How do I come up with this corny stuff about the boys and their wives...oy. Be darlin's and tell me if this is worth continuing, won't you?

Hannah rose on her tip-toes to look over the crowd on the dock. Various cries and laughs of hallelujah resounded and husbands and wives and fiances reunited; mothers relieved at their boys coming back before them in one piece, fathers who'd left pregnant wives and small children and had returned to have babes placed in their arms and the young children no longer clinging to Mama's skirts.

"Thomas, I swear..." She mumbled to herself, scanning every man that walked down the gangplank like a hawk to make sure he wasn't her husband. She reminded herself that he may very well no longer be clean shaven or he could have put on weight, but she absentmindedly still looked for that slim figure and smooth face.

She leaned to the side to see past the nearly seven foot Captain, and literally felt her heart sink while the tears welded up as he walked over to her, the last man off.

He half-smiled at her. "Relax, Miz Pullings, your husband's on a better ship."

She clamped her hand over her mouth, giving the tears an obstacle on the way down her cheeks.

"Oh, darling, I beg your gracious pardon! I meant not that at all!" He wiped the tears off with his thumb, chuckling slightly as he pointed to the ship at the next dock over. "No, he's alive and perfectly healthy! I named him Captain of the Acheron after we took her. I apologize most sincerely, I must've frightened you!"

She sighed deeply, touching her chest. "I'll admit you did, but think nothing of it, sir!"

"He's probably waiting for you. You know, he kept those letters you sent him at that last port very close to his heart. Right inside his shirt. Pulled 'em out every time he thought no one was looking."

"I kept the ones he sent me pinned to the wall in the kitchen. His spelling is improving."

Jack smiled brightly and snorted a slight laugh. "He's a fine officer. Very dutiful, but at ease. Needed in a stressful job. He moved up in his ranks rather quickly."

"He is a fine man. A good husband."

"A good father, as well?"

She breathed a small expression of amusement. "Alas, I cannot judge. He isn't a father."

Jack nodded in understanding. "You two are practically newlyweds. You deserve a bit of time. Now, go on, before he thinks you died or worse." He gave her a slight tap on the shoulder to turn her in the direction of the Acheron.

She wheedled her way toward the gangplank of the gorgeous Yankee-built ship. Her legs wobbled a bit on the deck, but she managed to make her way down to the lower decks.

"Alright, where's the captain's quarters...Good Lord, it's dark..."

She felt around, trying not to trip on anything, but Fate left a crate in her path that she didn't notice, and she stumbled into a pile of more crates and barrels. The deafening crash echoed down the various hallways and passages.

"Who's there?!"

The demanding voice frightened Hannah a moment, but she quickly recognized the tone.


The speaker was silent, startled, it seemed.

"Who's there?!"

"It's your WIFE, Thomas Pullings!" She answered annoyedly.



"Yes, Thomas! Now git over here and help me up!" She weakly tried to push herself up, but, as expected, she got nowhere.

Tom hopped over the mess on the floor and quickly pulled her up.

"Pardon, dearest, I was about to go up! Honest, I fell asleep in my quarters and no one woke me! Oy, apple tart, I'm sorry, are you hurt?"

"No." She glared at first, but the expression dropped as she sighed, brushing her hair out of her eyes. "And I'm sorry if I sounded like-"

He threw his arms around her and picked her clean up off the floor in a hug.

"Thomas Pullings, you put me down! And get your face out of my bust, lest someone think I'm just pleasurable company!"

He ignored the demand, only mumbling, "What good is a soft spot if I can't put my face in it?"


He gently but reluctantly set her down, leaving his arms around her waist.

"You're very lucky to have come back in one piece. If you'd come back in any more, I would've hit you so hard..."

He only laughed and kissed her cheek, finally getting her to return his embrace.

Most men saw Hannah Pullings as naggy, cold and defiant, and pitied her husband, but Tom knew she nagged because she worried, had her tender moments, and wasn't society obedient because of the expectations that she saw as imbecilic pushed on her by her family. Rather, she thought them both imbecilic, which is why she hadn't been like most wives and gotten pregnant on the wedding night.

He'd thought the same as the others at first, and when the marriage had been arranged, he'd figured he might as well tame the shrew, only to find she was very motherly, not necessarily just cranky, and had a sense of humor that left his sides sore on occasion. True, she chased him out of the kitchen and rapped him across the knuckles with a ladle or whatever was in reach when he swiped a spoonful out of the pot or pinched her arse, but he found poking and prodding her entertaining, and knew that she knew that was his sole purpose for pestering her.

"Did you enjoy your break from your annoying housewife?"

"Don't be silly, Hannah, aside from sturdy ground, you were what I missed the most."

"You're a Navyman, why would you miss sturdy ground?"

"Well, it makes walking and sleeping easier. I find it quite useful for...other things, too..."

She rolled her eyes.

"Don't worry, Hannah, I was utterly loyal in my absense."

"You had better been. Otherwise, I'd-"

"-hit me so hard the adulteress would feel it. I know, apple tart, and I kept my pride tied." He pulled her closer. "You threaten a lot for a wife so eager to see her husband home from war."

"Come along, Tom, look at you! What did they feed you? You're NOT the man I put aboard the Surprise! Slimmer n' a snake! And look at the darkness under your eyes! What is THAT?" She pulled back slightly out of reflex of looking him over.

Poking him in the usual ticklish spots, she demanded how it was possible that she could now feel his ribs through his uniform.

"Well, look at you, apple tart, you've lost weight, too! Either that, or your hips have gotten bigger! This waist...tosh! That's no corset, either! Your bust is more defined that it ought to be!"

"Keep your face out of it and it won't seem so defined," she countered indignantly.

"As I said, what good is a soft spot if you can't burrow in it?"

"Keep your face out of my chest until it's appropriate, otherwise the only soft spot you'll feel is the downstairs parlor couch."


"Poor Pullings...probably bleedin' from his ears at his wife's yappin'."

"That dratted whore...whoever arranged that marriage should be shot, along with the bride," Killick mumbled in response at Anderson.

"I wouldn't let my tongue run like that." Bonden set his cup down and swished the contents about a bit. "Mrs. Pullings is a worrier, sure, who pokes and prods quite a lot. But she's a lovin' woman; was kind to me when I broke my nose in a boxin' match. Of course warned and whined on me 'bout fightin'. No less lovin' than my Lilith, though."

"You married a dratted whore, too, Bonden!" Killick spat.

Anderson giggled at the comment, but quickly shut his mouth as the steward went flying backwards off the bench followed by a light spray of blood from a split lip.

"I wouldn't call anyone's Mrs. a whore, Killick, you're the one who uses harlots!"

Barrett snorted at the other dumbfounded crew member. "Have you something to say to me, Anderson?!"

"Nothin'," he sqeaked, turning away.

"You're married, too, so you best leave it at that."

He turned on his heel and stormed out of the men's galley, and quickly saluted the Captain as he walked past.

Jack grabbed his shoulder to stop him and gripped his right wrist.

"Bonden, explain the bloody knuckles." He frowned, glowering.

"Jus' punched Killick, tha's all, sir."

"What for now?"

"Called m'wife a whore. As well as Lieutenant Pullings' Mrs."

"Wipe that blood off your knuckles and go find Lilith. She's probably thinking you're hiding from her, and if you show up with a bloody hand, she'll give you hell. And I'll give you hell, too, if you knock him that hard again. Stop pickin' fights."

"Sorry, sir."

"Go on, now." He left his co'sun and went into the galley. "Killick, you know how Bonden feels about his wife. I don't know how you can speak of her like that, she's quite a sweet girl."

"'S not Lily, I've the issue's Mizzus Pullings. Naggy, annoyin' demon-woman, got no place with the good Lieutenant."

"You, Preserved Killick, don't even know her. Now, clean your face, and see Stephen, if you can. Bonden hits pretty hard. And no more talking dirt about your fellow sailors' wives. Or at least get your facts straight afore you speak."

"Aye, sir," Killick grumbled, shaking off some of the excess blood on his hand as he got up.


"Thomas, are you alright?"

"Perfectly well, love. Why?"

"You seem troubled."

"No, not at all," he answered quickly.

Hannah's forehead furrowed. "Tom, I can easily tell that's a lie. What's wrong?"

"It's nothing." He brushed it away with a slight wave of his hand.

"Come now, Thomas, what is it?" She stepped in front of him, placing a gentle hand on his chest to stop him.

"It isn't a big issue, apple tart, I promise." He took her hand and stepped around her to keep on going.

"You got that letter from my parents, didn't you?"

He slowed. "Letter?"

"Thomas, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about, the opposite is as plain as day. The letter questioning our sterility and pestering us about an heir."

"Yes...that one," he replied monotonously.

"I hate being told that is the sole purpose for marriage. After all, I've grown to love you deeply, Tom."

"And I you, apple you not think that a son or daughter might be nice?"

"Tom, I will not carry a baby that is in existance merely to please the rest of the world."

"Of course, apple tart, I would never force you to do something like that if you didn't want to."

"Amen." He grip on his hand became less tense.

He cocked his head. "What about to please me? Would you have a baby to please me?"

She sighed, but it surprisingly wasn't angry. "I will think on it, Tom."

"That is all I ask." He shot her a mischievious glance, a look she furrowed her brow at. "But do note, apple tart, I will pounce when you least expect it, and you will not be able to escape my hands then."

"What about you not forcing it?"

"Well, if you enjoy yourself, I will not have to force it, will I?"

He laughed as she whacked him lightly.

Bonden, completely swarmed by his five children, stumbled down the street, his wife trailing behind him, looking smug.

"OCH! Aubrey, you're clawin' Da'! ACK! An' chokin' 'im, too! Moses, don't yank Da's pants down in public! Alright, no one else on Da's legs, Da' can't hardly move!"

Hannah smiled and nodded at Lily as she walked near. "Evening, Lily. Sent the rascals after other bait, now did you?"

Lily beamed. "Aye, that I did, Mizzus Pullings. As soon as Da's in view, they almost trampled him and jump on him like squirrels on a tree. Alright, loveys, don't kill your father! Be good little sailors and say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Pullings!"

The children instantly leapt off Barrett and lined up militantly in front of their mother, oldest to youngest.

"Well, if you aren't little darlings," Tom chuckled, making a bow in return to each of them as they either bowed or curtseyed. "Who's who in this adorable bunch?"

"This is Aubrey," Lily said proudly, touching the lovely ten-year-old who took after her father, with her wavy blonde locks and large green eyes. "She's ten, my eldest. Born but ten months after Barrett and I got married."

"I remember you..." Tom winked at her, causing the young maid to blush. "The little lass Bonden brought aboard when we were docked. You could barely walk then, and your da' set you up on the wheel. I also remember you yelling at him, Lily. Rather amusing, that was. And who's this handsome young man?"

"This is Jeremiah, the eldest of our boys, being nine. Wants to be a sailor like his papa. Serve under Cap'n Pullings, eh?" She asked the boy jokingly.

Jeremiah, though he had his mother's light brown hair, was no doubt his father's son.

"Can I, sir?" He asked excitedly in his quiet voice.

"I'll tell you what, lad," Tom said, leaning down. "If yer mum n' da' say it's alright, I'll take you out a little ways in the ol' ship, eh? I'll take all of you out, teach you to be little pirates. How does that sound?"

The children instantly scrambled up to Lily. "Can we, Mum, can we, please?!" They asked repeatedly, anxious and worked up.

"Yes, please, be out of my hair for a bit!" She waved her arms at them to shoo them, a slight smile on her face. "And you mind your Captain! You have my permission to smack them, Cap'n Pullings, if they're disrespectful."

They looked fearfully but innocently up at Tom, and quickly stood at attention in front of him.

"I'm sure they'll be good, Lily, dear. Don't worry."

"And I'll get you in and out of the harbor," Barrett said, stepping up next to his offspring.

Tom walked down the row as though inspecting them for the Marines, the boys puffing their chests out to look tough. He stepped in front of the twins and the little girl at the end of the row.

"And who're these three that have joined my crew?"

"Joshua," the first twin said confidently.

"Moses," the second replied with equal enthusiasm.

"Ruby," the little girl said quietly, completely butchering the pattern.

Tom knelt in from of Ruby so his face was level with her own, a young replica of her mother's. "So you're the littlest of the bunch..." He raised her chin as she looked at the ground, and drew his hand away once her shy gaze was locked in his. "Ruby, is it?"


"I bet you- come now, I don't bite..." He chuckled, raising her chin again. She looked so pitiful, huge eyes welling up with tears of fear. Her father patted her on top of the head to ease her anxiety.

"I bet your brother's pick on you, don't they?"

" me awful names," she squeaked.

"Language they learned from their father," Lily grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"How's about I make you my first lieutenant. Then you can order them about, eh?"

Jeremiah only blinked a shocked blink, but Joshua and Moses looked completely horrified.

Ruby smiled broadly, eyes wide with excitement.

"May I really, sir?"

"Of course, little darling. You even get to order yer da' about."

"Now, Mr. Pullings..." Barrett blurted nervously.

"Oh, hush, Bonden, every married man knows how to take orders from a woman. Have mercy on your da', Ruby...he's traumatized."

"I will, sir," she promised with a mischievious glint in her eye.

"How wonderful your husband is with the children," Lily said softly to Hannah. "And fine-featured and handsome, too...if it isn't to bold, ma'am."

"Aye," was Hannah's only dumbfounded response, never taking her eyes from Tom.

Tom rose and offered his arm to his wife. "Come along, apple tart, we best get home. If I may say, Bonden, you've the finest little crop of sweethearts."

"Thank you kindly, sir," Barrett said, beaming.

"And thank you ever so much for taking them out," Lily said, looking extravagantly grateful.

"I've still got my sea legs, it won't be a problem," Tom assured, patting Hannah's hand as she linked it through his arm.

With final farewells, they were soon off their separate ways.

"Little darlings, the lot of them," he commented half to himself, half to Hannah.

When he received no response, he looked over worriedly at her. "Hannah, are you well?"

"You may be a father just yet, Tom," she replied, amazed. "You may be a father just yet..."