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Squaring Accounts - Chapter 11

by Melusina

 

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

 

The Hanged Man
Seeing Things Differently-A Turning Point-Pausing to Reflect


Elizabeth ignored the first twinge. The second she blamed on hunger, although she knew it was too low for that. The third one was stronger, a more definitive cramp, and with a sinking heart, she counted back: the next day would be four weeks since she'd had her courses. Ever since she'd had the baby, she'd been as regular as the moon. It might be as early as that night, or as late as the next evening, but she'd be bleeding soon. Damn her body! Why did it always have to be at the most inconvenient times possible? Not for the first time, she wished she could be a man, and never worry about blood and babies and breasts.

She cast about for what she could use. Jack's shirt was gone to bandage his leg. His coat was too heavy, as was her own. She could rip up her own shirt, but that would leave her terribly exposed.

Striving for a dispassionate tone, she said, "Will, Iím going to need your shirt."

He looked befuddled. "Why?"

Don't make me say it, she pleaded silently. "I just do. Please, Will?"

Jack's eyes grew wide and he said, in a slightly panicked tone, "Best do as she says, love."

Thank God Norrington was still gone. At least she'd been spared that embarrassment, although he'd know soon enough. No secrets could be kept in this small space.

With some effort, Will was able to propel his shirt across to them, and she pulled it into the cell. It was dirty and stained, and her first thought was disgust at using something so filthy. Then she caught the scent of skin and sweat that permeated the linen. Will. Loneliness and misery overtook her, and she buried her face in the shirt and wept.

*


Will had just worked out why Elizabeth had wanted his shirt when Norrington returned, ashen and dotted with drying blood. His wrists were cut and bruised, and for a dreadful moment, Will was afraid that Norrington had been tortured, but at Will's questioning look, he shook his head. "I'm unharmed, in body, if not soul." He shuddered and related, with meticulous concision, what he'd seen. Somehow the emotionless narrative -- combined with the evidence of his wrists and clothes -- was more disturbing than any amount of detail would have been.

A look of murderous rage passed over Jack's face. "Bloody Wickham!" No one else spoke.

His former constraint abandoned, Will clasped his arm around Norrington's shoulders. Norrington closed his eyes and some of the tension dropped from his face. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to sit like that, offering and taking comfort in equal measure.

Elizabeth broke the silence. "Poor Hans -- what a terrible way to die!"

Will nodded, wondering if Hans' brother and friends suspected he was dead. Would Henrick know, when Hans didn't return, that he'd been killed?

Jack shook his head and said, unconvincingly, "I've seen worse. Sounds like it was quick, and he saw the sky and the ocean at the end. . ." Norrington gave Jack an incredulous look, and to Will's astonishment, Jack shut his mouth.

Unexpectedly, Norrington leaned over the bucket they'd been given for a privy, and vomited. Will kept his hand on Norrington's arm, and he could feel him shaking, struggling for control and yet unable to stop. It was awful to see Norrington -- who was always so restrained -- like this, and it brought home the horror of what he'd seen. The sound was painful, and Elizabeth and Jack both averted their eyes. When he seemed done, Will helped him sit up.

"Thank you." Norrington laughed bleakly. "I. . .I thought Barbossa's men were hellish, but this. . ." He waved his hand inadequately.

After a long pause, Jack gave himself a little shake and said, "At any rate, now we know how they beat the Pearl. Aztec blood magic -- nasty business, that." He sucked on his teeth thoughtfully and conceded, "But very effective."

"If I hadn't seen it, I'd never have believed it. But when he -- it's indescribable. . .How does such a thing even work?"

"I wish Anamaria were here -- she knows more about this sort of thing than I do. . .There's powerful magic in blood, savvy? They sacrifice a man to the heathen gods and in exchange, the gods make the ship faster than she has any right to be. Unsinkable too, I don't doubt. I imagine they have to do that little ritual every so often anyway, and after the damage she took, they'd have had to renew the spell."

Elizabeth stared off into space, the shirt she'd been rending forgotten in her lap. "We must find a way to incapacitate the Princessa -- to counter the magic. If we don't, they'll simply catch us again, even if we manage to reclaim the Pearl."

Jack nodded absently and twisted the braids on his chin. "I wish Anamaria were here," he repeated.

Norrington said, "If one of us could somehow get into the Princessa's powder magazine--"

Will saw where he was going and cut him off. "We couldn't be sure of getting clear of the explosion."

Jack looked up sharply at Norrington. "What did the priest say?"

"I told you, I didn't understand any of it. I didn't even recognize the language!"

"No, no, before -- to de la Cruz. Something about the sun and the moon?"

"My Spanish isn't very good, but it sounded like, "the dark of the moon, and the heat of the sun."

"Blood. . .and the dark of the moon. . ." Jack hummed to himself thoughtfully. "There may be a way. . ." He turned his head and gave Elizabeth an assessing look. "When will you bleed?"

She flushed crimson and cut her eyes at Norrington. "Jack!"

Will, equally appalled, would have said something, but Jack went on, "No time for missish modesty, Bess. When will you start your monthlies?"

"Tonight. Tomorrow at the latest."

"Perfect. Once you've started bleeding, we'll find a way to get you onto that ship."

*


Tommy appeared shortly before midnight, bearing an unexpected treasure: four tart, green apples and a hunk of cheese. "I snuck into the galley before comin' down. I had to climb into the apple barrel to get the last of 'em -- I had a bad moment, when I thought I wasn't going to be able to get back out." He'd also brought a candle, which he lit with the tinderbox from his pocket.

Such a tiny thing, that bit of light, but it lifted Elizabeth's spirits. She started to praise Tommy's forethought when he felt his other pocket and interrupted her. "Beggin' your pardon, Mrs. Turner, but I've got somethin' special for the Cap'n." With a flourish, he produced a small bottle of rum. By dint of much shoving and tugging, it scraped through the bars intact.

"Son, you're a prince among men." Jack cradled the bottle gently to his chest. Elizabeth thought there might have been tears in his eyes.

Munching on an apple, and washing it down with rum, Jack laid out the plan. "De la Cruz must be persuaded, by hook or crook, to take Elizabeth over to the Princessa. Once she's had the opportunity to do her bit, we'll make our move."

Before Elizabeth could clarify exactly what "her bit" entailed, Norrington interjected, "But how will we free ourselves?"

Jack tapped along the boards at his feet, counting under his breath. With a satisfied hum, he pried up one of the boards, revealing the support beam below. A deep groove had been carved into the beam; Jack reached down into it and fished something out. He held it up, gleaming in the flickering candlelight. A key. There had been a key in the cell the whole time. Elizabeth was momentarily speechless with rage; Jack seemed to take this for approval.

"After Barbossa locked me in here, I swore I'd never be stuck in my own brig again." Infuriatingly, he smiled at his own cleverness. "There's one just like this, beneath the boards in your cell."

Norrington immediately started feeling at the boards.

"Five boards from the hull, mate," Jack said helpfully.

Will leapt up. "Dammit, Jack, do you mean to say that we had the means to escape beneath our feet all this time?"

"The time wasnít ripe, love. The Pearl needed to be repaired, and we needed to figure out how de la Cruz managed to catch us in the first place. No sense getting free, just to fall right back into the trap."

Grudgingly, Will nodded. Elizabeth, however, wasn't so easily placated. "You might have told us, you know! What if we'd been separated, or, or. . .worse?"

At the vehemence of her words, the pat answer that had sprung to Jack's lips fell away. He blinked, clearly unsure of how to respond. Finally he took her hand and kissed her fingertips. Quietly he said, "You're right. I should have told you. I've learnt to play my cards close to my chest, and old habits die hard."

The sincerity in his voice touched her, and she squeezed his hand in response. Then, feeling suddenly exposed in front of Tommy and Norrington, she pelted him with her apple core. "No more secrets, Jack!"

"'Pon my soul -- nothing but plaindealing from here on out."

She very much doubted this, but she grinned in spite of herself.

Jack flashed her a private smile and went on, "Now then, as soon as Elizabeth returns, we'll free ourselves, as quickly and quietly as possible, release the men from the hold, and take the ship."

"Robert's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt?" Will said dryly.

"Easy as kiss your hand!"

 

 

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