The Spittin' Image

By Mojave Dragonfly

Rating PG

These characters and situations are owned by Disney. I get no money from this, only joy.

We burn up the city, we're really a fright.

Drink up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

"Sail ho!" called a lookout from the fort wall. Will Turner, blacksmith, looked up from the work he was doing at the dock. His heart beat faster as he waited to hear if the lookout recognized the ship. "Deadly Earnest!" the lookout called, and all work on the docks ceased.

H.M.S. Deadly Earnest had sailed in support of George Town, five days before, after an appeal for help had arrived from that British settlement in the nearby Caymans. They were under attack by pirates. Such appeals always came too late for real assistance, but Commodore Norrington had dispatched his fastest warship in the hope of intercepting the departing raiders or bringing aid to the survivors. As Will watched the ship approach, word spread, and soon there was a crowd at the docks, eager for news.

As the ship hove to, a murmur rippled through the crowd. The deck of the Deadly Earnest was crowded with civilians. Even women and children were at her rails, looking bleakly down at the Jamaican port.

Captain Gillette and a detachment of soldiers disembarked, and headed briskly for the fort, answering no questions, so the crowd began to yell to the passengers.

"What news?! What word?!"

A grey-bearded man called back. "Pirates! We were sacked! George Town is no more. They burned everything to the ground."

The crowd on the dock gasped in horror, and a few young boys separated from the group and ran back into town, carrying the news.

A child on deck began to wail and a woman begged the graybeard to say no more, as more children joined the crying.

"They slaughtered everyone! Pirates!" the man called, ignoring the effect his words were having. "We have forty-five orphans and sixty widows. If anyone else lives, I don't know it!"

Now a wail from the dock joined the keening on deck. People began hurling names at the man. "Mary Martin! Can you tell me her fate? Have you any news of my sister?"

Will forced his way forward, and leaped a rope fence, earning a scowl from a dockhand.

"Who were the pirates?" he called, raising his voice above the din. "Tell me, man. Who did this?"

"The Black Pearl!" came the answer Will had been dreading. Others with the man nodded in agreement. "It was the Black Pearl!"

II

His heart aching, Will sorely needed Elizabeth. He hurried back along the cobblestone streets, not returning to the smithy, but to the cottage he shared with his new wife, just adjacent to the Governor's property. He met her as she barreled out the front door.

"Will!" she cried, reaching for him like a drowning man reaches for a rope - exactly how he felt as he reached for her. "I can't believe it. Have you been to the wharf?"

Will parted reluctantly from her, but still held her arms. "It's true," he said. "The Black Pearl, again."

"And they slaughtered the town?"

Setting his jaw squarely against the pain that welled in him, he said, "It's what pirates do."

"It doesn't have to be," she said. "Did they resist? If they don't fight back, and give over their treasures . . ."

Will was too appalled to spare her. There could be no excuses. "They didn't resist. They fled for their lives. They begged for their lives; for the lives of their families. The sick and the children took refuge in the church. The pirates barred the doors and burnt it down with living souls in the sanctuary."

"No!" Elizabeth covered her mouth with her hands. "It's not possible!"

Will took her in his arms again, relieved to have the excuse. But even his wife's embrace gave him no comfort from his guilt. "And I'm the one who set him free," he said.

Elizabeth looked up, searching his face. "You believe it was Jack," she said.

"It was the Black Pearl," he answered. "Unless he's sold it …"

Elizabeth's expression hardened. "Jack would never give up that ship," she said.

Will agreed, though he wondered why she could be so certain. "And Gibbs wouldn't mutiny," he said softly.

"No," she agreed, and they clung to each other again.

III

Will returned to the smithy, where he had always been able to pound out his frustrations in the punishing strokes of his work. He attacked the iron with a vengeance, trying to keep his imagination away from the destruction of George Town.

Elizabeth's dowry had not only bought the young couple a cottage, across the road from the Governor's mansion, it had also bought out Will's indenture to John Brown. Will was fond of the old drunk, and hadn't cared to go into competition with him, so now they were partners. It didn't mean Will had any less work to do, but he could keep what he earned and he had more freedom.

Light from the door caught Will's attention and he looked up to see Elizabeth standing just inside the shop. She had paused on the threshold, in deference to his wishes; he feared to have her inside a place with so many things that could injure her. He put down his tools and went to her. She wore an expression he couldn't identify.

"Father will put up some shelters on the mansion grounds," she said.

"Can't they stay in people's homes?"

"Commodore Norrington thinks there will be more. The Black Pearl has been raiding all over the Caribbean and half the fleet is out looking for her." She looked at him steadily, her eyes bright in the filtered light of the shop.

Will took her hand, and spoke slowly, searching for the words. "Elizabeth, when I realized that I couldn't let them hang Jack - whatever the cost to myself, I had to try to rescue him - I thought I was throwing everything away. I thought I was losing you, that I might be hanged, that I would certainly lose my good name, my hope . . . and it didn't matter. I had to save him, or hate myself forever."

She nodded, but stayed uncharacteristically silent, studying his face.

"But I gained everything. His life, my pardon, and my heart's true love. It all seemed so right."

"I know," she said.

"And now, I feel like such a fool. I'd do anything to change what I did. But there's nothing I can do."

Elizabeth put out her hand and put a finger to his lips. The brightness of her eyes dimmed as she blinked back tears. "Will, Norrington is sending the Deadly Earnest to join the hunt for the Black Pearl. He wants to offer you a place on the crew."

Will gasped, as hope flooded into him. "Me? I'm not a sailor or a soldier."

"He says you learned the ropes from Jack himself, and you might be able to predict him." She seized his hands in her own. "I think he also knows you'll feel the way you do. Will, he'll use your friendship with Jack."

Will understood the warning in her words, but it didn't deter him. He raised her hands to his lips. "Elizabeth, I must away."

She nodded. "I wish I could go with you," she said.