Dark of the Moon

-- 1: Spoils --

"I saw her first."

"That's a bloody lie!" snarled Knacker

It was. And Captain Tobias knew it, too. He cocked a brow and gave his protégé a quizzical look. "That the way of it, Jack? Well, then. To the victor goes the spoils."

With a roar of anger, Jack's opponent was on him, and then it was the clash of steel on steel, the thump, pad, and scrape of boots. In seconds they were surrounded by a gawking, cheering mob, but Jack refused to be distracted. He had to win.

And did. Barely.

Five minutes, maybe, though it'd seemed an hour. Chest heaving, Jack stared down at his bleeding foe, and there was surprise on both their faces.

Jack recovered first. He turned to the girl. Pale hair, pale face. Rough hands holding her. For him. They let her go at his approach.

She gasped as he gripped her arm. He ignored it. "Come," he said, and led her away.

-- 2: Normal --

She followed him, perforce, pulled along by the imperative, almost painful hand at her wrist. The bloody horror of the night, the leering faces they passed, the stars wheeling fatefully overhead: all weighed her down, kept her silent but for her rasping breath. An opening gaped in the black deck, and they started down, down into the depths of this monstrous ship, their feet thumping on the steps. Then along a dark, narrow passageway, leading, finally, to a shadowed door.

He opened it and shoved her inside with a hand at the small of her back; followed her in and closed out the remaining light.

There was a scraping sound, a spark, and light bloomed in a small lantern that hung from the low ceiling, illuminating them both. She had backed as far as she could when he'd released her – not far at all in the tiny space. The edge of his cot burned the backs of her legs, and she stared at him, this exotic, dangerous unknown, and he stared back, black eyes absorbing her from head to toe. She set her teeth.

"Sit down," he said, abruptly, sharply.

She hesitated only a moment before complying.

He frowned, thoughtfully. "You'll have to stay here."

She swallowed hard, and nodded.

"Do you want some tea?"

She gaped. "Tea?"

"Aye. I can fetch you some, if you like." He shrugged. "My mother swore by it in bad times. Said it calmed her nerves an' all."

His mother?

She burst into tears.

-- 3 --

Oh, bloody hell.

Jack leaned back against the door, closing his eyes for just a moment. But the distraction of vision was required, really, in order to cope with the grating sounds of feminine distress (bordering on hysteria if he was any judge) and the pain of the cut on his shoulder (shallow, but seeping, and ruining his favorite shirt). So he looked again at his… prize.

Pretty, in a washed out sort of way – or he'd thought so before, when she wasn't weeping -- but too young and tremulous to be of much interest to him in the way she feared. She'd been married though, even young as she was – he could still see the husband's face in his mind's eye, livid with agony, then going slack as the life went out of him, blood pooling beneath the body. Bit of an ass, challenging pirates when he'd a wife to protect. It was her screams that'd alerted Jack to the fight, and when Knacker finished the husband and went for her, well, he couldn't let that pass, could he? Not knowing Knacker's proclivities as he did.

Her sobs were growing less. He groped for a handkerchief, found it, and straightened, holding it out.

"Here."

She peeked up, her pale blue eyes swimming and rimmed with red. Saw what he was holding and let her hands fall, revealing mottled cheeks, quivering lips, and a nose desperately in need of that handkerchief.

She took it from him, and then took her time, blotting her face, blowing her nose, her breath hitching and shuddering all the while. Eventually she glanced up, looking him over again, uncertainly. She cleared her throat a bit and said, "Are you… don't you like women?"

He stared for a moment, then burst out laughing. He was tempted to say, "God's teeth, girl, shall I fetch a mirror?" but, in view of the fact that they would likely be sharing a cabin for some time, he said only, "I like 'em – when they're willing. Which, I presume, you're not. Or have I misconstrued the sudden attack of vapors? Is it just that you don't like tea, then?"

And offended her anyway. She said in a shaking voice, "I have every right to cry. You've killed my husband!"

"Have not. 'Twas Knacker – and it was your fool of a husband that provoked 'im."

"He… he…" But she broke off in evident consternation, unable to acquit her late spouse of this accusation. For a moment Jack thought she was going to commence weeping again, but instead she surprised him by changing the subject all together. "Your mother! And what would she say about you being a pirate? But I daresay she would not object at all and was some… some horrid low creature."

Jack's good humor vanished. It must've shown, for he saw her cringe in alarm, her brief defiance at an end. "You," he stated in voice of quiet menace, "will never mention my mother again. Savvy?"

She nodded quickly, biting her lip to stop its trembling.

He went on. "I'm going out, to have this seen to." He turned his arm so she could see the wound he'd taken on her behalf, and was pleased when she seemed startled and concerned. But he continued severely, "You'll bolt the door and let no one in 'til I return. I'll knock twice, then twice again, so you know it's me. And if you're slow to open it for me, or get up to any tricks while I'm gone, you willdeeply regret it."

She stifled a sob.

He pointed an accusatory finger and snapped, "And no crying while I'm in the cabin."

She nodded again, looking a bit frantic.

He nodded, too. "I'll bring you some tea."

He left, then, and shut the door, and was pleased to hear the bolt being set a few seconds later. But then a wail of despair was heard, followed by a fresh series of loud, choking sobs.

Bloody hell.

-- 4 --

Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!

But God was far from her indeed this night. Her back against the cabin door, she sank down to the sole and drew her knees up, rocking and sobbing.

Stupid, stupid Brian! She was suddenly furious that her husband had gotten himself killed and left her in such a fix.

And just as suddenly felt horridly guilty for thinking it. Her sobs increased accordingly.

Thank goodness that pirate had taken himself off after placing such an unreasonable prohibition upon her, for how could she help but weep?

She shuddered and hugged herself tighter, the horror of her capture and the sword fight racketing through her brain – and the foundering, sinking Eliza Mae forming a nightmarish backdrop.

Full fathom five, Brian is, just as in Shakespeare. We could have been in the longboats with the others, together and alive.

Oh, Brian!

Anger and grief assailed her again. And fear. For she was now in the power of… of… that man. A pirate.

But an unexpected one. That had to be admitted. Perhaps he had some hidden motive in his offer of tea. He would drug her, maybe, and take her while she lay helpless!

Although he hadn't seemed entirely anxious to… dishonor her. In fact, she would almost say he'd been annoyed.

She took a deep, shuddery breath and gave a watery sniff. Groped for the handkerchief again.

Tea. She could use some of that – if not something stronger! But no, she must keep her wits about her. The pirate – Jack, was it? – was dangerous, and cunning, too. Very different from her big, blundering, tow-headed fool of a husband. Dear fool. No, this… Jack… was barely taller than she was herself, and seemed young, but he was also dark, sharp, deadly. Polite, but that could be a mask. Yes. She must keep her wits about her.

She blew her nose.

-- 5 --

"Bill!"

Bootstrap turned and grinned. "Jack! That was fast! Didn't I tell you to slow down and take your time with the ladies? I'm tellin' you, mate, it makes for a better experience all around…"

"Oh, shut up!" snapped Jack, testily. He lowered his voice. "I've barely laid a hand on 'er and she's weepin' fit to be tied! Y'don't think I could bunk in with you and let 'er have my cabin 'til we're rid of 'er – I'd still be close that way…"

"Martin's in with me and there's barely room to breathe," said Bill. "The cabins are full up – you know that! You could swing a hammock with the lads, but then who'd keep an eye on her, eh? No, Jack. You've won her, now you get to look after her."

Jack groaned.

Bill chuckled. "Not as convenient as you'd imagined, I'll lay. That was a good fight, though. How's the shoulder?"

"Still bleedin' all over me shirt. Will you help me with it?"

"Let's see it."

Jack undid the ties on his shirt and pulled it aside, baring the cut which was high up on his left arm.

Bootstrap took him and pulled him around to the lamplight, the better to see it. "Doesn't look too bad, but like you said, it's still bleedin'. Best have the surgeon look at it."

"The surgeon. He's little better than a butcher, as you're aware. Be a good lad and bind it up for me, eh? It'll be all right."

Bootstrap, considering Jack's assessment of the surgeon's skills a just one, acquiesced.

They met the captain as they crossed the deck. "Jack! Through with 'er already, are ye?"

Jack smiled grimly. "I'm fetchin' 'er tea. And Bootstrap'll take care of this for me." Jack turned his shoulder, showing off his wound.

"Let me see that," frowned Tobias, and took Jack's arm. He ignored the roll of Jack's eyes, as well as the flinch and hiss of indrawn breath Jack couldn't quite hold back as he carried out the examination. "Hmm," Tobias said, finally. "All right, then. Bill can take care of it. Clean it with rum, Bill, and don't give 'im more than a nip to drink – wouldn't want to impair his abilities with the lady, waitin' for 'er tea an' all." He winked at Jack, and then chuckled at Jack's grimace of disgust.

"Thanks ever so much," Jack said sarcastically.

"Don't mention it, lad. That was a good fight. Yer a devil with a sword when yer heart's in it. Knacker'll likely live, by the way, in case you were interested."

"Wasn't aimin' to kill 'im, just to keep 'im off the wench."

Tobias nodded. "Which is why I permitted, as you know full well. That Knacker!" The Captain shook his head. "May have to see if we can't get shut of 'im when we get to Cartagena. He can find another ship there, easy enough. Bloody fool, bringin' a wench aboard. An' if 'e'd done for you I'd've slit his throat meself."

Jack did smile a bit at that. "Thanks, John."

Tobias winked at him. "Aye, well, just you take it easy with the lady, now. There'll be no slackin' just because you're entertaining a guest. You'd best pace yourself, savvy?" His dark eye twinkled at Jack's expression and he took himself off, chuckling.

Jack turned to Bootstrap, who was making a heroic effort to keep a straight face. Jack ground his teeth. "Bill…"

Bill cut him off, in a voice shaking with laughter. "Come on, lad, let's do that arm so you can fetch her that tea."

-- 6 --

The wind was coming up. She could hear it, faintly, whistling through the shrouds, intensifying the creak of wood and rope and the low booming sound of the water against the hull. Feel it, too, in the increased motion, and the tilt of the cabin. It was all so oddly familiar, all just as it had been aboard the Eliza Mae.

She clasped her hands together, huddled there on his cot. The ship must be moving quickly now, away from where her husband and the Eliza Mae rested beneath the waves; leaving behind the longboats and their burden of good, honest men. Her lip quivered and she sniffed; dabbed at her nose with the damp handkerchief, and took a shuddering breath. Though God seemed far away, she began to pray for them anyway. And for herself.

Some time later she roused with a jerk. There was a sound of booted steps approaching from without. She must have been asleep! How could she? Heart thumping, she scrambled off the cot and immediately fell to her hands and knees with a cry as the ship gave a sudden lurch.

The knock came – twice, then twice again. She staggered up, silently cursing her hampering skirts, and to the door, where she held back, afraid, just for a moment. But there was no choice. She jerked the bolt free.

"Open it, will you? M'hands're full," came his voice.

She did as he'd asked, then scuttled back into the corner of the cabin. He walked in and she gasped aloud. He was naked!

Well, shirtless, at least. But her breath caught in her throat even at that, her eyes irresistibly drawn to the smooth, muscular chest and arms, and the flat belly, all deeply and uniformly bronzed in the light of the little lantern. His long, dark hair, which had been tied back before, now hung loose, down past his sculpted shoulders, and there were bits of shine tied into it, coin, bead and bone. Swirls and patterns of ink adorned his skin, and some scars too. The whole effect was utterly barbaric and… and beautiful. Her cheeks flamed.

She forced her eyes upward, to meet his dark ones (which also shone disconcertingly amidst the eyeblack he affected), and blushed deeper at his expression: an arched brow and an imperfectly suppressed smile.

"Sorry, love," he said (not sounding sorry at all). "Taylor offered to wash an' mend the shirt for me. Couldn't pass it up."

"Oh," she said. Love. She frowned. He sounded different, the edges of temper and voice smoothed, his speech slurred. And that look. She suspected he'd been imbibing strong drink. She watched him warily as he set his burdens down.

These consisted of two wooden buckets. "Brought you some fresh water, and look here: I found you a chamber pot!" He picked up the large pewter vessel, the bottom of which had formed a makeshift lid for the water bucket. He presented the homely object to her with something of a flourish.

She accepted it with a muttered, "Thank you."

"Just shove it under the cot there, at the end," he said with the wave of a hand. "You'll be glad of it after you drink this." From the other bucket he withdrew an etched silver flask, a bulky cloth-wrapped packet, and finally a covered tankard. "Your tea, ma'am."

She felt a little glow of pleasure, in spite of her fears. "You did bring it!"

"Told you. There's sugar, too, if y'like. An' some biscuit an' dried fruit to go with 'em. But--" He gave her a teasing, sideways glance. "There's a price!"

The glow faded. "A price?"

"Aye. Your name."

"Oh," she said. "It… it is Mrs. Granger."

"Ah."

He looked amused: as well he might be. It seemed absurd to insist on formality in such a situation, but she had no other defense against whatever wiles he chose to practice upon her.

Which he continued to practice, immediately. He bowed in a very courtly manner, saying, "A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Granger. Jack Sparrow, First Mate of the Black Pearl, at your service."

At her service! "Are you?" she said, her heart thudding at her boldness.

"What?" He straightened abruptly, hair swinging, and frowned.

"At my service?" She trembled as his good humor faded.

"I'd say so, considerin'. I may be wrong, but I'd wager a good bit on the chance Knacker's attentions wouldn't've been to your liking. I've made an enemy there, and am rewarded with the loss of my cot and half my cabin to a whey-faced chit who won't give me leave to call her by her Christian name. Not to mention this." He touched a hand briefly to the neat white bandage on his upper arm. "And," he continued, pouting, "I've provided you with not only tea but a bloody chamber pot, in spite of the jibes and taunts of my fellows."

His offended petulance seemed so unpiratical that her lips quivered against a smile. "Were you much hurt?" she asked, nodding at his bandaged arm.

He shrugged, as though hiding stoicism with nonchalance. "They say I'll live." He looked down his nose at her, again, the heavy-lidded eyes accusing.

She supposed it was time for a little plain speaking. "You're… you're not going to… ravish me?"

He sighed, much put upon. But then he fixed her with an appraising look and said, provocatively, "Depends on your definition of 'ravish', I suppose. But no, I've not yet been reduced to forcing the issue with females."

She felt her cheeks burning again, and pursed her lips. Dreadful man! "You have not drugged the tea, then?"

"Drugged the tea?" His increased exasperation was everything she'd hoped for. "You, madame, are…"

"It's Lettice, " she interrupted.

He was thrown off his stride. "What is?"

"My name. It's Lettice. You may call me Letty."

"Ah. Letty."

"And I am notwhey-faced."

He smirked, annoyingly. "Well, you are. But I daresay you'll be better for some tea. Drink up, love, and I'll swing a hammock. I've the watch at dawn so it's lights out soon as you're done."

TBC