Chapter Fifteen: Interference

"You," Elizabeth snarled, a wailing Liam bundled in her arms, "are going on board that ship. Youare going to find Jack and Guinevere. And you will bring them back with you, or else you will not come back at all!" She raised her voice dangerously during the last few syllables.

Barbossa regarded her darkly. "Ever hit a woman, Master Pintel?"

Pintel, who had been quietly tightening knots on the ship's rigging, looked up. "No, sir, I never."

"I have."

"Hector!" Elizabeth's use of Barbossa's first name seemed to make him take her seriously. She looked quite vicious, her hair falling across her face and gritting her teeth.

"There may be only so much that I can do at this stage, Miss Turner. Jack and the lass may be feedin' the carp by now."

Elizabeth made a hissing sound. "They. Are. Not. Dead."

"And where be yer solid proof?"

"I just know. I would know."

Barbossa shook his head, but didn't argue any further.

Elizabeth hugged Liam to herself, breathing in his warm scent, training her brown eyes on the horizon. It pained her not to be able to join in the action that was sure to occur, but her son needed her.

The deck was a swarm of activity, every man on board ready and willing to lay down his life in order to rescue their captain. There was a grim look in every eye. The schooner in the far distance was large, and therefore a threat. It wouldn't be simple.

The dark sky looked down on them, unwaveringly calm. So calm that Elizabeth felt the need to be horribly worried just to make up for it.

Guinevere sat numbly by the door. She couldn't feel afraid. Or angry. Or even upset. She could only feel helpless, as though she was caught in the tide, and pulled into the vast unknown.

At one point she had begun to drift into an unsettled sleep, disturbed by haunting thoughts and memories. It had lasted but a few moments, until a yellowed scrap of parchment had been slipped under the door.

It hadn't been written by Dreyfus. Its scrawling letters differed from his on the mystery letter. No, it had been slipped in by a crew member. And a black-hearted one, at that.

Dawn draws near as the cockerel cries. Nearer still as the cockerel dies.

Said note now lay, discarded, near her. So daybreak was close. How, she wondered, can something so full of hope and beauty bring about something as awful as this?

At any rate, their goading little note was pointless. Her mind was made up.

She had to stay. She had known that from the moment Dreyfus presented her with her options. How could he even think that she would consider the latter? That choice was a dead end. Then again, someone as twisted as Dreyfus may well expect her to choose death rather than unhappiness.

She gave a little jolt as the door was thrust open.

"Time to go, girlie."

Jack sat in the same chair in Dreyfus's cabin, booted feet propped up on the glass-top desk. He whistled quietly, quite at ease. The Pearl couldn't be far off.

The door opened, heralding the arrival of Dreyfus, two of his (armed) men, and an ill-looking Guinevere. His eyes glinted when he saw her, but she didn't seem to be able to muster a smile.

"Sit." One of the sailors prodded her in the back with the barrel of his flintlock. She nodded, her expression broken, and Jack frowned. What had they done to her?

"For the record, I think I'd like some brandy this time, mate. The wine wasn't too kind on me stomach."

"I wouldn't be making jokes, were I you. Not when you've yet to learn of what Miss Van Dort has to say."

Jack looked at her. Not a fearful look, not all that curious either. Just a calm, simple look.

"Well, niña. Go ahead. Tell your…friend about what we discussed."

Guinevere shook her head slightly. She wouldn't be ridiculed like this. Not in front of Jack. She would be strong. At least, as strong as she could allow herself to be.

"I…" she faltered. "I… have to stay, Jack. And you can go." Her voice came out soft, cracked.

"What?" Had he misheard, or simply didn't believe what he was being told?

"You have to go. Barbossa, Elizabeth… they'll be here soon. You have to leave with them."

Dreyfus watched the scene unfold, smiling wolfishly. "You see, Captain Sparrow, she and I have reached an agreement. You may leave the Fuente de la Juventud unharmed, on one condition. That she does not leave."

There was a brief pause, during which Jack's mouth worked silently. Finally, to Guinevere's relief, he nodded.

"Right. But jus' so's you know, mate. Captain Jack Sparrow never gives up what's his."

"Ah." Dreyfus watched him carefully. "I see. So, pray tell me, Captain Sparrow: do you love her?"

Guinevere held her breath, looking at the floor.

"And what use is that information of to you?" Jack replied evenly, his tone guarded.

"Curiosity, simply. That is to say, you wish no harm to come to her?" Dreyfus's eyes had darkened; a sinister air had crept over his tone.

"Aye. Though harm is a broad statement. What's to say she ain't harmed right now, harmed in the head?"

"A worthy argument. But tell me, Sparrow… to what lengths would you go to to ensure she comes to no physical harm?"

Still rather relaxed, Jack opened his mouth to reply, but closed it rather abruptly as a deafening crash issued from somewhere above.

The sailors standing by the door jumped, but Dreyfus remained stationary.

Guinevere glanced up, a flicker of warm hope in her eyes. The Black Pearl?

"And so it begins." Dreyfus murmured, a disquieting smile dancing on his lips.

A/N: I'm baa-aaaaack!