Since won't let me use stars, I'm using SSSS between scenes and FLASHBACK to indicate flashback, stupid
I know I said they'd be two more chapters, but instead I decided to write one long one, so this is in fact the last chapter, I hope you all enjoy it. It's very long (obviously, it's two chapters merged together!) about 10,000 words or so!
I've been with this story for about a year, ever since the spark of an idea, regarding Jack's identity before Pirates came to mind, even before I watched the movie! Ever since then it grew and took on a life of its own and I'm rather proud of the result and of the fact that I didn't quit writing and saw this through! Special thanks to everyone who's ever read and reviewed, you encouraged me to write faster and especially to IST (hope you're enjoying Ireland!) who was always there for me- to bully me into writing, to serve as a bouncing wall for ideas or just for support. Thanks girl, I love you!
This is also probably the last piece of fiction I'll be writing on for quite a while, seeing as how I have no inspiration and how I'm going into the army in exactly a week. Take care everyone, it's been a hell of a ride and I'll miss Jack, Will, Elizabeth and Bill tremendously!
ist- I hope this long chapter was bearable, as was the climax and the unfolding of the plot! Hope there was still a bit of humor left and that the characters remained truthful to cannon till the very end!
SpAnIsH-EyEs2- LOL, you make it sound like I lost the bet whether or not this is a good fic! I'm glad you're enjoying it and I just love writing evil cliffhangers! I'm glad it is (was) one of your favorites and I always loved reading your reviews, they warmed my heart!
Bluekrystal1- Evil cliffhangers are a writer's bread and butter and what keeps the readers reading! Plus they're just so much fun! I hope you'll still like my Bill and my Will, because this IS a Jack-centered fiction, keep that in mind.
EARLIER THAT DAY
Will sat on an upturned bucket, glancing longingly at the receding shore. He sighed miserably, feeling torn between his desire to finally meet his father and his need to be with his wife and with Jack. What if something happened to Elizabeth while he was off on some selfish quest? He would never be able to forgive himself. Not for the first time, Will wondered if he made the right choice and if it was too late to back out and return to shore. The shore was not even a speck on the horizon and they were at least four or five hours away. If he could convince Saunders to turn the ship around, he should be there at least two hours before sun set. If he had to take a boat...
"There's no use worrying about it, mate," Saunders said, trying not to lose his patience.
"But what if-"
"There are what if's either way," Saunders told him from behind the helm, as he made adjustments. "What if you turn back, and by the time you get to Tortuga your father is gone for good? What if you don't turn back and something happens to those you love? Too many 'what ifs' in life can give you a headache." Saunders laughed quietly. "You've made your choice, not an easy one to make, but you've made it. Now stop moping around and help me sail the ship."
"Aye aye, Captain," Will said with a grin, though his mood was the same. He went over to adjust the mast, his thoughts still banging around inside his head.
"She should have come with me." Will said decisively, accusingly.
"You cannot tell a woman as feisty as that what to do," Saunders commented, a thin smile on his face. Will smiled as well, remembering all his arguments with Elizabeth that ended with him having to apologize and agree to her demands. Suddenly a feeling of unease, of dread settled in the pit of his stomach. He didn't know what the cause of it was, but it made him feel agitated and worried. What was wrong with him? He would fight with Elizabeth plenty once they arrived at Tortuga. Who knows, he might even be able to introduce his wife to his father...
"I know why she didn't come, I can understand her reasons." Will said slowly, trying to solve a puzzle. "But Jack's reasoning I don't understand."
"What's not to understand?" Saunders said with a shrug. "He's a pirate, he goes where there is a profit to be made."
"But he knew my father well, they were friends, weren't they? I mean, Jack spoke so highly of him, saying he was a pirate and a good man. Surely he'd want to meet him again?" Will asked casually, though his features spoke otherwise. Saunders recognized those features, the same determined expression Bootstrap Bill had whenever he tested you, challenged you to refute something he already knew. Saunders decided to claim ignorance.
"Of course he'll want to meet old Bill again, AFTER he receives his pay for stopping the killings." Saunders stated with a certainty he did not feel. Truth be told he dreaded the day Jack and Bill met again, all those feelings of resentment and hate that were subdued for the last ten years, bubbling back to the surface... He wasn't sure if they would both walk away alive from such an encounter.
"He didn't seem to be to eager to come to Tortuga," Will pointed out innocently. "He seemed... Upset when he heard that my father was alive and well."
"What are you saying, lad?" Saunders huffed, not liking this game one bit. "If you have something to say-"
"I heard you, that night. I heard you talking." Will said finally, his gaze lowered, before rising up to meet Saunders', unasked questions swimming in them.
"I don't follow you." Saunders said confused. "Heard who talking? What night?"
"You and Jack, the night we spent at Sunny Sands." Will said evenly, his jaw set. "You thought we were all asleep, but I was awake. You said... You said that Barbossa wasn't the one to betray Jack and that HE didn't mean to, or something to that affect." Will took a deep breath, fearing the question he had to ask, needed to ask since that night. "Was it my father, then? Did my father betray Jack?"
Saunders looked into Will's eyes long and hard, seeing that he would have no choice but to tell the lad the truth. "Aye, it was. But Barbossa was the one plotting it. Bill... Bill made a mistake."
"A mistake?" Will said with a sour laugh. "How can one betray one's friend by 'mistake'?"
"Bill wasn't thinking straight at the time," Saunders felt the need to defend his friend's actions. "He was bitter- he felt that Jack stole the Pearl that was his by right. He felt that claiming Her was the only way to get you and your mother back." Saunders sighed audibly and shook his head. "Barbossa knew that and he played your father as well."
"Tell me what happened," Will demanded, his eyes hardening. "I want to know EXACTLY what happened."
Jack sighed as he went over his contracts one more time. Jacoby, Grapple, Ragetti, Pintel, Twigg, Koehler... All Scallywags not fit for the Pearl. They were loyal to gold and gold alone, but for the most part were hard working and followed orders. Although he didn't quite care for Koehler, the Pirate had brute force that would come in handy. Jack scratched his beard, deep in thought. None of these Pirates (and he used the term loosely) were worthy of being his First Mate- the only position not acquired yet. He gave Saunders a month to send word to William "Bootstrap Bill" Turner and that month was already up. Bill did not approach or send word he was interested in the position available and therefore Jack had no choice but to seek another Pirate to fill the position. But whom?
"Ahoy there Captain!" Jack heard a voice call from shore. He frowned and made his way onto the deck and glanced curiously at the old man standing on shore. "Captain Jack Sparrow, I presume?" The man asked with a laughing voice that seemed to mock Jack. He didn't like this man one bit, but he forced a smile on.
"Aye, that be me," Jack smiled and bowed. "What can I do for you, mate?"
"It's what I can do for YOU," the man smiled, exposing his yellowing teeth. He had disturbingly yellow eyeballs and everything about him seemed decayed.
"Oh?" Jack asked, his curiosity peeked. "I'm afraid I'm at a disadvantage, seeing as how you know my name and I don't know yours."
"Barbossa," the man said with a bow. Jack nodded, his mind processing this new information. He has heard of this Barbossa- apparently he sailed for some time with Black Beard himself and was as ruthless as he was. He would plunger, rape, and kill all who stand in his way... A worthy Pirate to be reckoned with, but not trusted.
"Never heard of you," Jack said with a shrug and a small smile. Barbossa's mocking grin seemed to waver for a moment, his ego taking a blow. But he quickly recovered and said with a laugh:
"I'm but a humble Pirate, seeking work. I hear this Ship is to sail to Isla de Muerta, I have come to offer my services."
"Gangway!" Jack told his crew, moving passed them, as he and Barbossa made their way to the Captain's quarters. He did not trust nor care for this Barbossa much, but he was short one man and he planned on leaving tomorrow morning. Barbossa obviously has experience that would no doubt prove valuable, he would just have to make sure to keep an eye on him at all times. There was a sudden squeaking sound and something furry jumped onto Jack's shoulder and yelled in his ear. Jack jumped and threw the thing off him, staring in disgust at the vile little monkey with big dead eyes.
"What is that thing," Jack spat, his eyes narrowing. The monkey bared its teeth and sneered at Jack, before jumping onto his rightful owner, Barbossa. "A relative of yours? I can see the resemblance."
Barbossa smiled tightly, while he pet his monkey, trying to get it to calm down. "He hasn't a name yet, but I picked him up in China. He can pick locks, steal and is very disciplined... Better than a dog."
"I will not have that... Thing on board my ship," Jack said as he and the monkey shared glares of hatred.
"But he harms no one," Barbossa protested sweetly. "He's the sweetest thing, he is. And you never know when one might need a burglar monkey. PLEASE, Captain," Barbossa practically begged with difficulty.
"I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request." Jack said conceitedly, enjoying the look of confusion that passed over Barbossa's face. "Means 'no'."
"I'll cut down on the First Mate's pay," Barbossa negotiated.
"Who said you're First Mate?" Jack asked, folding his arms. Barbossa smiled his cat-smile.
"I have it on good authority that you're in the market for one, and I'm afraid I cannot possibly settle for anything less, in my old age." Barbossa smiled winningly. "How will you find another First Mate by tomorrow morning, when you plan on sailing out of here?"
Jack hated being outplayed and in no position to argue. So instead he smiled and said: "Let's negotiate the cut in your pay, that abomination will cost."
After negotiating for a good portion of the evening, Jack finally came to an agreement with Barbossa over his pay, making sure to argue that the Monkey would need to eat and that the value of the food should come out of Barbossa's pay. He felt quite satisfied with the end result and knew that Barbossa wasn't, which added to his sense of achievement. He knew these types of Pirates- if he gave him a chance, Barbossa would commit Mutiny and take his ship to Isla de Muerta. Jack had to make sure both Barbossa and the crew knew whom the Captain ones, and to humiliate Barbossa at all times. It was the only way he could keep his reign, he would have to be just as ruthless as Edward Teach and make sure Barbossa knew that. He was confident in his abilities and in the fact that Barbossa could not sail to Isla de Muerta on his own, considering only Jack knew the coordinates.
Jack was pleased with himself and would be able to stand that retched monkey for the duration of the quest. He headed to his cabin for the night, the signed contract in his hand, when a voice stopped him:
Jack's eyes widened and he turned around, shocked, to address the speaker. "Bill?"
"I know I should have been here by now, but I got... Caught up, so to speak," Bill said apologetically, a smile spreading across his face, when he touched the side of the Pearl. "Long story short, I had to fight my way out of a mutiny and was left with a boat with a hole in it and one paddle."
"I see," Jack said, his heart dropping. Had Bill only come two hours earlier... But Bill seemed oblivious to Jack's mood and he walked on deck, quickly enveloping Jack in a brotherly embrace.
"It's good to see you, Jack," Bill said warmly. "And it's good to be back with the Pearl. I'm glad I caught you before you sailed off, I only got Saunders' message two weeks ago-"
"Bill," Jack stopped him with a hand. "We need to talk." He signaled towards his cabin, and Bill followed him inside, apprehension etching his features. Perhaps Jack changed his mind and did not want Bill on board the Pearl...
"What is it, Jack?" Bill said, once they were inside and alone.
"I waited for as long as I could," Jack apologized sincerely. "I wanted no one else but you for First Mate, but we are to sail tomorrow and you did not show up or send word-"
"You gave the position to another," bill understood, his mood darkening. "When?"
"We signed the contract less than an hour ago," Jack sighed, glancing at his friend. "I waited for as long as I could-"
"Who?" Bill asked seriously, anger creeping into his voice.
"Barbossa," Jack said resignedly, as he showed Bill the contract.
"That's it then," Bill said heatedly, rage bubbling in his veins. He turned on his heels to leave, when Jack suddenly called out:
Bill turned around out of sheer habit. "What?" He asked impatiently.
"I cannot offer you First Mate, but I can offer you First Lieutenant- with the pay of First Mate, as I promised Saunders." Jack said with a grin. "Same money, same job, different title."
"I don't know, Jack..." Bill said tiredly, his anger seeping out of him. He was more disappointed than anything at this moment. For years he strove to become a Captain of his own ship, in order for him to be with his family and a Pirate. But it never worked out, now he realized his place was with the Pearl and he finally swallowed his pride and was willing to settle for First Mate. Now this. It was blow after blow and Bill wasn't sure he could stand much more of this torture. It wasn't nearly what he wanted, but he would be with his Pearl...
Jack watched silently as the debate played across Bill's face and eyes, the indecision weighing heavily on him. After several moments Bill's dark eyes seemed to settle on a decision determinedly. "Alright, Jack." Bill said with a tight smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I'll sign the contract."
"Good!" Jack smiled brightly, as he clasped Bill on the back and led him to a chair. "As Saunders requested, once the contract is signed you will be the only other person to know the location of Isla de Muerta."
They were several days into their voyage, fighting the churning sea and the brutal wind. They were close, Jack could feel it, but the feeling of unease was still there. He expected Barbossa to challenge his command at every occasion and was ready for it, but it never happened. Barbossa seemed to accept Jack's command and would not be baited into an argument. That worried Jack, he knew Barbossa well enough to know he was up to something, but what? Was it mutiny? There seemed to be tension amongst the crew, like a shared secret. But Barbossa had to know that mutiny was futile without the coordinates of the Island, and the only people who knew it were Jack and Bill. He often asked Bill, being closer to the rest of the crew and in the crew's quarters if he thought they were planning something. Bill, however, adamantly assured him that the crew spoke of no betrayal, least not in front of Bill.
He was standing with Bill at the helm, not trusting anyone else with steering the ship. He made sure to memorize the map, before tearing it up and burning it, and he slept with the compass under his pillow, his hand clutching it at all times.
"Captain, the storm is too strong for us to sail against the wind," Barbossa said casually. "We'll get torn apart if we tempt our fate tonight. We should head towards that island for shelter, and continue our journey tomorrow." He said, pointing at an abandoned Island.
Jack turned to his First Lieutenant for suggestions, valuing Bill's opinion more than Barbossa's. "I agree, Captain. It's not safe to continue tonight. We should weigh anchor near shelter and wait it out." bill's eyes briefly met Barbossa's in a quiet pact; one that jack was blissfully unaware of. He was deep in thought, contemplating all options. Eventually he nodded.
"Agreed, Bill- take over the helm and set a course for that Island." Jack said, deciding to retreat to his cabin for the night.
"Aye, aye Captain." Bill said, taking over the helm. Jack smiled, knowing the helm was in safe hands, before he went into his cabin and lay on his bed, asleep in moments.
He woke up several hours later to the sound of a pistol being cocked. His eyes flew open immediately, his left hand clutching his compass while his right hand flew towards his sword, which he kept under his pillow as well. It was not there. Jack looked around confused and was met with a double-barreled pistol aimed at his face and held by the grinning Barbossa.
"What is the meaning of this?" Jack spat angrily, looking for his own pistol.
"Are you looking for this?" Jacoby laughed, as he played with Jack's pistol, making sure to keep it out of reach. A quick glance around the room confirmed his suspicions. Mutiny!
"I'll have you all hanged for this," Jack said between gritted teeth, his eyes burning coals. "The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers."
The other Pirates laughed and drew their swords, pointing them at him.
"Now now, Jack," Barbossa said mockingly, as though admonishing a little boy. "Let's keep it civilized, shall we?"
"I am curious though," Jack said, standing out of bed, making sure his compass is kept hidden in his hand. He bent over, causing the crew to aim their swords, but he merely put on his boots. He slipped the compass into his shoe and put them on. "How exactly do you plan on reaching Isla de Muerta with no compass or coordinates? I'll die before I hand them over to you, ye Scurvy dog."
"We'll have a compass," Barbossa smiled thinly, sending his monkey and men to search the cabin and Jack, tying the Pirate's hands together. "And we already have the coordinates. Don't we... Bill?"
Jack's headed whipped at the name and his eyes quickly caught sight of the man, hiding behind the rest of the crew. At the mention of his name he stepped forward and glanced apologetically at Jack.
"Jack-" Bill started, his gaze downcast.
"Judas," Jack sneered with contempt. The crew finished searching Jack and the cabin, not finding the compass.
"It ain't here," Grapple said angrily.
"Search the rest of the ship," Barbossa hissed, tired of having to always tell them what to do, when it should be obvious.
"You won't find it," Jack said with a smug grin, deciding to enjoy what little retribution he can. He was as good as dead and the treasure was lost, what else did he have left?
"Oi? And why is that?" Pintel asked with venom.
"Because," Jack shrugged, his grin growing. "I thought you Scallywag might try something, so I got rid of it. It went to Davy Jones's locker, but feel free to keep looking."
"Aye?" Pintel asked, wishing to wipe the smug grin off Jack's face. "Well so will you!" He drew his sword and was prepared to strike Jack when Bill intervened.
"Barbossa!" Bill said, drawing his own sword to counter Pintel's. "You've given me your word no harm will come to Jack."
"Aye, that I did," Barbossa agreed with a nod.
"If you were so concerned with my well being, you shouldn't have committed mutiny." Jack said acidly. "And if I were you, I'd make sure I'm dead, cause when I find you you'll wish YOU were dead."
"It's not mutiny," Bill said defensively. "We are putting you to the vote, Jack. That's by the code."
"Lie to yourself as much as you want," Jack said hatefully. "What you're committing is mutiny and betrayal."
"I'm sorry, Jack," Bill said, his eyes pained. "I wish there were another way..."
"All this so Barbossa can be Captain of YOUR ship?" Jack asked, not following Bill's logic.
"I'll be made First Mate, have second go at the treasure, and once we've commandeered another ship I will be captain of the Pearl, though I will sail under Barbossa's flag."
"Is that what he promised you?" Jack laughed bitterly.
"Enough!" Koehler said viciously, grabbing Jack by the shirt and leading him to the deck. The rest followed, sniggering and poking their sword at their Captain.
"Get the plank!" Barbossa said to Pintel and Twigg.
"The plank?" Bill asked in disbelief. "You told me we'd put him to vote and give him a boat."
"Did I?" Barbossa asked, as though trying to remember. "I don't remember saying no such seeing. Do you gents?" The Pirates snickered, as they placed the plank and started pushing Jack towards it.
"Barbossa-" Bill protested, but was pushed aside by the crew.
"You'll get what we agreed upon, Bill. And I promised no harm would come to him, and none shall. Not by MY hands at least." Barbossa smiled evilly. "What do you say, boys? Shall we maroon our captain on that Island?" He asked, pointing at the Island nearby. He received several yells of consent. "What say you, Jack?"
"Do whatever you like, mate." Jack said with a smile of a serpent. "I'll still be coming for you."
"Sure you will," Barbossa laughed evilly, as he put a single bullet in Jack's pistol and waved it in front of Jack. "One bullet, Jack. You know what to do with it..." He pointed the gun at his own head and pretended to pull the trigger, to the crew's delight.
"Oh, but that bullet has your name on it, Barbossa," Jack said sweetly. "It'd be a shame to waste it."
"We'll see how you feel after your first few weeks on your very own Island." Barbossa said, before tossing the pistol into the stormy sea. Jack quickly leapt after it, making sure to grab it before coming up for air and heading towards dry land.
"Goodbye, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow!" Barbossa yelled after him, rolling with laughter. He turned to the crew, his eyes glinting with malice. "To Isla de Muerta!"
"To Isla de Muerta!" The crew answered back, cheering.
"Well?" Barbossa asked angrily. "What are you waiting for? An invitation? Get working you buffoons!" He began to yell orders at them, getting the rigging set and the anchor lifted, as they set to their new course, without their captain. Jack was sitting on the sand, dripping wet in the awful weather and watched as Barbossa sailed away with his ship, and swore vengeance. No matter how long it took, Jack Sparrow would hunt Barbossa down and make sure to kill him himself.
Bill worked on a ship mechanically, his mind on other matters. It was wrong what they'd done to Jack and was not according to the Code. It would be several more days before they'd reach their destination and the Aztec gold, all the while Bill would be sick to his stomach with guilt and disgust. They'd spend the next few months sailing the Pearl, terrorizing the Seven Seas and spending all the gold. During that time, Bill would first hear about the Curse but would keep it to himself, making sure to keep a piece of gold on his person at all times, plotting against his crew. Barbossa never did keep his word about handing the Pearl over and Bill had to do something to somehow make things right. When the crew first heard and experienced the curse they were elated, deeming themselves immortals and invincible. But later, food would begin to taste like ashes; their thirst unquenchable and they would spend the next two years trying to recollect the gold back, all 882 pieces of it.
Bill would then send his piece of gold to his son as a present, as he would often send him gifts now and again. Later he would tell Barbossa that what they did to Jack was wrong and against the Pirate's Code and would demand the Pearl, as agreed. The crew would then send Bootstrap Bill to Davy Jones's locker and only after the deed would realize that they needed Bill's blood to lift the curse and would spend the next eight years as neither dead nor alive...
"I had no idea," Will said stunned, when Saunders finished the story. "How do YOU know what happened?"
"I heard rumors and stories, pieced together all the information I got." Saunders shrugged.
"My father betrayed Jack." Will said, feeling sick to his stomach.
"He wasn't thinking straight at the time," Saunders defended him. "And he went about it by the Code, Barbossa was the one to commit mutiny."
"Didn't seem like Bootstrap Bill protested too much," Will said bitterly.
"If he had they would have marooned him with Jack, or worse-"
"Send him to Davy Jones' locker? They did." Will pointed out, shaking his head in disgust.
"What was he to do, then?" Saunders asked impatiently. "Go up against them all? It would be pointless. Had they marooned him with Jack, I don't think he would have saved that one bullet for so long. Bill had no choice, but he did do a good deed in the end, by making sure they could not lift the curse."
"Yes, but in doing so he sent them after me." Will said, suddenly remembering something. "Eight years ago... The first time I met Elizabeth and the day my mother died... There was a ship after us, a Pirate's ship... It was the Pearl, wasn't it? They were looking for me."
"They were looking for any Turner, aye." Saunders said, nodding.
"My mother died because of me-"
"Your mother- God rest her soul- died because of Barbossa and his scurvy dogs. They'll be no use blaming yourself or your father for something you could not predict or control."
"I know," Will said quickly, too quickly. He sighed and rubbed his temples, feeling a headache-settling in. "I can't believe my father... I don't know him at all. All through my childhood I imagined him a noble gentleman, a merchant sailor- going on grand adventures and to far away countries. I used to dream of the day I'd join him, and we'd both sail away together. Then when I learned he was a Pirate... I didn't accept it at first, but I still thought he was an honorable man, a good man, like Jack told me. Now..."
"You don't know what to think." Saunders said, understanding. "And you won't know until you've met him."
"I suppose," Will said, his gaze fixed on his hands. "What if I don't like what I see? He betrayed a friend- MY friend. I know he had his reasons, or thought he had, but betrayal is betrayal and there's no excusing it. How can I look him in the eye, knowing the pain he's caused Jack? How can I look at my own reflection...?" Will said quietly, almost in a whisper, but Saunders heard it.
"You will have to sort out your feelings for your father on your own. But you are not him and Jack doesn't blame you for what he did."
"Right," Will said nodding, though seeming unconvinced. Saunders decided to drop the current conversation and was about to start another one when Will mused: "I wonder how Elizabeth and Jack are doing..."
"I'm sure they're fine," Saunders said reassuringly. "Elizabeth is a strong lass, and Jack will keep her safe, he's a man of his word. Mostly."
Will had to grin at that and agree. "I hate leaving them in the middle of that mess, especially when we were so close to solving the murders."
"You had suspects?" Saunders asked curiously.
"No," Will chuckled. "But we did have the motive- revenge and greed, just like the witch said. Brom Bones knew his share of the town's women and had several rascals-"
"Witch?" Saunders asked confused.
"Oh, yes." Will said, explaining. "We had no leads and were desperate and Jack knew of this witch-" His eyes suddenly widened and his heart skipped a bit.
"Will?" Saunders asked, worried, as he shaked the younger man by the shoulder. "Are you alright?"
"The Witch!" Will nearly yelled, causing Saunders to jump. "She told me something... Something I did not pay attention to at the time, it sounded so odd... She said... What did she say? She said that there was someone I was looking for and I would have to make a choice... Yes, that was it. A choice...I will have to chose between my friends' lives and this quest." He felt bile rising in his throat and he swallowed painfully. "She was talking about my father! And I was to make a choice between finding him and- Elizabeth! She's in trouble, I have to go back!" He started to panic.
"We cannot go back," Saunders said sympathetically, though he didn't believe in Witches' warnings. "If we are to meet Bill on time, we cannot turn around."
"I HAVE to go back," Will hissed angrily. "Elizabeth's life depends on it! You HAVE to turn the ship around!"
"I can't," Saunders said sadly. "The best I can offer you is a boat and a paddle."
"But it will take me too long to get there!" Will said desperately.
"If you hurry and the wind's in your favor, you could make it by sun set." Saunders offered, trying to give him some hope. "If the Horseman is after them, he will not strike until sun set."
"Alright," Will said nodding, as he hurried to the side of the ship. "I need to leave at once."
"Are you sure about this?" Saunders asked. "By the time you get to Tortuga, Bootstrap might be gone."
"I'd rather lose a chance at meeting him, rather than losing my wife. Or Jack," Will quickly amended, as he lowered himself in the boat. "If anything happens to her... It will be my fault. I should have never left." Will said hollowly, as he began to paddle with determination. "I should have never left."
Will arrived at Sleepy Hollow moments after the sun set, his arms throbbing and his chest aching. He barely stopped his rowing during the six hours or so it took his to get back, driven by the thought of Elizabeth in danger. The town was empty and quiet- too quiet to Will's liking. He saw a figure running across the town, in the direction of Connolly's cabin. It was Frederick Masbath.
"Young Masbath!" Will said, as he ran to catch up, his legs numb from sitting in a boat for hours. "Where are you going? Where are Jack and Elizabeth?"
"Shhhh!" Masbath reprimanded quickly, as he approached the cabin, making sure no one was around to hear. "I don't know where they are and I need to search the School Master's cabin for the missing head, Captain Sparrow's orders."
"What missing head?" Will lowered his voice, while Masbath knocked on the door. Masbath received no answer and so he silently pushed the door open and entered quickly, Will right behind him. Once he closed the door he turned to Will.
"Jack sent me here to search through Mr. and Mrs.'s Connolly's things for the Horseman's head, apparently they are both suspects, I should have done this a while ago, but I got so tied up at the Inn- you see, it's not so easy to manage-"
"They're suspects?" Will asked, processing the information. "Why?"
"I don't know, sir." Masbath shrugged, as he began to search the cabin. Will stood rooted to his spot, not sure if to help Masbath or search for his friends. He was about to leave when something on the floor caught his eye. It was a silver buckle that belonged to a bag.
"What's this?" Will asked, as he neared the bag. Masbath poked his head up.
"That's School Master Connolly's bag, sir. I'm supposed to look through it as well."
"Look through what? What on earth do you think you're doing?" Connolly said, standing in the doorway. "Get away from my bag!" He yelled at Will. "You have no right to be here and to go through my possessions!"
"Apparently you are a suspect in the town's murders," Will mused, his arm still hovering over the bag. "We need to search through your possessions in order to rule you out as a suspect."
"This is preposterous!" Connolly said angrily, as he snatched his bag away from Will. "Now I will have to ask you to leave."
"We will," Will assured him. "As soon as we finish." He nodded at Masbath, who continued to search the cabin.
"Where are you going? Get back here!" Connolly said, following Masbath. Will used that opportunity to grab the bag out of Connolly's arms and before the Latter could protest, he opened the bag. Will's eyes widened and he shut his mouth, afraid he might vomit. He grabbed the head by the hairs and allowed the bag to thud to the ground.
"You can stop searching, Masbath." Will said with disgust, his eyes piercing Connolly's. He held the head up for the man to see. Connolly took a step back.
"I... I don't know how that got there," Connolly stammered, as he backed up towards the door. Will drew out his pistol and cocked it, aiming it at Connolly's head.
"Don't move," he said seriously, still gripping the head by the hairs. Masbath came back into the room and gasped, though he was not able to hold down his lunch.
"Is that-?" Masbath asked, once he was done, pointing a shaky finger at the head.
"Yes." Will said, as he motioned for Connolly to come inside, his pistol never quivering.
"I didn't put it there, I didn't!" Connolly protested vehemently. "I have never seen that head in my life!"
"I need to find Jack and Elizabeth." Will said suddenly, realizing the danger they were in. "Masbath-" he handed the pistol over to the boy. "Keep it aimed at his head, don't let him leave! If he so much as blinks- shoot him."
"Y-yes sir." Masbath said shaking, as he pointed the gun at Connolly's head.
"Where are they?" Will asked Connolly, his rage barely contained.
"Where are who?" Connolly asked impatiently, his anger rising. Will grabbed the man by his shirt.
"Jack and Elizabeth- where are they?!" Will yelled in the man's face, causing him to flinch slightly.
"I don't know!" The man said, his voice rising. "I was teaching all day, I don't know anything! I didn't DO anything!"
"Mary's a suspect as well," Will said, his mind reeling. "Someone must be searching the Van Brunt's residence." He shoved the School Master to the ground, before running out, keeping the head as far from his body as possible, just the smell of it enough to make a person sick. He didn't stop until he reached Katrina's house and started yelling:
"Jack? Elizabeth? Are you here?" He looked frantically through the house, but did not find anyone- not even Old Mr. Van Brunt, to his surprise. He went back downstairs, his heart pounding and a sinking feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach and in his throat. He didn't know where else to go, where else to look.
He sat down with dismay and anger, placing the head on the table in front of him, though he dared not look at it. On the table were several pieces of parchment. Will rose and looked through them, hoping to find some sort of clue. It was Van Brunt's Last Will and Testament- explaining his absence- and there were names crossed out. Only three names were left- Katrina, Mary and Clara.
"Clara! She must be a suspect," Will said, as he dashed to his feet, grabbed the head and ran as fast as he could to Clara's house, hoping fervently that he won't be too late.
"Daniel?" Mary asked incredulously. "Why would my husband..? This is ridiculous!"
"It makes sense," Will said quietly, processing all the scattered information he received. "Connolly finds out about the Will and decides he wants the money. So he starts killing all of your siblings, so you would get all the money. He marries you and sends the Horseman after you, Katrina and Clara, that way making sure he inherits you."
"Wait, why would he want to kill me?" Clara asked confused. "Or my mother? Or Jonathan Masbath?"
"Masbath overheard something he shouldn't have," Jack said, nodding. "As for you and your mother-"
"Perhaps we should let Mary tell her," Elizabeth said still shaking, noting how Mary seemed nervous and knowing they needed their privacy.
"I just can't believe Daniel would.... He couldn't!" Mary said vehemently, tears springing to her eyes.
"I can believe it," Katrina said darkly. "School Masters are gold diggers, I knew he was up to no good the moment I laid eyes on him."
"Connolly!" Will said suddenly as he slapped his forehead. "I left Masbath alone with him!"
"You go and relieve Masbath of his post," Jack said, getting control over the situation. "I'll go and alert the Mayor." He turned and strode out of the house, trying not to grimace at his injured arm- it'd heal.
"Jack!" Elizabeth called, as she followed him outside. He stopped and turned around and was surprised by her sudden embrace.
"Thank you," she said sincerely, a grateful smile on her face. "For protecting me. I know you would have died before you let anything happen to me..."
"Yes, well, it was a foolish mistake and it won't happen again, a slip of the mind, really." Jack muttered half-heartedly.
"Of course," Elizabeth grinned. "And it was foolish of me to stay behind and fight with you. I suppose we're both fools."
"Aye, that we are," Jack agreed easily, turning around and heading back into town. "But by the end of the day, we'll be RICH fools."
"What is it? Why did the Horseman come after me? Why did he kill my mother? What aren't you telling me?" Clara asked both Katrina and Mary impatiently, her gaze flying from one to the other. Katrina's gaze was fixed on the window and Mary's on the floor.
"I found out today that my father has been unfaithful to my mother," Mary started slowly, her voice cracking slightly. "He... Spent the night with several women and some of them were with child."
"I'm... Sorry to hear that," Clara said, clearly bemused. "But I don't understand-"
"My father did not acknowledge these children, but my Grandfather found out about them and put them in his Will, so they would inherit a substantial amount of money. Someone... Daniel, found out about these names and sent the Horseman after the mothers and children. You... Your mother... My father..." Mary said stuttering.
"You share the same father," Katrina said coldly, her eyes never leaving the window. "Brom slept with your mother, her name and yours was in the Will."
"What?" Clara asked, sitting down. "Are you telling me..? That Brom was my father?"
"Yes," Mary said carefully, trying to gauge her reaction. Clara grew quiet and seemed deep in thought. "I'm so sorry, I never knew..." She choked on her tears and stopped talking, looking again at the floor.
"It's always been just my mother and myself," Clara said after a long moment of silence. "I never had a father. Now I lost both my mother and my father." She said miserably. "I have nothing left."
"That's not true," Mary said, grabbing her arm and crouching so they were eye level. "I did not know of you before, but I do now. You are my sister, Clara, and I... I want to be able to make it up to you. All these years barely getting by, not knowing that you... I want to be your sister." Mary finished seriously, hoping Clara could read her pure intentions.
"All those that died," Clara said as though she didn't hear her. "The children... They were our siblings as well."
"Yes," Mary said sadly. "Now it's just us. I never had a sister before, but I want to have one now, if you'll let me."
"Of course," Clara said with a hint of a grin. "I never had a sister either."
"Mother," Mary said, addressing Katrina for the first time. "Can Clara come live with us?"
"I suppose," Katrina said, obviously not thrilled with the idea, but willing to do as her daughter wishes.
"I wouldn't want to impose," Clara said embarrassed. "I can live here just as well."
"Nonsense, I WANT you to live with us, to get to know you." Mary said with a soft smile. "After all, you're family."
THE NEXT MORNING
"I guess this is it!" Will said somewhat excitedly, as he and Elizabeth packed their belongings at the Inn. "We're leaving."
"Aye," Jack said distractedly, as he scratched at his bandaged arm. Elizabeth had to threaten to drag him to Clara, before he allowed her to bandage his arm up.
"Does your arm hurt?" Elizabeth asked, noting his obvious discomfort. "You should really let Clara have a look at it."
"It's fine," Jack said breezily, as he quickly gathered the few things he brought.
"Right," Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes, clearly not buying it for a second. Her gaze caught something out of the window, and she went over and peered outside.
"What is it?" Will asked concerned, joining Elizabeth by the window.
"They're building some sort of platform in the middle of the town," Elizabeth said puzzled.
"It'll probably be used for weddings and hangings," Jack said with a shrug, as he finished packing and was ready to leave. "They are planning on hanging Connolly by the end of the week, the only hanging in Sleepy Hollow, as a matter of fact, quite the occasion."
"Oh," Elizabeth said, turning away from the window with disgust. "Has he confessed yet?"
"Not according to Masbath," Jack said, leaving the room, his friends following close behind. Masbath seemed to have taken up quite an interest in the trial and the hanging, understandably of course. "Claims he's innocent."
"Of course he would," Elizabeth said dismissively. "They always say that."
"Aye," Jack agreed, as they reached the entrance of the Inn.
"Captain Sparrow, sir!" Masbath said, popping up out of nowhere. "Widow Van Brunt wishes to see you, at her house, sir. She wants to pay you your reward, sir."
"Then I won't keep her waiting," Jack said smiling, as he thrust his bag at Will. "Be a good lad and take this back to the Pearl."
"Thank you," Jack said smugly, before disappearing.
"I hate it when he does that," Will grumbled, though his lips were threatening to grin.
"I'll help," Masbath said eagerly, as he grabbed Elizabeth's bags.
"Thank you," she smiled gratefully at him, as the three made their way to the Pearl.
"I feel like these past few weeks have been like a dream," Katrina mused tiredly, as she poured two cups of tea. "A very bad dream." Jack didn't reply and just sat there, waiting patiently for her to continue. When he arrived he was sure he would simply get paid and leave, but Katrina seemed to need someone to talk to. For some unexplained reason, that someone turned out to be Jack.
"Mary is taking it all hard," Katrina smiled bitterly. "She refuses to see Daniel and barely talks to me. She must feel like everyone is betraying her- her father, her husband... Even her mother. Not telling her about what I knew, about the rumors... I don't think she'll ever forgive me."
"Give it time," Jack said simply, sipping his tea and wishing it were rum.
"At least she got something out of all of this," Katrina said, though she did not seem pleased. "She got a sister."
"How is Clara doing?" Jack asked, identifying Katrina's source of frustration.
"Fine," Katrina said too quickly. "She and Mary seem to be getting along just great. They spent all of last night together and this morning they went Horseback riding. Mary wanted Clara to learn how to ride a horse." The disapproval evident in her voice. She sighed and shook her head slightly before plastering a smile. "But I have kept you long enough, I know you want to get on your ship and sail away on a grand adventure! I'll go get you your reward." She got up and went to collect the amount, before she hesitated and turned back.
"What?" Jack asked, knowing he was about to be reeled in for a favor.
"Could I ask you for a favor?" Katrina asked, blushing slightly. "I... If Clara is going to be staying with us, I need to clear my father-in-law's room. But I can't seem to get myself to enter, it's like I can feel his presence there..." She sighed and turned hopeful eyes towards Jack.
"You want me to clear his room?" He asked with a raised eyebrow, clearly not happy with the notion.
"No, of course not," Katrina said hurriedly. "Just a few things, it won't take more than a few minutes of your time, I promise." She looked at him with her sad eyes that reminded him too much of a lost puppy. He knew he couldn't resist when women did that.
"Oh alright!" Jack said angrily, as he made his way upstairs. "What needs to be cleared?"
She started listing off items, and Jack tried not to grimace, knowing full well it would take at least an hour. Maybe half if he hurried, but it would still be too long away from his Pearl. He started to clear away the old man's belongings, silently cursing Katrina for knowing how to work him. He put away the tray containing the man's last supper, but picked up the cup and put it aside for a moment. It still had some water in it and he was thirsty. He threw out the dead plant by the side of the bed and wondered how it had died so quickly- it was still very much alive when Jack was last in this room. He put the cup to his lips and took a swing. The moment the liquid hit his taste buds his eyes snapped open and he spat it out.
Jack glanced at the cup suspiciously, then at the plant and eventually at the empty bed. He frowned for a moment before realization hit him and he dropped the cup, spilling the liquid all over the floor, but not caring the least. He ran downstairs and bumped into Katrina, who used the time to collect his reward and seemed surprise to see him so soon.
"It wasn't Connolly!" Jack told her quickly.
"What? What are you talking about? Of course it was him, he had the head-" Katrina said perplexed.
"He was framed, she wanted us to find the head and blame Connolly. It makes sense, he was teaching all day, and she could have snuck in at any time... But how did she get to the bag?" Jack asked, his mind reeling with questions and answers, as the puzzle seemed to click together, piece by piece.
"She?" Katrina asked, not liking Jack's tone of voice. "She who?"
"Clara," Jack said simply and certainly. "She went out riding with Mary- Mary is in danger. Where did they go?"
"What? I... They didn't tell me," Katrina said confused. "But Mary likes riding in the forest, by the canyon. What makes you think it's-?"
"No time, I'll explain later," Jack said quickly, grabbing his reward. "I need a horse, and I need you to go to the Pearl and tell Elizabeth and Will what I just told you, and where I went."
"There's a horse in the stables," Katrina muttered, her mind not making sense of any of this.
"Leave, NOW." Jack said urgently, as he ran towards the stables. Katrina was left gaping for a few moments, before she got to her senses and ran to the Pearl.
"You're doing great!" Mary smiled at Clara, watching keenly as she handled her horse. "You're a natural!"
"Not really," Clara muttered shyly, edging her horse forward.
"Well you will be, with a bit of practice and patience." Mary said, her smile growing. She knew Clara had never ridden a horse and she thought it would be great if the two of them could bond during Clara's riding lessons. So far it appeared to be working. "Maybe we should call it a day, you're doing really well."
"Can we ride some more?" Clara asked hopefully. "Not too much, I promise, I just... I really like riding..." She shrugged sheepishly.
"Alright," Mary said, as her horse moved forward to take the lead. "But just to the edge of the canyon, it's too dangerous."
"Great!" Clara said happily, as her horse trotted a bit behind Mary's. The two rode in amiable silence, until they neared the edge of the canyon. "That's a long way to fall." Clara mused, as she peered down.
"Yes, it is." Mary agreed uneasily, never really liking heights. "So why don't we turn around and head back?"
"Alright." Clara agreed, as she turned her horse around. She kicked the horse hard and he suddenly reared up and sent Clara flying.
"Clara!" Mary called frightened, as she watched her sister fall back screaming, and lay motionless on the ground. Mary got off her horse and hurried to her sister's side, immediately checking for a pulse. She sighed with relief when she found one and tried to shake her sister awake. "Clara, Clara get up." She looked around and started to call for help, when Clara's eyes flew open and she grabbed Mary's dress in a death grip.
"Oh thank God you're alright!" Mary said relieved, as she tried to pry Clara's hands off her dress.
"Wish I could say the same for you." Clara said sweetly, before she used her foot to roll Mary over her head and over the edge. She heard Mary's sudden scream and smiled, getting up to her feet and brushing her dress, getting the filth out. She glanced down the side of the canyon, but couldn't see anything. She turned around abruptly when she heard hoof beats, and placed a horrified expression on her face.
"Oh thank God!" She said horrified to Jack, as he got off his horse. "It's Mary!"
"Where is she?" Jack asked icily, his eyes, darting around, noting the steep fall.
"She fell off her horse and went over the edge!" Clara said, tears springing to her eyes. "I tried to tell her it was dangerous, that we should turn back-"
Clara froze when she heard the cry and looked sharply over the ledge. Jack drew his pistol and aimed it at Clara squarely. Clara glanced at the pistol, before an amused expression filled her face.
"I wondered how long it would take you to figure it out," she said good naturedly, not moving from her position. "How did you figure it was me?"
"The poison," Jack said, peering over the ledge. Mary was down a bit and holding onto a bulging rock. "There's no way a skilled Nurse such as yourself would miss it and accidentally determine the cause of death to be natural."
"Very good, Jack." Clara said, clapping her hands. "But now you have a predicament, of sorts. You see, you can either bring me in and let Mary die, or let me go and save her. You can't tie me up, you have no rope. What WILL you do, Jack?"
Jack considered this for a moment, before he closed the gap between them with two strides and hit her with the pistol across the head. She fell down heavily and Jack leaned over the edge, trying to get to Mary. "Hang on!" Jack told her, completely aware of the Irony of his statement.
"Just hurry!" Mary said desperately. "I'm slipping!"
Jack tried to bend over as far as he could without losing his grip on the ground. His fingers brushed against her hands, before he saw something moving out of the corner of his eyes. He quickly rolled to the side and watched as Clara tried to dash at him with a rock, and her momentum sent her off the cliff. Unfortunately she didn't fall far, managing to grab onto Mary's legs.
"Great, just great!" Jack muttered to himself, as he once again tried to grab a hold of Mary's arms. She was just beyond his reach, and having the extra weight on her wasn't helping things much.
"Jack!" Will yelled, as he jumped off the horse he and Elizabeth shared and ran over. "We got your message."
"I can't reach her," Jack told them quickly, as he took in both Will and Elizabeth. "Elizabeth- come over here, I need you to grab a hold of Mary. Will- you're going to have to find something solid to hold onto to, and grab Elizabeth's waist. We'll have to form a chain-"
"Wait, I've brought rope." Elizabeth said, taking it out of the saddlebag. "I'll tie it to my waist and around the tree, it should give you two a good hold and allow me to lean over further."
"See why I love her." Will said proudly, as he helped her tie it around her waist and the tree. Elizabeth quickly went over the ledge, as both Jack and Will supported her weight. She grabbed a hold of Mary's arms and yelled:
Jack and Will started pulling, putting their feet on the trunk. They pulled with all their might, but the two of them could barely pull the three women an inch.
"They're too heavy." Will said through clenched teeth.
"We'll just have to make them lighter." Jack said seriously. "Tie the rope around the tree, I'm going to leave you for a little while, get ready for the added weight."
"What are you doing?" Will asked, not arguing as he readied himself for the extra weight.
"Teaching a little girl to fly," Jack said evenly, as he let go of the rope and ran across the ledge, his pistol cocked and aimed at Clara.
"You'll shoot Mary too!" Clara said warningly, tightening her hold on her sister.
"You're right." Jack said, putting away his pistol, to Clara's relief. Instead he produced his sword and leaned over as far as he could go and stabbed Clara in the shoulder. She cried out in agony and loosened her grip just a bit. Mary used the opportunity to wiggle and kick- sending Clara tumbling down, screaming.
"Pull- NOW!" Jack yelled, as he ran back to Will and helped him pull both Elizabeth and Mary back up, sending both he and Will flying back.
"Mary!" Katrina called relieved, as she saw her daughter was safe. The moment she left the Pearl she first headed to the Mayor's house to tell him there was an innocent man in jail, before bringing half the town with her to save her daughter. "You're safe!"
"Mother!" Mary said, as she rushed to hug her mother, covering them both with mud and dirt.
"I guess I won't see Clara about my arm, after all." Jack shrugged, as he got to his feet and helped Elizabeth to her feet, casually ignoring Will. Will got to his feet alone and peered over the edge, making sure Clara was really gone.
"It was Clara! It was Clara all along!" Mary said hysterically. "I can't believe I didn't believe Daniel! How could I-?"
"Shhhh," her mother soothed, combing her daughter's hair with her fingers. "It'll be alright, Daniel has been released. Let's go home."
"The poison?" Will asked Jack as the three made their way into town, riding the horses. "You mean Clara poisoned him and because she's the closest thing to a physician, she declared that he died of natural causes?"
"Aye." Jack nodded.
"She must have found out about the Will when she was treating Mr. Van Brunt." Elizabeth said, thinking. "She wanted it all to herself, so she killed them all off one by one. But why didn't she kill Mary the same way? Why frame Daniel?"
"She knew we wouldn't have stopped until the killings have." Jack said with a shrug. "So she framed Connolly, but I don't think she planned for us to find the head until it was too late- she sent the Horseman after Katrina and Mary, she just didn't expect them to show up on her doorstep."
"It makes sense." Will said heavily. "But to kill her own mother?"
"But she didn't!" Elizabeth realized suddenly. "That was an accident! She said the Horseman was searching for something and her mother accidentally took her bag... The Horseman must have been searching for his head, and Beth accidentally carried it- THAT'S why he attacked her."
"I'm glad it's finally over." Will said tiredly, feeling ten years older. "Next time I get bored, remind me not to come looking for you."
"Deal." Jack agreed with a grin. They reached the stables and dismounted their horses.
"So are we going to Tortuga now?" Will asked hesitantly and received a sharp nod from Jack. Ever since he found out what really happened ten years ago, he felt slightly apprehensive around Jack. As though he were to blame for his father's betrayal, which was how he felt. But on the other hand, he needed to make sure of something... "Jack..." Will motioned for them to move aside, to Elizabeth's dismay, but she didn't say anything.
"What now?" Jack asked tiredly, rubbing his eyes. He had his reward; he solved the murders and saved the day. He only had one more thing to do in town before leaving it for good.
"I know what really happened, how you were marooned." Will said miserably. "I... I'm sorry."
Jack nodded, and moved to leave, before Will spoke up again:
"That being said, I can't let you kill him. I know he betrayed you Jack and I don't expect you to ever forgive him. But he IS my father, whether I like it or not, and I won't allow you to hurt him." Will's glare was an apologetic, but determined one.
"I understand." Jack answered cryptically.
"I want you word, not your understanding." Will said harshly.
"I'm not sure if I can give it to you." Jack answered honestly.
"Then promise you will talk to him, give him a chance to explain first. He did try and make amends in the end." Will pleaded. "Please, Jack. For the sake of our friendship."
"Alright, I give you my word I will let him speak his peace." Jack said darkly. "Other than that, I can make no promises."
"That's good enough for me, for now." Will said with a small grin. "Thank you, Jack." Jack nodded once and left, but not in the direction of the Pearl.
"Jack?" Elizabeth asked, watching him leave. "Where are you going?"
"Get the Pearl ready for departure, I'll be there within the hour." Jack said, not turning back, as he strode away purposefully.
Jack stood in the middle of the secluded area and watched the flames lick the air. It was easy enough to find the Dess' farmhouse, where Ichabod Crane spent many winter nights, sleeping in the stables with the horses. He even buried some of his meager possessions in the floorboard. Jack managed to dig it up and now everything that was Ichabod Crane was burning in the pyre.
"So long, Mate." Jack said quietly, his eyes drawn to the fire. This was the funeral of Ichabod Crane, School Master of Sleepy Hollow- a scholar, a dreamer and a gold digger, may he rest in peace. Jack watched as the last shred of Ichabod Crane's life burned away, leaving nothing behind but a pile of ashes.
Ichabod Crane was no more.
Jack wiped his hands and left without so much as a glance back, leaving this part of his past behind him. He was determined to never return to Sleepy Hollow, for Captain Jack Sparrow had no business in this small town. He walked towards the Pearl, without so much as a goodbye to this dreadful town. He finally put this ghost to rest, and now he was heading to Tortuga, where he would put another ghost from his past to rest, permanently.