Evangeline slid neatly through the crack between the doors and sagged against them. A deep breath blew her cheeks out and her eyes slid shut. All those months of careful planning and organizing and skulking around in the shadows, and not a single thing had gone according to plan.
And whose fault is that? Counting to ten to prepare herself to speak to her father, Evangeline opened her eyes and faced him.
Jack fixed her with those eyes so startlingly like her own. "Is he OK?"
"Oh, like you care," Evangeline snapped, striding across the room and throwing herself down in the seat opposite him. In spite of everything he had done for her, she still felt an almost instinctive urge to be rude to Jack. Force of habit, she guessed.
And it wasn't exactly like she had a history of getting on with everyone she met.
"What happened to him?" Jack didn't seem remotely interested in Kalepi's wellbeing- he hadn't even asked for his name- but Evangeline figured it was idle conversation and went along with it. Besides, she was eager to shift the blame to him.
"He had a damn fit, didn't he?" Evangeline shook her head. Jack could be such an idiot sometimes. You'd think he'd have bowels for brains, the way he carried on. "It was all that fighting before. He was scared, and I don't think Gibbs' cabin agreed with him. Would it kill the man to clean it out every so often?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "I told you. We had to fight, to cover you-"
Evangeline waved a hand. "Whatever. We've got to be more careful from now on. If he gets scared, or starts panicking, or anything, we could lose him."
Jack sniffed. "It's just a fit. I don't see what's so bad about it."
Evangeline stared. She couldn't believe it! It was one of those times where she praised God that she hadn't had to be raised by this man. She didn't like to think who she would be if she had. "His fits aren't ordinary fits!" she hissed. "You know this, I told you!"
"Your handwriting's messy. And I spilt rum on your letter."
Evangeline sagged and pressed her fingers into her forehead, eyes shut. Count to ten. Just count to ten. Deep breaths… "So you don't know anything."
"Absolutely zip." He sounded awfully cheery about it.
It's like preaching to a child! I shouldn't have to deal with this… "Some people," she began slowly, still keeping her head bowed. She didn't trust herself to meet Jack's gaze and not explode. "Have fits. It's a mental thing, where they just lose control. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes there are triggers."
"The boy isn't among them," Jack remembered. "I got that much."
Evangeline spared him a sarcastic smile. "Well done! No, Kalepi's fits aren't normal. As far as the Church is concerned, anyone who suffers fits is inhabited by a devil." Now a crushing weight seemed to descend on Evangeline's shoulders, and she sagged beneath it. "Unfortunately, in Kalepi's case this is absolutely true."
Silence. Jack stared. His eyes looked even bigger with all his stupid make-up. Even I don't wear make-up. God, but he's such a drama queen…
"Go on," Jack insisted.
Evangeline pressed her elbows onto the surface of Jack's hard wooden table, rubbing her temples. It was a habit she'd picked up accidentally after watching Angelica so much on board the Glorifier. "According to legend, the Gates of Hell are somewhere near Africa, where Kalepi was born. The Gates were last opened around the time he was born, but they were quickly shut. No-one knows who did the opening or closing," she added pointedly, sensing Jack opening his mouth to ask a question. "But a stray demon must have escaped and lodged itself in Kalepi. Poor thing. He's a good kid."
"Yes, yes, we feel his pain," Jack snapped impatiently. "What's he got to do with the Gates?"
Evangeline glared. "Everything," she replied. "Just to open the Gates, you need a demon on both sides to push and pull the doors. Do you see why it's hardly ever been done before? Any demon on the inside would be busting to get out and would take the first opportunity to get involved in a ritual like this, but on the off chance there are any demons to be found on this side… It's difficult."
At that moment, there was a squeak and a thud from outside. Evangeline shot to her feet and was at the door in seconds, tearing it open and throwing her head out into the evening air. The deck was a hive of activity- sailors bustling back and forth, busy with the clean-up operation. Gibbs bellowed at their head, telling them where to take everything. She'd left a note telling Kalepi to do whatever he liked in case he came around while she was away, but she couldn't see him. No-one strayed anywhere near the captain's cabin.
Treating the ship to another careful scan, Evangeline reluctantly stepped back inside, the door clicking shut before her. Throwing the door suspicious glances, she returned to her chair.
"But we're not trying to open the Gates." Jack went on unhappily as if nothing had happened. "So why do we need him?"
"He tried to lie low in Port Royal," Evangeline said wretchedly. "But everyone knows about him. About his fits, that is. I think he only had one or two since he arrived, but someone saw him and told someone who told someone who told everyone. And with all the sailors coming in and out… You know how they get with their stories." Jack nodded sagely. Evangeline resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Everyone believed it was a demon inside him, because of superstition and religion. I don't think anyone knew that they were actually right."
She looked at Jack properly this time. He was remarkably unchanged, since the last time she'd seen him. Of course, that was often in the dead of night, and only every few months, if ever. She realized with a jolt that she hadn't actually sailed with him since the Hourglass incident. "That was how I heard about the Gates. A fleeting mention from a drunken sailor, going on about how someone ought to kill Kalepi in his sleep." Evangeline shuddered. "He said that the only thing Kalepi would ever be useful for would be 'opening the Gates, and that would doom us all'. Then he passed out. Well, I thought it had your name all over it." Here Evangeline had to supress a grin. Part of her almost hoped that Jack was sick of all his paranormal adventures by now, because if he was she would gladly keep piling them on him. It all meant trouble, and she delighted in getting him into trouble. "I did some digging, and it took ages, but I began to put the pieces together. Some things were absolute dragon turd- one man told me that if you do it properly you can raise Lucifer from Hell- but you'd be surprised how accurate that lot can be, when they're not totally soaked."
Jack arched an eyebrow. "Why didn't you believe in the Lucifer thing?"
Evangeline blinked, taken aback. "Because surely no-one would be that stupid," she said, a little exasperatedly. "I mean, who would want a demonic force like that loose on the world?"
Suddenly Jack looked much older, and for a brief moment Evangeline saw all of his adventures etched into his eyes. She wondered if people got tired of adventures eventually, paranormal or not. "I think," he said slowly. "That we shouldn't put the matter completely to rest."
Evangeline twisted her mouth, not wanting to admit that her father was right but knowing he was. She didn't want to consider that someone really would be stupid enough to create a mechanism allowing Lucifer's freedom, especially not considering what she was about to say next. "Yes. Well. Keep that in mind, and this next bit will have you tickled pink."
The years disappeared from Jack's face, and his face lightened in a usual cocky grin. His silver teeth glinted in the candlelight. "Enlighten me."
"Not long before I wrote to you, a man turned up in Port Royal. He was investigated for days, but when they finally let him go he came straight to the tavern to tell everyone what happened to him." Evangeline took a deep breath. "He said there was a man in his crew who had fits too. Just normal ones, it turned out, but someone found out. Someone you might know of."
Jack leaned forward in his chair, eyes wide and questioning. It was like telling a fairy tale to a little kid. "Who?"
Evangeline took a deep breath. "Captain Kidd. He's looking for the Gates, and that's why we have Kalepi. We can't let Kidd have him."
Silence descended between them. Jack stared, pop-eyed, and Evangeline held his gaze measuredly. His mouth hung slightly agape, and disbelief was etched all over his features. Then-
With a squawk like a chicken, Jack sprang to his feet. Evangeline jerked back, startled and fighting the urge to laugh. He looked like a fish, all big eyes and swinging mouth. He began dancing between the desk and the door, like he couldn't decide if he wanted to stay and talk to Evangeline or make some kind of appearance on deck.
"Why did you bring him here?" he demanded in a strangled hiss.
Evangeline rose from her chair, ready for a fight: verbal or physical. "I told you, we can't let Kidd find him-"
"Yes, but chances are he already has!" Jack squawked again, throwing his hands into the air. "So he'll go to Port Royal, and someone'll figure out we took him and then he'll be onto us! And my ship is already damaged enough as it is-"
"Well then you should have come and picked us up in the dead of night!" Evangeline snapped. "I told you all this, and you never once said no-"
"I couldn't read your letter!" Jack said, wildly jabbing a finger in her face.
"I told you it'll be dangerous when I gave it to you," Evangeline hissed, remembering the last time Jack came to meet her at the docks. It hadn't struck her until before she left her house that she wouldn't have enough time to tell him the entire story before someone caught them, so she hastily scribbled down a letter to give to him to read later, describing the mission she had in mind. So maybe it hadn't been entirely legible, but she wasn't going to give in that easily.
"Whatever! What are we supposed to do now? Just sign him on as a crew member? Sail around with him forever, to protect him?" Jack's eyes narrowed. "No. If he was, you wouldn't have gotten all dressed up and come with us. What else is there?"
Evangeline pursed her lips. "I don't know," she admitted. "But I want to find a way to get rid of Kalepi's demon without raising the rest of Hell's demons. You've got contacts and I thought maybe we'd find something, somewhere, but I can't trust you to save anyone's hide but your own and so I'm staying." She stormed over to the door and wrenched it open, glaring over her shoulder. "And so is Kalepi, whether you like it or not."
She slammed the door just right: loud enough to make a point, quiet enough to not attract any of the crew's attention. Squaring her shoulders, and mentally congratulating herself on such a successful confrontation, she strode back to Gibbs' cabin- the cabin that she had designated for herself and Kalepi. There was no way she was going to leave him to the crews mercy: Jack might ask one of them to slit his throat while he slept. Demon or no, Kalepi was still human. And she liked him. He reminded her a bit of herself, when she was his age: she could see that there was plenty that went on in his mind that he didn't say aloud, and also that he was alone. She knew exactly how it felt to be alone, and was in no rush to abandon him. He was, in her mind, a fellow soldier: an escapee, who had no-one but himself but kept marching on because he had to. And when one found a fellow soldier in need, one did not dare to leave them alone.
She poked her head through the door first, examining the messy room. There was only one narrow bed, currently occupied by Kalepi: how she was going to fit both of them in this room was beyond her at this stage, but she'd find a way. Her note, scribbled down on a scrap of parchment that had seen much better days, was nailed to the side of a wooden dresser with a rusty knife she'd found on the floor. A candle flickered at another, smaller dresser opposite the bed. Leaning against the closed door, Evangeline remembered the last time she had slept in this room. There had been a lot of crying, she remembered. And cleaning. All of that back-breaking work, and Gibbs must have come right along and trashed it up as soon as she left.
Scum-faced pig, she thought fondly as she picked her way through the rubbish to the space of floor opposite the bed, where Kalepi had sat before. She remembered, with an unpleasant squeeze of her heart, watching him as they hid away during the battle. His limbs, always impossibly skinny, had seemed pitifully small in the dim light, throwing sharp shadows across his face. When his eyes were shut, she saw acute misery fly across his features. When they were open, she saw a heavy, terrible weight in them. The sailors at Port Royal said he was an escaped slave. She couldn't even begin to imagine what horrors he must have witnessed there, particularly with his demon causing constant havoc within him.
Now she sat in his place, looking up at him from the floor. He looked so peaceful in his sleep, and even smaller than usual, swaddled as he was in the sheets. With a shudder she remembered his fit: his knees had given way suddenly, and he lay on the floor, twitching madly. The moment Evangeline had touched him he began howling like an animal, spitting and clawing at anything that moved. He had raked his fingers down his scalp, and Evangeline imagined that if his head wasn't shaven he would have torn his hair out at the roots. As it was, he left long, bloody scars behind. She hadn't found those until later: they blended in nicely with his dark skin. They were almost invisible now, in the flickering light.
Evangeline realized with a jolt that he was awake, and watching her as carefully as she watched him. There was a wariness in his eyes and a tenseness in his body; he seemed a little paler than usual.
Then again, she could hardly blame him.
She smiled weakly. "How are you feeling?"
He averted his gaze and paused before replying. "Alright," he said carefully.
Evangeline's eyebrows furrowed. "What's wrong?"
Kalepi shook his head and turned away. "The fit…" His voice was a hoarse whisper.
Evangeline moved intuitively closer. What's this? Maternal instincts? Weird. "It's OK," she said softly. "Only Jack, Gibbs and I saw, and they both know to keep quiet. Pintel and Ragetti are too stupid to notice anything, really." Kalepi threw her a curious glance. "The fat guy and his one-eyed pal."
"Either way," Evangeline continued. "No-one thinks any less of you. I certainly don't."
"You should," Kalepi whispered. "I'm a devil."
No, you have a devil inside you. Unlike her father, however, Evangeline had enough sense not to say this. "I don't believe that."
Kalepi looked at her but didn't say anything. She gazed back for a while without speaking. She had thought that his eyes were brown like hers, but she could see now that they were black, almost as black as his skin. They seemed to go on forever…
"Do you need anything?" she asked, forcing herself back to reality before she scared him off or something. He'd been through enough for one day. "Water? Food?"
"I'm fine. Thank you. I just need some more sleep."
Evangeline nodded. "I'll bring you back some dinner, OK?" She tried to smile reassuringly over her shoulder as she opened the door. "You'll be OK."
The door clicked shut behind her and she sagged against it. I wish I could believe that.