Chapter Nine Jack Sparrow couldn’t repress a shudder as the mist cleared momentarily to reveal the ominous, cockeyed heights of Shipwreck Cove. Black against a grey sky, it held all the foreboding of his youth and his heart beat with a sickly dread; memory, he’d learned to his cost, was a powerful thing. It could lock a man into the past and keep him there unless… Warm arms slipped around his waist, provoking a smile. “Looks less forbidding in sunlight,” Lizzie murmured next to his ear. “And is warm and safe within.” It came as no surprise that she knew his thoughts. Over the weeks of their voyage they’d grown so close he hardly knew where the edges lay between them; the tiny flame of life they’d created in her belly had spliced them together, body and soul. He closed his hands over hers and leaned back into her embrace. “Teague will be watching for us.” “Because he fears for you, Jack.” He grunted at that, refusing to call her a liar yet knowing too much to believe her to be right. “He cast me out of this place, love.” “It was a long time ago,” she said softly. “Men change, Jack. Time changes them, if nothing else. Your father’s an old man now; he always regretted losing you.” “Told you that, did he?” There was a pause. “Only in his silences.” She moved then, coming to stand next to him, and he glanced down at the burgeoning roundness of her belly with a fierce flare of joy. ’Twas a miracle to him that, in the dreamy aftermath of death, they had created this life between them. He’d cut off his own bloody hand before lifting it in anger against the child, yet his father… “I’ve been waiting to give you this,” Lizzie said then, reaching into her coat pocket. “Waiting for the opportune moment, so to speak.” She smiled a little, and held something out to him – a dull glint of gold and blue in the grey morning light. Jack took the trinket from her hand with a curious glance. He knew what it was of course, but wondered how it had come into her possession. “When you cut your hair,” she said, “we found this amongst the rest. Teague told me you’d want it, when you were yourself again.” He nodded, turning it over in his fingers. “Was my mother’s,” he said quietly. “Teague gave it to me when— A long time ago now, though it seems but yesterday.” “Let me…” she said, and took it from his hand. His hair had grown longer again and she wove a quick braid with her nimble fingers, binding the piece of shine back into his hair. “There,” she smiled, “more as I first knew you.” “Though you, my love, could hardly be more different to the girl I first pulled from the clutches of the briny.” He bent and kissed her lightly. “More beautiful, though, now.” “Flatterer.” “No flattery, I swear it. When you’ve the looks of a haggard old crone, I’ll be sure to tell you so.” She smiled, eyes and all, and smacked his chest. “By then, no doubt, you’ll be wearing your father’s face.” “I hope they hang me first!” Her smile faltered into a frown. “Jack…” “In jest,” he said, pulling her close. “I’m Captain Jack Sparrow, remember?” “As if I could forget.” Her head came to rest briefly against his. “Ah, look, I see Sanders on the dock…” “And he would be?” “First Mate.” She cast him a sly look. “And I’d advise you to keep your hands to yourself, he’s a most valuable crewman and I’ll not have you stealing him away.” Jack laughed, couldn’t help himself. “Knew I shouldn’t have told you that particular story, love.” “Oh, but it’s such a good story, Jack.” Then, cocking her head, she grew more serious. “Are you ready?” “Swore I’d not return here,” he said, feeling a swift rise of panic. Struck by its absurdity, he added, “I’ve been marooned, shot, branded, and eaten alive by Jones’ bloody beast more times than I can count, and yet...” “Not every father inspires dread in their son,” Lizzie took his hand and held it against her belly. “I wish you could have known mine.” “I did,” Jack said. “He tried to hang me, if you recall…” Lizzie smiled again. “Only because he didn’t know you as I do.” She laced her fingers through his and said, “Come then, make your peace with the Keeper of the Code.” “Won’t vouch for peace,” Jack said as the gangplank was lowered to the side of the Pearl . “But if I’m to base myself here a while, perhaps we can come to an accord whereby I don’t kill him?” He heard Lizzie’s soft sigh, half resignation and half affection, and squeezed her hand once to show he was at least half in jest. Then he let go, straightened his hat, and slipped on the swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow. Without a backward glance – no need to look when you know your back is covered – he sauntered across the deck and down the rickety gangplank, halting in front of the old seadog Lizzie had named Sanders. Jack eyed him a moment. “Flanders?” he asked. “Anders?” “Sanders,” the man said with a dubious frown. “Ah, yes. I knew that.” “Where’s Captain Swann?” From where she leaned upon the ship’s rail, Lizzie called, “Here, Sanders. All’s well?” “Aye, Captain,” the man said, with obvious relief and a cautious glance toward Jack. “And with you?” “Never better.” And those words made Jack smile more broadly that was fitting. To hide such an unmanly display he adopted a ludicrously conspiratorial tone. “I imagine my not so dear and highly un-lamentable father is lurking hereabouts? Not seen fit to pop his clogs these last months, I don’t suppose?” “Captain Teague is well enough, aye,” Saunders said. “Sent me here to bring him word of your safe return, as it happens.” “Did he now?” Jack cocked his head and fluttered his fingers as if in thought. “Well then, if you’d be so kind, please advise the old sod to be glad, for his son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found.