Disclaimer: No mouse ears for me. No profit made, just a little fun.
A/N: Well, this is it, folks, the end of the ride. Please make sure you have all your belongings with you as you exit. My thanks to all of you for reading and hopefully enjoying this weird little story of mine. I certainly had fun writing it.
In the middle of this chapter you will find a cliffhanger. I like cliffhangers. However, I do not like being spitted and roasted over a high flame or tossed in an iron maiden, so just keep scrolling down. The rest of the story is there somewhere.
Wait For No Man
Edmund groaned; Ana tossed her sword to Bill and knelt by the wounded man. She groped inside his shirt and found only a jagged wound along his upper arm and shoulder. Her shoulders sagged in relief. No immediate danger of his dying, and Ana intended things should remain that way. She watched the combat keenly, all her senses on alert.
Abruptly Will raised his hand and threw Ana's knife with deadly accuracy into the throat of the villain nearest where Jack was to pass. The man went to his knees, then collapsed forward. Jack neatly relieved the dead man of his cutlass before the body hit the ground, barely looking and never breaking stride. The imposter broke into a run, but Jack was faster, forcing the false pirate captain to draw his sword.
"Kill him!" cried Swann, waving wildly at Will. "Kill them all!"
The Turners moved forward, keeping Ana and Edmund behind them. Three cutthroats attacked Will, two on Bill, while Swann backed away, his feverish gaze split between the two Jacks and the others. Lizbet screamed, a high-pitched sound that seemed to drive the storm before it.
Lightning split the sky as Bill growled and lashed out with a deadly kick, taking one opponent to the ground. With a snarl he brought his sword down hard, catching the other pirate across the throat and chest. That one fell back and Bill surged forward, plunging his cutlass into the man on the ground with a sickening crunch. He took a sword from the dead in his left hand and ran to help his son.
Will was masterful, focused; dodging, spinning, parrying with deadly grace. Bill leapt to the attack by his side, swords crossed against an oncoming blow. Another well-placed boot and one rogue's knee blew out. Ana could hear the crack of bone from where she sat trying to stanch Edmund's bleeding.
Or was that the crack of lightning?
In the field between the cliff and the mansion Jack faced off against 'Jack'. "There's only room for one Jack Sparrow in the Caribbean," snarled Jack as they circled each other warily. "You want to be me?"
The false Jack waved his sword in an excess of bravado. "I'm Jack Sparrow," he howled.
Jack's lip curled. "You haven't the guts."
'Jack' ran forward, his sword lifted high, and made a vicious slice at Jack, but the latter spun easily away and then lunged, lacerating the imposter in the side as he passed.
"First blood," Jack grinned ferally. The other roared out an epithet and ran at him. Jack parried and booted him in the stomach, sending the imposter reeling back. Jack pressed his advantage, driving blow after deadly blow at the other man's face. The false Jack had his sword up, feebly blocking Jack's fury, but only just.
And then Jack stumbled, going to one knee, falling awkwardly to one side, his back exposed. The false Jack grinned through the blood on his face and lunged forward with a victorious shout.
Jack smiled banefully to himself.
Righting himself with all the speed and grace of a panther, he spun the sword in his grip and plunged it back under his arm and up through the imposter's torso.
There was a gurgle, and then the false Jack fell lifelessly to the ground. Jack got up and wiped his sword on the grass, avoiding the spreading darkness around the body.
"I take it back," he said. "You do have guts after all."
A horrific rattle signaled the end of another of Swann's protectors, and then Will made short work of the last, turning, finally, to face his nemesis. The wind shrieked around them, whipping the fog into the air. And then…
Ana wasn't exactly sure what happened then. The wind died abruptly. The mist gathered. Rippled. Thickened and surged, and then… parted, the fragrance of roses flooding out, the moon glowing like a silver sun, illuminating the final, fleeting clouds.
Beneath her fingers, Edmund whispered out a prayer, his eyes glued to the scene. Jack ran forward, faltered, and stopped, his jaw hanging open, disbelief on his face.
Will dropped his sword from seemingly nerveless fingers, staring at something Ana could not see. He went to his knees, swaying, his face drained of color.
Swann too went white, flinching nervously back. "Stay away!" he shouted. "You lie!" He seemed to listen, and then again he shouted, raising an angry fist. "You lie! She is here with me, and here she will stay! No," he stepped back again, his lips trembling, his eyes wide and fearful. Ana's heart leapt to her throat; he was barely inches from the edge.
Will got to his feet; Swann jerked back at the sudden movement. "No, you cannot take her!" He clutched the sobbing Lizbet tightly. Tears gathered in the old man's eyes. "Please…" His voice broke. "She is all that's left…"
"PAPA!" Lizbet cried out for her father, reaching out her little arms. Will reached back toward her. Swann took a last involuntary step back, the edge of the cliff crumbled…
And then he fell, Lizbet still cradled in his arms.
Ana stared, unable to comprehend what had just happened, and then Will ran for the edge. It took both Jack and Bill tackling him to stop him from following his daughter over the cliff.
He clawed at the grass like a tiger. "NO! NO! Let me get to her, let me save her! Oh, God, my baby girl…" Ana looked away, wiping her own eyes, unable to bear the wracking sobs torn from Will's very soul.
Edmund rolled over, face on his good arm, and all Ana could see was the small tremors that shook him as he wept his silent grief into the very ground.
Bill had gathered his son in his arms, rocking him like a babe, putting his own sorrow for the granddaughter he'd never met aside, to comfort the son he hardly knew.
Jack stood apart, staring at the ground, his posture more defeated than Ana had ever seen.
And the warm wind blew gently across them all, the faintest fragrance of roses drifting by.
The sky had begun to streak with purple, the grass was wet with early morning dew, and carried on the fragrant breeze was the indistinct whisper of chanting, of drums…
Ana felt her heart stutter. "Look," she whispered thickly, he sound catching in her throat. She swallowed. "Look." Still a whisper, but clearer now.
Bill heard her, turning to see what she pointed at with a shaking finger.
Mist, it was, the thinnest tendrils twining upward ethereally from beyond the cliff face. The haze began to gather, arcing into the air, lifting toward the sky. Ana bent and pulled Edmund to his feet, helping him walk toward the others, her eyes fixed on the quickening vapor.
Jack came too, leaning to help Bill with Will.
Ana tore her gaze from the mystery in the sky to glance at the young father, on whose face was slowly dawning the most exquisitely painful hope.
"Elizabeth," he murmured.
And then from below the lip of the cliffside miraculously rose a small, bedraggled figure, cradled in the haze as delicately as in her mother's embrace.
Ana forgot to breathe.
Bill uttered a prayer, Jack repeated a slightly more profane version. Will reached out, Edmund at his side; and Lizbet came safely home to her father's arms.
The wind swirled about the small group, touching each of them, lifting hair and clothes and spirits. Jack laughed aloud, slapping a grinning Edmund on the back. Will raised his face to the sky, eyes closed, and let the breeze caress him.
"I – I don't –" began Bill, under his breath.
And all of a sudden Ana knew what it was. "It's her," she said with a slow smile. "It's Elizabeth. Maman said the child had a guardian…"
Bill nodded. "After livin' under th' sea fer five year I'd believe anythin'," he said hoarsely. "They see her, don't they?" he added after a moment.
Something Maman had told her came back to her. "They loved her," Ana said softly. "In life, they all loved her, in their way."
"Aye." Bill shook his head. "Swann saw her too, poor devil. Too mad with grief to know what he saw. I hope – " He broke off with a sigh.
"What?" Ana asked.
Bill quirked a half-smile. "I hope he knows her now," he said quietly.
A month later
Jack put the black and beaded wig he'd taken from the imposter Jack in the teak chest, running a finger over the other contents; his red silk scarf, his beloved hat, the water-damaged pistol that had contained a single shot for so many long years. A copy of a miniature of Elizabeth that Will had given him. A drawing Lizbet had made of the Pearl, the black charcoal lines stravaging all over the place. He smiled as the artist herself burst into the room and tackled his knees. "What's all the ruckus, mischief?" He closed the chest and snapped the lock shut.
Lizbet gave him a reproachful look, so much like her mother's that Jack half-expected her to call him a bloody pirate. "I don't think real lords say ruckus, Uncle Cap – I mean Uncle John."
In reply he swung her up to his shoulder. "No? What do they say then?"
She looped her little arms around his neck and he galloped out of the elegant suite of rooms, heading for the grand staircase, where he looped a leg over the gleaming, hand-carved banister, plopped the child behind him, and slid á deux to the polished marble floor below. Lizbet squealed when Jack caught her at the bottom and swung her around.
Gasping and laughing, she tried to answer him. "God… papa says… foo… faraw… eeeee!" as he tickled her.
Jack put her down and regarded her, pursing his lips. "You sure, 'Bet? I've seen your Godpapa do some silly things, but I can't say as I remember him going eeeeeee!" he imitated the tot's squeal, eliciting fresh peals of laughter.
The subject of their discussion came into the hall, chuckling. "What sort of slander are you perpetrating on my good name now, Jack?"
Jack straightened his expensive brocade waistcoat and sorted out his ruffled shirt. "That's Lord John Finch to you, Ned." He'd adopted this particular form of address for the Governor some weeks ago to add verisimilitude to the fiction that John Finch had been a childhood friend of Norrington's, back in England.
Truth to tell, Jack hadn't so much as set foot in his alleged homeland in his entire life. But the good name of Jack Sparrow, privateer, had proved irretrievable in the end. Thanks to the villain in Swann's employ, Jack's letter of marque had been well and truly revoked, and the rumor that he'd died in Tortuga was too plausible to resist. So Jack had made a quick side trip to the Isla de Muertas and then retired, to settle in Port Royal as Lord John Finch, wealthy English expatriate.
The astounding thing was, so far it had worked. Jack grinned involuntarily. Amazing what a little soap and attitude will do. And having the Governor vouch for you… not to mention save your ruddy life.
Edmund noticed the smile. "What are you sniggering about, you blot on the landscape?" he said, grinning back.
"Me?" Jack tried innocence, then gave up. Really, he just couldn't get the knack. "You, Ned. Look at you. I dress better than you do, now."
Edmund snorted, looking down at himself. "That's because I work for a living, unlike some people."
Jack looked over the Governor's billowing shirt and tight, fawn-colored pants skeptically. "Yes, that must be the subtle difference."
A knock came at the mansion's front door; moments later Weston ushered in a pretty, fresh-scrubbed girl of twenty or so, dressed in a demure gown of the palest blush color.
She curtseyed; Jack stared. Edmund took both the girl's hands in his own. "You look wonderful, Rose. How is the schooling going?"
Rose dimpled. "Quite well, my lord, I thank you. And my thanks for your kind invitation to luncheon this lovely afternoon."
Jack snorted. "How long did you have to practice that speech?" Rose's blue eyes narrowed dangerously; Jack backed away. "Don't be smacking the gentry now," he said, holding up his hands.
Rose ignored him, bending to chat with Lizbet instead. Edmund took the opportunity to draw his friend aside. "I meant to ask you this morning - how was your talk with Will?" he asked Jack.
Jack thought about the long, rum-soaked conversation he'd had at the smithy the previous evening. "He's better," he said. "Having Bill at the smithy with him and the child has done a world of good for the lad. The nightmares about the child, and from what Swann did to him, are fading; the scars on his body will fade too, in time. And knowing Elizabeth's still out there, waiting for him… aye, well, he's a changed man. More at peace."
Edmund nodded. "I expect having you around has helped too, Jack."
Jack chuckled. "'Tis easier to be around, since you've stopped wanting to see me do the hempen jig."
Edmund clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't get too comfortable, 'Lord John'. Having you underfoot all the time may just change my mind."
"Never you fear, Ned. I can't stay landlocked for long," Jack grinned. "Besides, the Pearl will miss me."
"Hm." Edmund shook his head as Will and his father were ushered into the room. "Does Captain Gibbs know how you think? And what about the rumored death of the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow?"
"Ned, Ned," said Jack, a twinkle in his dark eyes. "Haven't you ever heard of ghost pirates?"