Disclaimer: I do not own anything that belongs to Master and Commander, or I would so own Russell Crowe :)
Claimer: Charlotte is the only character so far...
Rating: PG, and it'll probably stay that way.
Author's Note: So, I haven't published anything since March of this year (sorry my 300 & Covenant fans who are waiting for me *runs and hides from mob of readers*). Anyways, I was watching this movie on tv. the other day, got some crazy idea, wanted to pen it and see what you all think. It's weird, and slightly cliche, my apologies, a girl on a ship full of men. But I promise there's a story behind it, or a least there's one in my head *_* As always, please read and review, I love all the comments and constructive criticism. No flames please! Enjoy!
~Prologue: Escape in the Night~
The night was dark as thunderstorms ripped through London, shaking the ground. The wind shrieked and snapped through alleys and streets alike as lightning illuminated the skies. The torrential rain pummeled the ground, flooding some streets.
Inside the grand estate of Doctor Perkin, however, the storm was drowned out as the sounds of soft music and loud babble filled the house. A fire blazed in the fireplace and candles were lit around the home. Only a light pitter patter of rain could be heard as it struck the windows.
All around the house was merriment. Men and women of high society mingled together and gossip was on the lips on every person present. Whether it was the men talking about war or politics, or the women, talking of what they saw someone wearing or whether or not someone they knew was with child or having an affair; the place was alight with conversation. Servers flitted through the crowd with platters of hors d'oeuvres and trays of glasses filled to the rim with champagne.
The festivities, if they could even be called such, were commonplace among these folks. Almost every weekend the same thing would happen at a different house. And while almost everyone enjoyed these occasions, there were a select few who could not be bothered to endure such social gatherings. Of the few who hated these parties, there was only one who could truly say she despised the very notion of it all.
Charlotte Maturin, daughter of the wealthy Lady Maturin, a widow whose husband had died in battle, was charming, beautiful, and already twenty years old. At her mother's insistence, Charlotte was dressed and dragged to every party, symposium, speech or other social event that catered to the high class in hopes that she would meet someone to wed. At twenty, Charlotte should have been betrothed at the very least, if not already married and a mother. But she was unlike the other girls in her society.
The wealthy life did not sit well with Charlotte. She had never enjoyed sitting for long hours to learn to stitch or embroider. She was fond of reading and she could write for hours, but not indoors on a little wooden desk, and it wasn't letters to loved ones that she wanted to pen. No, Charlotte Maturin was the girl no one wanted to be. She was the one no one would idolize or look upon with amazement. Despite her beauty- her auburn curls and her deep green eyes, her perfect skin and thin oval face- Charlotte had turned down every offer of marriage and engagement to the point of driving her mother insane.
No one had understood her the way her father had. Her mother had largely disapproved later on as Charlotte grew older, but no one could carve the feeling of freedom out of heart. Her father had been a Captain and the sea had been her life. Lord Maturin had taken his little daughter halfway around the world and when she had returned home and told the tales to her family, her brother had instantly wanted to join her.
But Charlotte couldn't remember the last time she had seen her brother. It had been so many years now. He was always out at sea, on ships his best friend would captain, collecting new specimens of beetles or plants or finding a rock or landform. Such was his life that Charlotte had lost all contact with him. She thought of her brother now and again, especially now as she sat in a corner of Doctor Perkin's house, musing about what her beloved brother was doing at that very moment.
"Probably discovering some new species of fish," she muttered to herself. Her brother had become a naturalist, but also a doctor, one of the very best. She sighed and stood, trying to find an exit for fresh air. She noticed the patio door ajar and made for it but her exit was cut off as a gentleman put himself in front of her.
"My Lady, it is a shame to see you here, all alone," he said in a sweet voice."May I accompany you tonight?"
Charlotte stared into the boy's light brown eyes for a moment. And then she smiled. "Of course," she replied just as sweetly.
She took the arm he offered and they mingled with a few people before heading out to the patio. Perfect, Charlotte thought. I can toy with this one.
Her mother had always told her that men did not like women who were full of themselves, who drank too much or showed too much skin in public. Charlotte knew that was a lie. Men liked what they could not have, and didn't like it when it was blatantly offered to them.
Charlotte took a glass of champagne from a server as her and her partner sat alone a table.
"Is my Lady not cold?" the boy asked, about to remove his cloak. Charlotte laughed inside. The night was not nearly as cold as it should be for November and even though the wind blew underneath the canopy where they stood, Charlotte's bare shoulder's welcomed the breeze.
"There's no need," she answered in the same sweet voice as she took a large gulp of champagne. The boy in front of her stared and when she set down her empty glass, he cleared his throat.
"So…what is my Lady interested in? I have heard you have a great collection of books," the boys started again and Charlotte had to hold in a sigh.
She grabbed another drink off the platter and drank it so quickly that she was sure she inhaled it rather than swallowed it. She smirked then, bored of the boy already. He was too polite for his own good.
"Come now, is that all you want to talk about tonight?" she said batting her eyelashes and leaning slightly over the table so that just enough skin was exposed without revealing everything. The boy in front of her blushed and pulled at his ruffled collar. For a moment, she thought he wasn't going to break, but the next second he was standing up.
"Excuse me, my Lady, I think I need a refreshment," he told her and turned and left the patio. Charlotte laughed lightly to herself and then drained the boy's cup which had lain untouched. She knew he would say nothing to anyone seeing as she was Lady Maturin's daughter and the daughter of the late Captain Maturin. But her mother would eventually find out, she told herself, it was only a matter of time.
Time…if only Charlotte had enough of it. She stood and made her way inside as the stormy weather became even more intense. At sea, it was amazing to stand on deck and see the lightning and hear the thunder echo across the vast oceans; to watch the raging waters as they turned black and swirled and foamed and battered the sides of a ship. Charlotte sighed again and found her mother, who was already saying goodbye to some guests.
After spending another long session saying their farewells, Lady Maturin and her daughter left the estate of Doctor Perkin and were escorted to their black carriage, pulled by four white horses.
Once the doors closed, Lady Maturin's smiling face turned into a scowl as she surveyed her daughter, whose hair had come undone from its braided bun, her shoulders bare and her white arm-length gloves in her hand rather than on her arms.
"Look at yourself, Charlotte," she scolded, reaching across the center to tuck a curl back into the bun. Charlotte moved away from her mother's hand and turned her face to look out the window.
"It's not like I asked to come," she muttered. Lady Maturin's face was stone.
"You are not asked; you're invited. You're a Lady-"
"No, you are a Lady mother, do not confuse us," Charlotte interrupted.
"And you are a Lady's daughter- and a Captain's! What would you have everyone think of you? You are not a child anymore! You are twenty, and not even engaged!"
Charlotte tuned her mother out at that point. Every weekend was spent arguing about the same thing.
"Ladies do not drink, or curse, or kick off their shoes, or roll around in mud! They do not run about unless they are running for their lives! And they most certainly do not go on adventures on the King's ships! I told your father that he was influencing you badly! He never listened- and now look, all you want is the cursed water!"
Those words had hurt Charlotte more than she would have said, but it was her father that had taught her how to read a map and a compass and had spent hours and hours going on about navigation and the wind and every sea-faring thing he could think of.
"Are you listening to me Charlotte?" Lady Maturin's voice rang faintly in her ears. "Lucky for you I found a suitable family whose boy is unwed as well, and a sight to sore eyes I might add! We're hoping to have you both engaged by the next full moon and wed by the next one after. And then, perhaps, I will finally get my grandchildren. Charlotte, you will be nice to this man, you do understand me? Charlotte!"
Charlotte looked at her mother but had stopped hearing her somewhere after the word 'wed'. The engaged part was what had caught her attention.
"You…you proposed a marriage to someone I don't know…I haven't met…"
"You don't like anyone you meet," her mother stated simply.
Charlotte's face had only begun to show what her mind had comprehended. "You…betrothed me to someone I don't know…"
"Yes, and you will like him. Or I'll make sure of it," Lady Maturin said and there was a finality in her voice that Charlotte could not argue with.
The rest of the ride home was in silence and when the two women arrived at their own grand estate, Charlotte headed straight for her room and left her mother alone.
It was in the hours just before dawn when Charlotte found herself crouching beside the docks where a ship was ready to raise the anchor. It was now or never, Charlotte told herself. No one would know her or recognize her, as she had dressed in some her brother's old clothes- breeches, trousers, a pair of sturdy leather boots that had once been her father's and a loose fitting white cotton tunic with a rough-spun shift on top. She surveyed the docks once more and then made her escape, climbing up the rope ladder strung on the ship's side. She was a large ship o' war, and in the faint glow of the lamps below, Charlotte could only just make out the name: HMS SURPRISE.
Charlotte laughed silently and she slinked away into the cargo hold, holding her small bundle of clothes close to her, a concealed knife hidden within. How fitting she should be on a ship named Surprise. If the crew found her, what a surprise it would be indeed.
Tomorrow Charlotte knew she would have to find out the ship's course and where and when she could disembark without being noticed. Tonight, however, Charlotte let the soft rocking of the ship be her lullaby and she closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep.
A/N: So thoughts everyone? Keep going...stop now? I'm not sure where it's going yet, but hey, we're on a ship, let the wind take us where it will (no pun intended) :D R&R please! And in case anyone is wondering, this is entirely movie based, I have not read the book (they are on my list), so please, do not kill me for it.