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The mobile phone on the table sang out an electronic rendition of "Ladies of Spain," and several other diners on the patio gave the owner a dirty look. The young man, suitably chagrined, quickly answered, plugging his other ear to block the hum of traffic.
"Hello? Yes, of course it's me. Where are you?"
"Ask them if they want us to order their usual," said his companion, a preternaturally lovely woman with a fashionably gamine figure.
"Just a minute. Yes. No. I mean it, Jack, no! Elizabeth wants to know if we should order your usual." He paused, then snickered. "No, I don't suppose she would."
At this Elizabeth tossed her napkin at him, and he caught it deftly in the air. "All right, then. See you." He hung up and laid his phone back on the table.
"They're stuck in traffic?"
"They couldn't get a taxi at the harbour and had to rent a surrey."
"What's a surrey?"
"I don't know," he smiled self-deprecatingly. "I suppose we'll find out."
She gave him a warm smile and leaned across the table to offer him her lips, which he accepted.
A waiter appeared to take their order, and they ordered food and a bottle of champagne, since it was Elizabeth's turn to choose. It arrived quickly and silently, and the cork was removed with a delicate hiss.
When the waiter had poured two glasses, he raised his glass to her. "Happy anniversary, Elizabeth."
She touched the rim of her glass to his. "Happy anniversary, Will."
They both drank.
"This is good," he declared. "Do I want to know how far back this will set Jack?"
"I didn't think it polite to look at the prices," said Elizabeth, giving him an impish smile.
At this juncture, they became aware that a larger number of vehicles than usual were honking. Several other diners were glancing at the street looking for anything unusual, and Will stood up to look.
He could just make out a red and white awning amidst the flow of traffic, then a flash of familiar faces. Traffic slowed, honking futilely as an awkward-looking, square-shaped bicycle built for four emerged from the sea of cars, mounted the curb with a metallic clang and the squeal of rubber against painted pavement, and came to a stop next to the patio.
"Excellent navigating as usual, Jim lad," remarked Jack, hopping nimbly over the handlebars.
"We can't leave this here, Sparrow. We'll get a ticket."
"No, the surrey company will get a ticket, which they won't be aware of until after we've returned aforementioned conveyance to them, assuming we're nicked before we can finish lunch."
Elizabeth caught James's eye and dimpled. "Pirate," she pointed out.
Jack squeezed between the gates separating the patio from the sidewalk, but James went around through the entrance.
Jack sat and tucked a napkin carefully over his shocking red necktie.
"Nice tie," said Will, cocking an eyebrow.
"Nice hair," returned Jack. "Is that champagne?"
Elizabeth poured two more glasses.
"What's the occasion?" asked James.
"Isn't seeing our friends enough of an occasion?" asked Elizabeth innocently.
"It's not your three hundredth already?" asked Jack. "We'd have got you a pressie!"
"You already did," said Elizabeth, raising her glass. "Thank you. It's lovely, isn't it?"
"Quite," said James, giving her a small smile.
"How goes the racing?" asked Will.
"Slightly more wins than losses and more places than not," said Jack. "When the sea is with us, nobody can touch us. When she's not, someone else wins. And we got a new boat."
"You got rid of the Sea Turtle?" asked Will, surprised.
"We could no more sell that boat than cut off Jack's arm," said James. "Sea Turtle is in semi-retirement, and we're defending the America's Cup in September with the new boat."
Elizabeth caught an undercurrent of chagrin in James's comment. "What's her name?"
"Jim Lad," said Jack. "You'll understand when you see her. Stiff and unyielding at first, but with a bit of skilful handling..." he trailed off insinuatingly.
Will snickered and Elizabeth looked at James. "You agreed to this?"
"He got to name the last boat," said Jack smugly.
"In my defence, Witty Jack was the perfect name for a ship that swayed unpredictably in high wind."
"Really, James, what were you thinking?" said Elizabeth disapprovingly through giggles. "You were practically begging to go down in a Caribbean hurricane."
"I remember that storm," said Will. "I saw many souls that night. Yours might have been among the harvest."
"Lizzie'd have dismasted you for that," said Jack smugly. "And I don't mean your ship this time."
"Yes, well, lesson learned," said James, grimacing.
"Don't twit the gods," said Jack, fondly tweaking his ear. "It'll only come back to bite you in the end."
"And you?" James asked Elizabeth. "Are you still with Reuters?"
"Oh no," said Elizabeth. "They sacked me after what happened in Egypt. As if it were my fault that uprisings tend to happen when I'm around."
"As if," said Jack sarcastically, "it were your fault strongmen tend to die spectacularly when you visit."
"I haven't any idea what you mean," said Elizabeth primly. "Fortunately, the BBC was looking for someone to cover the Middle East, and I got the job." She gave a wry smile. "Funny sort of husband who approves of his wife going into war zones but not her having her own ship."
Will's face became grave. "If anything were to happen to you at sea, I'm the one who has to escort you onward. You know I can't do that. Not after William."
"Have you, ah, been to see young William?" asked Jack with an unusual amount of tact.
Will squeezed his wife's hand. "This morning," he answered.
"We brought him heliconia," added Elizabeth, her voice wistful. "He always loved them when he was little. He'd hold the flowers and challenge me to duels with the stems. He always delighted in opposing us, right to the last."
The table was silent for a moment, each person in contemplation of that great leveller which they had forsaken when they had drunk the waters all those years ago. At last, Jack cleared his throat.
"Me old dad told me it's not about living forever but living with yourself forever," he said.
"It's true. Living with you is tremendously challenging," James remarked to Jack.
This made Elizabeth smile. "Immortally bickering beloveds," she said.
"There are worse fates," said James.
They chatted about old friends and enemies, all of whom had since expired, revisited old stories that they all knew, when Will glanced over his shoulder and stood. "Excuse me for a moment," he said kissing Elizabeth's cheek. "I won't be long."
"There's a man who can't hold his champagne," remarked Jack in a stage whisper.
"You try drinking water for half an hour and see how long you last," returned Will.
When he had gone inside, Elizabeth's expression changed from the open adoration with which she regarded her husband to that of a shrewd negotiator.
"All right, Jack. How much will you take for the Sea Turtle?"
"That's my girl," said Jack. "I wondered how long it would take you to ask."
"What do you want her for?" asked James, his expression unreadable.
"To captain, obviously," she said. "I can't buy a ship with our money, but I've acquired some on my own, and I'd like the Turtle."
"Well, we paid 1.5 for her back in the late eighties," said Jack. "She's a bit older now, sure, but she's every bit as fast. Make it eight hundred thousand, and we'll call it a deal."
"Eight hundred thousand? Don't make me laugh. Sentimental value aside, you'd be lucky to get four for her."
"If you want a pleasure yacht, you can pay four hundred. But if you want a fast one, you pay eight."
"Elizabeth, are you certain about this?" asked James doubtfully.
She raised her chin mutinously. "Don't you start on me, James."
He made a quelling gesture. "That's not what I mean. I simply mean to ask if the Brown Betty might be a better choice, if you're doing what I suspect you're doing."
"Come off it, Jamey. Betty's a dear, but she's not got the panache of the Turtle, and her draft's no deeper."
"The Turtle is too ostentatious. Any pirate worth his salt would be suspicious. What Betty lacks in looks she makes up for in speed and manoeuvrability"
"All right, James," said Elizabeth. "How do I get her?"
"She's in the Mediterranean moored off Santorini," said James. "She's yours for seven hundred."
"Six and a half."
"Now wait just a minute!" protested Jack. "She's half mine, you know!"
They both ignored him and shook on the deal.
"I'll wire the money to your usual account?"
"If you would," said James. "We'll send word to the harbourmaster that the Brown Betty has a new owner."
Elizabeth's smile was broad as she typed the relevant information into her phone. "I always wanted to go to Somalia."
"Heaven help Somalia," said Jack, taking a gulp from his glass.
"Why Somalia?" asked Will, threading through the tightly-packed tables on the patio.
"Well, they're in all sorts of trouble, now, aren't they?" asked Jack, rising. "And now if you'll be so good as to excuse me, ladies and gentlemen and Elizabeth, I have a call to make."
She wrinkled her nose at him as he left, and Will sat. His dark eyes sought James's.
"I think I can guess what you're about to ask," he said.
"It's only obvious," said James, sighing.
Elizabeth took a sip of champagne to avoid saying anything.
"Is there anything to be done?" asked James.
"It depends. How long ago did it happen?"
"A week. No more than ten days."
"You're lucky. If it were even two weeks I don't think I could do anything."
Elizabeth's eyes lit up as understanding dawned.
"Are we pulling one over on Jack?" she asked.
"If possible," said Will. "We'll have to be subtle. Careful. Make it look like a mistake rather than deliberate sabotage."
"Where are you registering the new boat?" asked Elizabeth.
"Even better," said Will. "I know the harbourmaster well. We met in Deception Pass, and both of us are quite glad he evaded me that day. I'll visit him first thing tomorrow and see what I can do."
"Would it really be so terrible to have a boat called Jim Lad?" asked Elizabeth.
"You have no idea," said James, grimacing. "Have it changed to something mythological. Like Eutectic or Diana."
"Won't Jack just try to change it again?" she asked.
"He wouldn't. He's too superstitious," said Will. "He'll assume it was the vagaries of fate."
"Shall I provide your standard fee?" asked James.
"If you would," said Will.
"I'll wire it to your usual account," he said, nodding his head subtly toward the door to the restaurant, where Jack had reappeared and was winding through the tables on the patio.
"That was fast," said Elizabeth.
"It saves time if you don't wash your hands afterwards," said Jack, massaging her shoulders.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to deliver a tart reply when the waiter arrived with their food. Two enormous bread bowls that overflowed with thick seafood chowder were set before Jack and James, a whole lobster for Elizabeth, and a juicy t-bone steak for Will, who, commented Jack, really ought to have had enough bones for the rest of his life.
Elizabeth ordered a second bottle of wine, and the foursome ate in silence for a few minutes while they enjoyed their food. However, when the second bottle was opened and glasses of red wine passed around, Jack managed to spill half of his glass on Elizabeth, and she excused herself to get the worst of the stain out before it set.
Will seized the opportunity to glare at Jack. "Elizabeth tried to buy the Sea Turtle from you, didn't she?"
Jack spread his palms above the table. "I am hurt, William, that after all these years you would think that we would sell your wife the Turtle against your wishes."
"We sold her the Brown Betty," said James, ignoring Jack's scowl.
"That's a good boat," said Will.
"Aye, and we practically gave it to her," said Jack, "so if you'd like to seal the deal with an extra fifty thousand, I'm sure your little wifey would appreciate -"
"We thought it would serve her purpose, if, as she implied, she wishes to hunt pirates in the Gulf of Aden."
"It will serve her purpose, I'm sure," said Will, grimacing, "though her target is in the Atlantic."
James stiffened imperceptibly. "Really?" he asked, his voice neutral.
"Don't toy with me, James," said Will. "I know you have a protector in the Atlantic who saved you from a hostile sea. Elizabeth saved your life. Please return the favour"
"He gave her eternal life," said Jack, frowning. "I'd say that makes them even, don't you?"
James sent a quelling look Jack's way. "This isn't a bargain to be struck."
"More the fool you, then," said Jack. "If I were you, I'd consider making a deal with the devil while he has something you want. We may be eternally young, but we can still die, just like those foolish sods who worked themselves to death at the treasure pit."
"I'm not the devil," protested Will.
"Just his successor," said Jack. "Now, we'll consider - and I do mean consider - your request if you can give us some kind of guarantee that'll be useful should one of us ever have the misfortune to cop it in your jurisdiction."
"Like a day's head start?" asked Will, looking wryly at James.
James shrugged. "That would be sufficient."
"You realize that I can't even guarantee my wife the same courtesy should she be lost at sea."
"Funny, I thought Lizzie was a shrewder negotiator than that," said Jack. "No matter. Do we have an accord?"
Will sighed. "We have an accord. But it had better be worth it."
"Easiest thing in the world," said Jack. "Tell him, Jamey."
James glanced over his shoulder to guard against eavesdroppers, then leaned forward. "The god of the Atlantic is very fond of singing," he said in a low voice.
Will waited a beat before blinking in surprise. "You're having me on. That's your secret?"
"Not very credulous, is he, Jim lad? Sad to see such cynicism in one so young."
"I'm nearly three hundred years old," said Will.
"Nevertheless," said James, "that is the secret to winning Njord's favour Mock it if you will, but we've held up our end of the bargain."
"I expected something a bit more useful than that," said Will.
"You drive a hard bargain, Willy lad, but here's the real deal: the sea is tremendously fond of the Beatles. I sing John, Jamey sings Paul, and there's enough variety to keep us amused and afloat."
"But Elizabeth-" began Will.
"I suppose she could do Ringo's songs," said Jack. "Though she should probably avoid 'Octopus's Garden.' Might give old Njord the wrong idea."
"I thought perhaps Harry Nilsson," said James. "The lyricism would appeal if she has any sort of range."
Will raised his hands. "This is absurd. I can't just let my wife traipse off to the Atlantic with only a forty-year-old song catalogue to keep her safe!"
"He also likes Schubert," added James. "Hundreds of lovely songs on every conceivable subject."
Will glared at James. "You're as bad as he is."
"Thank you," said Jack, preening. "And you won't be sending her at all. She'll think she's diddling you, and it's probably safer that she does. So do yourself a favour and practice in the mirror a few times before begging her to sing every day when you're gone so you won't rouse her suspicions."
"Rouse my suspicions of what?" asked Elizabeth, who had reappeared, the arm of her blouse wet where she had attempted to wash the wine off.
"Rouse your suspicion that we've ordered dessert for you," said James, smiling. "I'm afraid you've quite caught us red-handed."
"It's my duty as Pirate King," she said, sitting. "So what did you order?"
"Chocolate," said Jack, a bit too quickly. "Cake?"
"That's too bad," said Elizabeth. "I saw someone's bread pudding a moment ago and-"
"I'll go see if I can stop the waiter before he puts the order in," said James, standing.
If Elizabeth noticed anything off about their behaviour, she didn't say anything.
"And now, my friends," said Jack, "we come to the heart of the matter. I have a sneaking suspicion that my dear Jamey might have made you a very naughty offer."
"I've told you a hundred times already, Jack," said Will, with the ghost of a smirk on his face. "I don't care what your history is. Elizabeth is off limits."
Elizabeth kissed his cheek. "I do love it when you're forceful, no matter how wrong-headed the sentiment."
Jack shrugged. "Your loss, mate. But that's not exactly the insinuation I was attempting to make. If I know Jamey, his façade of unflappability is just that."
"Unflappable?" asked Will.
"A façade," said Jack impatiently. "I suspect that Jim lad is more than a bit bent out of shape about the Jim Lad than he tries to let on. So much so that he might even seek your help in preventing it from becoming the Jim Lad."
"Come now, Jack," said Elizabeth. "Do you really think James could be that underhanded?"
"Not originally, but he's become a touch circumspect in recent decades. It's enough to drive a man to drink."
"The sun rising in the morning is enough to drive you to drink," said Elizabeth.
"Perhaps, but I notice you haven't denied the charge laid at your wee footsies," said Jack, taking a sip of wine.
"Would it do us any good to deny it?"
"Doubtful, dear William," said Jack, grinning.
"Then I admit the deed," said Elizabeth, spreading her arms dramatically.
The performance was lost on Jack. "He told you the new barky is being registered in Seattle?"
"And you agreed to intercede on his behalf for an unspecified sum?"
"The amount was understood rather than unspecified," said Elizabeth.
"So what if I were to double it?" asked Jack.
"In exchange for letting her remain the Jim Lad?"
Elizabeth looked at her husband with a quizzical expression. "Double-crosses are more in your line, darling," he said, without venom.
"It seems quite straightforward to me," she said. "It's Jack's turn to name the ship, James tried to circumvent the process, and now Jack wants us to return things to the way they might have been. Sounds like a job for Robin Goodfellow."
"Aye," said Jack, rubbing the tip of his moustache between his fingers. "And you always did make a good fellow. And you collect payment twice. A win-win situation, innit?"
"Your hand on it?" asked Will.
Jack still waited a beat to thrust his hand squarely into Will's.
"Another bottle? Something a bit stronger?" he asked.
"I doubt they sell bottles of rum," said Will.
"No," said James, returning to his seat, "but I did take the liberty of ordering a bottle of Port with Elizabeth's bread pud."
"That's my Jamey," said Jack, cheerfully swatting James's behind and making him jump.
James surveyed the table with a suspicious eye. "I hope I didn't miss anything important."
"Not at all. We were discussing butterflies and flowers," said Jack airily.
"And happy little birdies," said Elizabeth.
"And rainbows," added Will. "Lots of rainbows."
"Puppies too, I'm sure," said James crossing his legs lithely.
When dessert and the Port arrived, the weight of the delicious food and the two previous bottles had produced a feeling of magnanimity at the table, and their sips became less frequent and more ceremonious. They made numerous toasts to absent friends, the most memorable of their late shipmates, their vanquished foes, and even James's childhood pet. Elizabeth nearly snorted Port out her nose when she found that James had named his cat Sir Fuzzy Tum-Tum.
"Well, my dears, the time has come, I'm afraid," said Elizabeth, sighing heavily and placing her napkin on the table.
"Quite right, Lizzy," said Jack. "Jamey and I need to return the surrey at some point, and I see one of the local constabulary eyeing it with keen interest. Jim lad, if you'd be so good as to take the surrey around the block, I shall settle the bill."
They all stood with minor difficulty, swaying slightly from only half-regained land legs.
"It was good to see you, as always," said James, giving Elizabeth a courtly kiss on the cheek.
"Likewise. See you in ten years?"
"Wouldn't miss it," said Jack. "After all, it's your turn to pay next time."
Handshakes and embraces were exchanged, and then Elizabeth and Will were left alone once more.
Once James had hopped aboard the surrey and steered it back into traffic, Will sighed contentedly. "So what are we going to do about their boat?"
"We'll rename it, of course," she said. "Something ridiculous. Maybe from that song Jack always used to sing. Like Really Bad Eggs."
"James banned him from singing that song a hundred years ago," said Will. "Since the point is to name her something they'll both hate, it wouldn't be fair if it were something Jack liked."
"Very well," said Elizabeth. "What about My Arse?"
"It's lovely," said Will.
"I meant as a name for their boat," said Elizabeth, dimpling at the compliment.
Will thought for a moment, then started to laugh. "Can you imagine the reporting on their races? ''This will be My Arse's virgin voyage.'"
Elizabeth giggled. "And in second place, My Arse.'"
"'I've never seen My Arse's crewmove that quickly!'"
"The Admiral certainly gave My Arse a beating today!"
By now, both of them were laughing so hard they had attracted the notice of nearby diners.
"I think we're settled on My Arse, then," said Elizabeth, attempting to rein in her mirth and only partially succeeding.
"I think so." He raised his glass of Port. "To My Arse. Long may it sail."
Elizabeth touched her glass to his and drank. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jack bound from the restaurant door into traffic, where he seized one of the awning poles and swung himself into the surrey.
Elizabeth raised her glass. "To Jack Sparrow, long may he captain My Arse."
This set them off again in gales of laughter that lasted so long that they didn't immediately notice the voice calling their names.
"OI!" came a booming shout from the street. James had pulled the surrey up on the curb by the restaurant patio once more, Jack still hanging off the side.
"We've got this absurd thing for another hour," said James. "Fancy a lift? Unless it's below the Captains Turners' dignity."
Will couldn't ignore the sparkle in his wife's eye. "Well, it's slightly better than walking," he said.
"We can always snog the in back while they bicker over which way to go," said Elizabeth.
"I like the sound of that," said Will, slipping his arm around her waist to lift her over the patio gate.
Once they were settled, Will, Elizabeth, and James began to pedal while Jack kept a lookout.
"Look lively there, Turners!" he called. "Commodore, just a touch larboard. Watch the convertible. OI, THERE, GRASS-COMBING, CLOT-PATED MERCEDES! Lizzy, belay that fishwife cackling!"
The surrey glided into the bicycle lane under James's firm touch, and Jack raised a hand to shade his eyes. The afternoon sun set the glass skyscrapers ablaze, and if one listened, over the traffic and the buzz of downtown, one could almost hear music dancing like laughter on the wind.
Author's Notes: All the dirty songs are by Henry Purcell, "When That I Was..." is from Twelfth Night, and "An Acre of Land" is a traditional English nonsense song. Naval and seafaring actions and jargon were informed by numerous visits to the Maritime Museum of San Diego and Patrick O'Brian's brilliant Aubrey/Maturin books. The pamphlet battle is based on a historical war of words between John Cotton and Roger Williams, as reported by Sarah Vowell in her book "The Wordy Shipmates." A booby-trapped "Money Pit" similar to the one depicted here exists, though it's on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. It's thought to contain, on circumstantial evidence, Captain Kidd's treasure. And last but certainly not least, enormous thanks to anonymous_plume for idea-bouncing, hand-holding, and cheer-leading, to Mr. 42 for a thorough, brilliant beta-read and saving me from my melodramatic and jargon-y proclivities, and to Pythia_Delphi for lightning-fast, high-precision gamma-read and sparing all of you from repetitive usage and confusing syntax.