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Title: Catherine and the Pirate (The Reformed Criminal Remix)
Genre: Historical romance.
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 3,716
Summary: A rewrite of the book, Catherine and the Pirate. Full summary and chapter index can be found here.



- Catherine and the Pirate (The Reformed Criminal Remix) -



Chapter 7


Catherine spent the next two days making a concerted effort to avoid Derrick. Overall, she considered herself to be quite successful in the endeavor, though it was difficult to avoid him entirely. The Sea Princess was a large ship, thankfully, but it was still just a ship at the end of the day, and there were only so many places one could roam on it. Crossing paths with anyone, Derrick or not, was nigh inevitable, and Catherine at least made sure that someone else was around when they happened to be sharing the deck together.

Derrick, for his part, similarly made no move to catch her alone, or to even speak to her at all for that matter—a fact that pleased her in one sense and vexed her in another. The fact that it vexed her at all vexed her even more, and by the end of her second day on board, Catherine had strengthened her resolve to have nothing more to do with him.

Fortunately, the crew—of all people—ended up coming to her rescue. Catherine rather suspected Smythe had something to do with their change of heart, or maybe it was Lucas, or maybe it was the simple fact that it was her brother who employed their captain, and thus, in a roundabout way, also saw that their own pockets were lined. Whatever the reason, hostility had mellowed to mere suspicion, and a few of them even started to warm up to her, tentative though they were about it.

One of her favorites, and perhaps the friendliest besides Lucas, was Tom Poole, the bosun's mate. It was his job to inspect the sails and rigging every morning, and consequently report their condition to the sailor on watch. Tom was older than most of the other crewmembers, his eyes lined by harsh weather and past smiles, his grey hair neatly tied back in a long queue and secured with a black leather string. He became a mentor of sorts, teaching her the names of every line of rigging that strung up the sails, and it was from him that she learned the Sea Princess was square-rigged and was as lightweight a ship as danced upon the water—an advantageous thing for a blockade runner, Tom explained, as it meant the ship could navigate shallower waters and escape many of her heavier, more cumbersome enemies.

For two glorious days, despite any mixed emotions she might have had toward the ship's captain, Catherine wandered the decks in Royce's old clothes, feeling more free and unrestrained and even—she dared to think—happier than she'd been in a long time. The war with Britain was still raging, and her brother was still waiting, but there was something about the wind in her hair and the sea mist against her skin… Something that made her feel lighter and younger and almost, she thought, almost like everything would work out all right in the end, after all.

It was on the afternoon of her third day on board, once again standing with Tom, that Catherine tilted her head back and marveled at the yards of billowing canvas overhead. "There may be only three masts," she said, "but there must be fifty sails."

The bosun's mate grinned, a gaping hole where his front teeth should have been. "There be a number o' sails, miss, though not quite fifty."

Overwhelmed by curiosity, she shaded her eyes and eagerly pointed. "What is that one at the very top?"

Tom shielded his own eyes and lifted his head. "The royal. Just below her is topgallant. And the lowermost is the topsail. If ye'd like a closer look, I'm certain Lucas would climb with ye a bit. I'd take ye meself, but…" He rubbed his left leg and grimaced.

"Oh, dear," Catherine said. "Did you fall from the rigging?"

"Lord love ye, miss! O' course I didn't fall from the rigging!" He appeared offended by the mere suggestion of such a thing, and too late she realized her mistake.

"Oh. No. No, of course not." She floundered around for something a sailor could take pride in. "A battle, then?"

"Ah!" His ego sufficiently soothed, Tom wrinkled his nose thoughtfully. "Ye might say that, miss. I came home from sea and me precious li'l Meggie threw a pot at me head 'cause I didn't think to bring her all me pay." He sighed soulfully. "The wench missed me head, but she got me knee straight on."

Catherine blinked at the anecdote, and could only hope her eyes hadn't gone too wide. "I see," she said diplomatically. She struggled to come up with something to add to that, and was moderately proud of herself when she managed, "Meggie must be a very strict wife."

At that, it was Tom's turn to blink. "Wife? Meggie's no wife. She's a doxy—"

"Poole!"

Catherine turned to see Derrick standing on the foredeck, frowning down at the bosun's mate. Tom straightened his shoulders. "Aye, Cap'n?"

"I don't believe Miss Markham needs to be hearing about Meggie's style of life."

Tom blinked, then a red patch slowly began to color his neck and face. He shot a self-conscious look at Catherine. "I didn't think—I should—I needs to…" He gulped and settled on, "I'd best get on with me duties."

"An excellent idea," Derrick said dryly.

Catherine watched the bosun's mate scurry off, and then cast a glare up at the man who had chased him away. "Whyever did you do that?" she demanded. "We were just talking."

"You don't need to hear about Tom's Meggie. In fact," Derrick added, "none of us need to hear about Tom's Meggie."

She scowled, wishing he wasn't standing so far above her. "I'll have you know, Captain St. John, that I don't need protecting."

"Oh?" He lifted a clearly skeptical eyebrow and leaned his elbows on the railing. The wind whipped his dark hair about his head. "Then what do you need, Miss Markham?"

She drew herself up and raised her chin as haughtily as she could. "Passage to Norfolk and nothing more."

"I'll get you to Norfolk," he vowed solemnly. "If nothing else, you have my word on that." He regarded her for a moment more, almost as if he was going to say something else, but someone called for him just then, and he left to oversee a course adjustment.

Catherine watched him go, still a little irritated, but soon found her attention diverted by the crew as they untied and retied seemingly a hundred different knots. It was almost like a dance, the moving of the sails, and for close to the next half-hour, Catherine let herself get caught up in the strange elegance and beauty of the process.

Indeed, she thought, as she watched the wind fill the yards and yards of canvas, who needed Derrick St. John anyway?


---


It was later that evening, just as the sun was setting and just after she'd given herself a bit of a scrub, that a knock came to her cabin. Expecting it to be Lucas with her dinner, just as it had been the night before, Catherine opened the door and was surprised to find herself face to face with an empty-handed Smythe instead.

"Beg pardon fer not bringin' ye supper, miss," the first mate said, "but Cap'n wanted me to ask ye if ye'd do him the honor of dinin' with him this evenin'."

Catherine blinked, completely taken aback by the invitation. "Dine with him?" she asked, as if to make sure she had heard correctly.

"Aye, miss."

For a moment, she was tempted to refuse on mere principle. She hadn't quite forgotten—nor forgiven him for—the way he had chased off the bosun's mate earlier in the day. Never mind her vow to stay away from him. But at the same time, she found herself curious about his motives all the same. Why the sudden invitation after two days of ignoring her? And then there was the fact that his cabin was beautiful… And she wasn't a saint; she liked pretty things, so help her. The only time she'd actually seen his cabin had been that first day, after initially coming on board, and she'd arguably been too tired and preoccupied at the time to fully appreciate all the furnishings.

Surely one dinner wouldn't be so bad. Surely she could keep a rein on her emotions for a meager hour or two. It wasn't as if it would be the first time they'd shared a meal at the same table, after all. Granted, Royce had always been there to act as an intermediary, but so long as she concentrated on how irritating Derrick St. John was, she'd be fine, she reasoned. Besides, no one said she had to be warm and friendly.

Catherine drew herself up. "Please tell the captain that I thank him for the invitation and accept," she said coolly, maintaining that her decision had everything to do with the man's cabin and absolutely nothing to do with the man, himself.

Smythe grinned. "Wonderful! I'll right away and let him know."

"Ah…" she started, halting the first mate before he could disappear. Suddenly she remembered that she was dressed in boys' clothes and became less sure of herself. "Should I change?" Royce's old cast-offs hardly seemed appropriate for a social dinner, but the only other outfit she had was the blue dress. And considering what had happened the last time she had worn it…

The first mate's eyes crinkled and he nodded. "I would if I were ye, miss," he said, as if divulging some great secret. "Cap'n was lookin' through his coats last I saw him, so I can only assume he's plannin' to dress accordin'ly." He sobered then, and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "And if he isn't, I'll damn well make him." Before she could say anything to that, Smythe perked up again and prepared to leave. "Ye just take yer time, miss. I'll let the cap'n know, and will be right out here waitin' for ye when yer ready." And with that, he shut the door.

Catherine blinked, still a little nonplussed, but quickly set about to shedding her breeches and donning her dress. She had previously taken her hair down and plaited it for the night, and as she combed it out and re-pinned it, it occurred to her that one of these days soon she would have to find something that could act as a bonnet of sorts. Traipsing around a privately-owned ship without anything to cover her hair was all well and good, but once they arrived in Norfolk, it would be a different matter entirely. Perhaps, she thought, she could ask Lucas if there were any scraps of cloth around from which she could fashion a basic cap.

When she was finally ready, she smoothed her skirt, squared her shoulders, and determinedly opened her door. Smythe was waiting in the hall, just as he said he'd be, and with a jaunty smile and gesture of his arm, escorted her to Derrick's cabin.

Derrick was standing at his desk, and when she entered, turned and offered her a bow. He was wearing a dark grey jacket with matching breeches, the cloth at his neck neatly tied, and it was almost a relief, to see him dressed so formally, so very similarly to how she was used to seeing him. Still, there was something about the warm glow of the lamps and the lush unfamiliarity of the cabin—so alien and intimate compared to that very first morning—that succeeded in putting her a little on edge all the same.

Nonsense, she stubbornly insisted. It was no different from the various dinners she'd shared with him at High Hall. All she had to do was pretend Royce had been called away from the table on business. Everything would be perfectly fine.

The first mate saw her to one end of the table, and primly, she sat down. Derrick followed suit, seating himself at the opposite end, and then Smythe left, just as Little and another sailor bustled in. Two steaming platters were deposited on the table, wine was poured, covers were lifted, and then the cook and the crewman were also gone, leaving captain and passenger alone.

After a moment, Derrick cleared his throat and broke the silence. "Thank you for joining me this evening."

Catherine set her napkin in her lap and picked up her silverware a little stiffly. "Thank you for the invitation," she said in turn. "It was most kind. I think."

He raised his brows. "And just what exactly do you mean by that?"

Catherine merely looked at him. "Only that you haven't said a nice word to me in two days. And then here you are, suddenly inviting me to dine with you."

Derrick ducked his head, smiling ruefully. He rested his forearms against the table, took a breath, and said, "Look, I'm sorry. This situation is far from ideal for either of us, I know. Let us just say that I realized we are, in fact, on the same side, and figured that perhaps it's time we started to act like it."

Contritely, Catherine looked down at her plate, her resolution to be difficult fading as quickly as the daylight had. "It would be easier if we attempted to get along…" she admitted, a little reluctantly. Before she could even think to retract the words, Derrick continued.

"Infinitely," he agreed, and picked his own silverware up. "Now. If you don't mind my asking, what were you and Mr. Poole discussing earlier?"

Catherine blinked. "You mean before he mentioned Meggie? The sails."

"Well, you're in luck. I can tell you all about the sails. It's the least I can do, seeing as how I so unceremoniously deprived you of your instructor this afternoon."

Catherine's heart took an excited leap in her chest, but then she shook her head, embarrassed. "Oh, no. I really don't—"

"Nonsense," he said. "What would you like to know?"

She paused, eyes fixed on her hands. What did she want to know? She supposed the simple answer was "everything": She wanted to know what it was like to live on the ocean. What it was like to experience the wild force of a storm. To win a battle. To capture a prize. To look out at the horizon from the top of a mast. She wanted to know what it was like to live in the moment, free and unfettered. And what it would be like to be kissed by the man across from her.

That last thought jumped into her mind unsolicited, and she turned to look out the window, in case that was a blush she was feeling on her cheeks. "I want to know why you love sailing."

Derrick lifted an eyebrow. "I thought you wanted to know about the ship, not me."

"I want to know about both." She turned back to him, genuinely curious. "Why do you love sailing?"

He leaned back in his chair, tilting his head to one side as he fastened his gaze on her. "How do you know I love it? Perhaps I find being at sea only passable, a way to make a living."

She shook her head, sure of herself. "I can tell you love it because you're different when you're on your ship."

"Oh?"

"You're more certain of yourself." She pursed her lips together, and then dared to add, "And more overbearing."

Derrick's eyebrows shot up and an incredulous puff of air escaped him. " 'Overbearing'? That's ironic, coming from you." Catherine's mouth plopped open in offense, but before she could say anything, he went on. "I have to command this ship, Catherine; I'm supposed to be overbearing. Meanwhile, you…" He trailed off, making a lost gesture at her before turning back to his meal.

Catherine bristled, far from done with the subject. "I'll have you know I have to command, too. In case you weren't aware, Captain, my parents died four years ago, and houses don't simply take care of themselves."

Derrick took a breath, and she could practically hear him gathering his patience. "Royce—" he started, but she cut him off.

"Royce had a business to tend to. I barely saw him outside of breakfast those first few weeks, he was so busy. He certainly didn't have time to worry about running an entire household on top of everything else. So the responsibility fell to me." Because if not her, then who?

Sometimes she still resented that, just a little. Not her brother, exactly, for having to concentrate on the Markham Tea Company, or even her parents, really, for dying in the first place, but more that the situation in general had been thrust upon her. High Hall employed more than thirty servants, and overseeing them was an immense responsibility, especially for a grieving girl of thirteen; she had struggled with it for months and months after her parents' deaths. Her mother had always made it look effortless, and while Catherine eventually settled admirably into the role, sometimes it still ached, to know that she could have had someone to help and guide her—as so many of her friends still had their own mothers to help and guide them—had circumstances only been different.

Derrick blinked at the ferocity in her voice, and seemed to look at her in a new light. "…My apologies," he eventually said, very sincerely. "I'm afraid I never thought of it quite like that."

"Yes, well, you should have," she said, pride still stinging. "It isn't altogether unlike captaining a ship, I would have to imagine."

He didn't respond to that immediately, only continued to watch her for a long, thoughtful moment. "You know, you're different, too, on board ship."

She blinked, surprised not only by the sudden shift in conversation, but also by the statement itself. Perhaps just a little anxiously, she asked, "How so?"

"You talk more, for one thing. I don't think you ever spoke more than five words to me any given time I visited Royce at High Hall."

Catherine looked down and fiddled with her napkin. "That's because I didn't think you'd want to talk to me," she confessed. "I thought you'd think I was just bothering you."

Derrick's face fell, and he actually scoffed a little, as if he found the very idea absurd. "You cannot have thought that."

"I did." She looked out the window once more, noting that clouds had since rolled in, blotting out the stars. "Besides, I'm hardly the only one guilty of being quiet. You rarely spoke to me, either."

"That's different. I am not a fit person for you to know."

She blinked, caught off guard. "Not a…" Her mouth snapped shut and a small, impatient breath escaped her nose. "What a ridiculous thing to say."

Derrick flashed a brief, tight smile. "There's a reason I'm never invited to any of the parties or balls held by your friends and the other wealthy families in Boston."

Catherine sighed a little exasperatedly. "It isn't because of that business with your father, is it? Because if so, I think that's horridly unfair. Here we are, fighting for—"

"No," he said. "It isn't because of my father."

There was something about the words, something about the sheer shortness of them, that brooked no room for argument, and in turn signaled an abrupt end to the line of conversation. A silence settled on the cabin, but before it could become too awkward, Catherine took a brisk breath and broke it. "Well," she said, smoothing the napkin in her lap. "As soon as we return, I'm going to see to it that you are invited to all of the parties and balls. You'll be up to your ears in invitations, and your feet will positively ache from all the dancing. Then you'll regret being so nice to me," she finished matter-of-factly.

A smile flitted across his mouth. "When you lift your chin like that, you look exactly like Royce."

Catherine sobered at the revelation and let her expression drop. After a minute, she very seriously said, "He believes in you, you know. I don't know how many times I've heard him say that he thinks you are the most honorable man he knows." She fingered the stem of her wine glass and quietly added, "That is one of the reasons I came to you for help in the first place."

Derrick was silent for a moment. When he finally spoke, Catherine thought his voice might have sounded a little strained. "I owe your brother everything."

"And you've paid him back at least a hundredfold," she persisted. "He told me that you were his most profitable captain. That's worth a lot."

"I could never repay him for hiring me when no one else would. For trusting me when no one else would." Suddenly, he straightened in his seat, wiping his mouth with his napkin. "Would you care for some more wine?"

Catherine blinked over the rim of her glass. "Oh, no. No, thank you."

Derrick took a sip from his own glass. "I've gathered a decent stock over the years, if I do say so, myself." He smiled slightly at her. "I must confess, it's rather nice to see at least some of it finally going to good use."

Catherine smiled back. Truth be told, she wasn't quite done with their previous topic of discussion, but Derrick clearly was, and she wasn't about to push the issue. That they were actually talking, and rather amiably at that, was enough for the time being; no sense in taking small blessings for granted when she should have been counting them, after all.

When all was said and done and dinner was concluded, Derrick bid her goodnight, and she retired to her cabin. Upon removing her dress and brushing it as straight as she could, Catherine lay down on her bunk and stared out the window for a very long time, going back over their conversation in her head, thinking about the melancholy way his mouth had tightened and how quickly he had turned the subject away from himself.




-----

A/N: There's no dinner scene in the original book—something I always thought was such a shame, especially after we got that swanky description of Derrick's cabin back in Chapter 3. So in light of that, I managed to work one in. :D

All other fics can be found here.

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