A/N: Final chapter up! Thanks to The Teal Rose and yasupoimegane for their reviews!
Chapter 22: Don't Forget Your Old Shipmates
The year 1806 opened with sufficient merriment, but which was soon dampened by a most necessary funeral. It was in January of this year that Lord Nelson's funeral was held at last, before he was interred in Saint Paul's Cathedral.
"We'll never see the likes of him again," Victoria mused over breakfast the next day at the Blakeney family's lodgings in London. The Blakeneys had invited a number of Will's friends to stay with them while they paid their respects to the late Lord Nelson. It was just as well, since the Surprise was set to sail again in a few days. "The big battle may be won but the war still continues," she thought as she rubbed her eyes. It was not even eight o'clock in the morning, but already some people such as Captain Aubrey had to see to some errands concerning the upcoming voyage.
"You never know what might happen with Mr. Blakeney here. He's off to a good start," Boyle said as he put down his cup of tea.
"Enough of that, Mr. Boyle," Mowett said reprovingly. "So your mother finally is amenable to you joining us again, Mr. Blakeney?"
Will nodded happily, taking care not to get crumbs all over his shirt. "Captain Aubrey and Peter had to convince her that I would do well in this trip and that we weren't chasing another frightening ship like the Acheron.
"She was more worried about that than things like tropical fever," Peter chimed in.
"The latter I believe is the more prevalent danger, but there are ways of preventing it from taking hold on a ship. You might remember the precautions we took while sailing to India a few years ago, Mr. Calamy," Dr. Maturin said rather seriously. "But you'll have the chance for to see some astonishing birds, Mr. Blakeney, maybe a new species if you're that lucky."
"Though Lady Blakeney does have cause to be worried; they're protecting merchant ships that have to sail past the Mauritius," Victoria thought as she took a sip of her tea. Though the waters surrounding Africa were relatively familiar territory for the old hands on the Surprise, there was no telling what could happen in the voyage.
"You're going to have to get used to this," she reminded herself as she finished her tea. Even so, she couldn't help but feel that the past two months had gone by a bit too quickly. She glanced at the ring on her finger and suppressed a sigh. "I'm not used to being left waiting," she told herself.
"So will Captain Aubrey be taking on any new midshipmen this voyage?" she asked finally if only to keep her mind on happier thoughts.
"One or two maybe, though I think that the three of us are already enough," Williamson said, nearly elbowing Boyle. "Is it true that Captain Pullings is being given a ship?"
"He was promised the Aurora. It's a fine ship, as old as the Surprise but said to be faster," Mowett replied. "It's a good assignment, though I think we'll all miss having him with us."
"You'll get your own ship too soon, Mr. Mowett," Victoria said. It was not easy to acquire a promotion in the Navy, especially with all the politics and patronage within the Admiralty. Still she could hope for the best owing to the reputation and skill of the officers of the Surprise.
A servant stopped at the entrance of the breakfast room. "There's a letter for Mrs.-"
"That will be me," Victoria said, getting up from her seat. She had to hide her smile on seeing that the letter was from Sir Joseph Blaine, much like one that Dr. Maturin had received earlier in the week. "What will I have to do next?" she wondered as she opened the missive.
She had to hide her smile on seeing the mission set before her. "Seems as if it's time to find out who's selling out our merchant ships to the French at that side of the world," she thought. By apprehending Cunningham last year, they had eliminated a threat to some of the English forces near Cape Horn, but that did not stop more of his kind from continuing their work in the area, or in other parts of the world. "This is probably going to be more complicated than the mission to the Pacific," she realized as she returned to her seat at the table.
"What was that about?" Peter asked her cautiously.
"I'll explain later," she said, aware of Dr. Maturin already giving her a knowing look. She knew he had been given the same mission as well. "It's a private matter," she added, emphasizing this in order to stave off the questions that were sure to follow from the rest of the group.
As soon as breakfast was over, Victoria followed Peter up to the room that they shared. This was a discussion she knew that was best kept private. "I'm going to the Mauritius too," she said as soon as he shut the door.
He gave her a wry smile as they sat on the bed. "I knew that."
"You did? How?"
"Captain Aubrey asked me about it, last night actually."
Victoria crossed her arms. "And what did you have to say about it?"
Peter sighed. "Naturally I had my reservations. I've been to that part of the world, Victoria, and I know how dangerous it is. Ultimately though, the choice lies with you and your superiors."
She couldn't help but roll her eyes. Even after all these months, Peter couldn't help but be rather protective. "Exactly what did you say then?"
"I told him to take it up with you," he replied. "I suppose he skipped that step and simply told Sir Joseph Blaine that he could put an agent aboard the Surprise, again."
"You'd be perfectly within your rights to refuse to allow me to go," she pointed out. "And very much within the rules too."
"In some cases, wives of officers have been allowed to sail aboard a man-of-war," Peter said.
"Wives of warrant officers like the bosun and the gunner. But not usually the wife of a commissioned officer such as a lieutenant."
"Usually being the word, Victoria."
Victoria would have teased him for bending the rules till she realized what Peter was actually saying. "So you want me to come with you?" she asked.
"I would like that, but I know it exposes you to a lot of danger," he admitted.
"Danger, I can handle. What I can't handle is waiting idle in England or some port, wondering what more I can do," she said. "I've been at sea for a big part of my life, Peter. I can't imagine being anywhere else unless it's for a very good reason."
"Like the war being over?"
"Yes, that would have been one. Then we'd both be safe."
"But you wouldn't like that, not completely."
"Depends on how my taste for adventure will be by that time."
He laughed a little at this. "And I thought I was the only one counting the days till the Surprise's next assignment. I honestly found these past two months on shore to be rather tedious; I've never been quite easy on land. The only thing I was dreading when it came to leaving again was telling you to stay behind."
"A good thing this bit of news will spare you the heartache," Victoria said more lightly. "It's going to be an adventure sailing with you again, Mr. Calamy."
"Likewise, Mrs. Calamy," Peter retorted before kissing her. "Well we were supposed to leave London today and finish getting affairs in order. We'd best get packing."
"I knew there was another reason you wanted me upstairs," Victoria laughed, opening the closet to begin getting their things.