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Squaring Accounts - Chapter 4

by Melusina

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Dramatis Personae: Jack, Will, Elizabeth, Norrington    Full Header

 

The Fool
Going on a Journey-Starting Something New-Letting Go of Expectations-Faith


Jack sighted black sails before noon the next day, and shortly after their simple luncheon, Gibbs landed one of the boats on the shore.

Even before he reported to Jack, Gibbs took Elizabeth aside, saying, "Found a letter for you at the Faithful Bride, Miss Elizabeth."

Gibbs knew full well what any letter for Elizabeth meant, but he kept it to himself, strolling off to talk to Jack and Will, and not incidentally, giving her some privacy in which to read about her son. Later, she would share the news with Will, but the first read, with the faint doubts and recriminations it inevitably stirred up, was always done alone.

The letter was a relic from another world. Sarah Caxton wrote in a tiny and educated hand and the paper was smooth and scented with a hint of lavender. Her words were kind and full of affection for William, telling of his first birthday, his toddling steps, and his first words. But there was something else. Sarah, who had never fallen pregnant in either of her marriages, was now expecting her own child. She wrote of returning to England with her husband after the child was born, and vaguely suggested that perhaps some other arrangement might need to be made for William.

Folded into the letter was a silky brown curl, so like Will's it brought tears to Elizabeth's eyes. There was an ache in her heart she had never imagined when she left William behind. She had thought only to be done with him, and to return to the liberty she'd found at sea; she had not realized that she would leave a part of herself behind.

Elizabeth wondered if the price she'd paid for her freedom was too dear, but then she tried to imagine herself living Sarah's life: sewing and managing the servants and rocking the baby. Left behind on shore while Will and Jack sailed away. It was quite impossible.

And yet, something would have to be done. She flinched away from that thought and from the inevitable guilt that accompanied her every thought of the boy. With a bitter laugh, she realized why it was so familiar -- she felt the same pang when she thought of her father.

*


James required little in the way of preparation to leave the island. There had been no packing to be done, no belongings to gather. Elizabeth had thrown his rags into the fire, and he had no need for the crude tools he'd fashioned during his exile. As much to occupy himself as to ingratiate himself to them, James had helped Sparrow and Will pack the few items they'd brought with them to the island, and then helped the crew load barrels of fresh water onto the longboat. Now there was nothing to do but row out to the Black Pearl and weigh anchor.

James kept close to the boat, waiting impatiently for the others to get on with it. Until he was on the blasted ship, he wouldn't believe that they really were going to take him. He kept expecting Sparrow to give him one of those sly looks and say, "Fooled you, didn't we?"

There appeared to have been some sort of disagreement; Elizabeth, who'd been in a fine mood that morning, singing and joking over their breakfast, was now in a bleak-faced consultation with Will, who looked equally dour.

Moody bitch, James thought, startling himself with his vehemence. Seeing Elizabeth like this, in some ways so like the child he'd watched blossom into a young lady, and in others entirely unlike the girl he'd thought he'd known, had brought him up short with the realization that he was no longer so much in love with her as he had been.

Once, the depth of his feelings had covered the anger he felt towards her for not loving him; for the reckless, headstrong behavior that had cost so many good men their lives; for her cavalier treatment of her father. But the love had worn thin and threadbare and could no longer clothe his rage. She had been the kindest to him of all of them, and yet he resented her the most.

*


While Will was occupied with Elizabeth, Jack took the opportunity to give Gibbs the lay of the land. Strictly speaking, the quartermaster should have been in on this conference, but Jack was half hoping that Gibbs would protest this daft plan, and give him some excuse to go back on his word. This would be more easily done if Will wasn't there to hold him to his promise.

To Jack's surprise, Gibbs just nodded sagely, as if he were impressed with the way Jack had contrived to wrangle the situation to their benefit. "'Tain't such a bad thing to have the Commodore owin' us a favor, now is it? 'Sides, I knew Norrington when he was a lieutenant. He's not such a bad sort, for a Navy man."

Jack winced at this. Did every man on his crew have a history with Norrington?

Although Gibbs approved of the plan, he balked at Jack's suggested route, which was designed to get them to Port Royal as quickly as possible, and be done with the whole bloody mess. Gibbs had sighted two Spanish privateers on his return from Tortuga, and rumor had it that the Spanish had been offering rewards to anyone able to provide the whereabouts of Jack Sparrow and the Pearl.

"A little caution wouldn't go amiss, Cap'n."

"Never fear, Gibbs, they'll not catch the Pearl."

Gibbs refused to take the hint. "Running with the wind abeam'll slow her down. I say we go north around Havana. Might take longer, but we'll have the wind at our backs and open seas."

"Open seas that are filthy with the Guarda. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, if you ask me, and the southerly route gets us shot of the Commodore all that much sooner." With a decisive nod, Jack ended the conversation and ordered the crew to the boat.

*


The Black Pearl loomed over the boat, blocking the sun. Sparrow had restored her to all her former glory; the black sails snapped in the wind, and the expanse of dark hull gleamed. She was no longer a ghost ship, but the shadowy bulk of her was still disquieting. There was something almost human about the carved figurehead, and James could have sworn she was watching him jealously as they approached the ship.

Someone on the ship tossed down a rope ladder and the pirates began to swarm up it. When James would have climbed it in turn, Sparrow stopped him with a hand to his arm. "Hold up, mate."

James blanched and forced himself to breathe deeply, all the while cursing himself for a fool. What misguided notion had prompted him to think that these cutthroats would come to his aid? He eyed the pistol at Will's waist, and wondered if he could provoke Will to shoot him by attacking Sparrow. Better dead than pushed over the side and forced to swim back to that damned island.

"If you sail on my ship, you sail under my rules, savvy?" There was a taunting note to Sparrow's voice, as if he were well aware of what James had feared. "Before you set foot in the Pearl, you'll swear not to interfere with my ship nor any venture we undertake while you're onboard."

Choosing his words carefully, James said, "For the time I am on your ship, I give you my parole, Captain Sparrow, and my word as a gentleman."

Sparrow gave a mocking laugh. "In that case, Commodore, welcome aboard the Black Pearl!"

 

 

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