"You'll hand over that letter, Jack Sparrow, and you will assist me in getting my boy back, so we can safely leave these shores for friendlier climes," she very nearly yelled.
"As promised, my liege," he vowed, holding his hands up in surrender.
V. A Most Felonious Crime
"You'll hand over that prisoner," Elizabeth barked, pointing the flintlock at the French gaoler's temple and looking downright fierce.
The portly fellow raised his trembling hands in surrender.
"He doesn't speak the King's English, Lizzie." Jack spoke evenly, as if Elizabeth's appearance here with a pistol in her hand was the most normal occurrence in the world, but in truth, he was having trouble gauging if she was one of his fantasies come to life or truly flesh and blood. It felt as if he was fresh from the Locker once more.
She had been still been sore with him—even after successfully nabbing her boy right out from underneath Auntie Swann's nose—when he had left her on that spot of land with Jamie to start afresh. As unforgiving as a tempest, she had been, for his having withheld Will's letter and unintentionally bringing mischief down upon her. So while he had dreamt of a rescue by Mistress Turner, her willingness to do so was not unremarkable. Nor could he fathom how she had come to hear of his plight.
"He understands this," she said, shaking the pistol at the gaoler, as the man fumbled with the ring of keys. "And, you know I never thought to use my accomplishments in such a manner, but my governess did teach me French," she shrugged.
"I'm sure you're very accomplished in all manner of things," Jack agreed.
"Dépêchez-vous," she said, the gun pressing to the man's temple.
The gaoler seemed to be rather terrified of Elizabeth, which was leading Jack to lean towards the authenticity of this vision of femininity before him—lovely, pleasant female flesh cloaked as a boy—as opposed to a specter. "He'll befoul himself if you knock him with that again," he advised her, as the man's keys clanked against the heavy lock. "And then we'll have to deal with the smell."
"He already smells like the stables," Elizabeth sneered, pushing the man through the now open door and into the cell.
"As do I, no doubt," Jack admitted as he held up his shackled hands. "Don't forget me shackles, mate."
"Ses mains," she urged the gaoler with a nudge of the man's rear with her black boot.
The man stumbled to his knees, uttering a gasped, "Mon Dieu," before crawling over to Jack and setting to work on the locks that had chained him to the wall of this Caribbean prison for countless weeks.
The man applied himself to his first shackle, and Jack squinted at Elizabeth, careful to observe every nuance, so as to be perfectly sure: "Lizzie, darlin', would you mind informing me as to whether you're an apparition?"
"Yes," he said, attempting to gesture, but as he was not yet unlatched, the attempt was foiled, resulting only in a clank of heavy chains. He scowled at the offending restraints. "I'm somewhat startled, taken aback to see you here before me. So, I gamble to ask, are you authentic, bona fide, unfictional?"
"Oh, oui," Elizabeth replied with a saucy quirk of her brow. "Perfectly, I assure you."
"You can parler français anytime, Lizzie. I like the sound of it on your tongue," Jack observed, looking up over the man's shoulder at Elizabeth's face. How she had entered this gaol successfully masquerading as a lad with her hair in a queue and breeches on, he did not know. After more than a decade since marrying Will Turner in the midst of battle, she was only slightly more womanly in shape, but that face: that was the face of a woman. Perhaps these mestizos were not only terrible cooks but also blind. "But, I always thought you had a talented little tongue."
"You speak boldly," she smiled, angling the pistol so that she could as easily shoot him as the guard, "for someone depending on my goodwill to release you."
"Aye, desperation has made me bold," he confessed as his second hand was nearly freed. "Just watch where you point that, please. I'd like the use of me effects, when I get around to enjoying this little rescue you've mounted."
"I shall take the greatest care," she promised in low tones.
Finally free of his restraints, he scrambled to his feet and grabbed Elizabeth's wrist. "Give me that," he demanded, tearing the pistol from her hand and spinning on the wide-eyed guard. Clocking the man sharply over the head with the butt of the flintlock, the blaggard slumped to the floor with a satisfying thump. That would smart when he awoke, Jack thought with no small amount of contentment. "Ah, how the mighty have fallen."
"I could have done that," she protested with a slight frown.
"Course you could have. You'll find no argument from this quarter on your vast capabilities, but it will make for a better story if I have a share in the heroics," Jack explained screwing up his face apologetically. "Good for the legend, savvy? Here you go, love," he said, offering her back her pistol.
"I managed well enough on my own," Elizabeth still insisted, taking the pistol back and tucking it back into the band of her breeches.
He watched as she slid a rucksack from her shoulder and undid the ties. He let his eyes glide over her, thrilled to the bone to be rescued and to be rescued by one as fair as Elizabeth Turner, widow of the undead captain. "You're quite used to managing for yourself, aren't you, love?" he murmured. He could give her a hand, so she did not have to resort to her own quite so often.
"Here," Elizabeth said shoving half of the black and white bundle she pulled from her rucksack into his arms. "Put these on."
Shaking out the items, he recognized the white habit and black cloak of the Dominicans. "Is there a scandalous story attached to how you came to be possessed of these?"
"There might be."
Pausing, he fingered the rough weave of the fabric, as he watched Elizabeth pull her habit over her head. "Elizabeth, this new attire is a very thoughtful gift and I'm sure I'll look exceptionally handsome in it, but piracy is non-clergyable. Pretending at being a religious man won't save me neck."
"Today you're a Black Friar come to visit those condemned to death," she said, her head coming free of the neck of the habit. "Should anyone try to stop us as we leave this place, you remember to keep your tongue. Smartly now: pull it on, why don't you!"
Jack obediently pulled the habit on, although he had doubts about her plan. Nevertheless, it was a plan, and nothing inspired had yet come to him to supplant it.
Abruptly, she reached over and he thought for a moment that she was going to adjust his habit, but instead she gripped his shoulder and tugged him towards herself, pressing her lips to his in a swift motion. A pleasant wash of feeling and sensation—her lips closing urgently around his lower lip, her nose brushing his as she tilted her head, her hand fisting desperately in the shoulder of his habit, and his uselessly trapped between them, clutching the black hood of the costume meant to free him—was over too quickly for him to react properly, to drop the damn costume, and pull her bodily against him.
What might have been flitted through his mind in a fevered whirl. How he would have smoothed his tongue across her lips, begging entrance, urged a moan from her, insinuated a thigh between hers, grasped her arse. Instead, Jack swallowed thickly, stunned into inaction, as she straightened back up and fumbled with her habit.
"I thought I might be too late," she said matter-of-factly, although she could not quite meet his gaze.
"Still in one piece, as you see," Jack offered, his voice sounding somewhat rough. He could not afford to think on what that kiss meant at the moment. There would be no additional kisses forthcoming if they did not make haste. "Although," he cleared his throat, "not for long if we don't have a suitable plan. You don't think anyone will notice that a curiously handsome lad came in this rat hole and two friars are walking out? Won't the other guards find that an interesting development?"
"What other guards?" Elizabeth asked breezily. "Did you not hear the gunshot? No one should give us any trouble until we're free of these walls."
His eyes grew large. How many people had she killed to free him?
"Don't look so scandalized," she blustered, as she slipped the black hood of the cloak up over her head. "I only had to shoot one in the arm to convince the other to let me bind their hands and feet."
Jack chuckled, as he turned the black cloak to find the front and contemplated the wisp of a girl he had once fished from the sea shooting a man in the arm in order to liberate a pirate, but that girl and this woman were one and the same. The latter had merely become a felon in the meantime. "Did they weep for fear of you?"
Elizabeth squinted at him, seemingly annoyed by what she took to be mockery. She mistook him. While his tone might have been laced with good-natured sarcasm, he truly believed her to be a fearsome thing. It was quite heady to observe. Such a pretty minx. And he liked to congratulate himself that he had spied it in her long before anyone else had taken the trouble to see it—pirate.
Her irritation melted away quick enough, and he thought he saw pride setting her eyes agleam. "The plan has worked, thus far, but best be quick before they wriggle free. My plan is solid enough, but my knots are not of Gibbs' caliber, I'm afraid."
"Gibbs' knots are not Gibbs' caliber," he mumbled to himself, successfully hooded as a Black Friar.
Elizabeth froze, her lips parting as her brows knit together. "Do you mean to say? Will didn't say anything about Gibbs…he didn't mention…" she stuttered.
"Rest assured, my dear, as far as I know, in his dotage Gibbs is tending a bar on Antigua. He wasn't onboard. Save your tears for my much abused Black Pearl rotting at the bottom of the sea."
"Thank heavens," she sighed, evidently appeased by his speech. Tossing the rucksack into the corner of the cell, she continued, "The loss of the Pearl is a sorry thing, truly, Jack. I know you feel it acutely, but I wasn't prepared to have Gibbs…"
He raised a finger, interrupting her, "Wait just one moment…Will?" Will Turner?
"Yes, Will's the one who sent me. He came to retrieve your crew and one of your men was not yet quite dead. He heard the man's story and brought it to my shore, so that I might rescue you," she hurriedly explained, slipping back through the cell's door and into the dank hallway.
Well, that's disappointing, Jack thought, twitching his nose. To be desired by the Mister Turner and not the Mistress Turner was regretful. He had no wish to demonstrate his gratitude to a eunuch: he wagered that it would be unsatisfying at best.
"How did you think I'd come to hear of your internment on this island?"
"Women's intuition?" he suggested, wiggling several fingers at her, the female in question. "Are you sure you've got that right, love: Will wanted me rescued?" he pressed, following after her.
Elizabeth turned, holding out her hand to him. "No, it's you that have it wrong."
"How curious: it's so rare that I'm wrong," Jack smirked, passing under a grate that let in the first bit of direct sunlight he had seen in months. "Do enlighten me."
He slipped his hand in hers, and thought to raise their clasped hands to his lips, but she hurried them forward resolutely, only pausing to throw him a look over her shoulder that was smugness itself. "Will knew I would want you rescued, and no one better to do it than myself. Plenty of practice, don't you think?"
Ah. "You're certainly my favorite liberator, love," he confessed. Will had sanctioned the rescue. He may have sanctioned more.
"These costumes might not work, Jack. We may need to run," she said with a sly smile.
"I have good news for you: it just so happens I'm very good at running away."
Pausing only to remove his boots, belts, and sash, Jack collapsed on the bed in the Great Cabin upon Elizabeth's frigate. He sprawled out with legs stretched wide and one arm dangling over the edge, despite having been shown a small compartment beneath the bed, in which she intended him to stow away for the majority of the voyage, safely out of sight should they be boarded. There was no visible place for him, the escaped prisoner, upon this merchant vessel. In that same vein, Elizabeth had changed into a gown befitting a merchant's wife and there was a man in silks and a powdered wig that seemed to be playing the part of merchant as he strolled the decks. The hands on deck did not look particularly piratical and Elizabeth assured him that the ship was stocked with clayed sugar bound for Europe. Could the lass not have had enough forethought to play at being a rum merchant?
The overly gunned trade ship may have had no place for a dreadlocked pirate, but he had no intention of sleeping in a coffin, in life or in death. If he heard the rattle of sabers, he would climb inside his cubby or do something foolish—something Elizabeth would likely call goodness. But for now he would fall asleep upon a mattress tick to the pleasant rock of the sea.
He did not know how long he had slept when he was awakened by pressure atop his thighs and hands resting against his chest. Despite his lethargy, his reflexes served him well: he moved swiftly to wrap his hands tightly around the slim wrists of the intruder, whose face he could not make out in the darkness.
"I believe you're in my bed, Jack."
He could not make out her face, but he knew that voice. "You plan on stranglin' me for it, love?"
"What a waste my rescue would be then," Elizabeth responded.
Although he slid his hands up Elizabeth's bare arms more for the sake of leisurely perusal than precautionary means, he still would not put it past her to feed him to the sharks even after this interesting, intimate awakening. After all, she had once kissed him to send him to his death. He pushed that thought aside, however, as this was a better way to meet his end than dangling at the end of a rope—certainly less lonely—and he intended on enjoying it.
She wore nothing but her shift, he happily discovered in the process of his thorough examination. He grinned in the dark. Even better.
"I don't waste my time, Jack. And if I did you in now, all my efforts," she mused, as she fingered a spot high on his right cheekbone, his scar most likely, "would be for naught."
"You might apply your efforts elsewhere," he offered with a suggestive thrust.
She hummed appreciatively. Running a thumb over his lower lip, she questioned him boldly, "Might I?"
"Do your worst, pirate," he teased, nipping her thumb.
When she squirmed forward, bringing herself solidly onto his lap, he could not see her expression, but he imagined she was as proud as Punch of his immediate, instinctual reaction: he growled, his eyes squeezing shut at the feel of her pressed against him. Damning his breeches, he wished that he had gotten in the altogether before falling asleep so that there would be nothing between them at this moment; rubbing himself desperately against her would be untutored, but he was sorely tempted, breeches or no.
Breathing deeply, he regained a modicum of control over himself, so that he might attempt to throw Elizabeth equally off balance. To that end, he seized her shoulders and pulled her down atop him, where he might better kiss and torment her. This position did very little to lessen his own delightful discomfort, however, as she was warm and yielding against his thighs and his chest, and he groaned through gritted teeth when she buried her face in his neck, her hair tumbling over him. Sliding his hands down her back, he gripped her hips and rocked her against his arousal.
Murmuring 'yes' into his neck and pressing warm open mouthed kisses below his ear that made the blood in his veins rush faster, she unfolded her long legs along his, stretching like a cat, as he cupped her arse and captured her lips with his. Rocking her once more, twice, thrice, he slowly explored her warm mouth, their tongue intertwining. He finally released her only to find her breast through her shift, cupping it and running his thump over her tightening nipple. Her exclamations were becoming less intelligible but perfectly comprehensible.
She wanted him. It was a triumph beyond measure.
And yet, he would have more.
He could feel her, soft beneath his calloused fingertips; smell her, sweetly fragranced by rose water with the smell of sea air in her hair; taste her, the salt of her skin and the talc of powder; hear her increasingly voiced arousal, vibrating by his ear; but he could not make out her face in this cabin, on this moonless night. Jack was a greedy man and he wanted it all. He wanted to see her creamy skin against his. He wanted to watch her lose control because of him. He wanted to seek a truth beyond that of want in those brown eyes. A truth that he had dared not hope for, but having escaped death once more, he decided he might as well incline himself towards other wonders as well.
"Light the lamp, darlin'," he rasped, stroking her long, loose tresses, tangling them in his fingers, and twisting a curl about his index finger.
"What?" Elizabeth demanded breathily, her fingers skimming the band of his breeches.
Urgency driving him, he schooled his voice to remain slow and even and to ignore her questing hand. "I'm a visual creature. Light the lamp so that I might look upon you in all your loveliness."
Her hand found the laces on his breeches and toyed with them. "You don't really want me to get up," she whispered throatily, persuasively.
"Oh yes, I truly do," he whispered back. "Although," he observed clinically, running his hands along her side, tracing the swell of her breasts, "perchance it's not worth the bother. If it be true what they say, that is."
She sighed heavily, bringing her head to rest against his chest. "Do you never cease prattling on?" she asked in exasperation, her lips brushing his skin, where his shirt splayed open, inadvertently causing him to consider abandoning his search. A search that might very well end in naught but fool's gold.
Indeed everything primal within Jack cried out to roll her over and be done with such trivialities as lamplight. And the truth. Hike up this shift and bury himself in the mindless embrace of slick warmth. And yet, he dared to seek a greater, more sizable, far-fetched treasure.
"Yes," he mused calmly, his thumb following the curve of her back, "all cats look the same in the dark."
Elizabeth froze, her nails digging painfully and unquestionably purposefully into his shoulders. "Excuse me?" she demanded, sitting upright.
"Don't take offense, but one wench is much the same as another, love," he explained, sounding both appropriately apologetic and apathetic about sharing this humbling news with her.
It was a gamble, he acknowledged, as she stumbled from the bed and moved about the darkened cabin, making small irritated noises and uttering curses as she fumbled about. No woman wanted to think she was one of just a sea of faces, and therefore she was as likely to slip her petticoat and stays back on in response to his insult as she was to bend to his will. Probably more likely to take insult, he sighed, and he very much wanted to indulge his prurient fantasies. There was a possibility he had played this all wrong. Best make nice.
He had only just opened his mouth, hoping something akin to an apology might spontaneously come forth, when the cabin was illuminated by the striking of a match, thereby saving him from having to speak. His mouth shut quick enough, grateful to be spared. He turned his head to see Elizabeth's face as she lit the oil lamp, silently giving thanks for the old Sparrow luck, for there was not even a drop of rum in sight to aid in the seduction of Mistress Turner. And yet, here she was, lighting the lamp to aid in his visual inspection of her fine form.
She moved towards the bed, carrying the lamp before her. Bending down, she set it atop the bedside table with a slight rattle of its glass shade.
Anticipation coiled in Jack's stomach for the long awaited opportune moment. For some time now he had dreamt that relations with Elizabeth would be unusually gratifying. He imagined that the heightened pleasure of their coupling would not only be due to the extraordinary duration of their incomplete seduction, but also due to his ill-advised stirrings…
Bah! Introspection was tiresome, but he was curious about her truth. He would not mind knowing what moved Elizabeth's heart. Surely one did not repeatedly risk life and limb merely for repartee and stolen kisses. Surely. It would not do to simply ask her, however, as neither of them went in much for confessions of any kind, let alone confessions of the heart. He needed proof of another sort.
As she stood beside the bed with pursed lips, however, she made no move to rejoin him, causing him to wonder if he had spoilt the moment and would have to avail himself of the naturally persuasive powers of close quarters beginning on the morrow, when her wrath was no longer so fresh.
Luckily, Jack did not truly believe in lost causes. "In the dark might be one thing, but by aid of light, Liz'beth, no one could say you're not something unto yourself." That was not an untruth: the years had not dimmed her beauty and she was no average wench in spirit either.
"Oh, that's very sweet, Jack," she replied with biting sarcasm, but she sat on the edge of the mattress tick nonetheless. "I suppose you think me rather stupid," she said, rounding off her words with a pinch of his forearm.
"Vicious wench!" he exclaimed, as he jerked in outrage at the grievous attack on his person. "All cats scratch too," he pouted, but his pouting failed to result in proper repentance. Elizabeth had the nerve to roll her eyes. He sighed dramatically, "Stupid? I should think not. That would be a waste of my time, for a brainless wench grows tiresome even in bed." Not that he cared much at the moment about her pert opinions or plucky courage, but soft words might work better on her than an outright request to tend to his aching…
"I'm not sure I believe that," she said, wetting her lips and looking at him suspiciously.
"See? Already showing ample signs of greatness of mind: never wise to trust a pirate."
He made a great show of keeping his arm away from her when she reached for him, but he finally relented and let her smooth her delicate fingers over his pretend hurt. "Do you always get your way?" she asked, nodding towards the lamp.
With women, he imagined she meant. "My extensive legend proceeds me," he drawled, dislodging her shift from her shoulder to expose a white shoulder, "but not always, darlin'. You, for example, have been disappointing me wants for years now."
"I couldn't make things too easy: you do like a challenge." She leaned down and moved his arm until she was tucked into his side.
"I like to win at challenges," he amended. "Being disappointed in the outcome over and over again, well, 'tis enough to test the mettle of any man."
She laughed on a sigh. "I must own, I prefer a hard fought challenge that ends in victory too."
The muscles in his stomach twitched and tightened at the hoped for meaning of her words. "By all means, I stand to be tested, darlin'."
Her fingers played in the sparse hair above his breeches, where she had found a patch of exposed skin in the lamplight, and for the moment he let himself enjoy the sensation of her torturing him with her too light touch.
And then the moment dragged on.
"Does the lamp shed too much light on my irregularities in appearance for your taste?" he teased with a tap on her bare shoulder, when her ministrations ceased and she lay quiet in his arms. "I haven't been able to see to my toilette as much as I would like in that most disagreeable gaol." Elizabeth was finicky about personal cleanliness, likely as not owing to having been taught by a prudish governess that it was next to Godliness, and the bucket of water he had scrubbed himself with upon this ship had grown murky much too soon. The titivation of his person was incomplete at best.
"I'm just thinking."
Jack groaned. Thinking, in his experience, was not conducive to consummation. "Cease at once, I beg of you."
She did not listen to him. She so rarely did, headstrong woman. "I can't stand to lose one more thing, Jack: I've had my fill, so you'll have to understand if I don't care to imagine a world without you in it."
"See where thinking gets you, love? Nothing but maudlin thoughts," he affirmed. Patting her on her bottom, he instructed her, "You saved me yet again, so we'll have no talk of my much anticipated death. Savvy?"
She nodded wordlessly.
"There's a good girl. Otherwise, I must warn you that we shall have to postpone our rendezvous of the flesh, for I will completely lose my verve, my inspiration, my joie de vivre."
"That infamous largesse you've assured me you posses?" she deadpanned.
She shifted in his arms, splaying a hand across his chest as she murmured, "Well, we certainly can't have that."
"Excellent: it's settled then. I'm not going anywhere presently. Unless of course you plan on tossing me overboard in a fit of pride over my poorly timed wit," he said with false gravity, issuing as much of an apology as he was capable.
"I told you I shan't be murdering you again."
Jack grinned. "That's a great comfort."
"Unless," she amended, tapping his chest with her finger, "you become entirely unbearable, in which case, I make no promises."
"Well, the promises of a pirate, lass or no, king or swab, aren't worth much. I would suggest a blood oath as a proper surety for my life, but I have no stomach for recreational knife play and you're no virgin."
"Convinced of that at last?" she mused, alternately pressing light kisses and then blowing against his skin.
"Relieved, more like. Worse than mermaids, damnable virgins. They lure you in with the promise of pleasure and for the price of their maidenheads, they would have your very soul."
Her delicate touch was setting his mind reeling, and while words spilled out, he was not entirely in command of them. Virgins were troublesome, but Elizabeth was terrifying: he knew very well what she would have of him. Will might have been fool enough to hand over his heart in a chest to Elizabeth, but she did not strike Jack as an entirely dependable custodian for such a risky bestowal.
But then again, neither was he, and he sought the same of her.
Elizabeth hummed, tracing a path with her fingers down his chest as her feet bumped his atop the mussed sheets. "Let's think of all the places we might go."
He laced his fingers in the hair at the back of her head and tilted her chin back enough to press a kiss to her temple. More thinking, he inwardly protested; although he had to admit that he liked the sound of that a great deal—travelling the world with Elizabeth at his side.
"We'll fetch Jamie and go wherever we like, won't we?" she asked, meeting his gaze in the shifting light.
The world slowed and nearly stopped turning.
He saw what it was he sought, what he hoped to see reflected there, something Will seemingly had anticipated, sending her to him as he had. Generous to a fault, that rum Will Turner. The treasure was not plundered at all, although the sacrifice Will had made was no doubt for the benefit of her happiness and not his. The happiness of Captain Jack Sparrow was an unintended happenstance, but he would seize upon the opportunity with ample enthusiasm nonetheless.
"Aye, wherever we like. Always a new horizon." With his little adventuress always close at hand.
They were the only two in this world.
A smile pulled at the corner of her lips as she slid atop him, breasts depressing against his chest. "A pair of felons."
The only two who counted. Alike in good and bad.
"Many times over," he agreed. Indeed, he planned on committing several fresh crimes in bed with her this very night.
Working a slender arm between them, she slid a hand beneath his breeches. "And we'll be happy."
It sounded almost like a threat. Was he ready for happiness of the lasting kind? Not just the fleeting rush of physical pleasure or the flush of victory or a storm survived? For the sacrifice that might entail?
His eyes rolled back in his head as her warm hand wrapped around him. Oh, so bloody happy.
"Jack," she breathed, "take off these breeches."
It was easy enough to confess it. "Aye, Lizzie. Anything for you."