AN: Hey guys! I'm finally back with the first chapter of my new story! It took a little bit longer for me to publish than I had planned, but here we are nonetheless.
This POTC fic is a bit different than my others, but I really like the plot I've formed in my head and where this story is already going. This story will be more focused around characters than it will be plot, unlike my other, more adventurous stories. My goal is to also make this a much longer fiction, but we will see how that goes later on. ;)
I'm planning on uploading a new chapter every Thursday, and I'm going to try really hard to keep up with that. I'm also planning on uploading a new chapter of Not as Easy as it Seems every Tuesday. So look for "T" days! :P
This is a Jack/OC, but for the purposes of the beginning of this story, Jack will not truly begin to be an active part of the story until the sixth chapter. I do promise that he does make an appearance in the third or fourth chapter. But the wait will be worth it! :D
Alright, I'll stop gabbling now. I hope you all enjoy the first chapter of Learning How to Run! (I mean, I really like it.) :)
Chapter One: Bitter News
"Just a little bit tighter, miss."
Lauren gritted her teeth as the maid pulled the corset strings even tighter. With one final tug, she released a gasp of breath just like she had been punched in the stomach. In a way, she would have almost preferred the latter to the corset. She wanted to make a biting comment about the absurdity of wearing such tight dresses, but she knew better than that. A comment like such would be appropriate in her teenage years, sure; but not now.
"Are you seeing Mr. Harvey today?" The maid asked, ever so nosy. Lauren didn't mind though; it was nice to have someone to talk to.
"Yes, I am. The wedding is drawing ever closer, you know." She replied with a smile.
"Ah, yes. It's going to be the talk of the town, you know. Governor's son marrying the admiral's daughter." The maid smiled fondly at Lauren, fluffing out her gown and looking over her to make sure she looked appropriate.
Lauren smiled politely back and lightly placed her hand over her stomach, trying to take a deep breath.
There was a knock at the door and the maid quickly went to answer it. Another maid stood in the doorframe. She whispered in her ear and then turned and left. Lauren watched the exchange listlessly as her personal maid turned towards her. "Miss, Mr. Harvey is waiting for you downstairs." She announced. She then excused herself from the room to give Lauren a moment of privacy.
Lauren smoothed out her dress, checked her hair in the mirror, and hurried out the door of her room to meet her fiancé. "Gerard!" She greeted breathlessly as she found the tall, dark-haired man waiting in the parlor.
Gerard's face lit up at the sight of her and he cleared his throat. "Miss Stratford." He greeted, sliding a glance at Lauren's father who was sitting in a chair, watching the two with wary eyes. Lauren ignored her father and took Gerard's hands, placing a light kiss onto his cheek.
Gerard turned to the admiral. "May I?" He asked.
Admiral Stratford cracked a grin and waved his hand at the two. "Oh, go already." He said good-naturedly.
Gerard gave a slight bow and led Lauren out of the house, his hand holding hers tightly. When they reached the street, his grip loosened. "So it's 'Miss Stratford' now? You're not allowed to call me by my first name?" Lauren teased.
Gerard gave a small smile as he glanced down at her. "You know your father makes me… nervous." He replied.
Lauren gave a small sigh. "Yes, I know. He really does like you though. You wouldn't have his permission for my hand otherwise." She reasoned, following him as he guided her through the streets.
"I suppose so," he said distractedly.
"Is it a surprise where you're taking me?" She asked curiously, glancing around at her surroundings.
Gerard looked down at her fondly. "No. I thought we could go to the beach?" He posed it as a question, asking for her permission.
Lauren was about to respond positively when she was interrupted.
Gerard stopped, a frown crossing his face as he turned to see who had called his name. Lauren turned as well, trying to suppress a sigh as she saw one of the dock hands running towards them. "Governor needs you in his office. The admiral and commodore are there too. An emergency." He stated in between pants, leaning over with his hands on his knees. He glanced up and seemed to just have seen Lauren standing there. "Pardon me, Miss Stratford." Lauren gave a slight bow of her head indicating the apology was accepted.
Gerard sighed and nodded. "Can you tell them to give me a few moments?" The dock hand nodded and started off down the street again, his feet echoing down the stones.
"Lauren, I am so sorry." He said, turning to her, discontent apparent on his face.
She gave a soft smile. "Don't worry about it. Being such an influential man has its drawbacks, too. We have the rest of our lives to spend together." She said encouragingly.
Gerard stooped down and planted a kiss on her lips. "I will make this up to you." He took hold of her hand and started to lead her back the way they had came. "I will walk you home. One can't call me much of a gentleman if I can't walk my lady back to her house." He grinned.
Lauren smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder. She couldn't blame him for his responsibilities and duties, however aggravating it could be at times. It seemed that they could never spend any alone time together. But, there would be time enough for that, she though wryly.
In a matter of minutes, the two had returned to Lauren's house – if you would call the large building that – and with a light, parting kiss, Gerard left. Lauren entered the house with an air of melancholy and one of the maids started in surprise. "Why, miss! We weren't expecting you back so soon!" She glanced down worriedly at the stack of sheets in her hands. "We're in the middle of –"
"It's quite alright." Lauren interrupted. "I wasn't expecting to be back so soon either. Surprised us both." She said kindly. "I'll be out in the garden if you need me." She said, slipping out of her shoes and padding towards the back door.
She stepped out into the warm sunshine and smiled at the touch of the soft grass on her feet. She headed towards one of the benches, avoiding clumps of dirt as she went. While she was perfectly content to surrender some of her unladylike ways, this one small pleasure she refused to give up. She wiggled her toes in the green strips of grass and sighed contently. There was a cool breeze that made the afternoon bearable underneath the hot, Caribbean sun.
Lauren must've nodded off to sleep, because the next thing she knew, a maid was gently shaking her shoulder awake. "Excuse me, Miss Stratford, but there's an assembly of men here calling upon you."
Lauren couldn't understand what group of men would want to speak with her at the moment, but she quickly followed the maid back into the house, shaking off the remaining traces of sleep. She made sure to wipe her feet off in the kitchen and find her shoes before entering the parlor. There was no use looking like she had just rolled around in piles of dirt outside like a child.
When she entered, she was surprised to see her father, the admiral, along with Gerard and his father, the governor, and a few other captains that she only recognized by face, not name. All of the men stood and Lauren gave a slight bow of her head and they resumed their seats. Lauren smiled when she met Gerard's gaze, but he did not return her affection. Her smile faltered, and she glanced warily among the men.
"Lauren, have a seat." Her father instructed. His voice was gentle, unlike his usual commanding and authoritative tone. She obeyed, perching on the edge of the chaise in the corner of the room.
"Miss Stratford," one of the captains spoke up. "I'm afraid we have some rather…disconcerting news."
Lauren tried to catch Gerard's eye again, but he seemed to be avoiding her gaze. "Disconcerting news," she repeated uncertainly.
Admiral Stratford cleared his throat. "Oh, let's get on with it." He said gruffly. "Britain has declared war against Spain."
"While that is rather disconcerting, I'm afraid I do not see the connection with me." Lauren replied.
"The king needs men to fight for him; he's been recruiting…" He trailed off and gave a deep sigh. "As the governor's son, Mr. Harvey has been enlisted into the navy. He will go off to war within the week."
Lauren stared at her father. She swallowed the rising lump in her throat, trying to make her face remain impassive. "Go off to war? Are there no other suitable men to take his place?" Despite trying to remain calm, her voice began to rise slightly.
Now, Gerard spoke up. "There are plenty of suitable men, whom all have enlisted already. Just because I may be situated in a loftier position than they does not mean that I should be excluded from the fears of war." Their eyes met for a moment, but he looked away once more.
Lauren took a shaky breath. "Alright. My fiancé will go off to war. Shall we be wedded before then, or must I wait until he returns?"
The men around the room looked anxiously at each other, none of them wanting to answer the lady's question.
"I'm leaving tomorrow, Lauren." Gerard finally said quietly.
Lauren knit her brows and shook her head. "So soon." She said in a barely audible voice, more to herself than to anyone else. "Well, can we not just do a quick ceremony? It needs not be an extravagant event, just a few witnesses and the vows. Can it be done?" She looked anxiously from her father to her fiancé, both avoiding her gaze and staring at their hands. The other men in the room shifted uncomfortably.
"Lauren, dear…" Her father started, but his tone already sent warning bells off in Lauren's head. She couldn't recall the last time her father had called her 'dear.' They were close, but such terms of affection were rarely used. Except in situations like this, she thought bitterly. "I think it may be best to call off the wedding altogether."
"Excuse me?" Lauren's voice was high pitched and weak. She stood suddenly, her face growing pink with frustration. "You act as if he is already dead!"
Gerard stood to his feet quickly. "May I have a few moments?" He more commanded than asked the other men to leave the room. The other men muttered their assent and exited the room as a group. He waited for the last man to leave before taking two quick strides to his fiancée and taking her hands. "Lauren, do not think for one moment that I want to leave you behind."
"You don't want to marry me anymore." She choked out, shaking her head.
"That is not true. Listen to me, I love you very dearly. I suggested to your father that we call off the wedding, but only because I don't want you to waste your life away waiting for me to return. I… I may not return." He bent his head towards her, resting it against her forehead.
Lauren closed her eyes, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to escape. "Gerard…" She whispered. "Waiting for you would not be to waste away my life."
He was already shaking his head. "No, I do not know how long I will be gone. You deserve to have a man that can take care of you and love you and actually be by your side. I thought I could be that man, but… not anymore. Not with the war."
"Then stay! Do not go!" She cried out, taking a step back and searching his face. "Do not leave me if you love me so!"
"I can't, Lauren! Don't you understand! It's my duty and responsibility to serve my country." Gerard took a step away from her, too, his eyes filled with pain.
"It was also your duty and responsibility to stay by my side and love me when you asked for my hand." She retorted, dropping his hands.
"Lauren…" His voice cracked in anguish.
Footsteps announced a visitor to the room. "I heard raised voices," Admiral Stratford said, looking despondently from his daughter to his future son-in-law. The two turned to him.
"I will wait for him. I will wear his ring proudly, and will faithfully wait for Gerard's return." She declared with no trace of pain or sadness in her voice.
Her father pressed his lips together and gave a slight nod. "I thought you might decide so."
Gerard, for a moment, just looked at Lauren with mixed expressions. He then rushed to her, cupper her face in his hands, and kissed her deeply and passionately with no regard to her father standing only a few feet away. Wisely though, the admiral did not remark, only turned his eyes blindly to the open window that overlooked the lush gardens out front. After a minute had passed, he cleared his throat loudly.
Gerard stepped away from Lauren, his face pained. "You will see me off? Tomorrow?" He asked her.
She nodded, on the brink of tears. "I wouldn't miss it."
He wrapped her in his arms and placed a light kiss on her forehead. "I love you dearly, Miss Stratford." With that and a nod to the admiral, he parted. Lauren excused herself and hurried to her room, thankful that it was empty so no maids would bother her. Then, and only then, did she allow herself to drop the façade of a smiling and joyful young woman and let her true, tearful emotions escape.
So, tell me what you think of my first chapter! Any predictions of how Jack and Lauren will meet yet? I'd love to hear them! And, as always, reviews make my day! Criticisms and praises will be taken in stride.
ALSO, Happy Hunger Games! The new movie comes out tonight - anyone going to see it? I'M SO EXCITED!