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Paid in Blood

by Melusina

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Pairing: Jack/Will/Elizabeth    Full Header

 


If Elizabeth had learned nothing else, she now knew there was always a price to pay. At the time, she hadn't distinguished between the blood she'd left on the floor of the cave -- a necessary sacrifice to bring back the man she'd sent to his death -- and the blood she and so many of Jack's crew had spilt in battle, defeating Beckett. Thankfully her wounds were minor and there would be no lasting consequences from the second bloodletting; it had followed so closely on the heels of the first that it was only afterwards that she had the time to consider the possible consequences of what she'd done.

Surely she'd be lucky in that as well. It wasn't as if she'd done it out of lust. If, in the end, Jack had stirred an unexpected passion in her, she couldn't be held responsible for that. Her motives had been nothing but altruistic. Nonetheless, it seemed advisable to have a plan, in case a pure heart proved insufficient protection against the possible outcome of such endeavors.

Some might call it cold calculation, but Elizabeth preferred to think of it as protecting Will. Despite all that had happened, she still wanted to marry Will, and she didn't want the baby (if there was one) to be an impediment between them. It was far too early to tell; if she and Will laid together, no one would ever be able to say for sure (if there was a baby). Jack might suspect, but he'd never go out of his way to claim a child, and there'd be no need for Will to ever know what Elizabeth had been forced to do to secure Jack's return to the land of the living.

She crept into Will's cabin in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to catch him unawares and mazy with sleep. He was beautiful in the pale light, as noble as a carved knight on a tomb, but when she kissed him his breath was morning-sour. There was a reassuring reality about this; it was nothing at all like the watery radiance of the cave and the dreamy touches she'd exchanged with Jack. Half-asleep, Will returned her kisses eagerly, and when she boldly reached under the sheet and touched his yard, he moaned her name deep in his throat.

Whatever pragmatic reason there might be, there was also this: she wanted him. She always had, but previously her knowledge of the mechanics was hazy at best. Now that she had a more concrete understanding, she wanted to feel how she and Will would fit together and to feel him moving inside her as Jack had. The memory of Jack's lean body and his teasing mouth made her squirm against Will and kiss him harder.

Will groaned again, then faltered and pulled away. "Elizabeth?"

She attempted to silence him with another kiss, but he sat up and held her still.

"What are you doing?"

The desperation in her voice was unfeigned. "I love you. I want you. I can't wait!"

Will slid a strand of her hair through his fingers and then yanked his hand back as if he'd been burned. "Elizabeth, I could never dishonor you like this. You will be my wife; I swear it. But we must wait until we can be properly married."

Cries and pleas were useless and to push too hard would only make it worse, should she prove to be with child. He was adamant that they must wait until they were wed, and since there was no priest at hand, both nuptials and consummation must be deferred.

Elizabeth would have to hope that a pure heart had been enough.

*


It was a long way back from the end of the world. For weeks they saw neither land nor sail; Barbossa's ship had disappeared as if it were made of smoke and dreams. And perhaps it was, Will speculated; perhaps it was some enchantment of Tia Dalma's that had dissipated once it was no longer needed. At any rate, they were alone on the vast, desolate ocean, and Will wondered if they would ever return to the known world.

Elizabeth grew pale and moody, drawn as tight as the wind-filled sails. Jack teased her and Will tried to comfort her, but nothing seemed to lift her spirits. Will wondered if he'd made the right choice, if he were needlessly punishing them both over a meaningless point of honor.

He dreamed of Elizabeth, and in his dreams, he didn't push her away, but took her in his arms and claimed her. He took the middle watch as a safeguard against temptation, but waking at midnight didn't stop the dreams. If anything, they became more vivid and more disturbing.

Elizabeth's soft mouth and gentle curves continued to haunt his sleep, but now Jack's glinting smile and flitting hands were there as well. Elizabeth and Jack kissed one another on the deck of the Pearl and sometimes did much more than kiss, while Will watched eagerly. Sometimes, it was he who rutted with Jack, and Will awoke from these dreams with wet sheets and a troubled heart.

He thought he was hiding his turmoil until Jack caught him after dinner and asked him what was wrong. "If I'm not mistaken, there seems to be a certain lack of conviviality between yourself and the lovely Miss Swann."

Playing at nonchalance, Will replied, "I don't want to get too convivial without benefit of clergy. I love her too much to treat her like a lightskirt."

"That's easily solved! No need to postpone your satisfaction a moment longer. In my position as captain of this fine ship, I'm empowered do the honors myself."

Will hesitated, torn between desire and doubt. He wanted to marry Elizabeth (with all that that implied), but he wanted it to be undeniably legitimate, nothing that could be set aside on a technicality, and he was far less confident than Jack in the authority of a pirate captain in this regard. Also, the memory of that kiss haunted Will. Other than that desperate moment, Elizabeth had never given any indication that she loved Jack (going to the ends of the earth to bring him back hardly counted -- hadn't Will done as much himself?), but part of him was still uneasy about what Jack might mean to Elizabeth or she to him. Not to mention Will's disquieting dreams. All in all, it seemed ill-advised to allow Jack to perform the marriage. Regretfully, Will insisted on waiting.

It was another week before they saw sails on the horizon. The Artemis was bound for the American colonies and crammed with seasick Londoners, among them the Reverend Thomas Hartwell of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Hartwell was a spotty-faced, bespectacled young man with a pronounced stutter, but he had the necessary credentials, which was all that mattered. If he was taken aback by Will and Elizabeth's abrupt request, he didn't show it; he appeared more than happy to regularize the living arrangements on the Pearl.

One of the women from the Artemis loaned Elizabeth a dress; the best that could be said for it was that it wasn't too short, although the pea-green calico excited some muttered commentary from Gibbs. Elizabeth was radiant nonetheless, and her unmistakable joy at marrying Will comforted his faint doubts.

The day had been clear and bright, nothing at all like their original wedding day, and the setting sun splashed the sky with orange and pink. Elizabeth's voice was steady and strong as she repeated the vows. Jack caught Will's eye and smiled benevolently. It all seemed too much good fortune to take in -- to be alive and with friends and married at last to this beautiful woman. If only Will's father could have been there as well, it would have been perfect, but he'd made his choice, and Will couldn’t second guess it, not when it had secured Will's freedom and made it possible for him to marry Elizabeth. Once again, Will reminded himself that his first task, as soon as they returned to familiar waters, was to find a way to redeem his father.

There was a flutter of bright wings and Parrot called urgently, "Blow the man down! Blow the man down!"

Jack smirked and there were a few titters from the crew.

Hartwell cleared his throat pointedly and continued, "I p-p-p-pronounce that they be M-m-m-man and Wife together, In the Name of the F-f-f-ather, and of the Son, and of the Holy G-g-g-host. Amen."

My wife, Will thought, beaming at Elizabeth. It was at precisely that moment that disaster struck.

*


Jack felt the Pearl shudder ominously before he heard the collision. Terrified at what he might find, he ran for the stern, but his way was blocked by a crowd of men swarming onto the ship. They'd come in small boats -- Jack could see them now, floating alongside the Pearl.

All around him, Jack's crew was engaging the strangers. He heard the vicar cry, "P-p-p-pirates!" Will urged him below and drew his sword. In the meantime, Elizabeth had kilted up her skirts (revealing what would have, under other circumstances, been a distracting amount of leg) and armed herself with a belaying pin.

Even as Jack was shouting orders and plunging into the fray, he was considering how the trick had been played. The boats must have been weighted down to float right at the waterline, making them nearly impossible to see against the setting sun, even if the Pearl's crew hadn't been keeping a lackadaisical watch on account of the wedding flummery. There was an island to the west; presumably the attackers had come from there. Were they ordinary buccaneers looking for whatever they could take, or was it a direct strike at the Pearl? Jack didn't recognize any of their opponents, but that was neither here nor there. He seemed to have acquired far too many enemies of late, and many of them had the resources to hire a crew of ruffians.

In the dying light, it was hard to see who was friend or foe, and twice Jack crossed swords with members of his own crew. In the chaos, he lost track of Will and Elizabeth. Good thing they could hold their own in a fight; Jack couldn't afford to be worrying about them when he was defending his ship.

After what seemed an hour, but was probably no more than fifteen minutes, someone had the sense to light a lantern. Jack was relieved to see that his crew had gained the upper hand; as quickly as the strangers had arrived, they were running, dropping back over the side, hoisting sails, and jettisoning the ballast they'd used to sink the boats so low in the water.

Will fired his pistol, but his target slipped safely into the Artemis' lee, followed by the remaining two boats. The fools on the Artemis never even ran out their guns, preferring to stand on the deck and gape as the attackers made their escape.

Pursuit was impossible. As Jack had feared, the collision had been a deliberate (and entirely successful) attempt to damage the rudder. It was a familiar ploy; Barbossa had used it with great success when he was Jack's first mate. Wheels began to turn as Jack considered this more fully. But before he could put it all together, Will appeared, ranting and waving his sword about excitedly.

"Elizabeth!" he repeated urgently.

"Yes, yes, I've got that part. What about her?"

"She's gone!"

*


Elizabeth's head ached and throbbed. That combined with the vague nausea that hovered on the edges of her consciousness suggested that she'd had rather a lot to drink, but she had no recollection of the celebration. Waking further, she thought, of course, the wedding! Had she drunk so much rum that she'd missed her wedding night?

She opened her eyes and cried out in surprise. The cabin was in shadows, but it was clear she was no longer on the Pearl, but on Barbossa's Phoenix. It was only then that Elizabeth recalled the skirmish. Thinking back, she remembered catching one of Barbossa's men (for surely that's who the attackers were) in the face with a belaying pin (spattering blood onto her dress), before two more had grabbed her and held her fast. She'd struggled and kicked until one of them knocked her on the head with the butt of his pistol. She recalled nothing else until she'd awakened.

A quick inventory revealed a painful lump on her head, but otherwise she seemed healthy and whole. She was still in her wedding dress (a distant part of Elizabeth's mind lamented the ruin of Mistress Vine's best gown -- cold water would take out the bloodstains, but the ragged tear on the bodice would always show, no matter how neatly it were mended). Her hands were free, but the cabin door was barred. Through the small window, Elizabeth could see a full moon rising over an empty expanse of water; the ship was racing forward with no pursuers. This was an ominous sign. If Will were capable of following, he would be here. What had happened after she'd been struck unconscious? And why had Barbossa abducted her?

As if this thought had called him to her, there was a rattle at the door, and Barbossa appeared, framed in the doorway like a king on a playing card.

Elizabeth leapt to her feet. "What do you mean by this, Captain Barbossa?" Belatedly, she realized that the torn bodice revealed a startling span of cleavage, and she covered her chest with her hand. "Where's the Pearl?"

He waved his hand lackadaisically. "They're drifting along somewhere back there, Miss Swann. Jack's rudderless for the time being, but I give you my word that none of her crew was killed."

Elizabeth didn't know how much weight to give this. Barbossa hadn't been present for the attack, but neither did he have any reason that she could see to lie, assuming that his men had told him the truth. There was no way to know for certain if Will lived, but there was a glimmer of hope. "It's Mrs. Turner, now."

"In spite of the baby, eh?"

This only confirmed what Elizabeth had already guessed. But how could Barbossa know? "What are you talking about?"

"Don't play coy with me missy; I know you're up the duff. The question is, does your adoring husband know?"

Anger flared, and she forgot her caution. "And if I am? It's no business of yours!"

"Ah, but that's not exactly the case. Y'see, the child's conception has upset the balance. Tia Dalma said only two souls could return from the World's End, but you've brought back a stowaway. Jack's bound here now; you made good and sure of that." He chuckled lewdly. "So, it's me or the babe. The scales tip to the side of new life; if the baby is born and consecrated to this world, I'm doomed to an eternity of everlasting torment. If I'm to remain on this plane, I have to do away with the child before it's christened."

Only hours before, Elizabeth had been praying that she wasn't breeding. Now she crossed her hands instinctively across her stomach in fear.

Barbossa smiled unpleasantly. "The child has to be born into this world first. Otherwise the sacrifice is for naught and my reprieve is at an end."

Eight months -- anything could happen in that time! Jack and Will would find her, or she'd find a way to escape. Then another thought struck her. "So your continued survival depends on the baby's -- and my own?"

He nodded curtly. "Aye, for the time being."

She pitched her voice low as she played her trump. "Push me too far, and I swear to you, I'll find a way to slip the babe, even if it means killing myself in the process."

He raised his eyebrows. "None of this company will offer you insult nor injury, so long as you carry the babe and make no attempt to escape." He raked his eyes over her deliberately, lingering on the torn bodice of her dress. "But you'd best remember that there are punishments that wouldn't harm the child. And once it's born, you lose the protection it offers. I wouldn't press my luck, Mrs. Turner."

*


Will greatly feared that they were lost. Bad enough that they'd been forced to spend precious days repairing the Pearl's rudder only to have the ship damaged again in a storm. Then, when they'd headed up river in the boats, leaving most of the men behind to repair the ship, the two boats had been separated, leaving Jack and Will on their own to find Elizabeth. As it was, they were weeks behind Barbossa. Any of these delays could cost Elizabeth her life, and the prospect of yet another one was disheartening.

Jack peered anxiously at the sun, and back down at the compass. Will opened his mouth to ask Jack if he knew where they were and the raft bumped against some underwater obstacle and the compass slipped from Jack's hands. There was a muddy splash as Jack dove in after it. One of the dark shapes lounging on the riverbank slithered into the water and Will nervously felt for his pistol. The water eddied near the edge of the boat, and Jack surfaced, clutching the compass. As he clambered back onto the boat, something that looked deceptively like a submerged log floated past them.

"Elizabeth should consider herself lucky," he grumbled, "There's not many women I'd dive into this swamp for."

His detachment seemed forced, and Will thought again, "He loves her." Will was more certain of it every day. The idea no longer shocked him. He couldn't afford the luxury of jealousy; not with Elizabeth in Barbossa's hands and Jack the best chance Will had of rescuing her. Besides, Elizabeth had made her choice. She'd married Will. Surely that trumped a single kiss?

Yet Will couldn't stop thinking about that kiss; the heat of it implied a depth of feeling far beyond simple friendship, and not only on Jack's side. Elizabeth had married Will, but she lusted for Jack, just as he wanted her; of this Will was certain. And how could Will reproach her for that, when his own feelings for Jack were so muddled?

Shaking the wet hair from his eyes, Jack abruptly said, "I think we're close, but we're not going to find them tonight. We'd best make camp and work our way further upriver tomorrow."

After the long weeks of searching, it was a bitter disappointment to stop now, when they were so close. But evening was approaching and the landscape was entirely foreign. The bottomland was marshy and damp and the trees were draped with long tangled strands of grayish moss. Strange, primitive animals slithered in the greenery. Will couldn't imagine how they could sleep in such a place, but neither could they navigate the branching river in the dark, so he reluctantly agreed to stop for the night. Jack found a bit of higher ground that was relatively dry, and there they constructed a simple shelter.

Jack lined the floor of the lean-to with the spongy moss, explaining, "It's soft to bed down on, and it'll keep us warm."

"Warm? I should think that's the least of our worries!" They'd both stripped down to their breeches, and were flushed and sweaty from their work.

Jack grinned and Will was suddenly uncomfortably aware of their proximity and of the musky scent of Jack's sweat. "You'll be glad of it soon enough. When the sun goes down, the chill mist rises."

The sun was already beginning to slip behind the tall trees that obscured the horizon. They gathered wood and built a fire, then Jack whittled a point onto a stick and used it to spear three pale frogs. He cleaned them and tossed the guts into the river, where they were snapped up with an alarming efficiency, and then hung the frogs over the fire to roast.

Once Will and Jack stopped moving, mosquitoes swarmed over their bodies, buzzing and stinging at their exposed skin. They donned the clothes they'd shed earlier, but that merely increased the number of mosquitoes biting their faces. Jack went down to the water's edge and liberally smeared his face with the foul mud.

"They can't bite through it," he explained. Then, with a bemused expression, he added, "Your father taught me that, many a year ago."

Although he felt like a damned fool, Will followed Jack's example, and was surprised to find that the mud helped.

The sky was turning grey and the temperature was dropping, just as Jack had predicted. They sat close to the fire, passing Jack's flask back and forth and waiting for the frogs to cook. Long days spent in one another's company had bred a curious intimacy between them. In spite of his anxiety for Elizabeth, Will felt a kind of peace, sitting with Jack in the gloaming.

Jack turned the frogs on the spit and quietly repeated what he'd been saying since Elizabeth's abduction, "He had a purpose in taking her alive. If he'd wanted her dead, he'd have killed her to begin with." Will wondered whether Jack was trying to reassure himself or Will. "We'll find her, and all will be well."

Will wasn't so certain, but when Jack said it, Will believed that he believed it, and that helped.

The frog wasn't bad -- better than turtle anyway, and between that and the hard tack, they made a decent meal. Afterwards, they carried the bones to the bank and threw them in the river. Turning, Will saw a pair of eyes gleaming through the twilight.

A great panther stood only a few feet away, its tail twitching menacingly. Jack placed a warning hand on Will's shoulder and they both stood stock still. The cat bared its teeth and yowled, low and menacing. Every hair on Will's arms stood on end. His hand twitched towards his pistol and Jack's grip on his shoulder tightened. The muscles in the cat's back bunched and it gave that same eerie cry, then turned and stalked off, wading into the water and out of sight.

A strange mix of emotions washed over Will: relief and belated dread mixed with exhilaration. His arm burned where Jack still clutched it tightly, and to Will's embarrassment, his cock twitched, half-hard, in his breeches. Of course, it was nothing more than an instinctive reaction to such a narrow escape, but nonetheless, Will was glad it was too dark for Jack to see.

After a moment, Jack released Will's arm with a shaky laugh. Soon Will was laughing too, and they cackled until they wept, clapping one another on the back and wiping their eyes. Suddenly, a nightbird called from a nearby tree, and they both jumped, abruptly sobered.

They walked silently back to the fire, where Will accepted Jack's flask with gratitude and let the warmth of the rum chase the chill of fear away. Jack launched into a mildly lewd story about a woman being chased by a panther and stripping her clothes off, one item at a time, to distract it.

Will nodded absently and thought of Elizabeth, who was confined somewhere in this godforsaken swamp with only Barbossa and his crew for protection. Will felt a stab of guilt for not being able to protect her, for being free, for enjoying Jack's company while she was in peril. Guilt called to guilt, and Will thought of his father, who'd given himself in Will's place. If only Barbossa hadn't stolen Elizabeth, Will might be well on his way to releasing his father now. Will sent up a silent promise: soon, as soon as Elizabeth was safe, he would rescue his father. But so many contingencies lay between the vow and the deed, it felt empty and weak. Will threw another log on the fire and the flames leapt up, illuminating the night.

*


Jack repeated the punch line with emphasis and Will blinked, and said, "Oh, yes, I see."

Clearly he hadn't been paying a lick of attention. That was one of Jack's most successful tales -- it never failed to rouse a bawdy roar of laughter from the boys at the Faithful Bride -- yet it hadn't gotten so much as a chuckle from Will. His face was hidden behind the mask of dried mud, but Jack supposed that he was worrying about Elizabeth.

No telling what sort of dark use Barbossa had for her or if the cold trail of rumor and guesses they were following would lead them to her. Their chances of finding her (and of her being alive when they found her) didn't bear reflecting on. The boy was besotted; there was no doubt about that. Anyone would have to be, to trek into this swamp on a fool's errand like this.

Jack could almost hear Tia Dalma's teasing voice in his ear, whispering, "And what does that make you, Jack Sparrow?"

He gave himself a shake and took another nip from the flask. No sense dwelling on what you can't fix. They'd find Barbossa and rescue the fair damsel and "Jack shall have Will" -- no wait, that wasn't how it went. Perhaps the rum was making him thickheaded. It was "Jack shall have Jill." Of course, that was just the bit from the play. In truth, it was Will shall have Jill -- Elizabeth -- and all shall be well.

Or as well as it could be with a pair of featherbrained young lovers hanging about, making calf-eyes at one another. Jack snorted at the thought. Not that there was anything to keep them on the Pearl. He supposed they'd go to Savannah, to Elizabeth's father, and good riddance to them both. He kicked the fire moodily and a shower of sparks flew into the air.

When Will finally spoke, his request took Jack by surprise. "Tell me about my father."

For once at a loss for words, Jack fell back on the description he'd given Will once before. "He was a pirate, and a good man."

"What does that even mean? No one seems to agree on what constitutes a 'good man'."

Jack sighed. "What else do you want to know?"

"I don't know -- anything. We were only together a short time, before he. . .There wasn't much time for reminiscing. What sorts of things did he enjoy? What was he good at? What was he like?"

Several thoughts occurred to Jack. William had enjoyed Marguerite and Blanche at the Mermaid's Dream, but it wouldn't do to tell Will about that. The boy had puritanical notions when it came to marital fidelity. William was good at drinking the rest of the crew under the table, but that probably wasn't the sort of thing that Will was looking for either. Cautiously, Jack offered, "He was gauche -- left handed."

Will waited expectantly.

"But he was good with a sword. Saved my life once." And the less said about that the better. Hastily Jack went on, "He played the fiddle too." Not well.

"I remember that!" Will's eyes gleamed with excitement. "I remember him playing something that went like. . ." He hummed a bit of a reel, and Jack recognized it as one that William had been fond of. "And he smelled of oranges and tobacco."

Jack had a vivid recollection of William humming to himself and tossing an orange in the air. "Aye, he loved oranges, and he loved his pipe." Not many oranges at the bottom of the sea, but Jack hoped that William could still enjoy his pipe from time to time. "He was a good man," he repeated, inadequately. The black night closed in and a fat, reddish moon slipped above the trees.

*


They'd sailed for several weeks and weathered a terrible storm before arriving at the mouth of a marshy river on what Barbossa assured Elizabeth was the coast of Florida. They traveled upriver until the Phoenix could go no further, and then separated into two groups; one, led by Barbossa's quartermaster, took the Phoenix on some errand, while the other, led by Barbossa, took boats deep into the swamp, where Barbossa had a house on a rocky outcropping far from any human settlement. This was where he intended for Elizabeth to spend her confinement.

She passed her days in the cellar and dined with Barbossa in the dusty dining room. When she ascertained that there was no immediate means of escape from the house, she pestered Barbossa for some way of occupying herself until he provided her with a chest of water-stained books. She read them all in a week (the more salacious passages in Les Mille et Une Nuits strained Elizabeth's schoolroom French, but she managed to get the gist of it nonetheless) and cast about for some other diversion.

The green dress wouldn't serve for much longer. The bodice was strained to bursting and, as much as Elizabeth hated to sew, the prospect of a new dress was welcome. From a stockpile of ancient plunder, Barbossa gave her a bolt of sky-blue satin, which Elizabeth fashioned into a kind of contouche. The stitches weren't as neat as her dressmaker's, but it allowed her some decency. When this was finished, she made over the green calico with panels cut from a tablecloth inset into the bodice. In the meantime, she continued to dine with Barbossa and keep her ears and eyes open for a way to escape.

She slept fitfully, waking often to make water. Her dreams were vivid and carnal, of blackberries and chocolate and hot cross buns, of spring on her uncle's estate in Shropshire and dancing around the bonfire with Jack. She dreamt often of the cave at the end of the world, and what she'd done there with Jack. Sometimes Jack changed into Will, or they were both there, kissing her indiscriminately, or sometimes, exchanging open-mouthed kisses with one another. Waking, the languid, unrestrained sensuality of these dreams lingered, making her blush and press her legs together at the memories.

Gradually her breasts grew heavier and her waist thickened. Her belly was not yet large, but to her own eye, it betrayed her condition. Once the baby quickened, she was struck by the reality of her desperate situation, and she began to fear in earnest for her child's life. She couldn't count on Will and Jack. No matter how much she prayed for them to be alive and to find her, she must make her own way.

The solution presented itself quite by chance. The youngest member of Barbossa's crew, Luis, was stabbed in the ribs during a brawl. Elizabeth rather liked Luis (when she'd exhausted the books that Barbossa had given her, Luis had somehow managed to scare up a copy of The History of Oronooko, which he'd presented to Elizabeth with a shy, gap-toothed grin), and she offered to nurse him. Barbossa was glad to have a volunteer and readily handed over the assortment of bottles, knives and saws that they'd purloined from some ship's doctor. He must have grown careless, now that pregnancy had made her awkward, for the box of supplies he gave her contained a bottle of laudanum.

It was small work to pour the contents of the bottle (after Luis had been properly dosed) into an empty vial and refill the laudanum bottle with water. That night at dinner, she slipped the drug into Barbossa's wine. Her only fear was that his magically restored constitution would be immune to the laudanum, but he proved as susceptible to it as anyone, and was snoozing over his brandy by the end of the meal.

At first it was disconcerting to handle his unconscious body, but his clothes would be better for tromping through the swamp than her satin gown, so she gritted her teeth and undressed him. The shirt was long, but it fit easily over her burgeoning belly, as did the breeches. Unfortunately, Barbossa had a large foot and his boots were unwearable. She took his hat however; it wouldn't disguise her up close, but perhaps the silhouette would fool more distant observers.

Only one thing remained to be done. It was more repugnant than stealing Barbossa's clothes, but an unavoidable necessity; if she were to have any chance of escape, Barbossa must be done away with.

His body sprawled obscenely on the Persian rug. She knelt behind him and pulled his head back, exposing his throat. She'd killed in the heat of battle. She'd bound Jack to the mast and left him at the mercy of the kraken. Could she slit a man's throat in cold blood?

The baby squirmed inside her and Elizabeth remembered Barbossa's plan. Her hand was steady and the knife was sharp; the blood spurted black in the candlelight, drenching her sleeve, and it was over in a moment. Her only regret was that she hadn't had the forethought to do it before she'd changed clothes.

It was full dusk when she reached the mooring where the boats were tied up. The men were at their dinner and no one appeared to challenge her. In all likelihood, they'd assume the dining room was locked for some lascivious purpose. With any luck it would be morning before anyone realized that she was gone.

*


After a week of tracking Barbossa through the humid swamp, Will and Jack had finally found his bolt hole. As dusk fell, they crouched in the shadows, watching a solitary figure board a small boat. As the man began to row away from the dock, the rising moon threw his silhouette in sharp relief, showing a familiar feathered hat.

Will raised his pistol, but Jack gauged the distance to the house and shook his head. No, he was right, a pistol shot would call Barbossa's men down on them. Better to let him go and stage their rescue while he was gone.

They turned to approach the house, but a moment later, lightning crackled across the sky, accompanied by a sudden wind and a clap of thunder. The wind carried the smell of rain, and something else, a muttered oath from the figure in the boat. Not Barbossa's voice but a woman's -- Elizabeth's.

It took only a few minutes to catch up with her, but in that time, the storm broke. Rain poured down on them as Will clasped Elizabeth tightly, repeating, "Thank God, you're safe. Thank God, we've found you! I love you. . .I love you. . ."

After all their travails, it was difficult to believe that she was finally in his arms. He didn't want to let go of her, lest she prove to be some illusion; over and over again he kissed her and touched her hair, assuring himself that she was unharmed. Something about the bulk of her was unfamiliar, but Will put it down to Barbossa's coat, which Elizabeth had wrapped around her.

Will attempted to unbutton the coat so that he could get closer to her, but she exclaimed, "No!" and clutched it to her tighter.

Will was too glad to see her to worry about something so insignificant. He merely kissed her again, tasting the rain water that spilled over her face and winding his hands in her windblown, dripping hair. There was no telling how long Will might have stood there in the rain embracing her, had Jack not cleared his throat and suggested that reunions were lovely things, but they might want to make themselves scarce before Barbossa realized that Elizabeth was gone.

They scuttled Barbossa's boats and rowed through the night and into the day, with no sign of pursuit. After her initial joy, Elizabeth was quiet and withdrawn, and said little of her ordeal, nor of how she'd escaped. There was a dark patch of blood on her right sleeve, although she seemed unharmed. Will couldn't bring himself to ask her whose it was. But in the silence, he worried, wondering what torments she'd endured these past months. Previously, he hadn't allowed himself to dwell on Barbossa's treatment of Elizabeth, but now he couldn't stop imagining the cruelties he might have visited upon her.

Will's arms ached from rowing and his head throbbed from fretting over Elizabeth before Jack judged it safe for them to stop. They tied the boat up and stumbled to the shelter of a tall live oak tree. The storm had blown down branches everywhere, but try as he might, Will couldn't get the rain-soaked wood to light. Finally, Jack was able to get a small fire started, using moss and bark for tinder. The wet wood produced a thick smoke that stung their noses and burned their eyes, but at least they were warm for the first time in days.

Jack and Will shed their coats to allow their shirts and breeches to dry, but Elizabeth kept Barbossa's coat folded firmly around her. She seemed in shock, staring into the fire and worrying her lip with her teeth.

Again Will wondered what had been done to her. "Elizabeth?" When she didn't respond, he shook her shoulder gently. "Elizabeth? You'll be warmer if you get out of that damp coat."

Obliquely, Jack said, "Best do it, love. The truth will out in the end."

She nodded grimly and stood, letting the coat slip off her body and onto the ground.

Will gasped. The damp shirt clung to her body, revealing an unmistakable bulge. Elizabeth flushed and averted her eyes miserably.

The worst of his speculations confirmed, Will leapt to his feet and took her in his arms, hardly aware of what he was saying, so torn was he between his need to comfort her (however inadequately) and the rage that threatened to consume him. "Elizabeth, you're not to blame. I'll kill him, I swear it. He'll pay for this with his life. . ."

She cringed, and talking over him, shouted, "Stop, stop," shoving him away when he wouldn't let go. "You must listen!" She took a deep breath and twisted her hands in front of her, then started again, in a calmer voice. "Barbossa never touched me. The baby is Jack's."

*

That was Will all over, Jack thought. First, to spend two days in a boat with Elizabeth and not notice her belly out to there, and then to stalk off in a snit when he learned that Jack was the one responsible. At any rate, it wasn't as if Jack had cuckolded Will deliberately. It was more of a case of needs must, and if Will thought Elizabeth would rather have Jack than Will, he was too much of a fool to deserve her.

Noble to the end, Will had stuck with them until they reached the Pearl, although he was sullen and taciturn, speaking only when it was entirely necessary. In the face of Will's censure, Elizabeth refused to make any explanation and the pair of them sat like bumps on a log, while Jack filled the silence with twaddle and nonsense. Still, Jack had expected them to kiss and make-up once Will's shock wore off; and he was as surprised as anyone when Will disappeared.

Elizabeth was all for going after Will herself, but Jack pointed out that she was hardly in any condition to go wandering all over the colonies. Besides, Jack was uneasy about Barbossa. It was a pretty fancy to think that Elizabeth had slit his throat and that was the end of their troubles, but Barbossa had an ugly habit of not staying dead. And if he were alive, he'd be looking for Elizabeth. One thing that Jack was absolutely certain of was that he didn't want her, or the baby, to fall in Barbossa's hands again. When Jack had impressed this upon her, she reluctantly agreed to go into hiding, and let Jack find Will. (And why not? It was beginning to be a habit with Jack, playing young love's errand boy.) But first they must find a safe place for Elizabeth.

"Savannah?"

"No! Not until. . .I can't go to my father like this, not without Will."

Jack could see her point. With no husband in evidence and Elizabeth breeding, Swann might come to exactly the right conclusion. Jack didn't imagine the old man would take kindly to the notion that Jack had debauched his daughter.

In the end, they sailed west to Mobile. Madame Antoinette was used to taking in wayward girls with nowhere else to go, and she had an account with the local midwife. Even better, she owed Jack a favor, and she could keep her mouth shut. It took some persuasion to get her to allow Gibbs and Pearson to hang about (although, unsurprisingly, neither of them objected at all), but eventually she agreed to feed and house the men as well, so long as they promised to leave the girls alone and repair the leaks in her roof.

Jack figured that Will couldn't have gone far; he'd left without so much as a penny of his share of the treasure they'd brought back from the World's End. Of course he could have signed on to a ship and gone anywhere, but Jack suspected, when it came right down to it, that Will wanted to be found. Sure enough, the first ship they encountered after leaving Mobile Bay carried word of a talented new sword smith on St. Simon's island.

Standing outside the shop where Will had found employment, Jack had a disorienting moment of déjà vu. Through the window, he could see Will, shirtless against the heat, pounding away at a bar of metal, and, as near as Jack could tell, completely alone. The flames of the forge burned brightly behind him and the smell of hot metal and smoke lingered outside the door.

The bell jangled as Jack opened the door. Will looked up and the greeting died on his lips. "Go away, Jack."

"Listen, mate, it wasn't what you think. Or, that is, it was, but there were. . .extenuating circumstances."

"Are you saying you just happened to tup my wife?"

"Well, strictly speaking, she was your fiancée then. . ."

Will pulled a sword from the rack and brandished it. "And once you'd gotten her with child, you dropped her like the rogue you are! It's no wonder she thought to pass your bastard off as mine."

"Will--"

Will's blade sliced the air and Jack jumped back, knocking over a bucket of water. Jack had no choice but to draw his own sword. "There's no call to--"

"I thought you were my friend. God help me, I trusted you, even after you've shown yourself to be a Judas time and time again." Will slashed angrily with his blade as he ranted, and Jack was hard pressed to defend himself without harming Will. "I thought--"

"It was the magic," Jack interjected, whirling out of the path of Will's sword. "Nothing more. Just the price that had to be paid, to bring me back." He parried and attempted a guileless expression, trying very hard to forget how much he'd enjoyed discharging that debt. "A business transaction with the gods, you might say. Nothing to worry about on your side. I assure you. Elizabeth's affections remain unaltered."

Will's expression was skeptical, but he stopped attacking, which was definitely a good sign. "A spell?"

"Aye, it required a sacrifice--" Jack started to point out that most people wouldn't consider it much of a sacrifice to take a tumble with Jack Sparrow, but under the circumstances, decided that it was best not to mention that.

"If you knew the pictures that are in my head, the things I've imagined!" Will's voice shook with uncertainty, and something more. "I can't stop thinking about it, damn you, I can't stop--" He broke off with an agonized groan, and passed his hand over his face.

Jack began to see what truly troubled Will -- the boy didn't know whether he was jealous of Elizabeth or envious. Jack hadn't considered the possibility before, but now it seemed quite obvious, not to mention intriguing. He took a step forward and Will stepped back, raising his blade again.

Will licked his lips nervously. "You love her. Don't deny it!"

Sometimes it's necessary to give a little ground, in order to win the battle. "I might, at that. In my own way." At Will's scowl, he hastily added, "But I give you my word I never intended to part you from your beloved." Jack advanced again, backing Will into the narrow alcove behind the forge.

Will stammered, "Did she. . .Was she--" His back hit the wall with a thud.

Pushing Will's blade aside easily, Jack leaned in until he could feel Will's breath upon his face. "What do you want to know, love?"

A fine shiver ran through Will's body and his eyes grew wide.

"Do you want me to tell you how her skin is like cream?" Jack gripped Will's bare shoulders. Sweat-slicked muscles tensed beneath his fingers, and Will's lips parted to emit a desperate, needy sound. Jack's heart was pounding. Distantly, it occurred to him that he'd been caught in his own net. "Do you want to hear how her sweet cunny tastes like the sea and how wet she was when I sank into her?"

The lengths of their bodies were pressed together, and Jack's cock was achingly hard. Elizabeth and Will were all tangled up in his head, the memories of the one feeding his desire for the other. "How hot her mouth was when she kissed me and how she bucked beneath me when she took her pleasure?" His mouth was a hair's breadth from Will's when he delivered the coup de grace. "At the end, it was your name on her lips."

Will whimpered and yielded and Jack kissed him for all he was worth.

*


Elizabeth had hoped that Jack and Will would return before the baby was born, but her time was approaching inexorably, and there was no word of them. She was ungainly, thrown off balance by her big belly and the constant pressure between her legs. She tossed and turned at night, dreaming that Barbossa had risen from his grave to take the baby and worrying that Jack wouldn't be able to find Will.

She fidgeted and paced until Antoinette insisted that she stay in her attic room to avoid upsetting the girls. When Antoinette tired of hearing Elizabeth's footsteps above her head, she put a pair of knitting needles in her hands. "It's not good to be so restless. Sit! Make for your baby un chapeau."

When Elizabeth admitted that she didn't know how to knit, Antoinette clicked her teeth together disparagingly. "Well, ma fille, it is better to learn now than not at all, eh?"

Elizabeth followed the directions faithfully and produced a grubby, misshapen triangle. Antoinette patiently picked the mess apart and started her over again. "Perhaps a blanket for your première tentative."

The blanket progressed more easily than the hat, and soon Elizabeth had a neat row of stitches. There was something soothing about the repetitive motion and the click-clack of the needles and it required just enough thought to distract her from her worries. The blanket took several days, and when she was done, she started again on a hat.

Unwilling to give credence to Jack's fears about Barbossa, Elizabeth balked at both Pearson and Gibbs hovering over her. At her insistence, they took it in turns to sit with her in the garret, which allowed the one who wasn't on duty to drink, misbehave, and generally play the fool with the whores. Pearson had been with Elizabeth all afternoon, and Gibbs returned just as she was finishing the fiddly bit on the crown of the hat. Sitting down beside her, he nodded approvingly. "Coming along nicely now, Miss Elizabeth."

He reeked of rum and cheap perfume, and there was a smear of rouge on the collar of his shirt. She raised her eyebrows and he shifted uneasily in his seat. "Thought of a name for the babe yet?"

"Not yet." A name guaranteed that this was happening, and even after all that she'd been through, Elizabeth wasn't quite prepared to admit that she'd soon be responsible for an infant.

"Joshamee's a good name; it's served me well and my father afore me." He took an introspective pull from his pipe. "Still, I'd go with William, if I were you. It's good luck to name a son for his da."

Elizabeth winced at this. She was well-aware that the men all assumed that she and Will had merely anticipated their wedding. (She neither knew nor cared what they thought of Will's disappearance, but she assumed Jack had manufactured a quarrel to justify Will's absence.)

Misunderstanding her reaction, Gibbs patted her arm. "Never fear, he'll come along in time. You're his whole world. And just think how happy he'll be to find you've named the babe for him."

"And if it's a girl?"

"Wilhelmina," he said succinctly.

There was the clatter of boots on the stairs. Hope warred with fear, and Elizabeth grabbed the pistol Jack had given her and pointed it at the door. Gibbs had his sword in his hands an instant before the door opened, revealing Will, out of breath and disheveled.

Their eyes met, and he gave her a sheepish grin that warmed her heart. Then she was in his arms and they were kissing desperately. The familiar, smoky smell of a forge clung to him and she buried her nose in his hair to savor it.

Will was whispering hoarsely in her ear, "I came as fast as I could. I was a fool. I love you, I love you, I'm sorry." Heedless of Gibbs and Jack, he knelt and kissed her hands, still muttering apologies. Squaring his shoulders, he placed his palm flat on the curve of her belly. "I pledge to raise this child as my own, to raise him--"

"Or her," Jack added, sotto voce.

"--and care for him, as my own son. I swear, I'll never reproach you nor question your choice." Speaking faster, he continued, "I understand now. Jack. . ." His gaze skittered to Jack and his cheeks turned pink. "Explained it to me. I'm so sorry, can you forgive me?"

Too clumsy to lift him to his feet, Elizabeth sank to her knees and held Will's face in her hands. "Yes, yes, I love you. I forgive you." Then they were kissing again, and crying together until Will reached for his handkerchief and produced a half-charred rag. He stared at it uncertainly and said, "I came away in a hurry. . ." Luckily, Gibbs (who appeared to have taken the dramatics wholly in stride) had a clean handkerchief.

He presented it to Elizabeth with a wink and helped her to her feet. As Elizabeth stood, still wiping her eyes, something burst inside her. A gush of fluid soaked her skirts and spread across the floor. "The baby!"

*


"Midwife's gone," Will panted as he rushed back in the door. "Governor's wife. . .twins. . ." He'd searched the town for someone else to attend the birth, but the surgeon was visiting his daughter in New Orleans and the midwife's apprentice had been too drunk to stand. Will had given up trying to rouse her after dumping two buckets of water on her head.

"We're a bit past that now." Elizabeth said in a shocked voice.

Will's eyes adjusted to the gloom and he saw Elizabeth propped in the bed, holding a small bundle to her chest.

With a touch of pride, the dark-haired girl who was tidying the room said, "Elle est très belle!"

"Marthe delivered the baby," Elizabeth explained. "She says I was lucky; it went fast."

Will blinked. It hardly seemed possible that in the few hours he'd been gone, another whole person had come into the world. Elizabeth seemed none the worse for the experience. She looked tired and pale but otherwise composed.

"Would you like to see her?"

It had never occurred to Will that the baby might be a girl. Elizabeth pulled the blanket back to reveal a tiny red face and a headful of black hair. There was a dimple in her chin and her big, dark eyes were watchful and solemn.

"Can I hold her?"

Elizabeth carefully placed the baby in Will's arms. She weighed no more than a small cat. Her tiny hand fluttered against his fingers and a dreamy smile flitted across her face.

Marthe patted his arm and said, "Elle ressemble à son papa."

Will's French was rudimentary at best, and he shook his head in confusion. Elizabeth smiled ruefully. "She says the baby looks like you."

Marthe bustled out the door just as Jack and Gibbs were coming in. Gibbs looked thoroughly soused and Jack was swaying a bit more than usual. He cocked his head and peered at the baby curiously. "Pretty little thing, ain't she?"

"Aye," Gibbs concurred. "Favors her father."

"I was thinking she took after her mother," Jack replied demurely.

Will exclaimed, "A priest! Jack told me it's imperative that we have the baby christened as soon as possible."

Elizabeth shook her head. "Barbossa's dead. I made sure of that. There's no reason for you to rush back out."

Jack waggled the baby's toes and made a dubious moue. "I'll sleep easier knowing that this is settled once and for all."

Elizabeth's contrary response was interrupted as the window burst open in a shower of glass and splinters. Shards of glass glittered in Jack's hair and blood oozed from a cut on his cheek. He and Gibbs had their swords in their hands, but before Will could pass Elizabeth the baby and draw his own blade, Barbossa had climbed over the shattered sill and pointed his pistol at Elizabeth's temple. Three ill-favored men followed after him, all armed to the teeth.

Without preamble, Barbossa said, "I've come for the babe. Hand over the child, and we'll be square. Or, if you like, I can put a bullet in Mrs. Turner's head. I owe her a wee debt, you understand."

At Barbossa's gesture, a swarthy, tall man separated himself from the group and advanced towards Will. Will clutched the baby tighter, ineffectually thrusting out his hand in protest. With a mocking grin, the pirate stabbed at Will's palm with his sword. The blade was sharp enough that Will hardly felt the cut, but blood dripped thickly down his arm.

"Which is it to be, Turner? Your wife, or Jack's bastard? What's one child more or less? You can always get another on her."

Will looked to Jack hopefully, but Jack was frozen, looking as short of ideas as Will. Barbossa stroked Elizabeth's cheek with the barrel of the gun, scrutinizing Will's reaction.

Taking advantage of Barbossa's distraction, Elizabeth grabbed something from the floor and stabbed it at his face. He dropped his pistol and shielded his eyes with his hand, stumbling back. Bright red blood gushed down his face and into his eyes. "You bitch! You nearly put my eye out."

Jack and Gibbs lost no time in rushing at Barbossa, and his two henchman joined the fray. Elizabeth dropped the knitting needle and reached beneath the bed for the pistol. Meanwhile, Will managed to position the baby in the crook of his arm and draw his sword.

The baby wailed disconsolately, and Will shushed her absently as he fought the tall pirate. The pirate's reach was longer than Will's, but he was using a short blade and his technique was sloppy; even hampered by the baby, Will managed to keep his opponent at bay, although it took all his attention. Elizabeth must have found the gun, for Will heard a shot, and turning, saw the fat, blond pirate fall.

The third pirate spun around and cuffed Elizabeth viciously with the hilt of his sword. She slumped over and Will's heart was in his throat, but he told himself he must concentrate on protecting the baby.

The sword slipped in Will's bloody hand, and he nearly dropped it, leaving himself unguarded. As Will jerked away from an attack, the baby arched her back, tumbling from his arms. Miraculously, Jack was there, and caught her up, clasping her to his chest as he continued to fight the shorter pirate. Momentarily thrown off balance, Jack swung his sword wide, leaving himself open. His opponent slashed at Jack's hand, laying his wrist open. Recovering, Jack kicked the pirate's ankle, sweeping his feet out from under him. He landed in a tangle of limbs on the floor, and before he could stand, Jack had pulled his pistol and shot him between the eyes.

No longer reduced to fighting one-handed, Will had attacked his opponent with more vigor and backed him into the wall. An instant after Jack had disposed of the short pirate, Will buried his sword in the taller one's chest. Closer to the bed, Gibbs was holding his own against Barbossa, blocking his path to the baby and Elizabeth.

Over the clash of their swords, Jack yelled, "Battlefield shriving," At Will's blank look, he added, "If someone's dying, anyone can take his confession. No need for a priest if the situation's dire enough. Surely it's the same with a baptism?"

"Holy water?"

Jack shook his head. "No time."

Blood was still welling up in Will's palm. Beggars can't be choosers; Will cupped his hand until a small pool had formed there, then laid it gently on the baby's fuzzy head. It was as fragile as an egg shell, and Will shuddered to see it dark with blood.

"Go on, then," Jack urged.

Will searched his memory for the words. The few times he'd seen this done, the priest had gone through a lot of rigmarole before the actual baptism. Surely none of that was important. Will hesitated a moment, considering a name. "Sarah Elizabeth Turner, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

Will and Jack turned as one to watch Barbossa. Nothing happened.

"Whatever you're doing, best do it fast," Gibbs called breathlessly.

Hastily, Jack wet his fingers in the blood dripping from his wrist. Dabbing it on the baby's face, he muttered something harsh and foreign under his breath. The baby's voice rose up in a protesting wail.

A cold wind swirled through the room and the lamp was snuffed out, as if by some invisible hand. In the darkness, Barbossa gave a bloodcurdling shout. The air was thick with the smell of sulfur and brimstone and Will's ears rang with an echoing, rending sound. Then all was silent, except for Sarah's hiccoughing cries.

There was a moment of confusion as they all fumbled for the lamp. When Gibbs got it lit at last, the ring of light showed three dead bodies on the floor. There was no sign of Barbossa.

Will rushed to Elizabeth's side and brushed his fingers across her the bruise that was blooming on her cheek. To his relief, she raised her head blearily. "The baby -- is she safe?"

Jack set Sarah in Elizabeth's arms and she rooted anxiously until Elizabeth pulled aside her shift and set the baby to her breast.

With a satisfied hum, Jack touched the baby's head lightly. "Aye, all's well."

*


Jack wasn't one to linger where he wasn't wanted. Will and Elizabeth and tiny Sarah had become, through some strange alchemy that Jack couldn't grasp, a family. When Elizabeth nursed the baby, her face went dreamy and far-away, and Will watched them with a smitten look. They were a closed circle, and who could argue that they should be anything else?

They spoke of staying in Mobile until the baby was bigger, and then traveling to Savannah to find Elizabeth's father. Sometimes Jack thought this was a fine plan; if Gibbs worried about women on a ship, what would he say to a baby? Other times, Jack scoffed to himself at the notion of Elizabeth as a proper tradesman's wife, of Will as petit bourgeois. Some things, once they're done, can never be undone, and Jack would eat his hat if Will or Elizabeth proved to be satisfied with such a life.

The final repairs on the Pearl were finished; there was nothing keeping Jack in Mobile. Yet he found himself manufacturing reasons to stay: fresh paint for the figurehead, new canvas for the sails, a cat to keep the rats under control. None of these things was pressing, but each one created another delay.

Sarah gradually changed from a red-faced lump to an engaging creature who cooed and grabbed at Jack's finger. She had her mother's charm, there was no doubt about it, and God help the man she turned that smile on.

Elizabeth, at first completely engaged in the baby, slowly began to look up and see the rest of the world again. She was all sweetness and light, but sometimes there was an impish look in her eye that made Jack wonder if she were plotting something. For his part, Will was warm but guarded. If his thoughts towards Jack were more than friendly, he kept it well-hid. Still, Jack waited, without knowing what he was waiting for, and hoped, without acknowledging what he hoped for.

*


Will and Elizabeth lay breathless together, tangled in the sheets. Will's hands played idly over Elizabeth's skin, soothing and calming her racing pulse. The room was quiet and dark and Sarah slept peacefully in her cradle. They might have been the only people in the world.

"I tricked Jack into staying on the Pearl." Elizabeth had been trying to say it for weeks, trying to eradicate this last secret she'd kept from Will. Now that she'd started, she rushed on before he could speak. "I. . .kissed him, and while he was distracted, I chained him to the mast."

Will lifted his head and stared at her in amazement. "You did what?"

"It would have devoured us all. Including Jack. Either way he was dead. But I didn't trust him to sacrifice himself for us. So I. . .made the decision for him. I sacrificed him, so that you, so that the rest of us, could live. It's why I had to go after him, why I. . .did what was necessary to bring him back."

When he didn't speak, she panicked. "Say something!"

His voice was cool. "I saw you kiss him. I thought. . .I thought you loved him."

In for a penny, in for a pound, Elizabeth thought bitterly. "I think do, in my own way. Not exactly the way I love you, but--"

"Jack's forgiven you."

"I think he. . .understood why I did it." She knew he did, in a way that Will never could.

"If he can forgive you, then I can as well." Will sat up in the bed and pressed his hands together like a supplicant. "So long as we're clearing the air, I have a confession, as well. Jack. . .he. . .we. . ." He finished with an inarticulate sound that made his point as well as any words.

Elizabeth supposed that Will thought she would be angry, but she felt only a ripple of desire. She remembered those vivid dreams, of Will and Jack together, of the three of them. She could imagine it so clearly, it felt like something inevitable, as if it had already happened. And why shouldn't it, if they were all agreeable? With a defiant flare of hope, Elizabeth thought, it can happen; the readiness is all.

*


Marthe had taken the baby for the afternoon and Will and Elizabeth had spent a glorious, lingering hour in the bed. Sunlight poured through the dormer window, gilding Elizabeth's hair, and she stretched and lolled in the warmth like a cat.

She ran a toe along Will's calf and coaxed again, "Tell me. . ."

She'd been asking for the particulars for days, but Will hadn't been able to bring himself to describe it to her. It was one thing for her to know what had happened between him and Jack, and another for Will to give her all the salacious details. All the same, perhaps it was foolish of him to quibble about it now, when there could be no doubt that Elizabeth was worldly enough to grasp it all.

He stared off in the distance, trying to find the words. "He told me about the spell, about what he'd done with you." He met her eyes and said frankly, "It was. . .enthralling."

She smirked, and for a moment, she looked remarkably like Jack.

"Then he kissed me -- he was relentless, brooking no opposition. I couldn't have said no if I'd wanted to."

She rolled over onto her stomach and peered at him through her tangled hair. "Did you want to?"

"Say no?" He grinned. "No."

"So he kissed you. . ." she prompted.

Amazed at his own daring, Will said, "And he went to his knees and took me in his mouth."

"Like this?"

If she was less skilled than Jack, her mouth was as hot and wet as his, and she was learning fast. Will completely forgot what he was saying.

She sat up abruptly, making Will groan in frustration. "Go on! What happened next?"

"Well, Jack didn't stop," Will said pointedly.

She traced her finger around his mouth. Her hand smelled of musk and brine, and Will thought of Jack saying that she tasted of the sea.

"Patience! We have all afternoon. Besides, I'd have thought you'd be sated."

"Of you? Never." He caught her in his arms and kissed her ruthlessly.

Undeterred, Elizabeth pulled away and asked, "Did you suck him off?"

To hear her use such a crude term made Will's cock give a twitch. "No. . ."

Her eyes grew wide and wicked. She whispered, "Did he fuck you?"

Will shivered at the images this brought to mind, and shook his head. "He kissed me and rubbed himself against me. . ." Words couldn't convey how wanton it had been. Will shook his head again. "It was over fast."

"Too fast?"

Hard and ready again, Will pushed her down into the bedding and entered her quickly. She arched her neck and he bit her ear before whispering, "Yes."

"If you had the chance--"

"Yes.

 

*


Pirates grow restless on land, and Jack's crew was no exception. They'd returned from the World's End with gold enough to set them up for life, but to a man they'd squandered it on debauchery and extravagance. Now that they were empty handed once more, they were eager to go adventuring again. Gibbs attempted to keep them in line, but eventually Jack could no longer ignore their pissing and moaning.

When he went to say goodbye to Will and Elizabeth, Jack found Will in Antoinette's parlor, staring morosely into a mug of ale. "We've had a letter from Elizabeth's father. He's offered to set me up in a shop in Savannah."

Seeing as Will wasn't drinking his rum, Jack availed himself of a mouthful. "Is that what you want?"

"Elizabeth--"

"If you believe that's what she wants, you're more of a fool than I thought." Jack propped his feet up on Will's chair and leaned his own back. "What do you want?"

"I want. . .Well for one, I want to find a way to rescue my father. But. . ." He waved his hands vaguely, indicating Elizabeth and the baby and all the obligations that constrained him.

This looked to be the opportune moment. "I've got a business proposition for you, mate. I find myself a bit short of crew."

"I can't leave Elizabeth."

"Who said anything about leaving her? As I recall, she can hold her own in a fight. Gibbs' notions aside, there's a long and illustrious history of woman-warriors: Hippolyta, Joan of Arc, Anne Bonny, Mary Reed--"

"What about the baby?"

"We've already got an undead monkey and a parrot. Why not bring a baby as well?"

Will furrowed his brow, clearly caught between selfish desire and what he perceived to be his duty.

"You can be with your lady-love and look for a way to help William." Jack pulled a somber face. "Think of it as fulfilling your filial responsibilities."

"Elizabeth. . ." Will repeated in a tone that said, "Convince me."

Jack grabbed Will's hand and yanked him from his seat. "Let's see what the lady has to say. If she wants to go to her father, I'll take you there myself." He ran his thumb across the scar that bisected Will's palm before releasing his hand. "Otherwise, it's honest piracy for the lot of us!"

They brought a bottle up to the attic, where they found Elizabeth putting the baby to bed. With obvious trepidation, Will laid out Jack's plan.

Elizabeth produced three mugs, as well as the remains of a seedy-cake. "And you'll have Sarah too?"

Mumbling through a bite of cake, Jack said, "She's not much trouble, is she? Just sleeps and eats and fusses now and again. We'll hardly know she's there!" This was perhaps pushing it a bit, but neither Will nor Elizabeth contradicted him.

Just as Jack had predicted, Elizabeth accepted the proposition with alacrity.

"There now, what'd I tell you!" He cut his eyes at Will slyly. "Should have put some money on it, to make it interesting."

Elizabeth smirked. "I daresay you owe Jack a forfeit, Will."

Jack had to hand it to Elizabeth, she was quick on the uptake. With exaggerated civility, he asked, "What did you have in mind, love?"

She sipped her rum speculatively, twirling one curl around her finger. "A kiss?"

Will shot her a questioning look, and Jack decided that the boy hadn't had nearly enough to drink. He topped off Will's mug and gave him his most alluring smile. "That is the traditional thing," Jack agreed.

Will shrugged and leaned forward to brush his lips briefly against Jack's.

"Unfair!" Elizabeth scolded.

"What?" Will asked. His expression was all innocence, but there was a twinkle in his eye that suggested he knew exactly what they were doing.

Elizabeth wagged her finger. "I've never known you to shirk your debts before, Will. Remember, if you fail to pay your creditors promptly, you'll owe interest as well."

"A wise suggestion; I would hate to fall into arrears." Adroitly, he pulled Jack to him and gave him a lingering, leisurely kiss that left Jack's lips tingling and swollen. "Is that more what you had in mind?"

Elizabeth inhaled sharply and said, "I think that settles your account admirably."

That would never do. Jack assumed a woeful expression. "There's the small matter of the interest. It compounds devilishly fast. . ."

Will nodded sagely, "That's the worst of debt; once you fall behind, it's almost impossible to catch up." He grasped Elizabeth's wrist and dragged her into Jack's lap. "And of course, a man's wife is responsible for what he leaves outstanding."

Elizabeth did her level best to make good on Will's obligation, and by the time she broke the kiss, Jack had quite lost track of who owed who what. With a saucy grin, Elizabeth spun around on his knee and pulled Will out of his chair.

He stood between Jack's legs and eyed them both hungrily. "Are we really going to do this?" His voice was husky with longing.

"Yes," Elizabeth answered promptly.

"Jack?"

"Can you think of a single reason why we shouldn't?"

Will shook his head mutely and set himself to divesting Elizabeth of her clothes.

Somehow they made it to the bed, stripping off clothes as they went, and tumbled into the sheets together. They took their time, exploring one another's bodies and exchanging wet, languid kisses.

Elizabeth was softer than she'd been in the cave, her breasts round and full. She'd learned some interesting tricks in the intervening year, along with an admirable spirit of innovation. She was willing and eager to try anything, as shameless as a whore, for all that she looked like an angel.

Will's body was as hard and lean as Jack remembered, and he was glad of the leisure to investigate it more thoroughly. Jack traced the scars on Will's back with his tongue, working his way down until Will was moaning incoherently. Jack would have continued in this vein, using tongue and fingers to push Will to the edge, but Elizabeth turned her attentions to Jack, and Will, taking advantage of Jack's distraction, pinned his hands to the bed, allowing Elizabeth to take Jack in her mouth.

There was no finesse to it, but her innocence made it all the more enticing. She licked and sucked and experimented, taking note of Jack's reactions, until Will moved behind her and slid into her with one smooth thrust. She gave a muffled scream and clutched at Jack's hand. Will's strokes pushed her towards Jack and she took his cock deeper in her mouth, allowing the men to guide her body between them.

Will finished fast and with a lithe roll, he was on the bed beside Elizabeth. She lost no time in straddling Jack, taking him into her body. She was wet and slippery with Will's seed and as much as Jack wanted it to last, he couldn't hold back, not when Will kissed him. The taste of him, rum mingled with the musky flavor of Elizabeth's arousal, was too much, and he spent himself, groaning her name like a prayer.

She fell onto her back between them, pleading inarticulately, legs splayed wide. Jack's hand slipped between her wet thighs, and a moment later Will's fingers were there as well, and then they were each suckling at a breast. Elizabeth moaned long and low and shuddered delicately, then grew still.

The room had grown dark, and, exhausted from their exertions, they slept. In the small hours of the night, Jack awoke with a start to the sound of the baby crying. Elizabeth brought her to the bed and put her between herself and Jack. The tiny body flailed a moment and then, latching on, relaxed against Elizabeth's chest. Jack nestled against her and watched as Elizabeth too succumbed to sleep. Will's arm wrapped around them and he gave Jack's shoulder a squeeze. "All's well, Jack."
 

 

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