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Allegiance - Chapter 21

by The Stowaway


At Sea, West of Montego Bay

Elizabeth crouched in the passage, against the doors that led to the main deck. She had fled the great cabin - ages ago, it seemed - when the stern windows had shattered under musket fire, spraying glass everywhere. The passage, being enclosed, felt safer, for all that it was full of the acrid white smoke from the cannon, making her choke and gasp for each breath.

It had been impossible to follow the battle - to know who was winning or losing - from below decks. Even while she was still in the great cabin, the windows had shown her nothing but rolling clouds of smoke, punctuated by flashes, and glimpses of sails moving here and there in incomprehensible patterns.

Her only impression, aside from the ubiquitous stench of the powder was of noise. For hours the boom of the cannon had underlaid a barrage of sound in which the crackle and rattle of musketry, the screams of the wounded, the rending crash of shattering timbers, the pounding of feet on the deck, the bellowing of orders and, terrifyingly, the clash of swords and the grunts and cries of hand to hand combat had been so jumbled together that she could not begin to decipher their meaning.

For some time now, the Pearl's cannon had been silent, the sounds of battle continuing at a distance. She leaned closer to the door, trying to catch words in the confusion of voices without. It did not seem to her that they had been captured, but she wished to be certain before going out on deck. There was a burst of shouting and the sound running feet and then the voices fell silent. Then, clear above the distant cannon-fire, she heard Jack's voice, raised to carry.

"So, you are Will Turner, eh?" Jack said.

Will Turner! Elizabeth leapt to her feet and opened the door. The crew was gathered before her on the main deck, facing something she could not see at the starboard rail. Hastily she crept part way up the stairs to the quarterdeck until she could look over the heads of the men in her way. She saw a small group of men - no more than a half-dozen - disarmed and backed against the rail and surrounded by the Pearl's crew. Facing the captives stood Jack, with Gibbs and his other officers at his shoulder. A cable's length downwind the hulk of a large ship drifted, engulfed in flames and listing sharply.

"Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Mister Turner," Jack said, bowing. The crew hooted and laughed.

A tall young man stepped forward, head high, and spat on the deck at Jack's feet. "That for your welcome, you murdering thief," he snarled.

A curious thrill ran through Elizabeth at the sight of this Turner. The famous pirate, scourge of the Caribbean, was no older than she and, despite the blood and grime that covered him and the bruise darkening along one cheekbone, beautiful. Dark brown hair swept back from a broad, smooth forehead to fall curling to his shoulders, his eyes were large and dark under level brows, and his jaw thrust belligerently forward beneath wide cheekbones.

This was the man whose ships had sunk the Relentless and killed Captain Gillette and his men; who had very nearly killed her own husband? He was hardly more than a boy.

"Thief is such a harsh term," Jack was saying, reproachfully. "I merely took back what was mine. And as for murder, well, that's a matter of opinion. There's some who'd say he deserved what he got."

Turner surged forward until stopped by two Pearls who grabbed his arms, hauled him struggling back to his mates and held him there.

"Deserved it?" Turner cried. "You dare say that to me! He counted you his friend."

"Did he?" Jack replied. "He had a damned peculiar way of showing it, then."

"Murderer!" Will shouted, wrenching at the hands holding him back. "You fucking murderer!"

Jack shrugged. "Have it your way, boy," he said. He tilted his head. "Now that I get a good look at you, you really are the image of your father. Stubborn like him, too. He'd get a notion in his head and not let it go, no matter what."

"Is that why you killed him?" Will asked.

"What?"

"Go ahead and finish the job," Will taunted. "You don't dare leave me alive for I will never stop until I've sent you down to join my father."

"Hold on," Jack said, puzzled, "Are you off your head? We were talking of Barbossa."

Will's face contorted and he spat again. "Barbossa's in hell and good riddance. You killed my father."

"You're mad," Jack replied, speaking slowly, "Your father was my best friend."

"You had a damned peculiar way of showing it, then," Will mocked, savagely.

"Will," Jack said, "I did not kill your father."

"Liar!" Will shouted at him. "Liar!"

As the crew began to jeer at Turner, Elizabeth ran down the steps and shoved her way to the front of the crowd, driven by an overwhelming urge to get closer to this young pirate. She burst through the front rank of Pearls just as Gibbs bellowed for order and a muttering silence fell.

"If Captain Sparrow says he did not kill him, then it is true," she cried. "Why would he lie to you?"

At the sound of her voice Will jerked and turned to gape at her. His eyes traveled over her from head to foot before fixing upon her face. Elizabeth felt a jolt as their gazes locked.

"Who… who are you?" he asked.

She shook her head, not daring to speak again; she could see out of the corner of her eye that Jack was staring at her in surprise.

Turner shook himself free of the restraining hands and straightened. His face, which for a moment had been as open as a boy's, shut itself up again and his eyes hardened.

"And why would I believe what you say?" he sneered.

Will's men, who until now had kept silent, had begun to shift uneasily. One of them put a hand on Will's sleeve.

"'T'weren't Sparrow," he said, shaking his head. "Jack didn't do it, Will. 'Twas Barbossa killed Bootstrap."

Turner rounded on him. "What?"

The man nodded. "I seen him, with me own eyes. Barbossa killed your Da, not Sparrow."

Will snarled and felled him with a blow. "That's a lie," he shouted.

"It's truth," said a new voice, "As far as it goes."

Will spun around. "Who said that?" he cried. "Show yourself."

'Billy Bones' detached himself from the crowd and stumped across the circle, stopping directly in front of Will. They were exactly of a height and the old man looked him dead in the eye.

"It was Barbossa, lad," he said, quietly. "I should know."

Will's eyes were glaring; his hands clenched spasmodically. "And I suppose you were there, too," he scoffed. Then he laughed on a high, wild note that made Elizabeth shiver.

"I was," the older man nodded. "Do you wish to know what really happened?"

Still cackling like a madman, Will cursed and gave him a buffet on the shoulder that sent him staggering. "Get out of my way, old man," he cried, once more starting across the deck toward where Jack stood watching.

'Billy' caught his balance and drew a deep breath.

"WILLIAM JOHN TURNER!" he thundered, "Turn around and face me."

At the sound of his full name, Will froze in shock - rage, madness and stark terror warring in his expression. He crouched and seemed to draw in upon himself.

"Look at me when I'm speakin' to you," the old man went on, implacably. "Your mother, God rest her soul, raised you better 'n this."

A long shudder wracked Will. His breath could be heard, suddenly harsh in the fraught silence. Very slowly, he turned and stood upright. As if drawn against his will he took two steps, until he stood before the older man. His eyes, wide and lost, searched the scarred face. He shuddered again and his mouth worked.

"Father?" he whispered.

The elder Turner nodded. "Barbossa thought he'd done for me," he said, "But we Turners are hard to kill."

Will didn't appear to hear him. Wonderingly, he brought his hand up and touched the old man's cheek; his fingers came away wet.

"Father?" he said again. He shuddered a third time and a single sob burst from him.

"Oh, my poor boy," his father cried, taking him in his arms, "my son."

For a moment, Will stood rigid and unresponsive. Then his arms went around his father in a crushing embrace; his eyes closed and his body was shaken with silent weeping.

Elizabeth, wiped her eyes on her sleeve, but the tears kept coming. She looked around the silent crowd and saw that she was not the only one affected. There was much surreptitious wiping of eyes and noses amongst the tough sailors of the Black Pearl's crew.

At last Bootstrap led Will over to the rail and urged him to sit down on a gun carriage. Will's movements were slow and uncertain; he clung like a child to his father's hand and did not raise his eyes from the deck. Bootstrap, his single eye streaming, looked over his son's shoulder at Sparrow. "Your promise, Jack?" he said.

Jack nodded. He muttered something to Gibbs, who sent the crew - save for the guards around the captives - about their business. Jack then crossed to where the Turners waited and short conference took place.

Elizabeth had withdrawn to the port rail and was too far away to hear what was said, but she saw that Will roused himself at one point. He said something and indicated the other captives. Jack and his father both spoke, obviously disagreeing with him, but Will shook his head with a gesture of finality and lapsed once again into silence. Jack shrugged and nodded; Bootstrap smiled, clearly relieved.

Jack called Gibbs over and began to issue orders. Soon signals were flying that brought the Fury to the Pearl's side and a boat was lowered and manned.

The captive pirates were loaded into the boat, followed by Bootstrap, Will and Jack. As Will climbed over the rail and turned to descend, he glanced up and saw Elizabeth. He paused, and for an instant there appeared on his face a look of such longing that her heart stuttered and she caught her breath. Without conscious thought, she took a step forward and half-raised her hand. Will lowered his eyes and climbed down into the boat. Jack followed him and they pulled away. By the time Elizabeth had collected herself and gone to the rail, there were already many yards of open water between them. And, although she watched the boat all the way to the Fury, Will did not look back.

In less than an hour Jack returned, alone. He nodded to Elizabeth and indicated that she should join him. He led her to the great cabin. Once there, he poured himself a glass of rum and stood drinking, his back to her.

"What did you do with them?" she asked after a time.

"Eh?" Jack started as if he had forgotten her presence. "Oh, the Fury will take them to a Dutch port and see them safe on a ship bound for the East," he replied. "I'd promised Bootstrap mercy. Exile over hanging."

Elizabeth nodded. "And the other pirates?"

Jack's mouth turned up. "Them, too. Will wouldn't go without them. Said he'd led them into this and he'd not abandon them to suffer the consequences alone. Boy's a natural leader." He sighed. "What a waste."

"Will's father will go as well, I imagine," she said, after a short silence.

"Oh, aye," Jack drank again and grinned. "With any luck, Bootstrap'll live long enough to teach the boy how to be a proper pirate instead of the murdering devil Barbossa made of him."

"Bootstrap is a pirate?" Elizabeth's surprise made Jack's grin widen.

"Of course he is," he murmured, looking at her sidelong. "What did you think he was?"

"And he is your best friend."

"Aye," Jack's grin was becoming decidedly smug.

"But you said you were not a pirate," she exclaimed.

"Well, there's pirates and pirates," Jack replied, pouring more rum. "You had me confused with Barbossa, see. Easier at the time just to deny it; explanations would have spoiled the mood, don't you agree?"

Elizabeth glared at him.

Jack laughed and drank deep. He was in high spirits. "The battle is over," he cried, "And the forces of good triumphant. Will Turner will never again threaten the peace of the West Indies. Only one tiny matter yet to be resolved."

He sauntered over and looked down at Elizabeth with a glinting grin.

"And that is, what to do with you, my fine lady."

Elizabeth swallowed nervously and backed up a pace. Jack followed.

"What do you mean?" she asked, her voice infuriatingly breathless, as Jack backed her across the cabin until she was pressed once more against the door.

"Exactly what I say," Jack replied. "What shall I do with you?"

Elizabeth scrabbled for the latch; Jack planted his hand flat against the door beside her head and leaned on it. He laughed under his breath.

She raised her chin. "I am faithful to my husband, Captain Sparrow," she stated.

"As faithful as you are obedient?" Jack asked, grinning.

Elizabeth looked down and felt herself flushing. "Stop taunting me," she muttered. "What are you going to do?"

"Why, take you back to your husband in George Town, of course," Jack chuckled. He left her standing and went to pour more rum. "I told you, Elizabeth," he said over his shoulder. "Your virtue is safe with me, remember?"
 

 

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