Story [POTC] "The Devil's Hand" Chapter 14 up 26 Feb 2013! COMPLETED

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  1. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    I hope this chapter is within the PG limits. *cough* I really, really, really had to edit it down. If anyone is interested in the rest of it, let me know.

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    --Chapter Nine--

    An hour later, Nicola had bathed away the aches and grime, and dressed in a deep red gown over a white shift, her hair left loose to dry. The same deck hands that had brought her the tub carried it out.

    Jack had returned her pistol to her, and her dagger, and provided a belt for her to wear them with. She was in the middle of trying how best to accomplish that when a knock sounded at the door.

    "You may enter," she said.

    The door opened and Jack stepped in. He was without his hat, or the pair of pistols he normally carried.

    "How are you feeling?" he asked.

    "Shaken," she replied honestly. "I nearly died, all because I'm a-"

    Nicola stopped, realised what she'd been about to say, and to whom. She dropped the belt on her bunk and looked at him.

    "I'm tired of being treated like chattel," she said. "My father simply wants to marry me off to the highest bidder and expand his shipping enterprise. Roccelli wanted to sacrifice me to some pagan god in exchange for eternal life and power. My only worth is my virginity!"

    The captain lifted dark brows at her outburst. "I'm sure there's someone out there who'll be more than happy to relieve you of that. Plenty of someones."

    Nicola thought maybe it was the blow to the head, or possibly all the hours contemplating her impending doom, that made her blurt out, "Are you one of them?"

    He froze, still as a statue, for a good twenty seconds, before he said, ever so intelligently, "Uh."

    Nicola blushed anew and looked away. "My apologies, Captain Sparrow, that was forward of me."

    Jack cleared his throat. "Roccelli told me he'd . . . already done so."

    She paled. "He didn't. I would- I would know."

    "Much relieved to hear it," he muttered. "Nicky . . . I told Will I wouldn't touch you."

    "Will wouldn't need to know."

    He closed his eyes and rubbed a knuckle against the bridge of his nose. "I try to keep my word. Generally. It's a bad idea, Nicola. I- No. I cannot."

    Jack fled, leaving her embarrassed and confused. She knew he wanted her; it wasn't difficult to see. She wanted the same thing, and if Jack Sparrow was anything, it wasn't celibate.

    Besides, Will had no right to dictate what she could or could not do. He wasn't her father; Leslie Holyfield was thousands of miles away, on the other side of the ocean, and he had no say in it, either.

    She huffed a breath. There was no way she was going to leave the discussion at that. Leaving her boots beside the bed, she hurried up to the deck, and ran into Joshamee, who merely jerked his head and a thumb towards the captain's quarts.

    She shoved Jack's cabin door open without bothering to knock, and stumbled to a halt. Jack looked up, pausing in the middle of peeling his shirt off.

    Black eyes met blue, and Nicola flushed. But she didn't retreat. She stepped into the room and pushed the door shut with a foot and then crossed her arms defiantly.

    Jack finished removing his shirt. He tossed it toward the bed and turned to face her. He didn't speak, just stood there. His chest was mostly smooth, with a few scars here and there. A skull and crossbones tattoo adorned his stomach, with script around it. The sparrow on his forearm, and the P scar, were both clearly visible.

    She hesitated at the threshold and bit her lip.

    He sighed and gave in, was the first to break the silence. "This wouldn't work between us."

    "Why not?"

    "Because," he said, as if speaking to a child. "I'm a pirate. A woman in every port an' all."

    "You think I care that you've been with others? Because I don't."

    His dark eyes tracked her movements as she took another step towards him. "You sure about that, love? That number, darling, is awfully high."

    Nicola shrugged. "I don't care. I mean, as long as . . . you don't care that . . . my list holds exactly none."

    He knew. She was too innocent in her responses to be anything else, no matter what Roccelli had taunted him with.
    "Do you have any idea, a real idea, Nicky, what it is you're offering?"

    Silently, she nodded. Nicola took a cautious step towards him, and reached out to trail a finger over the tattoo on his stomach. "Jack . . . This is what I want. I know you want me."

    He wondered why he was having such an attack of conscience when it came to her. He'd tried shamelessly to seduce Elizabeth, but with this little thing before him, he felt like he was soiling something sacred. And since he'd posed as a cleric of the Church of England to do something illegal, that was really saying something.

    Will's saving his life figured in there somewhere, The boy was a friend, and it was something of a betrayal to be thinking the things he was, looking at Nicola. But that wasn't it, not really. It scared him, this strange desire to protect her. Back at the cave, when he'd thought Roccelli had killed her . . .

    He couldn't become attached, it was too dangerous. Too dangerous for her, for his lifestyle . . . and most of all, for his heart. Because he didn't know what he'd do if he let her in, and then he lost her.

    "I'm not looking for marriage," she told him. "I'm not looking to shackle you. All I want is . . . to live according to my own rules for once."

    Jack knew how she felt. It was what he'd wanted his entire life. "Be sure what you're saying," he told her roughly. "Because there's no going back."

    Her small hand lifted to stroke his cheek. "Please, Jack."

    With a groan, he hauled her in to kiss her, cursing himself for a fool even as he did. Nicola's arms went around his neck and she returned the kiss with fervour, pressing her lithe body against his.

    Jack swept an arm across the surface of the desk, sending maps and random clutter to the floor. He lifted Nicola in his arms and set her on the desk. Her eager fingers explored the planes of his chest even as he fisted his hand in her hair, tipped her head back, and kissed her. Jack pulled her flush against him, pinning her hands between them.

    She responded by hooking a leg around his. Jack leaned her back on the desk, and slid a hand up her leg, pushing the hem of her skirt with it. Nicola sighed against his mouth and he used his tongue to explore her lips. She whimpered and shifted restlessly on the desk, clawing her way free to hold his face.

    "Jack," she groaned.

    The pirate tipped her chin up and pressed his lips to the side of her neck. Nicola was breathing hard, eyes closed and hair trailing across the desk and over the edge, only her hand curled around his neck keeping her from sprawling across the wooden surface.

    Then he swept her up in his arms and carried her to his bed.

    ----------

    Jack was gone when she woke to darkness. For a long moment, she wondered if she was back aboard the Blood Storm and everything that had happened with Jack was a dream. Nicola sat up, realising quickly that she was nude beneath the sheet. It hadn't been a dream.

    Her cheeks flushed and for a wild space of time, her heart pounded in her chest as she wondered just what she'd done. She'd given herself to a pirate, a man who could not offer a secure future for her. No decent man would have her now. She could make a life for herself in Port Royal, perhaps, but she was spoiled goods. She'd offered Jack her virginity on a silver platter, giving him the one thing she should have jealously guarded.

    And speaking of the pirate, where was he? A full moon rode the horizon, nearly touching the sea. All crew save the night watch should be abed, including the captain.

    As if summoned, the door opened and Jack came in, dressed in breeches, shirt, and boots. A lantern hung from one hand, a bundle wrapped in cloth in the other.

    "Victuals," he explained, hefting the package. "I would imagine that you're hungry."

    Nicola was, in fact, hungry, and she nodded.

    They shared a light repast of bread and meat liberated from the Blood Storm. Then Jack reclaimed his place beside her, drawing her into his arms with singular intent. Their second time was easier, more familiar, and when Jack fell asleep beside her, Nicola lay awake, wondering how she was going to survive parting ways with him when they got back to Jamaica.
    Last edited by Dantana Skywalker, Feb 22, 2013
  2. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    -Chapter Ten-

    To save her embarrassment in returning to her quarters in the morning, Jack showed her a hidden door and a narrow spiral staircase that descended below-deck, emerging into the corridor through another hidden panel right beside her cabin.

    "I've never seen this before," she marvelled.

    "Had it installed when she was the Wicked Wench," he said. "Makes it easier to check on cargo in inclement weather."

    "Hmm. Or to have illicit assignations."

    One corner of his mouth curved up, a gold tooth flashing. "That, too."

    She flattened her hand on his chest. "Thank you . . . for last night. Though, I'm embarrassed that I threw myself at-"

    He cut her off with a kiss, interrupting her apology. He didn't need it, didn't want to hear it.

    When he stepped back, they were both flushed. "Tonight," he said. "Use the stairs."

    She smiled and ducked back into her cabin.

    Jack exited to the main deck through his own cabin, found Gibbs at the wheel. "Morning, Mr. Gibbs."

    "Mornin', Cap'n Sparrow." The older pirate eyed him. "You seem right chipper. No worse for wear after our adventure?"

    His answering grin was slow and lazy. "Indeed."

    "And Miss Nicola?"

    "Fit as a fiddle." His grin only widened.

    "Young Mr. Turner is going to have your hide," Gibbs observed.

    The first mate clammed up when the captain's dark gaze settled on him. "Right," he stammered. "I'll just . . . see to . . . things."

    "You do that."

    ----------

    Nicola dressed in an ivory blouse and a dusty-blue skirt, with a matching jacket over it. She was pleasantly sore, aside from her injured forehead, and hummed a jaunty tune as she emerged to the main deck. Several of the men greeted her cheerily when they saw her, and Mr. Cotton's parrot squawked, "Steady as she goes!" as she passed by.
    Jack was at the wheel, eyes to the horizon, when she joined him.

    "Good morning, Captain."

    "Miss Holyfield," he replied. He glanced at her and she flushed.

    "It occurs to me that I never properly thanked you for saving my life."

    The pirate smirked. "You thanked me right proper, Nicky."

    She cleared her throat. "That wasn't proper."

    The smirk turned into an outright grin.

    "So where are we, and how far away is Tortuga?"

    "We've left Trinidad," he told her, and gestured to the island fading behind them. "We're three days from Tortuga, if the wind holds. There's a storm coming, so it's likely we might get there sooner. As long as it isn't a hurricane," he amended.

    Nicola leaned her back against the rail separating the sterncastle, where they stood, from the main deck. "Really, though, Jack, I can't thank you enough for coming after me. I was so terrified."

    "I wasn't going to leave you with him," he said after a long moment. "I'm a pirate, aye, but-"

    Jack had more of a respect for people than most he knew, especially women. He may have counted as a womanizer, but he still thought, secretly, that women were to be protected. That wasn't a view that went over very well with other pirates, so he tended to keep it hidden.

    "You're not chattel," he said.

    "And I'm sure Will was very annoying and insistent that you get me back."

    Jack laughed. "The pup was very loud about it. He tends to get that way, though. When his Lizzie was taken by a pirate named Barbossa, he was obnoxious in his eagerness."

    "Will is . . . very earnest. He always has been, even when we were small."

    "I don't doubt it."

    A curse from one of the men drew their attention. The crew was still attending to smaller repairs from the attack by the Blood Storm.

    "Cap'n!" Gibbs pounded up the stairs. "Charlie's split his hand open, whittling. It's fairly bad."

    "I'll tend it," Nicola said immediately.

    "You? But the blood-" Gibbs blurted, then looked chagrined.

    "I'm an adult woman of childbearing age, Mr. Gibbs," she said archly. "I dare say I have seen more blood than you ever will."

    She swept past him and down the steps, ordering the men to clear off the table that sat on deck. "You," she said to Cotton, "get some hot water from Cook. I need clean rags, too, if there are any. Try in the cargo from the Blood Storm. I'll get my sewing kit."

    She ran down the stairs, to her cabin, and dug through her bag for the little sewing kit she took with her everywhere. One never knew, after all, when they'd need to mend a torn hem.

    Jack thumped a bottle of alcohol on the table. "Numb up," he said to Charlie.

    "Aye, Captain."

    The sailor downed several mouthfuls of whatever it was in the bottle, while Nicola set to bathing the nasty gash across the man's palm. It was full of splinters and wood shavings, and she had to pick them out carefully with her needle.

    Then she set to drawing the edges closed with small, careful stitches. It wasn't the first time she'd had to sew a man's wounds shut, and likely wouldn't be the last. The men gathered and watched in silence as she worked.
    Cotton had found a whole chest of medical supplies in the things looted from the Blood Storm, and Nicola used a roll of linen bandaging to bind Charlie's hand, then fashion a sling.

    "Don't use it for at least three days," she cautioned. "And keep it dry so that it doesn't fester. And for heaven's sake, sharpen that knife so it doesn't catch and you don't lose control of it again."

    The sailor was sent down to the crew hammocks below-deck. Nicola gathered the things she'd used and cleaned the mess.

    "You'd make a good nurse, lass," Jack told her.

    "I've had to be one, sometimes," she said. "With so many siblings, and a mother that faints at the sight of blood, it largely fell to me to tend the hurts of my brothers and sisters."

    "Hmm."

    He couldn't ask her to stay, be on the crew. He wanted to. Not only did he want to keep her, make her his, but she would have been such an asset. He'd never seen such careful, deliberate stitching, nor done so quickly and skillfully. Calypso knew, none of his crew were that capable.

    Jack frowned, annoyed at himself, and strode back to the wheel. Nicola watched him go, wondering what it was she'd said that had bothered him so.

    A storm hit that afternoon, raging for two hours before dying off. Nicola spent the evening in her cabin, repairing a hole in the side of her red gown's bodice. After lights-out for the crew, she made her way up the spiral staircase and into Jack's cabin. He was sitting on the floor, with a trunk of things taken from Roccelli's ship, picking through it.

    "What's this?"

    "Treasure!" he said. Jack held up a beautiful silver and ruby bracelet, and when she sat beside him, he clasped it around her wrist.

    When she protested, he said, "It suits you, darling. And it would never fit me."

    Nicola laughed, touched by the gesture behind his facetious comment. "It's pretty," she said.

    He dug in the chest and came up with some gaudy emerald earrings. Holding them up to his own ears, he asked, "Shall I wear these to the duke's ball?"

    She snorted and clapped a hand over her mouth. With a giggle, she said, "Those aren't you at all, Jack. Try these."
    Nicola plucked out a pair of small gold hoops and handed them to him. He studied them, and slipped one into his left ear, but not the right.

    "Very piratical." She nodded.

    He pulled a long string of pearls, interspaced with gold beads, out of the trunk and looped it over her head.

    "Jack," she breathed, "I don't need these things."

    Instead of answering, he tugged her closer with the necklace, then rolled her beneath him, pinning her to the wooden floor.

    "I want to see you wearing only these," he told her.

    She sucked in a breath, and said, "All right."
  3. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    --Chapter Eleven-

    They passed the western shore of Hispaniola on the third day out from Trinidad. By now, Nicola had given up all pretense of staying in her cabin, though some of her things were still there. She woke late and dressed quickly, finding Jack on the main deck, going over his maps in the late-morning sun. The crewmen gave her knowing looks, but no one actually commented on her staying with the captain.

    "So we were all the way over here?" she asked, indicating Trinidad on Jack's map.

    He nodded. "Here is Aruba, where you were taken. We couldn't repair the Pearl there, so we had to go back to Tortuga, here."

    She sighed. "It's rather a miracle you got to me in time."

    "The Blood Storm was slow," he told her. "Bigger, heavier, especially with a hold full of cargo. There's only one ship faster than the Pearl in existence."

    "And what's that?" she inquired curiously.

    He took a drink from his ever-present rum bottle. "The Flying Dutchman."

    Nicola laughed. "That's a myth."

    His black eyes flicked to her face. "It's not."

    The laugh died. "It isn't?"

    "I've seen it," he said shortly, and stood. Jack rolled up the maps and went back to his cabin.

    Nicola made a frustrated noise and followed.

    Jack shoved the maps into a leather tube and dropped the paperweights onto his desk, before he dropped into his chair. She perched on the edge of the desk and studied him.

    "I won't ask," she said finally. "If it was bad enough to put that look on your face, I won't."

    Jack scrubbed along his jaw with the heel of his hand. "No man should see it and live," he said darkly.

    She didn't like seeing him disturbed, so she decided to distract him.

    "We'll reach port soon," she said.

    "Hmm." He picked up his quill, dipped it in the ink pot, and made a few notations in his log.

    She pulled the quill from his hand and stuck it in the inkwell. Jack raised a brow at her.

    "Did you want something?"

    Nicola scooted over so she sat directly in front of him. "I said, we'll reach port soon. And then we'll have Will present and . . . in the way. And this may be our last chance."

    She lifted her skirts and put a foot on each arm of his chair.

    "Are you suggesting, Nicky, that we make use of what time we have?"

    "Of course. And I know you're not the type to let an opportunity pass him by."

    "Certainly, I am opportunistic," he said slowly.

    Jack kissed her knee. "I want you," he told her.

    She smiled wickedly. "Then take me, Jack."

    It was over too quickly, and he was reluctant to pull away and break the illusion that they had all the time in the world.
    She was so tempted to tell him she loved him, but felt a quick pang in her heart, knowing that nothing would make him run faster. He wanted her body, which she was willing to give, but a pirate had little use for a woman's devotion.

    Someone knocked at the cabin door, and Jack finally pulled away. Nicola rearranged her appearance as the captain went to consult with his first mate.

    They had reached Tortuga. Their time was up.

    ----------

    Will was, understandably, angry when they reached Tortuga and located him, but his relief at seeing Nicola alive and well overrode that swiftly. In the end, he was grateful to Jack, taking somewhat at face value the pirate's tale that he hadn't wanted to delay finding and saving his young cousin. That it had given the two of them time together without Will on board was purely serendipitous, and something Will wasn't aware of, anyway.

    "Did Roccelli hurt you?" Will asked when he had Nicola alone.

    "No. Aside from a few knocks and scrapes," she amended, showing him the bump on her brow. "Jack got there in time, barely."

    "I hate to say it, but I owe him," her cousin growled. "At least he has an honourable streak in him."

    Nicola, who had trysted with said captain barely two hours before they made port in Tortuga, said nothing.

    "Have you considered what you'll do now?" Will asked his cousin. They stood at the bow of the ship, waiting for that sliver of land at the horizon. "Roccelli is dead and you're free. You needn't go back to England."

    Stay aboard the Pearl with Jack, she thought, but didn't say it aloud. It wouldn't happen. "I don't know. Become a seamstress? I loathe needlework, but I'm good at it."

    "I'm sure you can stay with Elizabeth at the manor until you decide," he said. Will put an arm around her shoulders. "It's been good to see you again, Nicola. You were always my favourite cousin."

    She laughed. "Needless flattery, Will."

    "Land ho!" the man in the crow's nest bellowed far above them.

    Sure enough, Jamaica had appeared in the distance. Nicola felt her heart sink.

    "I'll go and make sure my things are packed," she said.

    When she reached the cabin she'd occupied before her stay with Jack, she found the necklace Roccelli had given her on the bed. Nicola picked it up, held the heated gold in her hands.

    I wish I could stay, she thought. I love him.

    The ruby eye seemed to wink. Sighing, knowing it was her imagination, she thrust the necklace into the bag, with the rest of her belongings.

    But at the circular stair that led from below decks to the captain's cabin, she paused. Nicola wanted to say goodbye, at least, in private, without Will there. Will wouldn't understand, couldn't know, what had passed between her and the pirate captain. And she couldn't just leave Jack without something said.

    The door at the top of the stair was unlocked and she let herself into the captain's quarters. Jack sat at his desk with a bottle of rum and his maps, but he didn't seem to actually be doing anything with either.

    "After we reach Port Royal, we'll go our separate ways."

    He looked up at the sound of her voice, noted the bag. Dimly, he recalled hearing that they were approaching land.
    "I wanted . . . to say goodbye, and to . . . thank you. For everything."

    "You're most welcome."

    The silence stretched, somewhat awkwardly. She set her bag down and smoothed her skirt, looking everywhere but at him. Jack could admit to himself, if not aloud, that he was going to miss Nicky, and not only for the bedsport she'd provided of late. "You'd make a good pirate, lass, but I think Will would kill me if I led you down that path."

    Nicola shrugged. She didn't want to leave Jack, but knew she had to. She put on a brave face, not wanting to let him see just how much she'd come to care for him. "I'm not certain any path is right for me."

    She'd drawn closer, and he stood as she approached. Jack couldn't resist bending his head to kiss her, just once more. She responded eagerly, pressing her soft and womanly body to his.

    "Nic," he rasped. "The things you do to me."

    "One last time," she breathed. "Ravish me, Jack. You're a pirate. Ravish me as a pirate should."

    He chuckled and one corner of his mouth lifted. "Who am I to deny a last request?"

    Jack kissed her passionately, demandingly, his hands tugging at her clothing. Spinning her in his arms, he turned her towards the desk.

    "Jack!"

    He swept her hair over her shoulder, the honey-coloured locks tumbling forward. Nicola let her eyes close as Jack pressed his lips to the nape of her neck. Her mother and grandmother had told her this was a chore, a duty to be endured. She splayed her hands over the map on the desk and bit her lip, wondering how anyone could consider this a chore.

    "Jack, please," she pleaded.

    "Hold on, love. Just a bit-"

    Suddenly, the cabin door behind them burst open. Nicola gasped and Jack quickly moved to shield her with his body.
    Will stood at the door, looking completely dumbfounded. Then he began to look very angry. He drew his sword and pointed it at Jack.

    Nicola managed to get her bodice rearranged into some semblance of decency, and moved to stand beside Jack. "Will, put the sword away."

    "He compromised you," her cousin protested.

    She rolled her eyes. "I compromised myself, thank you very much. I appreciate that you would like to defend my honour, Will, but that ship, ah, not only has weighed anchor, it's sailed."

    Jack grinned. "I like the analogy."

    "Thank you."

    Will's sword point wavered. "You," he said to Jack. "You will . . . make reparation for this."

    The captain tried to decide if his urge was stronger to make a witty remark, or admit Will had a point. Because, sword aside, the young man did.

    "Reparations," Nicola echoed. "You don't mean . . .?"

    Will's frown shifted to a slightly malicious smile. "You marry her, or I'll turn you in to the Navy myself."

    Nicola gaped at him.

    "Might I point out, young William, that if I do not and you turn me over to the British, that will most certainly consign me to my death, which would solve nothing?" Jack stopped when the sword point found his throat.

    He raised his hands, conceding defeat.
  4. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    --Chapter Twelve--
    Elizabeth looked up from her book when the door burst open and Will appeared, dragging his cousin by one arm. Nicola looked much maligned, and Will was livid.

    "Oh, dear," Elizabeth said as she stood. "What happened?"

    "Roccelli's out of the picture, permanently," Will informed his fiancee. "However, Nicola's managed to get herself into some more trouble, and we're going to rectify that this afternoon. Do you have a dress you'd be willing to loan her or to part with, and anything that can function as a trousseau?"

    Wide brown eyes fixed on Nicola, who turned her own gaze to the ceiling and huffed.

    "Do I want to know?" Elizabeth asked after careful consideration.

    "William thinks I need to marry posthaste," Nicola said. "It seems I've offended his sense of duty and honour as my nearest male relative."

    One corner of Elizabeth's mouth lifted ever so slightly. "Jack?" she inquired.

    "Jack," Will growled. He pushed his cousin towards his intended. "Please make it quick, Elizabeth. I'm tempted to strangle one or the both of them."

    "Wait here. We'll do our best."

    Elizabeth escorted Nicola upstairs, then let out a rather uncharacteristic giggle. "You and Jack? He's making you marry Jack Sparrow?"

    Nicola blushed, managing to look both miserable and excited at once. Her emotions were a confused tumult. "He caught us in a . . . compromising position, and he's furious. But I . . . I love him. Jack, I mean."

    It was a little odd to say the words aloud, but she needed to or she'd burst. "I told him I wasn't looking for marriage, but I find I can't be angry at Will. I love Jack. I know I shouldn't, and I know that Will thinks I'm out of my head, but . . ."

    "But your head doesn't rule your heart," the other woman said. "Yes. And I can see how Jack caught your fancy. But you've only known him a month."

    "Six weeks," the younger woman corrected. "And I've been courted by other men for longer, and they failed to stir any emotion in me."

    Elizabeth instructed her maid to locate anything they could pack for Nicola. It would be an excuse to get new things made, something her father was always willing to indulge her in. Mostly, the hastily-constructed dowry chest consisted of a new shift, a nightrail that Governor Swann had procured and Elizabeth never used because it was entirely too frilly for her tastes, and a pale green taffeta gown with a deep rose under-dress and trim that suited Nicola's colouring perfectly.

    Flora arranged Nicola's hair into a complicated design of curls and ribbons, and Elizabeth, finding the bird necklace in Nicola's bag, decreed that the bride should wear it.

    "It rather looks like a sparrow, doesn't it?" she mused. "How funny. A sparrow holding a black pearl."

    A very impatient Will knocked at the door. He stared at his cousin when he saw her, a smile breaking through his irritation.

    "You look beautiful, cousin," he said. "A lovely bride. Not a very deserving groom, but a lovely bride, nonetheless."

    Nicola smiled and exchanged a look with Elizabeth. Then Will took hold of the chest to which all of Nicola's things, new and old, had been moved, and hauled it out to the waiting carriage.

    "Are you coming?" Nicola asked Elizabeth, suddenly nervous to be all alone on her wedding day.

    "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

    ----------

    A goat in the street stopped the carriage. Nicola glanced out the window while Will made noises of frustration, and saw that they lingered near a jeweller's shop.

    "Will. Can we go in?" she asked. "Just for a moment."

    Since she'd behaved so far, Will acquiesced and the trio went inside. Elizabeth distracted her fiance with talk of wedding rings for their own upcoming nuptials, and Nicola found herself alone near the back, looking at the dazzling variety of gems on offer.

    "Ahh. It found you."

    She jumped and whirled, startled by the old woman she hadn't noticed before, sitting in the shadows. The woman stood, one lined hand reaching for the necklace.

    "This is my work," she said. "The last I made. My son now does the work while I design. My old hands aren't up to it any longer, I'm afraid."

    Nicola touched the necklace, the warm gold soothing now when she thought of Jack, instead of frightening in Roccelli's presence. "It was . . . a gift."

    "But not from the one it should have been, yes? No matter." The old woman waved a hand. "It found you anyway. Did it show you the truth?"

    In a way, it had. Reflecting on it, during those hours she'd been Roccelli's prisoner, she had realised that she loved Jack. "Yes," she said slowly. "It did."

    "Good." The woman smiled. "And today is your wedding day. I'm pleased that you're wearing it."

    "How did you know . . .?"

    "I'm old, child. I've seen many brides." She glanced past Nicola to the other couple. "You shouldn't keep Jack waiting."

    Nicola's mouth dropped open. Before she could say anything in response, a younger man came through the back door.

    "Mama, are you pestering the customers?" he asked.

    "Not at all, Phillipe. Just having a nice chat."

    Will pulled Nicola away then. Baffled by the strange conversation, Nicola rode the rest of the way to the docks in silence.

    The crew of the Pearl was in an uproar, excited by the news that their captain was taking a wife. As undesirable as a woman on board was, a wedding was an excuse for songs and drinking and general merriment. Gibbs, as acting captain, had attempted to make himself presentable for the occasion. Jack was, well, Jack, and had done little save for putting on his frock coat and straightening the cuffs.

    "Oooh," one of the men said when Nicola appeared on board. "Blimey!"

    Jack looked completely dumbstruck as Will guided Nicola across the main deck to where he and Gibbs waited. He'd been frustrated at being forced to do this, but seeing his bride flummoxed him and he couldn't, try as he might, find any real reason to fight what was happening. He got to keep her after all. Wasn't that what he'd wanted?

    Will placed Nicola's hand in Jack's, and Gibbs conducted. With an "I do" from both parties and an "I pronounce you man and wife" from the first mate, it was done. The newlyweds eyed each other awkwardly as the crew demanded a kiss.

    Giving in, Jack pulled Nicola into his arms and kissed her thoroughly, to the cheers of the men. Then he declared that it was time for drinking.

    "I think we'll be off," Elizabeth said. "You probably want to get going before the Commodore notices you're in the bay, even if only just."

    "Good thinking, Lizzie," Jack said. "And if we don't make it back for your nuptials, let me congratulate you now."
    Nicola hugged her cousin and his fiancee, and Will and Elizabeth departed.

    "On deck!" Jack bellowed at the crew. He issued his orders and the sails unfurled, dark against the brilliant blues and yellows of the beginning sunset.

    Once in open water, the party began. Jack couldn't begrudge the men some celebrating, even if he felt a bit foul himself. Married, him! And forced into it by an earnest young pup with too many morals.

    Nicola danced with each of the men, laughing merrily as they swung her about. Jack stayed at the wheel, unsure how to proceed from here. Steering the ship was something he knew. It was familiar and comforting.

    Eventually, the celebrating died down and Nicola retired to his-their!-cabin. After a while, Jack turned the wheel over to Gibbs and followed. Sitting at his desk, he pulled out his charts and tried to focus on picking their next destination, now that the threat that had so consumed him was gone.

    He took a swig from his rum bottle and eyed the woman perched on his bed. His wife. He had to admit that he had some pretty tarnished views on marriage, given his home life growing up, and he hadn't ever expected to enter the "blissful state".

    It was his own fault, really, not making sure the door was barred. But Nic didn't seem too bothered, despite her talk of not looking to marry him, and dressed in that frilly nightgown Elizabeth had given her, with her hair spilling around her shoulders, as she read a book by the light of a small lamp hanging by the bed . . .

    Her toes peeked from the hem of the alluring-but-innocent gown, and he felt his interest stir, reminded of what had been interrupted earlier. Jack set the bottle down with a "thunk" and stood. Nic's big eyes lifted to watch him curiously.
    He lurched over to the bed, nearly collapsing as the ship bounced over a particularly large swell. Speaking of swellings, he had one he needed to deal with and here was his bride, all pretty and soft and his.

    Jack plucked the book from her hands with two fingers, noting with a glance that it was in French. "Didn't you say that you'd only read this if you were desperate for entertainment?"

    "That I did," she said slowly.

    "I can entertain you," he said, and dropped the book on the floor.
  5. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    --Chapter Thirteen--

    Nicola was dozing, tucked between Jack and the wall, when someone pounded on the cabin door. She protested sleepily when Jack slid out of bed.

    "Stay here," he murmured, as he pulled the curtain shut.

    It was Gibbs at the door. "Cap'n. We've got a Navy vessel in our wake, an' there's a storm comin'."

    Jack's brow furrowed a bit. "How bad is the storm, Mr. Gibbs?"

    "Sky's green on the horizon."

    That meant one thing: a hurricane.

    "Make for port," Jack said. "They'll break off, or . . ."

    "Cap'n, port's closer to the storm'n we are."

    Jack turned and look towards the bed, where Nicola lay. "I know. Proceed, Mr. Gibbs."

    She sat up as Jack closed the door, clutching the covers to her bosom when Jack pulled the curtain back. "A hurricane?" she asked.

    He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots. "We'll be fine, not to worry."

    "We're sailing into a hurricane," she pointed out. Nicola was already throwing back the covers, legs over the edge of the bunk.

    There was no time-or point-to put her corset back on, so Nicky pulled on the outer layer of her skirts and the looser bodice. She left her hair down and trailing behind her as she dashed after her husband.

    The thought had her crashing into the door. Jack paused, annoyed that she'd followed, but concerned if she was hurt.

    "I'm fine," she said.

    He spared her little thought after that, not having the luxury at the moment. Jack barked orders at his crew, moving confidently over the pitching deck.

    "Shouldn't ye take shelter, Mrs. Sparrow?"

    Nicola turned to Gibbs. "Probably."

    They both took a moment to watch the captain. "He's made for this, isn't he, Joshamee?" she asked.

    "Aye," Gibbs replied. "Many souls what call him a bad pirate. Maybe so. But he's the best natural sailor I've met."

    The sky and surrounding evening were rapidly turning the colour of pitch, the clouds at the very west edged with fire, the water a frightening inky green. The storm was coming at them from the south, somewhere beyond Hispaniola, out in the greater waters of the Atlantic. Torrential rains already poured from the tormented sky, a wall of water moving towards the ship, and lightning crackling overhead.

    Other than the brilliant flashes of electricity, the only lights out on the water were the Pearl's own, and those of the pursuing Navy vessel. Even Port Royal had vanished long behind them.

    A particularly strong gust of wind pushed Nicola backwards, nearly off her feet. She watched Jack for another moment, then ducked back into the captain's cabin. She caught up his long coat and took it out to the main deck.

    "Jack!" she called, over the wind. It had barely begun to rain on the ship, but already she felt chilled.

    He turned, saw the coat, and felt a strange warmth spread through him. He thanked her and, after he'd shrugged into it, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close.

    "Thank you," he said, adding, "Mrs. Sparrow."

    He kissed her quickly, thinking that tonight, they shouldn't have to be fighting man and nature, but warm and safe somewhere, just the two of them. And what kind of thinking was that, for a man who loved the sea and his ship above all else?

    A man in love, really, but there was no way he was going to admit that, even to himself. Not yet, at least.

    Jack shook himself from those thoughts and gave her a nudge towards the cabin. This time, she went without complaint.

    The clouds above burst before she got there, the rain at the edge of the storm coming from the other direction at the same time, and she was instantly drenched. Nicola shivered and gritted her teeth as she pushed the door shut and went to find something dry to put on. She crawled into bed, dressed in the nightgown from before, and doused the lamp. In this, she was useless and would just be in the way, so her only option was to wait.

    The wind outside began to howl, and the ship dropped sharply as the wave beneath it crested and broke. Nicola sighed and hugged the pillow, hoping they reached port soon. Occasionally, there was the distant sound of cannon fire, but eventually, it, too, succumbed to the storm. She found herself dozing, despite the noise, and Nic jolted awake when a hand shook her.

    It was Jack, with a small lamp in his hand. "Pack your bag, love, we're beaching the ship and taking shelter in some caves on an island nearby. We're not making it to port, storm's worse than I figured."

    A cave. Just where she'd always planned to spend her bridal trip. Still, Nicola rose without comment. Again, she got out of bed and dressed, this time adding boots to her ragtag ensemble. Nicola glanced at Jack as she stuffed what valuables she had into her knapsack.

    "The Navy ship?" she asked.

    He paused in rolling up maps and papers. "It didn't survive the storm."

    She decided not to follow up on that. "Do you think we'll be on the island long?"

    Jack grimaced. "A day or two at best. But if we need to repair the Pearl, could be longer."

    When they left the ship, he made sure she was on the first boat. She stood in the dubious shelter of some low trees as the men went to the arduous task of hauling the vessel onto the beach. The ship was heavy, weighing tons, and the heavy rains only made it more difficult.

    Some ways inland, there was a sort of cliff-face, pockmarked with crevices that looked to have been carved out by water over centuries. Some had water pouring out of them, and some were dry.

    The one Jack chose for the Sparrows was fairly low to the ground, and reachable by a network of step-like rocks inside one of the lower caves, and a short corridor between it and its neighbour. It was deep, and more importantly, unoccupied by anything with more than two legs.

    Nicola lowered her bag as she looked around. The cave had an alcove that was almost a separate chamber, and it was here that Jack put their bedrolls. When the other men had cleared out, he arranged a makeshift bed and guided her to it. Jack had moments where he could be an outright cad, but when it came to her well-being, he was usually pretty serious.

    There was no real possibility of a fire, as they had no decent wood, but Jack had a few candles amongst the detritus from his cabin and desk. He lit one and affixed it to a large rock so that it shed some light into their "room".

    "Just what you're used to, I'm sure," her husband said, with just a touch of sarcasm.

    Before she could respond, there was a footfall in the outer chamber and then Gibbs appeared.

    "Tunnels are still open," he reported. Then, seeing Nicola's confusion, he told her, "Some of these caves, more than this one, I mean, are connected, y'see. I be in the next over. But don't worry, it's the only one what connects t'yers."

    Nicola looked at Jack. "I take it you've done this more than once."

    "A time or two."

    Gibbs told his captain that the men had finished transporting the important stuff from the ship and were settled as well as could be. Then he excused himself.

    "It's the Caribbean," she muttered after a bit. "It should not be this cold."

    Jack yanked off his boots. "Come with me, Nicky, I'll show you something."

    Nicola removed her boots at his direction, then followed him. Gibbs had left a torch in the outer chamber of their cave and Jack picked it up as he passed. She followed him to the back of the main cave, where an outcropping hid a depression a few feet wide and roughly waist-deep on her, filled with water that smelled vaguely of sulfur.

    "A spring," she said, dumbfounded.

    "A hot spring, in point of fact," he corrected. "It's why I chose this cave in particular. Aside from its added benefits of defensibility and privacy, savvy?"

    She grinned and stripped off her sodden clothes, leaving only her shift. The rest she laid out to let dry as best they would, and she stepped into the water.

    The groan she let out was indecent. "Oh, this is wonderful. I haven't had a proper soak since I arrived in Jamaica."

    They wouldn't be going anywhere for a good, long while, so Jack stripped down to his shirt only and joined her in the heated water. After several long minutes in which they let the cold seep from their bones, Nicola spoke.

    "I'm sorry."

    "For what?"

    She shrugged. "You having to marry me. I never intended for that to happen."

    Jack made a face, then slogged through the water to where she sat on a small ledge. He knelt before her, the water up to his neck, and took her hands in his.

    "What's done is done," he said. "I didn't want it. We both know that, aye? But now I have you, well, you're mine, savvy?"

    Nicola nodded. "I only wanted to make sure you knew that I didn't trick you into anything."

    "No, of course you didn't. Who'd want a pirate, anyway?" He said it lightly, but there was a thread there . . .

    "Me," she said softly. "I would."

    He gave her a crooked, gold-toothed smile.

    Jack carried her out of the pool and to their makeshift bed. Since his shirt was still wet, he stripped it off and and spread it to dry beside the rest of their clothes. Nicola tossed her shift at him and grinned from where she huddled beneath the blankets.

    He'd left the torch by the pool, and went to fetch it.

    "We should save it," she murmured, when he brought it back to their alcove. "And the candles. We may need them later."

    "Wise thinking."

    Outside, the wind howled. It was dark enough that neither could see anything through the narrow crevice that formed the cave's exterior opening. Jack dowsed the torch, then pinched the little flame on the guttering candle.

    He slipped under the blankets and pulled Nicola into his arms.

    "Mm. Jack," she mumbled, then yawned sleepily. "Love . . . you."

    His hand stilled, fingers caught in her hair. "Pardon?"

    But she was already fast asleep and didn't respond.

    A funny little bubble of emotion welled in Jack's gut. Women had said it before, but they'd never meant it. Not really.
    But something told him that Nicola did, and he wasn't entirely sure what to do about it. Because, blast it, he was in love with her, and he didn't know what to do about that, either.

    He sighed and wrapped his arms tight around her. He'd deal with it in the morning. It had been a very, very long day, and he needed sleep.

    It was surprisingly easy, though, with Nicky in his arms, to follow her into slumber.
  6. Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Apr 7, 2002
    star 5
    --Chapter Fourteen--

    Dawn brought grey, cloudy skies and a drizzle of rain, but the storm had passed over them in the night. Jack and the crew went down to the beach to assess the damage to the ship. Nicola stayed at the cave and waited in boredom until he returned.

    "We need two of the sails mended," he told her upon his return. "We've put the Pearl back in the water, but we can't set sail until the tears are mended."

    "I'll fix them," she said.

    They gathered their things and made their way back to the ship. While they'd rolled the sails up before leaving the ship, there was still some damage from flying debris and the high winds. The main sail had a three-foot tear in it. The rest of them were much smaller and took less time to sew up.

    Her fingers were sore by the time Nicola finished stitching the sails. It took her into the second day to make all the repairs. They weighed anchor in the afternoon and Jack pointed the prow towards open water.

    "Where are we going?" she asked him from their bed, as he made notations in his log.

    "Europe. Possibly Arabia. I have something I need to see to."

    "I see."

    Jack put down his quill and went to the chest of jewels they'd played in a few days before. He dug through the gems and baubles until he found what he was looking for, and he brought it over to her.

    "You put the bracelet back," he said. "But I'm hoping you'll keep this one on."

    He lifted her left hand and slid a silver ring on her ring finger. The stone was pale, faintly pink, and rectangular, cabochon rather than faceted, in a bezel setting. Little silver balls decorated the metal in a baroque style.

    "There are fancier ones," he said, "but this one seemed to fit you more."

    Realising he'd just given her a wedding ring, Nicola felt tears well in her eyes. She blinked them away and smiled. "It's beautiful, Jack. Thank you."

    "There was something you said, in the cave." Jack stopped, unsure if he should even bring it up. He'd never been so off guard and confused as he was with her.

    "When?"

    "Just before you fell asleep. You said something to me."

    "I don't remember saying anything."

    He rubbed a thumb over the rose quartz in her ring. "You said . . . that you love me."

    ". . . Oh." Her fingers closed around his, in a quick, involuntary squeeze, and she looked down at their hands. "Um."

    "I'm not going to make a good husband, love," he said. "Part of me wishes that you hated me."

    "I don't," she said firmly. "I don't hate you and I don't wish to. Jack, I . . ."

    "Did you mean it?"

    Nicola licked suddenly dry lips. "Did I mean . . . that I love you?"

    His silence was response enough.

    "I do," she confessed. "I tried not to, but it happened anyway."

    Jack sighed and closed his eyes. Nicola rose on her knees and cupped his face in her hands.

    "Why do you wish I hate you?" she asked him in a whisper.

    "Because I see only heartache ahead for you, if you stay with me, and I-" Jack covered her hands with his own. "I care too much to hurt you."

    "Jack," she murmured. "Are you saying you love me, too?"

    "Do I have to say it in those precise words?" He sounded pained.

    She laughed. "No, Jack, you don't."

    He twisted the ring he'd just given her around her finger. "But I do," he said eventually. "I do. Mrs. Sparrow."

    "Then that," she replied, "is enough for me."

    -end-
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