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A Moment of Repose [Closed]

Nicolette O'Hara

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#1
[[OOC: 4th Wintermarch, morning, the Waking Sea towards the Amaranthine Ocean]] Celeste Monroe

Nicolette had not known any of the crew members on the Wicked Grace more than a few weeks, but even if it had been only a matter of days she would have noticed the general lift in spirits ever since they had finally cast off from Kirkwall. When the final rope had been thrown and the small pilot boats started to tug them out towards the harbour entrance, every breath on board had been held, awaiting some last minute disaster; the masts to fall, the rudder to stick, the – she did not know enough of the terminology yet to guess at whatever else might have gone wrong.

And yet nothing had; they had sailed cleanly through The Twins, and they had slipped through the imposing bronze giants and the first ocean breeze had caught the sails, an almighty cheer had gone up. Celeste had not been the only one affected by the lengthened stay in Kirkwall, and as the usual jobs required to get a ship skimming across the waves took place, there was a general lifting of spirits that had been evident in every move of every sailor. Delighted by the rising energy, Nicolette had started a shanty with lyrics that were easy to learn for a call-and-response, and as the city had shrunk behind them everybody bellowed along and set to their jobs with a new vigour.

A vigour shared by their captain. Nicolette had slept a little later than Celeste this morning, having spent a good portion of the night enjoying the benefits of sharing the captain’s cabin and therefore having Celeste in arm’s reach. Celeste had met her enthusiasm with equal measure and it was with a happy languor that Nicolette finally stirred, taking a few extra minutes to relax in the warmth that the captain had left her with before finally dressing and preparing herself for the day.

It was still quite early. The crew not on night duties were still dozing beneath decks, and the dawn was partway through blooming, pink clouds crowning the golden disc of the rising sun. As they sailed north it would come earlier, and it would get warmer. Warmth! After months in chilly Kirkwall, it would be a blessing.

Speaking of blessings…

Celeste had taken to the helm, and Nicolette climbed the steps towards her. Gold strands of hair flickered around her face and the vivacious green eyes were as alight as Nicolette had ever seen them. She was truly in her element, at last.

Nicolette came up behind her and wrapped her arms around Celeste’s waist, loosely enough that she would not impede the other woman if she had to make a sudden move, and purred in her ear. “Good morning, my captain.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#2
Second only to being at the helm on a cloudless midnight when you could see every star in the sky overhead was being at the helm at dawn. Celeste had foregone the first pleasure, turning it over to Dax to retire to her cabin with Nicolette. She’d been pushing hard since casting off from the docks at Kirkwall, the superstitious sailor in her convinced that something was going to happen that would hinder them: a snapped line, a broken rudder … something. Not until they had cleared the harbor had that dread lifted, and when they had finally hoisted the sails -

Watching them billow as the wind filled them, feeling the Wicked Grace leap forward as though her ship shared her eagerness to be under way, she’d been reborn. She’d spent the rest of the day on deck: sometimes at the helm, sometimes helping to adjust the sails, sometimes aloft in the crow’s nest, glorying in the freshness of the salt air, the feel of the water rushing past the hull, the land on the port side receding from view until there was nothing in sight but the open ocean, the sound of Nicolette’s voice echoed by the crew, every one of them sharing her jubilation at being once more back where they belonged.

Normally, that elation would have kept her on deck long after the sun had sunken into the sea behind them, but the invitation in Nicolette’s eyes had been impossible to resist. She had spent much of the night introducing the minstrel to the experience of making love on a ship that rocked gently through the waves, only succumbing to a pleasantly loose-limbed exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning. But internal rhythms developed over a lifetime at sea still had her awake well before sunrise, and even the soft warmth of the woman asleep at her side wasn’t enough to keep her abed for long once her eyes were open.

She kept a cautious eye on the southeastern horizon, but the skies remained largely clear, the sky ahead shifting from deepest black toward violet, then red, orange and gold, the wispy clouds catching fire briefly in the moments before the edge of the sun appeared above the waves. Celeste shifted her gaze slightly, a smile of welcome touching her lips as Nicolette came into view, eyes still ever so slightly hazy from sleep.

“Good morning, my captain.” Arms slipped around her waist, and Celeste leaned back slightly into the embrace, turning her head to meet soft lips with her own while keeping her hands steady on the wheel.

“Good morning, beautiful,” she replied. She turned her eyes forward again, where the sunrise illuminated the wind-swollen sails and cast the masts and lines into silhouette. Torgun, Bailey and Piotr moved about on the main deck, making the minute adjustments needed to capture the greatest amount of the breeze. “What do you think of her now?” To this point, Nico had only seen the Wicked Grace tied up, mastless and crippled. Like an injured bird. Now, her ship flew free once more, and Celeste’s spirits soared across the waves with her.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#3
Nicolette could have kept her distance and been happy enough just watching Celeste for quite some time. Her joy at being back at the helm shone through her, and while Nicolette had seen Celeste happy in a number of different situations, she had never seen her as full of life as she appeared now.

But Nicolette knew the other woman wouldn’t begrudge her getting closer, and she gave in to the desire to wrap herself around Celeste, breathing in her scent; one that offered increasing comfort every time Nicolette noticed it. The kiss was brief, but tender, and when Celeste turned her gaze back to the horizon, Nicolette nestled her chin into the crook of Celeste’s shoulder, a soft happy hum escaping her.

“Good morning, beautiful.”

For a moment, they gazed out together over the ship. A few of the crew were tweaking ropes and doing other things, the purpose at which Nicolette could not guess, but other than that they were alone. Above them, the sails had caught the wind at their backs and billowed full, rippling slightly in the breeze. Golden sun crept across the decking and set the sea alight, dazzling Nicolette for a moment. She had been at sea many times before now but she had always missed this moment at the dawn, and she could not think of a better situation in which she could be seeing it for the first time.

“What do you think of her now?”

Nicolette did not need to weigh her words. Even if she had not been experiencing her own delight at seeing Celeste so enlivened by finally being away from Kirkwall, the Wicked Grace was a beautiful ship and she leapt across the waves with ease. No wonder Celeste had been on edge, waiting for her to be whole again.

“She is magnificent. I can see why you missed her so much.” Nicolette stepped back a little, resting her hands lightly on Celeste’s shoulders, a playful smile in her tone. “Do you wish me to leave you both alone a little while?”

If Celeste did want to be left in peace to renew her acquaintance with her ship, Nicolette would not begrudge her that; she would go to the front of the ship and admire the view from there. She would be a little reluctant to abandon the other woman’s warmth, though.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#4
Had the seas been rough, or the winds shifting, Celeste would have gently disengaged from Nicolette’s embrace. She was insouciant and irreverent about nearly everything on land, and she frequently seemed the same at sea, but her ship was one of the few things that she took seriously. Any shenanigans or distractions that might endanger the Wicked Grace or her crew were out of the question, and everyone on board knew it.

But this morning might have been sent by the Maker as an apology for spending much of the past few months pissing on their heads: clear sky, steady and brisk winds, and gentle swells that the schooner skipped through with the sleek ease of a dolphin. Given the season, they were all but guaranteed to encounter worse before they made it to Antiva City, so Celeste was damned if she wasn’t going to enjoy this while it lasted, with her lover warm at her back, the whole damn world spread out before her, and her ship finally able to take her to it.

“She is magnificent,” Nico murmured with a reverence that kindled a glow of approval in the captain’s chest. “I can see why you missed her so much.” She shifted, ending the embrace and stepping back a bit, her hands moving to Celeste’s shoulders. “Do you wish me to leave you both alone a little while?” Her voice was gently teasing, but Celeste knew that she would be given solitude if she wanted it.

She didn't.

“No need.” Celeste shook her head and took one hand off the wheel, capturing one of the minstrel’s hands and guiding it back around her waist, drawing them back together. “You need to get to know her, too.” There was more than romantic whimsy behind the idea - though there was more of that present than Celeste would admit to anyone except maybe Gideon; there would come a time when all hands would be needed on deck, and Nicolette would be called upon to do more than provide music to work by. Best to get her acclimated before that necessity arose.

In fact …

Celeste cast an appraising eye on the sails and the sea. “Ever steered a ship?” she asked, turning her head to look back at the minstrel with a smile. She couldn’t have asked for better weather for a first lesson.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#5
Nicolette would have been fine to step away and leave Celeste to the ship for a while. It was a relationship that went back far earlier than them, and Nicolette was not the type to be jealous of it. If Celeste had asked her for a little space, she would have claimed a kiss before heading for the bow of the ship to play figurehead for a while. At this time and in this weather, there was little Nicolette could do to help the rest of the crew with the basic tasks of running a ship, and she would have positioned herself to get the strongest possible blast of sea air she could. The cooling breeze felt like a miracle after the still, almost grimy air of Kirkwall.

Instead, Celeste drew Nicolette’s arm back around her waist. “No need. You need to get to know her too.”

Nicolette hummed in contentment and rested her chin on her captain’s shoulder. “I feel as though I am beginning to.”

Beneath the shirt she could feel the other woman’s muscles tighten and slacken a little with each gentle touch on the wheel to keep them on course. More than once she had been impressed with Celeste’s upper body strength without really considering where it came from, but of course – steering a ship through rough weather must take every ounce of strength and then some more. Even more telling, then, that she chose to steer the ship herself rather than leaving it somebody else’s hands.

Nicolette was just wondering if through the wheel, Celeste could feel every current that buffeted the ship, when her lover’s voice drew her from her idle musings. “Ever steered a ship?”

It was an offer, that was clear in Celeste’s smile, and Nicolette’s face lit up in response. “No. I have asked on one or two occasions whether I could, and the suggestion was never well received.” Her eyes gleamed. “May I try?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#6
Nicolette’s smile gave Celeste her answer before the other woman spoke. “No. I have asked on one or two occasions whether I could, and the suggestion was never well received.” She regarded the wheel like a child at the window of a candy store. “May I try?”

“Be my guest.” Celeste shifted, keeping one hand on the wheel and stepping away enough to let Nico slip into place, then guiding her hands into position, covering them with her own for the moment.

“Now,” she rested her chin on the minstrel’s shoulder, her mouth near her ear, but for now, thoughts of seduction were far away. “This is port.” She squeezed Nicolette’s left hand. “And starboard.” Now the right. Releasing that hand, she pointed ahead, then behind. “Fore and aft. Got it?”

Below, Isabela sauntered out onto the main deck. The pirate had been no less delighted than the rest of them to be back at sea, but beneath it, there had been a bittersweet cast in the golden eyes that Celeste understood. She’d feel the same way on a ship that was not hers if she lost the Wicked Grace. She’d give her a turn at the helm later today; for now, she was pretty sure of the look she’d get when Bela caught sight of the morning’s lesson. There had been remarkably little teasing so far, but the pirate’s opinion of lasting romantic attachments outside the bedroom remained unchanged, regardless of how well she liked Nicolette.

“The wheel is attached to the rudder,” she went on. “That’s what we were replacing the day you moved onto the ship.” She tipped her head up to the crow’s nest, ensuring that Bailey was there and on watch. “Your eyes are in the crow’s nest. They can see a lot farther ahead than we can from here. Close your eyes.” She waited for a moment for Nico to comply, feeling the minute tremors vibrating through the wood beneath their hands. “Feel it? That’s the water rushing along the rudder. Give it some time, you’ll be able to feel when there’s a cross current that’s slowing us down. Feel the breeze?” Her fingers touched the minstrel’s jaw, turning her head gently into the wind. “We’re running downwind. Easier, but if the wind shifts, we can adjust the sails to tack and still keep moving.

“You don’t have to remember all that just yet,” she assured her lover with a smile. “Just … feel.” One last squeeze of the minstrel’s hands, and Celeste released and backed up a bit, close enough to step back in if needed, but far enough to let Nicolette feel the joy of guiding the Wicked Grace through wind and waves, angling herself so that she could see her face.
 
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Nicolette O'Hara

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#7
Nicolette noted as she slipped into position that Celeste kept one hand firmly on the wheel, and did not let go even when she had a hold of it; instead, the captain covered her hands, shifting behind her. Nicolette was briefly tempted to press herself against the other woman, teasing her as she had done many times before, but she already had a sense of how much trust Celeste was placing in her with this, and she tried not to be distracted by the warm puff of air on her ear as Celeste rested her chin on her shoulder.

“This is port.” Her fingers tightened over Nicolette’s left hand. “And starboard.” The other hand, this time. Celeste let go to point forward then back. “Fore and aft. Got it.”

“Port.” Nicolette tapped the thumb of her left hand against the wheel. “Starboard.” Now the right. “Fore, forward, aft, behind. Like before and afterwards.” The word ‘starboard’ had a poetic ring to it. She had heard it quite a few times by now, although never learned what it actually meant. She suspected she had probably used it wrong in a few stories before now.

Isabela was roaming around the deck now with the same slow lazy energy as The Thing. Golden eyes turned towards them, one eyebrow raised. A brief, indecipherable expression had flickered across her face but now it spread into a grin as she looked up at them. It was difficult for Nicolette to look at the other woman without remembering her freezing dip into Kirkwall’s waters, or the subsequent ‘apology’ that both she and Celeste had enjoyed. Fortunately, Celeste’s voice brought her back to the present, talking through the parts of the ship.

Nicolette could not see properly through the sails and wondered how Celeste predicted oncoming danger, but that answer came quickly; the crow’s nest provided her eyes. At Celeste’s instruction, she closed her own. “Feel it?” There were faint tremors in the wheel, a pull against her hands that she almost locked herself against before she realised that Celeste’s arms around her were making minute adjustments to compensate rather than trying to fight it. “That’s the water rushing along the rudder. Give it some time, you’ll be able to feel when there’s a cross current that’s slowing us down. Feel the breeze?”

Fingers pressed her jaw, turning her face to the breeze. “We’re running downwind. If the wing shifts, we can adjust the sails to tack and still keep moving.”

Nicolette was lost as to what ‘tack’ was, but Celeste reassured her that she did not need to remember it all now. “Just…feel.”

She felt her breath shudder a little as the other woman pulled away, suddenly and awesomely aware of how the smallest movement of her hands could send the entire ship skittering this way or that on the waves, and then she felt the cool air rushing over her face and the way the ship responded to her movements, heard the rustle of the sailcloth and the soft splash of the waves against the sides of the ships, and felt a rising sense of freedom not far from the first few moments of riding a horse as it gained speed. Her eyes opened wide with wonder as she adjusted her hold, trying to match what Celeste had shown her, feeling the ship turn this way and that at her slightly still too-heavy touches. "Ouah...this is...incredible."

On the deck below, Isabela was still looking up at them; more specifically, at Celeste. She widened her eyes and batted her eyelashes, making exaggerated kissing motions at the other woman; she then turned her back, wrapping her arms around herself until her hands on her back looked like those of another person, shimmying her hips at the captain as she mimed passionate kissing.

She turned back around as Nicolette shut her eyes briefly to feel the movements of the ship again and caught Celeste’s gaze, lining her mouth with two fingers and sticking her tongue through them, waggling it exaggeratedly while wearing the expression of a person who knows full well they were on their way to getting kicked.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#8
The basics of sailing were easy; mastering them took a lifetime. But everybody had to start somewhere, and today was Nicolette’s turn. Celeste had no real concerns on that score; the minstrel was more than intelligent enough to master the theory, and while she might not yet have the strength and skill to fight the Wicked Grace through a storm at sea, her travels and performing had left her more than fit enough to steer the ship on a day like this.

She remained alert and ready to step in for the first few moments, watching intently as apprehension rippled over Nico’s features, her hands gripping the wheel tightly, her first movements jerky and hesitant. Another glance to the crow’s nest; Bailey had noticed the change at the helm and signaled that they were in the clear. With nothing but open ocean around them and a lookout on duty, Celeste allowed herself to relax as Nicolette took the Wicked Grace through a few sweeping curves, her confidence growing as the best damn ship on the seas of Thedas responded smoothly to her every motion, her expression shifting from worry to wonder.

From the corner of her eye, Celeste could see that Isabela had taken note of what was happening on the bridge, but she didn’t turn to watch the pirate’s antics, even when Sorcha burst out laughing. Her gaze remained on Nicolette’s face, eyes closed and chin lifted to feel the breeze, the few strands of hair that had escaped her braid fluttering about her ears. She didn’t want to miss the moment she was hoping for, and after a bit longer, her patience was rewarded as a smile of purest joy and delight spread across the minstrel’s face and the glorious eyes opened wide, seeking out Celeste.

"Ouah...this is...incredible."

The awed words drew an answering smile from Celeste, a quiet satisfaction and pride thrumming pleasantly in her chest. “You’re doing fine,” she praised her, glancing up at the sails and seeing the faintest luffing starting. “Take her back to starboard a bit … bit more … perfect.” She remembered that smile and the feeling that lay behind it quite well; she still felt it on a regular basis at sea. Nicolette would always be a minstrel, but from this moment, at least a little bit of her would be a sailor, as well, and a part of her heart would always belong to the wind and waves. It was a realization that pleased Celeste more than she would ever have thought possible a few weeks earlier.

Nicolette closed her eyes again, and Celeste turned to watch Isabela’s performance, which had shifted from miming a passionate embrace to making faces, stretching her mouth wide with her fingers and sticking out her tongue as far as it would go. Not to be outdone, Celeste reached a hand over her head, lifting up the tip of her nose to make a pig’s snout, crossed her eyes and sucked her cheeks in to make a fish mouth. Because that was totally how mature women and badass sailors did things.

“I think the sea air is doing her good,” she quipped, letting her features return to normal and quirking a grin at Nicolette. She knew why the pirate was acting up; she’d caught the pointed look from the golden eyes when Isabela had boarded and discovered that Nicolette had taken up residence in the captain’s cabin. It wasn’t anything like jealousy; she doubted that Bela had ever entertained that emotion in her life, and what was between them had never warranted it.

“She doesn’t believe in getting attached,” she explained, propping her hands against the rail and leaning back. Tempting to stand behind Nicolette again, arms around her waist, but the minstrel might think that she didn’t trust her at the helm. Then too, just watching her like this, truly discovering the freedom of the sea for the first time, communing with the ship … that was a fine thing, as well.

“She thinks I’m being foolish,” she went on. “About you.” No sense in trying to dodge it, because the pirate was likely to say it outright in pretty much those terms before the voyage ended. She’d felt the same way about Daniel, as kind as he had been to her. Too many people, from her mother to Luis to Castillon, had controlled her against her will, and she was determined to never give anyone the chance to do it again. Her choice, and Celeste wasn’t arrogant enough to assume that some day she’d break her own rules by falling in love with someone, or that she’d wind up miserable and alone if she didn’t. It wasn’t about just having someone. Celeste had known more than a few of that type, but neither she nor Bela had ever fit that mold. It was about the right one: someone you wanted to be with, and Celeste was damned if she’d be fool enough to let that go just to be able to say that she could.

“This’ll be the longest we’ve been in each other’s company in a while,” she warned Nicolette. “We’ll likely be butting heads before the voyage is done, but that’s nothing new. We fight, we make up.” More than a touch of affection tinged her voice, and she turned back to fire a return salvo to Bela’s continued clowning, sticking a thumb in each ear, fingers spread wide and wiggling, tongue curling up to her nose, head bobbing back and forth and ass waving like it had a signaling flag attached.

That seen to, she turned back to the helm. “It’s nothing to be alarmed at,” she told Nico. “End of the day, she’s the oldest friend I’ve got outside of this crew.” The minstrel didn't like conflict, but with Celeste and Bela, sparks - and not the erotic kind - were all but guaranteed at some point.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#9
Nicolette opened her eyes in time to see Celeste and Isabela trading faces, fingers stretching their features wild as they waggled their tongues at each other. She chuckled. It had not escaped her notice the previous day how Isabela had responded to their departure from Kirkwall with as much wistfulness as joy, but the sorrow seemed to have blown away entirely this morning, and she entertained herself watching her lover and the other woman clowning around.

“I think the sea air is doing her good.”

“It seems to be. She is always fun, but I do not think I have seen her so light-hearted before.” Well, she was fun when she was not accidentally nearly drowning her, anyway.

“She doesn’t believe in getting attached.” Nicolette turned her head towards Celeste, surprised– she had not missed Isabela’s eyes rolling when she had realised that Nicolette and Celeste now shared a cabin, but before their evening in the crow’s nest the night before Addie’s rescue, neither of them had been particularly explicit about their feelings for one another. It was still new to hear Celeste being so open about it. New, and enough to cause her a little thrill that combined excitement and nerves.

She had promised herself after Eward that she would not get so attached to anybody as she had to him, and while some people had come close, the relationships had not survived her constant need to roam. Even now she was double-guessing herself…although it was easy enough to forget the moment she spent any time around Celeste. Her captain had crept into her heart without her even noticing, and all the caution in the world could not make Nicolette wish that away.

“Neither did I, once upon a time.”

“She thinks I’m being foolish. About you.”

Nicolette looked back down at Isabela, who was currently miming passionate kissing on the mast, one leg wrapped around the trunk. It was hard to be annoyed at her with that going on. Despite herself, she smiled.

“Foolish? No. But you are a risk-taker, and I like that about you.” And it was infectious – Nicolette had taken more chances around Celeste than she had in quite a long time. “For many reasons.”

Isabela had graduated to fondling the mast at around chest level and grinding against it, evidently enjoying the reactions she was getting from Sorcha. Without the context learned from previous interactions with her, Nicolette might have assumed Isabela to be funny, salacious, and mostly harmless. By now she knew full well the other woman was not, although by reputation rather than direct experience.

Apparently on the same line of thought, Celeste moved to a warning. “This’ll be the longest we’ve been in each others’ company in a while. We’ll likely be butting heads before the voyage is done, but that’s nothing new. We fight, we make up.”

Isabela was making faces again, trying to get Celeste’s attention, and it worked. The captain stuck her tongue out and waved her behind at her.

“It’s nothing to be alarmed at. End of the day, she’s the oldest friend I’ve got outside of the crew.”

Nicolette made a note not to try and interfere if she saw the two of them arguing. Not only would she likely be out of her depth, but trying to play peacemaker while they had it out with each other could backfire. “I will keep that in mind. If she challenges you to a duel for the ownership of the Wicked Grace, though, I might interfere.” This last in a slightly teasing tone. Various members of the crew, and Celeste herself, had assisted in advancing Nicolette’s abilities as a defensive fighter, but the fact remained that she would always choose running away above running towards a scrap – unless somebody she liked was in danger, and in which case she could not predict her own actions. Celeste would be better off if she stayed out of it, and she would not stand a snowball’s chance in a fire in a fight against Isabela. “I am sure it would alleviate tensions to watch her chasing me in a circle around the deck.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#10
Nicolette laughed softly at Isabela’s antics. “She is always fun, but I do not think I have seen her so light-hearted before,” she observed as she watched the pirate swaggering toward the mast.

“Losing the Siren’s Call and her crew hurt her.” That was putting it mildly. It wasn’t just hurt; it was losing part of you. Just having the Wicked Grace disabled for so long had felt like having both legs broken. To have her ship lost with all on board … she couldn’t even conceive of it. Isabela was a different type of captain, but she had cared for her crew in her own rough and tumble way, though she had never allowed any of them - or anyone - to get too close.

“Neither did I, once upon a time.” The minstrel’s words, and the soft smile that accompanied them, brought an answering smile to Celeste’s lips. Neither had Celeste, once upon a time, though not for the same reasons as Isabela. Daniel had been nothing like Luis; Celeste had simply not thought to find his match again … and she likely wouldn’t. Nicolette was nothing like Daniel on the surface: one a bold and dashing ship’s captain who thought nothing of getting into a brawl or smuggling a load past customs, the other a gentle spirited minstrel who loathed the idea of violence and was generally law abiding. But they both loved life and lived to the fullest, even when it meant taking risks, and that was what had drawn Celeste to them both. Watching Nicolette at the helm now, the wind in her hair and elation lighting her face as her confidence grew, the sailor could feel the swell of satisfaction in her chest that was usual when she observed someone daring something new and loving it, but the pride and pleasure that accompanied it was something altogether unfamiliar, but undeniably welcome.

Perhaps it was foolish to open herself up to loss again; Isabela certainly thought so.

“Foolish? No,” Nicolette disagreed when Celeste told her of the pirate’s opinions. “But you are a risk-taker, and I like that about you. For many reasons.”

“Some risks are more worth taking than others,” the sailor replied. What she was feeling now was different from the rush that she got from pulling off a caper for the Jennies, taking on three thugs in a fight or piloting the Wicked Grace through a storm. The prospect of teaching Nicolette more about sailing, seeing those beautiful eyes dancing with delight at a successful prank, even just waking up beside her in the morning … it tugged at a much deeper level, and the risks were far more daunting than simple life or death. Celeste might screw it up, as she had already come close to doing, or Nico might decide that a seagoing, semi-legal lifestyle wasn’t for her after all. Those possibilities paled beside the chance that Celeste might lead her lover - who already trusted her far more than seemed sensible - onto an adventure that might get her hurt or worse. But Celeste had never been one to let the what-if’s hold her back, and Nicolette was no different. They would go forward together, at least for now, and whatever came, Celeste resolved to have no regrets.

Isabela was now doing things to the mast that would get her arrested in more than one port. The pirate was very like Celeste in many ways, but very different in others, and if the similarities had always drawn them back together, the differences had made it all but certain that they would never stay that way. And sometimes those differences grew heated. Her friend was currently enjoying being back on the sea, but the loss of the Siren’s Call would make itself felt again sooner or later.

“I will keep that in mind,” Nicolette responded when Celeste warned her of the near inevitability of conflict. Celeste and Isabela had fought and made up more times than the sailor could easily count; it was as much a part of their relationship as getting drunk together. “If she challenges you to a duel for the ownership of the Wicked Grace, though, I might interfere.”

“Don’t,” Celeste warned her quickly. The chances of that taking place were beyond slim, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. But even if she were that reckless, the crew of the Wicked Grace would never support the pirate in that sort of mutiny, and she knew it. “She’s better with her knives than I am, but the crew will be on my side.” If it ever came to a fight, the winner would be determined by who cheated the best. “If you’re interested, she could probably teach you a thing or two.” Weaving innuendo throughout undoubtedly, but that would not bother the minstrel; more than a few of her lessons in self defense with Celeste had ended in passion.

“I am sure it would alleviate tensions to watch her chasing me in a circle around the deck.”

Celeste laughed. “And Thibault chasing her?” she suggested with a grin. “And whoever’s in the crow’s nest doing their best to drop whatever’s handy on her head.” It would never happen; Bela would never be that damn stupid, and so Celeste could enjoy the mental image.

The pirate was still humping the mast; Piotr was staring with his mouth ajar, and Sorcha was in danger of rolling overboard. “If you give my ship the clap, I’m charging you to replace that mast!” she roared at the pirate, hands cupped around her mouth. “And if you give birth to a dinghy in nine months, don’t look to me for child support!”
 
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