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Squaring Accounts - Chapter 13

by Melusina

 

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

 

The Eight of Wands
Putting Plans into Action-Conclusions-Learning More


When the guards returned Will and Elizabeth to the brig, they put Will in the cell with Jack, and Elizabeth with Norrington. Will felt as if he ought to object but realized the futility of arguing with the guards, who, in any event seemed to speak little or no English, and were surely following de la Cruz's orders. Will felt guilty for displacing Elizabeth, but the thought of sharing Jack's cell was reassuring. It was one thing to look across the brig and see that Jack was well, but that was nothing compared to touching Jack and feeling him warm and real beneath his hands. Besides, Will was relieved to have a little distance from Norrington; he was beginning to find Norrington's proximity somewhat. . .discomfiting.

Jack clasped Will's shoulder heartily, the previous day's ill-temper seemingly forgotten. "It's good to see you. Good to see you both." His eagle eye took in the cut on Will's face; quickly and wordlessly he scanned Will's body for any other signs of injury. Finding none, he touched Will's face, brushing his thumb under the wound. "Good to see you," he said again, softly.

At the feel of Jack's rough fingers on his face, Will felt a thrill of desire, the same rush of energy and need he experienced after battle. He would have kissed Jack -- and more, pushed him against the hull, heedless of his hurt leg, and brought them both off hard and fast -- had Norrington not exhaled sharply. Will jerked away, feeling himself flush, and hastily began to explain what had transpired on board the Princessa.

Jack's grin glinted golden and tempting. "So that's why you wanted to go with her, to provide a distraction?"

"Oh, no," Will admitted, "I didn't have any idea what I was going to do when I asked them to take me. I just couldn't let Elizabeth go alone."

"For all that she's a woman, she's not a child." Jack shot Norrington an odd look. "She very nearly took Hawkins' ship single-handled -- it just needed me and the boys for cleanup."

Will laughed. "You fool, it's not because she's a woman. . .I'd’ve done the same for you!"

*


So much had happened that James was stunned to realize that it was barely noon. The afternoon passed with agonizing slowness: Sparrow napped, Elizabeth paced, and Will sat, staring intently, sometimes twitching his feet or hands in a vaguely familiar way. After an hour of this, James realized that Will was drilling himself on footwork and positions in his head. No wonder he was so good if he practiced even when he didn't have a sword in is hand!

For himself, James tried to find the place of perfect calm that always preceded a battle. There was a moment when it was inevitable and no worrying or figuring could change the outcome; a point when it was down to pure action, and James could simply let himself rely on his instincts. They had made their plans, and now it was only left to implement them. Second-guessing themselves would be the height of foolishness.

Dusk fell swiftly, and soon the brig was fully dark. If anything, this part of the wait was even more nerve wracking; it was coming, and soon now. Once Tommy had gauged that the ship had quieted for the night, he was to alert Jack and then they would release the men from the hold. In sheer numbers, the Pearls outnumbered the prize crew; if they could arm themselves before being detected, they could take the ship easily.

From the other cell came sounds that clearly indicated how Sparrow and Will planned to spend the next few hours. James was steeling himself to ignore them, when he heard, very faintly, the muffled sound of weeping. He felt as if he ought to comfort Elizabeth, but feared shaming her by acknowledging her tears.

“Mrs. Turner. . .Elizabeth. Are you quite well?”

Her voice was choked. “It’s nothing. . .” She sniffed, and then laughed ruefully. “It’s just the strain of waiting. I’m afraid I’ve never been very patient.”

Norrington chuckled. “I seem to recall that, yes.” He paused and added, “It must have been a harrowing morning.”

Elizabeth made a noncommittal noise, and Norrington instinctively reached out for her hand. She gripped his fingers tightly, and they sat quietly, waiting for Tommy to appear.

*


It was nearly midnight when Tommy arrived, loaded down with four swords and a brace of pistols slung across his neck. Will was twitchy and eager to fight -- his earlier exertions with Jack had done nothing to take the edge off his battle lust. His heart was pounding and when Jack pushed the door to the cell open, Will bounded out like an arrow from a bow.

Before Jack could unlock the other cell, Norrington had twisted his key in the lock, and released himself and Elizabeth. Tommy passed out the weapons with a self-important air, clearly impressed with his own cleverness. Somehow he'd found Will's own sword; it felt comfortable in Will's hand, and he felt a surge of excitement. Looking up, he saw the same emotion mirrored on all their faces. After days of waiting, any action was thrilling. Jack grinned and touched his blade to Will's, and Elizabeth followed suit. After a beat, Norrington did the same, and Jack whispered, "Freedom."

*


Tommy and Will went to release the Pearls from the hold while Elizabeth, Jack, and Norrington crept silently to the quarterdeck where the middle watch was enjoying a bottle of Jack's best rum. Elizabeth had to bite back a laugh when Jack quietly harrumphed at this imposition.

The Spanish sailors were lax, inattentive and dozy from drink, and it was short work to disarm them. One, sharper than the rest, thought to cry out, but before he could do more than open his mouth, Norrington had laid him out with his fist.

"I should throw him overboard for that," Jack commented matter-of-factly to the other Spaniards, "But I'm a reasonable man, and I'd not punish you for your captain's villainy. But consider yourselves warned -- any more tricks like that and you'll be feeding the sharks."

This eloquent threat seemed to fall on deaf ears; Elizabeth doubted that any of them spoke enough English to follow Jack's words. But fear of the pistols that were trained on them served to keep their mouths shut long enough to tie them up and gag them, and so all was well.

With lethal stealth, the Pearls swarmed over the ship, armed with whatever weapons they could hastily assemble: knives from the galley, swords and pistols from unoccupied corners of the ship, and even ballast from the hold. Gibbs had removed his shirt and wrapped it around a heavy rock, which he swung with a deadly accuracy.

There had been no time for Jack to instruct the crew, and they were in a fierce and bloodthirsty spirit, with no inclination to offer quarter. Henrick in particular was ruthless, slaughtering the Spanish sailors with the same grim efficiency Elizabeth had seen him use when butchering wild pigs. With each blow he repeated, “Dit is voor Hans, hoerenjong!!”

The fight was swift, and nearly over before the officers were roused. They ran onto the deck, half-dressed and groggy, and were easily picked off. Elizabeth dispatched one opponent, and looked up to see Will's sword flashing in the lantern light as he fought two Spaniards. With no time to reload his pistol, he was using it to parry his opponents’ blades, spinning and twisting in and out of the shadows. When one of the Spaniards stepped too close, Will clubbed him over the head with the pistol and then, taking advantage of the other’s surprise, ran him through.

Elizabeth fought briefly with a petulant looking boy in naught but his breeches, who carried a beautifully crafted sword with an array of gems in the hilt. Fortunately, he was far too drunk to use it with any skill, and his footwork was appallingly sloppy. Elizabeth had little desire to have the boy’s blood on her hands: it was no work to defeat him, but it took care not to kill him in the process. In the end, she got no thanks for her efforts -- when he realized that he'd been beaten by a woman, he spat in her face.

Furious, she raised her hand to hit him, but she was distracted by the sight of Jack slipping on his bad leg and falling backwards onto the deck. There was a Spaniard in front of him, a pistol in his hand. Elizabeth screamed and leapt toward him, well aware that she was too far away to intervene. Then Norrington slammed his body into the Spaniard's. They grappled together, falling on top of Jack, and the pistol fired.

Their bodies lay tangled together on the decking, all covered in blood, and Elizabeth's heart was in her throat. But Jack was already clambering to his feet, and with Elizabeth's help Norrington too was able to stand. The majority of the blood seemed to have come from the Spaniard, who'd taken Norrington's sword in his throat, but a neat hole punctured Norrington's left coat sleeve and his arm hung awkwardly at his side.

Jack looked put out, perhaps at his own clumsiness. "Thanks for that, Commodore -- I thought I was done for. Gibbs'll see to your arm for you."

This was the last of the fighting; the remainder of the prize crew had been driven into the hold, and the ship was reclaimed. The Princessas didn't realize that anything was amiss until the Pearl's sails were loosed, dark grey against the black sky. The Pearl was out of range before the Princessa started firing, and her shot splashed harmlessly into the water as her sleepy crew frantically made her ready to sail. In the ensuing chase, only once did the Princessa come close to the Pearl, and a lucky shot from the stern chasers shattered the Princessa's foremast. Amidst the confusion, the Pearl flitted cleanly away.

*


Dawn found the Pearls drunk with victory and exhausted from a night of fighting. Will, Elizabeth and Jack stumbled toward the great cabin, eager for a few hours of sleep in Jack's comfortable bed, only to find their way blocked by the Spanish officer who'd been given command of the Pearl. With shaking hands, he pointed his pistol at them.

"You've only got one shot, man. No sense killing one of us, just to be killed yourself. We've no interest in prisoners - I've a mind to set you loose in one of the boats. De la Cruz is a bit delayed, but I imagine he'll come across you in a day or two."

Terror flared in the Spaniard's face, and in a flash he'd turned the pistol and shoved it in his mouth. Will reached for his arm, but too late, the Spaniard had already pulled the trigger.

*


It was full daylight before they were able, at last, to sleep. Elizabeth worried that they might do further injury to Jack’s leg by squeezing in together. But he scoffed at this, and yanked them down into the bed with him. They giggled and squirmed but for a moment before drifting off, and Elizabeth couldn’t remember when she’d slept so deeply or so well.

When she awoke, Norrington, Jack and Will were muttering together over a pile of charts, and the sun was sinking in the sky. Very shortly, Tommy brought in a simple dinner. Nothing but salt cod and onion soup, for the Spanish had looted their stores, but it was delicious after days of nothing but hardtack biscuits (and the excellent Xeres de la Cruz had left behind made the meal considerably more palatable).

Norrington was pale and wan -- he'd lost a good deal of blood, although Gibbs didn't believe the arm was broken -- but he insisted he was well enough to dine with them.

Jack was in high spirits, drinking deeply, and toasting “a bold action, bravely fought,” but there was an odd constraint between him and Norrington, and Jack couldn’t seem to resist provoking him at every turn. After some obscure reference to goats, Norrington sputtered into his wine, nearly at the end of his patience.

Elizabeth privately thought Jack’s behavior rather ungracious, considering that Norrington had certainly saved Jack's life. Will seemed to think so as well, for he cleared his throat and offered Norrington more wine, then said, “I know you are no coward, but not many Navy men would risk their lives for a pirate. . .We are once more in your debt, James.”

Jack’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head at this. He and Elizabeth shared a long look – when had it become “James”?

Jack fell into a brown study, and the conversation faltered until Will asked to examine the ornate blade that Elizabeth had taken from the boy. Will enthusiastically described the techniques used to forge the weapon -- apparently, it was a particularly finely made sword, in addition to its obvious material value -- and when Norrington admired it, Will insisted he take it, saying "You’ve lost your sword, and it’s the least we can do under the circumstances.”

Norrington seemed uncomfortable with this suggestion and refused, but Will was adamant. With every offer, Jack glowered more, until finally Norrington took it, obviously in hopes of putting an end to the discussion.

As the heat of the day dissipated and a cool breeze blew in through the stern windows, the mood lightened. Jack pushed his chair back and propped his feet on Elizabeth's knees, watching the stars appear. In the velvety blackness, Elizabeth could see the thin crescent of the waxing moon, surrounded by the dim outline of the shape it would take when full.

"The new moon in the old moon's arms," Will said, gesturing with his glass. "My mother always said it was good luck."

Jack nodded. "Lucky for us anyway. While the moon's increasing, De la Cruz's magic won't be as effective. But after the full moon, the balance of power will be on his side."

Norrington sat up straighter, as if he'd just realized that de la Cruz was still a threat. "He'll be preying on British ships. We need to return to Port Royal - the Governor must be alerted of this threat immediately!"

"It's worse than that, mate. He's made off with my compass."

Elizabeth started. As one, she and Will asked, "Can he find the island with it?"

Jack shook his head. "I dunno. If he knows how it works, he can sail around, watch which way the needle points, and plot the coordinates on a map. Eventually he could triangulate his way there. No way of knowing how long it'd take him."

Norrington cursed as he realized what it would mean if de la Cruz were successful. He stood decisively, exactly as if the ship were his to command. “We must--“

Elizabeth had had quite enough of Norrington's highhanded ways. Impatiently, she cut him off. "Jack, what should we do?"

"What we need is to shift the balance of power back to our side. And I think I know just the person to do it."

 

 

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