honorat: (Captain Jack Sparrow by Honorat)
[personal profile] honorat
Author: Honorat
Rating: PG13
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: Meanwhile back on board the Black Pearl, Jack has a plan, if he can just stay awake to complete it. The events leading up to the Dauntless’ sighting of the Pearl. 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? Once again, I must give credit to [livejournal.com profile] cupiscent and her lovely story Beads. Today’s title is brought to you from William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I.

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


* * * * *

27 To Pluck Allegiance From Men’s Hearts

* * * * *

Walton had spent too much of the morning with his neck craned back gazing into the sun as he watched the muscular, tattooed pirates of the Black Pearl swinging aloft like acrobats, clambering about securing the wreckage of her yards and gear amidst a many-voiced chorus of chants and shouts.

They had collected the ribbons of her sea-torn sails with care and presented them to their sailmaker who was now sewing uninterruptedly with the help of those pirates too disabled for strenuous work, themselves as stitched and parceled as their handiwork.

The Pearl’s carpenter, those pirates who were able seamen, and any other pirates with experience were hard at the skilled work, rerigging the detached yards and roving new lifts, braces, and sheets. When they needed help with the heavy lifting, they called on the others.

The warm air and gentle breeze rang with songs to cheer the exhausted labourers.

“Come all ye bully sailor men an’ listen to me song.
Oh, I hope ye just will listen, till I tell you what went wrong.
Take my advice, don’t drink strong rum, nor go sleepin’ with a whore.
But just get spliced, that’s my advice, and go t’ sea no more!”

Walton knew all the interminable variations of that song: verses about a sailor and his unintended five-year voyage; verses that bemoaned the sailor’s helpless inability to avoid waking up in squalid beds beside women of ill repute. Occasionally he realized he was humming along for a few bars of the music.

At times the shanties held the old dance rhythms suitable for heavy deck work as the men stomped and sweated in unison to hoist the heavy yards aloft.

“What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
Ear-lye in the morning!
Way hay an’ up she rises!
Patent blocks o’ different sizes.
Way hay an’ up she rises!
Ear-lye in the morning!”

And indeed there was something of the grace and cadence of dance in the unified motion of men and ship and sea.

Other members of Sparrow’s repair crew inspected every piece of iron and wood and line aloft for wear and weakness, replacing even the most slightly suspect. It would have been a good week’s work for a well-fed crew of experienced riggers in port, with dockside cranes to lend a hand, let alone a gang of half-starved, weary pirates.

That the crew of the Black Pearl was staggering under the burden of unremitting labour was only too evident. One of the younger pirates fainted and had to be laid on a pile of canvas shreds for half an hour. When he could stand again, he ignored his mates’ protest and threw himself back into the work. More and more frequently, Walton would notice a man leaning against the foremast fife rail out of the way of the majority of the activity, taking hold of a belaying pin with each hand, closing his eyes and immediately dozing off—an old sailor’s trick to sleep standing up, like a horse. Several minutes later, he would rouse himself and return to work. Captain Sparrow made no objection to these temporary derelictions from duty. Apparently he was well aware that his men were no longer working with physical strength or endurance but on pure, fire-tempered will alone. It was only surprising more of the pirates weren’t collapsing under the strain.

Captain Walton’s shoulders were stiff, his head was beginning to ache, and he was discovering that all that driven activity was making him itch to do something. In fact, Walton was bored. He had no orders to give, no decisions to make, not even a rope to splice and serve. He was not yet at the point where picking oakum looked like a fine amusement, but he was rapidly approaching such a state.

How badly he wished for some task to take at least part of his attention from the pain chiseling at his leg.

His plundered Defender bobbed tantalizingly across the narrow strip of sea separating her from the Pearl, but he could not reach her any more than if she had been a league distant. He wondered how his crew was faring. The last time he had followed Jack Sparrow across to his ship, he had summoned the courage to petition to see them, and although Sparrow was as overwhelmingly occupied as Walton was unoccupied, the pirate captain had acquiesced to his request. Captain Walton had found his men as well as he could have hoped, none seriously injured or mistreated, but all suffering from various levels of rage and frustration at the enforced idleness.

Really, he had no cause for complaint when he compared his fate to that of his imprisoned crew. At least he could move about and observe something of more interest than bars and hull. However, he determined to seek an improvement in his situation.

Taking a firm grip on his nerve, he evaded his nursemaid and approached Sparrow during a lull in the pirate captain’s incessant activity.

“Captain Sparrow, I have a request.”

Sparrow turned with wide inquiring eyes and waved his constantly moving hands in permission to continue.

Unsure how to word his appeal, Walton forged ahead regardless. “Sir, I know you are not in a position to trust me, but I assure you I mean you and your ship no further harm. You also hold my crew hostage to my good behavior.”

Sparrow tilted his head and shrugged in acknowledgment.

“Now, I am certain this gentleman,” Walton nodded at his escort, “is as weary of me as I am of him.”

The pirate crewman rolled his eyes in excessive agreement, and Sparrow’s lips curved in amusement.

“He has also a pair of hands that could be better employed in serving your ship.” Walton raised his own hands. “As have I.”

One eyebrow flew into Sparrow’s scarf. “Are you volunteerin’ to turn pirate, Captain Walton?”

Walton shook his head and smiled thinly. “Of course not. However, I am volunteering to turn able-bodied seaman—at least partially able-bodied.” He indicated his hip with a grimace. “Surely you have some small, non-vital task you could assign me that would be of use.”

“And keep you from expiring from ennui,” Sparrow noted wryly. “Alas, you have discovered my nefarious plot.” He considered his captive and his obviously eager crewman. “Very well. Since Ladbroc seems like to succumb to the same fate as you, Walton, I will bend my mind towards discovering such a task.”

The pirate captain surveyed the carefully choreographed chaos of his ship’s repairs. Coming to a conclusion, he summoned his quartermaster. “Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Walton here, arguably able-bodied seaman, is all eagerness to assist with tarring the Pearl. See that he is suitably clad,” Sparrow ticked the gold braid on Walton’s coat with one finger, “in something that won’t give his steward a lifelong ambition to slay me for spoiling the shine.”

When Walton, divested of uniform coat, hat, wig, boots and stockings, stood on the warm planks of the Black Pearl, he realized how long it had been since he’d felt this close to a ship. His feet were likely so softened since his days as a barefoot boy that he would be regretting this mad start, but at the moment he was having to resist the urge to scamper along the deck.

“Hop to it, Walton! Quit your woolgatherin’.” Gibbs was obviously enjoying his chance to order around a Navy captain. “Over you go!”

And thus, Alexander Walton found himself swinging down along the port side of the Black Pearl, perched on a plank hanging from a gantline, with a bucket of tar at his side and a brush in his hand. He briefly indulged himself by setting his swing into a gentle pendulum motion, reveling in the cooling breeze on his shorn head, the sun on his back, the feel of the ship on the soles of his feet, but mindful of his pirate overseers’ wrath, he expeditiously applied himself to the task of caulking the Pearl’s hull with the dark, viscous substance.

Some time later, a grimy and tar-spattered Walton paused to consider that he was talking to Jack Sparrow’s ship. Running his fingers along a deeply scarred groove in her planking, he found himself apologizing to her with real regret, telling her he had not understood what he was doing. Another time he caught himself describing to her how much better she would feel when all her damage was mended. But he pulled himself up short when he realized he was singing her a half-forgotten lullaby. Was he losing his mind?

Somehow, he could not rid himself of the sensation that he was not repairing a man-made machine but instead participating in the healing of a living creature. There was something magical about Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl.

When next Walton saw the pirate captain back on deck during his ten minute chance to devour his portion of salt horse and ship’s biscuit, courtesy of the Defender’s erstwhile stores, he mentioned the odd sensation he had felt that the Pearl was somehow more alive than any other ship on which he had ever served.

“Ah,” said Sparrow, pleased. “You heard her calling you. Perhaps you really will have to turn pirate. Now you understand a little of why we serve this ship, why we fight for her, and even why we die for her.”

Walton noticed that Jack Sparrow was stroking the rail of his ship as a man might a favourite steed. No, that analogy was insufficient. There was more of the lover in that touch. So might a man caress the hand of his bride. Curiously enough, recalling his work on the Pearl, Walton did not find this strange.

* * * * *

The swift-flowing tide of darkness chasing the westering sun over the edge of the world found the Black Pearl with almost half of her detached yards re-rigged. Captain Jack Sparrow, basking in the satisfaction of her nearly miraculous restoration, yet knew they had so much further to go. As twilight ushered in starlight, he again ordered nearly every oil lamp on board brought to her weather decks so that the repairs might continue throughout the night.

Now, high up on the Pearl’s masts, the glint of lanterns marked where his men laboured at their Herculean tasks. His sun-scorched and bloodied crew of hardcases had in them what it would take. They would fight to the end to save the ship, with a grit and determination given them by the sea itself—the vastness, the loneliness of it surrounding their souls.

Jack knew that his remaining men were a precious resource to be husbanded with care. At midnight, he ordered his starboard watch to their racks for three hours, their first rest off their feet in five days. They flopped and crawled into their hammocks all standing, asleep before those that had boots could remove them. The respite would not be sufficient, but at least it would slow their downward spiral of exhaustion. When their three hours were up, the larboard watch would have their turn.

Captain Sparrow himself had too much to oversee to allow him to turn in, no matter that he was having to batter his way through great waves of fatigue. After all, he’d had his bit of a rest, when was it? Last night? The night before? He couldn’t rouse up the energy to remember. Whenever it was that stubborn, mule-headed first mate of his had pitched them both to the deck plates, and his ribs in mad revolt had refused to allow him to rise. His underhanded crew had turned suspiciously deaf to his protestations that he would be perfectly firm and fit in a brace of shakes, and Tearlach, whom Jack was entirely incapable of vanquishing in the peak of condition let alone when hampered by miscreant fractures, had deposited him in his bed as if he were an unruly child.

Speaking of first mates, hadn’t he better look in on Anamaria, again? Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen her since she’d stood wavering and tenacious at his side during the burial of the Pearl’s dead. Jack had only been able to meet her gaze once during that service. To see that wounded look in her eyes was unbearable. Those canvas-wrapped bundles, from eldest to youngest, had been Anamaria’s boys, he knew. The ferocious way she drove his men was the iron-armoured surface of a vast and unswerving devotion to their well-being, something very like love. He had felt her tremble next to him, the names he had read, some she had not known were gone until that moment, resonating like blows.

He was a cad of unutterable proportions to have let her go alone from that—well, she would have had Tearlach, but what use was a man who wouldn’t talk to a woman who wouldn’t talk either.

Jack’s steps, sped by compunction, brought him swiftly to Anamaria’s door.

“Ana?” he called softly. “Can I come in?” Then he let himself in, that question really only being fair warning rather than a request.

At least she wasn’t sitting in the dark. Anamaria’s small oil lantern, swaying with the Pearl’s serene motion, outlined her dusky tousled head with gold. Propped up in bed on a folded scrap of canvas, with her leg ensconced once more on the mouldy cushion, his first mate was bent over the book he’d sent her, concentrating on what passed for reading with her—labouriously underlining each letter with her swollen, nailess finger and sounding it out. At his precipitate entrance, Anamaria glanced up. “Jack,” she said with faint exasperation. “You already have.”

She had been weeping.

Jack, who had never known Anamaria to cry, suffered another wrench of his conscience.

However, the thin, watery gruel that was left of his brain refused to prompt him to his next step. How did one set about offering comfort to Anamaria? He remembered fuzzily that lachrymose females responded well to cuddling, but his mind stuttered to a halt trying to imagine Anamaria and the verb “cuddle” in the same sentence.

Finally, his beleaguered body settled the matter, dropping him on the space at the end of her bed. The relief to his feet leaked out of him in a small groan.

“I’m gettin’ too old for this business of getting’ shot at and workin’ for days on end,” Jack decided. “Anamaria, love, how is it with you?”

“I’m too young for this business of spendin’ the entire day in bed,” she responded, dabbing at her nose with her sleeve.

Jack fumbled in his pocket and, for a wonder, discovered an old and wadded up handkerchief. Triumphantly he offered it to Anamaria who eyed it dubiously but eventually accepted the gift and scrubbed away at the betraying evidence of her tears.

“How is the ship . . . and the crew?” Anamaria asked.

“The Pearl is coming along nicely. Larboard watch is still workin’ on her yards. I sent the starboard watch to their racks to catch a few winks before they trade off again. I’m thinkin’ we’ll bend a few sails on her tomorrow and be shed of the Defender. The rest of the work can be finished while we’re underway.”

“Good,” Anamaria agreed fiercely. “The sooner we’re halfway ‘round the world from the Royal Navy, since you refuse to blow them to hell, the better.”

“They’re not all of ‘em that terrible,” Jack mused. “Alexander Walton, for example. He’s just a little confused—victim of his upbringing, really. I’ve about got him sorted out.”

Anamaria’s expression begged leave to differ.

“Did you know Walton actually volunteered to help repair the ship today?” Jack persisted. “He spent the afternoon dangling off her port side caulking her seams. Ha! The Pearl soon set him straight. He told me he thought she was alive, and he was only feigning that he was joking.”

Anamaria rolled exasperated eyes. “Why are you doing this with Walton?”

“Doing what?” Jack stared at her, uncomprehending.

“Acting like he’s your bosom friend and boon companion. Have you forgotten what that man did to us?” she asked, the bitterness in her voice reminding Jack that his first mate had her own terrible reasons for despising Walton and his crew.

“Hardly.” Jack’s mouth twisted sardonically as he gestured at his ribs. “If I started to forget, this would soon remind me.” His expression sobered. “And then there are the faces I see now in my dreams and nowhere else. I remember exactly what Walton has done to us.”

“Then why?” Her voice was plaintive.

Jack was silent for a moment, staring into the light of the lamp. Finally, he turned back to his first mate. “Precisely because he and the commodore have cost us so much. That’s why,” he answered. “Walton is my fire ship, Ana. It is slow work getting the blaze lit, but by the time I launch him against Norrington and the Dauntless, he will be aflame. Other pirates send the bodies or pieces of their victims with their message to their foes—As this one is, so will you all be. This I swear. But Walton, living and in health and transformed from hostile to sympathetic, is both my message and my messenger: ‘As this one is, so will you all be. This I swear.’”

Captain and first mate sat silently in contemplation of Jack’s audacious hope.

Finally, Anamaria sighed. “You really think Walton will try to call Norrington off our tail? Do you think he could even if he would?”

However, Jack was in no condition to answer her. His heavy eyelids were battened shut, and he was already listing to starboard. Her worn-out captain had been press ganged by sleep. Anamaria made a half-hearted attempt to rouse him, but he merely added a tiny snore to the persistence of his slumber. If it wasn’t just like this vexatious man to commandeer her bed for his nap, Anamaria thought irritatedly, even as she did her painful best to ease him into a more comfortable position.

Anamaria tried to scrunch herself with the least amount of discomfort at the other end of the bed. But she did not go back to her book. Instead, she watched Jack as he slept, all the pain and strain of the past few days smoothing from his face, returning it to a youthful purity at odds with his piratical attire. He looked so innocent, lying there. Damn the man. Jack hadn’t two innocent thoughts to rub together. And, God help her, so vulnerable. Which he did his best to pretend he wasn’t.

Ignoring the clamour of protest her injured leg set up, she leaned over to brush an unruly strand of hair from where it was fluttering over Jack’s mouth in time to his breathing.

The captain had always seemed a part of the sea to her, Anamaria reflected. Other men might be made of clay, but surely Jack was formed from the surge and crest of waves, a creature of saltwater and spindrift; of ever-changing lights and shadows rippling over the surface of deep, dark mystery; by turns violent and serene, gentle and perilous; through whom the wind forever ran free. And so treacherously, breath-takingly beautiful. Her hand of its own volition lingered on his cheek until a brisk knock at her door caused her to snatch it away.

“Is the captain with you?” She heard the gravelly voice of Mr. Gibbs.

“Aye, he’s here,” Anamaria answered. “Door’s open.”

The Pearl’s quartermaster, looking about ten years older than he had a week ago, limped into her cabin. His eyes took in Captain Sparrow, slumped over at the foot of Anamaria’s bed, booted legs swinging off the edge to the motion of the ship.

“So this’s where you went, Jack, y’ scallywag,” Gibbs grumbled. “I looked just about everywhere else. Cap’n’s needed on deck,” he explained to Anamaria.

“If you can remove him,” Anamaria waved magnanimously at the somnolent Sparrow, “you’re welcome to him.”

But Gibbs was no more successful at waking Jack than Anamaria had been. She was suspicious that he wasn’t trying much harder, either. They both knew the captain was in dire need of this rest.

Finally Gibbs gave up. “You’d do just about anything to get in Anamaria’s bed, wouldn’t you, you scoundrel,” he informed Jack disgustedly and unwisely. “Now what’m I gonna do?”

“Mr. Gibbs,” Anamaria said, battle fires beginning to flash in her eyes. “If the captain is unavailable, will the first mate do?”

Gibbs gave the matter a moment’s consideration then decided, “Aye, you’ll do. But can you?”

“Just help me up on those crutches,” said Anamaria, indicating the pair of t-shaped sticks leaning against the bulkhead, “and I can.”

Thanks to the obstacle presented by Jack draped over the bottom half of the bed, extricating Anamaria, encumbered by yards of crimson fabric, proved to be an intricate and exasperating maneuver for both parties involved. Anamaria had several choice and improper things to say about dresses in general and this one in particular that had even Gibbs blushing. But at last the task was accomplished, and Anamaria, sweating and several shades paler, was perched on her crutches.

Then, while Gibbs was still close to her, Anamaria balanced on one crutch, hauled back her other arm and delivered to his mutton chop cheek a slap that stung her hand.

Gibbs shook his head to clear the ringing from his ears, moved his jaw to check if it still functioned, and then rounded on Anamaria. “What on God’s green earth was that for?” he exclaimed indignantly, rubbing at his abused side-whiskers.

“That,” said Anamaria viciously pleased, “was for the crack about the captain in my bed, Mr. Gibbs.”

Opening and shutting his mouth like a fish, as if he were going to say something but then thought better of it, Gibbs finally shrugged. “Guess I deserved that.”

“Damn straight,” said Anamaria heading out the door. “Now, show me what the trouble is.”

* * * * *

Thus the starboard watch was stirred to new frenzies of diligence when Anamaria’s bellow, like the voice of God in a very bad mood, reached the topgallants. “All right you laggard, good-for-nothin’ layabouts! This place has gone t’ hell since I been gone! Cap’n’s far too soft on you! Well all that’s goin’ t’ change.”

A smattering of cheering greeted this evidence that the first mate was back in form and out for everybody’s blood.

“Captain Sparrow wants sails bent on this lady tomorrow, an’ he can’t do it if she hasn’t got yards.” Anamaria continued as if she planned to summon the Pearl’s dead to assist in the task. “So get your lazy arses movin’ and let’s see some work, if y’ haven’t forgot how!”

Gibbs backed off to preserve his hearing. Anamaria at full blast and close range was enough to make a man deaf and glad of it. Come to think of it, the lass had not shared in the crew’s sleepless battle for the ship, so she was going full sails ahead while everyone else was luffing. She might be injured, she might be fevered, but one thing she wasn’t was tired.

Some time later, when Anamaria had put out the fires for which Gibbs had come to get Jack, and she was satisfied that the crew was sufficiently terrified into productivity, she turned and asked Gibbs, “So where‘ve you put Jack’s pet Royal Navy captain?”

“Um,” said Gibbs. “Nobody quite knows what to do with him when Jack’s not around, so we just let him go to sleep wherever he happens to be.”

“And where,” asked Anamaria with dangerous patience, “does he ‘happen to be’ right now?”

Eager to aim Anamaria in a direction away from himself, Gibbs pointed aft to where Walton lay curled up on deck at the break of the poop, a coil of rope for his pillow and a strip of canvas for a coverlet. “Over there.”

“Hmph,” said Anamaria. “I’m surprised no one has stepped on him. Jack tells me he volunteered to crew yesterday.”

“Aye, he worked as an able seaman,” Gibbs nodded. “Did a Bristol job with the caulking.”

“Nobody ever said the Navy don’t know ships,” Anamaria scowled. “They just don’t know people, is all.” Contemplating their slumbering enemy, she decided, “If he’s crew, he should be working.”

The first mate could manage a stalk, even on crutches, Gibbs noted.

* * * * *

Captain Walton jolted out of repose expecting that he was being prodded awake by his next in a series of pirate nannies whose job it was to chivy him about the decks of the Black Pearl in pursuit of Jack Sparrow. What he was not expecting was to open his eyes on a vision of feminine loveliness. He sighed. Perhaps he was still dreaming and need not worry about pirates and shameful captivity.

“Able seaman Walton,” snapped his dream maiden in a voice like a marine sergeant. “Time to quit your malingering and lend a hand on the halyards.”

As Walton staggered to his feet, his mind and his sight gradually clearing, he recognized in the lantern light the young woman Captain Sparrow had named the first mate of the Black Pearl, the one Walton’s marines had so brutally assaulted. She was contemplating him in the inimitable fashion of first mates everywhere as though he were something she needed to scrape off her boots.

Walton found himself having to quell the instincts that prompted him to lay his coat on the deck for her dainty feet to tread upon in favour of snapping to attention and obeying her orders. “Aye, sir!” he responded, then flushed, “I mean, Yes, ma’am.”

Injured leg notwithstanding, Walton joined the Pearl’s larboard watch with alacrity in the heavy stamp and tramp of sweating her topgallant yard up her mainmast.

In the brief moments of calm in between hauling until his shoulders were nigh to dropping off, Captain Walton watched Sparrow’s first mate curiously. He knew the occasional woman made it to sea—captain’s wives on merchant ships, the odd sailor’s woman smuggled on board disguised as a man. But captain’s wives kept to their portion of the ship and did little to interfere in its operation. And women trying to pass as sailors were not able seamen let alone officers, and once they were discovered they tended to be assistants to surgeons or cooks if they were allowed to stay at all. But that a woman should rise to the position of second in command of a great ship was unprecedented in his knowledge.

However, he had to admit that this woman, what was her name? Ah, yes. This Anne Marie controlled these boisterous, barracking pirates as easily as a man would have. In fact, if it weren’t for the evidence of his eyes and the slightly higher timber of her voice, he would never have guessed that the orders and decisions were coming from a member of the gentler sex. And after a narrowly diverted disaster, the spirited invective proceeding from those softly curved lips gave him cause to wonder if “gentler” was an entirely misapplied adjective, at least where Sparrow’s first mate was concerned.

Captain Sparrow’s style of command had struck him as very relaxed. The pirate captain kept very little distance between himself and his crew, unlike a Navy captain would. Orders were given almost in a spirit of camaraderie. But here, in this unexpected location, was the steel and the fire in the pirate’s chain of command that Walton had assumed was necessary to keep such a diverse and unruly lot of men controlled, organized, and performing their best.

If an unusual man like Jack Sparrow was able to captain his Black Pearl so effectively, this young woman was certainly partly responsible. Between the two of them, Walton realized, a balance had been struck, one ideally suited for the freedom-loving pirates who yet must work together under discipline to survive the harsh element of the sea and to serve the intricate creature that was their ship and their salvation.

At the first bell of the morning watch, the starboard watch headed for their berths. Walton hadn’t expected to be allowed to turn in with them, which was just as well, because the first mate ordered him to await the larboard watch and join in again.

Then she dived into the forecastle where Walton could hear her hollering and kicking the crew awake. “Time’s wastin’ you sleepers! Show a leg there! Tumble out!”

He heard the babble of confused and sleepy voices change into pleased excitement that appeared to be linked to their happiness at having their first mate back among them. Their welcome did not soften her edge, however.

“Turn out, y’ damned Dutchman! Never saw a man harder to unmoor! Let’s go boys! Someone drag that Dutchman out.”

In a clatter of crutches and a spate of orders, the extraordinary pirate woman appeared on deck, driving her crew before her, and the labour recommenced. Before he was too busy and exhausted to think of anything more than his next step, Walton was surprised by the thought that it was no wonder Jack Sparrow had expected this woman to turn his marines into mincemeat.

By the fourth bell of the morning watch, all hands were on deck again and Walton’s aching muscles were reminding him that he’d been demanding maximum effort from them for nearly six hours now. In the absence of orders, he sank down on the mainmast fife rail just to take his weight off his sullenly painful leg.

Above him the Black Pearl’s bare poles and rigging were etched like black lacework against the inlaid stars of dawn. The pirates had accomplished an astonishing amount of restoration work. She was only short a couple of yards now. He imagined Sparrow would crack on her sails today and that would be the last Walton would see of her. He would not let this manipulative ship of Jack Sparrow’s make him regret that.

A sigh that sounded as weary as he felt caught Walton’s attention. He summoned the energy to turn and found his resting place being shared by Anne Marie . . . Anamaria, he corrected himself. No longer did she look like the fireater who had driven this crew of rough men as a top sawyer would a team of blood cattle. Instead she looked like a girl who had been shouldering an impossible burden when she should have spent the next week in bed.

“You did good work out there,” she admitted grudgingly when she noticed him observing her.

“As did you,” Walton said sincerely. He essayed a small smile, but Anamaria’s face remained stern. His social training had not encompassed how to politely address a young woman of dubious antecedents who was first mate on a pirate ship, but Walton felt obliged to try.

“Miss Anamaria, ma’am?” he ventured.

“Aye.” Her voice was not encouraging, and her face was shuttered and still, as if she were prepared for an attack.

Walton flinched away from the knowledge that she had good cause to suspect the motives of the Royal Navy, but a man of honour would not give in to such weakness. “I feel I owe you an apology on behalf of my men,” he continued with determination. “I would make them offer you their deepest apologies in person if I thought you would care to see their faces again.”

Anamaria’s face remained expressionless, but she shook her head in the negative very slightly. “Not unless you want me to kill them.”

“Is that your wish?” Walton asked, unsure how he hoped she would answer, but feeling she was owed whatever vengeance she chose.

“Likely,” Anamaria shrugged. “But Jack doesn’t want any more killing, so you keep them as far away from me as possible. And you make sure they don’t do it again, to anyone.”

“I imagine you have taken care of that,” Walton mused. “But I give you my word, they will be flogged and drummed out of the fleet. And in the future, I shall be very sure that my men are informed of the penalty for such actions. I hope you will accept my apology.”

Anamaria collected her crutches and pulled herself to her feet. Looking down at him with dark, stricken eyes, she said scornfully, “Captain Walton, I will accept your apology when you realize what it is you have to apologize for. Those bastard marines didn’t succeed in taking anything from me.”

Walton followed her gaze to the point on the Pearl’s rail where her dead had been buried.

He turned back, mouth open to say . . . he knew not what. But Anamaria was gone, making her painful way aft, leaving him to stare after her with a chest-tightening sensation he finally identified as guilt.

* * * * *

Jack was wrested from deepest slumber by the wrenching open of Anamaria’s cabin door and the shudder of her bed as his first mate threw herself down on the other half of it. Or perhaps it was the sound of her crutches hitting the bulkhead with enough force to impale the oak.

The lamp had long since burnt out, so he couldn’t see more than a shadow outline of her in the faint light coming through the door, but what he could see did not look peaceful.

“What time is it?” he asked muzzily, trying to brush the sleepy cobwebs out of his brain.

“Morning,” she said shortly. “Just after four bells.”

Jack tried to sit up then let out an anguished yelp as his ribs reminded him that they were entirely out of charity with him and were considering cutting the connection. Forced to lay back on his right side, breathing hard through clenched teeth, Jack waited for his body to cease its bitter complaints. “Who’s looking after the Pearl?” he managed to ask.

“I was,” said Anamaria throwing her cushion at the deck with a soggy thunk. “Gibbs has her now.”

Chagrined to discover he’d slept the night away while Anamaria had done his work for him, Jack struggled once more to achieve a sitting position. With Ana’s help and a liberal application of choice oaths, he finally managed it. He could feel her hands shaking as he clung to them with his good arm.

When she was satisfied he was upright, she collapsed back onto her pile of canvas, punching at it with small ferocious fists.

“What is it has you in such a tempest, love?” Jack asked, scooting along the edge of the bed until he could capture one of her hands in his.

“Walton!” Anamaria’s rage was muffled by the heavy sailcloth. “I bloody hate those Royal Navy bastards!” Her voice was near to breaking.

“What did Walton do?” Jack asked, hoping it wasn’t anything for which he’d have to call the man out because frankly he doubted he was up to any knight errantry.

“He apologized.” Anamaria told the canvas.

Jack wasn’t sure he’d heard that right. “Apologized?” he asked, seeking clarification.

“For Banks!” Anamaria spat, turning her head so that she could more efficiently breathe and talk. “And the other one. And he offered to flog them. As if I cared two bits about his stupid marines. If I’d wanted them dead, they would have been.”

Jack blinked, opened his mouth, closed it, then shook his head. When Anamaria and logic were no longer on speaking terms, it was best he just shut up and listen.

“He’s so blind.” That had definitely been a sob, buried in canvas again.

Not knowing what else to do Jack transferred one of his hands to her back and began moving it in soothing circles over her rigid muscles.

“I gave orders . . .” Anamaria’s voice broke.

She rolled over to face him, forcing Jack to snatch his hand away before he did anything he’d regret. Well not precisely regret . . . until later . . . when she stabbed him in his sleep. But Anamaria was continuing, and Jack knew it was important that he hear her.

“ Jack, all I could see out there, the whole time, was men who weren’t at their posts. It was dark, and when they were beyond the light, I didn’t dare call names, for fear I’d forget and call one that wasn’t there.”

Ah. Jack knew that one—like a wound one couldn’t bear to touch and couldn’t bear to leave alone.

“Murdering Walton won’t bring them back,” he reminded Anamaria gently.

“I know,” said Anamaria miserably. “If it would’ve, I’d’ve already done it.”

A smile ghosted across Jack’s face. “Brave, patient Ana,” he approved.

Anamaria sat up again. “But I want to hurt him,” she said, as fierce as a stooping hawk, “so he knows.”

The hand in his clenched into a fist.

“I want him to watch us blow that brig to pieces and his crew go down,”

“But he does know, Ana,” Jack said softly. “He’s lost men before—he’s a Navy captain. Anyone who’s ever lost a friend knows. Walton just needs a bit of help making that connection. They don’t teach Navy middies empathy along with navigation. Be a bit hard to take over the world if they did, now wouldn’t it?”

Anamaria recaptured her hand and crossed her arms, rejecting comfort. “Empathy’s a big word, captain. What does it mean?”

“Means when your enemy is cut, you bleed, Ana,” Jack said gravely. “Makes it powerful hard to kill a man.”

“Hmph,” said Anamaria, seeming more herself now. “Sounds like a bacon-brained way to win a fight.”

“That depends,” said Jack, “on what you’re fightin’ for.”

* * * * *

“Sail ho!” The call from the lookout on the foremasthead froze everyone aboard the Black Pearl. “Two points on her starboard quarter.”

Gibbs, who’d taken advantage of Anamaria’s presence on deck to catch his own much-needed sleep, thought it was just like the lass to hand the ship back to him in time for a crisis.

Jack.

Where was that pestilential mad captain of theirs? Surely he’d snored away enough of the morning.

Trundling towards the first mate’s cabin, Gibbs nearly collided with Captain Sparrow on the run. Catching his breath against the bulkhead where he’d been shoved aside, Gibbs reflected grumpily that Jack was never where you wanted him—he was either too far away or too close.

* * * * *

In defiance of his ribs, Jack took the companionway steps to the Pearl’s poop deck two at a time. Arriving at her taffrail, he seized the glass Cotton handed him and scanned the curving rim of the sea to the southeast. Ah. There she was—coming over the horizon, top-down; her mastheads first, then her upper yards and sails appearing one by one, growing bigger, until her hull was visible, a speck under the tall spread of canvas.

At this great distance, he couldn’t be certain, but there was something about the way she moved, gliding under a press of snow-white sail, ripping through the waves, carrying every stitch of canvas perfectly trimmed like a water bird coming to rest on the sea—Jack never forgot the way of a ship he had sailed. If that wasn’t Madame Behemoth, the Dauntless herself, he wasn’t the judge of ships he knew himself to be. Her heading was certainly intended to intercept the Pearl and the Defender.

And his beautiful Black Pearl was once more unable to take advantage of her superior speed to fly this trap. Her only sails still on their yards were her head sails. His men would have to do a day’s work of bending on canvas in a matter of hours if they were to avoid coming under that first rate ship’s guns again.

A great sea of weariness washed over him. To have fought so hard to escape, and now to be forced to do it all over again. How much longer could they continue to be beaten down and still rise to do battle? How could he bear to send this ship and this crew through the hellfire of the Dauntless’s mighty broadside one more time?

For a long moment he stood with the glass to his eye, unseeing, not wanting to turn and let his men catch sight of him struggling with despair. Instinctively he reached for his ship, feeling the warm strength of her under his hand, like the shoulder of a friend. If he had no courage left to face this, she would lend him hers.

After all, they would be able to bend on some of her sails before the Dauntless arrived. And this time, the Black Pearl had her own teeth. Norrington would not find her an easy prize to take if he succeeded in closing with her.

However, Jack’s only chance to prevent that engagement was to crack on as much canvas as possible in their window of grace. Shrugging off the wave of anguish that threatened to send him under, Captain Sparrow turned to his crew. Very well. Time to pull another miracle out of his hat. Time to see what these fo’c’sle hellions had in them. With a voice like a doomsday trump, he called, “All hands on deck. Run out her starboard batteries. And lay aloft, boys! Let’s get her wings on this lady! Lively now!”

The ship was going back to war, and everything had to be ready.

Once again the Black Pearl swarmed with activity. Men rushed up her shrouds and onto her yards to rig the gantlines for hoisting up her sails. Others struggled to haul the tons of repaired and stolen canvas to attach to the gantlines.

Jack was not surprised to discover that Anamaria had been unable to remain abed where he’d left her. She haltingly thumped her way to his side just as his gunnery captain joined him. As usual, his first mate eyed Pintel as she would a slimy, many-legged, under-rock creature, which Pintel endured with aplomb. Also as usual, Ragetti was trailing along. Jack generally thought of them as a single crewman.

“Gentlemen, I want you to load with chainshot only,” Jack ordered. “Triple shot our guns. Remember, we don’t need her surrender. We don’t need to shred her crew to bloody rags. We only need her disabled enough to slow her down. Concentrate your fire on her masts. I want that warship turned into a sloop!”

“One rowboat, name of Dauntless, comin’ right up, Cap’n!” Pintel gave him a snaggle-toothed grin.

Ragetti echoed the grin, his wooden eye rolling wildly. “Ol’ Norrington’ll have t’ change ‘er name to Icarus!” he exclaimed

Pintel stared at him blankly then swatted him between the shoulder blades. “Wot th’ ‘ell does that mean?”

“In the sea without her wings, eh?” Captain Sparrow laughed. “That’ll teach the dear Commodore to fly too close to the sun!”

The two of them jogged off, still arguing about Ragetti’s tendency to talk about things Pintel knew nothing about.

“Oh,” Jack called after them, “and if anyone can blow off her rudder for me, I’d be much obliged.”

“So, Jack,” said Anamaria, eyeing the Pearl’s cannon rumbling free in their tackle with immense satisfaction, “If empathy is such a grand thing why does the Pearl sail with forty-four guns? And why are you ordering them run out?”

Jack shrugged. “I said empathy makes it hard to kill, not that it makes it impossible.”

The two of them were silent for a moment watching the turmoil on deck. Then Jack asked, “You ever seen a rattlesnake?”

Anamarai shook her head.

“ No? Rather a pretty creature, but venomous as hell. It’s got a rattle on its tail, makes a sound like dry leaves rustling. You hear that sound, you know it’s time to freeze. Don’t put your foot down until you know it’s goin’ in the opposite direction of that sound. That’s the warning. Rattler’d be just as pleased you move along and leave it alone, but if you’re the unfriendly sort and insist on interferin’, it’ll snuff you like a candle.”

“So this,” Anamaria waved at the gun crews’ feverish exertion, “is our rattle?”

“Aye, and our fangs too,” Jack answered. “Don’t get too close, Commodore. The Black Pearl is carrying poison.”

“Now that I understand,” said Anamaria, baring her teeth.

“You always were more of a weapon than a warning, love,” said Jack.

“Speaking of giving the Royal Navy a taste of its own poison,” Anamaria said. “Can I drop Walton off the side of the ship and let him swim home?”

“And they call them the gentler sex.” Jack grinned unknowingly echoing Walton’s thoughts. He reached out and tilted Anamaria’s chin with his thumb and forefinger. “I’d love to indulge you, darlin’, but the good captain and I have some final business to discuss.”

Anamaria swatted his hand away. “More empathy lessons?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Let’s just say I have a fire to light.”

* * * * *

The Black Pearl was nearly ready to set sail, those few sails she had at least. Her guns were run out and her gun crews were stockpiling shot and powder.

Captain Sparrow had joined Walton at the rail of his ship, looking out towards the Defender, and beyond her to the steadily approaching Dauntless. The two of them stood together, a small island of stillness amidst the frantic industry.

“You will stand and fight, then?” Walton asked, heartsick that it would be his Defender’s powder that would fuel the attack on the Dauntless.

Sparrow looked at him as though he had escaped from Bedlam. “Now why would I do a fool thing like that? We are going to do our damnedest to run away.”

Walton shook his head ruefully. He was doomed always to underestimate this man, as so many had done before him.

“However, as you can see, we don’t have much to run with,” the pirate captain warned. “I’d much prefer to avoid the good Commodore, but,” the storm clouds gathered in his voice and lightning began to flicker in the depths of his eyes, “if he insists on this meeting, we will pour the sweet milk of concord into hell. James Norrington will finally discover what it is to fight the Black Pearl when she is no longer muzzled and chained.”

The resolution in his voice sent a chill of ice down Walton’s spine. He hadn’t seen this face of Captain Sparrow since the man had first taken the Defender. This was the face of the legendary captain of the Black Pearl. The Defender had been fortunate to run afoul of Sparrow’s diabolical cunning rather than his ship’s fighting prowess; however, Walton had no doubt Sparrow would make Commodore Norrington pay dearly for whatever shadow of victory the Royal Navy could seize from a broadside to broadside bombardment. If it was a victory. The Black Pearl was the smaller, less heavily armed vessel, but that did not eliminate her as the possible winner of the coming match. The Fates of battle were fickle creatures. However, such an outcome would cost Sparrow even more than he had already paid.

Captain Walton had been unsure how to feel when the Black Pearl’s lookout identified the approaching ship without doubt as the Dauntless. Following close in the wake of his initial thrill of joy that here was relief and rescue for his beleaguered vessel and crew had come an ambiguous and unanticipated dread. Now a traitorous desire that this ship and her valiant crew might escape unharmed warred with old habit and ingrained reactions.

The cold light of battle faded from Jack Sparrow’s dark eyes, leaving only a bone-weary tiredness. “The time has come for us to go our separate ways, Captain Walton,” he said. “I need to return you to your ship ‘whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace o'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds of heady murder, spoil and villany.’ I can’t say it has been a pleasure getting to know you, and I do hope we never meet again, but you are a good man even if we must always be enemies.”

“I can honestly say I also hope we never meet again, Captain Sparrow,” Walton responded earnestly. “And may I add that I regret that the situation is not different. Under other circumstances, I would be glad to call you friend rather than enemy.”

He held out his hand.

Jack Sparrow contemplated that hand for a moment, as though it might be a trap. Then he nodded and met Walton’s hand with his own in a lingering motionless clasp.

“In good faith,” Sparrow said with one eyebrow arched.

“And unarmed.” Walton smiled. He released the pirate captain’s hand and touched the brim of his hat in a respectful salute.

Sparrow turned and hailed a couple of his crew. “It’s time to say farewell to our guest,” he told them. “If you would be so kind as to return his effects and escort Captain Walton back to his ship?”

To Captain Walton’s surprise, Captain Sparrow accompanied the two pirates whose task it was to return him to the Defender. For the final time, Walton, again in uniform, followed the pirate captain down the plank.

When they were standing on the familiar deck of the Defender, Jack Sparrow turned to Walton. “There is something I must ask of you, something I need your sworn word that you will do for me,” he said soberly.

“On condition that it does not conflict with the oaths I have already sworn to my country and to the service, I will do my best,” Walton answered carefully, unsure what was coming next.

The pirate captain nodded, “I accept your conditions.” Then Sparrow handed him a sheet of parchment obviously cut from his log.

Walton glanced down at it curiously. On it was a list of twenty nine names beginning with Henry “Beeblock” Clay and continuing through Jonathan Isaiah “Jip” Pendleton.

“When next you see Commodore Norrington, whatever the outcome of this present engagement, I ask your word that you will give him this roll and tell him the stories of these men,” Captain Sparrow said.

Walton looked in wondering confusion from the page naming Sparrow’s dead to the strangely outlined, serious eyes of the pirate captain himself.

“Certainly, I give you my word as an officer of the King . . .” Walton began.

Sparrow interrupted him, shaking his head, “No. Give me your word as Alexander Walton, honourable man, and nothing more.”

“As you wish,” Walton agreed. “I, Alexander Walton, do solemnly swear that I will deliver this list of the Black Pearl’s dead into the hand of Commodore James Norrington when next we meet, and I will tell him their stories as well as I am able.”

Sparrow nodded, satisfied.

However, Walton’s curiousity was unsatisfied. “Will you tell me why?” he asked as he carefully folded the parchment and tucked it inside the breast of his coat.

“I will,” agreed Jack Sparrow. “It is this: Only an animal kills and does not remember. On that first rate ship of his, with its hundred guns, Commodore Norrington sometimes needs a little help remembering what it is he does.”

No wonder the Royal Navy could never capture this pirate, thought Walton with unaccustomed humility. They would never understand him.

“Now,” said Captain Sparrow with renewed briskness. “I wonder. Shall I leave you to wander free, perhaps release your crew, then be forced to decide whether or not to interfere in this conflict and on whose side?”

Captain Walton held out his hands, wrists together. “Please, bind me now. I shall have a hard enough time explaining how I managed to allow you to take my ship without losing a man, without them finding me with the freedom of my ship.”

“Very well,” Sparrow assented. “Quartetto?”

The pirate crewman swiftly trussed Walton in the shade of the Defender’s capstan.

“I’m sure Commodore Norrington will be along to let you loose very soon,” Sparrow reassured him. “And if we manage to sink the Dauntless, with all hands lost,” he and his crewmen shared a laugh, “Then we’ll come back to set you free.”

For a moment Walton regretted letting Sparrow maneuver him into accepting bondage. Certainly he couldn’t do much with his crippled ship, but he didn’t think he could live with himself if the Dauntless was destroyed. Then he found himself meeting Sparrow’s madcap, compassionate eyes and feeling reassured. Whatever other pirates might do, this one would never use brutality when any other option existed. If Commodore Norrington lost his ship to this man, he would have only himself to blame.

“Good-bye, Captain Walton,” Sparrow raised a farewell hand, and pivoted to return to his ship.

“God be with you, Captain Sparrow,” Walton called after him.

His last view of Jack Sparrow was the flash of a golden grin over the pirate captain’s shoulder as the man followed his crewmembers back to the Black Pearl.

Moments later, the plank was withdrawn and the cables binding the Defender to her queenly conqueror were cut. For some time Walton could hear the orders for bracing the Pearl’s yards and the vigourous songs of her shanty singers. Then the few patched and mended sails already bent on fell in ordered folds to tauten with the morning breeze, curving between her yards. The Black Pearl drank in the wind and slipped smoothly away from the Defender, perfect in symmetry, one of the sea’s cathedrals, a creation to sail softly to the glory of God.

It was the height of irony for a captain in the king’s Royal Navy to pray for a pirate ship to escape a British war ship, but Alexander Walton did.

* * * * *
TBC
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