J.L.: As per usual, I am terribly late with the updates, blah blah blah excuses excuses excuses. To be fair, I have been work on three novels (All original works), a webcomic (which has also been suffering lack of updates for at least two months now), full time job, full time husband shenanigans...the list just goes on. The important thing is that I establish a deadline for this story to be finished, and let's aim for October. That doesn't mean I'll sacrifice any content for the sake of the deadline, after all, who's paying me to do this? Enough stalling, here's what you came for.
I woke up, warm in the inn's otherwise lumpy and uncomfortable bed. Chris was snoring somewhere bedside the bed, having refused to leave me alone in the room due to the danger of this town. I didn't argue, and had offered to share the bed. Chris had refused and instead slept on the floor beside me. I didn't know what to think of it at first but he explained that since I was in disguise he didn't want to chance exposing me. I spent a long time thinking about him as he slept during the night, trying to sort out my feelings. The same distractions came to mind, the higher priority of getting his sister back safely.
"Chris..." I whispered, brushing my hand along his shoulder. He stirred slwoly and looked up.
"Something wrong?" He asked.
"We need to find Claire." I said. Chris sat up and brushed his eyes open.
"Fix your beard then." He advised and the two of us quickly made our way out into the sunlight. There were a few bodies laying along the muddy road that composed the town's navigational ways, some of them drunkards still passed out from the night's boozing before and some of them dead men from underhanded deals gone wrong. An old man pulling a cart along the road would poke the bodies with a stick to discover whether the poor bastards were dead or alive, loading up the dead ones on the cart.
"I wonder where the crew went?" I asked in my controlled male voice. Chris shook his head.
"Hopefully Bruce and Forrest kept Carlos out of trouble." Chris replied as he glanced over the bodies to see if any of them were our crew. Sure enough, laying half in a mud puddle and half out of it, we found Carlos alive but reeking of rum. Chris hauled the drunk up on his feet and we got a closer look. Carlos had blood caked dry down the front of his face from his mouth.
"Oliviera?" I asked. Carlos opened his eyes and grinned, missing no fewer than two teeth.
"Eh...Capshun!" The drunk said. Chris locked eyes with me.
"Where are Bruce and Forrest?" I asked.
"Boosh leffs wish shome ayshin girl. Forresh ish shleepin whish shome horsse." Carlos slurred out.
"We need to get him back to the inn." Chris said. I nodded and the two of us helped Carlos get back to the inn where I dumped the drunk into a bed. Chris and I then stepped outside and were face to face with my brother. My breath lodged itself in my throat and Chris was in front of me in a heartbeat.
"Calm down." Leon ordered, pressing a pistol into Chris's abdomen. My hand was tight around the handle of my cutlass, but Chris's life was on the line.
"Leon." I hissed.
"You look terrible in drag." He commented calmly.
"Where is Claire?" Chris growled.
"Calm down. She is fine, unharmed...you recall Wesker's hospitality." Leon assured us.
"What now?" I asked, eager to get Claire back, eager to get Chris out of this alive, eager to get this situation resolved.
"A prisoner exchange." Leon answered. My mouth gaped open for a second.
"We don't have any of your men. Any man caught sailing under a Jolly Roger in international waters is put to death upon capture and any man suspected of being a pirate on land is given a trial and hung upon capture." I informed him.
"I'm not talking about a man, nor a captured one." Leon sneered.
"Who are you talking about?" Chris asked threateningly. A man stumbled drown the hall drunk, bumping into the three of us before apologizing and stumbling off further down the hall.
"Tonight, at the inn where you two followed my men, we will discuss the terms of the exchange. You may bring your other three men with you as well as any sword or pistol your hearts desire. Bear in mind, should anything go wrong during the discussion, we know where Barry's family resides and have a few of my crew already planted within the town. Ditch the disguise Jill, it's ridiculous. Everyone knows who you are anyways." Leon instructed and pulled the pistol away, walking off.
"I don't like your brother." Chris growled.
"That man is hardly my brother." I agreed.
As the four of us men followed Jill through the town, I worried for her safety. She had done what Leon told her to do and had ditched the beard and neglect to hide her chest under tight linen wraps. Several drunk would stare at her as she strode with purpose through the muddy roads to the inn where Leon had told us the exchange would take place. Jill did not show any concern for the lecherous leers. She was quiet, busy running all the possibly events that could follow this exchange. We had both agreed that with the hints Leon left us, the exchange would involve her. She was the only woman that Wesker or Leon would know about being on the crew and Leon had wanted her to join him when he had kidnapped Claire.
Carlos, Bruce and Forrest were sober. Fear gripped the first two, and determination gripped the latter. They were expendable, having no personal connection to this. Jill and I agreed that we could count on Forrest's loyalty. We hoped that the fear would keep Carlos's mouth in check and that Bruce would be there when we needed him. I thought back to moment before we left for the exchange, when Jill and I were alone together.
"If they want you?" I asked. Jill shrugged, shaking her head.
"It's not really an 'if'...they do want me." She replied.
"Then what?" I asked. She locked her eyes on mine and shrugged again.
"We don't know what game they're playing. We don't know the rules, we're going in blind practically. At least once Claire's out of their hands, we'll have an edge, even if I'm in their custody." She answered. I frowned at this.
"I have to choose between your safety and hers." I groaned. She scoffed at me.
"You're not choosing anything. I'm the Captain here and this is my warrant." She pressed. I glared at her. She was right though, so I lost my resolve and backed down.
"I want my sister back, but I don't wanna lose you." I protested. Jill's shoulder slumped a little and she shook her head.
"Lets just...lets focus on just getting through this situation alive." She replied and lead the way out.
The inn came into view and we entered it. A few pirates were brawling off in the corner while more were drinking. Leon was leaning against a wall and motioned for us to follow him. We did, into the cellar of the inn, where there were men leaning up against the walls slightly hidden in the shadows. Wesker stood next to Claire, his arm securely wrapped around hers. Leon turned around when he reached them. Jill stopped and we stood behind her, ready for whatever would come.
"Great for you to come-" Leon started.
"Enough. Give us Claire and let them leave this island, and I'll come with you. Kill them and I'll pay you back." Jill demanded. Wesker smiled and released Claire. Claire shook her head, a pleading look on her face, but she kept quiet. Claire took a few steps towards us before latching on to me.
"Don't let them take her, Chris. The navy will hang her for piracy." Claire whispered. I wrapped my arms around my sister, hugged her close. Jill stepped over to Wesker and Leon.
"Now let them go. Our deal is done." Jill continued to order.
"Not even so much as a goodbye?" Leon taunted. Jill's eyes locked on mine for a brief moment.
"I wasn't under the impression I'd have a chance." Jill replied. Wesker started walking off, a few of the guys hidden along the walls following him.
"What kind of a brother do you take me for, Jilly? Say goodbye to your crew. I'm sure it won't be the last time you'll see them, but it may be the last time you'll see eye to eye with them." Leon teased. Jill shot a glare at him and then rushed in to hug me, placing her lips by my ear.
"You're Captain now, and I trust you to come after me. I will leave signs, and all the information I have on Leon and Wesker is written down in my journal in my desk in the Captain's cabin." She instructed.
"Jill..." I tried protesting.
"No. You can do this, and keep Claire with you. Don't give them anything. I trust you Chris, and I need you to do this." She whispered.
"Time's up, goodbye lover boy." Leon taunted, grabbing Jill and pulling her from me. Jill didn't resist but kept her eyes locked on me. I shuddered at her icey gaze, frozen on me and full of intent.
"Marry me." I demanded and Leon pulled her off.
"I will." She promised and then turned, following Leon as the rest of the men in the cellar left with them.
"What was the point in that?" Carlos growled.
"Jill's commanded us to go after her." I answered.
"I thought we would do that anyways." Bruce said. I looked back at them.
"There's more riding on the line now. It's not just one life at stake anymore." I told them. If I failed to get Jill back, my life would be ruined too.
Three days later I stood on the deck of my brother's long ago hijack ship, dubbed Damnation. Wesker and Leon did not bother to bound me, or even treat me as a prisoner of any sort. I was well aware of each of their crew members carrying pistols and blades and all of them were itching for a reason to use them. The next stop was at Bananuba Harbor, where Wesker would kidnap his lover and then we would sail off from there to raid a few ships. Leon had not made me entirely privy to his plans, but he wanted to convince me that the life of adventure that I had been fighting for could be found as a pirate.
"You're really attached to that young man, aren't you?" I heard Leon ask as he walked up and stood beside me.
"I love him, truly." I answered.
"Love, huh? I know what that's like. It's how I met Wesker actually." Leon said. I looked at him, confused.
"What would a pirate of love? Of passion and lust, I'll give you that, but love? Women are nothing but whores to you and loyalty has no place on a pirate crew." I retorted.
"I was courting a woman, Ada, when Wesker showed up. He challenged me to a duel, and when he really saw me in the light he recognized me. Ada is mine now, and she's waiting for us to pick her up. Wesker's told me of your struggle for freedom, and how hard you have worked just for adventure after adventure. Jill, the life you seek has really just been under your nose this whole time." Leon tried.
"I don't want to be a pirate." I reaffirmed.
"It is freedom. It is passion. It is a way of life that you could only beg and grovel for as the Duke's wife." He continued.
"Leon...those are...childish things. I didn't want to marry the Duke, you're right...but...I don't want others to suffer for my selfishness." I argued.
"You have not been selfish a day in your life. Wesker's filled me in on how you've lived, especially these past four years. Spending all your inheritance on finding me, marrying a Duke to help a town proper, giving up a lover to settle debts...you have lived for others long enough and I will show you how you can live for yourself." Leon promised. I shook my head.
"There's only one reason that I came with you. That man has his sister back now." I declined.
"If I offered you that man as your husband?" Leon hinted.
"I would have had him as my husband, if I had been permitted back with them. Why did you kidnap her, Leon? Everyone could have been happier that way." I asked.
"You would have never given me a chance, Jill. No matter what, you're still my sister and I have missed you terribly. I want you to see the world through my eyes, through the eyes of our father...not to be tied down as some man's breeding stock of a wife." Leon reasoned. His words pulled at my heart but I resisted them.
"You have removed that choice from me. You claim freedom, and passion...but I am surrounded by men who wouldn't hesistate to kill me. The only person I want to be with has been denied to me by you kidnapping me. I am now at the mercy of whatever government ship finds this ship. Let me go at Bananuba Harbor, and we'll go our seperate ways. I can keep hunting you, and you can keep fleeing but we can't live the same lives anymore. We're not kids anymore and we grew into two very different people." I tried.
"I will think it over, as long as you give my way of life a shot." Leon said and walked off. I placed my gaze back on the horizon.
"Hurry Chris." I whispered out.
J.L.: So how was that? Probably not worth the wait, but still pretty good, right?