Rating: PG-13 (some references to sexual situations, but nothing graphic)
Although not exactly a sequel to Judas Kiss, it could be considered a continuation of the same voyage back from World’s End. Purely speculative back story for Jack, the Black Pearl, and others… With a good dollop of J/E UST for good measure!
Huge thanks to fried_flamingo for the speedy beta! :)
It was cold this far south and Elizabeth pulled her coat up about her ears as she sat with her back to the mainmast, staring at the stars. It was a beautiful, clear night and the sky above them glittered like a treasure trove. There was a strong wind too, and the Pearl flew before it despite the darkness. Gibbs muttered to himself about the captain’s reckless endangerment of ship and crew, but Jack insisted he knew the waters well enough.
He was at the wheel now, where he’d stood for most of the day. In the starlight she could just make out the angles and shadows of his face, the glint of eyes that refused to meet hers – as distant as the dazzling heavens, and had been since they’d brought him back from the edge of the world. She wondered what he’d seen there, what he’d suffered at the hands of Davy Jones. She’d asked once, on the first night they’d sat to share the meagre rations they’d picked up in Bahia, but all he’d said was ‘Nothing I didn’t deserve, love.’ It had been at once an admission of guilt and a dismissal, as if her own role in his downfall had been insignificant.
That had been days ago now and he’d barely spoken a word to her since. He looked at her a great deal, she felt his eyes upon her back more often than not, but whenever she turned around his gaze would slip away from her. Sometimes she wondered if he was plotting his revenge, gauging the strength of the rope needed to hang her from the yardarm, aiming his pistol at the back of her head. It was difficult to imagine another reason why he would look at her so; the heat had certainly gone from his eyes. Their flirtatious exchanges were no more, left shackled to the mast along with his faith in her. Such was the price, and yet… And yet—
“Do you remember,” Will said from close by, “how we used to play at pirates as children? You always wanted to be Henry Morgan and—”
“Henrietta Morgan,” she said with a smile. “Do you forget? I was Captain Henrietta Morgan, Scourge of the Spanish Main, and you—”
“Were hopelessly smitten.”
She turned to look up at him. “Will…”
“And still am,” he said, coming to sit at her side.
He was careful not to touch her, always careful now. And so it fell to Elizabeth to reach out and cover his cold hand with hers. “As am I,” she said, though her gaze flitted to the dark shape of the ship’s captain as she spoke. She tightened her grip on Will’s hand and looked away, out over the ocean.
After a long moment, Will said, “Thirteen years ago, we were…what? Eight? Nine?”
She nodded absently, shivering in a sudden breeze. “Children.”
“Thirteen years ago Jack traded his soul to Davy Jones while we slept in our childhood beds and dreamed of pirates and adventure. And now here we are – at the ends of the Earth, because of him and his bargain.”
“Why do you think he did it?” she asked softly, resisting the urge to turn her eyes on Jack again. “A hundred years before the Dutchman’s mast, in exchange for thirteen years at the helm of the Pearl? It makes no sense.”
A chuckle drifted from the darkness. “It only make sense if you know him whole story, girl.” Tia Dalma appeared from the night like a spirit, her bright eyes glittering as she swayed toward them. “Otherwise you just see reflections in de water.”
“And what do you know of his story?” asked Will. He cast a furtive glance at Elizabeth and quietly added, “I believe you and Jack were close in the past.”
Elizabeth felt herself flush at the implication, but Tia Dalma just smiled, a slow curve of her inky lips. “I know him story. I know all de stories, William Turner. Even yours, though you don’t know it yet yourself, hmm?”
Frowning, his hand tightened on Elizabeth’s. “And I don’t suppose you can tell me?”
“Your story?” Tia Dalma shook her head. “But…I can tell you a tale o’ Jack Sparrow, if y’have de time…” Her gaze drifted from Will to Elizabeth. “Or de inclination.”
Glad of the concealing darkness, Elizabeth said, “Do you know why he traded his soul for the Pearl?”
Tia Dalma sat, folding her legs beneath her skirts, and settled herself before them. “I know why, but dat is not where de story begin. De story begin some twenty year ago, or more, out in de Indies and far from dese shores. Dere was a man, a wicked bad man named Every – Captain Henry Every. And Jack Sparrow sail wit’ him out of Madagascar.”
“Madagascar?” Elizabeth leaned closer, a dozen fireside stories flickering through her mind. “The pirate stronghold? Like Tortuga only—”
Tia Dalma laughed. “As like Tortuga as Port Royal is like London Town, eh? Madagascar is de home of de Pirate Lords, and from dere come Jack Sparrow. Jus’ a boy, beautiful and wild. Unmarked in de beginning, but not for long.”
“I’ve heard of Every,” Will said. “Wasn’t he hung in London?”
“Dey look, but dey never find him. Some say he live as a lord, others say he live with Davy Jones.” A smile curved her lips and she glanced up at Jack, Elizabeth’s gaze following. He stood at the helm, like a statue; the only movement was the flutter of the wind in his coat and hair. “Maybe we ask him one day, if he see him old captain in de depths?”
“I doubt he’d answer.”
“You doubt right.” Something in her voice pulled Elizabeth’s attention away from Jack. Tia Dalma was watching her with a raven’s scrutiny. “He learn him lesson at last, he hold him cards close now.”
Elizabeth nodded, uncomfortable under the woman’s knowing gaze; uncomfortable with the truth. “So who was this Every?” she said, changing the subject. “What does he have to do with Jack?”
“Every have himself a small fleet, three boats an’ a wicked crew. Except for Jack Sparrow, who is not half so wicked as he would wish, hmm?” She smiled at that, chuckling softly to herself. “Not half so wicked. But Every…? Dere was a man wit’ de Devil mark upon him, for sure. He sail him ship to de Indies, to take de Mocha fleet catching de monsoon winds home from Arabia. Fat ships, full wit’ silks and perfumes, rich pickings, eh? Very rich. Every plan an ambush, but de fleet steal past him in de night.”
“Good for them,” said Will.
Tia Dalma’s smile grew grim. “Not good. Every’s fleet outrun dem – it take two weeks, but dey strike sail and await dere prey north of Bombay. Now, two ships come dere way, but de greatest – de one which concern our story – is de Ganj-i-Sawai, property of de Grand Murghal Aurangzeb his self.”
“The— Who?” asked Elizabeth.
“De Emperor of Moorish India.”
“De Ganj-i-Sawai was armed wit’ four-hundred soldiers, carried eight-hundred pilgrims. How, den, did two-hundred pirates take her, hmm?”
Elizabeth exchanged a glance with Will, and together they said, “Jack Sparrow.”
“Jack Sparrow indeed… Amid de fierce battle, him take a boat and board de Ganj-i-Sawai. He interfere with one of de canon – it explode, take half de deck and many lives wit’ it. In de confusion, Every’s men take de ship, promising good quarter. Jack his self, promise good quarter. But Every lie. De pirates hold de ship for days, torturing de men and—” she cast a measured look at Elizabeth “—and raping de women.”
Her stomach churned in disgust. “Not— Jack wouldn’t—”
“No.” There was a spark of something in Tia Dalma’s eyes; approval or relief, Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure. “No, Jack object. He object loud. He stand before de captain – who cower aboard him own ship – and demand he call him men off de Ganj-i-Sawai. But Every be afeard of him men, he dare not call dem back after months chasing de prize. Jack call him a coward, he offer mutiny…” Her eyes flashed bright, with pride perhaps. “And for him trouble, Jack Sparrow get a pistol shot to de chest.”
Elizabeth’s breath caught. No truth at all, he’d said, but his eyes had told another story as he’d bared his life to her. “Every shot him?”
“Where he stood upon de deck, and de captain leave him dere to die while he cower below, too afraid of his men to control dem.” She smiled again, glancing up at Jack; he was so still now, Elizabeth wondered if he was listening. “But Jack Sparrow not die. Him crawl to de rail, find a boat, and flee Every’s fleet.”
Will snorted softly. “Shot in the chest at point-blank range and still alive? Is this a fairy story?”
Tia Dalma’s eyes slid to Elizabeth. “What say you?”
“I…” She flushed, though it was too dark for Will to see. “He has been shot. I’ve…” She met Will’s gaze, chin lifting. “He once showed me the scars, the powder burns on his chest.”
In the starlight Will’s eyes were cold. “Did he.”
“Years ago,” Elizabeth said. “When Barbossa marooned us.”
“On the island with the rum?”
He looked away, pulling his hand from beneath hers. “Must have been an interesting night…”
“If you’re suggesting—?”
“Tsk!” Tia Dalma hissed. “Children, be quiet. Dat is a story for another time. Tonight, we talk about Captain Jack Sparrow and him precious Pearl.”
Elizabeth nodded, half glancing at Will who sat staring resolutely across the rail and out to sea.
“Now,” Tia Dalma said, settling herself again, “for four days Jack Sparrow lay in dat boat, wit’ no water, no food, and two wounds upon him chest.”
“I’m surprised he wasn’t walking on the bloody water,” Will muttered.
Elizabeth flung him a furious glare, but Tia Dalma just smiled. “Him young, Will Turner. Like you. Able to endure great anguish an’ triumph in de end, hmm? But, for Jack Sparrow, fate intervene.”
“The luck of the Devil?”
“Or de Angels?” Tia Dalma counted. “Or somet’ing else entirely.” She smiled. “Call it what you will, fate intervene because at dawn on de fifth day, him boat was seen by de sharp eyes of another. A woman’s eyes, quick as a hawk, on de look out for Destiny in all her forms. And she see Jack Sparrow, and she know – oh, she know – dat dis man is marked. And she want to take him for her own.”
Elizabeth found her heart starting to race. “What do you mean?”
“Mean?” Tia Dalma’s grin was as wicked as the Devil. “She see him fine eyes, dark as de night yet bright as de stars. She see him face, sculpted too fine for a man, yet dangerous despite him youth. She see him arms, him chest, muscled from work upon de deck, and she want—”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said hurriedly. “Yes, I understand. I see what you mean.”
Tia Dalma laughed, a soft throaty laugh. “I know you do, Miss Swann.”
Will shifted irritably and Elizabeth half expected him to leave, but he kept his place, even if he didn’t look at her. On the periphery of her vision she could still sense Jack, hand on the wheel of his ship, and to make matters worse she could quite clearly see the picture painted by Tia Dalma. More than see it, actually, she could feel it; eyes dark as the night, bright as the stars. Elegant features, elegant hands, belying the name pirate; warm lips, astonishingly gentle when taken by surprise, hard muscle beneath the sleeve of his coat...
“Oh, he was beautiful,” Tia Dalma said softly. “And de woman, she want him even though she hold another man’s heart in her hand. But she was a fierce and powerful woman, terrible and changeable as de sea, hmmm? She would not be owned by a man, nor woman neither. Nor any mortal soul. So, she pluck Jack Sparrow from de ocean, and she take him.”
Elizabeth thought her eyes might actually pop out of their sockets, so wide had they grown. Take him…? What woman would behave so? To be so brazen, to act upon such…instincts. No woman of her acquaintance. Some dockside hussy, perhaps? But surely not—
“You know,” a voice said from the other side of the mast, “that’s not exactly how I recall the taking, love. And while a little embellishment never hurt a good yarn, I’d rather me own yarns were a little less fancy, so to speak.”
Tia Dalma’s grin grew wide. “Well maybe Jack Sparrow ought to spin him own yarn?”
He moved into the scant starlight, all shadows and grace, letting his gaze skate over Elizabeth, to Will, and back to Tia Dalma. “Never was any good at bedtime stories.”
“And I outgrew them many years ago,” Elizabeth said, making a move to rise. “So—”
“You wanted to hear the truth once,” Jack said suddenly, his voice reaching out like a hand to stop her. “Or have you forgot?”
“I haven’t forgotten,” she replied, glancing up to find him looking right at her for the first time in days. He held her there for a long, long moment, his eyes dark as the night, bright as the stars – looking through her, as if all her secrets were laid bare for his perusal. She flushed, then shivered, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a sinful smile.
“For a start,” he said, “I was only in that bloody boat for a day…”
He’d shredded his shirt to stem the bleeding, though it did nothing for the pain nor the terrible thirst. The thirst was the worst; he’d seen enough men bleed to death to know what it meant and he cursed himself as ten times a fool to have ended up so stricken.
What in the devil had possessed him to stand up to Every, to challenge the man aboard his own ship? He was no squeamish boy, never had been – never had that luxury – so why couldn’t he have just let the men have their way of it, kept clear and counted his share of the booty?
There’s a disturbing streak o’ honesty about you, son, he heard his father say, without any admiration. It’ll be your undoing sure as the sun rises and dead sailors sink to the depths.
He forced himself a little more upright; damned if he’d allow his father to have the last word. Odds were fair he’d sight a sail, if he kept his wits. These were busy waters, especially this time of year. Except the sun was bloody hot and his thirst raged; even the sea looked tempting, but he knew well enough that madness lay in that direction. And he was tired, so tired, with the heat of the sun and the rock of the boat. Hard to keep his eyes open, hard to keep scanning the dazzling horizon for a sail, hard to fight the blazing pain in his shoulder and the blood that leaked his life away. Perhaps if he just closed his eyes for a moment…
…it was dark. Dark as only the ocean could be, with a cold sliver of moon and a sky full of diamonds. His face was scorched, lips blistered from the sun, and he was woozy with the putrid heat of fever. He had lost the whole day, and with it his best chance of rescue. No one would see him in the dark, and by morning there may be little left worth rescuing; the odds had lengthened, stretched like the hangman’s rope with only death at the end. Driven by rage, Jack forced himself upright, setting the boat to rocking. For it to end like this, before it had even begun! To die un-mourned and, worse, unknown. A nobody. Nothing more than food for the fish or the birds, like some no good pressed man afloat upon—
A light glinted in the distance. Then another. Moving lights, which could mean only one thing. “Ahoy!” Jack bellowed, as loud as his parched throat would allow. Which was not very. “Ahoy there!” His perspective in the dark was treacherous – couldn’t tell if the ship was coming toward him, across his bow, or away. Hampered by his immobile right arm, he scrambled to his feet, tugged his pistol from his belt and fired it into the sky. “Over here!” he shouted as the echoes of the shot faded. “Come on you bastards, find me!”
The effort of so much shouting left his head spinning, his knees buckling beneath him. But he didn’t allow his gaze to waiver from the ship, not for a moment. Blinking away the edges of a swoon, he fixed his eye on her and willed her toward him. Find me. He sent the words out across the waves. Find me…
And who are you?
He startled at the clear, warm voice in his head. A woman’s voice. “Madness,” he muttered. “Like old Gibson, with his voices and rum.”
I see you, bright like the stars. Do you have a name?
“I’m not listening!” he shouted into the night. “I just want the cursed ship to—”
She was turning, he could see her flank now, the lamps upon her deck. Closer than he’d realised. In hailing distance for sure. “Ahoy!” he yelled. “Down here! A-bloody-hoy!”
Grabbing one of the oars from the bottom of the boat, he made an ungainly attempt to skull toward the ship. If they would just see him…
“There!” a voice cried from the deck. “A man adrift, look.”
Thank God! The wave of relief almost unmanned him, but there was no time for such nonsense. He needed to convince these people he was an honest man and true. No pirate. It was difficult to tell in the dark, but the ship was at least not of the fleet. Didn’t look like the East India Company, either, which boded well. Independent merchant, perhaps? Might even have some coin aboard. “I’m an honest sailor, sir!” he called. “Pressed in Portsmouth and fair robbed by pirates yesterday mornin’, just off Cape St John. Scuppered me ship, and left me adrift, sir. Can work me passage to the nearest port.”
“An honest man, eh?” a voice shouted back, too merry for Jack’s liking. “That’s a rarity in these waters.”
“And wounded too,” Jack added. “Shot for me troubles, see? No danger to you, mates, if you’ll just help me aboard.”
There was a kafuffle on deck and Jack thought he heard the melodious tones of a woman’s voice. Not good, but no help for that. “You’re in luck, boy,” the voice called down to him. “Captain says to bring you aboard. Can you climb?”
“Not with me arm half shot off, sir. But if you can lower a rope—”
It hit him on the head as it landed, almost sending his hat into the briny. He rescued it in time, but the effort cost him a deal of effort and left his vision spinning and grey at the edges. On deck he heard a guffaw but let it pass with a wave of his hand; there’d be time enough for making his mark once he were safe aboard and on the mend. For now the role of haphazard ship’s boy was one he was content to play, even if he’d not been a boy for many a year. It had never done him any harm to be underestimated.
Seizing the rope, he allowed himself to be hauled aboard and dumped unceremoniously upon the deck. He attempted to stand and give his thanks, but the sun and the wound had bested him, and so it was that he was still sitting when the captain came to visit. A vast man, dressed in elegant but dated fashions, his well groomed beard the colour of flame in the ship’s lamps, he stopped before Jack and looked down upon him as he might study a landed fish.
“Well now, Jack Sparrow,” he said in a soft Scots brogue, “you’re a long way from home.”
Jack blinked, trying to focus through the numbing pain in his shoulder. “My apologies, Captain… Have we met? I’m certain we haven’t, what with me being freshly sailed from Portsmouth and so forth.”
“We’ve not met,” the man replied. “But I’d know Teague Sparrow’s son anywhere. Eh, boy?”
Not good. Not good at all. Faint or not, he scrambled to his feet and stood there swaying. “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers,” he said quickly. “Everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16."
The captain laughed, a rich full-bellied laugh. “Do you not know who you address, boy? Do you not know upon whose deck you stand? The finest ship in the Indies, though ’tis true we’ve been away these past ten years…” He cast a look over his shoulder, a smile creasing his weathered face – the kind of smile dangerous for any man, but most of all a pirate. Soft, weak. Vulnerable. Jack liked the look of it a great deal. “We’ve been in the Caribbean.”
“I hear the rum is good,” Jack said, canting sideways and finding a rough hand on his arm holding him upright.
“Aye, the rum. And much else besides.” That smile of his broadened until it split his face as, from the shadows, a woman appeared. Dressed in the finest of silks, her raven hair piled high upon her head, she stepped up close to the captain and lay an elegant hand upon his arm.
“Is this the boy?” she said in a lilting, exotic accent.
“Aye, dragged like a rat from the sea. A valuable rat too, as it happens. Your advice was well given, my dearest. For this rat is the son of Teague Sparrow, and will barter us much good will in Madagascar.”
“Not so much as you might think,” Jack muttered under his breath, but his words went unheard.
The woman turned her eyes upon him, luminous in the dark. Black as the ocean and ever changing. “Jack Sparrow,” she said. “So you do have a name, after all.”
He blinked. It was difficult to see, what with the gloom, and the blood leaking from his shoulder, the raging thirst and dread fear for his life. It seemed, in fact, that all he could see were those incredible black eyes, shimmering like pearls in the dark. He opened his mouth to offer a greeting, but suddenly found the deck racing up to meet him. There was fiery pain in his wounded shoulder, a shout – his own? – and then soft hands on his face, cradling his head, and a voice saying, “Take him below. Hurry. Take him to the captain’s quarters…”
And then there was nothing but darkness.
There was a weight upon his legs, holding them down. Another upon each arm, and the tang of leather between his teeth, washed down with a good dose of rum. And there was pain. Shredding, nerve grinding pain as they dug about in his shoulder.
“Need to remove the shot, son,” a man said, sweaty faced and grim. The iron forceps in his hands dripped with blood. “Just got to reach…”
He thrashed against the white hot blaze, cursed around the leather strap, and distantly felt soft hands upon his cheek. “A mark,” a far away voice whispered. “The first, but not the last. Wear it with pride, Jack Sparrow.”
Next time he woke, he was alone. He found himself in a wide bed, between unnaturally clean sheets, with the sun streaming through the cabin windows. And he felt inordinately content. Happy, in fact. He lifted one hand, amused by the way the light played across his knuckles and glinted against the rings he wore; he laughed a little, but stopped when it jarred against a wad of pain in his shoulder.
Glancing down, chin to chest, he was surprised to see bandages. Had he been hurt? He had a distant memory of violence and pain, but it was so far away that it hardly seemed worth the remembering. Something about a longboat… And a woman. There had definitely been a woman, and a tempting one at that. Beautiful eyes, he remembered, shimmering eyes. And a sway about her, as if she was born to the ocean. His kind of woman, no doubt.
“And what kind of woman would that be?”
Startled, Jack turned his head to find the woman sitting on the far side of the cabin, watching him. At least he thought it was her, because the room was suddenly engaged in a slow spin that made it difficult to focus. He blinked several times, hoping to clear his head.
“Powerful medicine,” the woman said, rising from her seat and swaying toward him. Or the whole room swayed toward him, it was difficult to be certain. “You will feel more like yourself in a few hours, Jack Sparrow. And the pain will be less.”
“I was shot,” he said, the words and the memory simultaneous.
“Yes. The wound is clean now, you will heal.”
He nodded toward his bandaged shoulder. “You did this?”
“I assisted.” She was closer now and came to sit on the edge of the bed. Her hand rested nonchalantly on his chest, heedless, it seemed, of the fact that he was missing a shirt. In fact, her fingers appeared to be tracing slow patterns on his chest in a way that was…interesting. “I have some skill with medicines,” she was saying, “I gave you a draft to ease your sleep, to aid your healing.”
“How very generous of you.” His gaze lifted from her hand, to her face. “Am I right in assuming some kind of payment is required? For services rendered, so to speak.”
She laughed at that, a laugh like the splash of a waterfall. “We’ll talk about payment later, when you are…fit.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’m feeling rather fit right now, as it happens.”
“Are you now?”
“Unaccountably so, given the situation.”
She leaned closer, her face mere inches from his. And she was beautiful; her skin was flawless mocha, her eyes as deep and changing as the ocean, her mouth full and expectant. “Do you know where you are, Jack Sparrow?”
“I’m going to hazard a guess that I’m aboard a ship. A large one.”
“Not just any ship.”
“A ship of repute then?” He lifted a hand – the only one he could actually move – to caress her fine cheek. She leaned into the touch with a slow smile. “Or a ship of ill-repute?”
“That would depend upon who you ask.”
“I’m asking you.”
She sat up, taking his hand in her own and turning it palm upward. “You move through the world like a tempest, Jack Sparrow, leaving disorder in your wake. A spirit of chaos, hmm?”
“So I’ve been told.”
“And what brings you here, I wonder? What manner of mischief do you intend to wreak upon the Flying Dutchman?”
Terror stopped his heart for the briefest of moments, before setting it racing like a herd of panicked horses. “What did you say?”
“So you’ve heard of her?”
“What man hasn’t?” He patted himself with his one good hand. “Am I dead, then?”
“It’s not to the underworld that she’s taking you, Jack Sparrow.” There was that cryptic smile again. “At least, not yet.”
“I wasn’t aware that the Dutchman took passengers – other than those…” he waved his hand vaguely “…with a one way ticket, as it were.”
“The Dutchman’s business is with the dead,” boomed a voice from the doorway. “And since you are not, you have nothing to fear from us.”
The woman rose swiftly from the side of the bed, her fingers lingering over Jack’s chest as she moved away. “Captain,” she said with a demure smile. “I was about to find you. Look, our guest has awoken, none the worse for his ordeal.”
“And that’ll be your doing, my sweet Diosa,” he said with an indulgent smile, crossing the room to stand with her. After a simpering moment, his sharp eyes turned on Jack. “Well, son, we soon reach Madagascar. There you will take a message to your father; tell him he owes Captain Davy Jones a debt – for the life of his boy.”
It was all Jack could do to nod; he was staring a legend – a myth – in the eye, and it looked as though maybe, possibly, he was going to live to tell the tale…
“I don’t understand,” Elizabeth said. “I thought Davy Jones was…well, dead.”
“Not dead,” Jack corrected, still half lost in the night’s shadows. “Immortal. But not always so aquatic as in recent years. That only happened…after.”
He glanced at Tia Dalma as he spoke, and Elizabeth caught the look they shared – conspiratorial, familiar. It spiked an odd envy; there was a trust there that had never been shattered. “Davy Jones,” Tia Dalma said, her gaze turning to Elizabeth, “serve aboard de Dutchman wit’ honour; he was a pirate, and a good man.”
“Before he was betrayed,” Jack said in a voice so dark Elizabeth barely recognised it. “That changed everything.”
“Him choose him own fate,” Tia Dalma scolded softly. “Not all men treat betrayal in such a way, hmm? Not all men lash de world wit’ dere rage.”
“Though all might want to, eh?”
“Ah, but de difference between what a man want, and what a man do,” Tia Dalma said, “is what define de man.”
Jack was still and silent, his gaze turned inward. At the wheel Gibbs shifted and lifted his flask to his lips, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, and at Elizabeth’s side Will folded his arms to keep out the chill. “How was he betrayed?” he asked at last, his voice seeming loud in the silence.
From beneath the brim of his hat, Jack cast him a disbelieving look. “You know the story.”
“All I know is that his love for a woman caused him so much pain he cut out his own heart.” His eyes narrowed in accusation. “How are you involved?”
Jack’s smile was little more than a flash of gold. “How do you think?”
“Then you stole the woman he loved, is that it?”
Jack shrugged. “If I stole her, she was willing to be taken. If you catch my meaning. Very willing.”
Suddenly Will was on his feet, hand hovering near his sword. “And where is she now?” He flung an angry, triumphant glance at Elizabeth. “Abandoned when you tired of her, Jack? Cast aside when the next…opportune moment arose? Is that it?”
“Will…” Elizabeth touched his leg, trying to calm him. Trying to banish the ridiculous, squirming envy she felt for this woman who had—
“What makes you think I tired of her?” Jack said. “Or she of me?”
“Well, I don’t see her here,” Will spat. “ Do you?”
At that, Jack just smiled.
“De story,” Tia Dalma said, “is always more complicated than it seem. Sit down, Will Turner, and hear it all.” She lifted her head, nodding toward Jack. “You make a poor spinner of yarns, Jack Sparrow. You forget de most important parts.”
“Mixed company,” Jack said by way of explanation, waving his hand toward Elizabeth. “A maid, and all.”
She flushed at that, sensing Will bristle. “Jack…”
“What? Would you prefer I said she was none?”
“Maid or not,” Tia Dalma interrupted, “a story must be told in all its parts, or it have no meaning at all. Tell dem, Jack Sparrow, how you seduce de beloved of Davy Jones.”
“Tempting though that may be,” Jack said, backing up a step, “I think Mr Gibbs needs—”
Tia Dalma laughed. “Flee, den, Captain Sparrow. Content yourself wit’ my telling of de tale, hmm?”
“So…” Tia Dalma turned back to Elizabeth as Will settled himself angrily at her side. “De second night of de voyage, Jack come looking for de woman. Oh, he ’tink she de most beautiful woman he ever see, him heart is fair full of her, and he cannot rest wit’out a sight of her beloved face. Like a lovelorn boy he—”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jack growled. “It was nothing like that. The bloody woman could hardly keep her hands off me from the moment they dragged me aboard…”
“This,” she said, leaning across the wooden table in the captain’s quarters, “will stop the sun from weakening your eyes, dim the glare of the ocean, and keep the skin from burning on a long voyage.”
“What is it?” Jack asked.
“Close your eyes.”
With a smile he did so, and after a moment he felt the soft touch of her fingertip brushing cool across the lid of his eye, then across the other, and beneath them both. Whatever she had on her finger was smooth and vaguely herbal scented. “There,” she said, so close he could feel her breath upon his face. “Beautiful.”
He blinked his eyes open and noticed the black tip of her finger. “Is it that?”
“An ayurvedic balm, two thousand years old.”
“Does it not make me look…somewhat like a whore?”
She grinned widely. “No one would mistake you for one,” she said, trailing a finger along his jaw, “though some hair upon your chin would assure you of that.” Her smile grew decidedly fond. “You are but a boy yet, hmm?”
“Don’t mistake a smooth face for innocence, love.”
“No,” she agreed, her finger brushing lightly over his lips. “’Tis destiny I see in this face, Jack Sparrow, not innocence.”
“And what destiny would that be?” He nipped at the end of her finger and smiled at the heat he saw reflected in her eyes. “Destined, perhaps, to take a tumble in yon sheets?”
Those beautiful, ever-changing eyes of hers widened. “The captain’s bed?”
“A little peril only makes things more exciting, darling.” He seized her hand, turning it palm up, and brought her wrist to his lips. When he kissed her, she shivered and he smiled against her soft skin. “I think you enjoy a little peril yourself, eh? What with all the touching and fondling these past days. Right under the captain’s nose, as it were.”
“Perhaps I do,” she replied, her voice satisfyingly breathless as he worked his way in heated kisses along her arm. “But if we are caught, you are the one he will kill.”
“And how do you suppose that?” Jack abandoned her arm in favour of a delicious expanse of smooth neck.
She gasped, laughed, and whispered, “Because he loves me with his whole heart. He would kill himself before he harmed me.”
“Then he’s a fool,” Jack whispered harshly, close to her ear and more urgent. “Because you’re nothing but a—”
She reached out and pulled his lips to hers, her kiss burning like wildfire. A heat the like of which he’d never known overtook him; reason fled, everything fled before that tidal wave of desire.
And he knew, even as she took him, that this was no seduction. She was making him her own. Marking him. And he was helpless against her, powerless as a drifting ship in the arms of the storm; all he could do was adore her. Worship her.
Offer up his immortal soul to this wild goddess and succumb to her entirely.
The days that followed were an intense swirl of danger and desire, of secret trysts and rash deeds. It seemed he could barely last an hour without her touch, and he wondered what magic she had wrought to enthral him so. But it was a passing fancy, subsumed beneath a storm of lust that left little room for rational thought – for any thought.
In the captain’s quarters, in the hold, upon deck at the black of midnight, and once, not five feet from Jones himself, when she had taken him in her mouth and he had all but fainted with the effort of holding silent; this woman – this creature of desire – had consumed him completely.
And then there were other times, gentler times, where he would lie with his head in her lap and she would tell impossible tales of places she could never have visited. Wild stories of the sea that reason dictated were nothing but fancy, and yet she told them with such an air of truth that it was difficult not to believe.
On one such languid afternoon, when Jones was on watch above, Jack lay sprawled across the captain’s bed, sated for the present, with his head cushioned by the soft fabric of her skirts.
“…and before I left,” she said, running lazy fingers through his hair, “the shaman gave me this talisman, for protection against evil spirits.” Her hand lifted to the pendant about her neck and Jack turned his head to see; small and round, it shone like the sun over a cobalt sea.
“Pretty,” he said, raising a finger to touch the trinket.
“The colour of the Caribbean.”
“I was there once, as a boy,” he said, turning the pendant over in his fingers. “With my father, I suppose. Ten years ago, or more. He had some thoughts of raiding Panama, but I mostly remember coconuts.”
She smiled and stroked her soft fingers over his brow, into his hair. “You will return there,” she said. “One day, your course will take you there again.”
“Of course it will.” He stretched out with a grin. “I plan to see the whole world, love, once I’ve got a ship of me own.”
“Then the world had best prepare itself.”
“Indeed it had.” He lifted the trinket again from her neck and turned it over in his fingers. “Perhaps I will start with the Caribbean, eh?”
“Here.” She reached up and unclasped the necklace, sliding the talisman free of the chain. With practiced fingers she began to twist his hair, the sensation strangely intimate. “Keep this with you,” she said, “for protection, hmm? And as a remembrance.”
“Of the Caribbean?”
She smiled. “Of Diosa del mar.”
Her eyes glistened with an emotion and mystery he couldn’t fathom. Almost sad, he thought, but beautiful – black as night and luminous as pearls. He touched the blue pendant she’d braided into his hair, smiling as he caressed her smooth cheek. “Diosa del mar?”
“So they call me.”
“And would that be a figurative—?”
The door slammed open, as if blown in by a squall. And there, framed by a gargantuan rage, stood Davy Jones himself. His face was desolate, eyes fixed not on Jack but on the woman behind him.
Carefully, very carefully, Jack sat up. With his shirt absent and everything else somewhat undone there was little point in voicing the denial that sprang to his lips. His gaze darted quickly to his sword, slung out of reach over the back of a chair, and he cursed silently. But there was little room to wield it in the cabin anyway, and besides, Jones had the advantage of both reach and weight. In cramped quarters, nimbleness only got you so far and no more.
“I did not believe it when Johnson warned me of your treachery,” Jones said in a voice like the grave. “Tell me I am mistaken, my love.”
“These many years we have voyaged together,” Diosa said, sliding down from the bed and standing. “But my heart is wide as the seven seas, it has room for more than just one man.” She reached out toward him, “Come, my immortal soul, let us—”
“Do you expect me to share ye, woman?” Jones snarled, a flash of bitter hurt in his eyes. “And with this…” His hand twitched toward Jack. “This…boy?”
“With all men,” Diosa said softly, moving toward him with a sway of her hips. “In truth, you have all along. I cannot be possessed by one man, mortal or not.”
It seemed to Jack to be an opportune moment to slip away. Abandoning his effects, on the grounds that they would be little use to him dead and retrievable should he live, he sidled toward the door.
“I never desired to possess you,” Jones said harshly, “only to know that I was first in your heart. Is that too much for a man to ask, mortal or otherwise?”
“What is there of first and last in the vast expanse of the ocean, hmm?” Diosa was close enough now to reach out and touch his face. “There is only the pull of the tide, one way and then the other.”
Keeping to the edges of the room, Jack could see the gaping doorway and the promise of freedom no more than three yards away. He crept closer; if he could just keep a low profile until Jones and his wench had—
A hand, strong as iron, shot out and seized his throat. “Do not think, boy, that you escape this unpunished.”
Jack forced a smile. “I believe there’s been something of a misunderstanding, sir. This fine lady of yours was just examining the wound here upon my shoulder, a very solicitous act. Generous. Although not too generous. In fact—”
Cold, hard fingers squeezed his throat, cutting off the air. “Do not weary me with your infantile protestations, Sparrow.” Bright dots of light were beginning to dance before Jack’s vision as he scrabbled to pull Jones’ choking fingers from this throat, to suck in air around the death grip.
“Captain, no!” It was Diosa’s voice, shimmering through the suffocating blackness; Jack felt the brush of silk against his arm as she pulled at Jones’ hand. “Release him!”
He crumpled to the floor, gasping through his bruised and painful throat, feeling light return to the world. Above him, Jones was speaking in a low, agonised voice.
“You would not have me hurt this…whelp?”
“The fault is not his,” Diosa insisted. “Do not condemn him for my sin.”
“Your sin?” If possible, Jones sounded bleaker than ever. “Then you…invited this?”
“I am my own mistress,” she said, chin high. “Do not forget that, Davy Jones. I am beholden to no man.”
There was a long silence, Jones shifted where he stood, head cocked as if seeing the woman for the first time. And his face seemed to freeze, the betrayal and hurt crystallizing like ice upon a line, making it brittle and dangerous. “You, I cannot punish,” he said in a deadly voice. “But I can cause you pain in measure to my own.”
Frighteningly fast he seized a handful of Jack’s hair and hauled him to his feet. “Bosun!” he bellowed. “Bring the cat.”
Continued in Chapters 4-6