Disclaimer: Jack and other wonders are not mine. sigh


Foreword: This is the sequel to my first PotC fanfic, Honest and Dishonest Men. Or, more accurately, that story serves as a prelude to this one. To any newcomers to my writing, I suggest you read HaDM before this one, as a matter of good logic, so everything herein will make sense. To my faithful readers, welcome back into my imagination, and this one's for you guys.
Significance


Chapter 1: Blades- Swords, Ben, and Flag

"Tell me, do ye always try to seduce your opponents?"

The metallic clang of metal blade striking metal blade rang out in the wide room the crew of the Pearl used as a gymnasium.

"Only when my opponent is already staring down my shirt," Gwen replied, grinning.

Jack sidestepped, and she circled with him reflexively. She still had to put more thought into the dance of her short-sword, though. He effortlessly blocked her thrust, using his sword to push her blade low and out in an easy sweeping motion that was merely a continuation of his original parry. In the next split second, before she could recover from the move and raise her sword in defense again, he'd lifted his own blade to her chin. With his sword pointing straight at her neck, the sharp tip really only a mere inch from piercing the skin, the flat of the blade against her chin causing her to lift her face upward, towards him-- he grinned rakishly at her.

"Actually, luv," he said, slowly and purposefully sliding his gaze down her face and neck and to her breasts, "now I'm staring."

Gwen didn't comment. Using his self-distraction as a ploy to her own advantage, though, she took a half-step back, whipping her weapon around in a controlled loop, smacking his blade away.

"Strumpet," Jack said with a scowl as he easily blocked the deceptive attack she launched at him then.

"You're only upset because you can't distract your opponents with your chest."

But Gwen's gloat turned to a frown when Jack nearly broke through her defenses. She had executed the correct parry, but the blow had struck too high on her own blade, outside the defensive zone near the hilt. She had to retreat a step or two to compensate for the fumbled parry.

Jack grinned lewdly at her, graciously overlooking her faltering blade and instead replying to her tease.

"Well," he said with a smirk, "I could try taking off me shirt."

Gwen clamped down on the humorous mental image of a merchant captain oohing and aahing at a bare-chested Jack. Not bloody likely.

Parry. And then, Jack usually went for a lowing, arcing offense after that particular attack. Yes, just like that- Parry. Feint and sidestep. A quick slice to thrust his blade out before he could launch another offense.

"Maybe jiggle a little?" Jack went on.

Gwen's brow furrowed in determination. Determination because Jack's assaults were becoming more complicated and harder to predict and react to. And determination to not smile at the images he was purposely conjuring up to make her laugh and lose concentration.

Meet his blow, step forward, thrust, block- and her sword slid from her clammy grip. Well, there was nothing for it but to get it back or admit defeat. So she dove after it.

Ithad beenthat same parry she couldn't seem to get right. She could recognize the attack and execute the correct defense well enough in a learning scenario. But in a testing atmosphere, like now, things were more unpredictable and moved much more quickly, and she could never seem to react fast enough. She had caught the blow on the offensive rather than defensive edge of her blade, lostsway over the forces controlling it, and accidentally allowed it to slip from her hand.

She snatched her sword up and was on her feet again in half a moment, ready to continue sparring. What she wasn't prepared for, though, was her opponent.

Jack had stripped out of his shirt while she was preoccupied with retrieving her weapon. Rather than tease, though, he commented clinically, "The same parry."

Gwen nodded, trying not to let her gaze roam over the familiar scars and tattoos marring the skin of his chest and arms.

"Surely even you had some difficulties mastering some of your skills," Gwen said, crossing blades with him again.

"Actually," Jack replied, in a suggestively low, husky voice that was at odds with her serious comment, "I've always known exactly what to do with my sword."

As he spoke he blocked her attacks easily. She paused for half a moment to consider the seductive tone to his voice. It was clear he wasn't talking about his skills with a blade.

Jack took advantage of her momentary hesitation and wiggled his shoulders, grinning carnally as her eyes were drawn inexplicably to the flexing muscles across his bare torso.

The distraction worked. A clean flip of the blade, a deft motion or two, and she stood disarmed, glaring at him, while he smirked down at her, holding both weapons.

"Told ye it would work," Jack said, offering another shimmy to prove his point.

"Try it on Norrington," she said drily.

"Now there's an idea! How long since we've been in Port Royal, anyway?" He grinned impishly.

"Nearly seven months. There's a third Turner by now, I'd wager," Gwen replied.

"Ah, yes. Well." Jack looked thoughtful for a moment.

Then his demeanor changed back to a more casual one and he went back to the subject at hand.

"Your opponent will always try to distract you. There are no rules in that regard."

Gwen merely nodded in agreement, visibly relaxing out of her alert battle-mode. Stepping closer to him, she observed, "Especially not when dealing with pirates." She ran her hands over his bare chest. Without another word, she tilted her head upward, and he automatically bent to meet her lips.

She soon broke away from the kiss, trailing lips and tongue along his scruffy jaw and to his neck, then on down to flick teasingly over his flat male nipples. She slowly lowered herself to a kneel as she moved down over his stomach. Jack's libido was apparently already taking interesting in her actions, she noticed, once at eye-level with his groin. Her hands at his hips, pulling him gently toward her, she breathed warm air over the bulge in his trousers. Her fingertips slid under his sash at his waist. Gwen smiled to herself as she felt him relax under her ministrations.

Then, in a quick second, she sprang to her feet and snatched both swords from his loosening grip. She flipped the blades around quickly and easily, crossing their honed edges at his throat.

Jack frowned at her. "Bloody pirate."

She merely grinned up at him. "You are too."

"Ah, but you forget, luv," Jack said broadly, casually reaching up to pinch the swords right in the center of the steel blades, away from the cutting edges. With a surprisingly strong grip even with the awkward way he had grabbed the swords, he wrenched them away from her, and Gwen suddenly found herself his hostage. He slung one sword away, far out of reach. Her arms were held easily behind her back and her body crushed close against his with one of his arms. With his other hand he held the remaining sword against her throat as he grinned down at her.

"I'm not just any pirate," Jack said then after executing these maneuvers in a flash, "I'm-"

"You're Captain Jack Sparrow," Gwen finished for him, smiling in spite of herself as she felt hisarousal pressing into her stomach. "Good for you," she added patronizingly.

Then, grinning maliciously, she bent her knee and lifted it between his legs. Jack released his breath in a short huff of surprise at the contact and the demonstration of how easily she could knee him from this stance.

"Now we can do this the hard way," Gwen said, "or you can just admit I win. Savvy?"

"Woman," Jack spat grumpily through gritted teeth. But he turned her loose, sheathing his sword as well, not willing to risk all right now for the sake of his groin and too distracted to think of a counter-attack or defense. Blast it all! He was still used to fighting men, wasn't used to having to worry about such weaknesses. Sparring with a man- well, men knew, friend or foe, that that sort of threat just wasn't supposed to be made. It was downright unethical! Why couldn't women understand that? Do it the hard way indeed!

Gwen regathered her sword and her light skirt (which she'd shed since it would have gotten in the way and since she was wearing trousers underneath it anyway). Time to go get some lunch, perhaps play cards with the boys later. She picked up Jack's discarded shirt and his hat as well to hand back to him. Then she noticed the look on his face.

"Oh, come on, Jack," she said. "So I broke your little 'no-threats-against-the-manhood' rule. I'll make it up to you."

He brightened. "Can we do that the hard way?"


"Ben?" Gwen raised her eyebrows in a question.

Ben Blades worried with his beard, then nodded. He pulled two cards out of his hand and tossed them into the discard pile. Gwen fervently hoped- and concentrated on that hope as she dealt- that Ben's two new cards would be good ones.

For herself, she stayed contentedly at her two pair- of Twos and Fives- and the spare Nine. She was pleased, then, as the betting progressed around the table, to see Ben raise the pot by a considerable amount.

"I fold," she said resignedly, though not very disappointedly, at her turn, slapping her cards face-down onto the table and leaning back in her chair. She watched distractedly as other players folded, leaving Tunnel and John against Ben with the final bets. Ben's royal flush beat the other men's respective full house and straight flush. He was just sliding the money in the center of the table into his own pile when a call came ringing down from above decks, interrupting the gaming table and momentarily shaking Gwen from her reverie.

"All hands on deck!"

Tunnel automatically pulled out the pre-game tally and quickly sorted the coins on the table back into piles for their respective owners. Gwen barely glanced at the stack set before her, trusting that she would leave the table with the same amount that she'd come to it with. No real gambling among crewmates, for it could damage the smooth way the entire crew worked together. But as long as no one really lost any money to another, though, envy and grudges were avoided. Gwen pocketed her silver and gold and hurried out of the galley, heading above decks along with the others.

Her mind preoccupied, she drifted down the corridor toward the stairs automatically.

Her luck at card games had shifted in the pastseveral months. She had gone from unnatural-winning-streak to just somewhat-better-than-average fortune. The men had noticed this, of course, but weren't particularly intrigued by it. Who could guess the whims of Lady Luck, anyway?

But Gwen had realized something. It was true, she lost games more frequently these days. But the winners then frequently tended to be the souls she was feeling particularly friendly toward, for whatever favors or what-have-you they had done recently. While it didn't necessarily always mean herself, often, the winning hands were held by the people she most wanted to have them.

She had first really become aware of the pattern shortly after she had taken that fall from the rigging four months back. Serge had quickly splinted her broken forearm and patched up her other minor injuries. Gwen had been impressed by how the man worried about his patient until she had healed. Conspicuously- though no one else seemed to note any correlation between her injury and his winning streak- Serge had enjoyed peculiar success at the card-tables during those weeks.

Since then, Gwen had been experimenting. She had discovered that when she truly wanted a particular crewman to win, he usually did. And the more she came to believe she was capable of the ability, the greater the wins of her subjects. It seemed that how greatly she was prejudiced towards a particular player affected the outcome as well. For instance, even without her careful concentration, the few times that Jack ever joined in for a few hands, he always won outright.

But now was no time for this. Gwen shoved those thoughts aside as she stepped onto the main deck of the Pearl.

It didn't take long to discover the cause of all the excitement. A league or two out was another ship. Prey. The crew wereimpatientin anticipation of the pleasures of looting.

Of course, there always the chance, however slim, that they wouldn't label it as suitable prey, that they wouldn't bother with putting the Pearl into its paces to catch the ship. It was up to Jack to make that call. But the crew buzzed excitedly with speculations on the cargo and equipage of the vessel.

What the crew only guessed at, Jack sought solid answers to (or at least high-level educated estimation) from where he stood at the helm. He was standing nearly motionless, one hand on the wheel, peering out at the ship, studying it.

The vessel was double-masted, not quite a match for the Black Pearl in size. Its smaller size and its many sails clearly gave it respectable speed, though Jack had full faith that his ship was still faster. The ship flew Dutch colors and gave off the impression that it was a merchant vehicle. But it was riding lower in the water than he would have expected it to. Not dangerously low, but there was still more of the hull underwater than seemed natural. Merchants tended to balance their desires of transporting more goods for profits and of keepingwithin a safe payload.This ship, though,was obviously very heavily laden, nearly past the point of good sense. Judging by its bearing, and the simple location of this point, decently far from any port worth mentioning, it wasn't likely that the ship was running that heavily stocked on provisions. No matter where the ship started from, chances were high that their food stocks had been mostly consumed by now. Which meant it was either carrying a bounty of valuable cargo- gold, perhaps slaves, tea, etc.- or it was running heavily armed. Or both. Hmm... He squinted, focused completely on the ship, trying to discern something, anything about it before he made his decision.

They were within a league of the ship now. The crew waited anxiously as they drew nearer and nearer to the potential prey. All were eager, excited, waiting for the inevitable orders to be given.

Attack.

"Not today, ye dogs!"

Confused, disappointed faces turned toward the captain. Hands shied away from the ropes they'd been toying with, swords whose blades had been under careful inspection sagged to the ground.

Jack merely grinned at them all and barked out a command. "Run up the Roger!"

The Black Pearl's familiar old Jolly Roger was brought forth willingly and readily. But that banner meant "Beware, for we are about to attack." And Jack had just said, "Not today."

Jack didn't seem to notice the baffled expressions on the faces of his crew. He nodded toward the Dutch vessel. The crew turned, as one, to watch.

A moment or two after the Pearl's Roger rose among the black sails, the Dutch flag atop the second ship wavered. Then those false colors sank down and a new banner was run up: a black flag bearing a skull, a sword, and a raven.

Enlightenment dawned on many crewmembers as they recognized the flag, and belatedly, the ship as well.

Gwen glanced around at the crew surrounding her. Obviously, it was a pirate ship that most everyone but herself knew. "Who is it?" she finally asked.

Gibbs, standing near her, obligingly answered, "Anamaria."