Disclaimer: I do not own Haruka and Michiru.

Chapter 6

Haruka dashed out of her cabin and made for the navigation bridge with Tim and Michiru following close. No doubt, a big war ship twice their size was clearly visible in the moonlight.

"Have they realized we're pirates yet?" Haruka asked.

"No, it's too dark for them to see that we're not showing any colors. But they have signaled us to meet with them. Obviously, denying that request will seem very suspicious."

"And if we meet, they will immediately realize we are not innocent merchants." Haruka cursed. "Well, we just have to get away as fast as possible then."

Tim frowned worriedly. "If they realize we're pirates, which they will once they see us running away, they'll attack. And we're no match for a war ship of that size."

Haruka grinned. "True, but I don't intend to let them come close enough to engage us in battle. No matter how many cannons they may have aboard, they have to catch us first."

She took a quick glance at the navigational charts which were always stored near the wheel. Once she made out their exact position, she took hold of the wheel and ordered the crew to prepare for a change of course to the southeast.

"We'd be faster going southwest." Tim told her with a frown.

"Yes, but so would they. One of our sails has been damaged during the storm. Unless they have damages too, we won't be able to outrun them in a conventional way. However, there is a group of small islands to the southeast. Passage between them is very difficult for big ships, so they usually take the long way around. As we're the smaller ship, we have a far better chance to make it through between them."

Tim turned pale. "If you're talking about the passage I think you're talking about, then you're obviously mad. Even in daylight it's extremely dangerous with all the rocks and shallows. But at night… I am telling you, Haruka, you will sink this bloody boat on some rocks, that's for sure!"

Haruka snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. I know that passage well enough to sail it in the dark. It may be risky, but it's our only chance of escape. And to be honest, I'd rather drown in the sea than being hanged by some bloody redcoats. Now, would you be so kind as to make sure everyone is at their station? It would increase our chances to make it through safely a lot if you were doing your job instead of fretting over the possible outcome."

Tim glared at her for a moment, but then turned without further argument and began barking orders at the crew.

It was only then that Haruka noticed that Michiru had followed them onto the bridge. She was now standing at the rail biting her lip and staring at the other ship. For a moment Haruka's thoughts trailed back to the kiss they had shared only a few minutes ago. 'Curse the bloody Navy for interrupting us at that very moment!' Haruka wanted nothing more than to go back to her cabin with Michiru, take the other's dress off and… But this was obviously not the time to harbor thoughts like that and if she ever wanted to return to her cabin at all, then she'd better concentrate on the task ahead.

They had successfully changed course now and were sailing straight at the cluster of tiny islands nearby. Already Haruka could make out the shape of the closest one ahead of them. She looked back and saw the other ship having changed course too. They really meant business after all. "Bastards!" she growled.

"Beg your pardon?" Michiru turned around startled, thinking Haruka had spoken to her.

"I am talking to myself." Haruka told her grimly.

Michiru hesitated for a moment, then asked: "Do you want me to go inside?"

"No, this isn'tlike a storm. This time you're actually safer outside. If we really shipwreck, you can try swimming to one of the islands. After all, you already proved you're a better swimmer than anyone else on this ship." Haruka grinned, remembering Michiru's attempt at escape the previous week. "And now kindly shut up, I have to concentrate."

For a moment Michiru looked quite offended, but then she shrugged her shoulders and went back to staring at the pursuing naval ship.

They were very close to the islands when suddenly a loud boom and a splash was heard. Michiru shrieked. "Are they firing at us?"

Haruka laughed triumphantly. "Idiots! They have realized they won't be able pursue us any further once we disappear between the islands, and so they are trying to scare us into surrendering before. However, all they just proved is that we are too far away to be reached by their guns."

Michiru still looked worried. "But we could still shipwreck…"

Haruka frowned. "Well… that's a different problem… uh… Anyway, didn't I ask you to shut up?"

"Sorry… Captain…" Michiru chuckled. However, she immediately became serious again as they entered the small waterway between the first two islands. A strange silence fell over the entire ship. It felt as though everyone was holding their breath, terrified of making a noise, as if even the slightest sound might doom them all.

As Michiru looked into the black water she saw waves crashing against sharp-edged rocks. It was lucky for them that the moon was almost full and shone very brightly. Still, Michiru now understood very well why the first mate had been so appalled at the prospect of sailing this passage. She gulped hard. They might easily end up at the bottom of the ocean.

Just at that moment they heard a nasty sound and the ship trembled violently. They were obviously scratching over the surface of some rocks. Michiru grabbed the rail with her heart hammering hard in her chest.

"Pete! Greg! Go down to the bilge and check if we have a leak!" Haruka ordered.

"Aye aye, Cap'n!"

They continued slowly and when Pete and Greg reported that there was not much damage done, everyone felt relieved. However, they were not out of danger yet.

Michiru glanced back and saw no sign of their pursuers anymore. It was as Haruka had predicted. The larger ship did not dare to sail these waters and chose to take the long way around the islands.

Time must have stopped as minutes turned into hours. After what seemed like eternity they finally made it back into open water. A collective sigh of relief went through the crew. There was no sign of the Royal Navy. Now that they were out of danger, none of the hardy pirates would ever have admitted that he had been very scared just now. Instead they all made light of it, as jokes and cheers for the Captain were flying around. After the eerie silence they had just experienced everyone had a need for loud noise.

"We escaped!" Michiru cheered.

Haruka turned towards the smaller girl with a smirk on her face. "And why exactly are you so happy? Shouldn't you be on the navy's side? They might have rescued you from the clutches of us cruel pirates."

Michiru shook her head. "And they might have fired their guns at us and sunk the ship without ever knowing I was on it too. I'd rather be in your clutches than ripped apart by a cannon ball. And besides, I abhor violence and I am glad there was no battle."

Haruka smiled sadly. "You abhor violence? You'd be no good as a pirate then. But I guess that's a good thing. You're lucky, you know? Innocence once lost is lost forever…" Haruka murmured more to herself than to Michiru. After a moment's silence she shook her head energetically as if to get rid of disturbing thoughts.

She then went to address her crew. "Well done everybody. We escaped once again. However, we need to put some more miles between us and the Royal Navy, so I am afraid you cannot rest yet. I know it's been a tiring day, what with the storm and all, but unfortunately it is not over yet. I propose that half of you go to sleep for the next five hours and the other half will get tomorrow off, so you can sleep extra-long then." Some of the crew hung their heads dejectedly, but they all understood the need to keep moving. Tim quickly divided them into two groups, before the tired men could start quarrel over who would be in the first group and go to sleep.

"Tim!" Haruka called. "Go to sleep first. You can take over the wheel in five hours, okay?"

"Are you sure? I am not that tired yet." Tim said bravely, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.

Haruka laughed. "Go to bed. That's an order." Tim saluted with a grin followed by another yawn and gladly took off.

Michiru on the other hand lingered on the bridge. "Aren't you tired?" Haruka asked.

"Not really. I didn't battle a storm like the rest of you today. All I did was lying around in bed after you locked me in. Would you mind if I stayed here for a bit longer?"

Haruka smiled warmly. "Actually, I would really appreciate some company. I am exhausted and having someone to talk to will prevent me from nodding off."

However, after that Haruka didn't say another word and Michiru was at a loss too. They suddenly felt very awkward in each other's company. As she remembered dinner and what happened afterwards, Michiru wondered what had come over her. Hadn't she sworn not to come too close to the pirate? 'You can't get much closer than we have just been. Although… There are other things we could have done…' Michiru was glad it was night and Haruka couldn't see her blushing.

The stars were shining brightly above them in the cloudless night sky. Nothing indicated anymore that only a few hours ago they had been battling a violent storm. As a child Michiru had always loved to sit on the window sill before going to bed and gaze at the stars. It gave her some comfort to see the same stars now even though she was far away from home. How strange it must be to be in a place where even the stars were entirely different.

"Haruka? Have you ever been to the far south?"

"You mean the southern hemisphere?"

"Yes, I read somewhere that you can't see the same stars there as we do here. Do you think that's true?"

"It is. I saw them once. However, they shine the same as those in the north. In the end, whether you go south or north, west or east, the world and its people are always the same. Sometimes they might look differently and seem to behave differently, but when you look closer, they are all the same. They eat, drink, sleep, fall in love, get upset, suffer, and finally die whether they want to or not."

"You're very jaded, do you know that?"

Haruka laughed. "I am telling the truth though. It's no good to romanticize life. You only get disappointed in the end." It sounded like a warning. 'A warning against what? Against falling for her?' Michiru wondered. 'Ha! That's not going to happen.' But deep in her heart she knew that it had already happened.

They were silent again for a while until Michiru cleared her throat and asked rather timidly: "At dinner I asked you how you became a pirate. You never answered me though. Is it a secret?"

Haruka shook her head silently and sighed. After a while, when Michiru had already given up on receiving an answer, she finally opened her mouth.

"When I was twelve I worked as cabin boy on a merchant vessel. I needed a job and desperately wanted to get out of London. Don't ask me why, I don't want to talk about that. Anyway, I disguised as a boy and they hired me. Our ship was heading for the American colonies. Our first stop was to be Georgia and then we planned to sail up the coast to Virginia. I had heard many stories about people who became very rich once they immigrated to America and I dreamed of becoming one of them. Of course, a twelve-year old probably wouldn't have made it far, but never mind that. It didn't matter anyway, because we never reached the American main."

"What happened?" Michiru asked.

"We were attacked by pirates and I was taken aboard their ship. They planned to sell me to a… establishment… that caters to men with a special fondness for young boys, if you know what I mean."

Michiru gulped. Yes, she could imagine what Haruka meant.

"However, a few days later a terrible storm hit us. It was a full-sized hurricane, compared to which today's storm was only a slight breeze. They released the prisoners because they needed every hand on board. It was horrible. Several men went overboard, never to be seen again. In the end the wind became that fierce that it broke our main mast. That was a fearsome sight. The whole thing came crashing down, almost destroying the ship. The captain had been standing close to me and right where the mast came down. I didn't mean to help him, but I guess it was some kind of reflex. I pushed him out of the way and saved his life while injuring myself very badly. I wasn't hit by the mast itself, but by a loose beam, otherwise I'd be long dead."

Haruka's eyes were fixed on the main mast of the ship. Her face was a cold mask and Michiru had no idea what was going through the blonde's head. Haruka's voice was completely emotionless.

"The captain felt indebted to me and decided to adopt me. When they looked after my wounds, they discovered I was a girl, but it didn't matter. And so I stayed with them. They taught me to fight and to navigate a ship and I slowly became one of them. First time I killed a man I was thirteen. He haunted me in my nightmares for many months. But after a while I got used to killing. And when my surrogate father died a few years ago, they elected me as their new captain. Even though I am a female and still quite young, they know I am the best for the job."

Haruka suddenly grinned. "However, they prefer to let the world believe I am a guy, because apparently it is shameful to one's masculinity to be under command of a woman."

Michiru didn't smile. "How many people have you killed since your first time?" she asked fearfully.

"I stopped counting after a while." Haruka's eyes were empty as she said that. Michiru shivered. "Go to bed, Michiru. It's late." She said it almost gently, and yet, Michiru could detect a ring of steal in the blonde's voice. This was obviously not meant as a suggestion, but as an order.

"Goodnight Haruka" Michiru said sadly.

Back in the cabin Michiru curled up on the bed and began to cry silently. She suddenly felt unspeakably sad for Haruka. She always seemed so in control of everything, but Michiru knew now that this was only a façade behind which there was nothing but pain. What had she said earlier? 'Innocence once lost is lost forever…'

***

A/N: Another chapter done! Yeah!

Thanks for all your kind reviews.

I originally had a completely different ending for this chapter planned (a much happier one), but then I suddenly got into a rather depressed mood and wrote this. Hope you still like it though.

Anyway, please R&R.