Disclaimer: If it's yours, then it's yours. If it's mine, then it's mine. But whether it's yours or mine, if pirates like Jack see it, there's a good chance it will soon belong to them. So watch your back.
As I'm sure any self-respecting PoTC fan must be aware,March 7 (the beginning post-date of thisfic)marks the sixteen-months-till date for Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest. In celebration, and hopefully to help tide you over, I begin a new story for you. Enjoy.
Chapter 1: Not a Sound
"Well, this isn't the worst place I've ever been. In fact, it's almost nice here."
"Nicer than in Nassau's, anyway," Gwen agreed from the dark shadows off to Jack's right. After a long moment of comfortable silence, she asked, "Have any ideas yet?"
"A few, if ye can find some way to get our swords back, as well as a tree or two, and a few cows."
"I look like a cow," Gwen replied boredly. "Does that help any?"
"No, you don't," Jack answered, dully and automatically. If there's anything he had learned in the past few months, it was that Gwen truly didn't care what his opinion on her pregnant body was. He was just expected to say "No, you don't" every time she disparaged herself, without making any argument out of it.
"I'm not a quartermaster, Jack," Gwen said with a jaded sigh, "so you'll have to think of something else."
Jack yawned. It had already been long past midnight when they had been arrested on charges of smuggling; it seems the law had been tracking them with the help of an informant, probably one of the clients they'd contracted to deliver rum to. The public prosecutor had been awakened when it was realized that the arrested couple were not mere smugglers but Jack Sparrow himself and one of his compatriots. Jack's execution had been set for the day after tomorrow, due to some large wedding or other semi-religious big-to-do in the city that would be taking place the following morning. The public prosecutor hadn't wanted to schedule an execution at the same time, since he wanted to make sure both events were well-attended, so he postponed the execution for a day. Gwen's sentence, of course, would be suspended for now at least, due to her condition.
But after the initial melee of excitement over the arrests had died down, and after the prisoners had finally been locked away into adjacent cells and the extra officers had returned home, the prison grew suddenly very still and very sleepily quiet.
A wise prisoner would take advantage of the dark and the drowsiness of the remaining guards in the night to plot his escape. But cunning, self-sure villains like Jack and Gwen weren't so worried. It seemed natural and even guaranteed that they would find some method of escape at some point, and they weren't worried in the least. So rather than try to keep his eyes open and his brain functioning at this late (or rather, very early) hour, Jack just put their escape on his "to-do" list and yawned again.
"We'll think of something in the morning," he mumbled, trying to find a comfortable position against the cell wall. Judging by the sounds coming from the corner of Gwen's cell nearest his, she was trying to do the same, making little sounds of displeasure and discomfort. Jack almost made a complaint, to point out that at least for her their captors had gone to the trouble of providing a straw pallet to sleep on. But after a moment, Gwen released a heavy breath, and Jack closed his eyes to go to sleep, assuming she was already dozing off as well. He had nearly drifted off when he heard her whispering, more to herself than anything else.
"But it's too early," she was saying.
"I know it's early," Jack grumbled. "So go to sleep."
"Jack!" Gwen hissed.
"What now?" he asked wearily.
"I think it's coming."
"The baby," Gwen answered fiercely.
A long pause followed. "I thought ye were telling Elizabeth ye still had a few weeks left," was the only response that came to Jack's mind after he finally assimilated what she was saying.
"Well, I can't be certain. But I know it's too soon now for-"
"Then wait," Jack interrupted, as though the solution were an obvious one.
"It's coming now, Jack," Gwen said flatly. Then she went on, as though talking to herself again, "I didn't think anything of it earlier; it could have just been the little one kicking. But that last… it's… the pains are starting. It's coming now."
"Not a good idea," Jack said, though he did go to the trouble of shuffling across the floor toward the bars that separated the two cells.
"Yes, thank you, I know that. You can tell him that when he arrives."
"Can't ye just-"
"No, I can't just-" but Gwen never finished her sentence.
Jack could barely see her in the darkness, but he heard her suck in a sharp breath, and then one of her hands reached spasmodically through the bars and latched onto a handful of Jack's trousers. He made a sound of protest, but when he tried to pry her fingers loose, she instead just gripped his hand even harder than she had his trousers. After a minute or two, though, she gradually loosened her grasp. Jack heard her breathing heavily, the way one might while trying to catch a breath after swallowing cries of pain.
"It's coming fast. This is wrong. It's too soon," Gwen panted in clipped tones. There was a long moment during which she tried to recover her sensibility and think, while Jack scarcely dared to move. "Jack, you're going to have to help me."
"Help?" he repeated dumbly.
"Elizabeth obviously can't be here. You have to stay with me, Jack. Think."
Another long, tense silence followed.
"Jack? What are you doing?"
"What are the chances of Elizabeth showing up?"
"Not very good," Gwen hissed back. Jack hadn't realized that she was still clinging to his hand until her grip began tightening again. His whole arm was aching now, his forearm from her anaconda-like constriction, his bicep and shoulder from being wrenched against the cold metal bars. Best to take his mind off the pain. So he tried thinking of something other than that…
"They must know we're here, by now," he mused aloud.
Jack flinched. Exasperation he was accustomed to hearing from her, but now she was being downright venomous!
"I'll escape, then," he offered graciously, "and go get Elizabeth."
"You leave me here alone like this," Gwen countered, "and I'll give you the ability to sing that bloody song of yours an octave higher than I do."
Jack scowled. He had been afraid she would say something like that. "Ye never say anything like that when we-"
"Jack, can we argue later? I'm a little busy right now."
He stopped short at this. He frowned again. Not argue now? What was wrong with the world? When was it ever a bad time to have a little argument? And besides that, couldn't a man just get some rest? What a night this was!
Jack chewed thoughtfully at a fingernail for a moment as he peered through the gloom toward the front of his cell. With a resigned sigh, he decided he might as well try to do something constructive. Damn any chance of getting sleep now. Then, sliding his other arm out of Gwen's loosened grasp and back through the bars separating them, he clambered to his feet and made his way forward. She didn't call after him as he half-expected she would.
Jack would never admit it to anyone openly, but he had indeed learned a valuable lesson from Will: iron bars were not necessarily as impassable as they seemed. With that thought in mind, he began to examine the structure of his cage. He tried jiggling the bars, experimenting with pulling at them from various angles. Indeed, they weren't as solid as one would expect; they wobbled a bit when he shook them, and the hinges clattered perhaps more than it seemed they should. But how to get free…
In truth Gwen scarcely noticed Jack's rattling about. She was more concerned with other things. The moment she'd been dreading and which she had pointedly avoided thinking of had finally arrived. She had no firsthand experience with childbirth, and had no real idea of what to expect. And the only two accounts in her mind on the subject were conflicting: Neither her mother nor her baby brother had survived their ordeal, several long years ago. But Elizabeth and her young son were both thriving, happy, and healthy.
Another fierce jolt of pain and pressure shocked her from her reverie and she was uncomfortably aware that her water had broken. "Jack," she groaned, mostly just for the sake of having some name to blame, rather than because she expected an answer. She braced herself for the duration of the contraction, gulping hasty snatches of air. There seemed to be no end to the pain, and Gwen instinctively pushed, desperate to do whatever was necessary for the pain to come to an end. She was sure she was going to split open from the pressure- and that was just fine with her, so long as it happened quickly.Enough of this prolonged torture.
And suddenly, finally, the pain fled away again. Or she thought it did… expected that it would, at least. Instead, she quickly realized, it merely changed in intensity and origin. The pain of contraction temporarily subsided but gave way to the more constant terror of impending childbirth. She fleetingly thought again of how this was happening far faster than she had thought it was supposed to do. It didn't seem right.
This new impression scarcely had time to sink in before yet another shock of pressure snatched at her. Any other thoughts that might have been crashing about in her mind were consumed whole by the instinctive effort to push against the forces that had hold of her.
Jack squinted as he stared into the thick shadows from where he stood at the now-open entrance to his mate's cell. He could hear Gwen, but he couldn't see her.
Oh, he could definitely hear her very well indeed. She'd not yet actually cried out (for which he was grateful), but he wouldn't be surprised if a warden came rushing in to investigate at any moment, for all the rasping, groaning sounds she was making.
Jack frowned and stealthily made his way towards her corner. "Gwen," he called softly to alert her to his presence.
But she didn't seem to have heard him. No answer was forthcoming.
Still no answer.
Jack didn't want to speak any louder for fear he'd disturb a guard's oblivious slumber, and he preferred his guards to be oblivious and slumbering whenever possible. He shuffled forward another step or two as he opened his mouth to call once again…
…and had to bite back a yelp of surprise as a claw-like hand suddenly seized his leg from the heavy darkness. Her fingers were digging painfully into his calf muscles. He frowned again, nervously, as it began to dawn on him that his light-hearted denials couldn't hold up under the gravity of what was happening.
Suddenly impressed, though he resisted it, with the reality of their situation, he knelt beside her. He reached in the same bending motion to pull her hand from his leg. Gwen's other hand came up to grasp his arm as he clenched her hand in his. Jack was almost sure then that he heard Gwen mouthing his name over a gasped breath. He leaned closer to her and waited for her to speak again. More clearly, she choked out, "You're going to have to-"
Jack moved nervously as her words were swallowed in another stifled groan that sounded painful enough itself, without thinking of what caused her to make such a sound.
"Gwen?" He didn't really expect an answer this time, though. He understood. He shifted, reaching out toward her with his free hand to orient himself. She suddenly released her constricting hold on his arm to allow him to move. Jack realized, grimly, what he was going to have to do. Leaning back for a moment, he quickly shed his coat and vest. He pulled off his shirt as well. Then, uneasily, uncertainly, he guided himself in the dark to a more intimate position, familiar and disturbingly unfamiliar at the same time, keeping a hand on her knee to reassure her. Or perhaps to reassure himself.
The next few minutes were, and would ever remain, a mere smudge to Jack. It was the sort of experience one never wants to repeat.
As he listened helplessly to Gwen's half-muffled groans and swallowed cries of pain, haunting thoughts came to him unbidden. Women died in childbirth. He forced himself to focus on his task, trying to block out the distressing sounds of her agony and trying to decide which deities he should promise favors to. Those long, cold moments steeped intofeverish minutes Jack would never be able to recall. The only memories hewould ever be able to summon of them were of sensations and sounds, since he could scarcely see much more than shadows.
In a single moment his world changed forever. He heard, distractedly, shuffling sounds up the corridor toward the guards' posts. A frightening little creature, his own tiny child, was born and tremblingly wrapped in his shirt. It made not a sound. Feeling the most vulnerable he had ever felt in his entire life, he poked and rubbed the little bundle, trying to find some sign of life in it, scarcely even noticing the quaver in his voice. "Gwen? Gwen, it's… it's not- Gwen?"
She made not a sound.