Story [Pirates of the Caribbean] Stand and Deliver *COMPLETE* 4/30/14

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by ophelia, Mar 20, 2014.

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  1. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Title: Stand and Deliver
    Summary: Captain Jack Sparrow struggles to outwit his sometimes-friend, Will Turner, Captain of the Flying Dutchman, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
    Warnings: None
    Rating: PG
    Words: 21,780, although I'm only posting a few pages at a time
    Characters: Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, OC's
    Genres: Adventure, Supernatural, a touch of Romance
    A/N: This is a finished story. I'm just posting it in bits because in my experience, there is only so much of my verbiage my readers can take at one time. :p
    _________

    Pale, patient ghosts stood quietly on the Flying Dutchman’s deck, waiting out the darkness and the gusting rain. All around them the ship’s crew hauled at ropes and strained against groaning windlasses. Officers shouted to be heard over the storm that pummeled the deck, and men repeated the orders in a relay running down the length of the ship, and up into the rigging.

    Now and again a few would sing out a snatch of one of their songs:

    Bring away the beggar, bring away the king
    And every man in his degree,
    Bring away the oldest and the youngest thing
    Come to death, and follow me.

    Ferrying souls from the sea to World’s End was not the future Will Turner had envisioned for himself, but he did the job as well as he could. He’d paid dearly enough for the privilege. As the ghost ship’s captain, he had bartered eternity for a few more days with the woman he loved. One day ashore, ten years at sea. Time enough for five, maybe six reunions. If Elizabeth were even alive for a seventh, she might no longer know him.

    He was a man with a week left to live—really live, with his wife in his arms and earth beneath his feet. Rather than risk losing a single day of that time, he closely followed the commands given by the ocean goddess who was the Dutchman’s mistress:

    Captain the Flying Dutchman well.

    Remember that he served the sea’s dead.

    With the exception of one day ashore every ten years, shun anything that stood above the water at high tide.

    Failure in any of those duties could bring a number of fates that didn’t bear contemplating. That was worth thinking about when the seas grew rough and the wreckage in the water grew gristly.

    There was no hiding on the Dutchman, and there was no turning around.

    Will held up a guttering oil lamp to the ship’s compass, and wiped a sheen of water off its glass with his sodden shirtsleeve. Like another compass once given by the sea goddess, this one did not point north. It pointed to the Dutchman’s destination--which would be the waters that last closed over some unfortunate person’s head.

    A flash of lightning helped Will sight the engraved points around the needle, and he turned the great wheel just a touch. The Dutchman steered as docilely as a little pleasure boat on a plate-glass ocean, despite black water crashing against the bulwarks and wind that cracked like thunder in the sails. Of all those who served the dead and the sea, the ship alone seemed to enjoy the work.

    The ghosts kept their silent watch over the deck, and the men continued to sing their grim worksong into the rain and wind.

    In short, all seemed normal.

    All the politicians of high and low degree,
    Lords and ladies great and small,
    Don't think that you'll escape and need not dance with me,
    I'll make you come when I do call.

    Then there was a fiery flash away to the ship’s leeward side, and the crack of a cannon firing.

    Will hadn’t heard that sound in ages, and his first thought was that some madman had decided to attack them. “You can’t be serious,” he said, half to the captain of the other ship, and half to whatever gods had decided it was a good night for the Dutchman to do its job in a gale and under fire.

    A second cannon shot proved that the other captain was serious.

    “Right,” Will said wearily. “You’re an idiot.” These days, the Dutchman did nothing but carry souls away from the living world, and no cannon was powerful enough to stop that. Besides, even when Davy Jones was captain, there was only one ship on earth that had ever fought the Dutchman and won. Was it possible that somebody out there didn’t know that?

    The crew’s singing faltered and stopped. Even some of the ghosts turned their heads and blinked, as if momentarily awakened from some deep opium dream.

    An instant later Will heard his father’s gravelly voice calling up from the main deck, “Orders, Captain!”

    Decades of experience aboard the Dutchman had made “Bootstrap” Bill Turner an excellent advisor. Will often consulted him, for all that they were officially captain and sailor rather than father and son. “Mr. Turner!” Will called out.

    Bootstrap ran up the steps to the quarterdeck with surprising agility for an aging man splashing across a heaving deck. He leaned in close to Will, keeping his back to the wind. In the little space between them there was a bit of warmth, and they didn’t have to shout. “Distress signal, most likely, sir,” Bootstrap said. “I expect they’ve run aground.”

    The choppy waves that made the Dutchman pitch and roll did indeed hint at shallow water. “We’ll have to be careful ourselves, then,” Will said. Shallows could do little but temporarily strand the ghost ship. It was the rocks tall enough to pierce the surface of the water that carried a curse.

    “Aye, sir. Should we send an answering shot?”

    Will was torn. The Dutchman did not make long stays in the living world, and was not very helpful to survivors. At best, it usually only offered them a choice of which godforsaken rock to spend their last hours upon. Sometimes it seemed kinder not to let the living know the ship had been there at all.

    The struggling flame in the oil lamp shed just enough light for Will to see sorrow etched into the deep lines of his father’s face. There was no right answer here, and Bootstrap would not judge his son for any decision he made.

    The distant ship fired a third shot.

    “Signal them back. It sounds as if there’s quite a lot of people still alive . . .” Will’s pity for the survivors gave way to an uneasy thought. Fighting the pitching deck, he made his way over to the bulwark and held onto it. Below, the water was black and empty.

    It should have been haunted.

    Spectral forms ought to have been slipping over the ship’s sides by then, and adding to the crowd of faintly luminous “passengers” on deck.

    “And nobody dead,” Bootstrap finished.

    What had their compass been pointing at, then? The Flying Dutchman was a working vessel—it did not make unnecessary side trips.

    Will turned to look at his father. “It couldn’t be a lure, could it? The East India Company, or one of the Pirate Lords . . .”

    “Seems an awful desperate move, even for a pirate,” Bootstrap answered. Despite the assurance, he was staring out through the darkness through narrowed eyes.

    “Orders, Captain!” called another voice from the main deck.

    Will committed himself to what he hoped was their best option. “Fire a return shot! Keep a sharp eye to leeward!” More quietly, he added, “There’s something about that ‘wreck’ that I don’t--”

    A massive fork of lightning leapt from sky, to sea, to sky and back, turning the midnight sky a rain-hazed purple. For a second or two, near-daylight burned over the ocean.

    Silhouetted against the sheets of light was a ship, climbing the crest of a wave. It was a great three-master, looking black and skeletal as torn sailcloth whipped around its half-naked rigging.

    Will saw no signs of life up top, but a line of sweeps stuck out from the second deck. The long oars waved like the legs of a drowning insect. The forward ones rowed wildly in the air, while the aft ones were caught beneath the ferocious water. Then the ship’s weight tilted over the top of the wave, and the prow crashed into the sea.

    Will groaned in grim disbelief as the lightning flickered one last time and died.


    “It’s the Pearl.”
    Last edited by ophelia, Apr 30, 2014
  2. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    This is going to be awesome. This was a wonderful beginning, and I am really, truly excited for more. =D=
  3. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Aww, bless you! I haven't posted here in ages, and it's good to hear that someone wants more. :D Back in the day, it seemed like 5 pages every 3 days worked out with people's schedules. Do you think that's changed with the current use of the boards?
  4. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    I actually remember your fic from way back when, so I was excited to see you posting in the NSWFF! Since the move, posting has been slower as a whole - especially on the non Star Wars side of things, as this is, after all, a Star Wars site. :p But personally, five pages every three days is a posting schedule I would really enjoy to read - just enough to not get swamped, while not having to wait between updates. I like that. :cool:

    That said, welcome back, and thanks for sharing with us! [:D]
  5. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6

    “The storm must’ve blown in fast,” Bootstrap said. “Barbossa’s not a man to let the wind tear up his canvas.”

    Another flicker of lightning failed to illuminate the ship, but did pick out the edges of the tall cliff face it was trying to flee.

    “Barbossa would have cut away his sails by now,” Will said. “Only a complete idiot would try to sail straight into the wind like tha--”

    Both father and son had the same realization.

    “Jack.”

    “I bet he hasn’t rolled the rum barrels overboard either. Stupid,” Will said, as if his sometimes-friend could hear.

    A great blast from one of the Dutchman’s cannons spit out a flare of light. Will thought he could hear the hollow echo of the shot ringing off the cliffs that lay beyond the struggling Pearl.

    The echo was the only reply that came, other than the howling of the wind. If the Pearl was still capable of firing a return shot, it did not do so. The sudden cessation of all human sounds was eerie.

    Will grew impatient with straining to see through the blackness. “If this is a trick, it’s one of the worst he’s ever come up with.”

    “Or one of the best.”

    Will made a disgusted noise and said, “I know all about Jack’s tricks.” The darkness hid the massive white scar on his chest, but it ached in the cold. He rubbed at it absently as he said, “He’ll save your life and then make you wish he hadn’t. I still don’t know if he’s a hero or a coward.”

    “Soon as you think you’ve got him figured, he’ll prove you wrong,” Bootstrap said. He sounded a bit wistful, as if he missed the days when he was traveling with Jack, wondering what the deranged captain would do next. “Good man, though. Mostly.”

    Will felt the jagged edges of the scar that marked where his ribcage had been pried open. If it weren’t for Jack Sparrow, that scar might not have been there. But if it weren’t for Jack Sparrow, Will might have been dead. He certainly wouldn’t have won Elizabeth’s love if it hadn’t been for all the bizarre adventures Jack had gotten them into.

    “We can’t leave them out there.”

    Will turned abruptly from the bulwark, and made his way across the rolling deck to the compass standing by the wheel. He wiped the water off the glass again and looked at the needle; it was still pointing in the same direction--straight at the spot in the darkness where he had last seen the Pearl.

    “How close can we get to them?”

    Bootstrap seemed a bit surprised at the risk his son was proposing. “There’s not much that can hold back the Dutchman, ‘cepting you getting too close to anything a bird could nest on. Bad luck for us if that’s what the Pearl’s run into.”

    Will nodded. “Steer us in as close as you can. If the sea fights us, we’ll turn back. If not . . . I’ll be the one who goes over. No one else has to chance it.”

    Bootstrap seemed to hesitate, as if he were torn between being Will’s subordinate and his father. “Be careful,” he said at last. “It’s not always a blessing, being unable to die.”

    Will thought of what Bootstrap had told him about the crushing blackness of the ocean floor, the inability to breathe . . . the inability even to lose consciousness. “I will. I’ll be careful.”

    Bringing two ships close enough to allow boarding could be a dangerous business even in calm waters, but the Dutchman had little to fear, so long as it stayed away from land--and the Pearl had little to lose. Once the two ocean giants were riding the waves side by side, Will shooed a ghost away from a rope it was trying to grasp, and swung over the side.

    The swoop through the air was like a sickening drop into nothingness—gouts of water sprayed from every direction, and he couldn’t see the deck of the other ship. Once he reached the far point of his swing, all he could do was let go and pray. He fell—for too long. If his heart had been in his chest at the time, he was sure it would have stopped.

    And then suddenly the Pearl’s deck surged up to meet him—hard enough to make him see stars. For a long moment he just lay upon the waterswept deck, clutching the spot on his head where the deck had clubbed him, and feeling the deeply disturbing surge and drag of a ship that was badly flooded belowdecks.

    He climbed painfully to his feet, but found himself slipping on the wet planks. He’d gotten used to the comparatively easy sailing of the Dutchman, which was three-fourths magic, and the precious plaything of the goddess Calypso. The Pearl was nothing but wood and pitch and canvas—torn canvas, judging by the sounds of ripping and wild flapping above. The sea showed the mortal ship no respect, and tossed it about like a wayward cork.

    There were a couple of dim lights shining on the other end of the deck, and Will staggered toward them. Before long, he could make out a couple of shadowy figures that sometimes passed in front of the lights.

    He could hear them before he could see them clearly.

    “. . . well, I think we ought not to have tied ourselves up with such short ropes.”

    “It was your idea! ‘Let’s tie ourselves to the mast, so we won’t be swept out to sea,’ you said!”

    “Aye, but ropes a bit longer would have let us go belowdecks and get dry.”

    “It ain’t dry belowdecks. The ship’s sinkin’, innit? If something is sinkin’, then it ain’t dry! Mind your bucket—you’re slopping water everywhere.”

    “The water’s already everywhere. That’s why we’re sinkin’.”

    Will called out to the familiar voices: “Pintel! Ragetti!”

    Both pirates immediately fell silent. Will could see their outlines a bit now, tall and skinny contrasted with short and squat, showing up mainly as shadows against the dull orange haze of two swinging oil lamps. The two men seemed to have jammed themselves together and frozen, like frightened rabbits.

    After several tense seconds, Pintel called out in a harsh whisper, “Who’s there?”

    “It’s Will Turner.” Will had reached the foremast by then, and wrapped one arm around it to keep upright. The lamps were secured right over his head, so the pirates had to have gotten a good look at him.

    Actually, it might have been too good a look, since both men dropped the buckets they were carrying and ran yowling toward a partly-covered hatch. They were attached to the foremast with ropes they had tied around their waists, however, and so they could not actually duck through the hatch. Instead, they just sort of cowered at the edge of it, perhaps standing on the first or second step leading down to the gun deck.

    “What’s the matter? I’m answering your distress signal.” Leave it to pirates to call for help, and then treat that help like a leper invasion when it came.

    “No offense meant and all, but I don’t think that summoning the Flying Dutchman was quite what we had in mind,” Pintel called back. His skinnier friend seemed to be trying to hide behind him, while Pintel did his best to push Ragetti to the front, and hide behind him.

    “Great powers preserve us--we’ll all get the plague!” Ragetti cried.

    “I don’t have the plague,” Will said.

    “That’s as may be—ya still got a death ship,” Pintel pointed out.
    Will looked over at his ghost-covered vessel. Some of the pale forms actually looked as if they wanted to follow him aboard the Pearl, like lost blind men seeking to find their leader. He had to admit it was not a very welcoming sight. However, when he turned his gaze back to Pintel and Ragetti, the two men gave no sign that they could see the spectral figures. When one faintly-glowing shade slipped aboard and seemed to look about in confusion, the pirates’ eyes did not track its movements. Well, one of Ragetti’s almost seemed to, but since it was the wooden one, it didn’t matter.

    Will decided not to bring up the matter of ghosts. “At least my death ship isn’t sinking.”

    “That is true,” Pintel said, turning to Ragetti.

    “But it’s all weird and unnatural-like,” Ragetti lamented. “How do we know we ain’t dead already, and he come for our souls?”

    Pintel grabbed a hold of his friend and gave Will a panicky look. “You ain’t come for that, are you? Our souls can’t be worth very much, considerin’.”

    Ragetti pulled away and said, “Speak for yourself. I done hardly used mine.”

    “Look—no. I don’t want your souls. Not now--not ever, actually.”

    Pintel looked relieved. Ragetti looked a bit put out.

    “Who’s captaining the ship at the moment? Is Jack here?”

    The two pirates exchanged a long, worried look, as if they weren’t sure discussing Jack was a good idea. Finally, Pintel said, “Aye, he’s belowdecks, but you might not want to speak with him just now. He’s a trifle . . . agitated.”

    “Out of sorts,” Ragetti agreed.

    “Disturbed.”

    “Disturbing.”

    “When is he not?” Will asked.

    At that moment someone from below gave the two pirates a shove that sent them tumbling back onto the deck. A massive man with gold rings in both ears and his nose poked his head and shoulders up out of the hatchway, and shouted angrily at them in what might have been some creole dialect. He was pointing toward the empty buckets that were rolling about the deck, however, and his meaning was clear.

    Ragetti tried to grab one as it tumbled by, but it slipped out of the reach allowed by his rope. The creole man heaved up four buckets, sloppingly full of water, and plunked them on the deck. He yelled something else at Pintel and Ragetti before disappearing back into the hatch.

    “Sorry,” Pintel said, looking a bit like a man who had to awkwardly break off a social engagement. “Love to chat, but . . . bucket brigade, you know.”

    As soon as they’d moved their buckets, Will hurried down the same steps that the creole man had descended. Before the sounds of the upper deck were drowned out by the clamor of the lower, he heard Ragetti say, “I wish our ropes were long enough to let us actually toss the water into the sea.”

    Will found Jack on the gundeck, bailing out the hold with his hat. Seawater had risen as high as the second deck floor, and the rectangular openings into the hold looked more like pools than like hatchways. Jack was continually scooping up water from below and slopping it into overfull buckets. That only sent water splashing back down onto the deck, but nobody seemed to mind that. It was obviously too important that everyone keep trying something.

    Dim oil lamps swinging crazily from the beams overhead revealed a deck packed with ragged crewmen, and the whole place reeked of stale rum, mildew, and an unforgettable smell Will could only have described as “wet pirate.” In addition to the bucket-sloppers, there were men trying to haul the sweeps hard enough to row the ship back out to sea, and men frantically working the ship’s two pumps, which Will recalled had never worked very well.

    Jack appeared to be shouting orders at everyone and no one. “Haul the sweeps, boys—with a will! There’s just two ways we can go now, and one of ‘em’s down. I’m for going the other way. Oi! Keep those pumps going! Aye, I know it leaks, but the whole bloody ship’s leaking, innit? Having you stand there, goggling like a wall-eyed sea cow taking indecent liberties with a pump handle is not going to make anything stop leaking! You there! Leave that mattress alone. We stuffed it in the hole for a reason. And you . . . quit picking at that or it’ll never heal.”

    It looked to Will as if the Pearl had suffered a nasty run-in with a rock. One corner near the stern was partly smashed in, and the gap was packed with everything from clothing to sailcloth to mattresses in an attempt to keep out the seawater. It didn’t seem to be helping very much. A long river of water slid over the deck, making it slippery, and refilling the hold as fast as the crew could empty it.

    Few men could shout semi-coherent orders like Jack could, however, and his deranged battle-fury seemed to be what kept his crew from breaking down and giving in to the storm. Unfortunately, in Will’s experience, Jack only got worked up to battle-fury when all hope of escape was lost. If the man appeared reasonably competent, then everyone around him was probably doomed.

    “Pull to hold her steady! Yes, all at the same time! What’d you think—you’ll get there first if you row harder? Haul! We all haul together, laddies, or it’s the seabed for the lot of us! Oi! You! Don’t dump that out the gunport, you fatuous measle, or we’ll have more sea water inside than out! Bloody pirates . . . drunker than I am, I swear it. We’ll soon change the watches ‘round, boys—hold out just a bit longer! We’ve got this storm in a deadlock, and we may yet ride it out!”

    This speech would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been given by a man bailing water with his hat.
  6. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Oh Jack. [face_laugh]:oops:

    First off, I have to take a moment to say that your voices are spot on. I can *hear* everyone as they speak, and that is always a sign of a good story. And then, you really do have me intrigued as to what got the Pearl in this sticky situation to begin with. I am really looking forward to more. =D=
  7. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Oh, good! Jack is easily the hardest fanfic character I ever attempted . . . his lines are so eccentric and so much of Johnny Depp's performance is nonverbal. Very hard to capture in words! I'm glad that at least in the very beginning, he's coming off okay.

    Thank you for posting, btw. That always makes my day. :)
  8. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    “Jack,” Will called out. The pirate captain remained intent on shouting and bailing, and didn’t seem to notice. Will tried calling his name louder: “Jack!”

    The third time Will called him, he jumped as if someone had stuck him in the back with an awl, and whirled to face the other man.

    Apparent shock was immediately replaced with a slightly-staggering back step, and a once-over look that suggested Jack had been hoping to find something a bit better than what was actually in front of him. “Oh. It’s you.”

    Will hadn’t struggled his way to the Pearl’s gundeck to be cheered, but he’d expected at least a “Hello.” “Yes, it’s me,” he answered, already irritated after hearing literally three words from the pirate. “You ought to be glad it’s me, too. Nobody else is going to respond to your distress signals on a night like this.”

    That seemed to get Jack’s attention. He went unusually still, and his gaze slid over toward the sealed ports on the Pearl’s windward side, as if he could sense the death ship following alongside. “The Dutchman. It brought you here.” Perhaps he knew that the Dutchman’s compass needle pointed toward death, and that no mortal ship wanted to find itself in that navigational path.

    “It did,” Will admitted. He began to feel almost like a traitor for bringing what amounted to a floating hearse to the side of a friend’s ship. “But we only ferry dead souls to the other side, now—we don’t attack anyone.”

    “Oh.” Jack accepted a passing bucket and swung it over to the creole, adding a courtly flourish that dripped with sarcasm. “That’s a comfort.”

    “Look—you’re not going to save yourselves with buckets,” Will pointed out. “Your pumps barely work, your hold’s full of water, and you’ve got a mattress stuffed where one of your starboard gunports should be.”

    So?” Jack spared him a sharp look as he took hold of another bucket.

    “So, you can’t stay with the Pearl this time, Jack. Not unless you want to go down with her again. The Dutchman’s not much of a passenger ship, but we might be able to get at least some of the men across. Those that can’t make it will have to take their chances, holding onto anything that floats.”

    Some of the pirates were shooting each other uncertain looks, as if they were considering whether rescue by a ship bound for the Dead Shore was better or worse than staying on the Pearl until it sank. However, Jack’s answer was unequivocal:

    “No.”

    Will was as shocked as some of the surrounding pirates seemed to be. “What do you mean, ‘no?’ You’ve got no other choices. This ship is going down.”

    Jack made a swaggering lurch toward Will, stopping at the point where his breath became very unpleasant. “When I say ‘no,’ I mean what the great philosopher Diogenes meant when he said to Alexander, and I quote, ‘No.’ I mean non. I mean nein. I mean nihil, and niende, and nonnullus, and ‘nomenclature.’ All of which, when added together, are greater than or equal to: ‘no.’”

    Marty was already knee-deep in water by that point, and Will spotted him holding his arms up in a wordless question: Why?

    Jack shot the diminutive pirate a look that held the desperation he was refusing to admit to, and made a sharp cutting-off gesture with his hand. Now Will was wary. It was out of character for Jack to be suicidal, but it was entirely like him to be hiding something. Evidently, he hadn’t passed on his plans to Marty, who just shook his head and went back to lugging buckets that were half as tall as he was.

    “Jack, this isn’t a game,” Will warned him. “You’re practically in the breakers. The rocks could tear the bottom out of the Pearl at any time.”

    That got a surprising reaction—an over-wide glare and the dangerously-soft tones of outrage only just under control. “Really. Thank you for pointing that out. It never would have occurred to me that we were in mortal peril, what with a mattress where one of our guns should be, our rum cellar under ten feet of water, and a death ship waiting outside. There clearly could not be any real, actual reason for staying onboard. Definitely not a fact of which Your Ignorance knows even less . . . much than the usual nothing!” He started to lose his composure toward the end, and men who probably represented the smarter breed of pirate began edging away from him.

    Evidently, Will wasn’t that smart. He didn’t back away, and Jack startled him by suddenly grabbing his elbow. He pulled Will forcibly toward the officers’ cabins, away from most of the activity, as well as most of the light. Will had the idea that Jack wanted to tell him something in confidence, and was startled when the pirate grabbed both of his shoulders and fairly shook him. Stray light from the swinging oil lamps seemed to put tiny fires in Jack’s eyes. “I,” he began in a harsh whisper, “have lots . . . and lots, of problems.”

    Before Will could reply, Jack shoved him ahead all the way back to the great cabin. There he opened the door, and more or less forced Will inside.

    In the cabin it was much darker. The great, hazardous festoons of melted candle wax and untrimmed wicks were still there, but their flames were all out. Instead, the room was lit by three glass-enclosed oil lamps, all of them beginning to burn low. They gave off only thin pools of amber light, and the rest of the cabin was deep in shadow.

    Will was still trying to orient himself when he heard an unmistakable sound: the click of a pistol’s hammer being drawn back. He reached for the handle of his sword and called out a warning: “Jack!”

    The pirate had not dropped into an answering fighting stance, however. Instead he slowly raised his hands.

    “What?” Will demanded, wondering what kind of trap he or both of them had been lured into. Suddenly, he didn’t know who to point his sword at. What if Jack had betrayed him again?

    Then he heard a voice he didn’t recognize—low and husky as a young boy’s, but with a hard edge that didn’t belong to any child. “Sparrow.”

    Jack didn’t so much as flinch. “It’s a little late to kill me now, darling, don’t you think?” Then he glanced over at Will’s drawn sword. “Nice grip. The pinkie extension is particularly elegant. However, since you’ve got the sword, and she’s got the gun, I think she wins.”

    “I ought to shoot you right now for--” the woman’s words were cut off by a muffled cry of pain.

    Jack’s response was to duck behind Will.

    “What are you doing?” Will cried.

    “You’re immortal. The bullet won’t do any harm if it hits you.”

    “Well, that’s a matter of opinion!”

    “Sheathe that thing before you hurt yourself. We’ve got to get over there.” The pale light glinted off of one of Jack’s rings as he gestured toward the woman.

    Somewhat against his better judgment, Will sheathed his blade. “What are we doing?” he asked, as he let his treacherous sometimes-friend steer him around a table toward a distressed and apparently dangerous person.

    “Disarming my wife.”

    “Disarming your--” Will was struck speechless for more reasons than he could count. What finally came out of his mouth was: “You married a woman who tries to kill you?”

    “No, that would be your wife, mate. Mine just threatens.”

    “You’re doing an awful lot of hiding if this is just a threat.” By that time they had reached a bed, which seemed to materialize out of the gloom as they approached. The bed’s occupant was lying with her knees drawn up, and with one hand clutching a fold of blanket beneath her swollen belly. Her other arm hung over the side of the bed, and she held the handle of a pistol in a spasming grip.

    Will had never been at the side of a woman in childbed before, but he knew the situation when he saw it, and his mistrust of Jack’s wife turned to pity.

    “Wee Peg don’t mean to shoot anyone,” said Jack, in a soothing tone that was doubtless meant for “Wee Peg.” Her only response was to grit her teeth and force herself up on one elbow. All her attention seemed taken up by the struggle of labor. Jack waited a second or two, looking wary, and then he broke into what he must have considered his most charming smile. He extended his arms and said, “Peggy . . .”

    Amazingly, Peg managed to hold the pistol completely steady as she pointed it at Jack’s forehead. He stopped as if there were an invisible wall between him and the gun’s muzzle. Seconds passed that felt like small eternities. Jack’s black eyes glittered in the dim light, betraying the direction of his gaze. He glanced briefly from the pistol to the tormented face of the woman in the bed.

    Peg didn’t shoot.

    One by one, Jack’s rings flashed as his grubby fingers began to relax from the splayed position of panic. His eyes returned to hers, and this time he held her gaze. Perhaps he meant that burning look to be romantic. “Who got you out of the inn fire, eh?” he asked, as he slowly, very slowly, knelt down beside her. She kept a rather admirably accurate bead on him.

    “You did,” she answered. “And straight into the irons of the thief-takers.”

    “Aye, and who got you out of the condemned hold?”

    “I did,” Peg said, with a grunt of pain. Jack jumped as the pistol muzzle veered.

    He didn’t lose his composure long, however: “I think you’re forgetting who had the key.” He began to reach toward her gun, his hands poised as if he were about to begin some delicate and graceful art.

    “The bad planning weren’t my fault.”

    “What about the prisoners’ chapel? You can’t tell me that was anybody but old Jack.”

    She seemed grudgingly willing to give him that one. “Could’ve done without the coffin,” she said.

    Peg had let him move quite close to her by then, and he half-whispered, “The coffin was the best part.”

    She didn’t move, and even in the darkness, Will could see her eyes were captured by Jack’s. Whatever “the coffin” meant to them, it seemed to have softened her just a little—just enough.

    The disarm was lightning-fast, and the next thing Will knew Jack was shaking powder from the priming pan all over the sodden floor.

    Peg didn’t seem surprised, but she didn’t seem very happy, either. “The day’ll come, Jack Sparrow.”

    “Captain,” he corrected, looking up for just an instant from what he was doing.

    She ignored him. “The day’ll come when you won’t be able to talk your way out of anything you like.”

    He set the half-disarmed gun up upon the table, out of her reach. “Doubtless, true,” he said, and then returned to her bedside. He rested his hands on the thin, rickety frame. It creaked as he leaned down, slowly, as if he meant to kiss her. The braids, coils, and woven-in charms that served him for hair dragged across the blanket and formed a curtain over both their faces. Will found a corner to look into, suddenly feeling acutely uncomfortable.

    He needn’t have bothered. Instead of the soft sound of lips meeting, Will heard Jack’s slightly-triumphant whisper: “But not today.”

    The pirate was on his feet in an instant, and the slap that was probably meant for his face landed on his arm instead. Either the glancing blow hadn’t hurt, or he was so used to it that it didn’t bother him, because he paid no attention. He went into speedy and incongruously formal introductions instead.

    “Black Peg, this is Captain William Turner. Captain Turner: Black Peg, late of Waltham Common, England, and the current Mrs. Captain Jack Sparrow.”

    Black Peg slugged him again, this time in the knee. “What d’you mean ‘current?’”

    Jack was very much on his dignity, and didn’t let her put him off. “You needn’t worry about the presence of Captain Turner in your boudoir, love. He ain’t all there, if you take my meaning.” Jack made a crossing-out, “no” gesture over the drop-front of his trousers.

    The swinging oil lamps briefly put a spark of light in one of Peg’s curious eyes. “Really? He don’t look like one.”

    “Listen--I’ve gotten very tired of that,” Will said. He began wondering why he’d thought it was a good idea to rescue this pirate again. No good had ever come of that before.

    “And where’s that beslubbering sheep-biter, Rogers?” Jack asked, his coat skirts whirling as he looked about. “You shouldn’t be alone, in your delicate condition.”

    Peg rolled over onto her side a bit, with one hand gripping the small of her back. “Out at the pumps, I expect, since that’s where you told him to be.”

    “Oh.” Jack was relatively still for just a moment. A flash of his rings betrayed a quick flex of his fingers as he seemed to re-orient himself to outside reality. Then he was at full speed again, rummaging through a box on what might have been a desk.

    It turned out to be a folded and much-creased piece of paper, which he deposited forcibly into Will’s hands. “Careful with that. It’s her letter of introduction. She’s very proud of it.” Jack paused a moment to unhook a bottle hanging from a beam, and knock back quite a lot of something that smelled like pure spirit with a bit of rum thrown in. Despite the confident assurance he’d given Peg, he drank like a man swallowing liquid strength for some grueling contest ahead.

    As he did so, Will opened the limp paper up, and found it was not a standard letter of introduction at all, but a handbill giving a place and time of execution. He skimmed the page as best he could in the poor light, reading half-aloud to himself: “Peg Waltham, alias Margaret Waltham, alias Black Peg, alias Peg o’ the Road . . . found guilty of committing robbery upon the King’s highway, within five miles of Charing Cross, and diverse other . . . ” He couldn’t make out the next word.

    Jack wiped his mouth on his coat sleeve and tapped the page with his free hand. “Crimes. That says ‘crimes,’ right there.”

    “Crimes . . . against the Crown, is hereby sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead.” He looked up from the handbill. “You’re a highwaywoman?” he asked, a bit incredulous.

    The pains seemed to be returning for Peg, and she spoke with closed eyes, through gritted teeth. “Retired.”

    “You think robbery on the high seas is difficult. You should see what they have to put up with on land,” Jack said. “The thief-takers are the only ones earning a dishonest living nowadays.”

    “Well . . . what were you doing in England?” Will asked, utterly bewildered as to how an English highwaywoman had ended up on Jack’s ship in the Caribbean.

    “Prison,” Jack said. He moved to hang up his bottle again, but then appeared unable to part with it, and stashed it in his pocket.

    “And that’s where you met . . . ?” Will asked, gesturing in Peg’s direction.

    “No, I met her on the road, while I was trying to escape prison. ‘Stand and deliver.’ First thing she ever said to me. I took one look at her highly-prominent charms and said, ‘I’ll stand if you’ll deliver, love.’ And then she hit me.”

    “That’s . . . very romantic.”

    “I’ve had worse.” Jack settled his hat more squarely on his head and said, “I’m off to find Rogers. You look after wee Peggy for a bit, eh?”

    “Look after--? Jack, I don’t know anything about taking care of pregnant women.” Will was beginning to feel badly out of his depth. He had come aboard the Pearl thinking that he would help pull some ropes, or push excess cargo overboard, or do something else that did not involve performing the duties of a midwife.

    All his protest got him was a look that walked the fine edge of madness, and an uncharitable smile that made the light glint off Jack’s gold teeth.

    “Well then—I’d say you’re about as competent as the rest of us.”

    Will had to admit Jack had a point.
  9. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Apparent shock was immediately replaced with a slightly-staggering back step, and a once-over look that suggested Jack had been hoping to find something a bit better than what was actually in front of him. “Oh. It’s you.”

    [face_laugh] What you said about non-verbal cues was too true - but you captured that nicely with lines like this. So, well done. =D=

    Jack made a swaggering lurch toward Will, stopping at the point where his breath became very unpleasant. “When I say ‘no,’ I mean what the great philosopher Diogenes meant when he said to Alexander, and I quote, ‘No.’ I mean non. I mean nein. I mean nihil, and niende, and nonnullus, and ‘nomenclature.’ All of which, when added together, are greater than or equal to: ‘no.’”

    &

    That got a surprising reaction—an over-wide glare and the dangerously-soft tones of outrage only just under control. “Really. Thank you for pointing that out. It never would have occurred to me that we were in mortal peril, what with a mattress where one of our guns should be, our rum cellar under ten feet of water, and a death ship waiting outside. There clearly could not be any real, actual reason for staying onboard. Definitely not a fact of which Your Ignorance knows even less . . . much than the usual nothing!” He started to lose his composure toward the end, and men who probably represented the smarter breed of pirate began edging away from him.

    Were both just excellent jobs at capturing a character that is, well, difficult to capture. Once again you have me very intrigued as to what and why things are going on. [face_thinking] Peggy too is an interesting character - I like her and Jack's bantering, and what we know of their backstory is just fitting so far. :p

    I can't wait for more! Thank-you, again, for sharing this with us. =D=
  10. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Thank you so much for reading! :D And the story's more about how they get out of the mess they're in, not so much how they got into it. I hope that's okay!

    _______________________

    The pirate turned sharply and strode toward the door, but stopped as he gripped the handle. Looking over his shoulder, he said, “And Will—when I get back. No pronouns. None.” He waved a finger sternly at him, and was gone.


    “No what?” Will asked the wood of the shutting door.

    “It’s just Rogers,” Peg said. Her voice sounded strained and far away, as if she were speaking through a haze of pain. “You’ll have questions . . . don’t ask.”

    Will did want to ask questions, but he was alone with a laboring woman aboard a sinking ship, and the steadily-deepening water running over the floor told him he didn’t have much time. “Mrs. Sparrow, I’ve brought my ship up alongside, but Jack won’t abandon the Pearl. He seems to believe the Pearl will withstand the storm. I won’t lie to you—I don’t see much chance of that. If you had help, do you think you could make it across?” He didn’t say across to where. Will wasn’t sure whether Peg knew who he was or not, but he doubted that bringing up the name of the death ship would help at this point. “If he knew we could get you safely away, he might change his mind. The lives of many men may depend on that, actually.” Jack hadn’t quite specified as to whether he was refusing to abandon his ship or his pregnant wife, but the possibility of rescuing Peg could only improve matters.

    He heard her suck in a deep breath and then slowly release it. Will could only imagine how difficult it was for her to make such a decision in her situation. “Do what you like, Captain Turner,” she said at last. “Unless you got a midwife on that ship of yours, I don’t think it matters where you put me.”

    There was a catch in that low, flawed voice that signaled a kind of dread. Will took up one of the swinging lamps and held it over her, as if better light could somehow help solve whatever was wrong.

    In the stronger orange glow, he found that Black Peg was younger than her flint-edged voice made her sound, and that when she wasn’t grimacing in the torment of childbirth, she was probably pretty. Her nickname might have come from her dark hair, which was lying in tangles all around her head and shoulders, or from some affectation of dress—she was currently wearing a man’s black shirt, loosened and untied everywhere, and apparently nothing else.

    When she opened her eyes in the lamplight Will saw that they too were dark, and they glinted with a watery sheen. As the wave of pain passed, she collapsed back onto the mattress, and the jolt set a tear free to track down her temple. She began to speak in a soft, singsong voice, as if she were uttering aloud words that had raced through her head a thousand times: “Something ain’t right. I had one alone, with no one to help me--and me just a girl back then. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know what to do. I had one alive all on my own. This is different . . . pains been coming too fast, for too long. Rogers tries, but pirates ain’t midwives and babies ain’t guns.” She turned her head on the pillow a bit so she was looking more squarely at Will. The movement set loose another tear, but her voice didn’t break. “So move me, or don’t move me. It all adds up the same. I can feel it, Captain Turner . . . something ain’t right.”

    Will remembered the compass needle aboard the Dutchman and how steadily it had pointed toward the Pearl. He’d never seen that needle do anything but point the way to the dead, or those who were near death. Had Peg lost her child already? Will didn’t know much about childbirth, but he knew that if an infant died in the womb, the mother was quite likely to follow.

    For a moment, the words of the Dutchman’s work song came back to him:

    Bring away the oldest and the youngest thing
    Come to death, and follow me.

    It was a cold, harsh reminder that the universe had rules. One of those rules was that death, like the sea, took what it wanted. In fact, the Dutchman would not have been present in those stormy, nighttime waters if the sea weren’t intent on taking something. The greatest mercy Will could offer Jack was to convince him to give up whatever mattered to him least, while there was still time to decide. If the pirate refused to surrender even a little, the sea might well take everything from him.

    Will had things to lose as well. If he let himself become blinded by old friendships and forgot that his first loyalty was to the sea dead, he might become a monster and never see Elizabeth again.

    “I’ll do everything I can, Mrs. Sparrow,” Will said at last, wondering if his voice betrayed all the unspoken things he couldn’t do. “I promise.”

    At that moment the door burst open again, and with it came a noticeable, spreading ripple of water. As Jack splashed in, he drained the last of the contents of his rum bottle, and then he tossed the empty container in a corner. Whatever it landed in sent a large quantity of water pouring onto the floor. “Ah. Still here,” he said to Will, as if it had been possible for the other man to leave the cabin without everyone noticing.

    “Jack,” Will called out, quietly, but with a sense of urgency. “I need to talk to you.” He tried to catch Jack’s wandering, glittering eye, but for some reason the pirate was avoiding his gaze. Will hadn’t wanted to upset Peg further by discussing the business of the death ship, but apparently Jack wasn’t taking hints. “You need to make a decision, and you don’t have much time.”

    “Decision made, mate. No worries. Come on, you!” Jack was slurring rather badly, and since he wheeled to gesture at someone in the doorway while he was talking, it was unclear which words were meant for whom.

    Before Will could make another bid for his attention, an enormous silhouette filled the cabin door. There came the sound of heavy boots thudding on the deck through two or three inches of water, as well as the dragging slosh of wet fabric trailing in the rising pool.

    When the newcomer stepped into the light, Will found himself confronted by an enormous, bushy-headed, trifork-bearded pirate, who was wearing an equally-enormous blue dress.

    “Captain Will Turner, this is ‘Jolly’ Rogers, our gunner. And . . . midwife.” Even Jack had trouble getting that last word out with any confidence.

    Will nearly asked aloud whether Jack had lost his mind, but the pirate captain seemed to be warning him with his eyes. Will remembered what he had said about pronouns. Rogers was apparently quick to take offense, and was not to be referred to as “he,” “she,” or “it.”

    He also did not seem very jolly. Rogers glared down at Will with baleful, deep-set eyes, as if daring him to say anything about the fact that the Black Pearl’s “midwife” was an outsized pirate in an outsized blue dress.

    “I’m . . . very pleased to meet you,” Will said, trying hard not to stare at Rogers’ eccentric outfit. The dress was sodden and travel-stained, and the apron neatly pinned to the front was singed and blackened in places—most likely from gunpowder. Still, its overall styling seemed vaguely housekeeper-like. Will couldn’t help but wonder whether this was a castoff from some original enormous housekeeper, or if Rogers had sewn it himself.

    The huge pirate did not answer him, but he kept Will fixed with a glare as he passed by. Rogers was at least surprisingly gentle when he reached Peg’s bedside, and carefully repositioned her so that she lay more comfortably.

    It was nice that the Pearl’s gunner wanted to be kind to Black Peg, but Peg herself had made it clear that she needed quite a bit more than kindness at this point. Will wasn’t going to wait any longer for Jack to acknowledge him. He took the pirate by the arm and all but hauled over to a corner.

    When they reached the deep shadows, Will whispered, “Are you out of your mind?”

    Jack shrugged himself sharply out of Will’s grip. “Oh, and I suppose you’ve got a better idea.”

    “Than bailing out your hold with a hat and pretending your gunner is a midwife? Yes, I can think of several!” Will’s voice rose as he spoke those words, and Jack shot a look behind them, as if not wanting their conversation to carry. Will followed his gaze. Rogers was holding a dim orange lamp over Peg, and giving Will and Jack an evil-tempered look. Peg was struggling to drink water out of a glass jug, and appeared more interested in that than in what the men were doing.

    Will made a greater effort to pitch his voice for Jack’s ears alone. “Let the Pearl go, Jack. She’s taken on too much water to save. If you give the order to abandon ship now, we can still rescue most of the crew—including Peg. I’ll take her across myself, if you want. She’ll be safe enough. I’ve been through more hurricanes than you have, now.”

    For some reason, Jack kept glancing up at the crossbeams overhead. The timbers were groaning and straining like everything else, and in places water drained down from the upper deck. This situation seemed much more important to Jack than Will was. “Very kind of you, I’m sure. But if your idea is to bind her up in rope, swing her across a sea high enough to swallow us, and then dump her onto a death ship what can’t make port, I think I can manage a bit better on me own.”

    “No, you can’t,” Will whispered fiercely. “The Dutchman’s compass. Do you know it?” Jack’s hair beads rattled as he shifted his gaze from the vulnerable bracings overhead. For a moment, at least, Will seemed to have his attention.

    “What about it?” Jack’s expression was almost unreadable in the shadows of the corner, but Will could hear the edge of anxiety in his voice.

    “If you know it, then you know what it means when it’s pointed straight at you.”

    Jack’s silence spoke volumes.

    “We didn’t come to this stretch of sea because of your distress signal. We came here because we were called—for something, or someone. For the Pearl and its crew, most likely. Luckily for you, all that’s certain to go down at the moment is the Pearl. You still have the chance to leave it behind, and hope the sea is satisfied with the ship alone.”

    “Ah,” Jack said softly. His interest was all focused on Will now. “Called, were you. So you’re in thrall to the sea. You’ve inherited Jones’ curse.”

    “The curse Jones was supposed to have,” Will corrected. “I chose to be a servant, in exchange for a day of freedom every ten years. I won’t play at being a petty god, only to die slowly from the inside out.”

    The light sound of beads rattling indicated Jack’s nod. “That’s what I’d hoped you’d say.”

    Suddenly, the ship was knocked sideways so hard that both Will and Jack were thrown to the floor. Objects flew everywhere; the oil lamps shattered into a thousand burning shards. One left a sputtering smear of flame that spread down the deck’s incline, and Peg cried out as her bed nearly skidded over the line of fire.

    Will picked himself up, dazed, and found that Jack was already flinging something over the burning oil slick to smother it.

    That left them all in total darkness.

    For a moment nobody spoke. The only sounds were the groans and snaps of the hull under terrible strain, and the shouts of the men on the other side of the cabin door. Then an eerie, hollow roar began to build outside, like the drone of an angry vortex.

    “Jackie?” Peg called out uncertainly.

    Jack made a tense shushing noise at her. It wasn’t clear whether his desire to listen carefully was born of fear or intense interest.

    Will’s response was simply fear. He knew that roaring sound—it was a waterspout, and a close one by the sound of it. Will’s immediate terror was that the Dutchman had ventured too close to land, and this was Calypso’s vengeance.

    “What have you done, Jack?” Will shouted.

    Jack didn’t answer, but Will could hear him struggling and splashing his way to the door. He followed the sound of the pirate’s movements.

    Will heard the pirate wrench the door open, and the two of them foundered out onto the tilted gundeck. Oil lamps had fallen there as well, and men were smothering flames with whatever shirts and headscarves they hadn’t already stuffed in some leaking crack in the hull.

    The deck was so skewed that Jack had to half-run, half-climb to the stairway leading to the open deck, and then awkwardly haul himself up. Will was right behind him. He had a bad feeling about what he’d find when they reached the top.

    When he dragged himself out into the pouring rain, he saw what he’d expected—and worse.

    The strange, roaring wind sound had grown louder, and Will feared that they were all about to pay for his poor judgment.

    A soaked and desperate group of pirates fiercely defended a web of ropes and grapnels they’d tossed between the Pearl and the Dutchman, and the Dutchman’s passenger drifted across the gap in large numbers. They paid no attention to the pirates, who likewise seemed not to see them. Instead, the shades seemed to be confused, and seeking something. Most likely they were seeking their captain, who was responsible for getting their ship commandeered by pirates, instead of taking them swiftly to their destination.

    The storm seemed directly overhead now, and flashes of purple-white lightning illuminated the clash between the two crews again and again. Will chased Jack to the rear line of the fray, where Jack stopped and turned around.

    He was giving Will a wild-eyed, wary look, like a wolf on the spur of deciding whether to fight or run. The wind had blown his coat open, and his flashing-ringed hand was just a motion away from the hilt of his sword.

    “Cut the lines!” Will had to shout over the wind and the sounds of battle.

    Jack shook his head. “Sorry, mate—nothing personal,” he called back. Yet every tensed line of his body proclaimed that this was very personal. In a way, Will didn’t blame him. If their positions had been reversed, and it was Elizabeth suffering below, Will would have been driven to desperate acts too.

    The problem was that Jack didn’t understand just how desperate an act he had just committed.

    “You don’t want to bind yourself to the Dutchman. Cut the lines!”

    “Let’s say I got limited options. That ain’t one of ‘em.”

    The roaring whirlwind would be on them in moments, and Will had almost no time to explain. “If you join our ships, you share our curse. The Pearl’s been bashing itself against the rocks—it’s practically on land. The Dutchman can’t afford to get that close. If you don’t cut the ships loose, you’ll be driven back out to sea with us, and probably smashed to pieces.”

    “Getting driven back out to sea’s the point, mate,” Jack shouted back. “If we stay here in the shallows, we’re like to get smashed to pieces anyway.”

    Will’s reply was cut off by a roar that sounded like the screaming void beyond the corners of the Earth, and an ominous spray of water that rose up from the direction of the cliffs.

    “Get below!” Will shouted, uncertain if anyone could hear him. “Get below now!”

    Jack’s eyes widened as the wind seemed to change directions. He spun toward his crew and echoed, “Get below!”


    The pirates turned at the sound of his voice, and then suddenly over a dozen men were pelting for the lone open passage down to the gundeck.
  11. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    And the story's more about how they get out of the mess they're in, not so much how they got into it. I hope that's okay!

    It's your story! Anything you want to do is more than okay. I am just enjoying the ride. :)

    Speaking of the ride - gah. I love your voice for Peg. She is already rapidly developing as her own character, and her misgivings about her child, and the Dutchman's own presence . . . it isn't adding up for good things. (And Will's introspections and understandings are just painfully sad and weighty to read here, at that.) You have a wonderful balance of dark, otherworldly plot, black humor and Jack's own particular bit of craziness. A great combination. =D=

    I am looking forward to seeing how they get out of this particular pickle now. :p :oops: [face_thinking]
  12. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Thank you so much for your feedback! Getting comments on my stories always makes my day. :) My sister was confused by the next section when she beta'ed for me . . . let me know if you have questions about what's happening. :p

    _____________

    Will made it to the hatch first, jumping down and then wheeling out of the way so Jack didn’t land directly on him. On Jack’s heels came a tumbling mass of unwashed humanity, all kicking and shoving each other as they each struggled to be first to fall down the stairs.

    Jack barely had time to pull the hatch covering shut before the ship dropped as if it had been swept over a cliff. The Dutchman, its now-companion ship, slammed into it so hard that the deck bucked like a stung mule.

    Everyone was knocked sprawling across the floor. Some pirate’s boot connected unpleasantly with Will’s head, and he was a bit too dazed to react immediately when Gibbs yelled, “The mattress!”

    When he turned in the direction the First Mate was pointing, he saw that the man-sized hole in the Pearl’s hull was now wide-open. The mattress that had been partly blocking it had tumbled to the deck—apparently squashing Ragetti flat.

    A cold wind blasted through the gap, whipping men’s hair and causing the wet folds of their clothes to flap wildly. Even the faintly-shimmering dead, who were drifting down from the deck above, turned to stare upward with blank expressions and dull eyes.

    There was an ominous thud from below—the Pearls keel had just struck the rock shelf that lay beneath the shallows it had been sailing in. Somewhere in the nearby darkness, a thin, wicked funnel cloud must have touched down, and was now sucking the tidal waters upward. The water would come down again, however—and probably very soon.

    Without another word spoken, Will and Jack were both on their feet, hauling the dripping mass of cloth and straw off of Ragetti and shoving it back in the hole. There were also some castoff articles of pirate clothing to jam into cracks, as well as pieces of an elegant ladies’ evening gown, and a large Jolly Roger bearing the insignia of some pirate other than Jack. When they were finished, there was still a large gap at the top, even after Jack gave tragic sigh and stuffed his coat into the pile.

    With nothing else to put in place, both Will and Jack turned around and leaned their backs against the opening, as if they could personally bar the water from rushing in.

    For a moment there was only the wind roaring and the tortured groans of the ship. All around, the scant light picked out glints in frightened pirates’ eyes. When Will glanced over next to him, he found Jack flattened up against the hull of the ship, looking piteously at nothing visible, as if he were a small animal pleading with the storm not to eat him.

    “I told you to cut the lines,” Will said.

    And then something bashed the Pearl like the hammer of an angry god.

    Water blasted Will away from the hole and swept him to the far side of the hull. In an instant, every lampglass was blown to shards, and men were crying out in the dark. The grinding of the keel against rock ceased as a fast-rising swell rushed under the ship. The water continued to rise, lifting the Pearl at such a steep angle that it would certainly have capsized if it hadn’t had the Dutchman to fall against.

    As things were, there were horrendous cracking sounds above as masts and yardarms splintered. Within seconds, the water had reached waist-level.

    The ship dropped a second time, tilting at a frightful broadside angle that swept men, equipment, and tons of water from one side of the deck to the other. Jack was shouting something, but Will was too busy trying to keep his head above water to listen. Just because he was incapable of dying didn’t mean that he was incapable of feeling the agony of slow suffocation, or the horrible, reflexive gasping that would suck salt water into his lungs.

    Then the Pearl was hit from above again.

    There was no rocky bottom to strike this time—the ship just went down and down, and the water poured in the hatches. If the Pearl had been bound to any ship other than the Dutchman, it would certainly have been smashed straight to the ocean floor. But the Dutchman could not sink—it could only dive at its captain’s order.

    So the injured Pearl hung from its grappling lines, like a huge lobster trap trailing along below the death ship.

    The water kept rising, and men were forced to continually swim up the face of captive waves, which were only separated from their wild cousins outside by a few inches of wood.

    The pitch and roll of the water inside the ship began to grow smoother as they were driven out past the shallows—or perhaps as the fleeing Dutchman towed them. They were still being rocked upward to angles that should have flipped them over, but there were no more enormous breakers to bash them to the seabed.

    Will had no immediate plans other than trying to keep to the shrinking pocket of air near the gundeck beams, trying to avoid being crushed by cannons that had come loose from their moorings, and trying to avoid the flailing bodies of half-drowned pirates.

    Now and then the softly-luminous form of one of his passengers would drift by, and once he found himself staring straight down into a dead man’s moonstone eyes, which held a look of silent rebuke. Will was supposed to provide these poor souls a refuge from the cold, tossing sea, not lead them straight into it.

    Yet Will could see no way of getting anybody out, either alive or dead. Whatever Jack’s plan had originally been, he’d ended up with the worst of both worlds: the Dutchman’s curse combined with the Pearl’s earthly vulnerability. It seemed inevitable that the Pearl would be destroyed—it would just be more slowly and completely than it would have been if Jack hadn’t overplayed his hand and outsmarted himself.

    Will fought his way to the shallow water at the high side of the deck one more time, and began to seriously wonder how painful drowning could possibly be. At some point, it had to be a better option than endlessly struggling uphill from one side of a rocking deck to the other.

    In that moment when his ears weren’t filled with seawater, he finally heard what Jack had been shouting: “Gunports! Oh, shut it, you sniveling snotbox--act like a pirate. If you can’t swim, hold on to somebody’s ankle. Every man, get to the gunports! And drown that bloody monkey if you can.” Will realized that the Undead monkey had been shrilling loudly from somewhere up near the gundeck beams ever since the first wave had hit.

    The sides of the hull were made to accommodate as many guns as possible, and Will found himself clinging to the deck planks at a spot where a cannon had recently been. When he ran a desperate, fumbling hand over the sodden hull he felt the square edges of the gunport.

    “When I give the signal, everybody open ‘em!” Jack shouted.

    “You can’t be serious,” Will said, although there was little chance the pirate captain could hear him.

    Apparently, Jack was. He’d found something flammable and had doused his sword in it It was quite possibly rum, given the low, sputtering bluish flame. How he’d found flame to ignite it with was anybody’s guess. He also appeared to be hanging onto the lower shaft of the mainmast, up near the ceiling beams where the water wouldn’t douse his blade.

    There was no room to hold the sword aloft, so he held it off to the side, as if getting ready to slash someone’s head off with it. “Ready . . .” Jack called out.

    Will had an idea of what Jack was trying to do--take advantage of the appalling angle the Pearl was cast at when it went sideways over a swell to allow some of the water belowdecks to rush out the ports. True, opening more holes in the hull did not seem like a very good idea, but then, Will didn’t have a better one. He groped along the edges of the gunport until he found the pegs and leather loops that held it closed. He undid one of them, in preparation for whatever insane order Jack would give next.

    The water had rolled about as far to the opposite side of the hull as it was going to go, and Will had to brace his boot against the rope meant to hold a cannon in place, so he wouldn’t tumble down the deck as if it were some slick mountain slope.

    The Pearl seemed to slow to a stop as it reached the top of the swell it was climbing. For an instant, most of the screaming stopped, and there was an expectant hush.

    Then with much groaning and snapping, the orientation of the ship shifted from tipped deeply to starboard to tipped deeply to port. Will nearly tumbled into the hull as gravity itself seemed to tilt, and water coursed down the deck at him. Then came the sick feeling of near-free fall as they plunged down the great wave’s far side, and Jack shouted, “Now!” The guttering blue flame on his sword arced through the air, and Will slipped the second loop free of its wooden peg.

    It was all he could do to roll out of the way as water rushed out like deep mountain rapids, pinning him to the side of the hull, and pouring through the gunport he had just opened.

    The crushing, choking feeling seemed to go on and on, until the ship slid down into a trough in the waves, and Jack was suddenly shouting, “Close ‘em! Close all of ‘em!”

    With fingers numb with cold and a brain half numbed from lack of oxygen, Will struggled with the water-slick leather loops until they were hooked over their pegs again.

    Jack’s sword had gone out and they were once again in darkness, but his next order wasn’t hard to anticipate: “Other side! Move, you purulent parcels of diseases! Other side!”

    Will fought his way upward through rushing water once again—only this time, there wasn’t as much of it. The danger was far from past, however. An ominous grating sound that made the deck planks tremble warned Will to drop and roll—giving up his hard-won spot on the high end of the deck in exchange for avoiding the massive cannon barrel that tilted up and dropped to the other side of the ship. The big gun passed close enough to Will to send its own spray and small waves splashing over him.

    This time there came groaning and cracking as the Pearl ground itself against the Dutchman’s outer hull. The death ship’s magic was the only thing that kept the lashed-together vessels from foundering to the bottom.

    Scrambling to make up for lost time, he reached the corner of a gunport just as Jack shouted, “Now!”

    Will had to struggle to open it with his cold-stiffened hands, and he was painfully aware of the tilt of the ship as it crested—and the water began rushing toward him.

    So did the cannon.

    He had one strap off its peg when he began to hear the rolling thuds, like the tumbling body of some dead giant.

    Fighting terror over what might happen to a crushed man who could not die, Will yanked at the stubborn strap. At last it gave way, and Will rolled to the side—just as the cannon crashed to the hull, and partly through the gunport. He lay pinned under a flattening deluge once again, but once the falling water began to lose its force and he could move, his hand ran into the cold metal of the cannon barrel not an inch away from his flesh.

    By the time Jack shouted for the gunports to be shut again, Will’s side of the ship was becoming like the low-point of a giant, tilting washtub, and there was nothing to do but scramble up the slippery wet deck toward the other side. It was now possible to crawl rather than swim, however, and the trip was faster.

    Jack had managed to reignite his sword, and at the blue arc of flame and the pirate’s command: “Now!” Will slipped the gunport straps free with relative ease, and rolled out of the way once again.

    The rush of water was less chokingly heavy this time, although the timber-jarring thud of the loose cannon sounded just as deadly.

    “Would somebody secure that thing?” Will shouted into the darkness, as soon as the waters receded enough for him to breathe.

    “With what?” came Ragetti’s answer.

    The quickly-shifting tilt of the ship left him unable to reply. All his energy had to go into crawling upward to the other side of the hull.

    Things seemed to be improving, however—the next time he opened his gunport door, Will could breathe through all but a few seconds of falling water. The opening after that was nearly useless—water rolled up only just above gunport-level, and poured out almost politely, as if it were exiting the mouth of some large fountain.

    The sea’s rolling grew smoother the deeper out to sea they were towed, as well.

    Finally, Jack called out: “Seal it! Seal all of it! And get something over that hole in the hull as well. Try stuffing the monkey down the hold, and see if he’ll get us some nails.” Will caught him muttering, “Make himself bloody useful for once.”


    The monkey started shrieking louder, amid rather-menacing calls of, “Here, monkey . . . here, little monkey . . . I got a biscuit for ya . . .”
  13. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Wow! That was quite the ride - and literally, at that. Once again, ingenious thinking on Jack's part - the action here was easy to follow once I read it twice. It was something that would look great on the bigscreen, that's for sure. It really added to the action and pace of the story. :)

    Once again, I am really looking forward to more. This story is engrossing. =D=
  14. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    I'm sorry you had to read it twice . . . I tried to make it clearer than that. Pity I can't do storyboards! :p Thank you for continuing along with the story, though, and I really appreciate your comments. :)
    _____________________

    “Sir—we’ll need lights to work!” someone called out.

    “Never fear!” Jack shouted, holding up his still-flickering sword. Then it hit the roof of the gundeck, and was knocked out of his hand, and apparently burned him.

    Jack swore a lot and seemed to be sloshing his fingers around in the remaining water, as the one tiny flicker of light in the ship went out.

    “That . . . wasn’t very helpful sir!”

    “Oh, shut it! I don’t see you coming up with ideas about how to get a death ship to save all our lives.”

    By that time, the gundeck of the Pearl was by then as full of spectral sailors as living ones. Ghostly forms drifted back and forth along the length of the ship, some of them looking lost, while others appeared to be trying to work. Two faintly-glowing shades were attempting to operate one of the pumps, as if they weren’t aware that their duties as sailing men had ever ceased.

    Taking a cue from his calm, implacable passengers, Will called out, “Jack, the pumps!”

    “’Ere! You give orders on your own ship!” Then after a moment, Jack added, “Get on the pumps, the lot of ya! Except the ones who are doing something else. You go back to doing what you were doing. Only better! Last time you nearly put us at the bottom of the sea.”

    The translucent form of a gnarled old man passed in front of Will. The fellow stopped a short distance away and seemed to try to grab hold of a bucket that his hands could not grip. “Jack, I need to tell you something--”

    “No—I’ve known for years. And don’t worry—I don’t think it makes you any less of a man. Other than the . . . obvious.”

    “Jack, that is not

    Will’s words were interrupted by the sight of a shower of sparks and then a dull red glow. As the light brightened, he was able to see that Jack had managed to create a lamp of sorts, out of what appeared to be a rum bottle, cloth wadding of some sort, and a length of matchcord. The light it gave off was not very good—mostly a reluctantly-smoldering ember that could occasionally be coaxed into a lick of flame.

    Will was impressed that Jack was desperate enough to turn a bottle of alcohol into a lamp at all. “You’re burning rum?” he asked.

    The red, smoky light sparked off the pirate’s gold teeth as he grimaced in apparent horror. “Oh, gods, no. This is gin. Nasty stuff. Good for intoxicating wenches and burning things.” He tossed the bottle into the darkness, and somehow managed to strike an alarmed-looking Gibbs, who bobbled it desperately for a few seconds before he caught it securely. “Wife drinks it,” Jack added casually. Then he called out, “I’ll see what else I can do to rescue you people, but for the moment, you’ll have to make do with that. And get rid of that great hole in my hull!”

    Gibbs gazed down at the guttering, makeshift lamp in his hands, and then over toward the place where the wind was still blowing in. He looked rather like a man who has just been ordered to sail from Portugal to Bermuda in a small flour sieve.

    Will had to admit that water had stopped pouring through the hole, and the ship did feel as if it were riding a bit higher and lighter in the water. It was galling to think that Jack had managed to pirate The Flying Dutchman, shipwreck himself, and still come out better off than when he started, but it appeared that this might have been what he’d just done.

    Jack spun on one heel and headed aft, and Will strode after him, intending to demand the release of his ship and his passengers if it meant pinning the pirate to the wall in order to do it. Jack suddenly stopped short in the shadows of the little passage that led to his cabin, however, and Will very nearly ran into him.

    “What are you--” Jack’s hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed Will hard by the front of the shirt. Will was stunned into silence, but the surprise didn’t last long. No doubt Jack had some diatribe he wanted to rattle off, and Will was his chosen captive audience.

    The harangue never came, however. Instead, the pirate’s ocean-cold fingers and ostentatious rings snagged and twisted the soaked fabric of Will’s shirt. He could feel by the angle of the grip that Jack had not turned all the way around to face him.

    Jack’s actions made no sense, but there was a kind of emotional logic to the ferocious tension Will could feel in that grip. He honestly expected Jack to either wheel around and punch him in the jaw, or break down and weep.

    In actuality, Jack did neither. When he spoke, it was in a low, slurry voice that had the exaggerated control of a man who was very distraught, or very drunk. “Do you know why, William, that I chose to save your life? Do you know why I’m stuck with commandeering your bonny ship, instead of owning it meself?”

    Will had wondered that very thing a thousand times—whenever the scar on his chest began to ache, and the wound of separation ached worse, and whenever he remembered to rejoice that another day had gone by, and he was twenty-four hours closer to reunion with his beloved. Why had Jack Sparrow given up a chance to seize all the power a pirate could ever want, and given it to a man who not only didn’t want power, but whom he appeared not to like very much?

    “No. I don’t know.”

    That hand in the dark pulled at Will’s shirt sharply, as if it had been the end of a noose. “Maybe . . . I didn’t like listening to Elizabeth scream.”

    That was something else that made no sense, unless you looked at it with the eyes of the heart. Jack Sparrow was a liar, and a thief, and a cheat, and a traitor a hundred times over, and sometimes he was a coward, but he could hurt when other people hurt. He was capable of putting others wants ahead of his own, and that probably meant he could love.

    A woman Jack very likely loved was on the other side of the cabin door—and she would either be dead, or suffering terribly. He did not want to see it, and he was asking—demanding, really—that the servant of Death show them both some mercy . . . just as Jack had once shown mercy to Will and Elizabeth.

    Will said the only thing that mercy would allow him: “I’ll do everything I can.”

    At that, some of the fierceness left Jack’s grip, and then he released Will’s shirt. The pirate hesitated a moment longer, and then very abruptly shoved open the door, as if he had to do it during an instant when his courage held.

    Water flowed out of the cabin. A lot of water—streaming through the passageway like a miniature river. The water was visible because there was a faint light inside, however. It put golden caps on the little wavelets, so the water running out looked like blackness shot with a shining filigree of gold.

    Jack splashed into the room and Will followed him.

    A lone oil lamp had survived the deluge, although its glass was crazed with cracks and it appeared to be leaking. Nearly everything else in the room was broken or buried under shoals of objects that were broken.

    Within the circle of the lamp’s dim light stood the massive figure of Rogers, human oak tree and midwife of questionable qualifications, and in his arms was Peg, who looked half-frozen, in pain, and extremely annoyed.

    Jack rushed over to them with his arms held out. He kissed Rogers. Rogers looked offended. Peg slapped Jack on the side of the head and nearly knocked his hat off.

    “’Ere, what you been up to, eh? Trying to get us killed?” she asked.

    Jack appeared to sulk a moment as he straightened out his hat. Once he’d gotten hold of himself, he answered, “Love, you know me. I can be patient. The routes to my ends can be . . . circumnavicatious. But--I am efficient. If I were to try killing you by first getting you pregnant and then drowning you in a hurricane, I wouldn’t miss.”

    “Fair enough.”

    “Luckily for us, Captain Turner has agreed to tow us around to the far side of the island.”

    “I agreed to what?”

    “You’ll do everything you can,” Jack reminded him. Will hadn’t wanted to see grief in those kohl-smudged eyes of Jack’s, but the sudden gleeful sparkle in them just made Will want to hit him.

    “First, you’ll need to see where you’re going.” Jack looked around and seemed to notice for the first time that everything in his cabin was pinned under something else. “I’ll need to see where we’re going. I’ll need to find that bloody map . . .”

    He hauled the upended table back onto its feet, which sent empty rum bottles rolling toward the low side of the deck. Underneath, there was a large number of shattered candles beside their bent holder, Peg’s pistol, and a large rectangle of paper floating in the water that still covered the floor. Jack scooped up the mess and dropped it on the tabletop. A moment later he had the map spread out and held flat with the weight of the pistol and the candle holder.

    It was quite clearly a pirate map. The major landmasses of the Caribbean Sea had been printed upon it in some cartographer’s shop, but countless smaller islands and bays had been drawn in by hand. These had been given dubious labels such as “Knife In The Back Bay,” “Where They Buried Him,” and “Don’t Go Here.”

    “Help Rogers get Peg settled again while I try and get some of these stumps lit, eh?” Jack asked. The wreckage of candles lay all around, although Will had his doubts about whether they would actually burn.

    At least open flame wasn’t much of a hazard in a cabin where everything was drenched. And even if there had been something that might catch fire, it didn’t appear as if burning could cause much more damage. Peg’s bed was just barely salvageable, but water poured from the mattress when Will hauled it up. He could scarcely imagine putting the poor woman back on such a thing, but there was nowhere else to put her but the floor.

    Worse, specters of the dead were now drifting into the cabin, and had begun going about their eerie, pantomime-like business. A couple of men, perhaps onetime pirates, were attempting to rummage through Jack’s tumbled belongings, even though their hands passed straight through the objects as if they had been picking at water.

    A woman in a plain, workday dress not so dissimilar to Rogers’ had taken up a spot in a corner, and was wringing her hands about something. Will could faintly hear her worrying aloud to herself: “Oh, dear. Oh, dear. This is terrible. This isn’t right at all.”

    Will couldn’t disagree with her. When he looked up from replacing the wreck of a mattress, he saw that a spasm had sent Peg twisting as if someone had kicked her in the lower spine, and Rogers was having a hard time keeping hold of her.

    Jack, to his credit, at least gave up nearly extinguishing the lone burning lamp with wet lumps of wax, and went to help put Peg’s bed back together. He assisted Will in heaving the great, sodden blob of a mattress back on the bed frame. They turned the bloodied side down, but that left the stitched side up, with all the sharp bits of straw sticking up through it.

    When Jack saw that, he said, “Rogers—petticoat.”

    “What?” asked the pirate gunner-turned-midwife. He sounded scandalized.

    “My wife is not giving birth on a pile of wet straw. We will give her the respect due her station, and provide her with a cloth-covered . . . pile of wet straw.” Jack gave Rogers his most fiercely indignant glare, as if daring the other pirate to point out that the distinction was rather stupid.

    There was a tense pause, in which Will could hear the spectral men talk about thirsting for rum, while the woman in the corner yearned aloud for some rope. Finally, Rogers said, “All right—but don’t look.”

    “’Course not. Good man. Woman. Er—person.” Rogers seemed to find each successive form of address more offensive, and Jack was smart enough to back off quickly.

    Rogers was as good as his word, however, and they soon had his soaked petticoat lying over the gaping back of the soaked mattress. The great dun-colored underskirt appeared to have been hacked with a cutlass in several places, and then carefully mended. Will was not certain that the presence of a pirate gunner’s underwear was an improvement in conditions for Peg, especially after Jack eased her back down onto the bed, and water coursed out of the cloth sack as if she were crushing a giant sponge. Peg’s expression suggested that of a woman who had just found herself placed upon the meat of a giant clam.

    “How’s that?” Jack asked. He sounded more hopeful than the situation really warranted.

    “You have no idea.”

    “It gets better,” he promised.


    “Safe bet, that.”
  15. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Oh, it wasn't a bad read twice at all. It was more my reading too fast. ;) [:D]

    And this was another excellent update. Once again, your Jack voice is wonderful - shifting back from his quips about rum and gin to his honest pleas to Will was just wonderfully done. This -

    That was something else that made no sense, unless you looked at it with the eyes of the heart. Jack Sparrow was a liar, and a thief, and a cheat, and a traitor a hundred times over, and sometimes he was a coward, but he could hurt when other people hurt. He was capable of putting others wants ahead of his own, and that probably meant he could love.

    - kinda just hit me at the heart. [face_love] Beautifully done. (I loved the names for the hand drawn islands on the map, too. [face_laugh] And the specters in general as they loiter about. A great way to cut through the tension of the situation at hand. :p)

    But Peg's predicament has me more and more worried as this story goes on. [face_worried] As always, I am looking forward to more. =D=
  16. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Thank you so much for continuing to read! I very much appreciate your comments. :)
    ____________________

    Jack did not appear aware that there was an actual drowned woman standing just behind him, muttering to herself. Yet perhaps some whisper of mortality broke through his wall of denial, since he stopped all his ordering and plotting for a moment, and used one grubby thumb to wipe Peg’s hair tangles out of her eyes.

    “Trust me,” he said softly.

    Peg didn’t answer—perhaps she couldn’t. The pain seemed to be coming on her again. Even in the thin light cast the lamp and a couple of guttering candle stumps, Will could see that she was gripping the sides of the dripping bed so tightly that her fingers strained and her hands had gone pale.

    She kept her gaze locked on Jack’s, in what seemed like a silent, irrational plea for rescue from her own flesh.

    “There’s always a way,” Jack insisted. “Just trust me, love.”

    Will didn’t think she believed him, but she shut her eyes and let her cheek fall against his hand.

    Will found he had to look away. He knew next to nothing about birth, but far too much about death. He had a sense for when people began to see they must let go of life, and something about Peg’s uncharacteristic silence told him she was reaching that point. Usually, when people believed the end was coming, they were right.

    Jack was obviously not ready to give up yet, however. When he left Peg’s bedside, he got down to practical matters about the same way he always did. First, he had to drain the last few drops out of all the rum bottles rolling about on the floor. Then he pitched them one by one into the corners of the room. If he betrayed his desperation at all, it was in that he threw the bottles rather harder than usual.

    Finally, he tapped one tar-stained fingertip upon a small blob on the map. “We’re here.”

    Will peered hard at the map’s faded letters, which seemed to waver in the sputtering candlelight. “’Bloody Island,’” he read finally. The name was dimly familiar, and he thought he must have heard it during his time on the Pearl. “That’s a pirate island, isn’t it? You ought to be able to navigate that better than I could.”

    Jack shook his head firmly, which made something rattle. It was probably hair beads, but it did create the impression it might be his brains. “Yes, it is. And no, I can’t. And also no, it is not called ‘Bloody Island.’ That’s a sort of a . . . nickname. If you were to more betterly utilize your powers of observation, you would notice that its name among pirates is ‘That Bloody Island,’ which is what we call it because we all hate it so much.”

    When Will looked closely, he saw Jack was right—the word “That” was half-obscured beneath a dirty fingerprint. “And you need the Dutchman’s help to get around That Bloody Island,” Will said doubtfully.

    “Yes.” Jack was pointing to a pale, wavy line that might possibly have been someone’s impression of a current pattern. “There’s no approaching it from this direction. No getting ‘round it, either—not in wind like this. But your ship, mate . . . your ship don’t need the wind to drive it. It stays out deep, past the tall swells, and it goes in whatever direction you like.

    “That’s why we need you to tow us around the south shore, here, and up to Bloody Bay. That’s the only sheltered spot to drop anchor in these waters, as well as the only beach you can land on without breaking your boats to pieces.”

    Will looked at the scribbled-on map, and then up at the shade of the woman, who had followed him to the table. Her translucent eyes had that milky, faraway look that all the dead got, and she was miming the act of shuffling off lengths of cord with her hands. She was still pleading in her faint, distant voice: “Rope, sir. Please . . . a goodly length of rope. Thick enough for a good grip, but not too thick . . .”

    No doubt she’d been begging someone to throw her a rope when she died, and she’d lost track of the time since that moment. Will tried to put her off with an acknowledging nod, but she wouldn’t be deterred: “Ten foot would be best, sir, but even six would do . . .”

    Finally, he felt he had to answer her: “It’s all right. I know you want to get underway again. Just be patient.”

    “What?” Jack asked, looking up. He was giving Will a suspicious look, as if he resented the idea of somebody else being crazier than he was.

    “Jack. We need to talk.” Will held Jack’s gaze intently, trying to signal to the other man that he had to listen for once in his deranged life. Somehow, Will needed to explain to the other man that violating the Dutchman’s rules would be bad. Not just bad for Will, but bad for Jack. The Pearl could be dragged, drowned, and haunted if it chose to annex itself to the death ship. Maybe the Pearl’s occupants would survive, and maybe they wouldn’t.

    It was difficult to say exactly what Jack was thinking, but the dim light did pick out the glitter of his eyes as they seemed to search for something in the darkness behind Will. “All right,” he said warily. “It might be safe to go topside.”

    Jack turned to leave, but stopped by the door to root around in a pile of rubble for a moment.

    “Jack!” Will called out. He held up a corner of the map. “Did you forget this?”

    “Nope. Don’t need that—just you. And this.” Jack held up the partly-crushed horn of a loudhailer.

    The pirate seemed blissfully unaware that a spectral man had spreadeagled himself against one of the cabin windows, and was saying, “Ooh! I can see my house from here!”

    “Don’t tell me you’re going to try to keep me from going back to my ship.” The dead might be disoriented when they were on the Dutchman, headed toward World’s End, but at least they were quiet. Who knew what they’d do if Will abandoned his duty to them?

    “How could I keep you off your ship? We’re bound for land, mate, a place on which the ocean’s powers have just made it very clear you cannot set foot for another something-and-however-many years. We’ll have to toss you back aboard the Dutchman before all hell breaks loose. ‘Course, Jones could stand on a sand spit in a bucket. Can you stand on a sand spit in a bucket?” Jack looked as if the comparison with Davy Jones left Will wanting.

    “I don’t know. And I’m not letting you change the subject,” Will said, although he did allow the pirate to lead him out the door.

    On the other side, much to his surprise, was light. Once they emerged into the gundeck area, Will could see that the crew had succeeded in putting flames back in a number of dangerously-broken and mangled-looking lamps.

    “Cap’n!” Gibbs shouted triumphantly, “We’ll be able to make repairs in double time, now. An oil keg floated up to the top of the water in the hold.”

    “Actually, we was mucking about down there, lookin’ for some bottles of rum,” Ragetti said. He sounded a bit dispirited, either because of the failure of the rum expedition, or because he was being used as a human barricade against the hole in the hull.

    Gibbs shot him a look that was clearly an order to shut up. “We, ah . . . may have made one or two little side trips . . .”

    The pirate captain stepped back for an instant, as if for a better view, and looked the whole disaster up and down like a man appraising some piece of fine art. Finally he rendered his verdict: “Yes. I like that. Only with less hole in it, and more nails.”

    “We’re working on the nails,” Gibbs said. “Up until this point, we’ve found a total of . . . three.” He looked slightly embarrassed.

    The Undead monkey swum up through one of the hold hatches, and slapped something upon the deck. He looked about at the ghostly figures milling about through the live pirates, shrieked in ear-splitting horror, and dove back under the water.

    “Four,” Gibbs said, grimacing and rubbing at the inside of his ear with one pinkie.

    “The monkey can see them, Jack,” Will warned quietly.

    “Yes, I know—sometimes I feel like screaming when I look at them too, but you’d think he’d be used to it by now.”

    “Not your crew. My passengers.”

    Jack’s black eyes widened enough to reflect half-moons of lamplight.

    “Oh.”

    He grabbed Pintel’s mostly-unbroken lantern and held it up, as if hoping any spectral intruders would vanish with the shadows.

    “That’s not going to help,” Will pointed out.

    Jack shot him an uneasy glare and said, “If there are things I can’t see here, I at least want a look at them.”

    “What is it?” Pintel asked. Jack’s darting, shadow-hunting movements were plainly starting to frighten him, and the anxiety spread from one filthy pirate face to the next.

    “It’s the Dutchman, isn’t it,” Gibbs said, his voice a harsh near-whisper only just audible over the pounding of the rain on the deck above. “It’s cursed us. Even with Jones gone, it’s still a plague ship.”

    “It is not a plague ship,” Will said, a bit irrationally offended on the behalf of the ghost ship of which he would have given nearly anything to be free.

    “Well maybe it ain’t, but ya can’t hold death that close to your chest and not catch somethin’,” Gibbs said.

    The first mate was right, but Will didn’t see how panicking the Pearl’s crew was going to improve matters. The pirates were already beginning to close in around him and Jack in a fearful circle that looked as if it could easily break into something out of control.

    “None of you is in any danger,” Will assured them.

    An ocean swell blasted through part of the canvas, wood, and human barricade, and sent a fist-sized chunk of something bouncing off Ragetti’s head.

    “From us,” Will added.

    Jack seemed to have caught on to the idea that he was not improving the morale of his crewmembers, since he stopped trying to surprise the darkness behind the steps. Instead he looked up at Gibbs and said rather desperately, “Rum. Find it.”

    The change of focus seemed to revitalize the pirates, most of whom turned and rushed for the hatches to the flooded hold. Jack grabbed Will’s shirt and pulled him close enough to speak quietly: “I think we’d better discuss this above.”

    The damaged Pearl was uncomfortable belowdecks, but that was nothing compared to the fearsome wind and the driving rain above.

    Lightning revealed that the Pearl’s foremast was down, and its twisted yardarms and tattered sails were badly caught up in the Dutchman’s rigging. Dimly, in the purple-white haze surrounding the strokes from the sky, Will could see his own crewmen, as well as some of his devoted but confused passengers, struggling to hack the ghost ship free of the Pearl.

    A sideways glance at Jack revealed that the pirate captain was watching the work as well. The alarm in his face could not entirely be accounted for by the fact that men were taking blades to his beloved black sails, which he himself had been foolish enough not to cut away. He ran his hand over one grapnel line, which was tied to the base of the mainmast. The rope was still taut, although it gave continual, sharp creaks of strain, and the wind set it vibrating like an enormous cello string. Snapped line ends washing about the deck showed that some of its fellows had not survived the fight to keep the Pearl afloat.

    Will had a pretty good idea as to why he was supposed to stand upon the Pearl’s deck and shout orders through a loudhailer, rather than simply returning to his ship with a map. “They haven’t cut your grapnel lines because I’m here,” he shouted over the wind.

    He was feeling bitter on behalf of his sailors. Their life was hard enough without forcing the troubles of Jack Sparrow upon them. “Am I supposed to assume I’m a hostage?”

    “That depends entirely on your view of the matter. You feeling put out, mate?”

    “I came aboard to offer help, and you ‘commandeered’ my ship. Of course I feel put out!”

    “Ah. In that case, yeh, you’re a hostage.”

    Will looked away in disgust, toward the empty blackness of the sea, and the deadly cliffs to the west. Jack’s underhanded way of going about things made it easy to forget that it had been Will’s own decision to come aboard, and to stay aboard as long as he had.

    “Why can’t you just ask for help, like anybody else?”

    “’Cause that leaves room for the answer ‘no,’ mate.” The pirate’s tone was surprisingly gentle, as if he were breaking an unpleasant truth about the world to a younger brother.

    Will wasn’t in the mood to be mentored by the man who was maybe-holding him hostage, and he turned to glare at him.

    That didn’t seem to faze Jack at all. The pirate just looked rather sad, and tired, but very resolute. Will was quite sure that he’d continue playing dirty tricks all night—and the next night, and the next—if he didn’t get what he wanted. If he’d had the gall to apologize, he probably would have goaded Will into hitting him.

    Fortunately for Jack, he made no claims of remorse whatsoever. “I need you to tell your crew to take us ‘round to Bloody Bay. I’d be much obliged if you’d remain aboard the Pearl while they did it.” Jack somehow managed to both imply a threat and to make an utter wreck of the word “obliged.”

    “And if I say no?” Will asked.

    Jack looked as if he hadn’t expected such an obvious question. “Then I die,” he said. “Old Jack goes down with his ship a second time, and the world’s well rid of him. After that . . . I’m with you, mate.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward the Dutchman.

    There was something ominous about the way he said “with you.”

    “You’re not staying on, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Will warned him.

    Lightning cracked the sky, casting glints of unnatural brightness in the pirate’s eyes, and sparking odd, asymmetric flashes off his numerous gold teeth.

    “Oh yes. I am.”

    “No, you’re not.”


    “I believe the exact words of your predecessor were, ‘One hundred years of service aboard the Dutchman, as a start. If even that’s enough. Who knows, after a hundred years, I might start to like it. I just may never leave.’” Jack walked up to Will like a brazen pickpocket, and Will felt an instinctive urge to reach for his blade. The pirate was too close, and everything about him said “theft” or “sucker punch.”
  17. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    [face_laugh] Oh Jack. Everything about his and Will's interaction in this is just stellar. Will's long-suffering in this is just fun to read, and things like 'That Bloody Island' and Jack trying to see the ghosts and their shenanigans just enriches the writing. :p

    Another fantastic update, and I can't wait to see how this plan works out. [face_thinking]=D=
  18. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Yayyyy! Thank you for continuing on this somewhat silly ride. :p [face_hug]

    This next installment is a little longer, since there was no good place to cut it.
    ________________

    “Jones’ debts died with him. You owe me nothing.”

    “You? No. I’m bound to serve the ship, not its captain. Weren’t you paying attention at all on that rimy excrescence of a sand spit?” Few excrescences were as rimy as Jack’s breath at that range, and Will dropped back into what would serve as either a fighting stance or an attempt to escape.

    Jack persisted in trying to lean in and breathe on him, but the smell wasn’t half as offensive as his words: “Or . . . were you too busy contemplating how Elizabeth looked in some pirate concubine’s castoffs?”

    “Watch it, Jack,” Will snapped. He gripped his hilt, sorely tempted to draw fast and crack the other man’s jaw with the pommel.

    The pirate actually seemed to savor the threat. “Oh . . . so you did notice. I know I did. I doubt there was a single scabrous deck-swabber on Shipwreck Island who didn’t. And I will say this for Elizabeth—she might not be willing to kiss just anybody, but she doesn’t mind letting the lads look.”

    The slight on Elizabeth’s honor—especially when she had indeed kissed Jack Sparrow—was too much. “Keep her name out of your filthy mouth!” Will rammed Jack in the chest with the hilt of his sword, knocking him backward.

    That got a wild, wicked grin from the pirate, even as he staggered up against the steps to the quarterdeck. Jack just leaned up against the rail for a moment, half-turned away, as if he were thinking of running. He still hadn’t drawn a weapon, and looked every bit the depraved coward. Will didn’t know whether he wanted to hit him again, or just turn and leave him in his own despicable company.

    Will’s lack of bloodthirstiness apparently wasn’t enough for Jack however, and when Will didn’t close for the kill, the pirate opened his arms wide in a kind of woozy taunt. “Oh, come on. Is that it? ‘Course . . . I suppose that’s what she must’ve sai--”

    Will didn’t let him finish. He swung to bash Jack in the head with his hand-guard, but the pirate struck faster—swiping his lantern at Will’s face. The metal didn’t connect with flesh, but it left Will temporarily light-blinded.

    In that stunned half-second, Will heard the schink of the pirate drawing his sword.

    “You disgusting cheat!”

    And the fight was on.

    Will smashed Jack’s blade to the side and shoved him up the steps. It should have been an easy disarm—only Jack rolled to his feet like a drunken cat and whipped his lantern at Will’s sword hand.

    Will jerked back from the deadly combination of oil and fire, only to have his boot heel skid on the rain-slick deck. Before he could recover, Jack planted a hard kick on his hand-guard and sent him sprawling. Will’s blade clattered on the deck as he used both hands to catch himself. As he pushed himself up again, Jack jumped down upon the long metal shank.

    When a hard tug didn’t free his sword, Will rolled back quickly, aided by the steepening tilt of the deck. He swept his hand over the wet planks in the darkness, hoping to come upon something he could use to defend himself. He seized a snapped belaying pin, but found it still bound to the rope it had once held.

    As Will struggled to arm himself again, Jack had time to casually discard his lantern, get one toe under the strong of Will’s blade, and kick it up and into his hand.

    When Will looked up, he found himself staring down the shafts of two swords. The view got worse from there: the current master of the weapons was a wild-eyed pirate whose wind-whipped and tattered finery would have suited any corpse suspended upon Deadman’s Cay.

    Jack seemed perversely delighted by the situation. “Haven’t learned a thing in all this time, have you?” he asked. “You fight like this is a duel of honor, not a--”

    Will never found out what the fight was supposed to be, because he lashed out with his belaying-pin-weighted rope, and watched it whip around and around Jack’s sword hilt and right wrist.

    Jack watched it too, and the cast-aside lantern shed just enough light for Will to see the pirate’s smug expression replaced by one of alarm.

    “Bugger.”

    Will yanked hard on the rope, and it was Jack’s turn to tumble to the deck. Will kicked his own sword from the pirate’s hand, and duplicated Jack’s trick of using his boot toe to cast the hilt up to his grasp.

    Jack was sitting on the deck, desperately trying to shake himself free of his own weapon—as if the binding rope were a lobster claw that had clamped onto his hand.

    This seemed to be “the opportune moment,” as Jack himself might have said. Will took a step toward him, planning to end the fight, one way or another.

    He was stopped in his tracks by a flash so bright he flung his arm up to shield his eyes. The very air seemed to crackle as a massive lightning bolt plunged into the Pearl’s mainmast, and then a sideways arc shot out and hit the mainmast of the Dutchman. For a moment it was as if the ships themselves were trading blows—twisting spikes of light surged from mast-top to mast-top. When the brilliance of the lightning flickered out, both ships remained lit from above—but this time, it was with leaping orange firelight. The mast tops and top yards were burning.

    By that time, Jack had managed to cut himself free and regain his footing, but his sword tip was pointed at the deck and he was staring upward, watching the flames fight against the wind and rain. Then he turned his gaze to Will, and for a long moment the two stared at each other in mutual shock.

    Jack got over it first. “Oi! What d’you mean by setting my ship on fire?”

    Will was dumbfounded. Did this man’s irrationality never end? “How is this my fault? You set my ship on fire. We don’t get hit by lightning when we’re not attached to you.”

    “Your storm,” Jack said darkly.

    “I do not own storms!”

    “I says you do!”

    “Don’t!”

    “Do!”

    Will was out of patience for Jack’s delusions. “Oh, believe whatever you want. This is stupid.”

    Jack’s response was to rush him. “You ain’t seen stupid ‘till now!”

    The onslaught was so fierce and unexpected that the pirate succeeded in driving Will up the steps to the quarterdeck, while the wind cast burning debris down around them.

    Jack had always been the weaker fighter when he wasn’t cheating, and Will was quickly able to drive him onto the defensive. The pirate fell back before Will’s cleaner, more efficient attacks, and soon he had the wreck of the mizzen yard behind him. The great spar had fallen across the winch section of the wheel, with one end resting on the deck.

    Will pressed Jack back toward the tangled mass of rope, canvas and wood, hoping to box him in and hamper his movements. Instead, the pirate ran partway up the fallen yard and poised himself at the fulcrum point, occasionally waving his arms in an attempt to balance as both the yard and the ship moved under him. Choosing such a position on a storm-tossed ship had to be like standing on the back of a running horse—only slipperier.

    “What in hell are you doing?” Will shouted.

    “Come on up and find out!” Jack leaned forward slightly to yell at him, and nearly fell off.

    He looked like an absolute drunken idiot, but still a dangerous one. Firelight from above cast a red sheen along the edge of Jack’s sword, and the same gory light picked out every gewgaw on his hands and in his blowing hair. His hat cast most of his face in deep shadow, but the corner of one eye burned with reflected flame.

    Will’s very bones warned him this was a trap, but ironically the pirate had taught him a lot about springing traps to his own advantage.

    He made a quick and fruitless swipe in Jack’s direction, as if he’d been driven to such exasperation that he was no longer thinking clearly. Will was actually well out of range, but Jack jumped a little at the sound of the sword slicing air—and nearly fell. Knowing him, he’d pay very close attention to any deadly-looking move.

    “Want me up there? All right. I’ll play your game. We’ll see if you regret it,” Will said.

    He placed one foot lightly on the low end of the yard and made another ferocious swing at Jack, taking care to stagger a bit, as if he’d overbalanced himself.

    If the false stumble appealed to the predator in Jack, then the three feet of sharpened steel had to alarm the coward in him. He jumped back, beyond the yard’s fulcrum point, and sent Will’s end catapulting upward.

    If Will had truly committed any of his weight to the yard shaft, it would have flipped him over backward at best, and cracked the underside of his chin at worst. Instead, he helped its trajectory along with a good, solid kick. There was nowhere for Jack to go but down, which is where he went—hard.

    A moment later, Will was around the wheel, and he kicked the pirate’s sword well up the deck. Jack was painfully trying pick himself up, but Will stopped him with the flat of his blade against the side of the other man’s neck. All it would have taken was the slightest of wrist-turns to cut Jack’s throat.

    “It’s over, Jack. No more tricks. I didn’t come here to hurt you, but if you make me, I will.”

    Jack slowly raised both his tar-stained hands. His ragged wrist “ornaments” dripped a steady stream of water onto the deck, as did the crooked front corner of his hat. For a moment he was the picture of humiliating defeat—a soaked and ragged man on his knees, with his head bowed and his matted hair trailing. Will thought, not for the first time, that if you stripped away all the false grandness Jack claimed for himself, there wasn’t much left to him. Somehow, it felt like more a loss than a victory, like the discovery that the “mermaids” frolicking upon distant rocks were only seals after all.

    However, the pirate didn’t stop in a position of surrender. Instead, he continued to unfold himself, cautiously at first, as if not entirely sure Will wouldn’t kill him just for moving, and then with increasing confidence. He ended up on his back, half-sitting up with his elbows supporting him.

    He looked up at Will, and the new angle of his hat caused water to rush out of the back corners. The flames along the top yard had been almost completely doused by the rain, but there was still enough light to reveal the uneven shine of real and metal teeth in Jack’s open mouth, and the swift rise and fall of his chest. It should have been a look of terror, but the panic didn’t quite reach his eyes. Instead, he looked . . . interested. As seconds passed and Will didn’t murder him, the sorry cast of submission tautened into something a little too ready for action. Somehow, Jack Sparrow thought he still had an angle to work.

    “Ah,” he said softly, “we come to the moment of truth.”

    “You’re the last person who has any business talking about truth.” Will pressed the flat of his sword a little harder against Jack’s neck. He didn’t want to kill this man—not least because he didn’t want any revenant version of him aboard his ship—but if Jack made himself a real impediment to the Dutchman’s mission, Will would have to. As the ghost ship’s captain, he had bartered eternity for a few more days with a wife who would grow old and die, while Will himself would not. He could not lose what little he had to Jack’s suicidal insistence on playing Pirate Lord.

    If Jack was aware of how much mortal peril he was in, he didn’t let it subdue him any. “We’re down to single combat, now, mate. My weapons against yours.”

    “You do realize you just lost, don’t you?”

    “Oh, aye. A good, sound defeat that was. Well done.” Jack gestured toward the blade pressed against his throat. “Your move, by the way.”

    “You know . . . if you wanted to die, you might have saved us all a lot of trouble and just gone down with your ship,” Will pointed out.

    “It’s not about what I want anymore, is it?” Jack asked. He settled back a little more and crossed his ankles, plainly getting too comfortable on the literal knife’s edge of death. “It’s all your decision now . . . innit, Cap’n Turner of the Flying Dutchman? You can kill me if you like. You can cut the grapnel lines, too, and send that whole lot below to the bottom. Jones’d do it.”

    “I am not Jones,” Will snapped. “You think I’d do this to another man? You think I’d put another man where I am now?” He pulled open the collar of his shirt to reveal the lightning-shaped scar over the place his heart ought to have been.

    “Or,” Jack continued seamlessly, “if you couldn’t spend an eternity with yourself after wiping out a shipful of criminals and one wee child . . . if you couldn’t spend an eternity with me, you could always put the full extent of your powers behind getting us safely to shore.”

    “Damn you, Jack, I offered to help you the moment I came aboard!”

    “Aye, but I detected a certain mismatch in motivational intensity between your sense of charitable obligation and my will to live. ‘Specially since in order to live, I need you to sail close enough to shore to risk your future with the bonny Elizabeth.”

    “No. I won’t do that,” Will said.

    “Well, then I’m like to die either way, aren’t I?” Jack said, reaching up to splay his shirt collar enough to expose the skin to Will’s blade. “I hope you like pirate songs, mate. ‘Cause I know lots of ‘em.” Then he started caroling, “Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me . . .”

    Will cut him off by tapping his neck with the flat of his blade again. A thin trickle of blood was already running from a small cut, and rainwater washed it into irregular stain patterns on his shirt collar. Jack glanced down at the sword against his throat, and ran his tongue over his lower lip, as if his mouth had suddenly gone dry.

    His gaze flicked back up to meet Will’s, and this time his manner was considerably more grave. “William . . . I’m afraid I lied to you once.”

    “’Once?’” Will echoed incredulously.

    “I told you that there were only two things in this world: what a man can do, and what he can’t do. Perhaps I believed it myself, at the time. In truth, the most important thing of all, the thing that defines a man, is what he won’t do. During that unpleasant business with Jones, you could have thrown your lot in with the East India Company. Piracy’s in your blood, after all, and they certainly took piracy to the next level. I could have stabbed the heart of Davy Jones myself, in which case I’d be standing where you are, and you’d be . . .” He made a gesture at the air, empty of everything but rain mist. “Bonny Elizabeth could have decided she was bored to nausea with you, and taken up with me, which really--”

    Will kicked the side of one of Jack’s boots, warning the pirate to watch himself.

    “Anyway,” Jack said, beginning to look appropriately nervous again. “The question is . . . now that you’re the most powerful thing on the seas . . . what won’t you do?”

    “You mean, will I refuse to kill a man when he’s down?” Will thought about bearing down with the blade and cutting Jack’s neck to the bone, but didn’t do it. He didn’t want to kill Jack, but he wanted to feel he was able to, if he had to. Yet the moment stretched out into seconds, and Will didn’t act. Frustrated, he shifted his grip on the sword, reminding himself that he could put nothing, not even sparing Jack’s life, ahead of fulfilling the mission that had been set him, and thus being allowed to see Elizabeth again. Soon his arm began to ache from holding the tensed position so long.


    Finally, he lowered his sword. “Damn you.” He realized that this was what Jack had wanted all along—to prove to Will that he couldn’t really win by wits or by force.
  19. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    Once again, your dynamic between Jack and Will is just dynamite. [face_love]=D= This whole battle was fantastic -with Will's duty and intrinsic goodness fighting Jack and his . . . Jack-ness more than anything that was going on with swords. Jack made some great points at the end, and Will's realizations just hurt to read, :(

    I can't tell you how much I am enjoying this story. Thank-you so much for sharing. =D=
  20. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Thank you so much! :D And I'm sorry I wandered off and got distracted. Here is the last of it.

    **********************

    The sparkle was back in Jack’s jet-black eyes. “And now, if you would, whelp--”

    Will whipped the sword tip around to point at Jack’s sternum.

    “I mean Mr. Whelp. Captain Whelp,” Jack said, staring down at the blade and suddenly seeming far less smug.

    “I’ll take you as close to Bloody Bay as I can get without passing over anything that’s above water at high tide,” Will said.

    “And if that’s not close enough, you’ll doom us all,” Jack said. After Will didn’t answer immediately, he cautiously began singing again: “We kindle and char and inflame and ignite, drink up, me hearties, yo-ho . . .”

    Will kicked him in the boots again. “Stop that.”

    Jack didn’t stop it. “We burn up the city we’re really a fright, drink up, me hearties yo ho!”

    “The thought of having you join my crew is supposed to terrify me so much that I’d rather take orders from you for one night than risk commanding you forever.”

    “Something like that.” Jack made one of his irritating finger waving gestures, as if he were conducting a whole intoxicated orchestra. “We’re rascals and scoundrels and villians and knaves--”

    Will kicked him extra hard that time. “All right! All right, I’ll take you close enough to ensure that you’ll live.”

    Jack had the gall to smile. “Now. Tell them,” he said, jerking one thumb at the Dutchman and its crew.

    Will spoke an oath he’d learned from Jack, once upon a time, and sheathed his sword, slamming the hilt home into the brass fittings. He went and picked up the loudhailer from where it had tumbled against the Pearl’s bulwark, and feeling strangely defeated for a man who had just won a duel, called across: “We’re taking them to the far side of the island,” he called out. “Set a course for Bloody Bay, Mr. Turner.” Will could feel more than see his father’s hooded, worried eyes gazing at him from the Dutchman’s deck. “That’s an order,” he added, in case anyone was in doubt.

    Lowering the loudhailer, he turned back toward Jack, only to hear the clamor of hobnailed boots pounding the deck. Will’s gaze followed the sound, and he saw Rogers tearing up the steps, nearly tripping over his remaining petticoat in the process. It should have been a humorous sight, a great bearded pirate sweeping his torn-lace-edged skirt up into a bundle over his arm, but the great swath of blood that stained his apron and the front of his dress silently screamed of pain and death.

    Rogers’ deep-set eyes sought out Jack’s. The color and animation drained from Jack’s face. “Peg,” Jack said softly, and then all at once he was on his feet, scrambling for the hatch.

    Will followed him, down through the throng of crowding pirates who all had questions on their lips, into the captain’s cabin and to Black Peg’s side. The poor woman was screaming, her body contorted and bowed off the bed. The amber light of the swinging lanterns showed a dark stain covering the sheets of the bed and dripping onto the floor. The water that still sloshed there looked as if blackish clouds had been poured onto it.

    The pale ghosts who had wandered over from the Dutchman were gathered around Peg’s bed, gazing down on her solemnly. At most, they would only look like so many columns of mist to Jack, but he seemed to have discerned them for what they were. He drew his sword and hacked at one, saying, “Back off! She ain’t yours yet!” The sword passed right through a shade-man’s chest, but the spirit neither moved nor changed expression.

    “Jackie . . .” Peg cried, her voice pleading.

    “Get back, all of you! Nobody touch her!” Jack shouted, holding his blade out and turning in a lurching circle. Will wasn’t terribly surprised to find that Jack seemed to be trying to menace him as well as the ghosts. Will was, after all, the person who would probably be charged with ferrying Black Peg’s spirit away to the other world. He felt a sudden rush of pity for the pirate, who had cheated death on his own account so many times, and had even managed to cheat it for Will, but who couldn’t save this woman who was clearly dear to him.

    “Jack,” Will said, with a gentleness that surprised even him.

    Jack wheeled and pointed his blade at Will again. “Get out,” he said. “I changed me mind. I don’t want nothing to do with you or that death ship.” His eyes glittered with what might have been fury, or the beginnings of apocalyptic pain.

    Will shook his head. “It won’t make a difference,” he said softly. One of the ghosts approached him, the female one who had been rambling about rope, and she reached out as if to grab his arm.

    “Oh, sir, sir,” she said. “We’ve got to get some rope or cord, strong enough to hold a body.”

    He tried shrugging her off, glad Jack couldn’t hear her.

    “We’ve got to get her out of that bed. She’ll die, otherwise.” Will turned and looked at the woman, really noticing her for the first time. She was of middle years, tall, for a woman, and surprisingly pretty despite the rather severe styling of her dress and hair. Probably an American colonist of no great means.

    “What did you say?” he asked, puzzled. It was rare for the dead to respond to things that were really around them--mostly they continued on attempting to live their former lives. Will wasn’t sure if this woman was really talking about Peg or not.

    “We’ve got to change her position,” the woman continued. “Standing up and holding onto a rope will help her. Gravity will do some of the work of bringing the baby.”

    “You know about babies?” he asked.

    “Yes, sir. Ellen Stockton of Nantucket. Midwife,” she said.

    Hope flared up in him. “We’ve got a midwife?” Then he looked over at his erstwhile friend. “Jack! We’ve got a midwife!”

    Jack glanced at Rogers, and said, “Of course we do. And a great lot of good it’s done us.” Rogers looked hurt.

    “Not a pirate gunner in a dress, a real midwife! She’s a passenger on my ship. Ellen—tell us. What should we do?”

    Ellen looked enormously relieved at finally being paid attention to. “Find a nail or a hook, something we can use to hang a rope off one of these beams,” she said.

    Will knew the others wouldn’t be able to hear her, so he repeated, “Find something you can hang a rope from!”

    Rogers immediately complied, but Jack just stood there, giving Will a wary look. “A passenger on your ship? You mean . . . she’s dead?”

    “So were you,” Will pointed out. “You have the least reason of anyone to doubt her.”

    Jack appeared to think about that, and find the reasoning solid. He put his sword away, and for possibly the first time in his life, got down to the business of doing what he was told.

    Before long, they had rigged up a rope hung over a hook sunk deep in one of the cabin’s rafters. Rogers carried Black Peg over to the rope, and placed her on her unsteady feet.

    “Stand, and deliver,” Will couldn’t help observing. He flashed Jack a smile of giddy hope, but the pirate captain’s face was ashen. His wide-eyed gaze was fixed on his wife, and his grubby hands were wrapped around hers, securing her grip on the rope.

    Peg couldn’t stand up for long, however. She suddenly cried out, her body bowing backward, and fell to her knees. Jack dropped with her, catching her before she collapsed utterly.

    Ellen rushed to Peg’s side and tried to hold her up as Jack was doing, only to have the other woman’s body pass right through her spectral arms. It was now Ellen’s turn to look horrified. She stared down at her body, as if newly aware that she had changed.

    “What . . . ?” she began.

    “Ellen--Midwife Stockton,” Will said urgently, “don’t worry about touching Peg. I’ll do it. Just give me instructions.”

    “If . . . if the baby is to live, it must be born quickly,” she said, still looking mistrustfully down at her own ghostly hands. “Get the mother clean water to drink. Keep her up . . . don’t let her fall.”

    Will obeyed, and began relaying commands to Jack and Rogers. Somewhere on the ship Rogers found a cask of drinking water, which he held to Peg’s lips in a silver chalice encrusted with sculpted cherubs, which Jack had obviously looted from someplace or other.

    Jack himself stayed uncharacteristically quiet, putting his hands where he was told, and even backing off when he was bid. Poor Peg’s cries seemed to affect him terribly, and he vacillated from murmuring rambling reassurances to her to looking lost, as if he wanted to cry too. More than a distraught husband, Jack looked like a terrified child, Will thought, uncertain of what to do now that neither his sword nor his wits were enough to save someone close to him.

    Will gave Ellen’s orders to Jack in a soft voice, much as if he were speaking to Peg herself. He knew it was best to keep Jack from becoming frantic and desperate. When Jack was desperate, he tended toward insane acts, and that was the last thing they needed.

    The birth, when it happened, happened fast. It seemed that one moment Will had been begging Peg not to lose consciousness, and the next he held a squalling baby in his hands.

    “Let the mother see her,” Ellen urged.

    Will lifted the child up so Black Peg, slumped in her husband’s arms, could see. “Mrs. Sparrow . . . Jack, you have a daughter,” Will said. He was thinking of Elizabeth, and his voice shook.

    Peg lifted one exhausted hand to touch the wet black curls covering the child’s head. Jack raised his hand and nearly brushed the baby girl’s ear, but drew back suddenly, as if he were too dirty and the infant too clean--which was, Will thought, a fair assessment.

    Ellen talked Will through binding and cutting the cord, and then getting Peg back to bed and staunching the bleeding.

    At long last he staggered up onto the deck, leaving Peg sleeping, and the baby latched onto her breast. Jack knelt at their bedside, embracing both of them, looking as drained as Will had ever seen him.

    Up top, the storm had stopped shrieking quite so loud, and he was able to stagger to the railing of the heaving deck. Now and then, the full moon peeked out amid scudding clouds, washing the entangled ships with shimmering light. The grapnel lines still held the Pearl close against the Dutchman, which continued its course against the wind.

    “Damn you, Jack Sparrow,” Will said, although with considerably less venom than he might have.

    Before long Jack himself climbed up on deck, his white shirt and filthy tan-gray trousers both splashed with dark blood. He made his unsteady way over to Will, and for a long moment the two men just looked at one another. For once, Jack seemed to be searching for something to say.

    “You’re welcome,” Will told him.

    Then suddenly, Jack had him in a fierce embrace, and the pirate’s smell of stale rum, unwashed linen, and horrendous rotting-teeth breath nearly knocked Will over. Will gave a disgusted grunt, and moved to shove Jack away, until he realized the other man was crying.

    “Stop it,” Will said, unable to halt the first words out of his mouth. When Jack didn’t let go, and his quiet sobs wracked both of them, Will repeated more gently, “Stop it.” He made himself hug Jack back.

    “Just stop. It’ll be all right. Your baby is beautiful,” his words were rather brusque, but his voice was kind. He didn’t mention Black Peg, since he was still afraid that the Dutchman’s compass had been pointing toward her.

    Eventually Jack calmed down, and he stepped back, dashing his sleeve across his eyes, badly smearing his kohl. After an awkward silence, he said, “Black Moll’s what we’ll call her. A good, piratical name.”

    “Black Moll?” Will asked, appalled on the baby’s behalf. “What if she doesn’t want to be a pirate? What is she going to do with a name like that?”

    Jack’s eyebrows quirked together. “What do you mean, ‘if she doesn’t want to be a pirate?’ What kind of a thing is that to say?”

    Will was about to try and explain about how sometimes, some people wanted to make a living the honest way, when they passed a jagged rock pier and came within view of Bloody Bay. The clouds split and allowed the moon to shine down, on the roaring bay water and the ghostly forms in the waves.

    Will looked down at the unmistakable figures of ghosts, sliding beneath the waves toward the Flying Dutchman. “What happened here?” he asked aloud, though he was wondering to himself.

    “Shipwreck. Look,” Jack said, and pointed toward the far horn of the semicircle-shaped bay. There were indeed black masts and shroud-fouled yardarms sticking up out of the water.

    As ghost after ghost silently climbed the Dutchman’s rigging, Will realized: “Our compass wasn’t pointing at the Pearl, it was pointing through it--to this side of Bloody Island.”

    “Oh, well, I could’ve told you that,” Jack said. “My ship is assurably un-vulnerable. She’s the ship what outstripped Jones and escaped the Locker. She’s rode the maelstrom and scuttled Cutler’s misconceptional ambitions. The Pearl is, in a word, mate, the Pearl.

    “And that’s why you took over my ship? Because the Pearl is so ‘un-vulnerable?’” Will demanded. He wondered how it was possible to go from wanting to comfort this man to wanting to kill him in such a short period of time.

    “Insurance,” Jack said, smiling a gold-toothed smile. His rings flashed in the moonlight as he flicked his fingers. “The best a humble man can do by his progeny, wouldn’t you say?”

    “If we were talking about a ‘humble’ man, I might agree,” Will said. Then he looked ahead to the rushing bay breakers, and the grapnel lines binding the Pearl to the Dutchman. “I’m cutting us loose,” he said. “There’ll be land above high tide up ahead.” Then he assured Jack, “The bay is calm here. The Pearl will make it.”

    “I still don’t see why you can’t just stand on a sand spit in a bucket,” Jack said.

    “Because I don’t fancy looking like this,” Will said, holding his hand under his chin and mimicking tentacles with his fingers. He didn’t try to explain about how important it was to follow rules to the letter, so that he would one day be able to see Elizabeth again. He didn’t expect Jack to understand, Black Peg or no Black Peg.

    Jack scratched at his scruffy forked beard, and gave Will a narrow-eyed look, as if carefully taking his measure. Whatever he saw apparently told him there was nothing more to be squeezed out of Will Turner. “Very well, mate,” he said. Then he extended a dirty hand. “Hope never to see you again. Professionally speaking, that is.”

    Will found he couldn’t argue with that on any level. He hoped Jack Sparrow and his family and crew lived long and happy lives--far away from him. He took Jack’s hand slightly reluctantly, and shook it. “I hope not to see you again either,” Will said with a smile. “Professionally speaking.”

    Jack took off his hat and waved it elaborately in the air. Then he clamped it back on his head, and staggered toward the hatch. It occurred to Will that this was the most heartfelt thanks he was ever likely to get out of the pirate.

    He watched Jack go with mixed emotions. Then he slowly turned and headed back to his ten-year exile, at the other end of which his wife would be waiting.


    --END
  21. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    This was just the best ending. [face_love] I DID not see that coming with the dead midwife - that was an excellent twist in the plot. And then:

    Then suddenly, Jack had him in a fierce embrace, and the pirate’s smell of stale rum, unwashed linen, and horrendous rotting-teeth breath nearly knocked Will over. Will gave a disgusted grunt, and moved to shove Jack away, until he realized the other man was crying.

    So many feelings! [face_love]

    Eventually Jack calmed down, and he stepped back, dashing his sleeve across his eyes, badly smearing his kohl. After an awkward silence, he said, “Black Moll’s what we’ll call her. A good, piratical name.”

    “Black Moll?” Will asked, appalled on the baby’s behalf. “What if she doesn’t want to be a pirate? What is she going to do with a name like that?”

    Jack’s eyebrows quirked together. “What do you mean, ‘if she doesn’t want to be a pirate?’ What kind of a thing is that to say?”

    And that was just perfect! [face_laugh]

    A wonderful end to a wonderful story - thank-you for sharing. If you have any other stories in this 'verse - or stories in general - I would love to see them up here. :D

    =D=
  22. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Thank you so very much for sticking with me, and for your wonderful replies! And actually, I am currently the only person participating in my "commissions" challenge in Resource. :p If you want me to write something for you, let me know!
  23. Cael-Fenton Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2006
    star 1
    I've only seen parts of the second PotC movie, so I know next to nothing about it. I thought I'd give this one a go because I like your SW stuff, and I'm so glad I did!

    Though I scarcely know the characters (so this was more like reading original work for me), you made me feel for them as well as see and hear them. Your Sparrow was so true to (what I recall of) Depp's performance, while giving him depths I'd never perceived before. And I'm in complete admiration of how you pulled off those supernatural themes without it looking just goofy! I mean, it *is* goofy, but in a good way, and in places it's creepy too; you conveyed the sailors' unease really well.

    What I liked best was that I thought you contrasted the death v birth motifs perfectly: not clobbering people over the heads with it; but it had a very elemental, raw strength to it.

    Thanks so much for this story; I'm not a PotC fan yet, but if you write much more of this I might be --- though I probably should watch the movies first, too :p
  24. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Jun 25, 2002
    star 6
    Oh, wow--I'm immensely flattered that you gave it a go, even though you didn't know the series well! And yeah, it is all a bit goofy . . . I mean, it is all based on a Disney park ride, :p but I'm glad you enjoyed it anyway.

    I'm especially happy you liked Jack. He's the hardest fanfic character I ever tried to pull off, and I worked with him largely for the challenge. I did push him a bit beyond the "drunk and silly" mold that he largely inhabits on film, mostly because I wanted to see if I could. I'm so pleased that he seemed to work for you! Thanks, as well, for giving this fic a chance even though it must've been buried pretty deep by the time you found it.
  25. Revanfan1 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2013
    star 5
    Wow, great story! Love Jack and Will's interactions through the whole thing! :cool:
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