Nathaniel opened his eyes and stared blankly at the wooden beams above. This was home, aboard the Bold Admiral, even if he had no memory of how he had gotten there. Recollection flooded back as he swung his legs out and dismounted from the hammock. Ah yes, it had been opening night at the House of V, the club formerly known as Fiendish Pleasures. There had been champagne, blood wine, and pleasant company, even if said company was lacking any of his close friends. He frowned a little as confused images of ebony thighs and a shiny red pole came to mind, along with vague recollections of tucking money into the dancer’s costume. He shook his head and hauled himself out on deck, stretching luxuriously and inhaling deeply, out of habit more than any need. The breath brought him the smell of wood and coal smoke from the nearby buildings, overlaying the more familiar scents of the sea. Hanging on to the rigging, he leaned out over the water, taking it all in, the rank of seaweed, the scent of the tar in the rigging and planking, and savoured the salt tang of the seawater itself. The ropes and timbers creaked pleasantly as the water lapped against the hull, his seaman’s senses telling him, unconsciously, of the turning of the tide. He gazed out, past the mouth of the cove, to the open sea beyond, the horizon seeming to call to him, more so than it had ever done before. He stepped back on deck and looked down as his foot kicked something – a small, battered and salt-stained chest. He gave a short laugh.
“Hah! Was I in that sort of mood when I got home last night?” he said, lifting it up onto the barrel he used as a table. He sat down with a melancholy sigh and unlocked the trunk, using a small key on his watch chain. Inside were the few possessions that had survived the shipwreck that had brought him to London, along with other bits and pieces. He pulled a pile of things out and leafed through them.
He unfolded a small and dog-eared playbill advertising a piano recital by Vyktorya Morrys at a concert hall in Richmond, Virginia. “Ah, Vyktorya. You were the reason I came to London, even if you did not remember me when I got here. And now you are long gone, to a better life, I hope.” He kissed his fingertips, and then touched them lightly to the printed name.
Also in the trunk was a small pile of business cards, each proclaiming his title as Manager – of Night Haven, of Twilight Excitement and of Underhill. He spread them out on the table with a wry grin. “Guess I just wasn’t suited to be a club manager,” he muttered to himself. “Three different clubs and three sets of friends, now all gone.” He caressed the Night Haven one with a smile. “Dear Brigitte and Justine. I hope you found happiness at last. Maybe, some day, I shall find you in Paris and renew our friendship.” He placed the card on top of the others. “Arthur, Katarina, Winter… I guess the Unseelie Court was not going to be the place for me, but I thank you for the chances you gave me. I doubt I will ever learn how to cross that veil to your realm…”
He sighed and picked up a small volume of poetry. It fell open to an oft-used page. “But if I did, it would be to find you, Catt, my dear friend, O Captain, My Captain. Or perhaps you will find your way here again, as you did once.” He fell silent, but his lips moved as he read the rest of the verse, all the while running his fingers over the scar on his right wrist. “This is all I have to remember you, and it links us still, so maybe, some day, we will find each other again.”
The squawk of a seagull interrupted his reverie. He looked up and watched it as it swooped low over the water, then out of the mouth of the cove until it was out of sight. His eyes stayed, watching the horizon, with an expression of longing on his face. His gaze swept the horizon, moving from there back to the buildings and chimneys and the railway viaduct; the familiar cityscape that had been his home for so long. He turned back to the horizon and again back to the city, clearly torn between the two. Another gull landed on the handrail nearby, regarding him with suspicion before starting to preen. He stared back at it.
“I went to a part last night,” he said, feeling only slightly ridiculous talking to a gull. “An opening night party, but it just didn’t feel right. There was hardly anybody there that I would count as a friend. They are all gone now.” He sighed heavily, his glance falling back to the small chest on the table.
He picked up another sheet of paper, a letter, and read it, even though he knew the contents by heart, his eyes again drifting to the horizon. “You are still out there, Katharina, somewhere; my lover, my sire. I do not know where you are, but since you have not been able to come and find me, perhaps it is time that I came to find you.” He turned, staring at the city for a long time, his face sad. “Perhaps it is time indeed. There is nothing to keep me here any more.” He stood up and looked around at the ship with a practised eye, his sad expression being slowly replaced by determination. “Yes,” he said to himself, as he completed his inspection. “I can do this. I can find her, out there, somewhere. All I need are a few supplies and a lot of luck.” He grimaces as he says the word supplies. “Guess I’ll have to go negotiate with that crook, Jackson Barnes, and lay in a few supplies from Borris.” He scooped up the various letters and cards and put them back in the box and then looked at his watch. “Hmmm, Borris is always there, but I have no idea of that buzzard Barnes sleeps or not. Maybe I’ll go later.” He starts tidying up the area around the tables and rearranging things in the small box.
His eyes lit on a partly-used writing pad. “Now that’s something I could do. A few goodbyes would be in order. Borris is a good man with messages; he can probably get messages to people, wherever they are.” He pulled out the pad, selected a pen, and began to write.