relaxed their stance. He never looked away from her and as she lowered her hands she drew herself up to her full height. He wanted to assure her she wasn’t in any danger—least of all from him. “Back to your posts, gentlemen.” As they started to make their exit, he added, “Oh and next time, do try to have a better recollection of my wife. I hardly want to hear the complaints when she bests you all in her nightgown.”

Jessica bit the inside of her cheek when she heard, That’s his wife? and the equally shocked rejoinder, She used to be a pirate? along with, We are going to be in so much trouble.

When they were alone, silence fell between them. He could feel Gretchen watching them avidly as if they were a source of entertainment and felt uncomfortable. His wife cleared her throat and side-eyed her sister meaningfully.

“Um…nice to see you again, Norrington,” Gretchen said awkwardly. Norrington shifted his stare to her, and she noticeably fidgeted when he didn’t speak. “I suppose I’d better find another spot to occupy.” Her brother-in-law merely gave her a silent nod. She shuffled away to a respectable distance but still strained to hear their exchange.

Silence still lingered between them. Hating the void, he could see the exact moment Jessica decided she’d be the one to break it. She wanted to know where she stood with him, especially after going through the effort of breaking in and nearly getting shot.

“It was foolhardy of me, but I thought they wouldn’t grant me passage so I sneaked in.” She watched his face carefully for any signs. He had schooled his features to blankness while he worked out the legion of emotions swirling in his heart. No assistance there. “I needed to see you, James. To apologize.” Still no reaction. “I allowed my emotions to steer my actions and I am very deeply sorry if I hurt you.”

He still said nothing. She hated it. He knew it. A small part of her felt that he played with her just to get the maximum effect and her eyes narrowed slightly. She wasn’t wrong. Something in his eyes changed. She thought she spied…amusement? “I had been hoping that this would be a conversation, Commodore,” Jessica said wryly. “Which usually means that there is a portion you have to uphold. Unless you just like listening to me grovel.”

“It is quite satisfying, yes,” Norrington admitted. “However, I have to admit, while your words are pleasing to my ear, I am more entranced by the sight of the clothing you chose for this adventure. Particularly this jacket that I am entirely positive belongs to me.” He reached out and touched it, lost in a memory. A smile ghosted at the edges of his mouth. “Your cousin picked this out for me when we were in London.”

Jessica peered down at herself as if seeing her ensemble for the first time. Then she laughed as the memory descended. “Ah yes, playing the Baron and the Baroness. That was quite an amusing time. Well, despite having Cutler Beckett on our heels.”

The air between them sobered again. Aching and beyond frustrated, Jessica threw her hands up in the air. “Aw bloody hell. This is silly, Commodore. Let’s go home. We can figure it out tomorrow.”

As she started to walk away, he grabbed her arm. Not roughly but firm enough to stop her. “Jessica, I…” Confusion marred Jessica’s brow as she spied the uncertainty on her husband’s face. “There is one thing that cannot wait any longer. I owe you an apology as well, for my reaction. My brusqueness was hardly warranted, especially in the presence of witnesses.”

She shifted her arm so she could clasp his hand. “Accepted, only on the single condition that I get to take you home.”

Norrington’s mouth curved upward. “We are in accord.”

The quiet moment was utterly shattered by Gretchen, who came rushing up and nearly knocked them over with relief and jubilance. Jessica grunted and her husband merely sighed. She was family.

* * *

After seeing Gretchen to her porch and enduring hugs and affectionate kisses, the Commodore and his wife trekked tiredly through their front yard. They walked together up the stairs to the front entrance to their home. He opened the door then turned around with his hand offered. “Darling?”

She smiled softly and grasped his hand. The moon lit their way as they ascended the staircase on tiptoe. She hoped not to disturb Jasper given the events of the day. Once in their bedroom, she lit a lantern and after ridding herself of the jacket and boots, sat down on their bed. She watched with affection while her husband removed his uniform, piece by piece.

“I was told what was said to you,” Norrington said softly as he hung up his waistcoat. “What made you angry.” Jessica’s eyes crackled with fury at the memory. “If you had taken out the time to explain I would have understood.”

Jessica stewed on that a moment before speaking. “I think it would have damaged things further if I had stayed, Commodore.” He frowned at that. “I fully realize what your reputation means to you. It wouldn’t bode well to show us quarreling.”

“I believe my reputation speaks for itself,” Norrington disagreed gently. “Not to mention it is not anyone’s place to disgrace you.”

“They’re just boys, darling,” Jessica said, trying to sound flippant as she pulled the sheets free so they could get under them. “And my reputation should speak for itself as well.”

“Gillette said that…you felt like your hands were bound together.” He could feel her stiffen even from this distance. “I will admit that it troubles me to entertain the thought that you would want to be free…”

Jessica shifted toward him then, eyes somber. “Gillette did not understand what I was saying and has instilled worry in you.” She exhaled, feeling the brunt of her fatigue after expending so much energy. “I wish I had the fortitude to explain, James.”

He crossed the room, wigless and vulnerable, and lowered himself onto the bed next to her. “Could you try? For me?” She hesitated and lowered her head. “This is truly difficult for you, isn’t it?”

She pressed her lips together momentarily and raised her gaze. “What I had asked Gillette was if he had ever had his hands bound together.” James remained silent, recognizing that Jessica was attempting to search for the right words. “I am always cognizant that my power in the world is finite, and because of my sex men often underestimate of what I am capable and because of my past they deem it dishonorable. But I do have power, Commodore. And I would like to wield it.”

It was her husband’s turn to choose his words carefully. “Jessica, you do realize that I am here to protect you, right? You don’t have to fight so hard anymore.”

She shook her head, eyes taking on a glossy sheen. “Of course I know that you wanker. But who’s going to protect you?”

Her words packed a wallop. He was rendered unable to breathe for long enough for Jessica to become anxious. He had misread her intentions in this predicament from first sight. She hadn’t been using her so-called power to undermine his. She was attempting to protect him.

“James? James darling, are you all right?”

He stared at her, nodding but saying nothing at first. “I am fine. I just…I didn’t realize that meant so much to you.”

She continued, firmer now, “You may think it’s silly of me to intercede, that I am meddling in serious military business that I can’t wrap my female brain around, and you may not completely comprehend what good I can actually do, but I will not have while I have two working hands and two working feet any manner of half-assed defense by inexperienced and untrained and foolish boys of the man I love. I will not having you risking your life anymore than necessary and certainly not because some action-happy git doesn’t know which way of the sword is the dangerous one. Do you understand, Commodore?” When she ended her outburst she was panting slightly.

She didn’t even realize she was crying until he reached up and thumbed a tear away.

To him, her reluctantly shed tears rammed home the meaning and emotion behind her words more than anything. He had forgotten that they had fought together. Not just against one another, and sometimes it had been harmless sparring, but alongside one another, on the same team.

“I understand, Captain,” he promised softly.

She nodded, overcome with feeling, as he brought her closer. “You better,” she choked out in an attempt to be hard, but her tone lacked heat. He wrapped his arms around her, marveling at how exposed and small she seemed. He pressed his lips to her temple, her eyelid, then her mouth. By the time he’d reached her lips, her fingertips made contact with the bare skin on his lower back under his shirt. Gently she lowered herself to the bed and pulled him with her. He could tell by the look in her eyes what she wanted. He obliged her with a new-found tenderness that staggered them both.

It certainly wasn’t intended, but they didn’t get much in the way of sleep that night.



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