The wind whips at the slackening sails and sends sea spray flying as the Dauntless cuts through the choppy waves. I have made this voyage many times in the past few years, and each time I have come home to something different – a distraught young woman, an anxious wife, a loving mother . . .
We weigh anchor a mile or so offshore, much too far away for me to glimpse anyone on the docks. The men are cheerful after such a successful journey, and many long for solid ground under their feet and ale in their hands.
The first of the longboats are lowered to the churning sea below, and I salute to each group of my men as they begin the hard row toward shore. Many salute back, and some wave their hats jovially.
"Godspeed, Admiral!" is the cry as I lower myself into a boat with my lieutenants in tow. A few men reach out and clap me on the back, and I nod my head in turn and salute once more. The trip to shore is one of the longest I've ever taken. As we near the docks my eyes search the crowd frantically before I spot them standing side by side. My girls . . .
As soon as we bump against the dock I spring from the boat and am swallowed by the tide of people. Elizabeth seems to have disappeared.
Brows knit, I look around for the source of the small voice amongst the bellowing sailors and their chattering wives. There is a light tugging on the hem of my coat, and I crouch down to meet a pair of sparkling brown eyes.
Charlotte smiles happily, and throws her thin arms about my neck. I hug her to me and kiss the top of her head. She giggles and reaches up to touch the stubble on my chin.
"Papa, you're scratchy!" she cries, "Mama won't like that."
I rumple her hair, whose perfect waves have already been mussed by the wind. "Speaking of Mama, where is she?"
"Right here, James."
Her very voice brings a smile to my lips. Lifting Charlotte into my arms I turn to face my wife. Her eyebrow arches as she takes in my scruffy appearance, but she softens as soon as I lean in to give her a quick kiss.
"I missed you," she whispers.
"And I you."
Charlotte makes a face at me, and I poke her nose playfully. "I hope you didn't tire your Mama out too much while I was away."
Wide, solemn eyes meet mine.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Elizabeth laughs as Charlotte clambers from my arms and into hers as we walk down the dock to the carriage waiting on the cobblestones. She smoothes her gown out over her rounded belly, and hoists our daughter higher on her hip.
"If this one is anything like Her Ladyship here then I fear they shall be the death of me," she says with a laugh.
I open the door of the carriage, help Elizabeth up, and set Charlotte on the seat beside her before clambering in myself. As we jerk into motion Charlotte launches herself from her seat and scrambles into my lap.
"Papa, can I go to the fort with you today?" she asks.
I meet Elizabeth's tired, but smiling, eyes. "How about I take her with me for the afternoon so you can get some rest?"
"You'd take her alone?" Elizabeth asks, her eyebrows rising again.
"Why not?" I say with a shrug, as Charlotte curls up in my arms and looks up at me with those innocent eyes. "You of all people should know that there's a first time for everything."
- Official Fin -
A Note From the Authoress:
Firstly, thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me through out this ordeal of a novel. This was my first multi-chapter fic, and I couldn't be more proud of how it turned out. I spent an entire year in my French class, two years ago now, writing down this story on scrap paper. It has taken me just about another year to get his up for all of you to experience and read. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would hit 50+ reviews, yet here I am because of you. All of you have made this journey what it is. My one wish is that you get more than a good read out of what I have poured my heart, my soul, and my beliefs into. Thank you again for sticking with me to the end.
To My Rabid Reviewers: Shay, Rock-Nye, damsel-in-stress, royalpinkdogs, IKeepGoldfishInMyBra, Mia-philosephet, DementedWaitingGnome, Nindae, Agent Maekere, SirenoftheStorm, Dinsoku, Jack!, Lady_Elizabeth, thelyra, Lyra Lupin, Juliet, christyfiction, freedom_sparks, PirateRN, Willofthewisp, xLady Jackal, Rex Luscus, and Nurr.
A million hugs, flowers, cookies, Snape plushies, etc. to all of you – and much love of course! (Gah. I'm getting weepy!)
Where Will Larael Be in the Future: I will be going off to university in the autumn, so most of my writing will be done during the summer. Considering my first love is Snape you can expect to see many additions to the series of oneshots calls "Drabbles on a Broken Heart". Also, since posting my first Star Trek 2009 oneshot, I have been asked to continue the story. That will probably be my second multi-chapter fic with approximately 11-15 chapters. Of course, this is probably not the end of Norribeth, just the end of this telling of their lives. Someday, maybe in the near future, I hope to write something from Elizabeth's point of view, as I've never done that before.
So, that's it. This whole thing has been a blast, and I hope to do it again some day. Thanks for keeping it real, and I'll see you around. Happy reading! xoxo Larael