A/N: Some historical inaccuracies and purposeful misuse of terminology.
It's in July that she first hears of Captain Ash. The name is whispered in the corners of the household, seeping into the floorboards and through the walls. Servants chatter excitedly behind cupped hands, shooting wary looks at her, and she has to pretend to be above it all. Petty gossip is no business of the lady's. Still, she catches bits and pieces of the talk, enough to get the gist, but not enough to sate her curiosity.
"They saw the pirates…"
"…not too far off the coast…"
"…they say it's a woman…"
"…all the boxes of spice, gone!"
The name is said in half awe and half fear. Chloe imagines a goddess rising above the waves, sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. She absentmindedly daydreams of life as a pirate; the grime and the sea salt and the wind through her hair.
Tears filling her eyes, Chloe clenches her fingers against the stinging pain. Her tutor, Ms. Posen, withdraws the ruler she'd used to reprimand Chloe.
"What nonsense has filled your head today, Mistress?"
"Have you heard about…Captain Ash?" Chloe leans forward despite herself.
As expected, Ms. Posen frowns. She says, "That's not a subject fit for your ears."
"It has to do with father's business, doesn't it?"
"I'm his sole heir, so-"
"Heiress," Ms. Posen corrects automatically.
"Heiress," Chloe allows. "So shouldn't I know this type of stuff?"
"You're only seventeen, none of this concerns you. And in any case, your future husband will take care of the business matters," Ms. Posen answers, clipped. "Now please, Mistress, let us return to your studies."
She sighs, a long-suffering one, but complies. Ms. Posen animatedly describes the War of the Roses, the banners and the glory, but Chloe can't stop thinking about corsairs and oceans and fire and ash.
Of course, she can't just let it rest.
"Father," she says over dinner – chicken and potatoes.
He looks up at her, dabbing his napkin against his greying beard. The long table separating the two of them seems even longer.
"Who is Captain Ash?"
He laughs and says, "Don't worry your pretty little head over that, my dear. Have the servants been telling you tall tales again?"
"I just want to know what happens with the business," she says, fingers curling tightly into the napkin laid on her lap. "Get a feel of the vague details."
At this, he hums, considering her words. Finally, he replies, "Just a petty criminal."
"Is it true that Captain Ash is a woman?"
He continues to humor her and says, "So I've heard. All I know is that this Captain Ash and their crew hijacked one of my ships."
"I don't know the specifics," he sighs, signaling the end of his patience.
She wisely stops her line of questioning. It's enough for now.
And that event would've died down eventually in time, but in August she hears news of the pirate captain once more. The market is always abuzz with noise, but it's almost particularly magnified today. She passes by a pack of sailors as she accompanies the maids for the weekly shopping and she distinctly hears a name carried on a breeze.
And so the intrigue continues.
She stops by the fish vendor and, despite the stench, decides to ask him, "What's this news about pirates?"
He appraises her before answering, "Apparently a raider, name o' Captain Ash or summit, took Beale's ship."
"Why is this particularly newsworthy?" she asks, ignoring the handmaiden's sharp tug on her sleeve.
"It was live cargo," he looks at her pointedly.
The realization etches itself across her face and the fish vendor continues, "Word is this captain sent 'em back."
She nods mutely, taking in the new information.
"You gonna buy 'nything?" he asks, a little annoyed.
Chloe shuffles away quickly with an awkward thanks.
Her daily tutoring sessions become daydreaming sessions to Ms. Posen's frustration. Honestly how can anyone expect her to focus on history when the present is infinitely more interesting? Her father's absences occur far more frequently and last far longer than before. His excuse is always a cryptic, "Business."
It suits her for now to keep patient; adventure is all well and good to imagine, but it's safer and wiser for it to stay in the fictional realm. So of course, excitement decides to find her.
It's a peaceful afternoon, the birds chirping excitedly in the yew tree just outside her window. Her father is still away for the week and her lessons are finished for the day. Chloe debates going to the docks to watch the sailors work and make merry, but the docks are no place for a-
Chloe swivels around, looking for the origin of the noise. Under her bed? No. She checks the closet and then the outside hallway. Just as she turns back to her room, a figure clad in a worn overcoat and tricorn hat swoops in through her window. Shocked to the point that she's unable to scream, Chloe clutches her chest with one hand.
"Don't scream," the woman says, brandishing a sword that seems to broadcast a vastly different message. In addition to the coat and hat, the intruder is wearing a bandana that does very little to hide her nearly black hair and also clunky boots that slosh water onto the floorboards.
It's a logical conclusion when Chloe asks, "Lady Ash?"
The woman – Lady Ash presumably – straightens and immediately answers, "No." Chloe cocks an eyebrow disbelievingly.
Upon seeing her skepticism, Lady Ash acquiesces, "Yes." She squints and doubles back, "Maybe." Defensive, alright.
"Well whoever you are," Chloe says, deciding that playing along with the armed woman is the best course of action, "my father is away at the moment, my apologies."
Lady Ash's face breaks into a restrained smile and says, "I'm actually here for you, Ms. Beale."
"Huh?" It's certainly not the most articulate sound she's ever made, but when a dangerous pirate bursts into your room – well, Chloe thinks Ms. Posen will forgive her one slip-up.
"Yes," Lady Ash says, tilting her head up, and examines Chloe. "I'm here to kidnap you." This is all said in a conversational tone.
Oh. Well in that case-
"Can you give me a few minutes to prepare?" Chloe asks. "Emotionally and actually. I should probably pack an extra dress or nightgown. Maybe a history book too? Ms. Posen will be-"
"I'm sorry," Lady Ash interrupts, "but I don't think this is how a kidnapping works." She seems a bit thrown off by Chloe's matching cavalier attitude.
"Oh," she says. "How is it supposed to go then?"
"I…I think you're just supposed to come along."
"No kicking? No screaming?" she injects as much disappointment as she can into her tone.
"Probably for the best that you don't do either."
Chloe quirks her mouth to the side and asks, "Have you even kidnapped anyone before?"
"What? Of course I have."
Crossing her arms, Chloe's eyes narrow critically.
Lady Ash falters.
"Why don't you tell me what you want from Father? I can try and help out."
"Uhm." Lady Ash looks at her suspiciously. "It's an irreconcilable difference, I'm afraid."
"That's a pity," Chloe says. "I was just going to put on some tea if you'd like some."
"No, but thank you for the thought," Lady Ash says, nodding sincerely. "Now we really should be on our way. If you'll oblige…"
Chloe sighs dramatically. "You see, I'd really rather not be kidnapped. If I get kidnapped, I'll fall behind on my studies and then when I return, my father won't let me go out at all or do anything either."
"Well, I sympathize," Lady Ash says, her grey eyes thoughtful. "What do you suggest I do instead? Your father sent mercenaries after my crew, so if I don't take action, morale will fall and my leadership will be challenged."
Chloe hums and considers their predicament. She claps her hands together and says, "How about I give you a map of this month's trade routes? That way I can go about not having been kidnapped and you have something you can bring back for your crew."
Lady Ash nods slowly and says, "That…might work."
"It's settled," Chloe says. "Let me go get the map."
As she moves towards the door, Lady Ash blocks her way and asks, "How do I know you won't go running for help?"
"A lady," Chloe sniffs, "is always true to her word."
"Well I wouldn't want to pit my freedom against your honor, milady," Lady Ash says. "It would put too much pressure on both of us. Why don't you fetch the map and leave it on your windowsill and I'll come back to take it later?"
"Couldn't I simply set up an ambush for you later?"
"I suppose that is a possibility," Lady Ash muses.
"Alright, why don't I order the maids and servants to the first floor so I can practice my singing? Then you can accompany me to my father's study," Chloe says.
"Yes, music. You know the sort."
Lady Ash shoots her a distrusting look before finally agreeing.
"Denise!" Chloe calls.
Flinching, Lady Ash ducks behind one of the bedposts instinctively.
"Can you herd all the girls to the kitchen?"
The pirate captain relaxes a tiny bit, tension seeping out of her shoulders. At this distance, Chloe gets a chance to really look at Lady Ash. She's younger than expected, perhaps only a few years older than herself. Additionally, she has surprisingly delicate features for a pirate; tanned from the sun, she has a spatter of freckles over the bridge of her nose. Her eyes, a light grey speckled with bits of blue and green, dart from side to side. A goddess, perhaps not, but still a very beautiful woman.
"All clear, Miss. I'll be downstairs if you require anything else."
"Thank you," Chloe says through the door. The maid's footsteps fade away to mere creaks on the wooden floors. Chloe gestures for Lady Ash to follow her.
Poking her head out the doorway and confirming that the coast is indeed clear, Chloe begins the journey to the study, the captain close behind.
"As I was walking one morning in May, I spied a young couple a makin' of hay," she sings, her voice loud enough to carry down the hallway and staircase, so the servants can hear. They enter the study and Lady Ash closes the door.
Chloe shuffles through the main drawer of her father's desk and pulls out several scrolls. Unfurling one of them, Lady Ash moves closer to examine the ink.
"Ah," Chloe whispers, "here it is."
"Trade routes," Lady Ash says, fingers tracing over the marked lines.
Realizing that her silence has likely become suspicious, Chloe opens the door a crack and sings out, "Good morning, good morning, good morning said he. O where are you going my pretty lady?"
Lady Ash watches her display with an open interest before pushing gently past her. She dips her tricorn down in a farewell.
"Much obliged, Miss Beale."
Chloe breaks into a grin mid-song and curtsies prettily.
Understandably, Chloe's bursting to tell anybody who will listen of what's happened, but of course she can't. Not if she wants to stay out of the asylum or deep in the depths of her uncle, the Duke's, castle. So she spends her week in a muted excitement, leg bouncing and fingers trembling at the memory of Lady Ash's visit.
And this too would have faded over time had she not found a small bag tied to her window. Enclosed is a blue silk ribbon and a note:
My thanks –B
She's not sure who B is, but the parchment, slightly damp and smelling of sea salt, tips her off.
The smile stretching her lips doesn't leave her that entire day.
"Good evening, Miss Beale," she's greeted the next evening after dinner without her father once again. She almost misses him (not the usual silence, but his foreboding presence).
Chloe whirls to the window, open, a breeze filtering through. Instead, perched on the railing of her balcony is Lady Ash, coat billowing in the night air.
"Are you here to kidnap me again?"
Lady Ash humors her with a snort and says, "I just wanted to be sure that you got my thank you gift."
Chloe teases, "If you wanted to see me you didn't need such a transparent excuse. All this trouble for little ol' me?"
"Would that be so terrible?" Lady Ash is surprisingly serious, her gaze intent and piercing.
"Who is B?" Chloe asks in lieu of an answer.
"I thought you were-"
"Lady Ash?" she asks, laughing. "Did you think that was actually my name?"
Chloe flushes and pouts.
"B is for Beca," Lady Ash says. "My name."
"Well, I got your gift," Chloe says. "Thank you."
"You sing really well," Beca says.
"Thank you," Chloe repeats softly.
"I'm just not sure what you want from me this time," Chloe says.
Beca shrugs. "You're a funny girl."
"What do you mean?"
"You're not afraid of me."
Chloe raises an eyebrow, "Why would I ever be afraid? You're quite nice for a pirate, not that I've met many."
"I want to be friends," Beca decides.
"Chums," she confirms.
Chloe considers it. "I've never been friends with a pirate before."
"First time for everything."
"I'm not sure I can be friends with my father's nemesis, though. It probably violates some unwritten and unspoken code."
Beca tugs her coat tighter and says, "I'm not his nemesis."
"Well, either way, real friends don't attack other friend's father's ships," Chloe maintains.
"What if I give my word that I'll leave your father's ships alone?"
"Why do you want to be my friend so badly?"
Chloe says, "If you give your word, then yes, we can be friends."
"I give my word," Beca says. "Now, where did you put my present?"
Chloe points to the nearby dresser and pulls one of the small drawers out. Beca moves into her room and takes the dangling blue ribbon from Chloe's fingers.
"May I?" She gestures towards Chloe's head.
Beca rakes her fingers gently through Chloe's hair and gathers enough to tie up with the silk ribbon. Chloe's breath hitches at the intimate actions.
"Thank you," Chloe says, remembering her manners.
Beca's expression turns concerned and concentrated before she moves quickly to the balcony and scales up the wall onto the roof of the house. Chloe moves to follow dumbly, but the quiet knock on her door stops her.
One of the maids, Jessica, pushes open the door and enters with a candle in hand.
"My apologies, Miss," she says, "I thought I heard someone talking."
"I was just reciting some poetry," Chloe says, the lie slipping out easily.
"Good night, Miss," Jessica says, closing the door.
Chloe walks out onto the balcony and looks up towards the roof. No sign of Lady Ash.
She laughs quietly anyway.
Another two weeks pass without incident (her father's absences become rather suspicious considering there are a significantly fewer amount of pirate attacks) and although Chloe hopes for another visit, she's also secretly relieved that it's uneventful. A friendship with a notorious pirate captain sounds doomed and foolish. But damn if Beca isn't the most interesting person Chloe's ever met. Aristocrat lords and ladies have nothing on her.
So it's with a confusing mix of happiness and disappointment that Chloe receives her second present from Lady Ash. It's a simple gold bracelet, set with small blue gems (aquamarines, Chloe guesses), that fits perfectly around her wrist.
Apologies for leaving so abruptly –B.
Chloe feels the urge to slap the smile off her face for fear of seeming like a lovestruck ninny.
"Did you know French lieutenants don't like it when you try and borrow their excess wealth?"
She closes the door hurriedly and runs onto the small balcony where Beca is already situated casually, leaning against the railing.
"Beca," Chloe greets breathlessly.
"We had to abandon that ship, it's alright though, was a spare junk. I would never abandon my baby though – the Athena's Fury. You have to see it some time."
Beca laughs. "No, just rambling a bit."
"It's chilly out, do you want to come inside?"
"Is your father away?"
Beca nods and steps inside, sliding the glass pane shut behind her.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" asks Chloe, stepping back to make room.
"Well, if you let me tell my story…"
"Oh, my deepest apologies," Chloe says, eyes creasing in quiet amusement.
"There I was, in the Bay of Biscay with a pistol and a short knife, my crew members all passed out drunk," Beca recalls, her voice hushed and eyes dark with excitement. "The French Navy sent two ships that were bearing down on us rapidly. So I ordered everyone down below deck and we waited…"
It's nearing dawn by the end of her tale, but Chloe hardly notices.
Surprisingly, Beca returns the next night with a large grin and a basket of pastries.
"Two visits in a row? My, what a lucky girl I am," Chloe says.
"Well, I wanted to make sure you wouldn't forget me."
"How many people get to meet Lady Ash? I don't think I could forget about you if I tried."
Opening the basket, Beca offers her a Danish and says, "As long as it's a good impression."
"Well, you're not what I imagined you'd be," Chloe says. "I'm not sure if you'll take that in a good or bad way."
"You imagined me?" Beca smirks.
"I had a rough idea what pirates were like," Chloe says, shrugging despite the faint blush across her cheeks. "Like dirty clothes and beards?"
Beca says, "Yeah, that's some of us. No beard here unfortunately."
Chloe cups her hand under Beca's chin playfully. Beca breaks out into a genuine smile.
"Since you know so much about me and my kind already," Beca says, "why don't you tell me about yourself?"
"Myself?" Chloe's hand drops. "There's not much to say."
"What's your favorite food?"
"18 in November."
"See? There's a lot to be said," Beca says.
"I'm not an interesting person," Chloe insists.
"You basically talked me out of kidnapping you," Beca says. "I think that warrants more than a title of merely interesting. I'd say pretty damn amazing."
Chloe flushes despite herself. "Well I was born right here in this house," she says. "My mother didn't make it unfortunately."
Beca's thumb brushes across the back of her wrist.
"And I've been here ever since. I guess I study and paint and sing most days."
A comfortable silence settles between the two of them.
"Do you want to see my ship?" Beca asks out of the blue.
"Yeah, no one will notice," Beca says. "We'll be quiet. And quick."
Chloe bites her lip and considers the proposal. Beca crooks a convincing smile.
Sneaking out of the house is easier said than done. At least, that's what Chloe thinks the narration of her foray into adventuring should be. While Beca can agilely climb onto the roof (as proven per previous encounters), Chloe cannot and refuses to even try. She likes all her parts intact, thank you very much. Although Beca sighs and grumbles about it, she seems to have prepared for the event all along. She pulls out a length of rope from seemingly nowhere and wraps it snugly around Chloe's waist.
"I don't want to die," Chloe whispers several times.
Beca rolls her eyes and says, "If I wanted to kill you, I'd find a more efficient way."
"You'll be fine," Beca says. She leans forward and kisses Chloe's cheek as an afterthought. "For luck."
The place where her lips met Chloe's skin burns in tiny pinpricks of heat. Instead of focusing on that, Chloe says, "For luck? Are you saying I'm going to need luck for this?" There's enough fake panic in her question that it detracts from the small peck. Tiny peck really. It was nothing.
"For luck." Beca has the audacity to wink.
But long story short, yes, using the rope to lower her to the ground does work. And by long story, Chloe means she closed her eyes for most of it. Beca gives her a big grin and a hooded cloak when they reach the courtyard below. Now that her hair and face are covered, Chloe feels confident that she'll actually be able to sneak past everyone in the city without detection.
Beca beckons her and they leave the Beale estate from the back gate. It occurs to Chloe that the life she'd previously led was dull to the point that she hadn't even devised a way to leave the estate in all her years. Oh well. Excitement is certainly happening now.
The streets are beautiful in the evening, dappled in moonlight and lit by oil lanterns and candles side by side, in windows and hanging from roofs. It seems ever more poignant with Beca's hand holding hers, leading her to the docks, like a scene out of a sappy romance paperback. And furthermore, when did she start thinking of this as a romance? Thankfully, Beca takes the wrong turn at the market, so Chloe's given a new line of thought to deal with.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see," Beca says.
They take the winding path south of the market towards the forest and Beca leads the way adeptly, obviously having taken this way many times before. A few more turns and they've arrived at the mouth of a small bay.
"There," Beca says, pointing.
In front of her is the most magnificent ship she's ever seen, tall and majestic, the wood shining white in the night. The sails, although not raised, still swell slightly in the weak breeze. She can vaguely make out the shape of cannons lining the sides of the deck and body of the ship.
When she's able to finally tear her eyes away from the ship to look at Beca, she sees the brunette with the softest expression she's witnessed so far. Slowly, so slowly that Chloe doesn't think she's actually moving, Beca leans forward. Chloe's heart leaps, it freaking leaps, that's the exact feeling. It leaps and it hops and she's not sure why it doing those things because that's not what that organ is for. It should pump steadily and keep her alive, that's what it should do.
Beca looks away finally and says, "Do you want to take a look on deck?"
"No, that's alright," Chloe says. "Perhaps another day."
"Why don't I accompany you back home then?"
"That's alright, I know my way," she says. "Thank you for a lovely evening, Beca."
Beca nods, suddenly distant in manner. Chloe makes her way home, one hand over her chest, wondering about her heart.
A week later, she receives another gift from the pirate captain, wrapped in a thin silk bag. A small light green jade pendant falls out into her open palm. Chloe examines it with much interest; Eastern goods are still rarely seen despite the new trade routes.
A Far Eastern treasure for a worthy recipient. I will visit again in two months' time. Yours – B.
An odd feeling rises up in Chloe's chest, unsettling her, something she's never felt before. It's the word yours, as if a person can belong to her, that's causing the new emotion. Is it apprehension? She does feel a bit nervous, but it's sort of pleasant. A pleasant nervousness?
She tries not to focus on it too much. Two months is a long time, perhaps that is what she's feeling, Chloe decides. Disappointment. And what a ridiculous thing for her to be feeling, all this for a friend she's only met a few times. Still, Chloe ties the pendant with a loose piece of string around her neck. The surface of jade against her collarbone is cool and relaxing.
In late autumn, on her birthday, her father comes home with a guest. The guest is a young man, rather handsome, and dressed impeccably (as well as expensively). Chloe knows immediately the purpose of the dinner.
"Mr. Stewart," the young man introduces himself. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Beale."
As he bends low to kiss her outstretched hand, Chloe says, "Thank you, Mr. Stewart. I feel much the same way."
Sensing an undertone of displeasure to Chloe's words, her father lays a placating hand on her shoulder. It's meant to be warm and comforting, but she feels a vague disgust that makes little sense. She's known for what seems like forever that she'd one day have to marry a nice man of her father's choice.
When they're sat at the table, her father presents Mr. Stewart to her.
"Tom is a fine young man. Studied at Oxford."
"Is it a lovely town?" Chloe asks, feigning polite interest.
"Quite," he says. "I shall take you some time if you wish."
"That sounds delightful," she says.
Her father nods.
And yes, Chloe can imagine herself married to Tom. They'll live in this very estate and have children and Tom will inherit the business once her father passes. They'll perhaps undergo one or two hardships in times of tough economy, but for the most part will sustain the upper class life. Tom will manage the business and trade, Chloe will flit from party to party talking her husband up and socializing with the other married women. It's all so easy to see. Would it be so terrible? She's not sure.
When she returns to her room, Chloe finds a note tacked to the balcony railing.
Watch the sky at midnight. Yours –B.
So Chloe sits on the balcony and waits. She expects something crazy, something wild, like Beca flying from the sky into her arms.
Some time while she's waiting, Chloe dozes off.
Chloe jerks awake at the noise. Bang! Bang! Bang!
The red and yellow sparks in the sky draw her attention. Fireworks bloom green and blue and purple and every single color Chloe could ever want. And she is suddenly sure of two things, knows them rather.
First is the most obvious, she knows that these are meant for her. From Beca.
Second, she knows that she cannot marry Tom.
Looking at the rooftop she realizes a third thing: adventure isn't just better in fiction, but in reality too.
And she can imagine her life with Beca easily, too easily. She'll spend the first month being nauseous, finding her sea legs, integrating with the crew. She'll cook and clean and learn how to do things on the ship (like stuff with the mast and sails and she's not actually sure what there is to be done) and pull her own weight. Beca will help her through it, patient and amused, nothing like Ms. Posen. Pirates don't typically have long careers so they'll probably die an early death with no glory. Would that really be so terrible?
Chloe thinks of Beca, slanting eyes and sunburnt skin.
And no. That would be wonderful.
"I hear Allen is complaining to anyone who will listen that he's lost his fifth ship this month."
"That's why you don't plot your routes to cross into pirate territory. He was begging for it, if you ask me."
"Allen's convinced it was Lady Ash and Lady Fire."
"Bah! What does he know? Fire and Ash have taken the amnesty."
"Liar. Oh, and by the way, you're buying next round."
In the corner, two figures in hooded cloaks whisper to each other in secrecy. A flash of red and raven hair can be seen as they stand to leave. Once outside, the taller figure leads the shorter one into the abandoned alleyway.
"And what do you think, Beca? Have the dynamic duo actually retired into a quiet life?"
Beca laughs and pulls Chloe in. Their lips meet for a short kiss and then a longer one. Chloe's arm snakes around Beca's waist and she smiles into the kiss.
A/N: Happy New Year! I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season (and if you're not currently on holiday, I hope you are enjoying watching us on holiday c; ). Leave a review if it so suits you, I appreciate your readership in any case. See you next time (hopefully soon); spoiler: Celebrities.
1. I realize I wasn't very specific in what I meant by cutting this story short. What I mean is: this story will be officially complete at 20 chapters. If I have any additional AU one-shot ideas, I will still add them, but not actively. Thank you once again for everyone's words of support.
2. I purposefully skipped out on the more pirate-y aspects, as I recently read quite a few Pirate AUs and didn't want to be unconsciously stealing bits and pieces from them.