honorat: (Anamaria and Jack by Honorat)
[personal profile] honorat
Author: Honorat
Rating: PG-13
Characters: : Norrington, the crew of the Dauntless, Jack Sparrow, and the crew of the Black Pearl
Pairing: Jack/Anamaria somewhat; Jack/Pearl definitely
Disclaimer: The characters of PotC! She’s taken them! Get after her, you feckless pack of ingrates!

Summary: On board the Dauntless the search for the Black Pearl continues, but has Norrington’s ship acquired a curse? Perhaps a small one. On board the Black Pearl, repairs continue. Every once in awhile, I have to write some raving sailing. Norrington has finally got the Black Pearl trapped. Jack is bound to do something crazy, but will it be the last thing he does?

Thank you so very much [livejournal.com profile] geekmama for the beta help

1 Ambush
2 No Regrets
3 The Judgment of the Sea
4 The Sea Pays Homage
5 Risking All That Is Mortal and Unsure
6 Troubles Come Not Single Spies
7 To Dare Do All That May Become a Man
8 Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
9 A Special Providence in the Fall
10 For Where We Are Is Hell
11 To Beat the Surges Under and Ride Upon Their Backs
12 One Equal Temper of Heroic Hearts
13 Though the Seas Threaten, They are Merciful
14 He Jests at Scars Who Never Felt a Wound
15 To Strive, To Seek, To Find, And Not To Yield
16 A Kind of Alacrity in Sinking
17 A Fine-Baited Delay
18 To Watch the Night in Storms
19a The Natural Shocks That Flesh is Heir To, Part 1
19b The Natural Shocks That Flesh is Heir To, Part 2
20 To Disguise Fair Nature with Hard-Favour'd Rage
21 Valour's Show and Valour's Worth
22 Between the Fell Incensed Points of Mighty Opposites
23 Mark'd for Hot Vengeance
24 Strength by Limping Sway Disabled

* * * * *

25 She That You Wrong'd, Look You Restore

* * * * *

Contrary to Captain Walton’s fervent hopes and badgering of Deity, the day dawned bright turquoise and gold. Apparently the fickle weather had transferred its affections to Sparrow. The pirates of the Black Pearl would have no difficulty moving the Defender’s powder to their ship safe and dry. Already a steady stream of kegs was flowing over the planks joining the two ships.

Knowing the extent of his own fatigue, Walton could only watch the flurry of activity on the Black Pearl with reluctant admiration. The chanteys sung by the men turning the capstan to raise her masts had a breathless quality to them, as though the voices singing had almost lost the strength to do so. He could see that many of the pirates were suffering injuries inflicted during the Naval bombardment, and yet they persevered.

Their dogged and courageous efforts were paying off. Restored by her crew’s devotion, the Black Pearl was looking less like a ghost hulk and more like a living ship.

Walton was reminded of the old saying: “Give a seaman a knife and a forest, and he can build and rig a ship.” In the absence of land and resources, the pirates were making his Defender their forest. The Pearl’s hull no longer resembled badly tatted lace but was instead a patchwork of black planks interspersed with the warm golden oak that had once formed the bulkheads of his own ship.

The pirates understood too well a sailor’s first rule—keep the sea out of the ship.

Two of the Defender’s own pumps had been pressed into service to take over for the much mended and cobbled together ruins of the Pearl’s pumps. As a result, she was riding higher in the water, towering over his own little brig, lean and tall-sparred, a queen among vessels.

Throughout the maelstrom of striving activity, Captain Jack Sparrow, Nemesis of the Royal Navy in general and Captain Alexander Walton in particular, stalked, directing, threatening, cajoling, calming, out-roaring the wind—as if he were creating his ship anew with the words of his mouth. Against all odds, the pirate had succeeded in resurrecting his ship from her watery grave.

On the other hand, Walton himself had failed his own charge. In a brief moment of respite, while Sparrow wandered off to check on his first mate, Walton leaned wearily against the rail of the Black Pearl and contemplated his beloved Defender. A playful breeze stirred the remnants of her rigging. She looked naked in the merciless light, a maiden ravished, all her spars and sails struck except for her main masts and courses. The glare of the sea stung Walton’s eyes until his vision blurred.

* * * * *

The arrival of Captain Sparrow’s new bed had afforded Anamaria the opportunity of returning to her own quarters once again in the arms of the imperturbable Tearlach. Now she lay ensconced on her own bed, a little the worse for its submersion and with a musty, damp odour to it. Her injured leg was propped up on a wilted cushion.

Outside the cabin, the ship rang with the sounds of the repaired forge and the carpenter’s hammers and adzes as the crew raced to get the Black Pearl seaworthy. She could hear Jack’s voice rising above the din, deceptively strong, directing the placement of the easing-guys and jiggers for swaying the topmast up the main mast.

The enforced inactivity was crawling under Anamaria’s skin like ants. She was nearly driven to distraction by their prickly little legs of boredom. Jack took one look at her that morning and set about removing all sharp or explodable objects from her cabin in a conspicuous and clanking armload.

“No use temptin’ fate,” he informed her without contrition as he fished a cutlass out from under her mattress. “You’re startin’ t’ look like a panther in a flour sack—all claws and snarl.”

He didn’t try to dodge her slap, merely braced himself, head turned slightly, as though to make it easier for her.

Anamaria pulled her punch. When her hand connected with the side of his face, all the force had dissipated from her anger and the blow. Her touch was as light and glancing as a gust of wind.

“You don’t have t’ do that, Jack,” she said sadly.

“Do what?”

“Try to make me feel better by lettin’ me hit you,” she answered. “It’s not your fault I’m goin’ crazy. I’m sorry I’m in such a foul mood.”

Now Jack really did look worried. “Are you feelin’ quite the thing, love?” he asked, pressing the cool dry backs of his fingers against her forehead. “I think that fever must be gettin’ worse. No other explanation for it.”

Anamaria knew she was feverish. Her head felt as though the Royal Navy was performing live fire exercises in it, and her whole body ached as though she’d been pitched off the foretop and bounced down every single step of the companionway.

“Let me take a look at that leg,” Jack suggested, his tone light but his expression grim.

He probably should, Anamaria conceded. Her leg felt tight, as though her skin was too small and the stitches were straining impossibly to hold it together. A small, persistent needle of fear stabbed at the back of her mind reminding her that she might yet lose the limb—if she survived at all— but neither she nor Jack put that possibility into words.

Gritting her teeth, Anamaria endured the removal of her bandages and lint—or at least the lint that hadn’t fused itself to the suppurating wound. She was certain Jack was trying to be gentle, but he might as well have been chiseling away the encrusted material with a marlinspike.

Finally, the last piece that would consent to do so parted company with her leg. Her breath, that she discovered she’d been holding, let out in a hiss of suppressed agony.

“Sorry, love,” Jack murmured contritely. “No easy way around this.” His hands were cold as he examined the swollen flesh, angry and inflamed, even uglier than it had looked the day before.

Jack frowned at her leg; however, his voice was relieved when he informed her, “That’s good. It’s still fightin’, not dead. I’ll send Peytoe with fresh bandages and oil to soften that glued on lint. At least our dispensary has been resupplied courtesy of His Majesty’s Royal Navy. When that’s healed a little more, we’ve got plenty of basilicum for the inflammation.”

A small sigh escaped Anamaria as he allowed her leg to return to its cushion. The tension ebbed from her body.

“You rest now,” Jack advised. “That’s the best thing for it.”

Anamaria scowled at him. “I’m so bloody tired of restin’, I could just kill somethin’,” she informed him bitterly.

“I know.” Jack glanced meaningfully at the cutlass waiting on the deck. “Now I’ll just be off with this, someplace far away.”

At the door, he looked back. “I’ll send you a book,” he promised.

Anamaria huffed a resigned laugh. Perhaps trying to decipher words would take her mind off her excruciating boredom.

* * * * *

In the surgery, aboard the Dauntless, Gilbert Samuels’ pirate patient was looking less and less wounded and fragile and more like a professional success by the moment, a fact which both pleased and worried the doctor. If he and Bailey had been unable to contain the slippery little rogue when he was burnt to the socket, how were they to manage this increasingly lively young imp? Someone had modified a crutch to fit his small stature which aggravated his nuisance potential considerably. Hopping about like a flea, Jip had explored the surgery thoroughly, extorting explanations for every instrument, unguent and piece of lint.

Samuels had caught him heading for the door several times already. The last time, he’d almost missed the little varmint. Thus, he welcomed with relief the arrival of the two sturdy marines, Murtogg and Mullroy.

“Gentlemen,” the doctor said genially, “he’s all yours.” He looked sternly down at the youngster. “Jip, these are Misters Murtogg and Mullroy. You are to obey them in all things. Do you understand?”

Jip stared measuringly up at his new guardians, then gave them a charmingly disarming smile, “Yes, sir. I understand.”

By this time Samuels was heartily suspicious of anything Jip did, particularly anything he did willingly, but Murtogg and Mullroy grinned back at the boy, unsuspecting.

Settling back to his work, Samuels kept an eye on the proceedings. Apparently the marines had decided that a game would keep their injured charge amused and too occupied to contemplate escape. However their first suggestion, Chuck-farthing, was met with incredulous scorn by Jip. Flicking buttons into a tankard was poor sport for a pirate. Spillikins suffered a similar dismissal. Did they think he was a baby to play with sticks? Surely a first rate naval ship could afford more action than that. Jip would rather help Bailey roll bandages.

Having exhausted their memories of juvenile entertainment, Murtogg and Mullroy were left with no wind to their sails. Taking pity on them, Samuels intervened, asking Jip what game he would like to play.

“Have you any dice or cards?” Jip inquired with renewed interest.

Murtogg informed him that these were indeed available, and Mullroy was sent to fetch them.

When he returned, and the three of them were seated at the surgery table, the marines turned to Jip to name the play.

“French Hazard,” Jip declared, sweeping up the dice.

Samuels raised an eyebrow, and Murtogg and Mullroy looked startled. Not a child’s game indeed!

“Now, gentlemen,” Jip said smoothly. “What are the stakes?”

“I’ve got fish you can use,” Samuels offered, dropping on the table a handful of the little metal counters employed when gaming without money.

Jip curled his lip contemptuously. “It’s not a real game if there aren’t real stakes,” he insisted.

“How do you expect to raise the wind with your pockets entirely to let?” asked Murtogg, highly amused.

“You lay down your blunt, and I’ll bet an entire watch during which I don’t escape,” Jip told the marines.

They had to argue strenuously to keep from playing for pound points. Penny points were still rather tame for Jip, but Murtogg and Mullroy finally convinced him that a marine’s pay was such as to prevent them from playing very deep. However, Jip didn’t consider such petty stakes worth more than the time between bells on his part.

With the technical details worked out, the three began their game. Jip was the first caster.

As the game progressed, their captive pirate appeared to be in no danger of having to abandon his errant ways. He was also well on his way to acquiring a marine’s salary. In fact, Samuels was certain their diminutive gambler had all the makings of a regular sharper. In a game supposed to be based on pure luck, he was consistently nicking his main and getting his chance.

Eventually, Murtogg and Mullroy reached the same conclusion.

“You!” exclaimed Murtogg accusingly. “You are cheating, you little rat!”

Jip stared at him with wide blue uncomprehending eyes, but the two marines were rapidly joining the ranks of those who found an innocent Jip to be a contradiction in terms.

“No man of honour would ever cheat,” Mullroy told Jip sternly.

“But I’m not a man of honour,” Jip pointed out. “I’m a pirate.”

“Even a pirate should be honourable,” Mullroy insisted.

Murtogg looked at him incredulously. “No they’re not. Pirates are scoundrels and thieves. That’s not honourable.”

“Cheating at dice is different,” said Mullroy stubbornly. “Even pirates wouldn’t stoop that low.”

“A pirate is already lower than that” was Murtogg’s opinion.

The argument persisted about whether or not a man who chose a life of piracy could have any honour to lose when gambling.

Gradually, Samuels became aware that only two voices were continuing the dispute. Hurrying back into the room, he was unsurprised to discover just the two marines. Of their putative prisoner not one gold hair remained—nor any of his winnings.

“Where is Jip?” he asked them.

Murtogg and Mullroy stared around wildly.

“He was right here just a moment ago!” exclaimed Murtogg. “We were looking right at him. How did he do that?”

The two marines rushed off to renew the pirate hunt.

Samuels sighed and returned to his task. They would see Jip when he was ready to be seen and not a moment before. Of that he was comfortably certain.

* * * * *

Although Captain Sparrow had so many tasks to attend to in the restoration of his Pearl that he wished he were triplets, he made the detour to Anamaria’s cabin as often as he could. The next time he looked in on her, Jack found her restless and thirsty. When he returned with a flagon of fresh rainwater, his feverish first mate drank the whole of it without once drawing a breath. It took two more trips to satisfy her lust for liquid.

“I’ll just have the entire barricoe installed in your cabin,” he offered, only half in jest.

Anamaria wiped her mouth with the back of one wrist. “Thank you,” she said with feeling. “I was about to go up in flames.”

“Can I get you anything else?” he offered solicitously.

Anamaria considered. “No,” she said.

But as he turned to go, she added, “Yes. Yes there is.”

When she didn’t enlighten him further, Jack prompted her uneasily, “What is it, love?” His first mate was looking uncomfortable, and warning bells were beginning to toll at the back of his head.

“I think I might need to use that chamberpot again,” Anamaria said all in a rush.

Jack considered—very briefly—going through that ordeal a second time. He had refined the ability to ignore his body’s objections to anything he chose to do to a high art; however, his ribs had held trial and passed judgment on his activity so far and were now busy executing the sentence to draw and quarter him, or so it seemed.

Against his will, he groaned. “No, Ana. I can’t. Just . . . you’ll have to . . . .” His weary brain refused to disgorge a solution, abandoning him to plead, “I don’t know . . . I just can’t.”

But somewhere in the intervening time since their first tragicomic bout with that chamberpot, Anamaria had come to an accord with her own helplessness and had keel-hauled her shame. “That’s all right, Jack. I wouldn’t ask it of you,” she reassured him. “Just send me some able-bodied help. Tearlach and . . . Requin.”

“Requin?” Jack was startled. He’d sent Requin to keep Anamaria company during the taking of the Defender, even though he’d known that the boy was terrified of Anamaria and that Anamaria considered Requin a less than competent pirate, because he’d had no one else to choose. Apparently their shared ordeal had established some kind of truce between the two of them. If Anamaria would accept Requin in his place, Jack and his ribs could only be immensely relieved.

“The boy keeps his head.” Anamaria shrugged. “If he hadn’t got his hands on Banks’ gun when you fired at the Pearl . . . things might not have gone so well.”

Jack raised a brow. Now that was interesting. He opened his mouth to inquire further, but Anamaria had pinned her lips as though she’d already said more than she’d planned. Never mind. He’d have the story out of Requin later.

“Now go!” Anamaria ordered with conviction. “Hurry!”

Jack went and stood not upon the order of his going.

He found Tearlach quickly enough, towering above the rest of his crewmates at the capstan. The big man received with his usual unruffled calm the news that he was once again required to assist the first mate with private matters. Jack sent him to collect the chair, the chamber pot, and the dress from the captain’s cabin.

Finding Requin took more inquiry, but Jack eventually located him assisting Peytoe with the injured. Upon hearing the task his captain intended for him, Requin flushed a bashful crimson then turned pale with terror, a phenomenon that Jack found highly diverting.

He wondered if he’d have a harder time talking Requin into this duty than he had up the mast after the Pearl’s capsize.

“Anamaria chose you because she trusts you, lad,” he said reassuringly. “You just follow her directions, and I promise you’ll make it through alive and in one piece.”

Requin did not appear to be reassured.

Jack tried a different tack. “The lady is in distress. I’d assist her myself, but . . .” he gestured at his ribs. “So I’m counting on you to be a gentleman and do your best to make this as easy for her as possible. You’re a good man, Requin. I knew that when I signed you on this crew. I know you can do this.”

While Requin did not look any easier, he squared his shoulders and met his captain’s eyes resolutely. “Aye, sir. I’ll do my best.”

“Good lad,” Jack approved, “Let’s scurry along now. I believe Anamaria would appreciate a prompt response.”

He propelled Requin ahead of him in the direction of Anamaria’s cabin.

* * * * *

As he had expected, Samuels found Jip returned to his surgery hours later without any assistance from those searching for him.

“Ready for something to eat, are you?” he asked.

Jip beamed artlessly at the doctor who wasn’t deceived in the least.

“I should send you to bed without your supper, you young limb of Satan.” The doctor tried to sound fierce.

Nevertheless, he handed the boy his rations.

While Jip gnawed on his salt horse and hardtack and held races with the weevils he found in it, Samuels sent for Murtogg and Mullroy. Perhaps now, the two of them would be better prepared to keep an eye on their peripatetic pirate.

This time, the two marines did not attempt to interact with Jip. Positioning themselves on either side of the door, they watched him with silent intensity, like two cats stalking a particularly tricky mouse.

Jip eyed them speculatively, obviously studying the situation for any weaknesses. Finally, he seemed resigned to his captivity, allowing the doctor to distract him with a folio-sized volume of William Cowper’s The anatomy of humane bodies: With figures drawn after the life by some of the best masters in Europe, and curiously engraven in one hundred and fourteen copper plates, illustrated with large explications, containing many new anatomical discoveries, and chirurgical observations: To which is added an introduction explaining the animal oeconomy, with a copious index.

Samuels had to glare at Murtogg and Mullroy when Jip’s exclamations over the ninth table, “The whole brain taken out of the skull,” nearly caused them to abandon their posts in curiousity.

This tactic worked better than Samuels had anticipated because not only was Jip fascinated by the pictures, he also appeared to have some Latin and was laboriously deciphering the text. Several bells passed by in peace.

However, when their young pirate asked to be taken to the head, Samuels shared a warning glance with the marines.

They marched off, one on each side of Jip, maintaining a grip on his arms, but somehow Samuels wasn’t surprised when they returned bereft of their captive, carrying only his abandoned crutch.

“He had nowhere to go,” lamented Murtogg. “But he wanted to use the head alone, so we waited. When he didn’t come out, we went in anyway, and he was gone.”

Samuels groaned. “You muttonheads! Didn’t you even think that the head is a hole in the ship? Never mind. Just go inform the commodore.”

Murtogg and Mullroy looked even more abashed at this order. The two of them slunk off sheepishly to admit their failure.

* * * * *

With resignation, Commodore Norrington ushered Misters Murtogg and Mullroy into his office.

Their report contained very little that was surprising: Jip was missing again.

Norrington frowned at them. “Gentlemen, am I to understand that two adult men, marines on a King’s vessel, men with two legs apiece, are incapable of controlling the activities of one small boy missing half a leg?”

“Respectfully, sir,” Murtogg explained earnestly, “that ain’t a boy at all. That is an afreet!”

“An afreet?”

“Yes sir, one o’ them evil heathen demons.” Mullroy looked pleased with their deduction. “We think that Jack Sparrow fellow left him for us as a curse.”

“A curse,” Norrington said flatly.

“Yes, sir,” the two of them chorused.

At that, there was something to be said for their idea. Oh, he didn’t believe there was anything supernatural about Jip. But it would be just like Sparrow to curse Norrington with a miniature replica of himself.

“Very well,” Norrington said to his marines. “Continue searching for him. And next time, do not take your eyes off him for an instant. You are dismissed.”

When the two had departed, the commodore turned to his two lieutenants. Gilette’s pained expression was a mirror of his own, but Groves’ eyes were lit with amusement.

“There are over six hundred of us on this vessel,” Norrington sighed. “How is it that one half-sized pirate can make every last one of us feel surrounded and out-flanked?”

Any unlikely answer he might have received from his lieutenants was forestalled by the appearance of the Dauntless’s carpenter.

“Commodore Norrington, I’ve located the source of our leaks,” he said without preamble.

“That is excellent news, Mr. Twickenham,” Norrington told him, pleased. “Have you been able to block them?”

“Well now, there’s a bit of a rub,” the carpenter informed him, looking as flustered as a man who resembled his own wooden element could. “We appear to have an auger worm problem, sir.”

Norrington felt as though he had been hit across the chest with a grapnel. Because auger worms were so small when they entered a plank, they could destroy nearly half the weight of a piece of wood before the outer surface showed signs of their presence. If his Dauntless was infested with those pernicious organisms, she was in imminent danger of becoming unseaworthy. They would have to get her to a shipyard as swiftly as possible and haul her out of the water until she thoroughly dried out if they hoped to save her.

“Where is the damage, and how bad is it?” he asked, fearing the answer.

“So far, I’ve only been able to discover one infected area—in her bilges, near the larboard bow, just below the bilge water line. But sir,” the man continued, “I’ve never seen anything like it. These are the biggest worm holes I’ve ever seen.” He shook his head in bafflement. “It’s like someone took an actual auger to her hull. But I haven’t found any worms in the holes.”

Lieutenant Gillette suddenly got an arrested look on his face. He caught Groves’ eye where a similar comprehension was dawning.

“If you’ll excuse me a moment, sir?” Gillette requested.

“By all means,” Norrington responded, too distracted by the disturbing news to wonder what his first lieutenant could be up to.

“Mr. Twickenham,” Lieutenant Groves asked, “have you checked to see if your own auger is in its proper place?”

“No sir. I haven’t. But I’ve not moved it.” The carpenter stared at him in bewilderment. “Surely you are not suggesting someone has stolen it and used it . . . Who would do such a thing? To hole the hull of one’s own ship . . .” his voice was incredulous, “that would be utter lunacy! Only a madman . . .”

“Or a pirate.” Commodore Norrington said grimly, enlightenment dawning. His tone did not bode well for the suspected culprit.

A commotion in the doorway heralded the return of Lieutenant Gillette.

“Commodore, I believe I’ve located our auger worm of unusual size!’ Gillette held up a struggling Jip by the collar. “Damnit, watch where you’re kicking, you little hellion!”

“I am watching!” Jip concentrated on reducing Gillette’s chances of paternity as violently as possible.

The first lieutenant locked the boy in his arms, protecting more vital areas at the expense of his shins. Then he continued his interrupted report to the commodore. “Found him in the bilges with the carpenter’s auger, sir. Trying to sink this ship, he’s been—one hole at a time.”

“Let me go, you rat bastard son of an undead monkey!” Jip twisted out of the lieutenant’s grip and thumped to the deck, off balance without his crutch. However, he scrambled back onto his feet immediately, glaring at his captors.

With effort, Commodore Norrington quelled the urge to shake the little villain until his teeth rattled out of his head. Taking refuge from the fires of his own anger in the rigid ice of Naval procedure, he said coldly, “Jip, you have violated your parole and endangered this vessel. You will spend the remainder of this voyage in the brig. Tomorrow morning you will receive as punishment 24 lashes.”

Mr. Twickenham looked as though he thought the punishment far too lenient.

But what Norrington had not expected was the complete crumpling of the little pirate’s defiance. The angry colour fled from his pinched little face, and he wilted into a small huddle on the deck. When the marines arrived, Murtogg actually had to carry him off to the brig, and unbelievably Jip went in silence.

When the commodore was finally alone in his cabin that evening, he had time to consider Jip’s response to his sentence. Remembering Samuels’ description of the little pirate’s scars, he concluded that the boy was likely terrified of flogging. Jip associated Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates with deliverance and kindness.

Norrington realized he was uncomfortable with the fact that Jip would see the Navy as so much more inhumane than a ship of criminals. And yet he saw no legitimate way to avoid disciplining the child. At least there was no need to make a public display of the event, and the boy’s cat would do Jip no lasting damage.

* * * * *

While Jack would have liked to have accompanied Requin to Anamaria’s cabin and seen with his own eyes how long her unprecedented tolerance would last, a ship-jarring crash accompanied by a chorus of shouting and a litany of curses hauled him up short, pivoted him about as though he’d been caught in a gale wind, and sent him pelting in the opposite direction.

One of the easing-guys on the main topgallant mast had snapped and the heavy spar was listing dangerously, moments away from dashing through the Pearl’s decks like a javelin through a straw butt.

Requin and Tearlach and Anamaria would just have to manage without him.

Some time later, when the crisis had been averted by his desperate and courageous crew, he came across Requin untangling buntlines and clewlines, coiling them neatly and hanging them on their belaying pins.

Apparently the lad had survived his encounter with the first mate.

Curious, he inquired, “Everything went well then?”

“Oh aye,” Requin responded tranquilly. “No worries.”

Having expected the young man to be in a far more traumatized state than this, Jack’s inquisitiveness increased.

“Anamaria is comfortable?”

The boy nodded. “As much as possible.” He smiled at Jack. “Well she might still be a little of the uncomfortable. But she rests.”

Now that was anticlimactic. Jack was somewhat chagrined to discover his presence so unnecessary to Anamaria’s peace of mind. However, even if Requin’s account of his adventure with the first mate and the chamber pot was disappointingly dull, Anamaria had hinted that there was something of interest to tell about Requin’s confrontation with the British marines.

Settling himself beside the boy, he began to disentangle a line. It was such a relief to be off his feet, he feared he would not be getting up again, but he could worry about that later. Since Requin was not yet capable of extensive conversation in English, Jack slipped over to French. He did not want to miss a word of this story.

“Anamaria tells me I have you to thank for some quick thinking during our taking of the Defender.” Jack opened the topic. “I’d like to hear what happened from your point of view.”

Requin made a disgusted face. “I do not like to talk about those English pigs. Such men do not deserve their deeds to be remembered. But I will tell you because you ask, and you are the captain.

“When Banks and the other marine first took us captive, they tied my hands behind me but left Anamaria free. At first I thought they would only say terrible things, or perhaps be a little rough with us. I did not think they would be able to hurt Anamaria. However, when Banks returned, and I saw that he would force himself on her, I did not know what I could do.

“You told me once that there are only two things that matter: What a man can do, and what a man can’t do. But I have watched you, Captain Sparrow, and I have learnt that there is something else that matters: What you make men believe you can do, even if you cannot do it.”

“I realized that those English marines believed I was a threat, even though I was not. And they believed Anamaria was harmless, even though she was not. So, although my hands were bound behind my back, I thought that if I could get a hold of the rifle on the table behind me, I might make Banks believe that I could aim and fire it, even though I knew I could not. And that would give Anamaria a chance to kill him if she wished. When the cannons spoke, I had my chance.”

Requin shuddered. “I did not know what she would do to him. But I held the gun, because that Banks . . . he deserved anything she could have done.”

Anamaria was right, Jack reflected. Requin’s swift thinking and action had prevented a far more dangerous battle between her and the two marines. He had no doubt Anamaria would have prevailed. But the cost to her—he did not care about Banks or the other—would have been far higher.

Holding out his hand to his young crewman, such an unlikely pirate, Captain Sparrow said, “Requin, that was bloody brilliant. It is an honour to have you in my crew.”

Ducking his head, abashed at the praise, Requin shook his captain’s hand. “It is an honour to be in your crew,” he said.

It turned out to be a good thing Jack had a crewman’s hand to assist him to his feet. The accomplishment left him as drained as a topman who’d spent hours furling canvas in a tempest. Not for the first time, Captain Sparrow wondered when his body was going to go down and fail to let him up again.

* * * * *

As the long light began to cast the Black Pearl’s dark silhouette over her smaller adversary, three slender lines of shadow stretched out towards the orient horizon and danced along the jeweled surface of the sea. Stepped deep in her kelson, the Black Pearl’s masts once more reached up to embrace the sky. Her yards remained in disarray, many completely detached and lying on her deck, but she was no longer dragging her wings in the sea. At last she was beginning to look like a creature that would take flight again.

If Jack hadn’t known for a gold-plated, indestructible, engraved fact that he would not rise again with any number of helping hands, he would have fallen to his knees in sheer gratitude. However, in direct proportion to the increase in the strength of his ship, he felt his own descent into weakness, as though his beloved Pearl was consuming him to nourish her return to health.

“It’s all right, love.” He stroked her scarred rail lovingly. “You just take what you need.”

“Now ain’t that a pretty sight?” a familiar voice spoke behind his shoulder.

Jack whirled around in equal parts astonishment, hope, and inadvisable speed. “Anamaria!” he exclaimed before staggering back against the Pearl’s rail as his battered body objected to his precipitate movement.

His first mate was perched on a pair of crutches, her head lifted to see the Pearl’s tall masts, attenuating high above them into the flameshot sky.

But for once Jack had no attention to spare for his goddess ship. Tearlach and Requin had succeeded where he had failed, and Anamaria was clad in the crimson dress as it was meant to be worn, the bodice clinging to her slender waist, revealing her shapely shoulders and arms, with no tattered pirate shirt spoiling its antique but elegant lines. Even more improbably, her hair had been brushed and styled, upswept and falling in soft dusky curls to her shoulders. The setting sun gilded her warm skin and lit glittering candles in her wide, dark eyes.

Jack was used to thinking his first mate was a fine-looking woman, but he was not prepared for this breathtaking incarnation.

“Close your mouth, Jack. You’ll catch flies,” Anamaria snapped at him.

Anamaria, who, while lying in bed with her clothing half ripped off, could outface marines, naval officers and her captain alike, was actually looking embarrassed at being caught in flagrante, wearing a dress with her hair up like a lady.

“You’re blushing!” Jack told her in delight. “Behold, how like a maid she blushes here!”

He imagined that if she hadn’t been gripping the crutches so tightly the bones were showing white through her dark bruised skin, she’d have knocked him down.

Taking advantage of his temporary immunity from retribution, Jack stepped closer and reached to brush a finger along her rose-stained face. “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars as daylight doth a lamp,” he quoted.

Anamaria bit him.

“Owwww! Damnit woman!” Jack pulled his abused finger back in indignation and stuck it in his mouth. “I have got to stop givin’ you compliments!”

“This is all Requin’s fault,” Anamaria grumbled, a jerk of her chin indicating her entire appearance. “Boy’s goin’ to grow up t’ be a managin’ manipulative bastard just like you.”

“I had no idea Requin was a man of so many talents,” Jack said admiringly. “Where’d he learn to play the lady’s maid?”

“He said he used to watch his mother,” Anamaria said, scowling. “He said she liked to have her hair brushed, and he used to do it when she was ill.”

“Well, blush not, Cleopatra,” Jack said teasingly. “I approve your wisdom in the deed. That dress would not have looked right without the high-toned and fancy coiffure.”

“Bloody useless waste of fabric.” Anamaria sniffed scornfully.

“But you can use a chamber pot whenever you want,” Jack suggested.

“There is that,” Anamaria conceded grudgingly.

“Let me show you what we’ve done,” Jack offered, and the two of them made the rounds of the deck together, ever so slowly.

It was a measure of Anamaria’s ability to put the fear of God into his crew that she could appear in such unprecedented apparel with nary an exclamation to be heard. Amused, Jack noted a number of shocked expressions and widened eyes. But any queries or suggestions she offered the men were met with entirely respectful “Yes, ma’am’s.”

However, an astounded Captain Walton, skulking disconsolately where he could keep an eye on his vessel, doffed his tricorn and swept her an elegant bow before he recognized who she was.

Jack noticed that with the fading of her temper, the colour was bleeding from Anamaria’s face. And her hands were trembling even as they clutched her crutches. “Come now, lass,” he said gently. “You’ve had enough adventure for today. Time to put you back to bed.”

“As if you shouldn’t be in bed yourself,” Anamaria retorted.

His brain being too tired to preserve his life, Jack shot her an alluring grin and offered, “I’ll join you in a moment.”

“Jack Sparrow,” Anamaria flared up again, “You are going to regret that you even have a tongue—as soon as I have hands.”

But Anamaria had nothing left with which to fulfill her threats. Before he got her back to her cabin, she delivered her final performance as a lady by fainting dead away in his arms. At least Jack tried to catch her in his arms. All he succeeded in doing was cushioning her landing as he fell underneath her.

In the end, both captain and first mate had to be carried to their respective beds and tucked in by Tearlach.

* * * * *
26 With Rainy Eyes Write Sorrow on the Bosom of the Earth
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