Slowly opening his eyes, Jack's weary thoughts struggled to find purchase in reality. As his groggy mind steadied and the slipping abated, he blinked with forced effort trying to focus on his surroundings.
With as little movement as possible, he silently surveyed the room, attempting to determine his situation. Immediately, two things became apparent. First, a gentle rocking motion shifted languidly beneath him. The persistent swaying was accompanied by occasional groans and creaks, wood pushing against what experience told him were soft waves. Senses combined with memory and the pirate sighed in contentment, now knowing exactly where he was: The Pearl. The second thing he had noticed was that he had been laid on his stomach, and almost completely disrobed. Only his breeches remained, and thankfully, a cover someone had been kind enough to pull as far as his waist.
He felt a weight, tightness on his back. Not heavy, though. Something pressing gently on his skin, and yet he wore no shirt . . . at least, nothing covered his shoulders. Strange. Gingerly lifting his head, he peered over one shoulder. Only his peripheral vision found the edges of white, and he realized his back was covered in bandages. The memories flooded him, unbidden.
Granger. The Pearl. An inescapable cat o' nine tails. A brutal knife fight.
Shuddering from the images, his muscles contracted sharply. All too suddenly the dull ache in his back augmented to a sharp pain. Pressing his face into the pillow, he stifled a groan as he forced his body to attempt to relax under the tremulous flux.
As control returned, he opened his eyes and, despite his limited movement, searched indolently around his cabin. His gaze halted when he spied the huddled form lying on a makeshift bed on the floor. Squeezing his eyes shut tight, he opened them again, this time to better focus. A gold-toothed smile spread slowly across his face as he recognized the form; Anamaria. She lay on her side facing his direction, curled up on the pile of blankets, her slack features soft and calm. With a heart swelling with emotion, his eyes drank in every facet of her face, greedily devouring every line, every flawless curve.
Not all treasure is silver and gold. He knew it now, more than ever.
Heedless of the dull throbbing in his back, he pressed his palms into the mattress and shakily swung his legs over the side of the bed. That movement alone caused the pirate's breathing to become harsh and ragged and he stilled taking steady deep breaths. Jack used this moment to allow his gaze to linger on the slumbering woman across the room, a lazy smile playing across his countenance. His usually non-linear thought process began taking on a single track: Anamaria. He leaned forward to stand, a chance to test out his legs, and halted at the jiggling sound of the doorknob. Turning his head, he watched as Molly entered the room. She moved slowly, apparently under the assumption that both occupants in the room slept.
Jack watched as she tiptoed through the door balancing a tray in one hand to close the door as quietly as possible. Turning slowly, she gasped in surprise. Quickly, Jack brought a quieting finger to his lips and inclined his head toward the slumbering Anamaria. Molly pressed her lips tightly together to indicate she'd understood. Apparently, seeing the pirate sitting up had been a sight for which she'd been ill prepared. Jack rewarded her with one of his trademarked grins, and she smiled back. Casting a furtive glance toward the occupant sleeping on the blankets, she padded softly across the room. Setting the tray down, she claimed the chair next to the bed, where the pirate sat.
"God's teeth, Jack Sparrow." she whispered softly, a smile twinkling in her green eyes. "Ya had us all mightily worried, ya did. How do ya feel?"
"How long have . . ." His voice faltered and he struggled to clear his throat.
Molly reached for a cup and poured what appeared to be water into it before handing it to the pirate. Jack took it but quirked an inquiring eye at the young woman.
"It's just water, Jack, no medicine, I promise." She smiled. Jack took what he'd intended to be a tentative sip, but thirst was a powerful motivator and before he realized it, he found himself gulping the fluid greedily.
"Easy," she reminded him. "s' likely t' make ya sick, it is."
Knowing that she was right, he slowed down before the water could nauseate him. He felt as if he hadn't eaten in ages.
"'Ow long 'ave I been back on the Pearl? Are we still in Tortuga?" Jack asked, his voice coming a little stronger. Molly took the cup and set it on the table before answering.
"Yes, still in Tortuga. It's been four days now since ye collapsed after your scuffle with Granger. Took a fever ya did, and it broke 'bout a day ago. Gabriel seems to think you'll be fine now, but mind you, you still need to take it easy fer a bit." She said wagging a finger at him.
Molly looked over her shoulder at Ana sleeping near the wall. "She, of course, wouldn't leave your side for even a minute. Only got some sleep once she was sure you were out of danger."
His gaze and his thoughts still fixed on Ana, he didn't entirely comprehend what Molly had said. He tilted his head back and looked at the young woman in confusion. Had she just said . . . ?
With a gentle shake of his head in an effort to focus more fully on their conversation, Jack looked questioningly at Molly. "Gabriel? Who. . . ?"
"I.. I mean…," Molly blushed furiously and she bowed her head slightly before continuing, "Dr. Walker."
"The young physician. Here. . ?" Jack quirked a single brow in surprise. "When. . .?"
"'Bout three days ago, he and Elizabeth, they showed up here together. Good thing too. Gibbs didn't trust that Tortuga doctor much. Him and Will argued to the point that I was beginnin' t' think they'd cross blades over it. They were just worried. We all were, seein' how none of us really knew what to do."
"Ah, I seem to vaguely recall something about Gibbs and Will arguing." Jack said, searching somewhere internally for the fuzzy memory. "It's grateful that I am to 'im for it. Can't trust any so-called 'doctor' in Tortuga. To do a stitch, or two, maybe, but the rest . . .? Most of 'em still use leeches." Jack finished with a slight shudder for effect, and Molly paled.
His eyes traveled back to settle on Anamaria as silence filled the room.
"Well," Molly spoke loudly, suddenly breaking the quiet. Jack slid a surprised look her direction as she rose and made for the door. "I'll just go let Gabriel know you're awake. He'll want t' be checking ya over I'm sure." The pirate pursed his lips together and turned longing eyes back to Anamaria. "However, I might convince him t' wait fer a bit," Molly finished with a grin and a slow wink.
His gaze intent on Anamaria, Jack barely registered Molly's last words until the door clicked shut. Once again, he was alone with . . . He smiled.
Exhaling deeply, Jack rose to his feet. He wavered momentarily as a small wave of dizziness tilted the room. Blinking several times to clear his head, he took a cautious step toward his intended destination. Strength returned with each stride that drew him closer, until he stood above her. Kneeling down, he reached out tenderly and pushed an errant strand of dark hair behind her ear. Anamaria didn't stir.
He noticed the fresh bandage on her shoulder and remembered painfully. Granger had shot her, on his ship, just before he'd fled. Grimacing at the memories, he remembered going to her, holding her as Will and Molly tried to stem the flow of blood. He inspected it closely and noticed it was properly bandaged. Relief flooded through him at the lack of fresh bloodstains showing through the white cloth. That was obviously Gabriel's work and he had much to thank the young physician for.
Peering intently into her angelic face, he wondered at how innocent she seemed, lost in slumber, rest softening the dark circles beneath her eyes. She looked exhausted. A passing ghost of remorse flitted through his mind. With utter determination, he vowed he'd return the favor. It was now his turn to watch over her, to take care of her. His resolve redefined his strength and he decided that it would begin now.
Bending, he gently scooped her up into his arms. She stirred mildly and mumbled under her breath. Jack stilled, waiting for her to succumb again to a deeper sleep. Once she quieted, he turned carefully and began to make his way back to his bed, walking slowly as to not jostle her. The pressure of her body against his skin stung the knife cuts on his chest and abdomen, but he didn't care. Feeling her strong, lean body in his arms sent a thrill spiraling through him. Jack was so enraptured in the feel of her, so intent on taking care of her, that he didn't notice her eyes as they suddenly flew open mid-way to the bed.
"Wha… what… what are you doing? Who!?" Her eyes flashed wide in surprise as she looked at him. "Jack! Jack, put me down ya fool. You shouldn't be up, you'll only hurt yourself." She began to squirm in his arms, trying to maneuver her feet back onto the deck, but Jack would have none of it. He held her close to him, even as she flailed.
Accidentally, one of her wheeling hands came into sharp contact with the bandages on his back. Jack sucked in a hissing breath, slamming his eyes shut and stopping cold. Ana winced when she realized what she'd done and ceased her struggles.
When the pain had subsided enough, he groaned. Taking a deep breath, he cocked one eye open and glared benignly at her. "You know," he said quietly, "this would go a lot easier if you didn't struggle. Ya see, then I could get you to that bed without tearin' m'self open again. Savvy?"
Barely moving, Ana nodded. Jack could have sworn that he heard her mutter "daft fool" softly under her breath and he grinned.
The wood creaked as Jack pressed one knee into the mattress and laid her tenderly on the bed. Though his movements were obviously stiff and rigid and his jaw was clenched against the pain, the look he gave her was fond, imbued with all the affection he held for her. He knew the moment she recognized it, whatever glib comment she had in mind dying on her lips. With a labored grunt, he turned and sat down beside her.
"Are ye a'right, Jack?" she asked propping herself up on her elbows to study him.
"I'm fine, now, love. You sleep, and let me watch over you for a change, eh?"
"You're always watching over me, Jack." she smirked at him. "'Sides, I'm not the one who spent the last five days feverish from loss 'o blood."
"True, so have some sympathy and don't argue with me. Let me watch you for once." Jack replied reaching for the chair next to the bed. Carefully, he moved it closer and lowered himself until he was sitting forward on it. He was careful to sit no further back than the edge of the chair; ridged and upright.
"Uh-huh, you look real comfortable there, Jack," she said skeptically.
"I am," he lied. "It's a good strong chair, well made. Picked it off a Spanish merchant ship, I believe." He favored her with a crooked smirk.
"This is ridiculous," she said, rolling her eyes, "Get over here and let me check your back."
"No," he stated simply.
"Don't be a stubborn ass. Anyone with half a brain can see you're not a'right, now--" She began to get up.
"STOP!" he yelled and Anamaria froze, "right there, missy." Jack moved from the chair back to sit on the edge of the bed. His voice softened, "I'm fine, luv, I rested enough to last me a very, very long time."
"Now," he continued with as much authority as he could muster, "as your Captain, do as I say, 'else I'll keelhaul your lovely arse. And that'd be true pity. It being such a lovely arse and all," he said as his eyes traveled her body.
"Jack," she said in warning.
He held up a hand. "Now, I think it's time for you to stop asking me if I'm all right, and start letting me take care of you for a change. Savvy?" Without thinking, his hand drifted down to her shoulder and hovered over the bandages there. "You need your rest too, luv," he said, and then quirked up the corner of his mouth into a wily smile. "And, STOP asking me if I'm all right."
"Damn it, Jack, I can't help it. I—"
He leaned in to silence her again, only this time with his lips. Startled, Ana hesitated a moment, before melting into his arms. Jack pressed his body along the length of her, his heart surging as he felt her once-tense muscles liquefy. He leaned into her, and she retreated, coaxing him farther onto the bed to hover over her, until her back finally met the soft firmness of the mattress. Her arms snaked up around his neck to pull him closer, and Jack froze. His eyes flew open and a whimper of pain escaped him while their lips were still joined, his every muscle tensed.
Ana's eyes opened in dismay as she realized what she'd done, yet again. "Oh God, I hurt you. I'm sorry, are you--."
He clamped a hand on her mouth and glared. "Don't," he warned. Seeming to understand, Anamaria nodded. Slowly he lowered his hand. . .
"All right," she said quickly.
Jack leaned back and quirked an eyebrow at her apparent disobedience. Still pressed against her on his stomach, his obsidian eyes squinted in a pathetic attempt to scowl in disapproval.
"I meant, 'all right' as in, I'll stop asking that question." She rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"Oh, oh good," he replied airily. "Now, I get to ask you if you're a'right," he said nodding to her bandaged shoulder.
"Why is it that you get to ask me, but I don't get to ask you?"
A wide grin settled over his face, "Captain, luv."
"Rest, Captain," she said rolling of her eyes, "so I can rest too." Drawing him down, careful to touch only his arms, he laid his head in the crook of her shoulder.
A contented silence permeated the room. All either of them could hear was the gentle creaking of the hull as the undulating waves rolled under the Pearl, making her ride gently up and down. Though Jack's head was pillowed on Ana's uninjured shoulder, he was far from asleep. His mind churned in thought until he could stand it no longer. He'd nearly gotten her killed . . . maybe it was time . . . it'd be for the best . . .
"Ana?" he asked, his head remaining atop her shoulder. "I still owe you a ship you know. Any thoughts on when you might be wantin' t' collect?" Feeling her body tense he knew he'd struck a nerve. Lifting his head, his eyes locked with her confused ones.
She stared quietly at him before cradling his face in her hands. Rising, she kissed him lightly on the nose, before peppering more of the same all over his face. Trailing still more of the same down his neck, she finished by placing a tender kiss near his ear. Breathlessly, she pulled back and stared at him.
"I'm not sure I deserved that," he said, dragging his eyes open to gaze heatedly at her
"Now that I've got yer attention, listen to me, ya daft pirate, and listen good. First, I'll not be leaving the Pearl. Not as long as you're here. 'An second, it'll be a cold day in hell before I leave you, Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?" She punctuated the last by returning to where she'd left off… laying a line of kisses down his neck. Jack swallowed dryly as a knot of pleasure rippled down his spine.
"Ever stop t' think," he said, struggling to maintain some train of thought, "you'd be better off? With your own ship, as captain?" The kisses stopped. That wasn't really what he'd intended, but at least she was listening.
"Me better off?" Pulling back she met his gaze. "You know, I'm beginin' t' wonder if it's you wantin' me to leave because you'd be better off."
"What! No!" he slurred in surprise at how she'd twisted his meaning. "That's not what I—"
"But I've nearly gotten you killed twice, Jack. Nay, thrice." Ana scooted away from him on the bed, putting physical distance between them, to match the emotional distance she conveyed. "Once on Granger's ship when he used his knives on ya. Again, when you thought he'd killed me on his ship. Ya took a blade in the leg for my sake. And then, on The Pearl when he… oh certes, what he did to yer back…" Tears began pooling in the female pirate's eyes.
'S not true, luv." Jack said grasping her arms, but being careful not to disturb her injury, "I'm the one who nearly got you killed. I don't want ya to ever leave me but--."
A slender finger against his lips halted his reply. Leaning in, she slid her hand down and quickly slipped her lips in its place. Her tender kiss lingered momentarily on his, then trailed down his neck.
"Well then," she said, stopping to meet his eyes. A sly smile lighted her face, "it's settled. I want to stay; you don't want me to go, so I think it's about time you stop asking me that question, savvy?"
He glowered at having his own words thrown back at him. It rendered him utterly speechless. Well, for a half a minute at least. Which is far longer than anyone could ever hope to render Captain Jack Sparrow in any way, shape, or form, speechless.
"You can't say—"
"But I did."
"Wench," he spat, doing his best to glare. It failed miserably.
"Scallywag," she parried, attempting to return his scowl and failing just as miserably.
"Hell-cat." He leaned in to her, challenging.
"Mangy sea dog."
"Mangy?" Jack leaned back donning his best affronted look. "That's a wee bit below the belt, don' cha think, luv?"
"Nah," Ana grinned slowly. "I can think of more pleasurable things we could do below the belt."
"Really? That's. . . interesting."
"Aye. That's very interesting."
"My belt or yours?"
"You come back down here, Jack Sparrow, and I'll show ye who's belt I'm talking 'bout," she purred.
Jack started leaning into her and her arms rose to enfold him, but before she touched him, he stilled, leaving her arms to halt empty in mid-air.
"Be gentle with me, luv," he murmured.
"We'll see." She grinned and she pulled him down the rest of the way and their lips met. Another second, and Jack pulled back abruptly.
"Did I hurt you?" Ana asked, concern and confusion etching her face.
"I just want to be sure this is what you want. When this is all done, when I wake up, you'll still be here, right?"
Ana grinned, "Jack, the only possible way ye can get me off 'n this ship is t' throw me overboard into the deepest part of the ocean. Even then, I'd change into a fish and come swimmin' back to find ye."
"A fish?" Jack said as his mind's eye caught hold of a picture. "Nay, not a fish, too tame for the likes of ye. I'm thinking a shark's more likely."
"Aye," she agreed, pulling him back down slowly, "and when I catch up with ye, I'm a'gonna bite 'cha."
His grin spread to a wide smile. "Hmm . . . that's an idea that just might merit further—"
Ana silenced him, pulling him down for another tender kiss. "My pirate," she whispered softly between gentle kisses.
"I found my pirate. Now, you go get yours."
The words echoed in Jack's subconscious and he broke the kiss, pulling away suddenly as if he'd just been doused in a bucket of freezing cold sea water.
"Jack? What is it this time?" She sounded so exasperated.
Looking down at her, he asked, "What did you just say? 'My pirate'?"
"Aye," she offered almost shyly.
"Huh." Nodding slowly, Jack continued to think, searching his memory furiously. "Sounded. . . familiar."
Anamaria pulled him back into her embrace, "Did any one ever tell you that you think and talk too much Sparrow?"
"Well, as a matter of fact--"
Placing her hand over his mouth, she said, "Jack, that was a rhetorical question."
"Oh," he intoned. Lowering his head to claim her lips.
They continued their discussion well into the coming days. Secluded in Jack's cabin, they needed neither words for conversation nor intellect for interpretation. Mostly they rested, then they ate, but when they spoke, they spoke words that would have been understood in any language, words that came in the form of a sigh or a smile, a touch, or a long look.... A smoldering glance that held a world of passion: a spark that ignited the soul.
In the end, they had each found their pirate.
That's it. The end. I've got some researching to do before I can jump into another story. My muse, for now, is content to work on another co-authored PWP fic with Rat. Hope you'll all be reading it soon. We post our co-author stories under the pen name Ichamoo, and we are in the process of plotting out another Jack & Ana story as I type. I giggled at the office as they thoughts swirled between us on the IM.
I still have a couple of chapters to post to Shelter in the Storm, but give me a week or two. I'm in desperate need of some time to catch up on all my reading and researching. I really want to pick through my Reviews and find which of you have PotC stories on FF.net. If you do, I'll be reading and reviewing very soon. Bank on that.
Now, as to the thanks. . .
First and foremost, to Rat, yes, you, you goof. I'd not have ventured to write this, or anything at all, without your pushing, shoving, harassing, bedraggling, Your original story, Best Intentions, as well as, all your other works, are bloody brilliant! You inspired me. You made me think could, you made me have to try, mostly, you made me glad I did. Thanks, mate. You are a true friend and I'm so very blessed to have met you
Yakkorat; In Rat's occasional absence, you offered some invaluable beta assistance, more than I could have hoped for. But most of all, you've become a trusted, highly respected friend. Thanks for being there and PLEASE, let's get your 3rd chapter UP!!! Such a wonderful story. I'll beta for you any time, any place, anywhere. Let's get rolling on your One-shot!
Ahi-Flame: Amber and Nikki- gads, you girls really kicked my butt to keep each chapter moving and keep up the posting. Believe me, I really needed it for these last four chapters, as my interest started to die. You did so with all the best intentions and I'm grateful for it. Your stories, and hear me good lass's, are really good, never, EVER deny that.
NOW SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST! REVIEWER'S!!!
KUDO'S TO YOU ALL!!! You've all been incredibly wonderful and generous to a first time author/writer. I absolutely can NOT thank you all enough. Honestly. It's now *grimaces* 1:30 a.m. and my brain is utterly cramped. Going now.. But.. CRIPES!!! You gals have given me the desire to try another story.. Maybe an original multi-chapter fic spawned from my own dorky mind. EEP.. BE AFRAID!! BE VERY AFRAID!!!