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Triangulation, part 1a

by Melusina

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: NC-17    Pairing: Jack/Will/Elizabeth    Full Header   Triangulation, part 1a

 


Chapter 1: Freedom


Elizabeth hummed quietly to herself, "We're rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves. Drink up me hearties, Yo Ho!" She could feel the swaying boards of the ship beneath her bare feet and smell the clean salt air. The sun sparkled on impossibly blue water. The man beside her -

A piercing, genteel voice interrupted her reverie.

"Miss Swann, what's that you're humming? I'm not familiar with the tune."

Elizabeth started guiltily at Miss Wallace's question, pricking herself with her embroidery needle. She looked around but no one seemed to notice that she'd lost her place in both her sewing and the conversation.

"Oh it's . . . a song my nurse used to sing me. I've forgotten the words, but the tune has stayed with me," Elizabeth lied smoothly, with her politest smile. She bent over her snarled thread and let the conversation bubble on around her. She couldn't seem to keep her mind on tea and small talk. It was with great relief that she said goodbye to her callers and realized that Will would soon be arriving to dine with her and her father.

She opened the parlor window to watch for him and heard voices drifting up from the street. Miss Wallace's tones were hushed, but Elizabeth could still make out her words.

". . .certain of it, my dear. Did you see her color? And the wedding planned so soon? I heard the governor paid the blacksmith's apprentice to marry her."

"I thought it was a love match. I heard that she refused the Commodore for the boy."

"No, no, Norrington threw her over. Damaged goods, you know, and not even the decency to act it. No better than she ought to be if you ask me."

"Thoroughly compromised. By pirates, no less!"

Elizabeth slammed the window shut with a most unladylike epithet and sat down heavily on the window seat. Her father had tried to hush up the events leading to her engagement, but people would talk, and the very fact that he was trying to quiet the rumors led people to believe that there was something to hide. It was obvious that her reputation was irreparably damaged. Will's as well, she feared. To be sure, his interference in Jack's hanging had not endeared him to the town.

Not that it mattered much. What really chilled her blood was the prospect of years and years of this sort of thing - an endless chain of teas and receptions and dinners, sewing and fashion and tittle-tattle. No, not a chain, but a noose, slowly choking the life out of her, without even the mercy of a broken neck.

There was one consolation. At least she'd have Will for company. She couldn't help smiling at the memory of the highly improper kisses they'd exchanged the night before. And soon they'd be married and there would be much more than stolen kisses while her father dozed over his port. Of course, they would probably starve without regular handouts from her father, since the good citizens of Port Royal seemed disinclined to patronize Will's new business. They'd rather deal with Mr. Brown, drunk as he was, than give their business to a man who consorted with pirates.

Elizabeth absentmindedly stroked the raised scar that ran across her palm and considered their options. Jack's voice, husky and reverent, echoed in her ears, "What a ship is . . . what the Black Pearl really is . . . is freedom." She began to formulate a plan for their escape.

*


When Will arrived for dinner, he could tell immediately that Elizabeth was up to something. Her eyes shone brightly, her cheeks were flushed, and she seemed happier than he'd seen her in weeks. All through dinner, she spoke quickly and with unnatural animation, and whenever she looked at him, her mouth was pursed as if to prevent it breaking into a broad grin.

After dinner they sat in the parlor, where Will had his customary glass of port with Governor Swann, and the same dull topics were discussed - the upcoming wedding, the business at his new shop, the renovations to the rooms above the shop, the petty problems of the Governor's day. Elizabeth did little to hold up her end of the conversation. The tip of her shoe swung back and forth, and she kept glancing at the clock, obviously waiting for something. She was solicitous with her father, offering him another glass of port as soon as his first was drained. Will flushed a bit when he realized she must be rushing toward the other customary part of the evening; the part where the Governor napped in his chair, and Will and Elizabeth sat together on the settee and exchanged intimacies. Now he was the one who could barely suppress a grin - among other things - thinking of Elizabeth's soft lips and hands.

Elizabeth and Will grew quiet as the Governor's head began to nod and his eyes drifted shut. They both held their breath for a moment, and then Will nearly fell over himself to get to Elizabeth's side.

In his excitement, he wasn't as careful with her as he usually was. His chapped hands snagged the fabric of her dress, and his kiss was over-eager. The wedding couldn't happen soon enough. He'd waited years for her, but if he didn't have her soon, he'd die.

Elizabeth returned his kiss with equal passion, then broke away from him suddenly. Will started to apologize, but she cut him off.

"Will, we must talk now, while we have a few moments to ourselves."

Suspicion and fear flooded Will's gut. Nothing good ever came of someone needing to talk to you. Had she reconsidered their engagement? Did she no longer want to marry a mere blacksmith? None of that explained her giddy mood.

"-we could steal my father's pinnace-"

He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and tried to focus on what Elizabeth was saying.

"Commandeer. . .it's a nautical term."

"Fine, commandeer my father's pinnace and sail to Tortuga-"

"Wait. Why do you want to go to Tortuga? It's an awful place, not a town for a lady."

"Will, are you listening at all? We have to go to Tortuga to find Jack."

"Jack."

Elizabeth spoke slowly, as if she doubted his wits. "Y-es, and the Black Pearl. Jack will have needed supplies, and Tortuga is the safest place for him to get them. Someone there may have an idea of where he went after that. It's been less than a month, surely we can find him."

Will's brain finally caught up with the conversation. Elizabeth wanted to run away. To run away and join Jack, and be a pirate. Will tried, in vain, to stifle the thrill that went through him at the prospect of abandoning his staid, respectable life, at the thought of seeing Jack again. It would be the best of both worlds, to be with Elizabeth and to fight by Jack's side. But what would Elizabeth do on a pirate ship? Could ladies be pirates?

Apparently, he'd spoken that last bit aloud, because Elizabeth looked indignant and replied. "Of course they can - look at Anamaria!"

At Will's dubious look, she reconsidered. "Well, I suppose she isn't exactly a lady. But Anne Bonny was raised a lady - and she and Mary Read took pirate lovers." Elizabeth's voice dropped. "There were rumors that they shared Calico Jack between them, and that the three of them-"

"Elizabeth!" Will didn't know whether to be aroused or scandalized.

"I read the transcripts of their trial and they fought braver and harder than any of the men on the Pretty Anne." Elizabeth's excitement had reached a fevered pitch. "They dressed as men - Mary Read had already been a soldier and a merchant sailor, disguised as a man, before she turned pirate - they fought alongside the men and shared their adventures-"

"And very nearly hanged for it, as well."

Elizabeth waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, well, there's that. But adventure always entails a little risk. That's what makes it adventure."

"You and I could hardly sail a boat to Tortuga. You can't sail at all, and I don't know enough to compensate for your inexperience." He fingered the fabric of her dress thoughtfully. "But we could book passage on a ship to Tortuga." Somehow, it was no longer a question of if they were going to do this mad thing, but only of how.

"Yes, of course! You'll have to find us a ship, I'll draw too much attention if I go down to the docks- everyone's already watching me and waiting for me to do something else for them to gossip about."

She grinned at him then, an ecstatic gleam in her eyes, and he knew the expression on his face was an exact match for hers. They were going to escape. They were going to be with Jack. He kissed her again, all desperation and excitement, drunk on the taste of her and the idea of freedom.

*


The wedding was a small, quiet affair. Elizabeth looked beautiful and Will felt like quite the dandy in the new suit of clothes provided by the Governor. Will and Elizabeth exchanged their vows, Will kissed her - just a chaste promise of what was to come - and they endured an agonizing hour of small talk and congratulations before they could get away to the rooms above Will's forge.

They raced up the narrow stairs, tripped over Elizabeth's full skirt and tumbled into the main room, landing in a tangle of limbs and skirts and laughter. Will kicked the door shut, and leaned in to kiss Elizabeth's smile, turning her giggles into a muffled moan. He fumbled with the laces on her dress and loosened them enough that he could pull the dress off her shoulders. Forcing himself to move slowly, he brushed his lips against her creamy skin and inhaled her lavender scent as he pushed her dress down around her waist.

"I want to see you - all of you." He helped her up to her knees and turned her around so that he could unlace her corset. She stood then, shedding her dress and her stays in a puddle on the floor, clad only in her thin shift. Backlit by the late afternoon light streaming in through the window, the shift was nearly transparent. The sight took Will's breath away.

She pulled the shift over her head and stood there a moment. "Will I do?" Her voice held a note of trepidation, although her eyes were bold and daring.

Will made a growling noise he hadn't known he was capable of, and crushed her against him, covering her face with kisses. Her hair was falling down, tangling in his mouth, but he couldn't stop long enough to push it out of the way.

Together they got him out of his clothes, and then fell into the pile of discarded finery, exploring and tasting each other's bodies. Will was surprised at the intensity of Elizabeth's passion - she was greedy, grasping and fierce, not yielding, as he'd expected. It was less the gentle coupling he'd imagined and more like wrestling, a rolling, tussling struggle. And when he pinned her down and took her, too inflamed to take the care he'd intended, the triumphant look she gave him suggested that this was what she'd wanted all along.

*


On the day of their departure, Elizabeth woke before Will and made her preparations. She remembered what she'd read about Bonny and Read - a witness at the trial had claimed to know them for women by the largeness of their breasts. To remedy this, Elizabeth tore her linen shift into strips and used the cloth to bind her breasts flat against her chest. She then dressed in a pair of Will's breeches and one of his shirts. She was tall for a woman, and Will's clothes fit her passably well. There was no help for her smooth complexion, but the bulky coat and the binding effectively disguised her curves. She cut her hair to a more manageable length, braided it into a queue and tied it off with a black ribbon. The hair trimmings she threw into the fire.

Will stirred and looked around him in sleepy confusion. "Elizabeth, what's that awful stench?" His eyes lit on her and his expression was dismayed and intrigued all at once. "Your hair!"

"It will grow back. I don't intend for my father to find us, or to lead Norrington to Jack. They'll be looking for Will Turner and his wife, not Will Smith and his brother John."

Will looked doubtful. "Even dressed like that, no one could mistake you for a man. You're too pretty."

"No prettier than you," she teased. People see what they expect to see. No one believes that a lady would be seen in public in men's clothes, so it will be easy to fool them."

*


There was no sign of the Black Pearl in Tortuga. Elizabeth claimed to be unsurprised.

"Even in as notorious a town as Tortuga, a pirate ship can't stay out in the open for long. Jack will have her hidden somewhere for careening. But perhaps someone can tell us if the Pearl docked here recently, and when she sailed."

When they entered the Faithful Bride, Elizabeth looked around her in wide-eyed wonder. Will understood; surely he'd looked the same way when he was last here with Jack. But Will wished she could be a bit more discrete. He'd only agreed to bring her with him because the alternative - leaving his wife alone in the most debauched town in the Caribbean - was worse.

"Ooh, what a pretty pair!" said an aging doxy with hennaed hair. She artfully arranged herself to better display her prodigious bosom. "I'll do ya both for the price of one." Casting a scrutinizing eye over them, she winked knowingly. "We can all go together, eh lads?"

With a strangled noise, Will started to turn away from her, and then stopped himself. "Hold up. Have you seen or heard of any of the crew of the Black Pearl recently? We're looking for Captain Jack Sparrow."

The whore's face darkened. "Oh I've seen him all right. Wasn't two weeks ago that he tupped me. Very friendly and cozy-like, until the next morning, he was gone with my fee, my ear bobs and a bottle of rum." Her eyes narrowed. "He a friend of yours?"

"No, no." Will replied hastily. "That is, we heard that Ja- Sparrow, was looking for sailors and my . . . brother and I wanted to sign up."

"In that case, you'll want to talk to his first mate. Mr. Gibbs'll be in here later tonight. Now he's a man who always pays up right and proper-"

Elizabeth slipped a coin into the woman's hand, cutting off the rest of her complaint.

*


Midnight found them steering a pinnace into a narrow cove where the Pearl was turned on her side, receiving much-needed repairs. A merry fire burned on the shore, with the remains of a goat still spitted over it. Jack reclined against a rocky outcropping, his legs stretched out before him, the very picture of indolent satisfaction.

"I've brought a couple of new recruits, Jack." Gibbs called out as they neared the shore. When Jack recognized Will, he nearly dropped his bottle.

"Will! We'll make a pirate out of you yet." He clasped an arm around Will's shoulder. He turned to Elizabeth, "Who's your mate-" He did drop the bottle, this time, recovering it midair without losing a drop. "If it isn't Miss Swann! Or is it Mrs. Turner now?"

"For the last several days it's been John Smith, but I suppose I can revert to Elizabeth, now that I'm among friends."

Jack's warm smile turned a bit lewd. "Don't bother on my account. 'Specially if it means exchanging those fetchin' breeches for a lot of draggy skirts."

Then Jack's arm was around her as well and, God help her, it felt like coming home.

Chapter 2: On the Account


Pillage and plunder and outrunning His Majesty's fleet were less frequent occurrences than Elizabeth had supposed. There was work to be done on the ship hard, physical labor of a kind she'd never experienced. Will was right; she was an unskilled sailor, despite a theoretical knowledge based on years of reading nautical romances. But an eagerness to learn made up for her inexperience. Most of the pirates were more than willing to teach her if it ultimately meant less work for them.

She'd heard them toast, "take what you can, and give nothing back," but they might as well say, "do as little as possible and get as much from it as you can." They had honed shirking to a fine art, and working or not, they were mostly drunk. There was rather a lot of debauchery as well, some of it quite eye-opening. Elizabeth had had no idea that men could serve one another that way.

Elizabeth wasn't always certain of how to behave; her upbringing had hardly prepared her for life on a pirate ship. However, she was wise enough to realize that her position was a precarious one. She took to watching Anamaria and following her lead. Anamaria took care never to draw attention to her femininity. It was a point of pride with her that she could fight, sail, and drink as well as any man on the ship. She seemed glad to have Elizabeth on board though, and they were slowly becoming friends. They were more likely to discuss navigation than to commiserate about their courses, but it was reassuring to have another woman to talk to.

At night, Elizabeth and Will explored the pleasures of the marriage bed. Will was no longer the deferential boy who'd worshiped her from afar. His hands were steady and sure and his mouth was sweet. When they came together it was shameless, clean, inevitable. And if sometimes Elizabeth thought about a rougher, rum drunk kiss, and if she occasionally caught Will holding Jack's eyes a little longer than necessary, then these were matters best left unspoken and unacknowledged.

*


"Ship ho!" Gibbs' excited cry stirred the crew into action. The ocean had offered no prey since they'd left Tortuga, and the pirates were eager for a little action, as well as a chance to line their pockets. Jack barked out orders, boats were readied, and cannons were loaded.

Jack pulled Will and Elizabeth aside. "This is for keepsies, savvy? Are ya in or out? You'll have no share of the take if you don't work for it. But that just leaves more for the rest of us, aye?"

Will had known this moment would come, had even been practicing for it in his head. His feelings about piracy were still a muddle, but he hid his doubts behind a mask of firm resolve. "I can't sail on this ship and keep my hands clean. There are worse things in this world than pirates." He tilted his head toward the ship growing larger off the port bow. "Our friends will have to hope the worst they encounter is a pirate with a willingness to negotiate."

This appeared to be the right answer. Jack nodded and slapped Will on the back. "Then you'll come with me on the boarding party. Get yourself armed."

Elizabeth broke in, "And I?"

This too, Will had expected, although he was less sure of how he should respond. Elizabeth could hold her own in a fight - he'd seen that at the Isla de Muerta - but she was untrained, and despite her romantic notions about pirates, she was still a woman, a lady, not bred for violence or combat. His every instinct screamed at him to protect her, to keep her far from danger.

Jack eyed her thoughtfully and then exchanged a long look with Will, seeming to guess some of what was on Will's mind. "Your enthusiasm's touchin', but you lack your husband's skill with a sword. You'd best stay on the Pearl 'til the fun's over. You take the helm. And keep this handy - just in case." With a flourish, he tucked a vicious little dagger into her belt.

Will felt a rush of grateful relief at not having to quarrel with Elizabeth about this. Eventually they would have it out, and there was no doubt that she would win, but for today, he knew she would be safe.

Elizabeth started to protest, and then shut her mouth abruptly and turned to relieve Anamaria at the helm. Will raised his hand to wave farewell, but received only an icy glare in response.

*


The Pearl's reputation preceded her and it took nothing more than a warning shot and a clear view of the Jolly Roger to induce the French ship to strike her colors. In short order, the crew was ferrying casks of fine French brandy and bolts of silk and velvet over to the Black Pearl, along with assorted household goods, including a small flock of chickens.

Sitting on the deck of the French ship, watching the loot efficiently moving from the French ship's hold onto the Pearl, Will had a momentary twinge of conscience. He surprised himself by dismissing it fairly easily. The merchant who owned these goods would have insurance to cover his loss. No harm had been done to those on board. Their sails and rigging had been slashed, but the ship itself was sound and they would make it into harbor. Jack had even left them water and dried food, although he had taken the remaining fresh food. Will knew it wouldn't always be this easy, but for now he allowed himself to pretend that piracy could be something other than a bloody, cruel business.

Getting into the spirit of things, Will pried open the lid of a chest someone had brought up to the deck. Passenger's clothes from the looks of it: a handsome green coat, several shirts, and an assortment of brightly colored dresses. Fine luck. Will was in need of a peace offering, and those should do the trick.

He slipped off his worn coat and tried on the one from the chest. It was a good fit and well-made, far more stylish than anything he'd worn as a blacksmith's apprentice. He'd cut quite a dashing figure in this.

Intent on his find, Will didn't notice when Jack leaned in behind him to investigate. Beads rattled next to Will's ear and he jumped.

"Now, don't you look the fine gentleman. All you need is a fancy hat." Jack gestured at a particularly sullen looking passenger in an impressive hat. "You there! I'll be takin' your hat for my friend here." The passenger looked back blankly and held on tighter to the sobbing woman by his side. Jack said something in French, his tone still genial, although his hand went to his sword. The passenger grudgingly handed over the hat. Jack spun it in the air, and it settled on Will's head, tilting into his eyes. He self-consciously adjusted it and Jack looked him over with a pleased glint in his eye. "Very nice."

Will ignored Jack's teasing. "Most of this is women's clothes - do you think Elizabeth might like it?"

Jack smirked. "Maybe she and Anamaria could flip for it."

Anamaria rolled her eyes and shook her head at this, continuing to count coins under her breath.

"The problem," Jack said, "Is that all our women have abandoned the feminine graces. Say what you will about that Frenchie girl, she knows how to present her. . .graces. . .to great effect."

Anamaria set the last coin in the pile. "If you could stand to listen to that wailing long enough to enjoy her company."

"I can think of a few ways to shut her up," Jack replied, with a wolfish grin. "But sadly shell soon be gone, neer to be seen again - with any luck - and all well have left of her are these mementos. Which, if Im not mistaken, are now the property of the lovely Mrs. Turner."

*


Jack and Will didn't return until the last load was secured and the French ship was set adrift. They had been sampling the brandy, and they returned in high spirits, supporting one another and laughing at everything and nothing. When Elizabeth tried to get some sense out of them, they talked over one another as they tried to tell some convoluted story about a lapdog and Cotton's parrot.

"-and then she said, "your bird, 'e has killed my poor Foo-Foo!" Will's wide gesture threw him off balance and he steadied himself on Jack's arm. A length of pink cloth slithered out of Will's arms and onto the deck. He stood there a moment, holding onto Jack and staring at the bundle on the floor. Then he seemed to recollect what it was. "Elizabeth, I've brought you a surprise!" He held up a frilly dress.

Elizabeth cursed him under her breath for making nice to her when she was still angry. And what made him think she wanted a dress, of all things? Still, Will obviously thought it would please her.

"It's very. . .pink."

"Actually, it's more of a mauve." Jack squinted. "Or ashes-of-roses, maybe?"

"Thank you, Will."

Will beamed. Apparently, he was too drunk to detect the exasperation she couldn't quite keep out of her voice. Jack, on the other hand, seemed fully aware of her discomfort and appeared to be enjoying it immensely.

"There's more as well." Jack indicated a trunk that had been set aside from the rest of the plunder. "Dresses, jewelry, all sort of feminine frippery. She looked to be about your size."

From the look of the dress, its former owner had to have been several inches shorter and quite a bit rounder than Elizabeth, but she supposed it was the thought that counted. Will was like a puppy looking for approval. It would be heartless to refuse his gift, no matter how impractical it was. She gritted her teeth and pretended to be pleased.

With Will's help, Elizabeth carried the trunk into their cabin. She dug through its contents, finally settling on a simple white silk that shone in the dark room. As she laced up the bodice, she realized that she'd grown so used to men's clothing that it was the gown which now felt like a costume. She held up a mirror and evaluated her appearance. "In for a penny, in for a pound," she muttered. She yanked the dirty scarf out of her hair and twisted it up, securing it with a few pins. Pearl earrings completed the picture. Her feet were bare and dirty and the gown was an inexact fit, but in the moonlight she could pass for the lady she'd once been.

Chapter 3: Wine, Women and Song


The pirates had been drinking all afternoon, but as the evening wore on they began to carouse in earnest. A stoved in cask of brandy was set up in the bow for those who weren't nursing bottles of rum, and the air was rich with the smell of roasted chicken. The cabin boy Jack had picked up in Tortuga was sawing away at his fiddle, giving the gathering a festive note.

There was dancing, although it was unlike any Elizabeth had ever seen - men danced with men or by themselves, using strange steps of their own invention. Jack invited Anamaria to dance with him, but she merely snorted and took another swig of rum. Elizabeth danced with her husband for the first time since their wedding, smiling and laughing to disguise the edgy, uneasy feeling that had settled in her gut when she put on the dress.

Everyone on the Pearl knew she was a woman, but her masculine attire had invited them to treat her as a man. She had grown accustomed to the easy camaraderie the men shared with one another, and perhaps, although she had little knowledge of such things, with whores. She could no longer claim to be a lady, and she had no wish to play the whore. This was uncharted territory. Perhaps it was foolish to remind the crew that she was a woman. Yet there was power here too, of a different sort.

She looked at Jack over Will's shoulder, trying out a coy, flirtatious look, and was gratified by the spark in Jack's eyes.

"May I have this dance, m'lady?"

Driven by a reckless urge she didn't entirely understand, Elizabeth tilted her head becomingly and gave Jack a lazy half-smile. "I believe my dance card is open."

The fiddle jumped into a ragged reel and Jack swept her into a tight clutch. He danced like he fought, sensuous and graceful, with a rhythm all his own. They whirled around the deck until her hair fell down around her shoulders and tangled with his wild locks. The heat from her body released a hint of perfume from the dress a musky, exotic scent that mingled with the brandy she'd been drinking and addled her head. Jack's hand splayed across her back and pulled her closer to him. His eyes glittered like a snake's.

With a dizzying spin, they were out of the lantern light. As if by accident, he brushed his hand against the side of her breast before settling it on her shoulder. His thumb rubbed lightly on the skin over her collar bone. The enticing motion made it hard to think. Elizabeth's skin prickled and she swayed into his touch. He brushed the hair from her face and let one ringlet slide through his fingers.

Then the music stopped and Will was there, laughing and unconcerned. Elizabeth hoped that what had passed between her and Jack had not looked as indecent as it felt. She schooled herself to betray none of the confusion she felt, taking the bottle Will offered and collapsing on the deck gratefully.

The boy put the fiddle away, and the manic mood calmed. Men began to drift away singly to their hammocks for sleep or in pairs to dark corners for more private diversions. Those that were left lounged on the deck, passing a bottle and telling stories. Elizabeth leaned against Will's shoulder and listened to Jack's slurring voice spin a tall tale of a pirate with a hook for his hand. She soon lost the thread of the story - was he chasing a crocodile? - and the rhythm of Jack's voice, in tune with the rocking of the ship, lulled her to a deep slumber.

Chapter 4: Swordplay


As Will had predicted, Elizabeth had no use for his attempts to shield her from harm. He would rather have avoided the subject, but she wouldn't let it go, harping on and on that she would not be patronized and shuttled off while Will had all the fun. The only solution was to teach her to use a sword, at least then she'd have a chance of protecting herself.

Will taught Elizabeth the way he'd taught himself - discipline and regular practice. He drilled her on footwork and positions until she complained that her whole body hurt. They sparred daily, and she made steady progress, although she was far from accomplished.

Jack seemed less than impressed by Will's careful instruction. "All that fancy footwork is very pretty, but that's not how pirates fight. She needs to know how to win."

"You mean cheat?"

"Aye, if that's what it takes." Jack drew his sword. "Here lass, let me show you how it's done." He grinned and said, "en garde." Will raised his blade and their swords tapped together lightly. They were both holding back, merely playing at fighting.

Jack spun, picking up the pace considerably. His blade slipped past Will's defenses and touched his throat lightly. "See that darlin'? He falls for it every time."

Will exhaled sharply and stepped back. His next attack carried a bit more force behind it and Jack responded in kind. Soon their blades were clashing together and sliding apart, and he'd completely forgotten Elizabeth's lesson, his focus entirely concentrated on Jack.

*


Stepping out of the way, Elizabeth watched as the two men instinctively reacted to one another's movements, moving in perfect synchronicity. Each thrust was met with a deft parry; each advancing step elicited a step backward. Will's style was controlled and methodical, while Jack was wild and acrobatic, but they were evenly matched and neither man was able to gain the advantage over the other.

Idle crewmen gathered around to watch and lay down money on the fight. Will and Jack paced up and down the deck, laughing aloud at each detected feint or near miss. Both men were breathing hard. Kohl was smeared down Jack's cheek and Will's hair had come loose from its tie and was blowing into his eyes. Elizabeth stood apart from the crowd, as short of breath as if she were fighting as well.

Jack lunged and Will made as if to step back. At the last moment, Will moved forward instead, grasping the base of Jack's blade in his gloved hand and pulling hard. Jack stumbled, started to recover, and then fell over as the hilt of Will's sword crashed into his jaw. Will's triumphant shout was cut off when Jack snagged his foot around the back of Will's knee and pulled Will down on top of him. Jack's eyes were locked on Will's and the air between them was thick and charged. Then they both began to laugh again and the tension broke. Will stood and offered Jack his hand.

"Where'd you learn a trick like that?" Jack grumbled.

Will made a mocking bow. "From you, of course, Jack."

Will looked quite giddy at his victory. Catching Elizabeth in his arms, he gave her an eager kiss that left no doubt as to his intentions. His cock was hard and ready against her and she could feel his heart pounding. She clung to him brazenly, ignoring the men still settling their bets a few feet away. Will responded by sweeping her up and carrying her to their cabin. They did not reappear until the next morning and Elizabeth's body ached pleasantly for days afterwards.

Chapter 5: A Sure Cure for Drowning


Will was fooling about in the rigging, trying out a trick he'd seen Jack use during their last raid, when the Pearl unexpectedly lurched and bucked and he lost his balance and plummeted into the ocean. He hit the water with a bone-jarring sting and a loud splash. Cold water enveloped him, salt burned his eyes and nose, and then he was kicking his feet and pushing his way up to the surface. Just as his head broke through the water, there was a sleek, slippery movement beside him. Half a beat later, Jack's head surfaced, water beading in his hair.

"Thought you were a goner, mate."

"I can swim, Jack. You know that."

"Aye, but I've seen a man take a fall like that and knock hisself out. Can't swim if you're not awake."

Will wasn't sure if he should be flattered that Jack cared enough to dive in after him, or insulted that Jack thought he needed looking after.

A rope went over the side of the Pearl and Will followed Jack up. Jack's shirt was wet and clinging to the muscles bunching in his lean back. Through the damp cloth Will could see the vague outlines of tattoos. There was a dark smudge on Jack's shoulder that looked like it might be a mermaid - or maybe a fish? And that one was definitely a compass. Will wondered when he had started paying so much attention to Jack's back.

They repaired to their cabins to dry off and change clothes. Will moved stealthily to avoid waking Elizabeth. Lately, she was always asleep. And no matter how much sleep she got, she always seemed tired and cranky. She was angry with him, and he wasn't sure why, although he was beginning to think it might have something to do with the way her body was softening and filling out. He wondered what in God's name they'd do with- But best not to borrow trouble. After all, Elizabeth hadn't mentioned anything, so perhaps he was just imagining it.

Leaving his cabin, he ran into Jack - literally. Will stumbled and almost fell arse over teakettle, but Jack caught his arm and stopped his fall.

"Fancy a drop to take the chill off?"

Now that was a brilliant idea. "Don't mind if I do."

Jack made a wide, sweeping gesture towards his open cabin door. A bottle appeared and then its contents disappeared rather quickly, as Jack demonstrated that he had a very loose definition of the word "drop."

"What you need, love, is an earring."

"A what?"

"An earring - it's a sure cure for drowning. Stops it every time. 'Sides, you need something to give you a bit of panache. Tattoo, earring, a bit of flash. I'm not so good at tattoos, but I'm a dab hand at piercing."

Before Will could articulate a protest, Jack was on his feet, rummaging in a drawer in his desk. He pulled out a dangerously long needle, of the sort used to mend the sails. A bit more digging produced a gold hoop and a gaudy purple rag that might once have been a scarf.

Jack turned back to Will and Will held his hands up in a warding gesture. "Jack, I'm not sure about this-"

"What are you, a man or a eunuch? Have another drink and you'll not feel a thing."

Jack stood in front of Will, with his head cocked and eyes narrowed. He took Will's head in his hands and tilted it back and forth. Jack's fingers were rough on Will's skin, and there was something disconcerting about the way he was moving Will's body about like a puppet. Making a decision, Jack twisted Will's head further to the right.

"Hold still." Jack wadded up the rag and stuffed it behind Will's ear. Jack's face was fixed in concentration, the pink tip of his tongue held in the corner of his slightly open mouth. As quick as thought, he stabbed the needle through Will's ear lobe and into the cloth behind.

Will expected the pain. The surprise was the bolt of lust that accompanied it, shooting straight to his groin. He felt his eyes widen and his pulse quicken.

A trickle of blood ran down his neck. Jack swiped at it with the rag, his breath warm on Will's ear. Then Jack was fumbling with the earring and sliding it into place. A little tug, then Jack stood back, admiring his work with a self-satisfied smirk.

"Quite dashing, if I do say so m'self."

Perhaps Will had drunk more rum than he realized. Perhaps the fall had turned his head. Perhaps having a hole in your ear was like having a hole in your head, and all the sense leaked out - which explained a lot about Jack, actually. Whatever it was, Will was out of the chair and pouncing on Jack before he could change his mind. There was a momentary look of shock on Jack's face and then he was tilting his head back, opening his mouth and just taking it, as Will kissed him for all he was worth. Jack's mouth was hot and wet and his mustache was tickly and the kiss was vulgar, sinful and tempting.

Will moved his mouth down Jack's neck, nipping and tasting. Jack tasted like salt, and the alcohol he'd sweated out of his skin, and something sharp and metallic. Stubble burned at Will's lips. Jack pulled on Will's clothes, untucking his shirt, unbuttoning his breeches, and then, oh, Jack's hand was on him - callused palm rubbing on him and then a finger reached behind and that was different and something of a revelation.

In between moans, Will said, "God, that's good."

Jack's voice was smug, right next to Will's ear. "Nothing of God about it, boy." Jack mouthed the earring, catching it in his teeth and licking the sensitized flesh around it. The pleasure and pain combined sent chills through Will's body.

Jack's hand became a bit more insistent and Will belatedly realized that he probably should be returning the favor. He hurriedly unbuttoned Jack's breeches and reached inside, not sure exactly how to do this, but he'd done it for himself and how different could it be?

Will's first tentative stroke elicited a lovely guttural groan. He grasped a bit harder and moved his hand faster and Jack's breathing became ragged and uneven. There was something unbearably erotic about the intensity of Jack's response. They fell into a rhythm, their hands moving swiftly together, panting breath and thumping hearts keeping time. Jack moaned into Will's shoulder, biting him through the fabric of his shirt. Then Jack said his name, "Will," and something cracked inside Will and he was spending himself all over Jack's hand. He heard himself, as though from a long way off, saying Jack's name in that same stricken tone. And then Jack was coming as well, spurting hot and sticky in Will's hand and letting out a sobbing moan that made Will's cock give one last twitch.

Will grinned like an idiot and leaned into Jack, pressing his forehead against Jack's and looking into those glittering dark eyes, determinedly not thinking about all the ways in which this was wrong. Jack recovered first, pulling his hand out of Will's breeches and licking his fingers like a cat, his eyes full of lewd promises. And Will thought that his earring must not be working properly, because he was damn sure drowning, and there was no help for it at all.

Chapter 6: The Wages of Desire


Elizabeth's first intimation that something was wrong was a sudden bout of seasickness, something she'd rarely experienced. She spent an inordinate amount of time hanging over the rail emptying her stomach, despite the clear, calm seas. She had an inkling of what it might mean, but she refused to think about it. Then she noticed her breasts were tender and sore. When her waist thickened and her stomach grew round, she counted back and realized she'd missed three months of her courses. She could no longer ignore the obvious explanation.

In desperation she went to Anamaria, in hopes that she might know something of the remedies Elizabeth had heard the maids whisper about in her former life. Anamaria's answer was both pragmatic and disappointing, "There are such things - herbs and potions to get rid of the child - but they must be used early, or they can kill you." She shrugged and tossed a peach pit into the seething water below. "It's safer now to wait and get rid of it after it's born. In the future, you'd best take precautions."

Elizabeth blanched. It was one thing to think of slipping a baby that she'd never seen, and quite another to contemplate infanticide. No matter how little she liked the idea of a child, she couldn't do that.

Which left, what, exactly? She couldn't go back to her father. It wouldn't be long before pregnancy rendered her useless as a pirate, and the last thing Jack would want on his ship was a squalling babe. She and Will would have to leave the Black Pearl.

She imagined the two of them marooned in some harbor town, Will working as a smith, while she nursed babies and wiped noses. A life virtually identical to the one they'd rejected in Port Royal, except that she'd forfeited the servants and money that went with being the governor's daughter. A monotonous, dull existence that would sour their love, leaving them bitter and spiteful. Anything was better than that.

Elizabeth's breeches became too tight and she reluctantly returned to skirts, although she'd be damned if she'd wear a corset. The rest of the crew took their cue from her silence and said nothing, although her condition must now be obvious to everyone.

Will was solicitous but cautious with her. His face assumed a wary, anxious look whenever he looked at her. He touched her as if she might break combing her hair and tenderly kissing her brow, but nothing more than those brotherly caresses.

She could see that Will wanted to ask her about the baby. But she didn't know what to say, what to do. The very thought of discussing it with him, of acknowledging it as something that must be dealt with, made her stomach flutter with panic. Will's obvious unease grated on her nerves, and she was churlish and short with him. She was pushing him away when she should have reached out for him, but was frozen by her fear and confusion and didn't know how to do anything else.

*


Will took to avoiding their cabin, instead sitting up late into the night with Jack, drinking and playing cards. When Elizabeth woke to use the chamber-pot, she could hear their voices through the thin walls, low and intimate and profoundly masculine.

One night, as she restlessly walked the deck, she saw them together. They must have been deep in their cups to be so careless. Their bodies were silhouetted by the lantern; Jack on his knees in front of Will, Will leaning against the rail with his hands buried in Jack's hair, holding it back so that he could see Jack's mouth on him. Will was groaning desperately - a guttural, pained sound that raised the hairs on her neck. Will shuddered and thrust his hips forward. Jack stood, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, and ground his hips against Will's as he covered his mouth in a hungry, open-mouthed kiss.

Elizabeth was shocked. She'd known such things went on, even suspected that Will might have some interest in Jack, but she'd never thought Will would act on those feelings. Torn between fascination and jealousy, Elizabeth stared a few moments, fingers pressed to her mouth, then backed away before they noticed her.

*


Elizabeth resolved to slip away at the next port. Perhaps she'd been naive to think that a woman could sail on a pirate ship, or that she could do so and still enjoy the privileges of a wife. Will obviously preferred Jack's company to her own - and why not? Jack would never get pregnant and cumbersome. Will didn't have to worry about Jack, or keep him from harm's way. They could fight together and fuck together as equals, something that Will seemed unable to grant her. She loved Will, and didn't doubt that he loved her, but she was no longer innocent enough to think that their love could surmount any obstacle. She wanted neither Will's pity nor his resentment, and there was no reason for them both to be miserable.

She had jewelry and trinkets enough to support herself and the child for a few months. After that, she could take in sewing. She would make do.

Chapter 7: Retreat


Jack sauntered into the cabin as Elizabeth was packing. She'd hoped to be done and gone before the rest of the crew returned from shore, but she had wasted precious time attempting, and failing, to compose a note to Will.

Jack arched an eyebrow at the disordered cabin and stood uncharacteristically silent, as though waiting for her to explain herself. He was close enough to her that she could feel the heat radiating off his body and smell the ale and smoke scent that the tavern had left in his clothes.

Jack fixed her with dark, smudgy eyes. "You're breedin'."

Elizabeth took refuge in her frostiest society voice. "Apparently, yes. Although I fail to see how it's any of your concern." She turned away deliberately.

He grabbed her shoulder. "I'm captain of this ship. That makes anything that happens on this ship my concern, savvy?"

"Are you here to ask me to leave?"

Jack turned her toward him gently and pulled her to him. He whispered against the curve of her ear, "Where'd you get an idea like that?" Then he kissed her, and it was sloppy and desperate and wet, lacking any kind of finesse.

One of Jack's hands rucked up her skirts as the other loosened her bodice and pinched roughly at her nipples. A twist of his hips sent her tumbling onto the bed awkwardly.

Elizabeth had enough sense to contemplate what a very bad idea this was, and then she remembered the bite mark she'd spied on Will's shoulder the day before and she surrendered, pulling Jack onto the bunk with her.

He slid down the bed, scattering teasing kisses along her thighs and breathing barely intelligible words into her skin. She thought she heard "stay" and "don't go." His mouth moved between her legs, devastating her, making her buck and shudder and plead. It was too much, too intense, and she tried to writhe away from him. He forced her hips down with his hands and mercilessly brought her to completion.

It had been too long since she'd been touched like this. Far from satisfied, she pulled Jack up beside her and kissed him with abandon, loosening his breeches with eager hands.

Jack pulled back and traced the line of her jaw. He studied her with molten eyes. As if it explained everything, he said, "Will's young. He's too careful of his treasure."

Had Jack come awooing for Will? Something about the idea - Jack, hat in hand, pleading Will's case - made her want to laugh, even as his presumptuousness made her itch to slap him. It was all too bloody complicated. She wanted to drive Will's specter from this moment; to make everything simple, to reduce it to it's barest elements.

She grasped Jack's cock and stroked it hard, eliciting a growling moan and a throaty laugh. He rolled her to her side and moved behind her, thrusting into her in one swift stroke. One hand curved over her round belly, the other wound in her hair, destroying her careful coiffure. It was languid, slow and sweet. As he rocked against her, into her, he murmured a litany of scandalous phrases and endearments, her name on his lips again and again.

Afterward, they were spent, silent and still. As Elizabeth rested in Jack's arms, watching the light through the small window turn purple, she recalled something else important about the mark on Will's shoulder - it might as well have been signed Captain Jack Sparrow. What was Jack playing at? She would not be a pawn in some game between him and Will, nor a prize to be traded back and forth. Feeling like a complete fool, she choked back her tears and shoved Jack out of the bed.

It was at this inopportune moment that Will chose to return to the cabin, whistling the refrain to "A Pirate's Life" and swinging his jaunty new cape over his shoulder.

Will took in Jack and Elizabeth's disheveled appearance and his hand went automatically to the hilt of his sword. His voice was cold. "What have you done to her?"

Jack smirked. "Nothin' she didn't beg me for."

Will's sword was in motion before the words were out of Jack's mouth.

"Hey! Watch where you're swingin' that, mate." Jack rolled lightly onto his feet and fastened his breeches. He blocked Will's next thrust with the feather bolster. Will's blade slashed through it easily and white down drifted through the air.

"If you let your lady love's bed grow cold, don't be surprised when someone else warms her up for you."

Will had not lost his ability to blush, despite a year on a pirate ship. "My wife is in a. . . . Delicate Condition. No gentleman would pester her with unwanted advances at such a time." His stern demeanor was slightly undermined by the cloud of feathers that he was batting away from his face.

Jack's tone was purposely bland, but his eyes spoke volumes. "You should know by now that I'm no gentleman." In one smooth move, Jack deflected Will's sword with Elizabeth's valise and snatched up a spare cutlass from the corner of the cabin.

With some difficulty, Elizabeth pried herself out of the bed and stepped between the men. The venom in her voice stilled them both. "I refuse to participate in this . . . this. . . ."

"Farce?" Jack supplied helpfully.

Elizabeth ignored him. "Whatever this is. You're both insufferable and I hope never to see either of you again. I wish you much joy of one another!" She straightened her clothes as best she could, grabbed her bag, and marched out the door without another word.

Chapter 8: Turnabout


Will started after Elizabeth, but Jack grabbed his arm and held him back. "Trust me, mate, give 'er some time. I don't think she wants to see either of us right now."

The cabin reeked of sex. The scent of Elizabeth's arousal clung to Jack's hand and perversely stirred Will's lust. He shrugged off Jack's hand, but did not walk away, instead pointing an accusing finger in Jack's face.

"This is your fault, Jack. I can't believe you. . ."

"Fucked your wife? 've been fuckin' you for nigh on a month now - turnabout's fair play."

Jack's crudeness made Will's blood boil. "Did you tell her that?"

Jack answered with a sardonic look.

Will panicked. "You did. You drove her off with your tale telling and your lewd advances. What, it wasn't enough to have me, you had to get rid of her too?"

The anger that had been sparking in Jack's eyes flared. He backhanded Will, his rings scraping across Will's face. Will shoved him backwards and swung wildly at him. When his fist connected with Jack's jaw, a dark thrill shuddered through him. Jack responded with a whirlwind of motion that left Will on the floor, tasting blood and feeling his left eye swelling shut.

Jack held Will down with his body, propping himself up on his arms so that he could look down into Will's face. When he spoke, his voice was vicious and cold.

"This is down to you, boy. You're a fool. I was just tryin' to fix the problem you made. If you hadn't come prancin' in here and waving your sword about, she and I could have come to some kind of accord. Never was a lady could resist me."

Will snorted bitterly and touched his split lip. Frustration, jealousy, and envy welled up in his chest. He felt a - perhaps unjustified - resentment at Jack and Elizabeth for cutting him out, for deserting him. Just like Jack, always using Will for his own purposes. Always taking what he could get and giving nothing back. More than anything, at this moment, Will wanted to be the one doing the taking.

Using all his force, he rolled himself on top of Jack, pinning him to the floor and cracking Jack's skull against the leg of a chair. Will crushed their mouths together in a rusty kiss, smearing blood all over both their faces. Jack struggled briefly and then, changing tactics, rubbed his thigh against Will's cock and dug his fingers into Will's shoulders.

Will's lust and anger fed each other. The more he wanted Jack, the more furious with him he became, and the rage he felt made his lust hotter and more desperate.

Jack's mouth tasted of Elizabeth, and it was shameful the way that made Will burn with desire.

Elizabeth, whose swollen belly had deterred Will from touching her since he'd guessed that she was with child. She was so luscious like this, like a juicy ripe peach, and Jack had tasted her, while Will had starved, hanging back out of some fool notion of correct behavior, of protecting her. He could see that he'd been misguided. As usual, he'd misread the situation and fouled things up. And of course, Jack, as usual, was right in the middle of it all.

Jack's clever hands were moving over his body, finding all the places that made Will whimper and beg and forget. A delicate touch on the nape of his neck, hands inside his shirt, rough against his nipples, skating over his ribs. One thumb slid down Will's spine as Jack's mouth made a wet trail to his ear and down his neck. When Jack slipped a hand down the back of Will's breeches, Will snapped back to the moment, remembering how angry he still was. He twisted away from Jack's touch, then grabbed his arms and held them over his head. "Don't touch me."

The loathing in Will's voice seemed to catch Jack by surprise. Something shifted in his face, some understanding surfaced in his eyes, and he acquiesced. His body went still and something else - resigned. As if he were offering himself up, a recompense for his sins. When Will removed his hand, Jack's arms stayed over his head. He was still, patient, compliant. And Will knew then what he wanted from Jack. The thing that Jack had had from him, but had never given in return.

Will yanked off Jack's breeches. He pulled his own down and spit copiously into his hand - Jack had used some kind of oil when they'd done this before, but needs must and all that. Will slid a wet finger into Jack and moved it around experimentally, trying to mimic the movements Jack had used in their previous encounters.

Jack grimaced and let his knees fall farther apart. "Get on with it."

Will felt a vague irritation at Jack's attempt to direct his actions. He gave Jack a challenging look and slowed his movements, adding another finger. But his lust would not let him play this game for long. He spit again and slicked his cock up and then pushed in.

Jack grunted and squeezed his eyes shut. Will suspected this wasn't comfortable for Jack, but there was no turning back. The desire to bury himself in Jack, to punish him, to have him, all mixed up with the white-hot lust - it drove Will's body forward and he couldn't have stopped now if his life depended on it. He moved too fast, careless of Jack, only aware of the need for more

Will was lost in the tightness, the silky smooth sensation, the dazed, longing expression on Jack's face. Will was coming apart at the seams. This was not what he'd intended; he'd wanted to bend Jack to his will and make some point about Jack's high handed ways, but all that was burned out now.

He worked his hips, feeling Jack's body relax around him. Will was close to the edge. He closed his eyes and bright lights spangled across his eyelids. Jack was hard again, pushing against him, gasping, whining. Will's body jerked and he exploded and collapsed against Jack, desperately trying to catch his breath.

For a moment he considered leaving Jack unsatisfied - hadn't he had his fill with Elizabeth? - but Will no longer had the heart for petty vengeance. Like it or not, he'd mishandled the situation with Elizabeth, and he was at least as guilty as Jack. Will had betrayed Elizabeth before she'd betrayed him, and perhaps it was true that she'd felt neglected. Only Jack would claim to have done Will a favor by cuckolding him, but most likely he had meant well, no matter how bizarre his logic.

Will rolled to the side and took Jack in hand, the familiar, heavy weight of his cock fitting nicely into his grip. There was nothing of gentleness in this, but at least it lacked the angry, punitive quality of what had gone before. Jack smiled artlessly, looking relieved and surprised. He spilled himself suddenly, with a barely audible sound.

It was then that Will, fury finally appeased, considered what had happened. Elizabeth was gone. He had to go after her, had to convince her to come back. And something would have to be done about the baby. He looked at Jack, desperate for guidance, but reluctant to ask for it after what had just passed between them.

Jack's face changed again, resuming the sly, canny look that was his normal guise. He sat up and set about ordering his clothes, a slight stiffness to his movements the only clue of what had gone before. "You've cocked this up royally, but there's still hope. The first thing is to find her, but not too soon. Ask around at all the inns and boarding houses, but let her alone for a few days. And when you go to her, grovel, beg for her forgiveness, take it all on yourself - women like that sort of thing. Then tell her I've got a plan. . ."
 

 

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