I'm so sorry it has taken so long for the update

I'm so sorry it has taken so long for the update. My wonderful Beta and I were having computer problems. The next chapter will be up shortly. If not you can always bug my beta IceStar4621 for the next chapter. She has it and thanks for everyone who has reviewed.

Chapter 10: Plans and Plots

Josh Madison sat across from his long time friend, Jack Aubrey's little sister and waited patiently while she gathered her thoughts, trying to decide how best to explain why she was there.

"Thank you for meeting me here Mr. Madison," Bri said after a moment, trying to think how best to word the request she knew she had to make. "I have something I need to talk to you about and I'm hoping you will be willing to assist me."

Mr. Madison shifted in his chair slightly, wondering just what she wanted. "Of course I'll do what I can for you, Miss Aubrey. Your brother is a good friend of mine."

Bri nodded. This was going to be tricky, she knew, he probably wouldn't like what she had to ask him. "About my brother, Mr. Madison, he can't know about this. Or any of his crew for that matter. You have to promise me you won't tell them. They're already in enough danger as is and I can't let anything happen to them because of me. Can you understand that and promise me no matter what you'll keep this between us?"

"In danger from who?" Mr. Madison demanded then, his voice suddenly sharp and when Bri didn't reply he leaned forward. "You're in danger too, aren't you? That's why you attacked your brother, isn't it? You wanted to get away without him questioning you. That's why you're hiding in this church now, isn't it? You're protecting them." Hesitatingly, Bri nodded and Mr. Madison sighed, looking grim. "You need to tell Jack," he said but Bri shook her head.

"No," Bri said firmly. "Trust me, Mr. Madison. I've thought this through and it will be better if he doesn't know. Will you help me or not?"

Josh Madison sighed, shifting uncomfortably. "Of course I'll help you," he said after a moment. "There's no question of that. I only wish there was another way."

Bri smiled sadly. "So do I, Mr. Madison. So do I."

"You wanted to see me here, Sister," Dr. Stephen Maturin said softly, quietly entering the church and walking up to Sister Ida.

"This way, Dr. Maturin," the nun said, smiling and leading him down a hallway. "Father Thomas has asked me to bring you to his office."

"Any particular reason?" Stephen asked, confused, but the nun only smiled once more and after a moment she stopped and knocked on a large wood door.

"Come in," a voice called and she opened the door and gestured Stephen inside.

"I'm sure he'll explain," she said softly.

"Thank you, Sister Ida," Father Thomas said then, not looking toward them and the nun nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind her. "I'm sure you're wondering why you're here, Doctor," Father Thomas said then, looking up at Stephen and smiling warmly. "It seems we have a mutual friend," he explained, getting up and gesturing to a second door.

"Who is this friend, Father Thomas?" Stephen asked.

"You'll see in a moment, Doctor. This way, please," the father said, again indicating the door, which Stephen found led out the back of the church and he frowned, confused. There was a small house behind the church and Father Thomas quickly ushered him inside. "Up the stairs to the right. You'll want the second door," he said quietly and Stephen, ever more confused, obeyed.

When he reached the top he slowly walked to the second door as instructed and knocked softly, frowning when it opened and he still didn't see anyone. "Hello?" he said, walking in the small bedroom and looking behind the door. No one there.

"How did Jack like the cat?" a familiar voice asked then and he turned looking in the direction of the voice but only seeing darkness. "He never did like cats," the voice continued, sounding somewhat sad and he knew who it was now.

"Bri," he murmured, looking around the room, trying to find her. "Well, you know Jack. I can't say he likes the cat but he is keeping it. They're both waiting on the Surprise for you, Bri. The cat tried to bite him. The crew is calling him Frisky."

"Frisky," Bri repeated softly from right behind him and he turned quickly and found himself face to face with his best friend's sister. "He did seem to be frisky," Bri said then, looking at the floor rather than meeting his eyes. "Was it Jack that named him?"

"Yes," Stephen said, his voice quiet. "What are you doing here, Bri?" he asked.

"It's a really long story, Stephen," she said tiredly. "I had to talk to you before-"

She hesitated then, trailing off and looking up at him for the first time. "I couldn't leave again without telling you goodbye," she whispered.

"Goodbye? No, Bri, you can't leave," Stephen said, suddenly understanding in one brief and awful moment what this was about. "You can't," he said again, grabbing her arm gently. "Not again." His voice was pleading now, he knew. "Not this time! Please, Bri, I won't let you!"

Bri smiled then, through the tears she could feel forming in her eyes. "I truly am sorry, Stephen. Not only about now, but about before too. I never should have left. Maybe things would be different if I hadn't. I'm sorry."

"You already said that," shaking his head, wondering if he was hearing what he thought he was hearing. Wondering if he was at last going to get the answers she had refused him before. "Why did you leave before?"

Bri closed her eyes, reflecting that she had known he was going to ask this and reminding herself that she couldn't tell him about Mark, no matter how tempting that was. It was just too dangerous. "Remember when we were at Port Liberty?" she asked instead and Stephen nodded. "I saw you and Leann Madison there the day I left," she said softly, willing him to grasp the rest, letting him come to his own conclusions, and above all else, not mentioning Mark.

Stephen looked at her blankly for a few moments and she had to look away when she saw the terrible moment of comprehension on his face. "Three years you've hidden from me because you just saw me with a mail girl," he whispered after a moment, and she could hear the grief and regret in his voice. "Bri, why wouldn't you talk to me instead of just leaving?"

Bri stifled a sob, knowing he was right and wishing she had talked to him back then. "I was upset, Stephen, I wasn't thinking clearly. I just kept seeing the two of you in my mind." Sighing, she forced herself to look into his eyes. "You're right though," she whispered. "I should have talked to you and I regret it. Things could have been so different if I had. I'm so sorry, Stephen."

"Then why are you leaving again?" he asked after a moment, desperation in his voice. "We can talk it through, Bri, and be together again! I still love you, Bri."

"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Stephen," Bri said, shaking her head, fiercely trying to keep her composure. "You should return to the ship. To Jack. That's where you belong, Stephen, don't you see that?" She walked away then, toward the window, and Stephen followed, gently grabbing her arm once more. "What are you doing?" she asked, turning to face him and he smiled softly.

"What I should have done a long time ago," he said, leaning forward and kissing her before she could say anything else.

Bri returned the kiss without thinking, her eyes closing before snapping open as she realized what she was doing and breaking the kiss but Stephen wouldn't let her out of his grasp.

"You still want to leave?" he asked and she shook her head, unable to answer.

No, she didn't want to leave but she had to.

'Three years. Three years to make up for.' Stephen thought as he watched her.

And then he kissed her again.

First Lieutenant Tom Pulling's sat and watched Captain Jack Aubrey pace back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. "They'll find her, Captain," attempting, as he'd been doing for quite some time to calm the man down.

"Every second of every day since I first met my little sister I have known exactly where she was," Jack said, his voice quiet, his eyes off into the distance. "Tell me, Tom, how would I explain to my father that she attacked me and then ran away? That I don't know where she is when I swore that I would. And wait, it gets even better, as though losing my sister weren't enough; I seemed to have misplaced my doctor as well! How could I explain that to him?"

Jack shook his head and sunk into a chair, seeming to have forgotten his lieutenant was even there, his mind far away, remembering years ago…

He was at his favorite place in the world, his home, Pearl Cove, and he was down by the docks where his mother had told him his father always used to bring him when he was a baby. It was springtime now but even in the wintertime it was fun to come and watch the ships. His father was scheduled to come home today, after four years at sea, and Jack couldn't wait. He had been four when the man had left and now he could barely remember him.

"Jack," his mother said then, joy in her voice, pointing toward the water and he saw a ship heading toward the dock. "It's your father, Jack," she told him, laughing and running forward and Jack ran after her, feeling strangely excited and nervous at the same time.

"Remember what I told you Jack," his mother reminded him. "I want you to respect your father, don't give him any grief. He's been away a long time and he deserves peace."

Jack nodded impatiently, because, really, he'd heard this all from her before. Then he saw him, a man that looked just like an older version of himself. He was carrying a bundle that Jack soon realized was a person, a very small person who was wrapped up in a blanket, protected from the cold.

Captain Peter Aubrey walked down toward his wife and son, maneuvering himself carefully so as not to jar his precious bundle.

"Peter?" Jack's mother said, a question in her voice, but her husband waved his hand, silencing her.

"We need to get to a doctor, Maryann," he said urgently, motioning for them both to follow him. "She'll die otherwise."

"Peter?" Maryann asked in shock, running after him, Jack in tow. "Who is she, Peter?"

For long moments Peter Aubrey didn't answer and when they got to the doctor's office he knocked hurriedly on the door. Finally he sighed, shaking his head. "It's a long story, Maryann," he murmured and then the door was opened.

"Doctor, hurry, please. She's burning up," he said anxiously.

"Quickly, place her on the bed," was the response and Peter walked forward and did as he was told, gently removing the blanket.

Jack inched forward, wanting to see the little girl. She was very small, with long curly brown hair and her face had a coat of sweat, proof of the fever that threatened to take her life.

"How old is she?" the doctor asked softly, already examining her.

"Umm…" Peter hesitating, seeming to count in his head. "Three," he said after a moment. "Her Mother died of this same fever a month ago, the child though, wasn't sick until two days ago."

"Has she been sick before?" the doctor wanted to know and Peter nodded.

"Yes. She always seems to have something. Will she be all right, Doctor?"

The doctor shook his head, but before he could answer there was a commotion at the door and a boy burst in.

"Captain," he said, panting. "Is she all right, Captain?"

"I'm not sure, Master Gable," Peter said, looking back at the doctor. "The good doctor here was just about to tell me."

"If I can get this fever down she should be fine," the doctor said. "I'm afraid she'll probably always have a weak immune system though."

"Peter, I need to talk to you," Maryann said, finally getting impatient, and walking out the door. "NOW," she insisted when her husband hesitated.

"I'll be back," Peter said, reluctantly following his wife, his son following discreetly.

"Who is she?" he heard his mother demand and there was a pause and a sigh before his father answered.

"She's my daughter, Maryann," he said heavily and Maryann gasped, backing up a step.

"Your daughter?" she breathed, her face twisting in anger. "I have waited four years for you to return just to find out that you have been with another woman? That you have a daughter?"

"Maryann, you're right, I know, but please remember that it is no fault of the girl. Please don't take it out on her. Besides, you've always said you wanted a daughter and now you have one."

"No," Maryann said, her voice shaking. "I have no daughter and there is no way I or Jack will have anything to do with that-" Here she struggled, seeming unable to find a word adequate enough to describe the little girl. "That child," she said finally, making it sound like an insult, and Jack, unable to contain himself any longer ran up to her.

"Mother no!" he pleaded. " I want to be there for my sister. She needs us, Mother."

Peter smiled at his son then but Maryann only shook her head again. "No! I forbid it," she repeated, her eyes glaring daggers.

"Maryann, she is part of this family now," Peter said quietly, his voice intent. "I'm sorry you feel this way but nothing can change that now."

"I'll always know where she is," Jack said then, already running back to his sister.

Jack snapped out of his memory then, looking at that cat he had allowed to stay on board.

"I've also allowed that frisky beast onto my ship," he said, pointing to the cat who had perched himself on his desk and was watching him intently. "It's a good thing my sister likes you or I would have you thrown overboard," he muttered darkly and Tom grinned. "I'd toss him toward land," Jack mumbled, his hand over his eyes, his exhaustion for a moment seeming to catch up to him. "He'd probably just land on his feet though, cats always do."

"Not all the time, sir," Tom said then, still grinning. "When I was younger I dropped my cat and he fell on his back. I never tried that again."

"Well. It's not a very big port, Tom," Jack said, changing the subject. "She has to be here somewhere." Before Tom could say anything though there was a knock on the door. "Enter," Jack said, his voice captain-like again and a moment later Mr. Hollom stepped in and saluted them both. "Any sign of Brianna, Mr. Hollom?" Jack asked.

"No, sir," Mr. Hollom said. "I'm sorry, sir, I know she's important to you. The crew is looking though." He paused a moment, seeming to hesitate. "Sir," he said then, suddenly rather quiet.

"What is it Mr. Hollom?" Jack asked, his mind drifting once more toward his little sister.

"You asked me the on the day of the accident if I saw anything out of the ordinary," Hollom said slowly and Jack, who had started pacing again stopped abruptly and looked at him.

"Yes, so I did. Have you seen anything out of the ordinary, Mr. Hollom?"

"Well, sir, I saw Seaman Knox standing rather close to the ropes and it normally wouldn't have seemed out of the ordinary, sir, but I had ordered him below, you see. To get extra rope for Mr. Suller and I probably wouldn't have even remembered if Mr. Suller, himself, hadn't mentioned it to me only today," he said nervously. "I hope this is helpful, sir."

Jack and Tom looked at each other, each thinking the same thing. "Does Mr. Knox have a sister?" Jack asked.

"I'm not sure," Tom said, looking at Hollom who shrugged.

"I don't know either, sir."

"Bring him here, Mr. Hollom, and we shall see. I have a few questions for him," Jack ordered briskly and Hollom saluted again.

"Yes, sir. Right away."

"Mr. Suller, have you seen, Mr. Knox?" Hollom asked.

"Yes, sir. He's down by the pier," Mr. Suller said, pointing and Hollom nodded.

"Thank you," he said before walking away toward Mr. Knox, who was standing by the water and packing boxes of supplies. "Mr. Knox," he said, standing in front of him.

The man turned around to look at who had called him and his eyes went wide for a moment before he spoke. "Yes, sir?"

"If you'll follow me, the Captain would like to ask you a few questions," Hollom said, turning to walk back to the captain's cabin.

"Begging your pardon, but about what, sir?" Knox asked.

"You'll find out when he speaks to you, Mr. Knox," Hollom said, continuing to walk back in the direction he had come, but, directing his gaze forward he stopped suddenly, seeing Mark Bleecker pointing a gun at him.