Author's Note: Well I'm back...first of all I would like to extend a MASSIVE apology to anyone who has been waiting for this next chapter...if anyone is still interested in reading this story that is! J I'm soooooooo sorry for taking so long, but I was in a car accident back in...January, I guess it was, (wow, that's a long time ago!) and because of an injury to my back, I was unable to sit at a computer for a long time...yeah, it was hell! I had to dictate all of my essays for school to my sister (who hates me now, by the way!)...but I digress. I'm back now, and I'll make sure updates come MUCH more regularly!

Thank you to everyone who reviewed-you really pushed me to get back to writing, and you have no idea how much I needed that. Thank you to: Stacey, Estelle, Babs7, Girlie G, shadows, Jackie, shorty 51, Katz Potter, Hitokiri of the Bloodless Moon, Niki, lateBloomer04, pingpong5, Hotohori Is Sparkly and Seraphina2. I'm glad you're all still enjoying my story, and I hope you're still out there to read the end of it! (Oh, and I agree with all of you that said Elizabeth would have to strap herself down to pass as a man...I definitely meant to put that in, and then just...didn't! I don't know what happened! Also, something happened in the part where Governor Swan is looking at Elizabeth in her room...my crappy computer screwed something up, so I will attempt to fix it and re-post!) ANNNYYWAAAAYS this is a REALLY long author's note...so I will leave you now with Chapter 6.

Chapter Six

He awoke with a start, struggling against the confines of sleep that still bound his mind in drowsiness. For one crazed moment he forgot where he was, but when his mind cleared he realized that nothing had changed. He was still in the same place he had been in for weeks-the dark, damp cage that was his prison as well as his entire world. He had not been above deck since he got here, nor had he even excited the iron bars that restrained his freedom. His back was to those bars now, and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was able to make out Jacob's figure opposite him. He lay in silence for a while, listening to the quiet intakes of breath coming from his friend, when he realized what had awoken him. Voices.

No one had been down to the cells the entire time he had been here, except for two pirates serving as his guards. They called themselves Claudette and Mussio, and he had grown to hate them over the past weeks. Claudette was the woman he had punched the day he was captured, during his vain attempt to battle his way off the ship. She had gone out of her way to make his life a living hell since then. Small, skinny and dirty, her pretty name was anything but fitting to her ragged appearance. Her closely cropped blond hair, hacked of with a blade until it reached her chin, accentuated her rough exterior. After throwing him in the cell the day of his arrival, she had wiped some of the blood away from her steadily streaming nose, and crouching over him, wiped it down his face. He had cringed and moved as if to fight back, but the other pirates laughed and pinned him down. She then pushed her face close to his; her musty, acrid breaths making his senses reel for a moment

"Welcome to the Black Widow love" she breathed onto him, making him recoil and turn his head. Her hands struck out as quick as lightning and she grasped his head, forcing him to look at her; her grimy fingers adding more scum onto his already blood-stained face.

"Captain Scarlet and I wanted to give you this little welcomin' present," and she kissed him roughly on the lips. He struggled to move away, but was unable to. She sprang up, laughing maliciously, and gave him a swift kick in the leg before leaving, the other woman following her, joining in the laughter at his expense. Ever since that day, she had brought them their meals along with a crude gesture for him.

Mussio, the other guard, was the polar opposite of Claudette. Coming from Spanish origins, she was tall, dark, heavy set and slow moving. She reminded him of bull that had the ability to walk on two legs. He noticed that she seemed to have taken a liking to Jacob. He heard her muttering under her breath sometimes, and with his rudimentary understanding of Spanish, he noticed the word "angel" came up quite frequently. He figured she had never seen a man with blond hair before, and with Jacob's soft "pretty boy" features, he did look rather angelic. As for Jacob himself, he shunned the woman, not really knowing what else to do.

And that was life: Claudette and Mussio, day in and day out. But now a new voice reached him, a voice he hadn't forgot, even though he hadn't heard it since that first horrific day.

"So how be our lovely captives tonight?" The sound of her voice sent a shiver of rage and hate down his spine, but he resisted the urge to lash out and remained still.

"Oh fine, Cap'n" The second voice belonged to Claudette. "Sleepin' like babies, as usual."

"No more problems from the older one?"

"No ma'am, taught 'im his lesson first day 'e was 'ere!" He scowled and bit his tongue forcefully to restrain his anger.

"Good. He needs to learn his place now before we get there. If 'e keeps his trap shut, we'll fetch a ripe bargain." His anger subsided into confusion. Bargain?

"That we will Cap'n, that we will...'e's a pretty one, ain't he?"

"They both are..." He heard someone crouching down behind him, and then Claudette's voice come from directly behind his head.

"You know, it's been a long voyage Cap'n...couldn't I...maybe…"

"No."

"But Cap'n! I serve on 'im night and day! Shouldn't I-"

"I said no. We want 'im nice and fresh. Understand?"

"Yes Cap'n."

"Good. We'll be there in about 3 days, so tomorrow is clean up day."

"Right." There was a quiver of excitement in her voice that he did not like at all, but he couldn't understand why cleaning would give a woman such as Claudette any pleasure at all.

"So make sure you're ready."

"I will be Cap'n!" He then heard the sound of boot heels striding away from the cell, and after, the sound of Claudette's quiet wheeze of laughter. As her laughter finally faded away into the night, he was left with a cold feeling of foreboding in the pit of his stomach. He didn't know what clean up day was, but he had a sick feeling that it would not be good for him.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

When he opened his eyes again, strips of yellow light where shining down on his face through the cracks in the boards above him. He sat up quickly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes in an attempt to make himself fully awake and aware. He looked over a Jacob, who was sitting against the wall and looking at him inquisitively.

"What is it?" he asked curiously "Why are you so jumpy today?" Will looked around him, to make sure no guards were listening, and then crawled over to sit next to Jacob.

"Last night, I heard something, I'm not really sure what it was...but I don't think it's good for us..." Jacob's face immediately grew dark, and he leaned in closer.

"What? What did you hear?" Will looked around again

"Something about how today is 'clean up day'?...and also about us being a good "bargain"..." Jacob sat back, his face a mask of confusion and Will felt his heart sinking. He had hoped that Jacob, being a sailor, would be able to shed some light on these mysterious rituals, but apparently not. Jacob looked at Will and shrugged.

"Sorry Will, I have no idea..." he trailed off at the sound of feet moving toward their cell. They both looked up and saw Claudette, Mussio and four other pirates standing in front of their iron door.

"On your feet!" Claudette ordered. They slowly stood, joints cracking and popping at the effort. They had not stood or walked since the day they got here, so when Claudette unlocked the door and gestured with a drawn sword for them move out, he seriously doubted if he would be able to. He stood flexing his toes and stretching his legs for a moment, and then walked slowly forward.

"There you go, princess." Claudette said, shoving him forward into the waiting arms of two other women. They quickly grabbed him roughly, one at each arm, and marched him down the corridor of the prison. He felt the urge to struggle, but that diminished when he felt the sharp point of Claudette's sword at the small of his back. Behind him, he could hear Jacob also being dragged away from the cell, and he heard Mussio's threats to the other pirates to "tenga cuidado con mi angel", or as he understood it, "be careful with my angel". He frowned. This was the first time he had heard her refer to Jacob as her own. He made a mental note that he would have to watch her and try to keep her away from his friend.

The pirates holding him led to the end of the passageway and over to steps leading up to the deck. He forced his legs to bend so he would be able to walk up the stairs, but the stiffness in his limbs was forgotten when the doors in front of him were opened and he was blinded with light. He ducked his head and squeezed his eyes shut, already disoriented with the white spots dancing behind his eyelids. He heard Jacob utter a cry of surprise as he reached the threshold, and the women laugh mockingly at their discomfort.

"Look at them girls," It was the Captain's voice again. "Don't they look like rats?" The woman laughed again, their exuberance co-mingled with whoops of agreement. Will felt ready to burst with anger and wounded pride, but concentrated all his hate into forcing open his eyes. When he finally got them open, he blinked a few times and peered painfully around him. All the women seemed to be wreathed in ethereal light, dark forms in a glaringly bright world.

" Look at 'im!" He heard Claudette's voice next to his ear. "Now 'e's a fish!" The women laughed again, louder this time, and Will knew he couldn't take it anymore. In one quick movement he wrenched himself free of the women holding him and leaped on top of Claudette. All semblance of chivalry gone from him, he began pummeling her face, all of his pent up rage from the last 2 weeks pouring out on top of her like a flood. He could feel arms wrapping around him, pulling him off her, and he struggled like a wild animal.

As he fought he heard the Captain shouting for him to be strung up. Almost immediately he felt heavy shackles clamp around his wrists and his arms wrenched upwards. When he finally regained control of himself, he looked up to see that the chain of his shackles was through an iron ring attached to the mast high above his head. He looked around himself quickly, trying to gather his wits. The women had gathered in a tight semi circle around him, some laughing at the small tiff which had just occurred, but most glaring at him angrily-and none so much as Claudette, who appeared to have broken her nose, again. He pulled at the chain that connected his hands, attempting to break it, and failing.

"I wouldn't waste your strength. It won't break." It was the Captain. She moved in front of the crowd of pirates, a small, playful smile dancing on her lips. "I admire your spirit, boy. But it is something we are going to have ta remedy." She turned to the crowd. "What do we say of the spirit of man?" Her crew answered her in one loud and chilling voice,

"It can be BROKEN!" She turned back to Will.

"Aye. It can be broken." She reached inside her long cloak and pulled out something that sent a numbing fear through his body, and a wave of cheers through the pirates. He had heard stories, but had never experienced it: the cat o' nine tails. His shirt was stripped from him and he stood bare-chested in the glaring mid-morning sun, awaiting the first lash. When it came, he was not prepared. He knew it would hurt, but he had never imagined pain like this. Over and over again, a searing brand on the smooth skin of his back, accompanied by the wild shouts of joy from the pirates of the Black Widow. He bit his tongue and repeated to himself:

"I will not scream. I will not scream..." Flesh was stripped from him, each laceration reopening with the following smack of worn leather. Finally, it ceased. His body sagged in relief, and he felt small trickles of blood run down his back into the waistband of his pants. Someone unlocked the shackles and his body collapsed in an exhausted heap on the deck.

"You're stronger then I thought boy." He forced himself to look up at her, to glare at her with all the hate left in his weary body. She smiled down at him, a hideous smile that turned his stomach.

"I thought fer sure you would be weepin' fer mercy." He said nothing, and she crouched down in front of him, pushing her scarred face into his and whispering, "I think you'll do well where I'm takin' ya. "And where is that?" he forced out. She simply smiled again and stood.

"Alright girls, enough playtime. Get them cleaned up." The pirates immediately sprang into action. The Captain pointed down at Will. "And make sure he's healed by the time we reach port." He watched from the ground as she walked away, and over to her rooms. As soon as the door was shut, he saw a shadow descend over him. He looked up and saw Claudette.

"You heard her. We gots to get you healed up." It was then that he noticed that she was holding a bucket in her hands. Before he could stop her, or move out of the way, she dumped its contents on him. The salt water burned into every recess of his new wounds, making him shout out in surprised pain. As he writhed in agony, the pirates laughed and Claudette said,

"That's what ya get-don't ever touch me again." Before walking away in triumph. Having no strength to get up, he waited for assistance, simmering in the wave of pain radiating from his back. He watched as the pirates stripped an embarrassed Jacob of everything except his trousers, and then proceeded to scrub him down. His muted rage turned once again into confusion. Why? Why make them clean? Why did it matter? His whirlwind of thought was cut off abruptly when Claudette yelled out,

"Hey Fancy Face! You know about groomin'! Wanna cut off 'is hair?" His hair? Again the word "why" echoed in Will's mind, but he turned his head to see if "Fancy Face" would do it. When he saw the pirate woman shoved forward by her shipmates, time froze in place. All pain in his back forgotten, he blinked his eyes rapidly, positive that what he saw was a mirage. But it wasn't. It was real. Though he struggled to hold on, he felt himself slipping in to the oblivion of unconsciousness. Just before his mind fell into darkness, he heard himself ask, "Elizabeth...?"

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

And that's all for now folks! Was it REALLY Elizabeth that he saw, or simply a figment of his imagination? And if it WAS, then how did she get there? All these questions and more will be answered in the following chapter-which, if I have people out there who are still interested in reading, will be coming soon! If you want me to keep going, then let me know what you think of this chapterƒI'm not sure it's as good as I want it-but you be the judge. If you guys want me to continue, I will, and I PROMISE it will happen a lot sooner this time!