A/N: The events here are not based on any specific event in history. Besides the fact of the Anglo-French war, this is all basically an A/U.
Also, the French are the badguys in this fic. Don't flame me. I promise, there are no insulting comments, slangs, swearing in this fic about the French or British.
I actually got this idea from watching Horatio Hornblower, and unfortunately, the French were the antagonists in that movie.
" In 1793, the French and British were at war. The United States remained neutral during this time, to encourage trade between them and both combatants. In an attempt to cut off French supply lines, the British began a series of captures of U.S. cargo ships attempting to trade with France. All vessels bound for England, were left in peace...for a while..."
" Fair weather today, father."
" So it would seem, so it would seem," Captain Maridon Li of the Plymouth Maiden stood with furrowed brow, watching the waves from the starboard railing of his colonial merchant freighter. As the winds gently tugged his tiny ship onward, he took his hat off his head briefly to wipe away the sheen of sweat, before turning to his son with a smile," You're getting to be quite the weathervane. Not a day goes by where you haven't been able to predict a squall down south, or a buildup of wind from the East."
Syaoran's chest swelled with pride. At the ripe age of sixteen, he was proud to call himself a sailor. Suddenly, slim hands wrapped around his waist, and a tiny giggle poured out of a delicately boned face. Syaoran sighed.
" Really, Tomoyo, must you hug me now?"
" Yes!" She said happily," For you are cold, and I have just been sitting beside the Cook's Dutch oven for nearly an hour!"
Syaoran had to admit, as embarassing as it was to have his sister aboard, her presence was reassuring. Not to mention warm. Suddenly, she released her grip around his waist, lifting a hand to catch her hat as it flipped from her head.
" Syaoran, are you certain it is fair today?" She looked a bit put out," Seems mightily windy for calm."
" That's the way it's supposed to be, Tomoyo. Fair, for sailors, means a good strong wind to keep the sails full."
Tomoyo smiled, smoothing out wrinkles in her neatly pressed white satin dress. A large ribbon completed the ensemble, contrasting the off-white fabric like a flash of blue in a sky of clouds. It finished in a simple bow at her back, which bounced gaily as she ran.
" Such a charmingly innocent child, and only just thirteen." A lieutenant smiled from his position nestled in the crook of the mast and its rigging.
Syaoran watched his sister laugh and run about deck, dancing and twirling about as she listened to the gulls cackle overhead. His reverie was broken by the sudden alarm from the crow's nest.
" What is it, Heys?" Syaoran said looking up.
" Looks to be a British ship, sir!"
" No worries, Heys!" Syaoran's father bellowed up with a smile," Our cargo is for them. They'll not attack. Not this time."
But Heys seemed to think differently.
" Sir, I do believe they're loading up cannons. I can see the hatches opening!"
" Nonsense, Heys." Captain Li frowned briefly," We have our flag up under British control."
" SIR! They're firing!"
There was a moment of complete silence, punctuated suddenly by the unmistakeable whistle of a cannonball as it swept a graceful arc through the air.
" Captain Eriol!"
Eriol Madison looked up, a frustrated grimace on his face...
" Yes, Lepoll?" He said, gazing distractedly back at the map on his desk.
" Sir, the Nest reports seeing smoke."
" Ship flames?" Eriol's frown deepened, furrowing his normally smooth brow.
" Uncertain, sir," Lepoll reported," But, Higgins recommends coming in for a closer look."
" How far is it?"
" A league or two, sir."
" Right. Order the crew to make the necessary changes." Eriol nodded, dismissing his First officer. Now, if only those tricky pirates would make their appearance....
Syaoran's mind was swimming as he blinked against the blinding light reflecting off the water...Water?
The curdled scream echoed across a silent ocean plane, and Syaoran struggled around in search of a familiar face. He found one...
" Hold on, Tomoyo!"
Syaoran took a breath and dove towards his sister where she sat on a floating bit of wreckage.
" Syaoran, I'm frightened." She murmured as he joined her on the flotsam.
" Don't worry, Tomoyo. I'm sure father will come any minute in a lifeboat. And soon you'll be home with mother, and her scolding you for ruining such a lovely ribbon."
Tomoyo smiled a little, but her hands were white as she clutched tightly to the rocking wreckage.
They were floating for about half an hour, when Syaoran spotted a ship moving in their direction. He threw up his hands, waving at them to catch their attention. Only then did he realize that the flag on the mast was British.
" Syaoran, why did you stop waving? They won't see us!" Tomoyo cried.
" That could be the ship that attacked ours!" Syaoran countered.
The ship continued towards them, and both children saw a hand raised in greeting. A man with wheat brown hair, and a gold tooth waved disarmingly at them from the railing.
" Ahoy there! What seems to be the trouble here?"
" One of your ships sunk us!" Syaoran retorted back angrily," And carrying British bound supplies!"
The man frowned.
" Well, that ain't right." He muttered for a moment, then," Come up and dry off. You can have a word with our Captain!"
Syaoran looked at his sister.
" We can't go up there!" He hissed, " It could be a trap!"
" Better there than here." She said with a little quiver to her chin.
He stood undecided for a moment, but finally sighed in defeat.
" Very well!" He cried back.
" Captain Eriol? The two survivors have been brought aboard, sir."
" Very good. Let them in, Lepoll."
" Right away, sir."
Immediately, Captain Eriol found himself confronted by two children no older than he was. Well, at least the girl seemed to be his age, the boy looked to be about sixteen or seventeen.
" Welcome. My name is Captain Eriol Madison, you may call me either Eriol, or Captain Eriol; Captain Madison if you wish. I'm to understand you were bringing British cargo to the port, when you were attacked by a British ship?"
" Yes, sir."
The boy had a Colonial accent, that was unmistakeable.
" Can you give me a description of this ship?"
" I need something to reference by. If I'm to help you, I need a ship name."
" I don't know what the name was. But, the figurehead looked a bit like a maiden bound to an anchor."
Captain Eriol's face paled.
" That is entirely impossible, boy."
" Because, the ship you just described, is my own."
Tomoyo looked from her brother to the Captain.
" Well, then, it was you who attacked us, and I demand that you release us immediately!"
" You don't understand," Captain Eriol continued," It couldn't have been my ship..."
" But, I remember what I saw! Now I demand that you let us off at the port immediately!"
Tomoyo looked from the Captain to her brother, back to the Captain again. He was very young, but the marks of stress were everywhere, and he walked with a weary look, as though he carried a heavy burden. Feeling a sudden lurch in her stomach, she suddenly pulled on her brother's sleeve tentatively.
" I don't feel so well." She said softly," I'm tired."
He spoke reassuringly, saying he would find a nice inn. But, she shook her head, feeling the heaviness in her body.
" I don't feel well at all."
Suddenly, much to the alarm of both, she collapsed to the floor.
Lepoll watched his Captain hunched over the map, and sympathy overwhelmed him.
" Do you think it's the ship we're looking for, sir?"
" It may be. There can be no other explanation for why a British ship would attack a British bound cargo vessel. The French must be trying to weaken our defense lines...but how could there be an identical ship breaking the waves within a league..."
He turned to his officer with a shake of his head, and then a look of concern.
" How is the young lady?"
" Well. 'Tis only a slight cold. She'll recover."
" And, her brother?"
Lepoll had to pause before he answered. Finally, he began, phrasing his words carefully.
" Well, you can't blame him, sir," Lepoll murmured quickly," I mean, with all he's been through..."
" Take me to him."
Syaoran paced impatiently across the floor, as his sister sat sewing in the chair beside him. Only moments before, he'd practically lashed out at a pair of sailors coming to bring them food. He didn't want food. He wanted off.
" Are you sure you're feeling better?"
" Oh, yes. Much." Tomoyo smiled.
Suddenly, there was a brisk knock at the door.
Tomoyo watched with held breath as the Captain entered cautiously, and she averted her eyes back to her sewing as he looked at them. Why did her face feel so hot?
" Well, young sir, until I can find evidence of it otherwise, I can not offer any type of consolation for your loss. But, I must tell you now, I DID NOT sink your ship."
Tomoyo held her breath, listening to the steadied breath of Syaoran. Finally, he surprised them all.
" No. No, of course not." He shook his head," I'm sorry. I didn't mean to accuse our benefactors so readily. It's just..."
" I understand." Captain Eriol murmured," In some ways, I suppose we were to blame. My ship is on the lookout for a rogue French ship pirating the region just north of these coordinates."
" A French ship?" Syaoran's head shot up.
" Yes. Though, my thoughts are hesitant to connect them to such low villany, I'm not ruling out any options." Eriol sighed, then turned towards the door," I'll see to it that you are delivered safely to the port and paid your equal wages in profits."
" That's very kind, sir, but..."
" No, it's the least we can do. After all, you knew nothing about this region. Perhaps the small profit we can offer you will convince you to continue embarkments to Britain."
Tomoyo could see the desperation in his eyes at keeping at least one supplier, and she felt pity for him. These British were not as bad as Father always seem to imply. They were only fighting for their country. And for some reason, all her own, she wanted to stay and help him.
" Syaoran, may I speak with you alone?"
" Of course, Tomoyo. If you'll excuse us, Captain."
" But, we can't!" Syaoran argued," They're on a manhunt! A shiphunt! Do you know how dangerous that is?"
" I know, Syaoran, but..." Tomoyo hesitated...how could you articulate feelings like hers?
" But, what?" His face softened.
" But," She murmured," I miss father."
That seemed to be the key. Slowly he nodded his head.
" You're right. Our first duty is to father. To avenging his needless death."
" ...And..." She started to say.
" Is there something else?"
Tomoyo thought about it for a moment...no, there was nothing else...Was there?
" No. I just wished that he could be here to see you. See you so brave."
Her eyes quivered as she tried to control her tears, and Syaoran held her gently.
" It's okay, sis. It will all turn out right in the end."
" You want to join our search?"
Eriol couldn't believe what he was hearing. Only that morning the boy had been convinced that they were murderers...now he was pleading to help in his search?
" I know, my attitude towards the hospitality of your crew and yourself has been rather uncivil," Syaoran said," So I wish to return your favor of generosity. I also wish to avenge the death of my father."
This was all very much for Eriol to take in. The boy would definitely be of some assistance. He smiled. Here he was, thirteen years old just, and calling someone three years his senior a boy.
" Very well," Eriol said briskly," You may come...but I warn you, this is not a pleasure cruise."
A week passed, and Tomoyo found that the crew's affection for her was no less than on board her father's ship. Her quiet, sunny optimism raised the morale a great deal. As she passed, she'd smile to someone, and they'd smiled back. But, there was one officer who would neither smile or look at her.
She gazed up at the Captain as he stood on the pilot deck.
" Why so glum?"
Syaoran had noticed a growing depression in his sister's countenance. Each morning she'd leave with a grin, or a laugh, but by midmorning her face was pale and sullen.
He wasn't stupid. He noticed how she'd glanced at the Captain the first time they'd gotten aboard. What was she afraid of? That he'd object? Or was it just that the boy wouldn't return her affections? I mean, what else could it be...
" I ruined mother's good dress."
Syaoran blinked. Then laughter spilled from him like a fountain.
" Well that's a bit of an odd request." Captain Eriol pondered.
" Yes, of course, forgive me, sir, for bringing it to your attention. I'll take care of it..."
" No wait a minute, Lepoll. I said it was odd, not that I was busy."
Eriol stood undecided for a moment, then finally nodded. Syaoran hadn't been the only one to notice her growing sullenness.
" Yes. I believe I shall escort the young lady to shore. In the mean time, I think I'll pick up a passenger, who will be a very good companion for her on the trip."
" What will the crew think?" Lepoll pondered with amusement.
" I know I said this wouldn't be a pleasure cruise." Eriol stopped," I believed they've earned some hard earned rest. We will halt our search for a short period."
The Captain and his pretty companion walked in silence for some time. Tomoyo felt her face grow extraordinarily hot, and kept her eyes everywhere, but on his face. But, the harder she tried not to stare, the more she caught herself doing it. His hair was kept at men's length, long enough to be bound in a short tail behind him, but not so long as to seem uncivil. She felt a sudden urge to brush her fingers across his locks, just to see how soft they were.
The angles of his face were very smooth, unlike her brother, and softened more by the deep indigo blue of his eyes. Suddenly, he smiled and lifted his hand in salutation. Tomoyo felt a tinge of jealousy as a beautiful sixteen year old girl ran up and gave him a sound hug, laughing gaily. But, her fears were admonished as he introduced her.
" Tomoyo, I'd like to present to you, my cousin, Sakura. She's just returned from Devonshire, and I've requested her presence aboard the ship."
Sakura's eyes sparkled as she saw Tomoyo.
" You and I shall become fast friends," She said happily," For we shall be the only two women aboard, and must take great care to torture the men with this knowledge."
She scrunched her eyes in laughter, and touched Tomoyo affectionately on the cheek.
Syaoran paced nervously as Lepoll grinned at him.
" The deck isn't as thick as some claim, my boy. More than a cannonball can wear holes in the deck." He commented.
" I can't help it. I worry. She's thirteen years old."
" Are you afraid our Captain will harm her?" Lepoll frowned.
" No. No. It's just." Syaoran sighed," I don't know. Perhaps it just comes from being an older brother so long. I worry even if there is nothing to worry about."
As he turned around again, he stopped dead in his tracks. There, climbing up the ladder from a small wooden boat, was a creature so beautiful he couldn't believe she existed, except in his dreams.
" Who is that?" He whispered softly, to no one in particular.
Lepoll glanced up.
" Oh, that, sir? She is the cousin of our dear Captain. Sakura Avalon."
Syaoran felt his heart skip two...three beats, and something comparable to a hot ember in his throat. Suddenly, all the blood drained from his face. She was looking his way. As he turned back to his task, she stood next to him, smiling mischievously.
" Well, I'll be...a genuine colonist."
He couldn't think of anything to say, and so continued trying to tie a knot that just wouldn't stay done.
" Cousin!" She called to Eriol as he stepped aboard," You're an evil rogue! What right do you have letting such handsome gents aboard your ship?"
Syaoran's blush grew.
" Are you intending to kill me?" She laughed some more," I'll be so intent on staring at him, I'll probably trip and fall overboard. Who'd save me then?"
" I would."
Sakura blinked, and turned to see the boy staring at her. Her face flushed a deep pink as she saw the sincerity in his honey brown eyes.
" I spoke only in jest, sir," She smiled," I- I would not wish to trouble you."
" It would be no trouble."
He bent and kissed her hand lightly, before returning to the knot he was tying, which seemed to elude him. She turned back to her cousin, who grinned immeasurable satisfaction.
" Do you teach all your crew to be so charming?" She murmured.
Tomoyo smiled at her brother. He'd found someone to love. But, did she love him back? And what about herself? She gazed at the Captain, smiling at the antics of her brother and his cousin. Pity he seemed more concerned for his cousin's love life than his own. Suddenly, she gasped as she remembered. Sakura turned back to her.
" Is something wrong, dear?"
" I didn't get the new dress I'd set out to buy." Tomoyo murmured.
" Oh." Her eyes widened," Oh! Well, that is a felony worth a walk on the plank, isn't it Captain?"
Eriol bowed in earnest apology at Tomoyo's stricken look.
" Forgive me, milady. In my haste to settle my cousin, I've neglected your needs. Come."
" Oh, no! You'll not have her wandering about in this foul wind, cousin!" Sakura clucked," She'll just have to borrow one of my dresses."
" What? But, I couldn't..." Tomoyo protested
" OH, yes! You certainly must. And as suitable punishment for my cousin's misdemeanor, we shall not sail, until you've found a suitable one."
Tomoyo gulped, seeing Eriol raise an eyebrow in amusement. But, as she stammered an apology, Sakura took her by the hand and tugged her below deck.
" So what do you make of my cousin, my good sir?" Eriol smiled at a startled Syaoran. Caught staring.
" Yes, she is." He grinned goodnaturedly," I trust this will alleviate some of your anxieties."
" About your sister."
" Oh. Yes of course." He stammered.
" Good. Then I suggest you get a good night's sleep!" Eriol saluted. " For tomorrow, we continue our shiphunt!"
A/N: Wow. That was long.