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by Linaelyn


Fandom: PoTC    Rating: R    Pairing: Will/Groves    Full Header


The early dawn light colored the easternmost reaches of Port Royal's sky, barely painting the dusky, humid air with a wash of palest grey.

Will Turner tried to dress as quietly as possible.

On the blanket before the hearthfire, Ellis Groves feigned sleep. They both knew it for a falsehood, but it eased the difficulty of this moment, for each man to accept it as true.

Besides, thought Ellis, that was rather overmuch rum. Best to keep the eyes closed, and concentrate on keeping the parlour floor stationary.

The rustling silenced. The door latch clicked. Will slipped away.


The streets were mist-strewn at this hour, the coolest of the approaching day. Will knelt in the damp, rancid alley behind the butcher's, retching up his guts.

It wasn't the rum, or at least not the rum alone. The thought of returning to face his wife..."I won't do anything I would feel awkward confessing to Elizabeth." Will's eyelids pinched into a squint of pain.

His stomach clenched, and emptied again.

A hand steadied his shoulder, then passed him a swatch of grimy, grayish kerchief. "There, there, lad," rumbled a vaguely familiar voice. "Ye'll be shipshape again, before tomorrer's dawn."

Mr. Gibbs? Rocking back to sit on his heels, Will bleared over his shoulder, looking to the hairy hand, the beefy arm which cosseted him. Muttonchops waggled as Gibbs passed him a comradely smile, but it was Anamaria's piercing gaze that held Will motionless on his knees.

Behind them both, arms folded over his chest, stood Jack Sparrow.

"Well, Mr. Turner," Captain Jack Sparrow spoke low and serious, "we meet again. You seem to be having a spot of difficulty in finding your bed this night, eh?"

"Jack?" The gutter began to sway beneath him. There had been no sign of the pirate for years, just the occasional ludicrous anecdote from some distant port.

Will was at a complete loss, unslept, exhausted, rather sick, and still quite drunken to boot. There was no rational, reasonable response to this turn of events. Will was forced to give the irrational, unreasonable response, when faced with such events.

He passed out cold.

Mercifully, his downward trajectory narrowly avoided his own pile of spew. Jack rolled his eyes, and sighed. "I suppose we ought carry him home," he murmured.

"Leave 'im." Anamaria's lips pressed into a firm line, then she spat on the filthy cobbles. She crouched to rifle through Will's pockets. "Let's see if he's got anything worth takin'."

Gibbs and Sparrow exchanged an amused look, and the older sailor interrupted her searching with a restraining grasp. "Don't be jealous, darlin'; Jack'll still 'ave plen'y left over fer ye when we get back t'the Pearl."

Anamaria made to swipe at his face with her fist, but it was a measure of how little she actually cared for Jack's attentions and for the contents of a drunken blacksmith's pouch that she missed by such a margin. "You take 'is feet, lass," said Gibbs, reaching to lift Turner beneath the armpits.

The cockerel had just begun to crow as they let themselves in the smithy door, where the sign swung over the streetfront entrance to the Turners' home and business.

The latch-string had been left out all night.


In the little house at the top of the hill, Ellis Groves swayed across the room, trying not to drop the fragile bottles in his hand while grasping at furniture to assist his progress. Placing the honey and the oil back in the pantry, he glanced around the parlour. The blankets were folded and put away. There was no evidence remaining that anything had occurred in this room, save an officer returning home from the tavern and undressing for bed. Ellis could imagine the night before had been only a dream.

Only a dream, all of it.

The delicious pain in his arse told him otherwise, though. The thought of Will Turner's powerful and passionate embrace brought a thrumming warmth back to his groin, and his breath quickened. Bringing a hand to his face, he smelled the musk of a blacksmith's sweat on his own skin.

Must not think. Thinking is dangerous.

Unsteady legs propelled him up the narrow staircase to the blessed softness of his bed. As he crossed the room, he passed the looking glass on the wall and caught sight of the purpled bruises on his face, bruises that told of other business from yesterday that didn't bear thinking of. Able Seaman Riley's last gifts to him — a shiner that would last nearly a fortnight and an ache that would last a lifetime — for the hypocrisy of his own actions.

No escape.

There was no recourse for him to avoid this sort of secret, encumbered life in the Navy, wracked by guilt for his clandestine actions and shamed by his rightful duty, not unless he wished to seek the noose at his own hand or the comfort of a flintlock pistol in the mouth.

Nothing for it.

Groves tumbled his still-drunken body onto the sheets and pillows. The bed seemed to sway like a cot on a ship at sea, but it was a comfort to lie there, to seek and find the oblivion of sleep.


A noise that was not the cockerel's crow woke her. "Listen! Did you hear something?" Elizabeth whispered to the person huddled in the sheets beside her.

There was no response beyond a languid hmmmmm?

"Get up! Get out! He'll catch us here!" Elizabeth shoved hard against the rump that pressed gently against her barely swelling belly. She sat up abruptly in her panic, forgetting that doing such a thing had been sure to bring up her gorge ever since she'd begun carrying this babe. The burn that rose from her belly to her throat was almost enough to distract her from the shock of finding herself staring into the glittering dark eyes of a dangerous pirate...and a good man.

Jack stood at the bedside, smirking. "No worries. He'll not be awake to catch you at anything for some hours yet," he whispered.

The voluptuous, unclothed woman in the bed next to Elizabeth shrieked. Jack winced, lunged and clapped a hand over her mouth. "But if you persist in making noises such as those, I cannot guarantee his continued slumberous state, my dears."

"It's alright, Genevieve," Elizabeth reassured her wild-eyed maidservant. "He's... an old family friend."

"And it appears you've been finding this family to be every bit as friendly as I have found it, Genny," Jack said with a tilt and a twist of his head. Elizabeth's eyes narrowed, and Jack released the servant-girl with a flourish, holding palms forward to show no harm was intended. Genevieve recoiled as far as she could, clutching the linens tighter to her ample bosom and attempting to vanish beneath them.

"Where is Will? What have you done to him, you wretched...vile...dissolute..." Sufficiently offensive verbiage failed Elizabeth, and her words sputtered away uselessly. She was out of practice in the use of coarse language.

"All I've done is carried him home to his lovely wife and domicile, having found him in dire need of succor in the alley behind Cemetery Road." Jack backed away from the bedside and made himself comfortable in the straight-backed wooden chair in the corner of the room. "Shall we continue this discussion over breakfast, darling?" Jack swept a chemise from the floor beside his seat, balled it and hurled it at Genevieve's head. She made quick work of dressing. "Make yourself scarce, lass. I've need of a private palaver with your Mistress."

Afraid to stay but also fearful for Mrs. Turner’s safety if she left her alone in the presence of such an nefarious blackguard, Genevieve waited for Elizabeth's nod before dashing to escape.


Genevieve's hasty retreat was halted at the back door by a dark woman with contempt in her eyes and a blade in her hands. The exit at the front of the building was guarded by an old man with whiskers, a stern voice and a pistol. It was a novel experience for Genevieve, to stoke the fire and boil the kettle at the point of a longknife.

Fearing for her life, she listened carefully as the two pirates whispered together.

"Jack's taking too long. We need to get about our business."

"Don't begrudge the Cap'n a bit o' auld lang syne, Ana. We wouldn't need this business at all, if it weren't fer you sayin' we should keep those three Spaniards' ships an' 'ave ourselves a little armada."

"We need those smaller boats for raids in shallower waters and you know it. Marty agrees, and so do the others." It was an old argument between them, and one without rancor. "Still, every moment we're here makes it harder to get in and out safely."

"We've still time enough. Town's late t'bestir on a Sunday."

"You just want to be sure we find the fellow to replace you, so you're not tapped for a helm yourself."

"Not everyone wants their own ship, m'dear. I'll allow I'm keen to find another resolution, though Jack's plan seems daft for true. I'll follow 'im into 'ell, if he says it's what's necess'ry."

"I ain't yours, nor anyone else's m'dear." Anamaria hissed, leaving the longstanding conflict for another day. She noticed Genevieve's eyes upon them. "What're you lookin' at? Stir, or I'll give ye your bowels fer a necklace!" The longknife made little jabs in the direction of the maid's midsection.

Genny lowered her head and stirred more briskly. Taking this position two weeks ago had been the worst decision she'd ever made. Governor's daughter. Fancy connections. Faugh!


"So... the two of you had a bit of a spat, I take it? Will goes off to drink himself ill and you decide to try the charms of the serving wench in your bed?" Jack's snort of derision infuriated Elizabeth, but she could think of no rebuttal for his accusations, as they were, in essence, truth.

"I... Jack, I..." Elizabeth looked more than a little uncomfortable with the situation.

Or perhaps not merely with the situation.

Suddenly she leaped from the bed, lunged straight for the corner in which Jack sat. The daunting sight of naked Elizabeth Turner hurling herself at him caused the pirate to recoil and reach for a weapon. Reflexes moved him, and he found himself standing atop the chair, stiletto blade in hand, teeth bared in defiance...

...while his erstwhile assailant vomited weakly into the glazed ceramic crock stored beneath his chair for use during episodes of violent morning sickness.

"Ah, bollocks." Jack sighed, as the wave of battle-fever gradually subsided in his veins. "Is it just that he's drinkin' and you're breedin'? Or have you both been overcome by some dire disease?" He slid the knife back in its hidden scabbard, bounced down to the floor and held Elizabeth’s hair away from her face.

She hawked and spat, entirely unladylike. "It's that, yes," Elizabeth gasped uncomfortably. "I'm gravid. The babe should arrive April next." Water from the bedside pitcher was poured and handed to her and was followed, much to Elizabeth’s surprise, by a dampened cloth for her face. Jack as gentle nursemaid?

"Congratulations, luv." Jack said tenderly, glancing at her breasts and belly appraisingly. "Still quite early then. Let's get you dressed and a morsel down you. Have you any limes or such? That's often a help for this sort of thing." He reached to help her into a dressing gown.

"Jack, don't tell me you know anything of the way of a woman bearing child!" Elizabeth shrugged into the garment.

"I know a little bit about just about everything, my dear," Jack responded, with a moue of distaste and a waggle of his fingertips. "Just don't be asking me to play the midwife when you come to your lying-in. Once was a surfeit for me, for that particular adventure." Taking her delicately by the elbow, he led her down the narrow, rickety staircase to the kitchen below.

Exhausted, ill, and worried for Will's safety, Elizabeth was unable to maintain a wary stance around Jack as she knew she ought. Jack was behaving as though he were a trustworthy ally, but Jack never did anything unless there was some profit in it for him.

She wished she'd had more sleep, last night.


Ellis dreamed of Will. Will was moving inside him, and when he turned to look over his shoulder, the strong muscles of the blacksmith's arms clasped him close and brought him to safety and joy. They swam like dolphins on the sea, arcing through the spume together, riding the bow wave of some anonymous ship towards a distant, sunlit horizon.

Together they swam through the deepening dusk until they found a cold. shallow estuary reminiscent of the Thames at low tide: rank and foul, full of flotsam and sewage. There, among the dead fish and sea wrack, floated Riley, his face blackened from the hanging.

Ellis sobbed once; he slid deeper into dreamless slumber.


Elizabeth had never been fond of pease porridge. That it was nearly the only food she could tolerate at the moment was... intolerable. It appeared that Jack was also correct about the limes, and a squeeze of citrus helped quell the painful fire in her gut. The slight variation in flavor was enough to keep her applied to her bowl. "So that's how you found him? You know nothing of his night previous?" she mumbled around and through the gloppy food. No sense in wasting manners on a pirate.

"Nothing firsthand," Jack passed her a serviette from his own side of the trestle. "but rumors are rife on the docks, about the... well, they're only rumors, so I'd best not pass them on, not without further confirmation."

Elizabeth was unsure whether Sparrow's serious demeanor indicated sincerity or that he was toying with her. Likely both, knowing his reputation in such things, or else neither. "You still haven't explained your own presence here." She had a good idea that Will might not be insensate to the amorous charms of Jack Sparrow. She had known since her wedding night that there had been more than mere admiration between the pirate and her Will. Was Jack here to take her husband away? Make a pirate of him in truth?

Given the difficulties in their marriage of late, Will might choose a life of freedom at sea over one chained to herself and a child. Will talked in his sleep frequently and at length and with unmistakable fervor, emotion and... activity.

In fact, it had been Will's nighttime mumblings that had led her to wonder if she might be missing something in never having sampled the charms of her own sex. Hence her straying to the servant girl's satisfaction in the course of the previous night's emotional upheavals.

That had been a bit of a disappointment, actually. It was nothing like as pleasant as what Will seemed to enjoy with his memories of the pirate captain. Maybe it was something peculiar to pirates? Anamaria was a pirate... Elizabeth's eyes flickered to the mulatto woman in the doorway, but Jack spoke and the moment passed.

"And I have no plans to explain myself to the likes of you, Mistress Turner." Jack slipped into a grin. "Not unless you have a lot more useful intelligence to impart to me. Which, given your change in circumstance, I highly doubt."

"Change in circumstance? Jack Sparrow, bearing child does not make one soft in the head!" Elizabeth's voice rose with indignation.

"No, no," Jack waved his hands for her to lower her tone, "not the baby. Just that you married your dear William and not a lovely, handsome Commodore who might have let slip a few naval secrets on the pillow in the night. I hardly have need of such knowledge as might be gained in a blacksmith's boudoir."

A new voice joined the conversation: "I might beg to differ on that point."

Jack turned to glance over his shoulder at the doorway to the adjoining smithy, where they had deposited the unconscious man upon their arrival. Will's eyes held something intent and feral. Jack ignored it and turned back to Elizabeth as though he'd not even seen her husband. "Allow me to correct my misstatement, Mistress Turner. I hardly have a professional need of such knowledge as might be gained in a blacksmith's boudoir. I was speaking of an exchange of useful information in regards to my chosen vocation, as it were."

"Ah, I see." Will approached the pirate with a swagger, one which was marred by a slight wobble due to the continued effects of alcohol. "And was it merely professional interest that led you to carry me home from the gutters at dawn?"

Jack dropped the pretense of avoiding Will's gaze and chuckled. "That was just me being my sweet-natured self. And you're welcome, my dear William."

"What did you just call me?" Will's eyes narrowed dangerously, and his hands flexed. Elizabeth feared that look; Will rarely unleashed his temper, but when he did he was a force to be reckoned with. And that the two men were speaking nearly openly of these things...why was Will so angry with Jack so suddenly? What had Jack done to anger Will so?

"Just a harmless endearment. Don't take it too much to heart, Turner. I'm not the sort of fellow who pines away for loves long past." Jack appeared to relax even further into his already-languorous posture at the table. To Elizabeth's eye, it was clear Jack was doing his best to infuriate Will. "But then, apparently, neither are you?"

Will snarled something inarticulate and turned towards the wall where his swords hung.

Elizabeth's sharp intake of breath stopped Will's motion. Desperate to prevent bloodshed that was likely to end badly for everyone, she blurted, "How could you! You cad! And with another MAN!" She caught up her porridge-dabbed serviette and threw it at her husband, to break the tension between Will and Jack.

Will was distracted from his antipathy for Jack, just as Elizabeth had hoped. She heard him give the anticipated blathering confession of bodily sins long past. She heard apologies, begging her forgiveness for his weakness, his transgressions against their vows.

Will swore he'd never do anything of the sort again with the lieutenant...

The lieutenant?

The world turned sideways as she came to understand, slowly and with shock, what Will was saying through his rambling admission of guilt: Will didn't have a secret desire for The Infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. At least, not at present. That would have been understandable. Reprehensible, unconscionable, daft even. But understandable.

Will desired men in general, and in very specific ways. And Will had gone out and acted on those desires this past night with one of the lieutenants at the fort. He would expect her to be livid at his infidelity.


Last night she'd swived a woman in their own marriage bed.

"Shall I leave you two to discuss this privately?" Jack spoke into the silence that hung in the stifling air of the little kitchen.

"YES." The Turners replied with one voice, their eyes still locked.


Joshamee Gibbs noticed that no one offered to see them out. If there was a disadvantage to a life of pirate, aside from the risk of death by hanging and such, it was that no one seemed to think that a pirate deserved the commonest of courtesies. Ah, well. There were other compensations to the lifestyle.

"D'ye suppose they'll think to free th'maid from 'er bonds anytime soon?" he chortled as they made their way through the still-quiet streets of Port Royal. There would be a bustling crowd of those headed for Sunday services within the hour, but for the moment, they could pass the streets in relative anonymity as part and parcel of the aftermath of Saturday evening.

"Nay, they'll be hissin' and spittin' like a couple o' cats, 'til after dark, I'll warrant,” Anamaria replied. "I saw the look on that maid, and if she weren't well-and-truly fucked by 'er ladyship last night, I'll eat my hat."

"No wager here, lass," Gibbs parried. "Though, I'd not have thought it of Miz Elizabeth in times past. She ne'er seemed one to fancy the fairer sex. Well, I'm not much of one to tell with the lasses, anywise. Never did unnerstand you lot."

Jack shook his head thoughtfully, then increased the pace of his steps. "Come, quick as we may. We've another appointment to keep, and we've not much time in which to be convincing before the alarums are sounded and we catch the tide."

"I still say this is another fool's errand, Jack," Gibbs warned. "Aye, ye often manage to turn the madness t'brilliance, but ye don't ken how loyal these lads are to the fellow. The commodore's got quite a bit of personal charisma, in case ye hadn't noticed."

"Actually, I had noticed," murmured Jack.


Ellis lay in his bed, eyes still crusted shut from the blur of overindulgence, unsure why he'd wakened. Birdsong filtering in the shuttered windows indicated it was still early enough; the church bells would not yet have rung to wake him.

Ellis detected a slight tickle just beneath his ear. Blasted vermin! The one thing he hated about this posting was the pestiferous insect life. There was never a moment's peace, not even when sleeping off an epic night of drunkenness and debauchery. Eyes still closed and head throbbing, Ellis brushed at the offending sensation.

The back of his hand encountered steel. The stiletto made the barest sandpaper rasp across the stubble of his jawline, once more.

"I'd like the opportunity to speak to you for a few moments, if I may lieutenant?" Sparrow's voice was silky smooth.

At the doorway, Gibbs and Anamaria stood with pistols held to bear.

"I have a proposition for you."


"Genevieve? And you?" Will's head spun.

Elizabeth's head was bowed, her words quiet. "Just as you with Lieutenant Groves."

Will was silent. Will was silent for a long while.

Elizabeth reached a hand towards his, and he startled. "Will, I'm sorry, I --"

"How... How would that even work?" Will asked.


Tension filled the air of the little dining alcove of Lieutenant Theodore Ellis Groves' home. Gibbs and Anamaria guarded the exits, staying well within earshot of the negotiations but not interfering with Jack's conversation.

"Well, I must admit, that's quite a tale. I take it that I must give you an answer immediately?" Groves asked. "No chance to deliberate on my choice?"

"No chance to toddle off to the fort and bring back a regiment of marines to comb the coves for my ships and crew, either, my good man. Surely you see my reasoning." Sitting at the heavy heirloom table across from the lieutenant, Sparrow tilted back his chair and set his booted heels on the edge of the adjacent seat. Before them lay a series of parchments, all awaiting a signature, and a bowl of fruit still bedecked with Groves' wig.

"I'd be giving up everything," Groves said, and gestured around the room. There was no place for an accumulation of this sort of worldly goods on board a pirate vessel. Included in his gesture were the intangibles of his life.

"Do you honestly expect to live to see England again, retire in comfort to your family's graces?" Sparrow countered. "In how many battles have you nearly died? How many storms have nearly sunk your vessel?"

Groves stroked his chin. "I'm not looking to get rich. My funds are sufficient to meet my needs, and I have good chance for advancement if I remain in the Navy. What do I need of a share of ill-gotten plunder?"

"I know what you had to do yesterday, mate. Do you think Riley will be the last fellow you'll have to hang? Come on, you're a sharp bloke. You know there's no happy future for you in the service of His Majesty."

"My home is here in Port Royal; my friends and colleagues..."

"...your beloved commanding officer to whom you're ever so loyal..." Jack mocked.

"Commodore Norrington has been ever deserving of that loyalty." Groves bristled. "To repay him with this treachery would be..."

"... would be something he would understand, after yesterday's events. May I be frank, sir?" Jack dropped his feet to the floor and leaned across the table, lowering his voice to intimacy. "Is the commodore aware of your propensities? Does he turn a blind eye to where your coin pays for the boudoir pleasures?"

"You have spies everywhere, don't you Captain Sparrow?"

"Keeps me alive."


"What do you think? Would you like a demonstration, my darling?" Elizabeth laughed aloud. At Will's look of shock and chagrin she took his hands and said, "Will, I am so very sorry. I have been untrue to our vows, and unlike you I have done so with malice, in the hope of making you angry. But you aren't angry, you're only hurt by my foolish actions."

"I have always lived in fear that this life would not be enough for you, that you would regret your choice to marry me." Will's face was pale in contrast to his earlier choler when confronting Sparrow. "I must say the manner surprises me, but I always expected to be a cuckold."

"Just as I have always lived in fear that you might someday leave me, to become a pirate. You want to sail at Jack's side." Her icy fingers began to shake at this admission. Her deepest secret was laid bare, that she had known his secret all along. She whispered, "You want to share Jack's bed."

"Not as much as I want to share yours." Will's voice was steady and certain.

"I would never leave you, Will. Never." Elizabeth could hardly credit it; his fears mirrored her own so closely.

"But last night, you did. I failed to be a good husband to you, and you asked me to leave, and sought another. How can you say it will never happen again?"

Elizabeth was silent. There was no honest answer save I cannot but those words might drive them apart. She remained silent.

Will spoke, where she could not. "I will swear anything you ask of me, Elizabeth. I will..." but his voice trailed off, and his head bowed. "I can't say it. I can promise to never stray again, but I don't know if I can keep that promise." Will tugged at her hands and folded her into the embrace of his arms. He kissed her on the lips, gentle and tender. "You are still my heart, still my love, still my wife. You still carry our child, and we shall still raise it together. What happened last night changes none of that."

"No, it changes nothing between us, does it? Except now I understand you better than I did yesterday. As long as you can still tell me that I have your heart, I can give you this. I can share your body with an array of lieutenants or pirates or whomever you fancy," Elizabeth held Will close, and whispered against his chest, "as long as you always come home to me."

"You... you what?"

"I'm saying that you should go back and tell your friend in the navy that you have my express permission to continue on as you have begun."


"Because I want you to be happy, Will."

"And what of you?" Will countered. "Do you wish to... seek..."

"Well, to be honest, at the moment I haven't the energy for even you." She laid a hand on her swelling belly. "I thought last night would be more of a shocking revelation than it was. I'll not be looking elsewhere," Elizabeth giggled, girlish. "but if I could maybe... how shall I put it... observe, sometime, and see how it's done, a man with a man?"

"Observe?" Will was shocked. "Why would you want to?"

"I like to watch when you... enjoy yourself in that way." Elizabeth looked at her feet, and giggled a little. "Alone."

"You watch me?!?"

"In the smithy, early in the morning..."

Will blushed profusely. Even the thought of it was unnerving. As well for a sheep as for a lamb, I suppose. "I'd have to ask Ellis if he minded. I wouldn't force him do so, unwilling or unwitting."

Elizabeth gleamed an enormous smile at her husband.

Will bent to kiss her again, but she recoiled. He looked hurt at her rejection, but she said, "I love you, darling. You smell like spew. Go wash, and then go call on your friend."

They found themselves able to laugh together, again.


Elizabeth wandered through the routine of clearing the breakfast table in a daze. Such a night, followed by such a morning. The pease porridge was sticking to the bowls, but her mind was far away, imagining her beloved in another's arms.

Which one was Groves? she wondered. So many lieutenants. It always had been difficult to keep them all straight.

A thumping noise from the pantry caught her attention. Had a cat been trapped in there? She crossed the room to let the poor creature out, and the back of her neck prickled.

Where was Genevieve?

Flinging open the door, she found the same answer her intuition supplied. Genevieve sat, bound and gagged, on one of the kitchen chairs inside the tiny room.

Elizabeth just barely managed to stifle her fit of giggles at the latest ridiculous turn of events. "Oh, you poor thing! Let me untie you!" Nimble fingers made short work of the bonds, but the first words out of Genny's mouth were already inevitable:



"I'll not allow you to blackmail me into this, Sparrow."

"Wouldn't consider it, mate! It's merely a matter of being completely forthright with you. You didn't answer my question about what your commodore does know, and what he doesn't know. If he's aware of your actions, how long do you think he'll be able to cover for you? How long will it be, before someone sees you in some back alley, and forces his hand to be the one lifting your pretty neck by a rope, just like you had to lift Riley's, eh?"

Groves swallowed and bowed his head. His thoughts had often traveled to that fearful possibility.

Jack gestured negation with an expressive hand. "I want you to come with me, fully willing, or not at all. But think of it: Captain Groves, part of the most dread pirate fleet of the entire ocean. How else am I going to keep these ships with me, eh? You're getting command of almost as speedy a vessel as my own Black Pearl, in the bargain. What's to stop you from sailing away with one third of my new corsair fleet once I lower my guard? I'm taking an enormous risk here as well. Great reward requires great risk, and I think you're the best candidate for a well-trained captain that exists in these waters. I need you to work with me rather than against me if I'm to build the fleet I want."

"And if I say no, right now?" Groves leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers before his face to hide his glance at the window through which he might escape.

"You fear I'm going to kill you out of hand?" Sparrow shook his head, "No, that would bring the entire British fleet down on me, and I know it. Besides, you can't cry foul once I've offered this to you or I'll accuse you for a sodomite at my own trial and say you ratted me out after a lover's spat." Jack's glee at the prospect was disturbing to Groves, and he didn't doubt that the resultant legal chaos would produce himself in a court martial, and Sparrow somehow free.

"Who is to captain the other two boats? I'll need to know something about my fellow, er, sailors." Groves was unready to refer to himself as a pirate.

"Anamaria, there," Jack pointed across the room, "will lead the one, and Marty the other. You'll be junior to them both, and to my quartermaster, Mr. Gibbs." Jack indicated the older man with a nod, as well.

"You've thought this out carefully."

"Again, that trait tends to be its own best reward; keeps me alive."

A silence fell between them. Gibbs shuffled his feet nervously and exchanged a glance with Anamaria. The moment had come, and they all knew it.

"Captain T. Ellis Groves," he reveled in the sound of it, a lopsided smirk on his face, and ducked his head in a blush after the words passed his lips.

"I'm offering you the ultimate in freedom, lad. All you have to do is reach out," Jack made a grasping motion with both hands, "and take it."

"Freedom? Then why all the articles and contracts, Captain?"

"Those are so’s you know precisely where your freedom ends and my own begins. You've read them; tell me, in what way are they anything but fair?"

"They're fair enough," Groves said, and drew a deep breath, followed by a loud exhalation.

Jack reached for the wig atop the fruit bowl, plucked an apple from beneath its starched whiteness and caught up the headgear as an afterthought. "You'll never, ever have to wear one of these things again, you realize?"

Groves grinned broadly and lunged for the quill in the inkwell. "That, Captain Sparrow, has convinced me, where all the jewels in the world could not!" Before he could blot the excess ink on the edge of the well, however, there came a loud pounding at the door.

"Ellis! Ellis, open up! It's me, Will!"

The three pirates engaged in silent discussion with darting glances; Turner wasn't a threat, per se, but they didn’t wish to leave behind anyone who knew their plans. Anamaria drew her knife, but Jack gestured for her to put it away and follow him. Groves pointed to the stairs and made hurrying motions, then made a stomping show of noise on the boards himself. Jack nodded approvingly, and mouthed to Gibbs, "One of us, aye?" Groves passed a quick hand through his hair, mussing it thoroughly. It wasn't difficult to appear hung over, not with his head already throbbing like this. "I'm coming, I'm coming! Stop pounding to wake the devil, you lout!"

Groves unlocked the door and opened it to see an equally rumpled-looking William Turner, beaming that smile of his, the smile brighter than even the morning's far-too-bright sunshine.

"Mr. Turner, what a surprise. What can I do for you on this morning?"

"Let me in, Ellis, quick!"

"Will, we can't..." but the blacksmith shoved him aside and barged right in, closing the door behind him. Ellis found himself embraced and covered in passionate kisses and nips; after a brief moment of struggle, he gave in and merely enjoyed the ravishing.

Finally, Will broke off long enough to speak. "I had to come and tell you as soon as possible. She said yes! She gave her permission!"

"You..." Ellis recoiled, "You actually told her?"

"I told her everything. Jack and me, the years of watching the sailors, you and me last night, all of it. And she still loves me, and she isn't going to leave me!"

"And she said you could..." Ellis was baffled by his words, "...that I could... that we could?"

"No. She said we should." Will blocked any more questions with a roving mouth and a lapping tongue, questing to find exactly how delicious the difference was between "can" and "should".

The muffled moans emanating from belowstairs were becoming more urgent. Joshamee and Jack exchanged a leer, and Anamaria rolled her eyes at both of them. "Men are all pigs," she whispered.

"Nah. Pigs is nicer, Ana." Gibbs replied.

Jack sighed, "I think we just lost our gamble, my dear officers. I've nothing to offer that trumps this card."

"Pity. He was a pretty one, too." Anamaria replied. Jack and Josh turned to stare at her. "Bugger it, I'm allowed to enjoy the scenery, ain't I?"

They climbed out the window and crept down the chimney. Leaving his crew members at the rear garden gate, Jack slipped in the dining room window just long enough to retrieve the articles.

Despite Sparrow’s stealth, Ellis was glancing in the right direction and noticed him as he put his leg over the sill to exit. Smoothly, Jack said, "Ta for the apple, mate. Just came back to pick up a couple of papers I'd forgotten. Carry on."

And with that, Jack Sparrow slipped away.


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