AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic is like Scrubs—just when you think it's gone for good, it pops back in for another (hopefully glorious) season! I realize it's been kind of like a three-year wait or something by this point, but now I have sequels and sequel!Sues to work with, so I'm revvin' up the old engine. This chapter is the last chapter dealing (almost) exclusively with Curse of the Black Pearl; after this, I'll be getting to the rest of the story.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
The Happy Medium
Why exactly the Royal Navy had been assigned to escort the Crown Princess of Ogmae (where was Ogmae, anyway?) anywhere was a bit of a conundrum, but the fact remained, Lt. Gillette reflected as he watched the princess' several chests being loaded onto the Dauntless, that Her Highness had found herself in Port Royal with a need to get somewhere else, and they, apparently, were the ones who were going to take her there.
Behind him, he could hear the princess speaking sullenly to the commodore in her high, flutey voice, with an indescribable accent that sounded completely, well, artificial.
"…Of course, I don't really need thirty-seven gowns and sixty-three day dresses and a hundred and forty-one pairs of shoes and all the other things I've got in there, I could live without all of those things. Very easily, I could. I may have been brought up as royalty, but I am hardly spoiled." She sniffed. Gillette had his back to her anyway, so he rolled his eyes without restraint. "But my father, the king, insisted. He said that his daughter, the princess, must have the very best. I hate it, all of it—I'd much rather live as you do," she said, changing tactics suddenly and simpering. "Wearing trousers and jackets, living in just one room at the fort, without a big house or anything…it must be wonderful. So simple."
Gilllette, who had been to dinner parties and other social gatherings hosted at the commodore's elegant private home, coughed and waited for his superior to contradict the princess' words. However, the commodore merely responded, in a strange, distant voice, "Yes, wonderful."
The princess giggled and then bellowed out "CAREFUL WITH THAT SUITCASE, YOU MORON!" to a crew member who had shifted one of her cases in his arms.
Lt. Gillette winced and grimaced as the bizarrely accented shriek hit his ears full-force. Clearly, this was not going to be one of his most fondly-remembered voyages.
Gudrun Quenby, a (very) little bit less flighty, a (very) little bit more mature, was settled comfortably on a chair in the headquarters when Vila Borcka, looking rather drained, shuffled out of her room. She met Gudrun's eyes for a second before clearing her throat faintly and moving to rearrange some things on an end table.
Gudrun, who had Baldasarre in her lap and was enjoying simply thinking for once, said nothing.
After a long moment, Vila ventured, "Well, I suppose I should thank you…for saving my life."
"Oh, you're very welcome," Gudrun replied breezily. "It would have been too difficult, you know, to continue on alone. I'm used to having, you know, backup."
Vila turned to her, still looking rather awkward and pale but with an eyebrow raised. "Backup? Excuse me, Miss Quenby, but I'd say you are my backup. I was here first." There was a flickering of a smile, before she dropped down in the chair across from Gudrun. "Anyway, I suppose I should…" She took a deep breath. "I should apologize, as well. I mean, if I had listened to you—if I hadn't let them—well, you know," she finished uncomfortably. "I'm sorry."
"I think it had to happen sooner or later, you know," Gudrun said thoughtfully. "I mean, you can't run away from your problems forever."
"I was not running—" Vila stopped and took another breath. "I suppose you're right," she said diplomatically.
"I know." Gudrun stood and then, impulsively, reached forward and gave Vila a hug. Vila sat surprised for a moment, before patting Gudrun delicately on the head. Vila had never had a friend before, and hadn't had any siblings either, and she wondered if this was what it felt like to have both.
Well, that certainly did take long enough, the voice said crossly, and both Mediums jumped. I do hope the two of you are prepared to work together without any more problems—Vila flinched, and the voice softened slightly. In any event, I've another one for you. I believe this, Miss Borcka, is what they call 'getting back on the horse.'
Without another word, it thrust them into the Fandomverse.
In most cases, Lt. Gillette enjoyed being right. He was a rather smug young man in general, after all.
In this case, however, Lt. Gillette wished he had been horribly, horribly wrong.
It wasn't that he disliked Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of Ogmae—it was that he couldn't stand her, not her high, overly flirtatious voice with its horribly false accent, not the way she simpered and batted her eyes at the men and then screamed in outrage when they dared cast even a passing glance at her, not the way she sat at the commodore's table as though it was her own, not the way she used made-up words like 'moron', not the way she continuously bragged about her wealth and then whined that she hated being treated so, not the way she had accosted him seventeen times on their first night out, each time with a new complaint about her accommodations.
"Mr. Gillette, don't you have any other bedclothes? These are too scratchy!"
"Mr. Gillette, my gowns are being wrinkled in those stupid suitcases—don't you have anyplace I could hang them up?"
"Mr. Gillette, my shoes don't fit in that dinky locker! Don't you have anywhere else I could put them?"
"Mr. Gillette, my cabin is too close to the men's! Don't you have anywhere else I can sleep?"
"Mr. Gillette, I want some tea! Can't you find someone to bring me some?"
"Mr. GILLETTE, some of the men are talking and it's after ten o' clock! Can't you make them stop? I'm tired!"
At the last one, Gillette's Irish temper had flared and he had finally snapped at her ("If you're so tired from your long day of sitting around, your highness, I doubt a little background noise will keep you awake"), and the princess promptly burst into sobs so loud that the commodore came running from his own cabin, concern plastered all over his face. Princess Raeanne wept that she couldn't bear to bother the commodore himself, who must be ever so busy, and that she hadn't thought a mere lieutenant would mind helping her just a bit to get settled (never mind that he was the first lieutenant, and everything Norrington didn't do himself—which was turning out to be an uncharacteristic amount on this voyage—was Gillette's responsibility).
Norrington had soothed the young lady and seen her off to bed before rounding on Gillette.
"Her highness is our lovely guest, lieutenant, and it is our duty to make her feel as comfortable as possible. I will not tolerate rudeness or unpleasantness of any sort directed towards the beautiful princess; it reflects poorly on myself, my officers, my ship, and my command…" And he had run on in that vein for some time. The words were tolerably Norrington-esque, aside from his oddly stilted and quite inappropriate application of adjectives such as "beautiful", "lovely", "charming", and even, once, "gorgeous", but the expression on Norrington's face was embarrassingly dreamy and lovesick; Gillette had never seen him look that way even when he spoke of Elizabeth, and it made the lieutenant a bit nauseous. To the commodore's tirade, he was unable to make any response other than "Yes, sir" and walk away feeling a bit like Cinderella.
No, Gillette truly could not stand Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of Ogmae. He and his mate Lt. Groves, the only other man who seemed immune to the princess' dubious charm, did their best to avoid speaking poorly of her, even between themselves—they were gentlemen, after all—but Gillette was not famed for his restraint; he had once ventured the thought, and Groves had agreed, that there was something altogether wrong about Her Royal Highness.
But she certainly was beautiful, unnaturally so. Tall, slender, with dark brown curls that fell past her waist, laden with golden highlights from the sun (and usually done up in some exquisite style by her personal maid) and enormous, tawny eyes that held a hint of a lavender gleam. She was always impeccably dressed in magnificent gowns (that were really better suited for a ballroom than a warship), though she complained endlessly about having to wear dresses rather than the simple trousers and shirts of the crew, and always had a small golden crown perched somewhere in her curls, though she whined incessantly about being treated as royalty (and even more incessantly when she wasn't). Even Gillette had thought her lovely when he first saw her; that impression had changed the minute she opened her mouth, of course, but didn't take away her physical beauty.
The only problem, besides her disgustingly ill character, seemed to be the spell she cast on everyone else. Even Gillette could feel it sometimes—a sort of warm glow, a very faint tendril of something reaching out and touching him when the princess gave him one of her fawning smiles. He was able to shake it off without too much difficulty—sometimes he had the feeling of being ignored by it—but other men, particularly the commodore, had fallen wholly under its influence.
The commodore. Gillette scowled. His commanding officer had been tripping over himself to make Princess Raeanne as comfortable as possible: giving up his own cabin to her (and even postponing the officers' meetings held in said cabin until it was most convenient for Princess Raeanne to be out of it!), draining his larder to serve her the finest foods (not saying much, given typical shipboard fare), volunteering random unfortunate crewmembers to tend to her whims, allowing her to use the fresh water supply to wash her precious clothes (the salt water would be far too rough on the delicate fabrics), and even, once, ordering Gillette to spend an entire afternoon walking the princess up the deck, then down again, then up the deck, and then down again—so on and so forth—so she could, in her own words, be "just like" one of the men, never mind that they were all working whilst she tripped lightly about the ship and got in everyone's way.
Gillette was growing so furious and so desperate to shoot something that it was almost a relief when the pirates attacked.
Vila fell hard on her knees and let out a shriek as a bullet flew over her head. Beside her, Gudrun flung herself to the deck.
"Looks like a battle!" she cried out jovially, leaping back up again and pulling Vila up as well. "We haven't seen one of these before!"
Before Vila could mentally verify the truthfulness of that statement, a cannonball connected with a nearby railing and wood splintered everywhere. The two Mediums let out twin cries and, still cowering, covered their faces instinctively.
"This sucks," Vila muttered into the deck beneath her. She was beginning to wonder why she had bothered waking up that morning when her attention was caught by a shrill scream.
Both Mediums looked up to watch a stunning brunette in a silk dress being dragged out from the cabins (though she struggled mightily against her pirate captors). A beam of sunlight filtered down through the smoke of the battle and glinted off of a delicate golden crown perched in the girl's shining chocolate tresses with (streaks of nougat and caramel).
If Vila Borcka had been the sort of person who not only knew but quoted famous films such as Apollo 13, she might have said something along the lines of "Houston, we have a princess". However, she was not, and did not, and instead merely blinked rapidly several times as the struggling beauty was pulled along the deck.
"HOW DARE YOU?" the girl shrieked. "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW THAT I AM A PRINCESS? GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF OF ME, YOU ANIMALS! THIS IS PURE SILK! YOU'RE GETTING IT ALL DIRTY!"
"You know, telling people who are considering kidnapping you that you are someone important is the worst idea ever," Gudrun sighed, watching the pirates force the princess onto the deck of their own ship.
"Anyway, they probably already know, because why else would they want to kidnap that harpy?" Vila responded, but before she could say anything else, a great bellow came from the other side of the deck.
"PRINCESS!!" Commodore James Norrington howled, bolting towards the opposite rail. "NO! NOOOOOOOOO!" He took a deep breath, like an opera diva preparing for her grand finale, and roared "I'LL GET YOU, SPARROOOOW!"
Vila winced and Gudrun looked embarrassed for the poor man, reduced to Saturday morning cartoon clichés as he was.
He was too late, anyway. The princess, still screeching loudly enough to wake the dead and fighting enough to look brave and feisty but not enough to actually have any effect, had been dragged into the captain's cabin of the Black Pearl (because of course it was the Black Pearl, what other ship would it be?), where she proceeded to bang on the door and shriek unladylike curse words like all of the other stupid Sues that had been locked in there for no reason over the years.
And, as if her captivity was a signal, the pirates began immediate retreat to the decks of the Pearl.
"Stay here with the Commodore," Gudrun said suddenly, turning to Vila.
"What are you—"
"I'll go keep an eye on the Sue. You can trust me, you know," Gudrun went on, taking the bottle of Canon from Vila's hand and sprinting after the departing pirates. Vila blinked and she was all but gone, a stout shadow swinging onto the deck of the Pearl.
The pirates were gone as suddenly as they had appeared, and the
Black Pearl a speck on the horizon. Gillette knew that that couldn't be right, that no ship could possibly be that fast, but he didn't have time to question the gods as Norrington turned to him very suddenly and ordered "We will give chase."
Norrington's face darkened but, at the same time, took on a lovesick gleam. "They have kidnapped Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of Ogmae. Her Highness was our charge; it is our duty to ensure her safety from those despicable pirates. Besides," he continued, lapsing into a sickening smile, "isn't she simply the loveliest creature you ever beheld? Her perfect hair, her perfect smile, her perfect eyes, her perfect body, her perfect ears, her perfect eyelids, her perfect shinbones…"
"Er. Yes, sir." Gillette swallowed hard and turned to give the order, the commodore still running on at his side. (Later, Gillette would spend some time trying to erase the sound of Norrington's voice intoning "Her perfect patella, her perfect distal phalanges, her perfect tarsalmetatarsals…" from his memory.)
From her hiding spot beneath the stairs to the quarterdeck, Vila wondered if the summary for this particular story read "Who will the princess choose, the gentlemanly Commodore Norrington or the dashing pirate Jack Sparrow?" Closing her eyes, she made a silent vow that they would obliterate the princess before she had to make that decision.
The deck of the Black Pearl was bare, poorly described, and unresemblant of a real ship as usual. Gudrun sat down behind a cluster of superfluous barrels outside the captain's quarters and waited as the pirates made sail and then largely disappeared belowdecks, with the exception of a few swabbing the deck mechanically.
Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of Ogmae was still squawking away in the cabin as she pounded incessantly on the door. "YOU LET ME OUT, YOU MORONS!" she wailed. "YOU LET ME OUT RIGHT NOW, DO YOU HEAR ME?"
"An' wot 'ave we 'ere?" Jack Sparrow demanded, appearing out of nowhere. Gudrun scrunched down a bit behind the barrels, praying he wouldn't see her. He didn't, of course. The typically observant, vigilant Jack Sparrow of canon had been quite seamlessly replaced by the typically single-minded, Sue-focused Jack Sparrow of fanfiction (quite seamlessly replaced; that is, aside from the small part of Jack still inside his brain, wondering who the hell this fishwife in his cabin was, and why he had allowed himself to be locked out).
"A princess, sir," said a nameless pirate.
"A princess, eh?" Jack cocked an eyebrow before opening the cabin door. Raeanne strutted out, her beautiful face aflame with (self-)righteous fury.
"That's right," she snapped, drawing herself up to her full height and tossing her head haughtily. "I am Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of the great empire Ogmae, and I demand you release me!"
"We're in the middle of the ocean," Gudrun muttered.
"We be in t'middle of t'ocean, savvy?" Jack slurred, his speech bearing the peculiar marks of a Suethor who is desperate to make her Sue seem more refined by making everyone else around her speak in terrible English.
Raeanne glared around at the pirates who had gathered. "Get back to work, you dumbasses!" she shrieked, and they all scuttled away, despite the fact that any real pirate would have pointed and jeered at the stupid little chit who thought herself important. Turning back to Jack, she sneered "Well, then, you probably think yourself very clever indeed. What are you planning to do with me?"
Jack chuckled lasciviously and Raeanne let out an outraged gasp before giving him a sharp slap across the face, which he accepted without complaint. "I didn't mean that, you pervert! God! I meant why did you kidnap me, stupid?"
"Yer a princess, savvy? No doubt ye be worth quite a purty penny." Jack stumbled a bit over 'purty', as if he was trying to pronounce the word correctly but couldn't quite remember how. He shook his head and went on. "An' I plans to use that t'me a'van'age, savvy?"
Night crashed down and Gudrun winced.
"I will sleep in your cabin," Raeanne decided, turning on her heel and storming back into Jack's quarters.
"Aye, lass, but o'ly if I sleep in t'bed wit' ye, savvy?" Jack replied, staggering after her. There was the sound of the captain receiving another smack.
"YOU WILL NOT SLEEP IN THIS BED WITH ME YOU FILTHY PIRATE!!1111" Raeanne screamed, even managing to pronounce the ones.
Gudrun crept to the door of the cabin. Raeanne had made herself perfectly cozy in Jack's bed, into which the captain was now attempting to climb. He was rebuffed with yet another sharp slap.
Feeling rather ill, as if she had had too many clichés for one day, Gudrun settled back down behind the barrels, ready for a long night.
Lieutenant Gillette was ready to kill something.
It was apparently not enough that the majority of what should be the Commodore's responsibility had fallen to him; no, indeed. It was apparently now also his duty to be summoned to the cabin of said Commodore on a regular and completely unreasonable basis, either to console his weeping commanding officer or to assist with the sonnets Norrington had taken to writing in honor of Raeanne's loveliness and perfection. He had rather hoped that the princess' departure would put an end to Norrington giving him ridiculous demands; apparently, he was wrong.
"What rhymes with 'tresses', Gillette?" Norrington had asked him last time.
"'Messes', sir," Gillette had supplied. And then, spotting an opening, he had added hurriedly and, he felt, a great deal more kindly than was warranted, "And we will surely be in a mess soon, if you do not come out of this funk and resume your ordinary duties."
"Oh, Gillette," Norrington had sighed. "I cannot think of duty when I am deprived of…beauty!" Struck by inspiration, he had scribbled furiously for a moment, then looked up again. "How can you expect me to do my job when I am wrought with grief over the loss of the woman I was determined should be my bride?"
"That's right, Gillette." Norrington had suddenly looked very, very evil, in a cartoonish sort of way. "Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle will be mine."
Gillette had closed his eyes, taken a deep breath, counted to ten in English, French, and Gaelic, and opened them again. "Sir, we all…regret the loss of her Highness' presence among us. Yet how do you expect us to regain her if not by rescuing her? And how are we to rescue her when our commanding officer is acting, with respect, sir, like a lovesick youth on the night of his first ball?"
There was silence in the cabin. Then, "Gillette, what rhymes with 'lavender orbs'?"
Afraid he would do damage to the Commodore or himself if he remained in the cabin, Gillette had turned and stalked out.
Vila was wandering aimlessly about the ship. She blended in quite well—she was dressed sensibly enough, in breeches and a shirt, and her perfectly ordinary clothing, combined with her natural ability to look like part of the scenery, allowed her to move about at will without being noticed.
The Dauntless seemed to be running rather smoothly. Clearly, the Sue hadn't bothered to meddle with descriptions when it came to this ship, as the majority of the action was probably taking place on the Pearl. Sailors, rather unrealistically well-dressed (but that was to be expected in a Disney fandom), were performing their ordinary duties, while the officers consulted together over officer-like things such as courses, plans of action, etc. The only thing Vila noticed was that they all seemed to be avoiding the Great Cabin, and she soon figured out why, as she happened to pass by it during a conversation between the fanatical Norrington and his hapless first lieutenant—but there was really nothing she could do about that. Not without the Canon, anyway.
In short, there didn't seem to be much for Vila to do on the Dauntless. She heaved a great sigh and slid down to sit next to a pile of ropes, which she picked up and turned over in her hands to make it look, on the off-chance of inquiring eyes, like she was doing something.
She wondered what Gudrun was doing—or rather, what Gudrun had thought she was doing. You can trust me, you know. Did that mean that Gudrun didn't trust her? Vila bit her lip. Was Gudrun trying to say that she didn't think Vila was a good enough Medium to handle this one, after what happened on the last mission? Or, as she assured herself was more likely, was it just that Gudrun was rather stupid and impulsive and had made a split-second decision without taking Vila into account?
Either way, it was worrying. Vila was just beginning to feel good and sorry for herself when she felt the completely alien and gut-wrenching feeling of a hand on her shoulder, pulling her to her feet.
"You, sailor!" a man's voice said in her ear. "Are you on duty?"
"I—er—" Vila tried to come up with something to say as she was turned roughly to face the man, a pale-faced officer with russet eyebrows and freckles scattered across his nose. His eyes widened abruptly as he took her in.
"My God," the man said in rather horrified surprise, "You're a woman."
Vila's mouth was hanging open. For a brief second, she prayed desperately that the Voice would make her invisible as he had on the Leila Tenebrous mission, but then realized that that would probably do more harm than good (after all, a stowaway woman was infinitely less likely to be executed than a disappearing stowaway witch) and instead began searching her mind for something to say.
"Yes," she said finally.
It wasn't the most effective response, but the officer didn't seem to be listening anyway. He had taken a step back and had the look of someone who has made a nasty discovery and is about to find someone else to take care of it.
"Don't!" she said, terrified, as he opened his mouth. "Look, don't, you can't!"
He stared at her. "I beg your pardon?" he said snidely.
"I can explain," she began. At his haughty look, she added "No, really! It—um—is there somewhere else we can talk?"
"What?" Vila had seen stories with stowaway girls before, and they always got what they asked for on account of their tomboyish yet undeniable charm. It was just her luck, she thought, that the one time she really needed to use a Sue trick, it didn't work.
"The Great Cabin is…unavailable, and it would be highly inappropriate for you to be in the wardroom or officers' quarters. Actually," he went on, seeming to remember himself, "it's highly inappropriate for you to be aboard this ship at all. Miss, I'm afraid I'm going to have to report you to—"
"Look, I don't think the Commodore is going to notice anything just now," Vila said urgently. "I'm not a stowaway—well, I am, sort of, but—it's complicated—can I please just explain to you why I'm here?" she begged.
The young man squinted at her for a moment, but sighed and motioned for her to begin.
"Well," she began.
Ah. Yes. There was the trouble, wasn't it? Vila didn't really have anything to say. She scanned her brain frantically for a likely story, but nothing was coming to her. Telling him that she was just a stowaway was out, as she had just told him she wasn't a stowaway, and anyway it would put her right back to square one. Begging not to be put in the brig would probably only get her put in the brig. She briefly considered denying she was a woman at all and acting highly offended, but common sense intervened and told her that that was about the stupidest idea she had ever had.
If you were a Sue, her inner Sue started, but Vila silenced it with a rough shake of her head that made the lieutenant look slightly concerned.
This was bad. This was beyond bad, this was absolutely disastrous. She had been discovered. She was a Medium who had been discovered by a canon character. Granted, he was a very minor character who, if she remembered correctly, got loosely disposed of by the second film anyway; but he had still looked right at her and seen her and noticed her and touched her and now he was waiting for her to tell him who she was, which she absolutely should not do. She wasn't sure what, exactly, the repercussions of this would be, but she was sure they would be at least mildly traumatic. The Voice was probably barely restraining itself from killing her even now. She had no doubt that it was watching the proceedings with dismay.
"I'm waiting," the lieutenant reminded her. Vila took a great deep breath.
"All right," she started again, moving closer and lowering her voice. "You know the princess? Princess Raeanne?"
The officer's face twisted. "Yes," he muttered.
"Well, I'm supposed to get rid of her for you." It was short and sweet and didn't tell him much that he wasn't supposed to know. Vila felt she deserved a slightly-less-than-incredibly-awful death for that.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. "You're an assassin?" the man exclaimed, jerking away and looking scandalized.
"No! No, no, well, sort of, but no, I'm not supposed to kill her. I'm just—look, she's not supposed to be here."
"She's not here," the lieutenant countered. "She was kidnapped. I'm afraid you missed your chance."
"That isn't what I meant!" Vila felt as if she might cry. "I meant she isn't supposed to be here. At all. In the world. She isn't supposed to exist. She's not real, she snuck in from—from who-knows-where, and she's changing things that shouldn't be changed. I mean—you've noticed it, haven't you? How there's something unnatural about her? How—"
She was unable to finish, as the lieutenant grabbed her arm roughly and marched her swiftly across the deck, down the stairs, and into a rather small, deserted cabin with a lone lamp swaying forlornly over a standard-issue bunk. The lieutenant closed the door behind him.
"Who are you?" he demanded, staring at her in the dim light of the lamp. Vila swallowed nervously. This was not going at all well.
"My name is Vila Borcka," she said slowly. "I'm a sort of—a sort of protector. I'm supposed to keep people like Raeanne from running amok and ruining everything."
"Like a guardian angel," the lieutenant mused. "Looking out for the world, ensuring things run in their proper path. Am I correct?"
"A bit," Vila replied, distracted. She was busy worrying—what if some of the crew had noticed the officer dragging her belowdecks? His discovery of her was bad enough. She pulled herself together and added "But I'm not an angel. I mean, I haven't got any powers, or wings, or anything. The only useful thing I have isn't even with me right now, it's with someone else."
The man was still studying her. "I'm not entirely certain I believe you," he said slowly. "You were talking about her Highness…?"
Vila inhaled. "Haven't you noticed it? How everyone falls in love with her, how everyone wants her, how she gets away with anything? Haven't you ever felt there was something…wrong, about her? Haven't you ever looked at her and thought she was too beautiful to be real?" She didn't wait for an answer; the look on the officer's face told her plainly enough. "Well, it's because she is. She isn't supposed to exist. She's…I don't want to say evil, because I don't think it's that significant a situation, really, but she isn't good. It's my job to send her back to where she came from, wherever that is, so the world can go on like it's supposed to. And not just her," she added. "There are others like her, there have been for ages. I've been… putting everything back into place."
"And no one has ever noticed you before?"
"I don't think so. I'm usually very good at not standing out," Vila said, rather defensively. "People normally don't even realize I'm there. And once the Sue—that's what we call them—once the Sue is gone, I'm gone, as well, and everyone forgets it ever happened."
The lieutenant looked rather smug. "I am the exception to the rule, then."
"I suppose so. It's probably because you're an—" She caught herself in time. Vila had been about to say 'incredibly minor character', which would necessitate explaining that the young man's world was entirely fictional, and that would probably result in said world exploding, or something.
"I don't know. I don't know what I was going to say." Vila tried for a shrug. It seemed to work.
"Well," the young man said, after a long pause, "Miss…Bork?"
"Well, Miss Borcka. I still don't know that I believe you, but I'm afraid I don't know what to do with you."
"I think that all you can do," Vila suggested, "is catch up to the Black Pearl, so that I can get to Raeanne and fix everything. Then I'll leave, and none of this will ever have happened."
"We're doing our best, Miss Borcka. Unfortunately, our commanding officer has suffered something of a breakdown…"
"I know about that," Vila interrupted. "That's why I'm still here, actually. I think I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on Norrington." She hesitated. "My partner is aboard the Pearl, keeping an eye on Raeanne."
"Dear God. There are more of you?"
"Only one more. And she was a bit of a mistake, anyway," Vila added, with a faint hint of smugness.
"I see." He clearly didn't. "Well. I suppose you want me to not breathe a word of your presence to anyone else?"
"Please. I'm really not supposed to let anyone know I'm here—your knowing is probably the most terrible thing that has ever happened to me, and I haven't even had to face the consequences yet."
"And you swear you are not aboard to cause any sort of mischief or harm?"
Vila blinked. "Rather late to be asking that, isn't it?"
The lieutenant shrugged. "Forgive me, miss, but you don't really seem like much of a threat. I was only asking because it seemed I should."
Vila was deciding whether or not she should take offense at that when the door began to open. She threw herself into the corner just as another head peeked around the doorframe.
"Gillette, the commodore wants a word with you in his cabin. Again." The other officer sighed. "Lord, what is he doing in there, writing limericks?"
"They're sonnets, Groves," Gillette said dismally. "Tell him I shall be at his service directly."
"Well, do hurry," Groves said. "He's in a fit—can't seem to figure out a rhyme for 'sun-drenched'." He vanished around the doorframe. Gillette closed the door quickly and turned to Vila, still hiding in the corner.
"Er…stay here," he suggested, and hurried away.
Gudrun had not gotten much sleep, given the fact that Raeanne and Jack spent the entire night the way they usually do in such stories—first bickering over who got the bed, then falling asleep and, apparently, cuddling (Gudrun knew this because she had slipped into the cabin in an attempt to Canonize the Sue, but had stopped when Jack Sparrow, arms firmly about Raeanne, shifted and blinked at her bewilderedly and muttered 'Woss that?' before drifting to sleep. It was a relatively minor incident compared to what was, unbeknownst to Gudrun, going on aboard the Dauntless at the moment, but gave her a moment of panic nonetheless). The Medium had decided that Canonization could wait, at least until Raeanne did something absolutely unforgivable, and crept out of the cabin again to find a makeshift bed on a coil of rope that nobody seemed to be using at the moment—only to be rudely awakened, of course, by Raeanne's obligatory outraged scream in the early hours of the morning, when she discovered Jack Sparrow's muscular arms about her trim waist.
The princess was now leaning against the rail, deep in conversation with Will Turner (who had mysteriously appeared from belowdecks, and appeared to be completely smitten with Her Highness). Jack was standing idly by, a look of rather forced jealousy on his face.
"I say, lass, wouldn't ye rather talk t' a real pirate, savvy, rather than this eunuch?" he said impatiently after a few minutes. Raeanne turned to him.
"Hardly! Dirty, nasty, dreadful brutes, the lot of you, and you're the worst of them all," she replied haughtily.
Jack's face colored and he turned away stiffly. Gudrun rolled her eyes.
"And yet," Raeanne continued, as Will hurried off to do something useful and she was left on her own to lean becomingly over the rail, her hair rippling in the wind, "there is something about him that attracts me, I cannot deny—some air of masculinity, of assured maleness." She surveyed Jack critically. He was sashaying about the deck, hips swaying, eye paint gleaming slightly in the sunlight, thick lashes downcast, long hair tied back, arched lips turned in a pout that was almost pretty as her own. "He is such a man's man," Raeanne sighed, and returned to her contemplation of the sea.
In Gillette's absence, Vila had managed to fall into an uncomfortable and terrified sleep on his strikingly uncomfortable bunk. She jerked awake when the young man came back through the door, looking profoundly infuriated and, when his eyes fell on her, rather startled.
"Ah," he said. "Yes. I'd almost forgotten about you. Not entirely sure how that's possible, but then it has been a rather trying voyage." Vila sat up and crossed her legs pretzel-style in front of her, leaving room for Gillette to collapse on the bunk beside her. "He's gone utterly mad, you know."
"The Commodore, yes. He's just sent me scurrying all over the ship looking for oil paints. Apparently sonnets are insufficient and he must show his love for Her Highness through the visual arts, specifically portraiture." Pulling off his wig and tossing it across the tiny room, Gillette ran a hand over his red hair and sighed.
Vila felt unaccountably guilty as she watched the lieutenant's obvious distress. She had a feeling that if Gudrun had been here, she would have given him a hug or at least patted him on the arm or something, but then, Vila wasn't Gudrun. "We'll put him back to normal," she said, as soothingly as possible for someone who was never exactly the "soothing" sort. "Like I told you. Once I get rid of Raeanne, everything will go back to the way it was before."
"As if that was much better," Gillette muttered. At Vila's look, he went on, "You know, don't you? I thought you knew everything that had been happening. Before it was this so-called princess, it was Jack Sparrow. 'One day's head start,' he told me, and he bloody well meant it. Do forgive me my language, miss," he said dutifully and without much feeling. Vila waved a hand dismissively. "He's been chasing Sparrow like the Devil himself, and this time he means to kill him in battle or put him behind bars where he belongs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course—Sparrow is a criminal, after all—but I think it might be driving him mad, and it's putting the crew in danger."
"Ah—well—" Vila bit her lip again. She was fairly certain she was remembering correctly, and that this young officer was one of the vaguely accounted for casaulties resulting from Norrington's manic chase through the hurricane. "I'm sure everything will be all right," she said glibly, unsure what else she could say to a character who was about to be killed off.
"Unfortunately, I am not so sure." Gillette gave another great sigh. "Do forgive me, Miss...Borcka, was it?" Vila nodded. "I shouldn't be burdening you with my problems. You're a guardian angel, after all, and have no care for the earthly troubles of men."
"I'm not an angel, I told you," Vila began, but Gillette had a slight
smile on his lips and she stopped, managing to give him a slight smile back.
"Oh," Gillette said, standing and retrieving his wig, which Vila privately thought he looked way better without. "And I meant to tell you. The Pearl has been spotted, and the Commodore intends to catch her and take her by nightfall."
Vila stood as well, then realized she really had nowhere to go and sat back down. "That is good news. Hopefully my partner still has the C…our weapon…and hasn't managed to drop it overboard or throw it to the dolphins or spill it in someone's soup. Or anything."
"Spill it?" Gillette quirked an eyebrow. "Exactly what sort of weapon
"A weird one. But it's a weird job." Vila yawned and ran her hand through her hair. "So I should just wait down here, then?"
"Until we catch the Pearl, yes. When there's a chance for you to board and dispose of the princess, I'll run down and fetch you." Gillette turned to leave, then paused and turned back. "And I should warn you, Miss Borcka: it may be a rather difficult wait. It looks like rough weather ahead—some of the men are predicting a hurricane, but then, they're all pessimists." He smirked.
Vila's heart sank and realization set in. "Oh," she managed to squeak.
"Until then, miss." Gillette gave her a slight bow and was gone.
Vila looked up at the ceiling, imagining the deck beyond it and the sky beyond that, where she was sure the Voice was lingering, and gave it her most accusing stare. "That," she declared, "is just mean."
"The Commodore!" Raeanne shrieked, leaning over the rail and apparently spotting the Dauntless on their trail. "Oh, God, he's come for me! I knew it!" She collapsed, sobbing, into the conveniently nearby arms of Jack Sparrow. "He's come to kidnap me and take me back to my horrid royal life in Ogmae! Oh, God help me! Oh, Jack, do something!"
"No need, missy, savvy," Jack said, clutching her tenderly and stroking her hair with his manly, manky hands. "I' looks like bad weavver a'head—like an 'urricane, if we're lucky, savvy." He gave a rogueish grin. "They won't try to foller us through that—not unless they're mad, savvy."
"But he is mad!!11" Raeanne pulled herself out of Jack's arms and looked him square in the eyes, beautiful damselly distress written all over her imperial face. "He's mad for me!! He's in love with me, obsessed with me, he wants me to marry him!!'" She gave a theatrical shriek and collapsed again. "But I'm so young!!1111"
"Not less than half an hour ago, you was prayin' for yer almighty Commodore to come save ye," an unimportant and obviously stupid crewmember murmured, and promptly vanished in a puff of logic. The major players ignored his ridiculous and unwarranted comment, which had probably been motivated by jealousy.
Gudrun, blending in with the background as all good Mediums do, clutched the Canon tightly. Raeanne still hadn't done anything absolutely unforgivable—there was no law saying Jack Sparrow couldn't fall in love, even with a princess of a country that didn't technically exist. And as for Ogmae not existing, well, technically, Port Royal itself shouldn't even exist, considering that it had been mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. It wasn't reality Raeanne had to disrupt; it was canon. And so far, the story seemed to be progressing with no real damage. Gudrun, who had been forced to listen to the princess' screechings all day, greatly regretted this fact and wished the Sue would just do something awful already.
A roar of thunder rolled through the air, and rain began falling—around the Pearl, rather than on it. Confused, Gudrun wondered whether this was the Sue's canon breakage or whether it was some kind of sign from the gods or, more likely, the Voice. She looked around, seeing lightning splitting the blackening skies surrounding them while the skies above them remained a unthreatening gray, with even a few hints of blue.
"Saints be praised," Gibbs declared, eyes raised to the heavens. "We're in the eye of the storm!"
"I told ye everythin' would be all righ', savvy," Jack smirked to Raeanne, locking his arms around her and escorting her towards his cabin. "I've got me ol' friend Luck on me side, savvy? Now, how's abou' we occ'py our time in some more pleasurable fashion…"
"AS IF! I WOULD NEVER SLEEP WITH YOU!!1111" Raeanne bellowed, pushing him away from her and running towards the rail. The crew followed her, leaning over the rail to look behind them at the Dauntless. Gudrun ran to the opposite rail and leaned over as well. The Dauntless was struggling with crashing waves and flashing skies and Gudrun's heart suddenly began pounding very fast. She had forgotten about the hurricane thing, and the Norrington-losing-his-entire-crew-except-apparently-Groves thing.
"Vila's not actually part of the crew, you know," Gudrun whispered fiercely to the Voice. "You can't have him lose her, too."
The Voice was silent, but somehow Gudrun got the feeling that it was insulted she would even accuse it of such a thing. Somewhat satisfied, she returned to her hiding place beneath the stairs.
Vila clung to Gillette's bunk as tightly as she could to avoid being tossed into the opposite wall. The ship had been rolling and careening uncontrollably, and she was beginning to feel distinctly ill. Above, there was shouting as men dashed to and fro. Judging by the sounds of rolling metal, a few cannons had broken free from their securements.
"We're gaining on her, boys!" someone bellowed.
"We must stop!" someone else bellowed back.
"WE CANNOT STOP UNTIL WE HAVE RESCUED MY LOOOOVE," Norrington roared, and Vila's nausea increased by about ten times.
There was a horrible grinding sound and Vila suddenly found herself hanging in the air as the ship turned almost all the way on its side. She screamed, not bothering to keep quiet as it seemed everyone else on the ship was screaming as well, and who was going to go investigate a possible stowaway at a time like this, anyway? The ship rolled again and Vila, who had lost her grip on Gillette's bunk, was flung to the floor. She groaned, dizziness enveloping her.
"Prepare to board!" a voice screamed, barely discernible above the sounds of the storm and the mens' terrified shouting. There was faint cannon fire, apparently from the Pearl, and suddenly the door burst open.
"Now, come now," Gillette gasped, grabbing Vila by the arms and hoisting her to her feet. He had lost his wig and his coat, and was completely drenched. "For God's sake, come quickly. He'll kill us all!"
Vila stumbled after the lieutenant, letting out a scream and grabbing him by the back of the shirt as the ship gave a mighty roll. Gillette found her hand with his and pulled her forward, his Naval experience allowing him to remain at least slightly more balanced. They reached the deck, which was covered in shattered wood and almost buried beneath the waves. Thunder was crashing furiously around them and lightning illuminated the scene only in flashes.
"They're boarding," Gillette shouted in her ear. "Grab one of those ropes—" he indicated wildly a bunch of ropes along the side that swung terrifyingly to and fro across the heaving black sea "—and you don't have to swing, the storm will carry you over to the Pearl!"
Vila, who had thought the battle was scary but now realized it had been a walk in the park compared to this, shook her head. A group of men took the ropes and swung wildly out over the sea towards the Pearl, which seemed to be having a much easier time of it. Vila watched in horror as most of the men were knocked off their ropes by the power of the storm and fell to their deaths in the churning water below. "I can't do it!" she screamed.
"You have to! You said you'd put it to rights!" Gillette bellowed back. A wave crashed over them and he grabbed her forearms to keep her upright beneath the force of it. "It's your job, isn't it?"
"I'm going to die!"
"We're all going to die!"
"That's not comforting!" Vila shrieked, trying to take a step back but finding no purchase on the slippery deck. Gillette might have rolled his eyes—in the storm she couldn't really read facial expressions—and suddenly she found his arm around her back, under her arms, and he was rushing them towards one of the ropes—"NO!" Vila hollered, but Gillette ignored her—his hand wrapped around the rope, and she, desperate and terrified, clung to him and screamed, probably in his ear but who cared, they were all going to die horribly, as he took a great leap and swung them out over the monstrous, seething sea.
The Pearl was no longer directly in the eye of the storm, but was still above the full strength of it. Raeanne seemed to be alternately celebrating her escape from being Mrs. Commodore and focusing her energies on simultaneously seducing and rejecting Jack Sparrow. She had taken refuge from the storm in his cabin, afraid of damaging her extremely expensive gown and exquisitely styled hair. Meanwhile, the pirates were concentrating on battening down hatches and repelling the few boarders who had managed to make it over from the Dauntless.
"He's got to stop sometime!" Gibbs hollered to Will Turner, as the two of them worked to put down a tarpaulin. "He can't sail through the storm!"
But the Commodore seemed to be making a valiant effort. Gudrun, soaking wet and trying to hold on for dear life, saw the Commodore illuminated by lightning every so often and could even hear his shouts now and then. She had yet to catch sight of Vila, but assured herself her partner was fine, because what else would she be?
Another sailor from the Dauntless hit the deck behind Gudrun, and she turned around, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. In all the confusion, she was the only one who had noticed the boarder, which was lucky, because it was apparently Vila.
Gudrun dashed towards her partner and helped her to her feet as well as she could on the wet deck, trying to explain the situation to her at the same time. "I haven't Canonized her yet," she hollered above the wind, "because she hasn't totally messed things up yet! I wish she would, though, because this sucks, you know?!"
"I almost died!" Vila bawled at her.
Gudrun didn't really have a response to that. It was then that she noticed the dazed looking young man getting to his feet behind Vila, his eyes wide and horrified and on them both.
"Hide!" she shrieked, trying to pull Vila towards her hiding place under the stairs.
Vila shook her head as if to clear it, then realized what was happening. "Oh! No! It's all right! I mean it isn't, but—" the storm was eating her words, so she pulled her arm out of Gudrun's grasp and tried to indicate, with a wavering thumbs-up sign and lots of shrugging and head-shaking, that there was nothing to be done about Gillette. "Where's the Sue?" she screamed.
"Captain's cabin!" Gudrun screeched back, but as she spoke the doors of the cabin were flung open and Raeanne rushed out, hair and skirts streaming behind her.
"YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE, NORRINGTON!!" she howled into the wind, lightning illuminating her shapely figure. "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIIIIIIIVE!!111 I WON'T GO BACK TO STUPID OGMAE AND I WON'T MARRY YOU!!"
The air was thickening with significance and both Mediums took this as a sign that they were about to get their chance. Sure enough, a crack of lightning showed Norrington, standing on the prow of his sinking ship, shaking a fist.
"YOU WILL BE MINE, PRINCESS RAEANNE VARALEE KABIRIA YANICHELLE OF OGMAE!!" he bellowed. "I SAILED THROUGH THIS HURRICANE TO GET YOU BACK, AND YOU WILL BE MIIIIIIINE!"
"That's it!" Gudrun shrieked, struggling forward.
"He didn't sail through the storm to get her, he sailed through the hurricane to get Jack!" Vila shouted, completely unnecessarily, as Gudrun already knew that. "Gudrun! Canonize her!"
Gudrun struggled with the cork of the Canon bottle as she threw herself headlong into the wind towards the Sue. As she opened it, the Pearl leaned dangerously to one side and she was flung headfirst into Princess Raeanne Varalee Kabiria Yanichelle of Ogmae, Canon spilling all over the princess' tremendously expensive gown.
"WHAT THE HELL—" Raeanne howled, pushing Gudrun away from her, but it was too late. The storm was fading and they were being pulled back—
Vila turned suddenly and sprinted as well as she could across the creaking watery deck to Gillette, who was holding onto the rail and trying to pull out his sword, having lost his pistol and apparently having decided that while he was here, he might as well kill some pirates. "Hey!" she screamed at him. "Thank you!" She held out a hand.
"Vila!" Gudrun was hollering. "We have to go! We're going!"
Gillette hadn't shaken her hand but was instead looking at her with profound distrust. "I thought you said it was going to go back to the way it was!" he yelled.
"It is! It will!" Vila could feel herself vanishing and, in a last desperate move, grabbed Gillette's hand and shook it tightly. "Thank—"
"—you!" she finished, but it was quiet.
"Why are you yelling? We're not in the storm anymore, you know," said Gudrun, who was wringing water out of her hair.
Vila looked around and let out a gasp. There were four of them here,
in the tranquil headquarters-type-place: herself, Gudrun, a soaking wet Suethor with long hair and acne, and, oh no, Gillette, looking as if he was about to panic.
"Um," she started, feeling as if she was about to panic herself. "Um. Don't worry, you'll be sent back in a moment."
Gillette gave her a stare. "Sent back to certain death? Oh, no, I'm not at all worried."
"Sorry," Vila went on. "That was my fault. I forgot about the—the touching thing."
"Gudrun Quenby," Gudrun was saying pleasantly to the Sue. "And Vila Borcka. We're Happy Mediums. Who are you?"
"johnniizprincess12492," the Suethor said, looking confused. Her face brightened. "The last part of my screenname is my birthday!"
"Cool," Gudrun said, as the Suethor began to fade. She waved. "Happy writing!"
I don't recall asking you to bring anyone back with you, the Voice intoned suddenly.
"Yeah, sorry," Vila said hurriedly. "It was just—I forgot."
Indeed. The Voice didn't sound angry; if anything, it sounded amused. You realize we cannot keep him here.
"What is that?" Gillette demanded, sitting upright. "Whose voice is that?"
"Um." Vila looked at Gillette, then tried to look back at the Voice but remembered it was just a Voice and there was nothing to look at, so she just looked up. "Well, um, sorry, but, why not?"
I beg your pardon?
"Miss Borcka! To whom are you speaking?" Gillette's voice had gone rather high, as though he were getting slightly hysterical.
"It's just," Vila began, "he was really—well, not nice to me, but not not nice, you know? He was—helpful. Sort of. He saved my life, or actually he put my life in very real and scary jeopardy, but it was for a good cause and sort of heroic, in a way. And," she winced, knowing she really shouldn't say what she was about to say, "I mean, we've just gotten to the part where he gets killed off—"
"What?!" Gillette spluttered.
"—so it's not like canon is going to miss him," she finished hurriedly. "And I'd rather he not die," she added.
"Me, too," Gudrun chimed in, smiling. "He looks like a good sort of person, you know."
The Voice appeared to be flabbergasted. This is most unusual…
"I just, I don't like it when people who I don't want to die, die," Vila said sadly. "And we could use some help, right? Three's company, and everything."
He is not trained—
"Neither was I," Vila reasoned. "I was a last resort. And Gudrun was a mistake."
"A good mistake," Gudrun corrected her without malice.
"Yeah. I mean, you said it was unusual, but isn't everything about this job pretty unusual? And," she went on, gathering steam, "who's going to be better at fixing canon than a canon character, right? Even if he is pretty minor," she added. Gillette let out an indignant sound.
Well, the Voice pondered. Well. As we have reached the general period of Mr. Gillette's canonical death, and as we will be moving forward now, I suppose…well, I suppose there's no real harm…
"Thank you," Vila breathed. "I mean—" She turned to Gillette. "You want to stay with us, don't you? You don't want—"
"I don't want to die," Gillette finished for her. "I…" He glanced from one Medium to the other, then around at the surrounding apartment. "I suppose I do rather want to see how the whole thing turns out." He gave them a rather weak grin. "Although I will require a bit of time to, ah, sort all of this out in my mind, and make certain I'm not mad."
"You're allowed to be mad," Gudrun said politely. "We don't mind."
"Well," Gillette said ponderously. "Then I suppose it is 'Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more', or something along those lines?"
Precisely, Mr. Gillette, the Voice said. For, as you know, we now have sequels.
There was a simultaneous sinking of hearts.