He's still not mine – Shay is though! ;)
This is the final chapter of (for me) a very short story. I won't pull the same trick as before because I know you all know me too well… the adventure continues in Of Revenge and Shattered Dreams. Many thanks to everyone for reviewing this story, it really does help spur me on.
Pendragginink, your review had me rolling on the floor! :D
Chapter twelve: 'I go ter th'other side of th'world for ya, luv.'
'Ireland!' Shay Connelly grinned from ear to ear as he faced his new found friend over the table in the bar, raising his mug in salute. 'Ye don't mind if I tag along now, do ye?'
'Why not?' replied Jack dryly. 'You've tagged along everywhere else,' he teased. 'I want ya ter go down t'the docks and find out any ships that are goin' ter Cork or Dublin, yesterday, savvy?'
'Aye aye Captain.' The younger man downed his ale and stood, shaking his friend by the hand. 'I'll see if I can find me own fare while I'm out.'
'Yeah well, don't get caught, eh?'
'Ah Jack, I didn't know ye cared,' he quipped, dashing from the inn as the pirate stood and jokingly threatened him. Jack finished off his slightly bitter ale then made his way back up to the room where Jenny was just finishing dressing. She jumped with fright as he entered without knocking.
'Sorry luv, I never thought. Shay's gone ter find out about passage ter Ireland an' hopefully we should be out o'London soon. Right,' he grinned lasciviously, 'How d'we fill th'time until Shay gets back…?'
'Jack! I've only just dressed.'
'Well ya'll just have ter get undressed again, won't ya?' he laughed, lunging for her and helping her out of the dress once more before undressing himself even quicker. He picked her up and kissed her passionately as she held on to him, grinding her hips against his. 'I luv ya Jen,' he whispered, becoming serious for a moment.
'I love you, more than I realised possible,' she murmured, losing herself to his kisses and body once more.
'Jack! Ah Jaysus, sorry mate,' Shay apologised as he burst into the room and came upon two naked forms wrapped around each other.
'Sod off Shay,' muttered Jack under his breath, reluctant to break the moment with Jenny.
'Sorry Jack, but th'authorities are askin' everyone on th'street about Crompton an' Jenny. They're even searchin' the local hostelries…'
'Bugger!' Jack exploded, leaping off the bed and throwing the coverlet over Jenny to preserve her dignity.
'What are we going to do,' she asked fearfully, looking from one man to the other.
Jack thought for a moment then grabbed his bag and pulled the change of clothes he had in it and handed them to her. 'Ya can do th'mute routine like yer did in Tortuga, savvy? Should get away wi'it in this light. Shay, out!' He shoved the Irishman back out of the room and dressed as quickly as he had shed his clothes then grabbed a piece of rag and rolled it up, pushing it down the front of the breeches Jenny had put on, making a realistic bulge and gave her his coat to put on, to cover her curves and the fact that the shirt was too big for her. The both looked at each other in alarm as the sound of voices came from downstairs followed by feet thumping up them, towards their room. Jack grabbed his wide brimmed hat, gathered her hair up in it and pushed it down, partially covering her face as someone pounded on the door.
He pulled the door open, his face a picture of innocent surprise as three men stood before him, sending silent thanks that Boothe and Hall were not amongst them. 'Can I help you?'
'There was a murder in the vicinity last night and we are looking for the perpetrator. A woman, the wife of the man who was killed.'
'Well gentlemen,' Jack replied, sweeping his arm across the room. 'As ya can see, no women here.'
One of the men pushed past him and looked behind the door and under the bed, giving Jenny a suspicious glance as he past her. 'Who are you,' he enquired, peering under her hat.
'Ah. That's me cousin, he's a mute. Has been since he were born.'
Jenny grimaced at the man which some might have taken for a smile and played with the dagger that was in the coat pocket, ready to use it if necessary.
'What's yer business here?' the first man asked, looking at Jack.
'None of yours,' came the answer, delivered with a charming smile.
'C'mon Sam, we're wastin' time.'
The men left them in peace with a last guarded glance at Jenny and shut the door behind them, making their way to the other rooms.
'Shh,' warned Jack. 'No talkin' yet, savvy?'
Jenny nodded, still on edge, only relaxing as the voices receded and Shay's brogue came from outside the door.
'Can I come in now?'
'Aye mate,' Jack opened the door to admit the younger man and glanced along the landing, making sure none of the men had stayed behind.
'There's a ship sailin' fer Dublin at… now what did he say? Ah yes, eight bells. I booked us on it'
'Eight bells!' Jack heard the distant ringing of a ship's bell, counting six rings and pulled a face, for it only gave them an hour to get some food and a man's coat for Jenny then to dodge whoever might be about and get to the docks. 'We'd better be off then. Keep th'coat on luv, ya need it more than I do. We'll see if we can get ya another one before we sail, no use ya wearin' a ladies coat now, is there?' Jenny went to answer but found Jack's finger pressed against her lips, so she nodded, kissing the tip of his finger before he pulled it away.
The trio left the tavern after settling their debts under the intense scrutiny of the landlord and made their way to a nearby marketplace, hoping to pick up what they wanted there.
'Jack,' Shay hissed. 'We've got a shadow.'
'I know mate, just act normal. Fer gawds sake Jen, don't utter a peep, savvy?' They strolled nonchalantly along, picking up a thick coat and some hot potatoes, cooked over a brazier, some of which they ate whilst making their way to the docks, still with their shadow.
'D'ya know th'captain's name?' Jack enquired as they reached the dock and spied The Bonny Lass at anchor.
'Ah no. Sorry, I never thought.'
'We don't go near it, head th'other direction an' see if we can shake 'em. Shay, ya ever killed before?'
'Aye, a couple of times,' he grimaced, not liking to think of himself as a murderer.
'Jen, ya got th'dagger?' She nodded and they walked slowly away from their target, towards some deserted warehouses, hurrying into an open doorway as they reached it. 'Ready?' hissed Jack, his short sword and pistol drawn as they hid behind some storage chests, waiting.
The pursuers carefully entered the building, both with pistols at the ready. Jenny gulped as she recognised Boothe and Hall, realising that they knew who she was. Jack waited until he had a good shot then stood slowly, his pistol aimed at the back of the larger man, Thomas Hall, and squeezed on the trigger, the echo of the shot reverberating around the empty building as the man fell. Shay, from the other side of the door, hurled himself at the remaining man, narrowing missing being shot himself as Boothe fired his pistol too quicky and the shot went wide. He knocked Boothe down to the ground as he landed on him and thrust his dagger into the man's chest, withdrawing it and wiping the blood on the dead man's coat then stood and joined his companions as they quickly left the building, checking first to ensure they hadn't been seen or heard.
Jack spotted The Blue Peter flying from the main mast of The Bonny Lass and they ran hard as they saw the crew start to draw up the gangplank.
'Hey!' called Shay, waving his arms frantically. 'Hey, I've booked passage on here.'
'Well get aboard then, the captain won't wait around much longer.'
They ran up the plank and onto the deck of the merchant ship, shrinking back as shouts came from the vicinity of the warehouse and they moved to the port side, leaning over the side as the ship started to move from the docks.
'The captain is dealin' with passengers in his cabin if yer want ter pay yer dues.'
'Aye, aye of course,' Jack smiled, leading the way to the cabin at the stern. 'Captain John Hillier,' he announced as he knocked on the door, ignoring the curious looks from Jenny and Shay.
Jack opened the door and they entered the cabin which was deserted bar the man sitting at a large solid desk, bending over an accounts book. 'My man, Shay Connelly here, booked us aboard not two hours ago, Captain…?'
'Collins,' came the gruff reply as he continued with his ledger, not even looking up at his guests. 'That'll be two crowns apiece.'
'That's a bit bloody steep ain't it mate?' Jack frowned, not averse to fleecing people, but not liking being fleeced himself.
'Take it or leave it. You can always swim back to shore…'
'Very well,' he sighed, fishing a pouch from an inside pocket of his coat and slapping the coins down on the table. 'When will we get ter Dublin?'
'In three or four days or so, the weather being good, which it rarely is in the middle of January. Anything else?' His brusque tone didn't encourage small talk, so the trio made their excuses and left, grateful to see London docks getting further and further away.
'Where are our quarters?' Jenny enquired of one of the crew of The Bonny Lass, following him as he led the way down to the orlop deck, herself being followed by Jack and Shay.
They surveyed the tiny cabin with dismay. Jenny prodded the hard, straw filled mattress on one of the bunks and grimaced as various insects moved across it.
'I'd sleep on the floor if there was room.' She looked at Jack, smiling ruefully as he hugged her close to him.
'We'll soon be home, eh luv,' he reassured, pressing his lips to her hair. 'Eh, I don't suppose anyone knows what day it is?'
Jenny and Shay looked blankly at each other and shook their heads. 'Why?' the young man asked.
'Th'Pearl will be at Kinsale every Friday, so we'll get passage from Dublin ter Cork then row round ter Kinsale on the next Friday from when we arrive, savvy?'
'Oh God, I can't wait,' Jenny sighed, still not quite believing that she was on her way at last. 'You don't suppose the authorities will come after us will they?'
'I wouldn't have thought so,' came Shay's brogue. 'No-one saw us board th'ship, I checked. An' the crew were expectin' us, so even if th'authorities did stop th'ship, we just say that we were late an' hurryin' fer it.'
'He's right,' agreed Jack, hugging her even tighter. 'Don't worry luv, I'll look after ya, I promise.'
'I know you will, thank you, both of you,' she smiled at the Irishman who winked in return. 'I think I'll stay up on deck as much as possible, cold though it is. I don't want to sit in this dark hole for the next few days.' The men agreed with her and they all made their way back to the deck, enjoying the sight of the Thames estuary getting wider the nearer to the open sea they got. Jack looked on in astonishment as The Heart of Oak sailed by them, going towards the docks, looking slightly more battered and weather worn than when he had first sailed her, over twenty years before. He regaled Jenny and Shay plus the three other passengers with tales of his adventures on board until the galley bell rang for dinner and they followed the crew to the mess.
Jack had spotted Dublin in the growing dusk long before the cry went up and he looked sardonically up at the watchman, thinking there would be no way he would get a berth aboard The Black Pearl, not as watchman anyway.
'Captain Hillier, I understand you are going on to Cork?' The first mate, Geraint Williams, stood beside Jack at the starboard rail, smiling hesitantly.
'Aye, that's right lad.'
'I can point you in the direction of a friend of mine who does regular trips between the two ports. He's only got a small fishin' vessel like, but yer don't need anythin' fancy now, do yer?'
'No, indeed we don't lad, thank you,' he smiled, fetching a shilling from his pocket and pressing into the man's hand, knowing he probably earned more through tips like that than from his actual wages. 'Eh? I don't suppose ya know what day it is? I've lost track o'time.'
'Thank you, Captain,' he grinned in return as he pocketed the money. 'I believe it is Monday today.' He moved away from the rail and went about his duties as he noticed his captain striding along the deck, although he barely glanced at his crewman.
They made Cork just as dawn broke over the town two days later and they stood shivering by the harbour wall, wondering where they could go until the taverns opened.
'Here, ye can stay at my house until everywhere is open,' came the rich baritone voice of Niall Keane, the captain of the fishing boat that had brought them round from Dublin.
'Much obliged ter ya mate,' Jack replied gratefully, taking Jenny's arm and following the Irishman through the backstreets until they came to a small house in a run-down alley.
'It's not much I'm afraid, but it's warm and dry.'
'I'd stay in a cowshed at the moment,' quipped Shay, hugging himself to try and keep warm.
The house was dark, but warm as embers glowed in the fireplace and Niall lit a lamp then fetched some kindling, putting it on the fire and blowing until the wood burst into flame. He placed pieces of coal on it and turned and looked at his wife, Caitlin, as she entered the room, a baby in her arms.
'Ah, Cait, me darlin'. These are some people I brought from Dublin, they're only stayin' until th'inns open.'
She nodded as he kissed her, obviously used to having waifs and strays brought back to her house. 'Where're ye from?' she enquired, addressing Jenny who looked at Jack, who nodded at her.
'We have travelled from London, we're meeting friends nearby.'
'Not the best time o'year ter be travellin' t'be sure.'
'No, indeed it isn't,' Jenny agreed, shivering violently as the warmth from the now blazing fire hit her.
'I'll get ye some food,' she smiled kindly, brightening her careworn face which was framed by a mass of strawberry blonde curls. 'Take a seat,' she nodded towards the fire.
'There's no need…' Jenny began but was hushed by Niall's hand raising to silence her.
'You've been more than generous with yer passage, it's the least we can do,' he interrupted, taking his daughter from his wife's arms with a swoop and grinning at her giggles.
Jack sat on a chair by the fireplace and pulled Jenny onto his lap, smiling as she nestled up to him. 'Soon be home,' he whispered, hugging her then pulling a face at Shay who sitting on the floor in front of the fire, clutching at his heart and batting his lashes.
'Your beard will be grown back soon,' she smiled, rubbing the stubble along his jaw with her hand.
'Aye, th'sooner th'better. Bloody itches like mad.'
'Will you put the braids back in?'
'Course I will luv, as soon as I can. Took me an age ter grow it long enough though,' he pulled a face at the memory then aimed at kick at Shay who was still poking fun at him. 'Are ya comin' wi'us?'
'What? All the way to th'Caribbean? Tis a long way from me fair Erin.'
'Ya could have come back over before but ya didn't. It seems to me yer fair Erin don't hold that much sway over ya.'
'An' just what would I do? I'm no sailor.'
'Neither was I when I went ter sea…'
'Please Shay,' Jenny chipped in. 'We would love you to come with us.'
'Ah stop it, th'pair o'ye,' he pouted. He was sorely tempted to say yes but could not envisage himself on the high seas, much less up a mast, bringing to mind the image of the crew of The Bonny Lass swaying violently up the rigging during their rough crossing from England.
'Breakfast is ready,' came Caitlin's lilt and the three of them made their way to the table, bowing their heads as Niall said grace then they tucked into the warm, filling oats, not talking until every last drop was finished.
'Ah, but that was lovely,' Shay said, rubbing his swollen belly.
'Ya won't get any argument from me,' agreed Jack, gathering up the bowls and taking them to the sink.
'Makes a change,' quipped the younger man, grinning broadly at Jack's look.
'Will you two stop it,' chided Jenny gently, shaking her head and smiling at their banter.
'Where is it ye be meetin' with yer friends?' Niall enquired, toying with the corner of the tablecloth, watching Jack carefully.
'I could maybe take ye round there if ye want? When will ye be goin'?'
'We need ter be there by first light on Friday.'
'Can I ask ye a question?'
'I can't promise an answer…'
'What is yer line of business?'
Jack regarded the man long and hard before sighing. 'I'm a pirate,' he admitted. 'D'ya have a problem wi'that?'
'D'ye attack th'English navy?'
'Every available opportunity.'
'That's all right then,' the Irishman beamed, thumping the table for good measure. 'I'll take ye round to Kinsale later today. I reckon th'weather's on th'turn.'
'You mean it gets worse?' Jenny asked, in horror.
'Oh yes,' Caitlin answered. 'This is fairly mild to what it is usually like,' she grimaced.
'Which is why it's best ye go today.'
'Aye, we'll go today,' Jack agreed.
Jenny and Shay looked at each other in alarm, holed up in the small cabin of The Lucky Pixie, as another wave crashed over the boat. Jenny fretted about Jack out on deck helping Niall sail her around the coast to Kinsale in the worsening weather. She groaned as an old familiar feeling of nausea welled up in the pit of her stomach and prayed they would soon be at their destination.
Jack wiped the water from his eyes and peered at the uniform grey of the sea, trying to make out the little port of Kinsale which Niall had assured him was close, before leaving it to the captain of the small vessel who knew these waters better than he.
'There!' Niall Keane pointed to the starboard bow at the barely visible inlet in which nestled their target. The two men struggled with the helm, wrestling to turn it towards land then bracing themselves as another wave came crashing over them.
Much to everyone's relief they made the inlet without mishap and, although the water was still rough, they were able to tie the boat to the small quayside with the help of a fisherman on shore and climb from The Lucky Pixie.
'Yer not goin' back yet are ya?' Jack enquired, clapping Niall on the back.
'Good God, no! I'm not as daft as green lookin' man. C'mon, there's an inn just up here.'
He led the way through the driving sleet until they reached the small tavern and burst through the doors, causing the proprietor and a couple of customers to look up in alarm.
'Niall Keane! What on earth brings ye ter these parts?'
'Doin' a favour fer some friends. I don't suppose ye can put us up?'
'Four of ye? I only have th'one room as ye know. I suppose ye an' the lad could kip down here and th'couple could have th'room.'
'Sounds great Liam, thanks.'
'But if I find any o'me booze gone…'
'Ye won't, I promise ye that.'
'Mary!' Liam Collins bellowed towards the back of the building. 'We've got guests that look like they need something ter warm them up.'
'It's on the stove,' came the replying call.
The four of them huddled the roaring fire, steam rising from them as they slowly began to dry out and warm up. Mary Collins came from the kitchen with a small cauldron and a ladle, which she set down on the large hearth, and four bowls which she handed out to her guests.
'Help yeselves, Colleen will be along in a minute with some bread.'
'Yer an angel sent from heaven,' Jack grinned, giving the victualer's wife a broad wink.
'Aye, that's what they all tell me,' she retorted, her grin as wide as Jack's.
The quartet barely looked up as a young girl arrived with a plate of roughly cut bread, so intent were they on eating their delicious stew. Within a few minutes, the cauldron was empty and Jenny had the last piece of bread, at the men's insistence, wiping it around her bowl, mopping up what little there was left around the sides.
'By God. That feels better,' Shay remarked, sitting back in his chair and rubbing his belly.
'I didn't think I would ever feel warm again,' Jenny agreed, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.
'Come on young missy, let's get yer ter bed, if that's all right?' Jack asked the proprietor, smiling at the affirmative nod. 'You two be all right here?'
'Aye, we've got th'fire,' grinned Niall.
'I've got something much warmer,' Jack laughed, yelping as Jenny's blow landed on his backside. They smiled at Colleen, who showed them the guest room and looked about in the lamplight at the tiny room, containing just a small bed and a wash stand.
'Well this is snug,' Jenny remarked, shivering in the cold air.
'Come on, before the warmth leaves us, eh?' Jack pulled off his boots and climbed fully clothed into the bed, snuggling upto Jenny after she had done the same. 'Hopefully we'll be home th'day after tomorrow,' he whispered, excitement creeping into his voice.
'I'm sorry I made you come all the way over here to fetch me,' she whispered back, kissing his cheek and teasing the stubble with her tongue.
'I go ter th'other side of th'world for ya, luv.'
'I would do the same for you,' Jenny replied, looking tenderly into his eyes. 'I love you, Jack.'
'Luv you too Jenny Wren,' he murmured, turning the lamp down and nestling into her neck, holding her until sleep took them both.
'Urgh!' Jenny shivered and blinked her eyes in the harsh morning light.
'Come an' look at this.'
She rubbed her eyes, becoming aware of the sun shining and climbed off the bed, shuddering as the cold air snapped at her. 'What?' She joined Jack at the window and looked out, her eyes widening in astonishment, then with a yelp, yanked her boots on and grabbed her coat, running from the room for all she was worth. She bounded down the stairs, leaving a startled Shay and Niall jumping awake in the chairs as she flew past them and out of the door, yelling at the top of her voice.
Jenny ran down to the wharf, still shouting and waving her arms about, tears streaming down her face at the sight of The Black Pearl sitting majestically in the small bay.
'Mother's love! It is…' Joshamee Gibbs looked in wonderment at the figure on the shore waving and jumping about. 'Lower the boats,' he ordered, but there was no need for the crewmen were already doing so. He practically raced the other men over the side to a boat and grabbed an oar, pulling hard on it in his eagerness to reach the shore.
'Mr. Gibbs! Davy! John!' she called, jigging with excitement, wanting to jump into the sea and swim to meet them.
'Jenny!' came the reply and they all pulled a little harder.
The first boats reached the wharf and men leapt off them and Jenny found herself surrounded, with kisses, pats and strokes raining on her.
'All right, all right yer scabrous dogs. Leave her be,' came Jack's laconic voice as he, Shay and Niall strolled down the lane to the quayside.
The men reluctantly parted, but Jenny found herself in the embrace of the quartermaster as he finally got to her. 'By the Gods, it's good to see you again, pet,' he smiled, ignoring the sardonic look on his captain's face and giving her a slobbering kiss on the cheek.
'That did include you, Mr. Gibbs…'
'That is yer ship?' Shay looked in amazement at the dark vessel, whistling to himself.
'Aye lad, that is The Black Pearl.'
'I can see why ye've been wantin' ter get back to it.'
'Her, mate. All ships are she's. Are ya sure yer not wantin' ter come wi'us?'
'Please Shay,' Jenny pleaded, moving away from the older man and taking his hand.
'What do I know about sailin'?'
'About as much as I did when I first set foot on board a ship,' came Jack's response and he folded his arms whilst regarding his young friend.
'But… but ye have enough crew an' they don't want ter have th likes o'me pesterin' them.'
'I didn't want ter have th'likes o'you pesterin' me, but that didn't stop ya, eh?'
'Damn ye Jack, why d'ye have an answer fer everythin?'
'Peas in a pod, mate.'
Shay paused, torn, looking from the ship to the land of his birth and back again. 'Ah, bugger it. Why not?'
Jenny squealed with joy and threw her arms around him, hugging him tight, eliciting a grin of delight from the Irishman, tempered by a warning look from his now captain.
'Ah, I think I'm about ter be thrown overboard before I've even boarded, cailin.'
She released her hold on him and went over to Jack, winding her arms around his waist and kissing him on the lips. 'We're home,' she smiled happily, as they walked to the boats and climbed in, waving goodbye to Niall on the quayside.
'We're home,' agreed Jack, a grin splitting his face. 'Any problems Mr. Gibbs?'
'None whatsoever Cap'n. Found ourselves a nice little inlet and village in which to shelter. Almost been like a holiday.'
'I hope there was no slacking…' Jack warned, casting a critical eye over the rigging of The Black Pearl as the boat got nearer to her.
'Of course there was no slacking.' Joshamee Gibbs pulled a face, hurt that his captain did not seem to trust him.
'I know, I know. Sorry mate,' Jack apologised, shrugging ruefully. 'Ya know how it is.'
'Aye, I know how it is. Strangest thing though. We were making our way around, earlier than usual because the weather looked like turning nasty and as it turned out, it got nasty earlier than we thought. We tried to steer our way back to Bantry, where we had been sheltering, but The Pearl gave us merry hell. Every time we steered a course back to Bantry, the ship would try and turn back, come here. It was almost as if she knew you'd be here,' he smiled, shaking his head.
'Of course she knew we'd be here,' Jack grinned as he grabbed a rope and handed it to Jenny. 'Me an' me ship know each other, savvy?'
Jenny and the quartermaster exchanged glances and rolled eyes, both of them bursting into laughter.
'What?' Jack queried, looking at the pair of them suspiciously.
'Nothing my love,' she smiled. 'Nothing at all.'
Erin is a poetic/old name for Ireland