Chapter 9: Confessions
Elizabeth rented a room under an assumed name, but Will found her anyway.
Within a week, he was at the door of her lodgings, sporting a faded black
eye and a nearly healed split lip and drenched from an unexpected rainstorm.
"I am given to understand that I owe you an apology," he said stiffly. "I
have neglected. . . ." He broke off, hesitated, and started again in a
softer voice. "I know I've no right to accuse you. . . ." His face crumpled.
"Oh, Elizabeth, how could you?"
"How could I? How could I, indeed! How dare you!"
Will spread his hands out and quirked his lips, acknowledging the inherent
weakness of his position.
Elizabeth sighed. "I suppose you'd better come in."
She took her time fussing with Will's damp cape and hat and preparing tea.
Finally ensconced before the fire with their tea and toast, they were both
silent, neither sure of where to begin.
Will took Elizabeth's hand and toyed with her wedding ring. "Elizabeth,
please believe that I never intended to hurt you - I only meant to protect
you and the child. You were so. . . . I thought you wanted to be left
alone." He paused awkwardly. "Jack. . . ." He looked up to gauge her
reaction. "I gather you know about that?"
Elizabeth nodded curtly.
Will winced and continued. "I . . .I was lonely and. Well. I shouldn't have.
. . ." He gave her a forlorn look. "Jack can be quite persuasive."
Elizabeth relented. "Under the circumstances, I can hardly reproach you."
She took a deep breath. "There's something you must know. Jack and I- The
night we spent on the island." She blushed but met his gaze steadily. "He
kissed me and I . . . allowed certain liberties."
Will's eyes were wide with shock and hurt, but he merely repeated, in a wry
tone, "Under the circumstances, I can hardly reproach you."
Elizabeth felt a desperate need to explain herself, although she wasn't sure
what to say. She could hardly tell her husband that Jack had seemed the very
incarnation of the romantic pirates she'd read about, and that he'd been
very persuasive indeed, touching her in ways that Will had never dared.
"There was rather a lot of rum."
"With Jack there always is." The resignation with which Will made this
somewhat obvious observation seemed ridiculously funny to Elizabeth and she
laughed until tears streamed down her cheeks. It was all so terribly absurd
and yet there was something liberating about finally having no more secrets
from Will. He joined in her laughter and somehow things were more
comfortable between them.
Will knelt beside her chair and took both of her hands in his. "Elizabeth, I
do love you. I want you to come home."
"The Pearl - it's as close to a home as we're likely to get."
"And what about the baby? Jack's just about reconciled to having two females
on his ship, but surely he'll draw the line at a child."
"Jack wants you to return as well. He says we can make accommodations for
the baby. He has a plan."
"And we all know how well those turn out," she replied dryly.
Of course, she agreed to return to the Pearl with him. Perhaps she'd
only been waiting for someone to beg her to come back, to treat her as
though she was something essential that couldn't be left behind.
Chapter 10: The Price You Pay for the
Chains You Refuse
Author's Note: "Born in the caul" means that the amniotic sac didn't break
until the baby was born, leaving a "veil" of membrane over the baby's face.
The chapter title is from the Richard Thompson song, "Beeswing."
Jack's plan proved to be a friend in Nassau, an ex-pirate who'd married a
wealthy widow. He thought perhaps his friends might be persuaded to take
Elizabeth in until the baby was born, and then foster the child.
Elizabeth had never known her own mother, who had died in childbirth. She'd
never played with dolls or begged to be allowed to hold a baby. She viewed
her unborn child as a nuisance and an inconvenience and one she was well
shut of. But it pained her to think of abandoning her baby. Of never knowing
if she was good with her hands like Will or if his hair caught the sun like
her own. Still, pain or no, she would sacrifice this child to keep her place
on the Pearl, to be near Will and – this last bit a thought she found
it increasingly difficult to avoid - Jack.
By Elizabeth's calculations, they had three months before the baby came. She
insisted on waiting until the last possible moment before going to Jack's
friends. Will didn't dare argue with her, not when she was in this mood,
although he wished she wouldn't cut it so close. Instead, he devoted himself
to making her comfortable. She spent most of her time lazing in their cabin,
napping and reading.
In a different life, the one where he was a law-abiding blacksmith, Will
supposed that he would have been eagerly anticipating the birth of their
first child. But they were hedged round by the choices they'd made, and
there was no other way. So long as Elizabeth was satisfied, Will would make
no complaint. And if the babe was a boy, perhaps in a few years he could
join them. Little Tommy, the cabin boy, was only nine years old. Nine years
was a long time, but not a lifetime. Perhaps someday Will would have the
chance to know his child.
Will took care never to be alone with Jack. Will had made no promises to
Elizabeth - they avoided any discussion of their respective liaisons with
Jack - but it didn't seem fair to her to continue dallying with Jack.
Jack in turn kept a respectful distance from both Turners, although he asked
after Elizabeth regularly and once brought her a pilfered crate of
pomegranates and oranges from Spain. The gift delighted Elizabeth even more
than the copy of Robinson Crusoe Will had found. She favored Jack
with a warm smile and insisted that he share the fruit with her and Will.
Will had never eaten pomegranates before. He was amazed by the tiny
jewel-like seeds, each one a burst of tart sweetness on his tongue. The red
juice stained Jack's fingers and lips and left little red spots speckling
his white shirt. Watching Jack roll the seeds on his tongue, Will couldn't
help but think of how they would flavor his mouth. But Will was well versed
in the ways of forbidden fruit. He had Elizabeth, which was more than he'd
ever hoped for. It was too much to ask that he have Jack too, and madness to
risk the one for the other.
As the Pearl neared New Providence Island, clouds gathered and the
sky turned an ominous green color. Soon rain was pounding the deck and high
waves buffeted the ship. They dared not get closer to shore until the storm
abated. Elizabeth, far too ungainly to be of help, was confined to her
Two days into the squall, the spasms in her back became more definite and
regular. This had happened before, but this time, the pains didn't go away
after a few minutes, but instead came harder and faster. She didn't know
much about babies, but she'd heard enough to know that the baby's arrival
By the time Will came to check on her again, the contractions were coming
one on top of the other. The world had narrowed to the rhythmic pressure and
the brief moments of respite in between. It occurred to her that something
must be very wrong. Surely it was not normal to feel this much pain. No
woman could survive it. I'm going to die, she thought, just like my mother.
The thought was oddly comforting. Soon, she would be dead, and this agony
Will's voice was frantic and fearful. "Elizabeth! How long has it been like
this?" He half dragged, half carried her to the bed. His hands were cool on
her feverish skin. He pulled off her skirts and her bodice, leaving her in
her sticky, bloodstained shift.
"The storm's calming. I'm going to find someone to help."
Elizabeth managed a nod before the next pain hit.
Will returned with Anamaria. She and Will were both haggard and wet through
from the rain. A less likely pair of midwives couldn't be found.
"I've never done this," Anamaria gestured at Elizabeth's prone form, "but
I've seen it done – I'm the oldest of seven. Do you feel like you need to
Elizabeth shook her head.
"Then it'll be a while yet. Nothing to do but wait."
Elizabeth moaned as another crushing pain descended, and Will flinched.
Anamaria rummaged around the cabin until she found a bottle. She poured a
shot into a dirty cup and offered it to Elizabeth. Not finding another cup,
she passed the bottle to Will, then lit the lantern, settled back in a
chair, and pulled out a deck of cards.
Hours passed and the pains grew harder. Just as Elizabeth thought it could
get no worse, something changed. The pain became more focused and she had an
overwhelming need to bear down.
With Anamaria's help, she struggled into an upright position and squatted on
the bed. Going purely on instinct, she pushed and pushed with all her might.
Finally, something gave and the baby slid out in a wet rush, into Anamaria's
waiting hands. Elizabeth fell back in exhaustion, amazed that she had
For the first time in hours, the cabin was silent. Then there was a
tentative knock at the door and Will opened it to reveal Jack, holding onto
the door frame to steady himself.
Jack looked drunker than usual and quite morose. "Is it . . . over?"
"Thank God, yes." Elizabeth replied, her voice weak with exhaustion.
Jack's face cleared. "Well, what is it then?"
"A boy." Anamaria said as she swaddled the baby in a blanket and handed him
to Will. "Born in the caul too."
This meant nothing to Will, but Jack looked exceptionally pleased.
He slapped Will on the shoulder. "Fine luck! A baby born in the caul can
never die by drowning. Good omen for a future pirate, eh Will?"
Will looked down at the scrawny, red-faced infant and said, "Doesn't look
much like a pirate now, Jack."
"Doesn't look much like a baby either, mate. But we must have faith, aye?"
Elizabeth stayed in Nassau for a month. Her son was a bonny, bright-eyed boy
with the look of Will about him. When she nursed him, she felt herself
softening - brushing the fine hairs on his head and admiring his tiny
fingers. Terrified that she might unwittingly be trapped into loving him,
she forced herself to hand him over to the wet nurse and bound her breasts
to dry up her milk.
Jack's friends were kind and welcoming, but Elizabeth was anxious to return
to the sea. She wondered what adventures Jack and Will had found, what
prizes they'd seized. She had less than nothing in common with the woman who
would raise her child, and Elizabeth quickly lost patience with Sarah's
gentle attempts to draw her out. Before two weeks had passed, Elizabeth was
spending all her time watching the ocean, looking for the Pearl's
Chapter 11: The Best Laid Plans
Will didn't like to admit it, but things were a little more comfortable on
the Pearl after they left Elizabeth and the baby in New Providence.
He missed her, he couldn't wait to see her again, but he was also glad to be
free of the lingering awkwardness between them. The past few months had been
stifling and it was a relief not to have to worry about Elizabeth and her
They were to return for Elizabeth in a month. During that time, Jack planned
to sail north to the mainland and do a little raiding along the coast.
"Raid" in this case appeared to be code for "drink and whore in every town
large enough to boast a house of ill-repute."
Which is how Will came to be sitting, for the fifth night in a row, in a
whore-house, drinking steadily and fending off advances from painted women
in distractingly low cut gowns.
Jack sat back with his feet propped on the table, and waved an arm
magisterially, sloshing ale everywhere. "Will, m'boy, I'm going to get
spectacularly drunk. And then I'm going to bed one of these fine ladies - no
two of these fine ladies, and then I'm going to drink some more. What
Will thought, but did not say, that "lady" was a generous term for the
brazen hussies who were, even now, perching themselves on his lap and
putting their hands in all sorts of interesting places. Will did not like to
think what Elizabeth would say if she discovered he'd been whoring up and
down the American coast while she was recovering from childbirth. But a
month is a long time, and Will's desperate attempts to not think of Jack in
that way were becoming increasingly futile. Will wondered which
temptation Elizabeth would find least objectionable. He groaned and put his
head down on the table, savoring the feeling of the cool wood against his
Jack disappeared with a saucy brunette, and a plump, pretty blonde took
Will's hand and made to lead him up the stairs. When he resisted she bent
down and whispered, "Your friend's paid for you. He told me about your
problem and said I was just the girl to fix it."
"My. . .problem?"
The whore made a lewd gesture with her hand. "You know, your get up and
go problem?" She patted his arm reassuringly. "No worries, it happens to
all men sometimes. But we'll fix you up, right as rain."
Her meaning sank in. "I have no problem of the sort, I'll have you know!"
Her hand slid down the front of his breeches. "Ah, it seems your problem is
already cured! Well, we wouldn't want to waste it now, would we?"
Will would never know if he would have succumbed to this offer, because at
that moment Jack reappeared, an excited gleam in his eye. "So it is that
he's a eunuch? Well, too late now, love." And he swatted the whore on the
arse and propelled her away from their table. As soon as she was gone, Jack
put an arm around Will and leaned in close. "D'ya see that gentleman over
there, in the blue coat?"
Picking up on Jack's hushed tones, Will nodded.
"That's the new customs inspector, just arrived today from England. Were we
to waylay said inspector and appropriate his seal, we could use it to
confiscate goods hither and yon, all in the name of the crown. Until, that
is, word got out that the seal was stolen."
Now, this was more like it. A chance to blow off some steam, and one which
would be much less likely to result in Elizabeth having his head. The
inspector looked to be an easy mark; too drunk to sit up straight, he was
leaning heavily against the woman beside him, his wig askew and his coat
sleeve trailing in a pool of ale.
After another tankard of ale, the inspector and his companion started up the
stairs. Jack motioned the blonde over again. "Darlin', my friend's changed
his mind and he's ready for a go - but only if I come with him to hold his
hand, as it were."
The blonde smirked and cozied up to Jack. "So that's how it is. Well,
boys, what are we waitin' for?"
They followed the blonde up the stairs, just in time to see the tail of the
inspector's blue coat entering one of the rooms. Jack halted. "You know what
this party needs? A bottle of rum and some more female companionship. Why
don't you trot downstairs and remedy that problem, while my friend and I get
As soon as she was gone, Jack cocked his pistol and slowly opened the door
to the inspector's room. The inspector was in the bed, his face buried in
the whore's considerable bosom.. Before either could make a sound, Jack's
pistol was pressed to the inspector's temple, and his other hand was wrapped
around the doxy's mouth.
Jack's voice was low and seductive, more that of a lover than a brigand.
"Are you gonna scream?"
She shook her head, eyes full of fear and Jack's hand slid across her face
in a parody of a caress. He gestured at the inspector. "Fix 'im up, will ya?"
Will tied the man's hands with a stocking and gagged him with his own
cravat. Meanwhile, Jack rifled through the inspector's luggage, pocketing
his seal and a few odds and ends that caught his eye.
He grabbed the whore and pulled her to her feet. "I'd love to stay and. .
.chat, but we've got places to be and things to pilfer." He spun her around
and tied her hands with the other stocking and gagged her as well. Then,
winking broadly, he slipped the inspector's fat purse into her pocket. "For
your troubles, love!"
Then Jack snagged the wig off the inspector's head and somersaulted out the
window. Will followed right behind.
The next morning, Jack woke Will at an ungodly hour, ready to implement his
plan. Will stared at Jack's clean-shaven face.
"What're you gawkin' at? If I'm to impersonate a gentleman, I have to look
the part, don't I?"
"Are you going to cut your hair too?"
"Never! It'll fit up under his wig. And I'll be needin' to borrow some
clothes. I'm not near the dandy you are - none of mine are so fine as
Stealing a wagon was child's play. Boats, ships, wagons - apparently Jack
could sweet talk or otherwise con his way into every variety of transport.
Gibbs drove the wagon, Jack played inspector, and Will did his best
impression of a dunderheaded lackey. When they arrived at the warehouse,
Jack presented the seal.
"It seems that there are some. . . irregularities with these spices. It is
my duty to confiscate them until such time as their provenance can be proved
in a court of law."
He made a surprisingly effective gentleman, dressed in Will's green coat and
the custom inspector's wig. But it was his voice that astounded Will. Crisp
and faintly bored, with perfect enunciation, nothing like Jack Sparrow. It
nagged at Will's memory. He knew that voice - who did Jack remind him of?
When it hit him, Will almost laughed out loud. Norrington. Jack was doing a
spot-on imitation of Commodore Norrington.
The guards looked confused, but acquiesced when Jack threatened to file a
complaint. With Will and Gibbs' help, the guards loaded the wagon. Jack
stood by, watching and tapping his foot pointedly.
Leaving the warehouse, a low-hanging branch caught Jack's wig and it slid
off his head, revealing his unruly mop of hair. The bemused looks on the
guards' faces changed to recognition. One of the guards cried out, "That's
"That's what comes of having your face on handbills," Jack muttered.
Gibbs whipped the horses and the wagon picked up speed, the sounds of
pursuit close behind. They had a head start and had soon put significant
distance between them and their pursuers. But Gibbs took a curve in the road
too sharply, and the wagon teetered precipitously and then tipped over. Will
landed in a bush with a mouth full of sand. Barrels and spices were
scattered all over the road and Jack was cursing a blue streak somewhere to
Will jumped to his feet and started cutting the horses loose. He and Jack
could share one horse and Gibbs could take the other. Gibbs mounted his with
little grace, but managed to get the horse pointed in the right direction
and, with a little prodding, the horse produced a respectable gallop.
Will mounted the other horse and looked to Jack expectantly. He was just
standing there, eyes wide and rolling around in his head, an awful look of
horror on his face. Will urged him on impatiently, but Jack seemed frozen.
Will looked back uneasily, grateful that there was still no sign of the
"It's just a horse, Jack. Surely you can ride?"
"No, I can't ride! I'm tellin' you, I can't stand the damn things."
Despite the gravity of the situation, Will couldn't help laughing. The
famous Captain Jack Sparrow, terrified of a horse! It was too much to be
Thoroughly enjoying himself, Will held out his hand. "Well you're going to
have to now, or we'll be caught. C'mon up."
Jack backed away. "No, no, I think I'll just walk. It can't be far now, can
In the distance, Will heard hoof beats and shouts. He tensed and reached out
for Jack again. The horse shied and Jack darted backwards.
Will calmed the horse a bit and then, speaking in the same soothing tones,
said, "Jack. You've got to get up here now. Elizabeth is fond of you and
she'll never forgive me if you're hanged." He wheeled the horse around to
the other side of Jack and then leaned over and grabbed his arm quickly
before he could move away again, dragging him onto the horse. Jack
shrieked - there was no other word for the ridiculous noise he made -
and Will burst into laughter again, as they set off toward the Pearl.
Safely back at the Pearl, Jack wasted no time in opening a bottle of
rum. Once the ship was launched, he and Will took the bottle back to Jack's
"You took entirely too much satisfaction in that."
Will didn't even attempt to hide his mirth. "Jack, you're the bravest man I
know. How did you come to be afraid of horses?
"I'm not afraid of 'em, I just don't care for 'em much."
"Wait 'til Elizabeth hears about this, Jack, you'll never live it down."
A companionable silence fell between them, with none of the awkwardness that
had marked their recent interactions. Will braced himself for an advance
from Jack, wondering if he'd have the will to resist this time, but it never
came. Instead Jack cuffed him on the arm and said, "Don't fret, it won't be
long now and your fair lady'll be back on the ship and back in your bed."
Will sighed. "I do miss her - it's not the same without her here."
Jack nodded in agreement and held up the bottle. "To Mrs. Turner."
Will solemnly clanked his bottle to Jack's and they drank deeply.
Will awoke convinced he was being tortured for his various crimes. His mouth
was dry and sour tasting, he felt like a spike had been driven into his
skull, and bile rose in his stomach every time the ship shifted in the
water. When he opened his eyes, he was momentarily disoriented, and then he
remembered the previous night's marathon drinking session. He must have
passed out in Jack's bed. Looking around, Will saw Jack sprawled on the
cabin floor, still asleep. As if he felt the weight of Will's gaze, Jack
stirred, and bounded to his feet, looking as bright as a newly minted penny.
"Good morning to you, young Will." Jack's voice boomed in the small cabin
and Will's head throbbed with pain. What the devil did he have to be in such
a good mood about?
"Ah, feeling the effects of last night's fun?" Jack picked up a bottle from
the floor and shook it, ascertaining that it was not completely empty. He
handed it to Will. "What you need is a bit of the snake that bit you. It'll
fix you right up."
Reluctantly, Will up-ended the bottle and swallowed down the dregs.
"If you're gonna be sick, I'd 'preciate it if you didn't do it in my bed."
Jack kicked a bucket over to the side of the bunk. He stripped out of his
shirt and pulled a somewhat cleaner one from his chest. After pulling his
shirt on, he poured some water into a basin and splashed in on his face,
then offered it to Will. "There's more water in the pitcher. Wash your face
and drink some water and go back to sleep - you'll feel better when you
When Will awoke, light was coming through the cabin window at an angle that
suggested it was late afternoon. His head still ached, but it was no longer
so bad that he couldn't think, and it seemed possible that he might live.
Jack was sitting at the desk, poring over some navigational carts and eating
bread and cheese. He turned and scrutinized Will. "Well, you gonna pull
Will sat up in the bed and nodded.
Jack held out his plate. "Want somethin' to eat?"
Will realized that the queasy feeling from the morning had been replaced by
a gnawing hunger. The bread was stale and the cheese was somewhat linty, as
if it had been traveling in someone's pocket, which, upon reflection, it
probably had, but Will devoured it all.
"S'ok, mate, I was done with it anyway," Jack said mildly. He took the plate
from Will and his hand brushed against Will's.
The contact was shocking and when Will looked into Jack's eyes, the world
spun a bit. Will wondered if he could possibly still be drunk. The plate
clattered to the floor and Jack toppled into the bed with him. Then they
were kissing and it was different from before - slower, lazier, both needier
and more assured. There was no question of where this was going and Will
could only wonder why he'd been denying himself all this time.
Jack rolled on top of Will, pressing their cocks together. Will rubbed his
face against Jack's and nuzzled his neck. Finding the spot behind Jack's ear
that always made him moan, Will nipped at it and then swiped it with his
tongue. Jack responded admirably and soon their clothes were scattered on
the floor. This too was new. Before it had been furtive, half-clothed, over
quickly, before Will could change his mind or have an attack of conscience.
Now they took the time to learn one another's bodies, lavishing care and
attention on one another as if they had all the time in the world.
Jack had two scars on his chest that looked like bullet wounds, white,
long-healed flogging scars down his back, and ragged pink scars flowing down
the inside of his left arm. High up on his back there were hard black dots
of shot buried under the skin. At the base of his spine was a patch of silky
hair and when Will stroked it, Jack shuddered and groaned.
The leisurely pace sped up. Jack rolled Will onto his stomach and ran his
tongue up Will's spine, then mouthed the nape of Will's neck. Slick fingers
slid into Will. He rubbed himself against the mattress and cried out, too
loud for discretion.
Jack placed his hand over Will's mouth. "Shh, love. We don't need company
right now." Jack's voice was tender, full of dark humor. "Spread your legs
for me." Jack entered him slowly, fitting their bodies together like two
halves of a puzzle. He began to move, angling his hips so that he brushed
against that sweet spot that made Will see stars, and Will bit down hard on
the meaty flesh of Jack's palm. Jack wrapped his hand around Will's cock and
Will thrust into it helplessly.
Unaccountably, Will thought of the last time he'd been with Jack, of how
he'd smelled of Elizabeth. Will imagined Elizabeth's body under Jack's, her
face ecstatic. That was all it took and he trembled with release. Jack sped
up then, thrusting deeper, and he bit into Will's shoulder to stifle his cry
as he came. When he was done, he rolled off Will and lay close beside him
running his hands over Will's body. Will was loose limbed, boneless, and he
drifted off to sleep with the sure knowledge that whatever happened, this
was right and proper, necessary, and that somehow all would be well.
Chapter 12: A Debt Paid
When the Pearl returned, Elizabeth put a few strands of the baby's
hair in her locket and boarded without a backward glance, filled with relief
that the tedium of her enforced rest was over. She felt an untenable regret
at leaving her son behind, but she refused to dwell on it. She had done the
only possible thing under the circumstances, and there was no sense crying
about it now.
Things were different between Will and Jack. They shared obscure jokes, used
any excuse to touch one another, and seemed in perfect accord in all things.
But their intimacy did not exclude her. If anything Will was a lustier, more
fervent lover than before. His ardor left little doubt that he loved and
desired her, whatever his feelings for Jack.
Some of the restlessness in Jack had calmed and he was relaxed and gentle
with Elizabeth. Elizabeth found she could no longer muster much jealousy of
his friendship with Will. There was too much history among them now, and it
seemed petty to resent Jack for wanting Will as much as she did, or - if she
were perfectly honest - Will for wanting Jack as much as she did. It felt as
if they were on the verge of something too complicated for Elizabeth to
When Elizabeth again found telltale marks on Will's sleek skin, she had a
vision of Jack and Will together in the flickering lantern light and
recalled the sharp feeling of lust and anger that had lanced through her.
The memory incited her passion and she was wild in her lovemaking,
scratching and biting and leaving her own marks on Will's body - a message
to her husband's lover, although she was not certain what she meant to
Will's guilt reflected in his eyes, but she stopped his confession with a
kiss. What could he do but lie or make promises that he couldn't help but
break? Better not to speak of it and leave things as they were. After all,
they were pirates. They had broken with convention, morality, and law. Why
should they not arrange their marriage to suit themselves?
Elizabeth was on lookout when she spotted white sails on the horizon. The
Pearl gave chase and gained on the ship slowly over the course of the
afternoon. The Dutch frigate was faster than most merchant ships, but the
Pearl was faster still and before evening, they'd closed the distance
The ship, the Roos, did not surrender, but began firing as soon as
the Pearl was in range. The Pearl's guns thundered back and
smoke filled the air. Jack ordered grappling hooks used to pull them closer,
and the pirates scrambled over the bowsprit onto the Roos.
Elizabeth followed Will onto the merchantman, giving him a look that dared
him to say a word. The main deck was chaos - men pressed together and
fighting in too close quarters, blood spattered on the boards, the crash of
metal against metal and the sick thud of metal connecting with flesh.
Despite several months without practice, her skills came back to her
swiftly. Her feet found the familiar patterns and her muscles stretched and
warmed with each lunge and thrust. It was wonderful to have shed the extra
weight and awkwardness of pregnancy and to be once again quick and agile.
Looking for Will, Elizabeth climbed to the forecastle. From her vantage
point, she could see that the frigate's crew was fighting a lost cause. They
were severely outnumbered, several of them were already injured, and there
looked to be at least one casualty. She spotted Will and Jack, both holding
their own: Will intent on his fight with a tall redheaded sailor, Jack
nearby, grinning maniacally as his sword flashed through the air.
The frigate's captain was purple faced with rage. He shot randomly into the
melee, not seeming to care that he was as likely to hit one of his men as
one of the pirates. His shot grazed Will's ear and Will instinctively jerked
away. His opponent took advantage of the opening, closing in to deliver a
Elizabeth, moving almost without thinking, pulled out her dagger, and threw
it. Her aim was true, but the dagger spun in the air and the handle rather
than the blade, smacked the redhead in the neck. The blow distracted him
long enough for Jack to shove Will out of harm's way and parry the redhead's
blow. Moving with surefooted speed and grace, Jack riposted, dispatching the
redhead with ruthless efficiency. Sighting Elizabeth on the forecastle, Jack
saluted her with his sword and shot her an almost fond look of approval,
before climbing up the shrouds. In a moment, he was swinging through the
rigging and then sliding down a lose line, landing on the quarterdeck with a
resounding thud. Before the captain could react, Jack's knife was at his
throat. The captain, not being a fool, ordered his men to stand down.
The pirates corralled the Dutch sailors in the bow and began ransacking the
ship and taking stock of their loot. For the time being, the cargo of sugar
and cotton was left in the hold, but smaller items were brought onto the
As quartermaster, it was Anamaria's job to ensure that the treasure was
fairly divided among the crew. The cargo in the hold would be sold and the
profits parceled out, but the rest of the plunder was divided into equal
shares on the spot. In preparation for this process, Will was making piles
of like items: here a pile of clothes, there weapons, jewelry and smaller
items dumped into a chest. There was something pleasing to Will about the
symmetry of it all. His innate sense of fairness was unable to resist such a
tempting problem. While he worked, he unobtrusively observed the drama
unfolding on the deck.
Captain Verdooren, late of the Roos, stood in a stupor, staring into
the distance, clenching his fists and cursing under his breath in Dutch.
Meanwhile, Anamaria and Jack were coming to an accord regarding Verdooren's
Jack still owed Anamaria the ship he'd promised her. She'd been biding her
time for the perfect prize, and the Dutch frigate, fast and maneuverable
with a shallow draft, was ideal for her purposes.
"We can take her into Havana. There's plenty there who'll buy the cargo - no
questions asked." Anamaria cast an appraising eye over the frigate. "She
needs a few repairs and while we're at it, we'll add some guns. When I'm
done with her, she'll give the Pearl a run for her money."
Jack looked horrified. "Mind your tongue, girl!"
Verdooren roused from his stupor with a horrified look. "You've a woman on
your ship? You fool, don't you know women are bad luck at sea?"
Anamaria flashed a mocking grin. "Aye, bad luck for some. Maybe your rose
will have better luck with me at the helm."
Realization set in. He began to struggle with his bonds, kicking at Anamaria
in impotent fury. "You unnatural bitch, that's my ship you're talking
Something like sympathy flitted across Jack's face. "Not anymore, mate. Not
Jack and Elizabeth sat on the quarterdeck, watching the other pirates haggle
over the treasure below. Jack was idly tossing belaying pins into the air.
Showing off a bit, he juggled them over his head, easily catching each one
in turn. For all his talk of treasure, he never seemed overly concerned with
the division of spoils. Elizabeth suspected that it was the chase that
really interested him. For herself, she'd had enough luxury to last a
lifetime. The attraction of this life for her was the freedom from the
social strictures that had bound her. Out here on the water, far from the
civilized world, anything seemed possible. A woman could command a pirate
ship, a man could love another man - the only law was lawlessness. Even the
Code was only a guideline.
Elizabeth's philosophical musings were broken by a loud thump on the main
deck. The lid of a large chest was thrown back, revealing a well-dressed
gentleman holding a pair of wheellock pistols. Before he could get off a
shot, Jack threw the belaying pin in his hand, following it with the other
two as they fell into his outstretched hands. The first pin hit the
gentleman's right hand, knocking the pistol out of it. The next hit his left
hand and the third his head. With a stunned look, he crumpled into the chest
like a rag-doll.
Jack gave an aggrieved sigh. "Do I have to do everything around
Four men from the Roos' crew agreed to sign the articles and sail
with Anamaria on the renamed Black Fortune. Several more of
the Pearl's crew volunteered to sail with the Fortune into
Havana, where she would rendezvous with the Pearl and Anamaria would
find the rest of her new crew.
The remaining men from the Roos, including her still irate captain,
were marooned with a cask of water and their weapons. Elizabeth supposed she
could hardly blame the man for doing what he could to protect his ship and
cargo, but she would gladly have slit his throat for shooting at Will. For
once, she regretted that Jack was not a particularly bloodthirsty pirate.
Chapter 13: Games of Chance
Author's Note: Lomber is a Spanish card game that was popular throughout
Europe in the 18th century.
Upon arriving in Havana, Anamaria contacted a merchant she'd dealt with in
the past, who was willing to ignore niceties such as receipts and bills of
lading. He agreed to meet them at a tavern near the docks.
Anamaria loitered outside the tavern, keeping an eye out for the merchant.
Unable to resist a game of cards, Jack sat down with a group of Spanish
soldiers and was drawn into an interminable game of lomber. Through chance,
skill, or most likely, deception, he won steadily. Elizabeth and Will found
a table in a dark corner at which to wait.
Several mugs of ale later, Will slid down the bench, closing the distance
between them. Elizabeth could feel his leg, tucked up against her own.
Imperceptible in the dark room, Will's hand casually drifted under the table
and rested on her thigh. When she squirmed and started to protest, he
whispered, "quiet, or someone will guess what we're doing." Her eyes grew
wide and Will grinned wickedly. Elizabeth didn't have to ask where he'd
learned such tricks - this had Jack written all over it.
"So how long do you think we'll wait for this fellow?" His tone was
offhanded; all the while, he was unbuttoning Elizabeth's breeches and his
eyes were burning into hers.
Elizabeth made an effort to match his calm. "I can't imagine it will be much
longer. He stands to profit much more than we by this transaction."
Will's fingers brushed against her sex, and Elizabeth barely suppressed a
moan. Fearful of attracting attention, she looked around the room, but the
soldiers and whores and drunken louts, intent on their own gambling and
flirting and drinking, had no interest in the two men - for so they seemed -
having a quiet drink in the corner. Will removed his hand. He slid one
finger into his mouth to wet it - a mesmerizing gesture that sent shivers of
desire running down her spine. His hand slipped back into her breeches and
his wet finger began circling, teasing, flitting. Elizabeth gasped. Will
arched his eyebrows and shook his head, ever so slightly. She bit down on
her lip to keep from crying out.
"Looks like another storm's coming. I hope we can come to an agreement
quickly, or else we'll be stuck here until it clears."
He continued to make small talk, but Elizabeth was too far gone to follow
what he was saying. The maddening movement of his fingers demanded all of
her attention. She rocked against his hand. The bench wobbled and squeaked
loudly. She gripped the tabletop, digging her nails into it, reminding
herself that she must be discrete.
Then his tempo increased and he pressed just so and the agonizing tension
that had been building in her body exploded. Her eyelids fluttered closed.
She bit her lip harder and tasted blood. Slowly, Will dragged his fingers
over her one last time and then moved his hand away. She sagged against the
wall, opening her eyes to see Jack standing across from her, his mouth
twitching in amusement.
"Very interestin','" he drawled.
Elizabeth struggled to regain her composure, overly conscious of the sheen
of sweat on her skin, of the unsated lust in Will's eyes, of the hungry,
speculative look on Jack's face. Possibility crackled in the air.
Jack reached for Will's hand, then stopped and cocked his head. His posture
shifted in an instant, all the lazy sensuality replaced with alert
expectation. In response, Will's body straightened and his face assumed a
The door swung open, revealing a commotion in the street. Anamaria fell
through the door, pursued by several Spanish soldiers, and the tavern
erupted into pandemonium. Drunken customers stumbled to their feet, turning
over benches and tables in their hurry. Cards and mugs and coins crashed
onto the floor and whores fought and scrabbled for the scattered coins.
Voices screamed and cursed in Spanish. The soldiers Jack had been gambling
with drew their swords and rushed at the door, colliding with the group that
had been chasing Anamaria.
Anamaria recovered her footing and yelled, "The game's up. The bastard sold
us out." She lunged at the soldier in front of the door and kicked him in
the groin, then slipped back out onto the street as he collapsed. The
soldiers nearest the door ran off after her, leaving a sizeable contingent
in the tavern, blocking the door.
Jack and Will picked up the bench and rushed at the crowd, battering their
way out of the corner. Elizabeth used her sword to guard their backs. The
sexual energy that had coursed through her a few moments before was now
channeled into violence. She gave herself over to the moment, allowing the
lessons Will had drilled into her body to guide her sword. She felt
clearheaded and sharp, as deadly a weapon as any Will had forged.
Having used the bench to clear enough space to fight, Jack and Will tossed
it into the crowd and drew their swords. The three of them had almost
cleared a path to the door when more soldiers arrived. Elizabeth looked
around desperately for another exit. A balcony ran around the outer edge of
the common room. Private rooms opened off the balcony. If they could get up
there, they could escape through one of the windows.
Pivoting towards the stairway, Elizabeth thrust her sword into a soldier's
neck, leaving her inner arm exposed. As her blade made contact, he sliced
the inside of her arm with his sword. Blood drenched them both and the
soldier fell to the ground. Pain ricocheted through her. Her sword dropped
from her hand. The world reeled and grew dim around the edges. Through sheer
will, she kept herself from fainting.
Some wordless communication passed between Jack and Will, culminating with
them both looking up. Jack leapt onto a table, flipped into the air and
grabbed hold of the balcony rail. He rolled over the rail and landed on his
feet, as nimble as a cat.
Will shoved Elizabeth towards the rope that suspended the chandelier. "Hold
Elizabeth, too dazed to question, grabbed the rope with her blood-slicked
hands. Will wrapped an arm around her and used his sword to slice through
the bottom of the pull. Freed from its restraint, the chandelier plummeted
to the ground, crushing those below and obstructing the staircase. Elizabeth
and Will soared to the ceiling. Will vaulted over the rail onto the balcony.
Jack caught Elizabeth and lifted her onto it as well.
One of the doors off the balcony opened, and a Spanish officer stepped out,
a pistol in his hand.
Will drew his sword, shouting, "Get her out of here!"
Jack's face was strained. "What about-"
"I'll catch up - go!"
Jack dragged Elizabeth towards one of the private rooms, but she resisted,
unable to leave without assuring herself that Will was safe. She turned and
watched in horror, as the Spaniard cocked the pistol and drew the trigger,
firing into Will's chest. Will fell backwards, his body crashing through the
rail and tumbling to the common room below.
Chapter 14: Where Oh Where is My Sleepy
Author's Note: Chapter title is from the John Prine song, "Sleepy Eyed Boy."
This chapter contains dubious and invented geography. (Hey, the mouse
started it. What? You thought Isla de Muerta was a real place?)
In a blur of motion, Jack lunged and thrust his sword into the officer's
chest. Elizabeth screamed and ran to the rail. Will's body was spread out on
a table, his shirt red with blood. Jack yanked on her arm, shouting at her
to move, but she was frozen in place. He slung her over his shoulder and
carried her into one of the private rooms.
He gestured at the window, which looked out onto the stables. "Think you can
Everything was happening too fast. Elizabeth felt dazed from blood loss and
fear. "But . . . Will?"
An anguished look passed across Jack's face. "Love. . . ." He shook his
head. Before she could protest, he tossed her out the window. She fell and
landed in a pile of hay. Dust and chaff filled the air and then Jack thumped
down beside her.
After that it was a delirious, dizzying nightmare: a warren of grimy alleys
and dark back streets, Jack dragging and supporting her, his voice urging
her forward, blood soaking her clothes and pain stabbing through her body, a
rocking dingy, and then, somehow, she was on the Pearl.
Elizabeth slept, and awoke feverish and disoriented, to the sound of
thunder. She could hear the storm, building in intensity, and mixed in with
the thunder, cannons firing. A hit, and the ship shook with the impact. The
Pearl's guns fired and lightning illuminated the blackness outside
her cabin window. Something exploded, and flames reflected off the glass.
Then they were under way, sailing into the storm.
She faded back into sleep, and awoke parched and lightheaded, blinking at
the light pouring in through her cabin window. Jack was asleep in a chair by
the bed, his face hidden by his tousled hair. It seemed that there was
something important that she needed to remember, but her mind shied away
"Will," she whispered, as the memories assailed her. She pressed her hands
against her eyes, holding back the tears and trying to find some sliver of
Elizabeth considered the number of times she had thought all was lost, only
to find a miracle. Perhaps there was a chance. There had to be. Will
couldn't be- But if he was alive, he was hurt and imprisoned, and he didn't
have much time.
She stood, shakily, and noted that she was no longer in her clothes from . .
. when? The night before? Or the night before that? Someone had washed the
blood off her body and dressed her in a clean shirt. She felt her arm - her
wound was neatly bandaged, no longer wrapped in the scarf Jack had used, in
the midst of their escape, to staunch the bleeding.
Elizabeth shook Jack's shoulder hard. "Jack, wake up."
He came awake all at once and passed his hand across his eyes, pushing the
hair out of his face. "Mornin'."
"Jack, what are we going to do about Will? We need a plan. He's hurt-"
Jack cut her off brutally. "He's not hurt. He's dead. The plan is to
save our skins, because if the Guarda del Costa catch us, it'll make
Norrington's noose look like Sunday chapel."
"We don't know for certain. . .I refuse to accept that my husband is dead!"
Elizabeth heard the rising tone of hysteria in her voice and despised
herself for it.
Jack stood and shoved her against the bulkhead. His impassive mask slipped
and grief and rage showed plain in his face. "He was your husband and my . .
. friend. And. He's. Dead. Savvy?"
"Jack, maybe the shot didn't kill him. He could have been captured. We can't
sail away and leave him there!"
Jack's voice was flat. "We can and, in fact, we have. We're two days out
from Cuba, the Guarda is huntin' us and the mizzenmast is shattered.
We're headed for a safe spot where we can lay low for a while and repair my
ship. If that's acceptable, Widow Turner."
Elizabeth slapped him as hard as she could. There was a long moment of
Then the unthinkable happened. "Elizabeth . . . I'm sorry." Jack's voice was
mournful and as gentle as she'd ever heard it.
She knew then that everything he'd said was true. There was no hope. And she
collapsed into his embrace, her tears soaking his shirt.
He held her until she couldn't cry anymore, silently stroking her hair. He
cared for Will, as well, and that thought comforted her. It seemed a
blessing beyond measure that there was someone else who would miss Will,
someone to grieve with her.
Elizabeth touched the livid handprint on Jack's face. His eyes were
bloodshot and tired looking, and most of the kohl had worn off. He looked
younger and more exposed. Blood and grime stained his shirt and coat, and
there was a long scorched place on his sleeve. She wondered if Jack thought
he'd made a bad bargain, saving her, but losing Will. She looked away.
As if he guessed her thoughts, Jack tilted her chin up and forced her to
meet his eyes. "It's good you're safe." He looked as if he wanted to say
more, but nothing came out for a long while. When he spoke again, his voice
was crisp and practical. "Anamaria and her crew got away before us and we
lost them in the storm. There's an island south of here, Isla del Cerdo. We
agreed to meet there if we got separated. We're limpin' a bit, but we should
be there in a day or two."
It soon became apparent that the Pearl could not make it to the
rendezvous point Jack had set with Anamaria. The Pearl had scuttled
the Guarda's sloop, but at the cost of a mast and some damage to the hull.
The ship was taking on water and wallowing badly. Jack knew of a closer
island where they could make some repairs and jury-rig a mast. After that,
he hoped to meet up with Anamaria and the Fortune.
The Pearl arrived at the island the next evening. After a tense
consultation with the ship's carpenter, Jack reported that it would be at
least a week before the Pearl was seaworthy again. "May as well do it
right. No need to rush. If Anamaria tires of cooling her heels at Isla del
Cerdo, we'll catch up with her nearer to Jamaica."
The crew camped on the beach and spent their days repairing the ship and
fishing. Nights were occupied with the usual pleasures - music, drink,
stories - whatever it took to fill the hours before sleep.
On Jack's orders, Elizabeth spent most of her time resting and recuperating
from her injury. She begged some work sewing sails, but was strictly
forbidden to help with the heavier repairs. The evening gatherings she
avoided altogether. She walked the beach alone, and slept off by herself,
fitfully and haunted by nightmares: Will's body endlessly falling, Jack's
flesh disappearing into bones in the moonlight and crumbling to dust, her
lifeblood pouring between her legs, Will and Jack on the gallows, the sound
of her own screams echoing in her ears.
Elizabeth's arm was sore and itchy and her mind kept repeating the same
phrase over and over again, "He's dead." Maybe if she heard it enough
times, it would seem real. She paced restlessly on the beach, unable to stop
thinking about the fight in the tavern. If she hadn't been hurt, if she
hadn't been so bloody stupid, then Will wouldn't be dead. For that matter,
if she hadn't convinced him to run away and play pirates with her, none of
this would have happened.
She stared out at the inky water, so intent on her guilt and
self-recriminations that she never heard Jack approach. "Come and sit with
us. Have some fish - you haven't eaten anythin' to speak of in days."
Jack would keep following her and pestering her to rest, to stay
close, to eat. He was nearly as bad as-
"I'm not a child. I'm perfectly capable of determining when I need to eat. I
don't need to be coddled and cosseted." She no longer knew to whom she was
speaking - Jack or Will's ghost. She broke off her rant abruptly. "For the
love of God, Jack, leave me in peace."
Jack held up a bottle. "There's still plenty of rum." The enticing tone he
affected was belied by the hollow look in his eyes.
Elizabeth swallowed back the biting retort on her lips and allowed him to
take her hand and lead her to the fire.
When the last sailor stumbled to his pallet, Elizabeth and Jack were still
awake, sharing a bottle. She was loose and warm, all the sharp edges dulled.
So this is why Jack drinks so much, she thought blearily. She slid back onto
the damp, packed sand and closed her eyes, listening to the waves crash into
"You want a blanket?"
"No, just. . .don't go."
Jack's voice was tinged with relief. "Right here." And she slept through the
night snug in the crook of his arm. And if she dreamed, it was only of the
ocean and the sky.
Elizabeth began sharing a pallet with Jack, bedding down only after they'd
consumed vast amounts of rum. Every night they drank so much that her teeth
felt numb. So much that Jack traded his peculiar swaying gait for a slower,
stumbling awkwardness completely devoid of his usual grace. So much that
they both could pretend, for each other's sakes, that they were not
heartsick with grief.
Once, in the night, Jack reached for her, and without fully waking, she
opened herself to him, uncertain if it was a dream or reality, if it was
Jack or Will whose body pressed against hers in the darkness. His touch was
frantic, fumbling, and he spent himself quickly and slept more peacefully
afterwards. Another, more coherent night, he kissed her and whispered, "You
taste like him. Or he tasted like you. You taste like each other."
He was her shelter, her solace. When she woke in the night, she needed to
feel him warm and alive beside her, to touch the flesh that overlaid his
bones, to feel his chest rising and falling, reminding her to breathe.
Night after night, Elizabeth and Jack sat on the beach, drinking under the
cut glass stars. In their time on the island, the fat yellow moon had waned
to a crescent and nearly disappeared. The repairs were finished, and the
next day they would set sail for Isla del Cerdo.
Jack was lying with his head pillowed in Elizabeth's lap, snoring softly.
She was dabbling her toes in the surf and carding through his tangled hair,
idly fingering his various beads and trinkets and braiding and twisting the
loose pieces. Playing with Jack's hair was a pleasant distraction, something
to divert her mind from its tireless rehearsals of guilt and sorrow.
She was not happy, but Jack had a trick of putting her at ease and quieting
the despair that tore at her heart. They spoke of Will obliquely, if at all,
but they were both acutely aware of his absence. When they were together
like this, she could almost feel Will there as well, their combined focus
drawing him back to them.
Jack's eyes opened suddenly. "Well my brave, bold Bess, are you ready to go
adventurin' in the morn?"
"I'm ready to do anything but sit on this island and drink myself into a
"I'll have you know, drinking yourself into a stupor is one of the five
required activities for pirates."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "And what are the other four?"
Jack ticked them off on his fingers. "Pillaging, plundering, cheating, and
"Aren't pillaging and plundering the same thing, really?"
Jack sat up indignantly. "Certainly not! Pillaging is usin' force to take
what doesn't belong to you. Plundering is more forcin' folks to give you
At her skeptical look, his hands fluttered in the air. "It's in the song -
"We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot," he sang, slightly off-key.
"See, two entirely different things."
Elizabeth nodded gravely. "Well, that settles it." She rolled onto her
stomach and propped herself up on her elbows. "I don't suppose I'll ever be
a proper pirate, then, for I've no intention of going whoring anytime soon."
"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, love. There's some women as would
rather go with a woman than a man. Y'know, our Anamaria. . . ." his voice
trailed off suggestively.
Elizabeth's mouth fell open in wonder and she punched his thigh. "She
Jack smirked. "Nice to see you can still be shocked."
"Nevertheless, I think I shall have to settle for being merely four-fifths
They fell quiet for a while, Jack finishing off the last of the rum and
Elizabeth drawing patterns in the sand with a bit of shell. She wondered how
the baby was. Was he getting fat and round? Did he have Will's sweet smile?
Maybe they could- No, she couldn't bear to leave the baby again, not now,
and it would tear her in half to leave Jack.
When next Jack spoke, his voice was serious. "What d'you think of a
scoundrel who forswears an oath made to a fallen comrade?"
Jack could only be referring to one person. Elizabeth straightened up and
watched Jack suspiciously. "Speak plainly, Jack. What do you mean?"
Jack hesitated. "It's like this, see. A while back, when you and Will joined
us on the Pearl, Will made me swear, on everything that I hold most
precious, that if anything happened to him, I'd take you back to Port Royal
and return you to your illustrious father. Sealed it in blood 'n'
Panic forced the words out of Elizabeth's mouth in a rush, tumbling over one
another. "I can't go back there! Jack, I'd rather die. Don't-"
"Shh, love. I'll not send you back to your gilded cage, no matter what I
promised. I 'spect I'll rot in hell anyway - what's one broken oath more or
less?" He brushed his lips across her forehead, as if to seal the promise
he'd broken. "I just thought you ought to know 's all."