Greetings friends, and my most humble apologies for the lateness of this chapter. I began writing it some time ago, but didn't like how it went and decided to redo it. Then life got in the way as it has a habit of doing sometimes...lol. Anyway, here's a nice long chapter for you! This story is nearing its end, and I hope you will like this segment!
As always, I don't own anything POTC, just the characters I made up and my crazy plot line..lol.
Chapter 22: A Match Made In Heaven….
"There, there, Miss Bryce…..no need for histrionics. I believe the stresses of the day have brought about your overwrought state, and will not hold your actions against you. The Turners have kindly invited me to sojourn with them while in Port Royal, so I suggest we depart for, shall we say, less hostile and open environs? " Jack patted the crying woman's back in a hesitant manner, warily eyeing the milling soldiers and few remaining spectators in the courtyard, ever mindful of the fate that awaited him should his true identity be revealed.
Hearing his drawled comments pulled Linnet back from her hysterical tears and made her realize the precarious position they were in. Flushing with embarrassment, she pulled free of Jack's tenuous embrace, and gratefully accepted his proffered handkerchief to wipe away the evidence of her recent tears. "My apologies, Mr…..?"
"Sir John Smith, lately of Devonshire, at your service, Miss Bryce. Arrived only last week, in fact….hadn't even been on land half a day before I heard the to-do about the upcoming trial. Upon learning of my intentions to open my law practice here in Port Royale, Mrs. Turner's highly esteemed sire hired me to aid you and Miss Miranda in your defense." The group proceeded to leave the courtyard, heading back into town and the relative safety of the Turner's home.
"Indeed. Miranda and I are very fortunate that such a skilled man-of-the-law arrived just in the nick of time to save us. We are most grateful, Sir John." Her words were cool and oh-so proper, and Jack couldn't hide his slight wince at the thinly-disguised bite of sarcastic anger in her voice. Bugger…I get the feeling she's more than a bit cross with me at the mo…… guess that means the wonderfully romantic reunion picnic on the beach I was planning will have to wait……
"T'was quite simple really….not difficult at all to place reasonable doubt in the minds of the judges when there were so many townspeople willing to come forward and testify to Miranda's innocence." …the added incentive of gold in their pockets didn't hurt Miranda's chances any either… "Your charges were actually more difficult to get dismissed, as there were at least a dozen witnesses to your verbal assault on the Commodore." He couldn't resist smirking as she blushed again with embarrassment and anger. "Really, my dear, proper ladies such as yourself are not supposed to even know about male genitalia, human or otherwise, much less speak of such things in mixed company." Jack was throwing himself wholeheartedly into his role, and smirked as he watched his future bride's face turn an interesting shade of red once more. He knew that there would be hell to pay once they were behind closed doors, but couldn't resist throwing in one last barb while they were in public just for good measure
"However, should your delicate feminine sensibilities not hinder that enchanting tongue of yours, I would entreat you to be more cognizant of the company you're in before discussing… " . Before he could finish his sentence, a sudden groan ending in a whimper from behind them caused them to stop in their tracks. Turning about, they found a stunned looking Will half kneeling in the street, clutching a sagging Miranda in his arms. Rushing to the young woman's side, Linnet noticed the sweat beads forming on her forehead and her young cousin's excessively flushed cheeks, and grew quite alarmed. Laying her hand along the unconscious girls forehead, she drew her breath in with a hiss and looked up at Jack, her anger now replaced with a new emotion.
"Fever…she's burning up." The look of pure terror in Linnet's eyes sent both men's hearts plummeting.
Two days later……
After tapping softly on the door to announce his arrival, Jack opened the well-oiled door and stepped silently into the room. The flickering candles by the bedside and the glow from the slowly dying fire provided the room's only illumination, but the dim light was enough to see the paleness of the patient and the exhaustion on the face of woman in the rocking chair beside the bed holding her hand. It was a quarter past 3 in the morning, and for the third night in a row the household slept uneasily, waiting and hoping that the morning would bring some change for the better. The only sounds in the room were the occasional popping of the fire and the rasp of Miranda's breathing. Linnet glanced up at him as he closed the door quietly and leaned against it wearily, his arms behind him and his leather slippered feet crossed at the ankle. He still wore the fancy shirt and breeches of an aristocrat, but the persona of the dandified British attorney was nowhere to be seen. His shorter, neatly combed black hair was tied back like Williams in a cue reaching between his shoulder blades, and Linnet marveled at the lengths he had gone to in order to complete his charade. His shirt, now limp from constant wear, was un-tucked, the sleeves rolled to the elbows revealing his tattoos, burn scars and brand. His upper lip and chin was covered with 3 days worth of slowly growing mustache and goatee, and the dark smudges under his eyes were for once not from smeared kohl but bore silent testament to his own lack of rest. Looking at this man she loved but could neither tell nor have was sheer torture.
"How is she?" Jack's quiet inquiry startled Linnet out of her reverie, and she sighed softly as she leaned down to wipe Miranda's fevered brow with a cool rag. "There's been little change. We've been steaming the room with menthol and eucalyptus to aid her breathing, and giving her willow bark tea, but nothing seems to help. The doctor says she must have had a slight cold before she was arrested, and being confined in that draft, damp cell for a week allowed pneumonia to set in. There's nothing we can do now but wait and pray."
She never heard or saw him move, but suddenly Jack was there behind her, his strong, warm hands massaging her tight shoulders as he leaned against the back of her chair. She immediately tensed, but he smiled faintly when she gradually began to relax under his ministrations, and he leaned down, his lips close to her ear as he gave voice to his thoughts.
"Miranda couldn't be in better hands than yours, love." He said softly, leaning down to remove the damp cloth from Linnet's hand and replacing it in the bowl on the bedside table. Coming around from behind the chair, he crouched down so that he could look up at her, taking her hands and bringing them to his lips as he kissed them one at a time. "But even these healing hands of yours need to rest occasionally, or we'll be having to nurse two patients instead of one. Not that I'd have any objections to you being nearly naked, weak and helpless in bed," at this he favored her with a leering grin. "but I'd much rather have you in that state from pleasure rather than illness or exhaustion…unless it's exhaustion from my personal attentions, savvy?"
Jack could have sworn Linnet's lips trembled with laughter for just a moment before her face crumbled and tears began to slip down her cheeks. She pulled her hands free of his grasp before covering her face, rocking back and forth with the force of her grief. Rising, Jack picked up the startled sobbing woman in his arms, sat down and placed her on his lap, pulling her hands down and wiping her face with a handkerchief from his pocket. "You know.." he began in a mock serious tone.. "this is getting to be a right regular habit with you ladies. Haven't gone through so many handkerchiefs in such a short time in my life. Blow." He commanded, and to Linnet's surprise, she complied, and allowed him to pull her head down onto his shoulder afterwards. "Now then, was the thought of my playing nursemaid so awful that it caused you to let loose with the waterworks, hmmm?"
"It's all my fault, Jack. If I hadn't let that odious Commodore goad me into losing my temper, I might have convinced him into allowing us to remain with Will and Elizabeth under house arrest until the trial. If only I had controlled myself, Miranda might not have gotten sick, but he just made me so..so damned angry! Oh Jack, if she dies, I won't be able to live with myself….. I'm such a cowardly fool!"
Jack stroked her hair and made soothing noises as he slowly rocked the guilt-ridden woman enthroned on his lap. "What? Refusing to back down to a blackmailing bully rather than taking the easy way out doesn't sound like cowardice to me, sweetling. You were trying to do what was best for you and Merry. If anyone should be accused of cowardice, it would be me for leaving you to handle the situation all by your onesies."
Jack sighed quietly, and tilting her chin up with a finger, he brushed a fleeting kiss across her mouth before he continued speaking.
"That day we argued, I admit I was angry and hurt, and said some things I didn't mean. I'd take back those harsh words I said if I could, but since that isn't possible, I'd like to ask your forgiveness for any pain they caused you, and I hope you don't think too badly of me for being such an ass." He smiled softly at her, his warm brown eyes searching her face, hopeful of being forgiven.
"I forgave you a long time ago for that, Jack Sparrow….but reprimand me in public again like you did that morning, and I won't be held accountable for my actions, Savvy?" She parroted his favorite expression back at him with a tired but genuine smile before glancing back over at Miranda's sleeping form. "Jack….she has to get well…she just has too." She closed her eyes and finally let Morpheus claim her as Jack rocked them both into much needed slumber.
It was shortly before noon on the 4th day of Miranda's illness when Jack encountered Lieutenant Groves during his daily call. Up until that day, Jack had managed to avoid the earnest young man who had shown such care and concern for the young woman who had been in his charge. It was inevitable that his luck would run out, and so it happened that he was leaving Will's study just as the young man appeared in the foyer, tri-cornered hat under his arm and a fragrant bouquet to brighten Miranda's room in hand.
Jack stopped up short at the sight of the red uniform, forcing himself to relax and offering the young man a closed lip smile and a nod of greeting as he rolled down his shirt sleeves. He realized he didn't look anything like the stuffy English barrister he was purported to be, and felt a shiver of apprehension run down his spine. He knew of Linnet's and Merry's friendship with the young officer, and much as it would hurt them to see him harmed, he would do whatever it took to escape the hangman's noose.
"How is Miss Miranda? Has there been any change?" Matthew asked as the household's young maid curtseyed before taking the flowers from his hands, intended no doubt to replace the ones he had brought two days prior.
"Her fever rises and falls, but she shows no signs of waking. She had some type of seizure this morning and had to be restrained. The doctor is afraid that if she doesn't emerge from this sleep-like state in the next few days, it is unlikely she ever will."
Jack studied the young man carefully, watching as his expression went from sorrow to anger, his jaw clenching and eyes hardening.
"Damn Norrington and his blasted rules. He should have never put them into that mildewed dungeon! If Miranda dies, I swear I'll throttle him for being the brutish bastard who doesn't know the meaning of the word mercy, and they're welcome to court-martial and hang me afterward, if they dare."
"I know just what you mean, Lieutenant. Commodore Norrington has been a dull stick for as long as I've known him, but I never knew him to be quite so vindictive. I've a gut feeling that his actions as of late have less to do with the young misses and more to do with the Turners." The young officer looked at him curiously, and Jack explained. "He was once engaged to Elizabeth Turner, and seeing her so happy after breaking off with him not all that long ago may have soured him on females as a whole, especially bold, impudent, saucy wenches like Miss Bryce."
Matthew eyed the man before him knowingly, hesitating only a moment before he replied. "For someone who only recently arrived in Port Royale, you seem to know its residents quite well, Sir John…..or do you prefer to be addressed as Captain Sparrow?" He spoke quietly, with a hint of amusement in his voice, his posture relaxed and non-threatening.
Jack stiffened and eyed the young officer warily, his hand automatically reaching for his non-existent scabbard as he awaited the soldier's next move. Noting the faint smile on the young man's face, he relaxed a bit and sighed, shaking his head as he crossed his legs and leaned on one arm against the paneled wall. "I assume from your lack of alarm at learning the truth that you won't be rushing off to inform your superiors of my presence here?"
Matthew smiled and raised a single eyebrow before replying. "And what purpose would that serve, Captain? You would end up on the end of a rope, the Turners and Miss Bryce would hate me for all eternity, and the woman I love would still be hovering at death's door." He turned his head to look up to the third door down the hall on the 2nd floor where Miranda fought for her life and gave a sad, heavy sigh. "Besides, handing you over to Norrington would be a major feather in the Commodore's cap, and in light of recent events, I'm not feeling very charitable towards him at the moment. So you needn't worry….as far as I'm concerned, Jack Sparrow has never returned to Port Royale."
"Love, eh? I knew you cared for the lass, but I didn't know your feelings went that deep, especially since Miranda is.." Jack hesitated, not knowing quite how to proceed.
"Miranda is special, I know….and if I may be frank with you?" At Jack's nod, he continued. "I'm not some loathsome monster who lusts after a pretty form" He gave a shudder of disgust at the thought of Miranda at the hands of some he knew. "She's sweet, loving and gentle, and she looks at the world with childlike wonder that amazes me and makes me want to cry at times. I want nothing more than to hold her and care for her and make her happy for as long as I live."
Before Jack could respond to the Lieutenant's outburst, there was a cry from above that made everyone come running. Linnet burst from the sickroom, tears running down her face as she called out frantically for someone to fetch the doctor. Fear and grief crossed every face for a moment before Linnet broke out in laughter.
"No..no…..I'm sorry I didn't explain….we need the doctor because her fever's broken!" Even though she was plainly exhausted, Linnet's smile was bright enough to light the entire house. "Miranda is awake and asking to see everyone, especially you, Lieutenant. I can't explain it….one moment she was lying there as still as death, and the next minute she was awake, asking me why I allowed her to sleep so late. And it is so strange….she is a bit confused at the moment but she's…well…she seems different in a way. I can't explain it right now, but we need the doctor here right away! Oh, I'm so relieved!" And with that, she hugged Elizabeth and the two women disappeared into Miranda's room.
The two men exchanged relieved glances, and then Jack clapped a hand on Matthew's shoulder in a friendly gesture. "Dunno about you, mate, but I think this calls for a touch of something alcoholic, strictly for medicinal purposes of course."
"Well, I'm off duty til tomorrow evening, so I guess a little nip to celebrate could hurt." Lieutenant Groves and Jack had just turned and begun heading down the hall when a voice from above stopped them.
"Stay away from the rum if you know what's good for you, Jack Sparrow!" Linnet called out from the top of the stairs, forgetting Jack's disguise in her excitement and throwing a hand over her mouth in horror when she realized what she'd done. Jack merely chuckled at her expression and waved off her error.
"Not to worry, love….he already had me pegged for a pirate before you opened your pretty mouth. By the by, didn't I recently give you a warning about minding that enchanting tongue of yours recently?" Seeing her blush and glower at him, he laughed and blew her a kiss before escorting Matthew into the library and heading toward the shelf where he kept his supply of liquor.
"I thought Linnet told you to stay out of the rum?" the young officer asked, an amused expression on his face as the pirate before him poured out two fingers of bright amber liquid into two glasses.
"I am staying out of the rum." Jack replied with a grin as he handed Matthew a glass and took a deep sip of the one in his hand. "She didn't say anything about the brandy."