Will hammered the last piece in place. Setting his tools down, he stood up and stretched. He had been up all night repairing a jail cell that had been damaged in a recent attack on the port.
"You finally done making all that racket?" the young woman in the other cell asked.
Will shot her a look. "I wouldn't be here in the first place if your ship hadn't blasted our town with your cannons. The woman shrugged as though it made no difference. "As a matter of fact," he continued, "you probably wouldn't be here either".
She rolled her eyes. "No, probably not. Brilliant observation, though. It doesn't really matter. I'll get out of here…somehow." She gave him a meaningful look.
"No," he said before she could ask.
"No what?" she asked innocently.
"No I'm not helping you," he replied.
"Because I promised my wife I would stay out of trouble while she's away. Besides, I've learned my lesson about helping pirates."
She cocked her head. "Who said I'm a pirate?" she said.
"A lucky guess," he said, picking up his tools. "If you'll excuse me, I really need to get back to my shop." As he climbed the stairs, he heard her mutter, "I will get out."
As gunshots rang in his ears and he was nearly knocked over by two brawling men, Will asked himself for the hundredth time since he'd landed why he'd let Jack talk him into coming. They hadn't seen each other for three years and Jack insisted that they needed to do some "catching up". He began searching for the tavern Jack had described, though he had no clue how he was going to find it. It seemed nearly every door led to a club or tavern of some kind. The signs were of little help, most being too weathered to decipher. After unsuccessfully trying a few (and being thrown out), he came to a tavern with a sign that he could just make out to read The Jolly Roger. He was pretty sure that was the name Jack had given him, so taking a deep breath, he pushed his way in.
Will searched the room uncertainly for Jack. Just as he was about to give up, he heard someone call his name.
"Will!" Jack exclaimed, pushing his way through the chaos, "Long time no see!"
Will smiled. "Good to see you, Jack."
Gesturing to a small table in the corner, Jack said, "Have a seat so we can talk. Can I buy you a drink?"
Will shook his head. "You know I don't drink."
"Oh, right…Can you buy me a drink?" he asked.
"No," Will said. Jack shrugged and signaled for the bartender to give him one. Sitting down at the table, he asked, "So, how's Elizabeth?"
"She's fine," Will replied. "Right now she's visiting her father, which is partly why I agreed to come. I still feel guilty leaving her seven months pregnant, though."
"Oh really?" Jack said, "That's why she was away?"
"Yes, but how did you even know she was away? I didn't tell you until just now," Will asked.
Jack grinned. "You'd be surprised how much information you can buy, and for a relatively low price."
"I see," Will said slowly, "So what else have you heard about my private life?" Jack shrugged.
"Let's see…I know you married Elizabeth, you now own the blacksmith shop, and Norrington still resents the fact that she married you instead of him."
"That's pretty much a summary of my life," he admitted, "So how much did that cost?" "Who said I bought it?" Jack said slyly. "I merely mentioned that one could purchase such information if one was interested."
"Well then how did you get it?" Will asked impatiently. Jack still took forever to get to the point.
"A friend of mine was in your town about four months ago. I believe you met her. Her name's-"
He was cut off by a sharp explosion. The crowd drifted away to reveal a young woman with a smoking pistol in her hand. Will immediately recognized her as the woman from the jail. "Speak o' the devil," Jack muttered under his breath. Waving his arm, he called out, "Blackbird!" She turned around and quickly spotted Jack. Calmly stepping over the dead body, she made her way to the table.
"Jack!" she exclaimed, "I thought you weren't going to be in town until tomorrow!" "Change of plans," he said with a shrug. Turning to Will, he said, "Will, I'd like you to meet my good friend Blackbird. Blackbird, this is Will Turner."
"Yes, I know. We met a while back. Whatever happened to not helping out pirates?" she asked.
"I'm not helping him out, he's just a good friend of mine," Will argued.
"Fair enough," she said.
"Well, I see you got out alright without my help," he said.
"I did?" she said, looking around her, "Well would you look at that! I guess I can get along just fine by myself! No point in keeping you around, I guess." She started to pull out her gun, but Jack stopped her.
"That's enough, Blackbird," he said.
She grinned. "I was only joking," she said sweetly.
"You know that and I know that, but Will here's not used to humor. He takes everything very seriously," Jack said, looking at Will.
"So what was going on over there?" Jack asked.
Blackbird shrugged. "He owed me money."
Will gave her and incredulous look. "You killed a man just because he owed you money?" he asked.
"No," she said, "I confronted him because he owed me money. He got defensive, drew his sword, and said I could have it over his dead body. I complied." Will just shook his head in disbelief.
"Will, do you have a place to stay?" Jack said, changing the subject.
"I was planning on renting a room somewhere," Will said, "Why?"
"I thought I'd warn you that the prices here are all but robbery. I hope you brought enough money," he said.
"Don't worry, I expected the priced to be high. I have plenty," Will said, reaching into his coat pocket. Realizing it wasn't in there, he began searching his other pockets. He heard Blackbird laughing.
"Correction: you had plenty," she said, tossing a small bag of coins up and down in her hand.
"How on earth did you get that?" Will asked, attempting to grab it from her. She tossed it back to him.
"I took it, how else?" she said with a devilish grin. "Oh, and I took the liberty of extracting a small fee. Don't worry; it's going to a very worthy cause."
She signaled for one of the barmaids and said, "A round of drinks of here, if you please, Rose. The usual."
"You must come here quite often to know the barmaids by name and have a 'usual,'" Will commented.
"Once or twice a week. I personally prefer the Underground, but Jack insists upon coming here," Blackbird said off-handedly.
Will looked at Jack. "And why's that?" he asked.
"The ladies are far more attractive here and far less likely to beat you up," Jack replied, eyeing the barmaids' short skirts and dangerously low-cut blouses.
"I hadn't noticed," Will said uncomfortably.
Jack winked and said, "Sure ye didn't."
Rose walked up and set the drinks on the table. "Here ye are, mates," she said lightly.
Blackbird looked up. "Thank you kindly, Rose," she said, handing her the coins. "There's a bit extra in there for yourself," she added. The girl nodded gratefully and hurried over to the next table.
Blackbird grabbed a mug for herself, then slid one over to Jack, and finally handed one to Will. She raised her mug. "Here's to our good friend Will Turner. Many thanks for his selfless contribution to our fund," she said, taking a swig of the rum. Jack did the same, but Will looked uncertainly at the mug.
He looked to Jack for help, but Jack only shrugged and muttered to him, "When in Rome, mate." Will tentatively lifted the mug to his lips and forced himself to drink. His eyes immediately watered and his throat burned.
"How can you drink that?" he choked, "no one in their right mind would put themselves though that.
"I take it he's not used to strong drinks?" Blackbird said to Jack.
"He's not used to drinks at all. This is only the second time he's even been in a bar," he explained.
"What do you do with all that spare time?" she asked.
"What spare time? I'm married with a child on the way and I run a successful business. That's my life," he said with a shrug.
"Well as fun as that sounds, I think I'll stick to piracy. Less commitment. Well anyway, I'm impressed. Not many rookies can take a Devil's Brew that well, though that was by no means well."
"Thanks," he said sarcastically.
"Any time," she replied. She stood up. "Well it's been fun, but I need to get going. Three of our men quit at the last second." "Really?" Jack asked, "Who?" "Let's see...Cotton, Keetch, and Johnson. All good men. They'll be hard to replace on such short notice." Jack just nodded. "Why wasn't I informed?" he asked.
"I just found out myself," she explained. "I was just on my way out when I got in that fight."
"Well then you'd best be off. Find us some good men." She grinned and started to walk away. "Oh, and Blackbird," he called after her, "Make it two. I've got one in mind."
Once Blackbird was gone, Jack asked, "Well what did you make of her, Will?" Will shrugged. "I'm not really sure," he said, "She's an odd one, to be sure. She was either drunk or insane."
"I would wager a little bit of both. No worse than me, though," Jack said.
"I guess not," Will admitted. "I've just had time to grow accustomed to you."
Jack nodded. "I bet if you got to know her you'd see her differently."
"And how would that happen?" Will asked. "From way she was talking, it sounded like you would be leaving in only a day or two."
"The day after tomorrow," Jack said. "Which brings me to another important matter. As you might or might not have guessed, I didn't just ask you to come so we could talk."
"I had suspected such. Why?" he asked. Jack leaned back slightly in his chair. "I want you back on the Pearl, Will," he said. "Simple as that."
Will sighed. "Jack, you know I can't do that. I have a family to take care of and my responsibility is with them. I refuse to be like my father."
"I'm afraid it's too late for that, mate," Jack said. "You want to come. I can see it in your eyes."
Will put his head in his hands. "If I had only myself to think of, then yes, I would gladly accept. I will admit that I miss the open sea. It's odd, though. At the end of that journey, I thought that I would be content to never set foot on another ship for the rest of my life, but now...I don't know. It feels as if it's calling me." He quickly shook himself out of it. "But I can't go," he said firmly, though half to himself. "I must put my family's well-being before my own personal pleasure."
Jack just sat there looking at him. "Are we done arguing with ourselves?" he asked pleasantly.
"Yes," Will said with an annoyed look.
"Good," Jack said, "because I have more to say. If you'll hear me out, you might change your mind. I won't force you to make any kind of commitment, but we are setting sail in two days. You say that Elizabeth is staying with her father until she gives birth. That shouldn't be for about two months. The nature of our journey is a routine trade with the natives of a small island called Kelumar. The maximum amount of time that could take is three weeks, maybe four if we ran into some huge obstacle. My point is, you could come just for this voyage and still make it back with plenty of time to spare. What do ye say?" "Jack..." Will complained, "I'm not a sailor, and I'm not like my father, whatever you might say. I'm sorry, I just can't."
Jack nodded slowly. "I see," he said calmly. "Well, I can't make up your mind for you. Before we call anything final, why don't you sleep on it? I won't say anything more to persuade you. I won't even mention the generous sum I pay my sailors, which, by the way, would more than support your family for several months. Might even cover a small gift for the wife..."
Will stood up. "Good night, Jack," he said, starting to leave. "See you in the morning." Jack waved and went back to his drink. "He'll come," he muttered to himself, "He'll come."
Blackbird wearily opened the door to her room. She had been out all night and half the morning, but she had managed to find some new men. She went over and closed the shutters to block out the morning light. Not that it did much good, since half the boards were missing or hanging at awkward angles. She set her disheveled hat on the table, threw herself onto the bed, and attempted to sleep. No sooner had she dozed off that she was awakened by a loud knock on the door.
She turned over and tried to ignore it, but it only got louder and more persistent. Sighing, she slipped on her over-shirt.
"Who is it?" she called out.
"Blackbird? It's Jack." She opened the door slowly.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"Good morning to you, too," Jack said. "Did you find any new men?"
"Of course I did. The best two sailors that be found on such short notice. A little rough around the edges, maybe, but nothing to be concerned about," she said with a grin.
"Good," he said. "I'm glad we got that problem solved."
"So what about Will?" she asked. Jack shrugged.
"He was pretty adamant last night about not going, but I predict that he'll change his mind."
"And why's that?" she asked.
"Because I know him. He's just like his father. Bill used to be pretty strong headed about that kind of thing too, but I always won eventually. You'll see. I'm betting that we'll have at least a maybe by now."
"We'll see," Blackbird said. "Where is he now?"
"Waiting downstairs," Jack replied. "We already had a nice breakfast without you. What caused you to sleep this late? It's almost eleven o' clock."
"That's just it," she said, "I didn't sleep. True, I got you your men, but it took all night and into the morning. I got back not five minutes before you knocked on my door."
"Fair enough," Jack said. "Look, I have some things that I need to get done today, but I'd really rather not have Will with me. Are you doing anything important today?"
"Well, personally, I consider sleep rather important, but since nobody seems to agree, I thought I'd get some errands done. I realized last night that I'm almost out of powder and ammunition, so I need to run by the shop and pick up some more. Other than that, I can do whatever you need."
"All right," he said. "I hope it's not too huge of an imposition for him to go with you. I just doubt he'd do well were I'm going."
"What makes you think he'll do well with me?" she said mischievously. Jack grinned. "I'm trusting you, that's why. I really need to get going, so I'll let you find Will. He shouldn't be too hard to find."
Blackbird grabbed her hat out of her room and headed down the stairs. She easily spotted Will and went over to him.
"Well," she said, "It seems I've been appointed the task of showing you around."
"It would seem that way," Will replied. Blackbird started walking toward the bar.
"I'm not going anywhere until I've had a drink," she explained.
"You have an interesting routine," Will commented. "Go to bed drunk, go to work drunk."
"You mean last night? That wasn't drunk. That's just the way I am, mate," she said, trying to catch the bartender's attention. "One coffee and a pirate's special, ," she said to the bartender.
"What's that?" Will asked.
"Three parts coffee and one part rum," she explained. "It gives it that little boost and adds some flavor. You'll just have to deal with black, unless you want to try the special."
"I think I'll stick to the plain black. I definitely need it," he said with a yawn.
"Why are you tired?" she asked. "You weren't out all night trying to find to willing sailors who weren't too drunk to remember ever having the conversation."
"All the noise," he explained. "I don't know how you can sleep through gunshots and shouting at all hours of the night."
Blackbird shrugged. "You get used to it."
The bartender set two steaming mugs in front of them. Blackbird slid two coins across the bar to him and took her mug. As she slowly drank her own coffee, she noticed Will looking doubtfully at his own.
"It's all right," she said. "It's not poisoned or anything."
"I'm not worried about poison. I just don't want a surprise like last night's," he said.
She grinned. "Well there's no reason to fret about that. It's just plain coffee; you have my word." He cautiously took and drink. Once he was sure she was telling the truth, he took another. "See?" she asked. "I wouldn't lie to you." Will just looked at her. "Well..."she said, "Actually I probably would, but I didn't this time."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said. After a short pause, he asked, "So where exactly are we going?"
"I have some errands to run. Ammunition, supplies for the voyage, stuff like that. Bear in mind that you're only coming because Jack made me and that you aren't to get in my way," she said with a fierce look.
"Yes ma'am," Will said sarcastically.
"Well, are we going to leave or would you like to sit around chatting and sipping coffee all day?" she asked, equally as sarcastic.
"I vote for the latter," he said.
"Come on," Blackbird said, pulling him off the stool by his sleeve.
Picking himself up quickly, Will followed Blackbird as she strode out of the building.
"So where exactly are we going?" he asked again.
"Well, I don't know how you do it in Port Royal, but here in Tortuga we have a little tradition called eating," she replied.
"We couldn't have bought it back at the tavern?" Will said.
"Okay, first rule here in Tortuga: never buy what you can steal. So long as you don't get caught, it's much easier." She quickly spotted an elderly man selling fruit on the side of the road. Motioning for Will to stay back, she casually approached the stall. Pretending to examine the fruit, she quickly slipped one into her coat pocket while the man was occupied with another customer. As she started to grab another, she felt Will grab her wrist.
"This is wrong, Blackbird," he whispered. "You can't just take this man's only source of income."
"Watch me," she whispered back fiercely. Just then, the man looked up from the exchange. His eyes went from the fruit in Blackbird's hand to the trapped expression on her face.
"Tryin' to steal me fruit again, eh?" he said. "Well, I trust you remember what I do to thieves." He pulled a pistol from his pocket and cocked it. Blackbird looked from the loaded gun to the man and back to the gun again.
"Run!" she shouted, taking off down the street with Will close on her heels.
Dodging a few bullets, they darted around a corner and hid behind a stack of crates. As soon as they were sure he wasn't following them, Blackbird stepped out.
"Rule Two: when in the process of enforcing Rule One, never announce that you are doing so!" she said, breathing heavily.
"Sorry, but I wasn't about to let you steal from a defenseless old man," Will said stubbornly.
"You really have to get over this whole conscience thing. It's getting really annoying. Anyway, in case you didn't notice, he wasn't exactly defenseless," she said, examining a hole in her coat pocket. She gave a low whistle. "That was close." Taking her hat off her head, she found two more holes. "And that was closer. I think we know who he was aiming for," she announced.
"The same one who he caught stealing," Will pointed out.
"Yes, well, that's life as a pirate," she said, tossing him one of the fruits. She examined the spot where a bullet had grazed hers, shrugged, and proceeded to eat it anyway. "At least you got some exercise," she finally said.
"I can think of better ways to accomplish that."
"We all have our different methods," she said. "And it just so happens that this puts us fairly near my first stop. There's a little shop nearby that sells ammunition for a fairly low price, as long as you don't ask where he got it."
After cutting through several alleys, they stopped in front of an abandoned-looking shop.
"Why don't you stay here this time," Blackbird said before going inside. The room was empty, but a crash coming from the back room let her know that help would be out soon. She picked up a new-looking gun off the shelf and examined it. A young man came out of the back room with his hair tousled and still buttoning his shirt.
"Hey Blackbird," he said sleepily. "What can I help you with?"
"Where's your father, Tom?" she asked. "I'd hate to wake you at this time of day."
"I'm running the shop while he's out of town for a few days," Tom replied. "Still using the same old gun?" he asked, unlocking a cabinet behind him. Blackbird nodded. Setting the ammunition on the counter, Tom said, "I can't believe that thing's lasted this long. It's been, what, 13 years? You'd think a slightly newer gun would catch your eye eventually. For example, that nice new one on the shelf over there that I saw you looking at."
Blackbird shook her head. "My father gave me this gun shortly before he died. I'll use it until it breaks. As of right now, it's still in excellent condition, so don't be getting your hopes up. How much do I owe you for the supplies?" She looked out the dirty window while Tom added up the numbers. Swearing under her breath, she headed back out the door. "I'll pay for that in a second," she called over her shoulder.
Three large men had Will cornered with guns drawn. Will had drawn his sword, but he was no match for brute strength and guns. Blackbird calmly walked over to the largest man and casually put a hand on his shoulder. "What're you up to, Mutig?" she asked.
"Oh, nothin' much. Just doin' my job," he said irritably.
"Good, good...he have much on 'im?" she asked.
"Yeah..." he said cautiously. "What's it to you?"
"You know, it's a funny thing the way the human mind works, Mutig," she said.
"How's that?" he asked, getting annoyed at the delay.
"Well, I could've sworn that the last time I saw you, I said that if I ever caught you and your goons doing business in this part of town again, I'd gut you like a fish. However, here you stand. Now, surely you're not stupid enough to ignore my warning, right, mate?" she said menacingly.
"Of course," Mutig said nervously. "In fact, we was just leaving..." Blackbird stepped in his way.
"You never were very bright, Mutig. I gave you plenty of warning and you still went on with your business. I'm in a good mood, so I'll give you until the count of five to give me all the money and get out of my sight. One..." she pulled out her gun and cocked it. "Two..." she set her finger on the trigger and flexed it. "Three..." Mutig threw the money at her feet and took off running, his companions close behind. "Four, Five! Come back here you bloody cowards!" she shouted, firing a few shots after them before turning back. "Are you all right?" she asked.
"Yes, thank you," Will said.
"Don't mention it...ever," she said, heading back into the shop. "Tom? I think I've changed my mind about that gun. Add that and a little more ammunition to my sum."
"Consider it a gift," Tom said with a grin. "A thank-you for many years of business."
Blackbird handed him the coins and put her gun back in its holster. "Always a pleasure doing business, Tom," she said, tipping her hat. "Until next time."
Back out on the street, Blackbird tossed the gun and its supplies to Will. "Next time," she said, "don't make me come and save you. Please say that you know how to aim a gun."
"Of course I do," Will said indignantly. "I keep one in my shop for defense. My last encounter with Jack taught me to be prepared."
"Which is why you were so ready for those guys, right?" she said.
"That was one time. I thought it wise not to fight back, considering that they were twice my size and armed with guns, while I had just a sword. I was also outnumbered three to one, in case you didn't notice," he said defensively.
"I didn't seem to have a problem," Blackbird pointed out.
"Maybe because you have a reputation and a gun," Will argued. "Guns seem to make people much quicker to comply to your terms. If I'd said the same things they would have laughed and shot me."
"I guess that's true," she admitted. "You don't look near crazy enough for them to believe you. Me, on the other hand, they know would do it in a heartbeat."
"Really?" Will asked. "Thus far all I've seen are empty threats. You always say that you'll kill someone, but when the opportunity comes, you never do." Blackbird's dark eyes blazed to life.
"Are you implying that I am incapable of doing so?" she asked.
"No, I'm simply pointing out that I am yet to see evidence that you are to be taken seriously," he replied.
"That can be arranged," she said slowly, her hand drifting to the hilt of her sword.
"Is that a challenge?" Will asked.
Blackbird drew her sword. "Most definitely," she said, lunging forward.
Will quickly blocked her blow but didn't bother to counter. That was all Blackbird needed. She quickly analyzed the information and developed a strategy. He favored his right hand. His quick reflexes made him hard to take by surprise. He was also taking it easy on her. That, she thought to herself, I can use to my advantage. She attacked again, this time switching hands at the last second. He blocked it again, this time returning the blow. She quickly ducked and avoided his swing. So the fight began. They both took turns attacking and defending; one moment the aggressor, the next moment dodging a sequence of blows. Neither one was willing to put forth full effort, yet neither would admit defeat. Finally Blackbird had enough and decided to make it more interesting. Using a stack of crates as steps, she leapt up onto one of the rooftops with Will close on her heels. The uneven slopes and occasional loose shingles made it difficult to navigate, which was exactly why Blackbird liked it. Her father had made sure that from an early age she could defend herself in any situation. "I'm curious," she finally said, blocking his attempt to knock her sword out of her hand. "When are you going to start trying?"
"As soon as you do," Will replied.
Blackbird grinned. "As you wish," she said. She jumped into the air, lashing out with her left leg to knock away his sword while her right caught him square in the chest, causing him to fall back. Grabbing his sword, she caught him before he could get up and held him there with her sword to his neck. "Now, have we learned not to underestimate Blackbird Turner?" she said.
"Yes," he muttered.
"I'm sorry, what was that? You'll have to speak a bit louder, mate."
"Yes I've learned not to underestimate you," he said with an exasperated sigh.
"Good," she said cheerfully, helping him up. "I'll have to admit, you were better than I expected."
"Thanks. You fought well, though I expected you to fight more like Jack," he said.
Blackbird shrugged. "The way a person fights says a lot about them. Jack fights more spontaneously and by-the-moment, but that's the way he is. You, on the other hand, take it way too seriously. You need to lighten up and have some fun," she said, dropping lightly to the ground.
Will followed her. "Do you always analyze your opponents like this?" he asked.
"Pretty much," she replied. "Plus Jack told me to help you loosen up."
They had walked about a mile when they came to nicer-looking area. There were small houses in neat little rows, and while the street was by no means perfect, it was at least a little cleaner. "Are we still in Tortuga?" Will asked, looking around.
Blackbird nodded. "This is just a slightly more 'civilized' area. Some people attempt to raise families here." Will looked surprised. "What?" she asked. "I was raised here."
"That, I don't find hard to believe, but aren't people worried about the crime and violence just a few streets over from here?" Will asked.
"Not really. Most of the scum stay where the bars are. That's where they'll get the most profit, not to mention drinks. Everyone pretty much respects the boundaries here," Blackbird said.
"Then what are you doing here?" he pointed out.
Blackbird shot him a look. "One: I'm hardly considered 'scum'. Criminal, sure. Perhaps even lowlife, but not scum. Two: this is the fastest to get to the shop."
Will muttered something inaudible under his breath and followed her in silence.
Suddenly a boy in his early teens sped around the corner and nearly knocked Blackbird down. Blackbird quickly recovered and helped him up. Calmly, as if there was nothing unusual about being ran into, she asked, "What'd you do this time, Ghost?"
The boy's sharp blue eyes darted about. "Nothin'," he said, breathing hard. "Just runnin'. I've heard it's good for your health."
Blackbird shrugged. "Suit yourself. We'll just be on our way, then. I'd hate to interrupt your exercise routine."
Ghost stopped her. "Well, on second thought, I guess it wouldn't hurt to hang out with you guys for a while. Where are you going?"
"Picking up an order of rum for Jack. Nothing exciting, but I could use an extra hand. In fact, we seem to be short a man on our crew. Think your father can part with you for a few weeks?" Blackbird asked.
The boy nodded. "He wouldn't even notice. I don't think he's even aware that he has a son. When do we set sail?"
"Tomorrow at dawn. I'm sure I can find the means to pay for one night's stay at the tavern for you, if you're interested. Just to make sure your father doesn't pull one of his tricks like last time."
"Works for me," he said lightly. "Y'know," he continued with a mischievous spark to his eye, "I've heard it's customary for those who deliver the rum to test it first and make sure it's suitable. Wouldn't want to give Cap'n Jack bad rum, now would we?"
Blackbird laughed at the boy's suggestion. "I would, mate, but Jack gave me specific instructions not to. How about I just buy you one once we get to the tavern?
"Fair enough," he agreed. "Let's get going."
* * *
Once they had picked up Jack's order and stored it on the Pearl, the three headed to the tavern that Will had visited the previous night. They had almost reached it when Blackbird stumbled -literally- across Jack. He was lying unconscious on the side of the street. She approached him casually and nudged him with her foot. No response. Seeming to give up, she turned away, only to turn back abruptly and shout, "Sparrow!" He stirred a little. Sighing, she kicked him sharply in the ribs. That worked. He sat up with a start and looked around him.
"Not a way I'd like to be woken up on a regular basis," he said, rubbing the back of his head.
Blackbird helped him up. "Well, perhaps if you hadn't been too drunk to respond to shouting and nudging, I wouldn't have had to resort to kicking. Besides, it worked, didn't it?"
"I'd say it did," Jack said, clutching his side. "And who says I'm drunk?"
"I do," Blackbird said. "I, of all people, should know the smell of rum." When Jack denied it again, she just rolled her eyes. "Then what, pray tell, had you passed out at six o'clock in the evening?" she asked.
Jack contemplated for a moment. "Well ya see...I was walkin' along, mindin' me own business, when I was jumped by ten or so men," he said, gesticulating wildly. "I 'eld me own for quite some time, but there were just too many o' them, even for Jack Sparrow. I guess one o' them caught me upside the head or somethin'. Probably just common thieves."
Blackbird nodded as if she understood. "And that would explain the rum bottle you're still clutching?" she said.
"I grabbed it as a weapon?" he offered. In response to her steady glare. Jack threw his hands up in surrender. "I give up, ya caught me. I got finished early and had to do somethin' to pass the time. I promise it's only been about five minutes since I passed out."
Blackbird just sighed. "C'mon," she said. "Just because you're done your fair share of drinking for the evening doesn't mean there aren't others present who would like a drink or two."
"I'd willingly attest to that," Ghost put in.
Jack looked over at the boy. "When'd you get here?" he asked.
"We ran into him on the way to pick up your order. I offered him a place on the crew, since Mr. Turner refuses to help out a few humble pirates," Blackbird explained.
Jack gave her a confused look but caught on quickly. "Well then, welcome to the Black Pearl crew, mate," he said, amiably offering his hand.
Ghost shook it. "It's an honor, sir. It's not many a lad who receives the honor of serving the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. I give you my word that I'll be worth my wages and then some." He removed his hat and bowed slightly.
"Is 'e a friend o' yours?" Jack muttered to Blackbird.
Blackbird nodded. "An acquaintance. We've helped each other out a few times. He'll stay true to his promise. He has a little experience on other ships and he's uncannily talented at climbing up in the rigging. I figure he's as good as we can get this late of notice."
Jack shrugged. "Sounds good enough to me. What happens if Will changes 'is mind?"
"Then we have one extra man on the crew. Worse things can happen. Are you sober enough to join us at the tavern?" she asked.
"I'm never too drunk to have another rum," Jack replied. "In fact, I'm feeling the effects lessen already. Wouldn't want that to happen, now would we?"
Blackbird smiled. "Let's go then," she said, motioning to Will and Ghost.
They had no sooner sat down at a small table in the corner than a man came asking for Blackbird. He spoke in a low voice, but he was saying something about a drinking contest. Apparently she had been requested as an opponent. Blackbird looked over at Jack, who only shrugged and looked back at her. She hesitantly followed the man the table he had indicated. Jack and Ghost went over for a better view and Will, not wanting to be left behind, followed.
Blackbird was seated across the table from a man that Will quickly recognized as Mutig. They were both downing shots of liquor as quickly as they could, hardly pausing in between. Will looked over at Jack, who was attempting to place a bet on the outcome.
"I thought you didn't have any money," he said quietly.
"I don't," Jack replied, "but they don't know that."
"Isn't that a bit dangerous?" Will asked. "What happens if you lose and you don't have the means to pay?"
Jack shrugged. "That's seldom an issue when betting on Blackbird. She hasn't lost a match in two years and this is a grudge match. She beat Mutig only last week. Look, it's already affecting him." Sure enough, the large man was beginning to sway back and forth and his eyes had a glazed-over look to them. Blackbird, on the other hand, seemed hardly affected and was still going steadily. Finally, Mutig gave a loud belch and his head dropped to the table. Once they were sure he was unconscious, the man who seemed to be the judge declared Blackbird victorious. Several individuals paid off their bets unhappily, most of which turned out to be to Jack, who seemed quite content.
"She bloody cheated!" one large man shouted suddenly. Several others quickly agreed with him and gave varying accounts of how she'd done it. Blackbird drew her sword quickly.
"If any of ye cowards dare challenge my honor, let him come forth!" she said, glaring fiercely around the room. To Will's surprise, most of the crowd drew back. Apparently she had been telling truth about her reputation. Her original accuser stepped out from the crowd.
"Come on, the lass just 'ad near fifteen shots o' liquor. She ain't in no condition to fight!" he said angrily. Drawing his own sword, he charged at Blackbird.
Fighting broke out among the bystanders and quickly spread. Will finally had no choice other than to fight. Any attempt he made to get out only pushed him further into the disarray. Jack, who had immediately jumped into the middle of everything, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. He had already taken down two or three men and was working on another. Will's attention turned to Blackbird. Despite the fact that she had just been drinking heavily, her movements were still fluid and exact, exerting no more effort than necessary. He was struck with a sense of familiarity by the fire in her eyes. He had seen that determination somewhere before, he just couldn't place where. Will shook himself out of it and concentrated on the fight at hand.
As suddenly as it had started, the fight was over. One look at the center of the room and Will could see why. Blackbird stood there with her sword lowered, looking down at her dead opponent. There was no trace of emotion on her face and the fire was gone. In its place was a look of sheer exhaustion. It had taken more out of her than she would let on to. She slowly made her way back to their table. Everyone immediately resumed their activities as if nothing had happened.
Blackbird ordered a round of drinks for everyone and they sat without speaking for quite some time. It was Jack who finally broke the silence.
"Well," he said cheerfully, "that was a nice bit of excitement to get us back in the spirit of things."
Blackbird nodded in agreement. "It's always good to have a bit of exercise before getting on a small, crowded ship for a month."
"But you didn't get out of it uninjured," Will pointed out, indicated a slice in her sleeve that was drenched in blood.
Blackbird looked her arm. "Oh, that?" she said casually. "It's nothing, just a slight miscalculation on my part; it's nothing more than a scratch.
Jack examined it. "Well, maybe a bit more than a scratch, but you've seen worse," he said. "It's certainly not anything that would impede your ability to sail with us tomorrow."
After several rounds of drinks and much discussion about the next day's journey, Blackbird left with the excuse that she needed some rest after the last night's activities. Will started to do the same, but Jack stopped him.
"I suppose you'll at least see us off tomorrow?" he said hopefully.
"Yes, but that is all I intend to do," Will replied.
Jack's expression fell. "No change of heart, then, eh?"
"None whatsoever," he said firmly. "You don't seem to get it, Jack. That lifestyle doesn't work for me. I am Bootstrap Bill's son, not Bootstrap himself. My father's decision to engage in piracy does not bind me to the same course. I am a grown man, fully capable of making my own decisions."
"And I respect that," Jack said. "I just don't think you're making the right choice."
"Of course you don't," Will said exasperatedly. "Anything that doesn't benefit you isn't the right choice in your mind. Good night, Jack," he said, walking out of the tavern.
* * *
Will wasn't sure where he was going until he found himself at the docks. The gentle lapping of the water against the shore allowed him to sort out his thoughts.
"I see I'm not the only one seeking solitude tonight," a voice said from behind him. Startled, he whirled around to face the speaker. "Easy," Blackbird said, raising her hands in surrender. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"Sorry," Will said awkwardly. "You startled me."
"Apparently," she said, eyeing the sword in his hand. He quickly put it back in its sheath and sat down on the edge of the dock. "Mind if I join you?" Blackbird asked.
"Sure, though I think two people seeking solitude together somewhat defeats the purpose," he said.
They sat in silence for a while, a task Will had thought impossible for Blackbird. After about fifteen minutes, though, it proved too much for her.
"So I guess you haven't changed your mind about joining us, right?" she finally asked.
She nodded her head thoughtfully. "Jack probably tried to convince you otherwise," she continued. Again, Will agreed. "You're no doubt a little frustrated with him at the moment. You wonder why he can't respect your decision as final."
Will looked over at her in surprise. "That's very perceptive of you. How did you know?"
"Because I've been in the same situation many times. I know Jack can be hardheaded, but in the end he normally does know what he's talking about."
"I don't care if he knows what he's talking about; I do too. People with different perspectives often reach different conclusions," he argued.
Blackbird shrugged. "That doesn't make either one right or wrong. Look, I'm smart enough to know that there's nothing I can say to change your mind. Just promise me this: you'll listen to your heart about this and not your head. Logic has no place in the world of pirates, so there's no sense in determining matters by it. I'll see you in the morning, Will. What happens after that is entirely up to you."
Blackbird paced impatiently up and down the dock. Jack was running late, as usual, and she was eager to set sail. A fair wind was blowing and there wasn't a cloud in the sky; a perfect day for sailing. The only thing they were missing was a captain...
She heard someone trying to sneak up behind her. "You're late, Jack," she said, turning around.
"Perhaps you're early. After all, I'm the captain here. I'll show up when I please. Anyone else is simply early."
"Then half your crew is early," she replied. "I put them to work loading the last of the supplies, but you might want to check and make sure everything's in order. I don't trust them anyway, and I suspect that they've already been dipping into the rum."
Jack nodded. "I'll look into that. Any sign of Will?"
"No," Blackbird said disappointedly. "I talked with him last night after he left the tavern, but I can't say whether anything I said made a difference. We can give him until the last of the crew arrives."
A loud crash on deck followed by angry swearing confirmed Blackbird's suspicions. She simply gave Jack a look that said, "Told you so," and watched him hurry up the gangplank to investigate. She spotted a figure making his way toward the ship and was surprised to see Mr. Cotton.
"Your bird lied to me, Cotton," she said, approaching him. "He said you wouldn't be joining us."
"Dishonest man, dishonest man," the bird squawked.
"Dishonest bird," Blackbird countered.
"Never trust a pirate," it replied.
"That goes without saying," someone said from behind them.
Blackbird turned around in surprise. "Will! We had begun to think you wouldn't be seeing us off."
Will ignored her statement. "Where's Jack?" he asked.
"Right here," Jack said, returning from the dispute onboard. "Glad you could make it. Did you find passage on a ship?" he asked, indicating the small bag Will had slung over his shoulder.
"I did, actually. It's a pretty large ship. From what I hear, the captain's the best in the Caribbean. The only terms were that I sail as one of the crew, as my father once did." Blackbird gave him a knowing smile. "William Turner, at your service, Captain," Will said, bowing slightly.
Jack returned the smile but quickly became serious again. "Get to work," he said roughly. "We're about to set sail and the only part of the ship you know how to get to is the brig. Blackbird, see to it that Mr. Turner knows his way around as soon as humanly possible."
"Aye, sir," she said. "Come on Will, I'll show you to the crew's quarters."
Ducking to avoid a low beam, Blackbird led Will to the forecastle. "You can set your things over there," she said, pointing to an unoccupied hammock.
"I think the brig was more commodious," Will commented, slinging down his bag.
"Well, personal space is not a luxury given to the crew. You're only in here as much as you choose to be. We work on a watch-and-watch system, so the four hours in between watches are to be used as you please. You can sleep, eat, talk, whatever, just make sure you're on deck when your watch begins. Jack's assigned you to my watch, so we have the next two hours off before it begins. I have to work until we set sail, but after that I can show you around a bit more."
Once on deck, Jack caught up to Blackbird. "What did you say that changed his mind?" he asked. "You didn't tell him, did you?"
"Of course not," Blackbird said calmly. "He's still to scared of me. I just told him to follow his heart."
Jack couldn't help but laugh. "That must have been odd to hear coming from a pirate," he said.
Blackbird shrugged. "Maybe the pirate wasn't the one doing the talking," she said quietly.
"Maybe," Jack said, "but right now I need the pirate to do the work I'm paying her for and stop standing around talking."
"Aye aye, Captain," she said with a mocking salute.
Jack sighed. "Why do I even let you sail with us? You do nothing but mock me. If you can't respect me as your captain, at least respect me as an elder." His tone was serious, but Blackbird could see a smile in his eyes.
"Maybe it's because I'm one of the best sailors you've ever had and I run all the finances on this ship. Admit it; you'd be lost without me."
"Yes, what would I ever do with all that spare time and no one to argue with?" he said sarcastically.
"Excuse me," Gibbs interrupted, "but if you two are done bickering, we're ready to set sail."
Jack nodded and made his way to the helm. Blackbird stood watching as Gibbs shouted orders to the crew. He was always doing her work. She knew that he had never approved of her even being on the crew, and hated that she was first mate, which made her his superior. Whenever Jack wasn't around, he would order her around and talk to her as if she was still a child. Not that it really mattered. She still made a point of lording her status over his head whenever she got the chance.
"I thought you had to work," Will said, standing next to her.
"I did, but it seems that Mr. Gibbs has decided to relieve me of my duties. So thoughtful of him. Come on, I'd better show you around."
After they had toured most of the ship, Blackbird led Will to the galley. An elderly man stood at the small stove. "Mornin' lass," he said cheerfully. "How are we this fine day?"
"Hungry," she replied. "What do you have for us today?"
The old man smiled and tossed them both a small loaf of bread. "Eat up," he said. "I'll have coffee ready in a minute."
"Ah, the legendary hospitality of the Black Pearl's culinary staff. Always a nice break from the real food I can get in Tortuga," Blackbird said sarcastically.
"Be grateful that you're getting any," the man said. "The quality of food should actually go up this journey, thanks to the strangeness of Mister Ewing. You'll never guess what the lad showed up with today."
"I can imagine all sorts of things from Ewing, but go ahead and tell me."
"He brought a cow and a dozen chickens. Said we weren't gettin' enough nutrition on our journeys. Seems we'll be 'aving milk an' eggs fresh every day."
Blackbird laughed. "That's a new one, even for him. Will, if you think I'm touched in the head, which I know you do, wait until you have a talk with Ewing. He's as crazy as they come. Bloody good sailor though, and one of the best fighters I know."
"Will?" he said, setting two steaming mugs on the low counter. "Will Turner?"
"Aye," Blackbird said, giving him a warning look.
"I knew I'd seen that face somewhere! Will, I knew yer father when 'e was naught but a lad. Good man. I'm sure you're tired o' hearing this, but you look just like 'im."
"So I've been told," Will said.
Gibbs stuck his head in the doorway. "Blackbird, Jack wishes to have a word with you. Now," He added insistently when she ignored him.
Blackbird rolled her eyes. "I'm coming, I'm coming," she said, draining the last of her mug. "Stay here, Will. I'll only be a minute."
When she had left, Will turned to the old man. "Well," he said, "I don't believe I caught your name."
"You can call me Joe," he said.
"Alright. Joe, how long have you known Blackbird?" Will asked.
Joe rubbed his short grey beard thoughtfully. "Since she was two or so. Why?"
"Who was her father? I've heard her speak about him on several occasions."
"I don't feel at liberty to say. That's Blackbird's business."
"Well then can you tell me anything about her? I'm just curious," Will said.
"I can tell you that her father died when she was young," Joe said slowly. "She didn't know her mother. Beyond that, few can say. Really the only people that know the full tale are Captain Sparrow and Blackbird herself. Jack keeps quiet out of respect for Blackbird and she keeps quiet because it's still painful for her."
"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger," Blackbird said quietly from the doorway. "Come on, Will."
"Why were you talking about me?" she asked when they were back in the forecastle.
"I was just curious about your background. It's difficult to get to know someone unless you know where they're coming from."
"Well don't," she said seriously. "If I want you to know something, I will tell you myself, savvy? Until then, I'd appreciate you keeping your nose out of my business."
* * *
A shrill whistle indicated the start of their watch. Blackbird had already explained to Will that they didn't use a bell for fear of announcing their presence prematurely. Will watched Blackbird shout orders to the rest of the crew. He was already beginning to see another side to her; a more focused, determined side. Will stared out at the endless blue surrounding them and sighed.
"What was that about?" Blackbird asked, coming up beside him.
"Nothing," he said. "It just hit me that I'm stuck with these lunatics for the next month, that's all."
Blackbird pretended to be offended. "We aren't insane just because we see the world a bit differently."
"This is coming from the woman I found arguing with a bird," Will pointed out.
"At least I won," she said defensively.
Grabbing him by the sleeve, a method of transportation she seemed fond of, Blackbird pulled him over to a man with unkempt red hair attempting to untangle a knotted mass of ropes.
"Will, this is Mister Ewing. Ewing, Will Turner. Will, why don't you help Ewing out with these ropes? I have other things to do."
The man gave Will a boyish grin. "Have a seat," he said, gesturing to the ground next to him. Will glared at Blackbird, but she just shrugged and went back to her own work.
"She's somethin' fine, ain't she?" Ewing said when Blackbird had left. "She's mine, y'know," he continued. "So don't be tryin' anything."
"That's fine with me," Will said uncomfortably. "I have a wife at home."
Ewing smiled again. "Good. So what's Blackbird like? I mean, what does she like to do?"
"How would I know? I only met her two days ago," Will said.
"Oh," he said disappointedly. "I just assumed you'd know, bein' Bootstrap's son an' all..." his voice trailed off.
Will shot him a look. "What does that have to do with anything?" he asked.
"Nothing," Ewing said hastily. "Just a madman's ramblings. You'll have to excuse me. They think that just 'cause I don't 'ave it all together up 'ere, I can't do none o' the real work. 'Swab the decks, Ewing. Clean the privy, Ewing. Untangle the bloody ropes, Ewing.' I get all the dirty work no one else'll do."
"Well, someone has to do it," Will pointed out.
Ewing forced the last knot out of the line and stood up slowly. "I'll be captain of me own ship soon," he went off muttering. "Then they'll see. I'll make 'em do all the dirty work. I'll show them all one day...one day soon..."
* * *
Blackbird sat up in the rigging, staring off into the distance. She was snapped back to the present by Jack. "Blackbird!" he called again. Sighing, she slid down one of the outer shrouds, not bothering with the individual ratlines.
"Yes sir?" she asked.
"The outer jib got entangled with one of the lines! Cut it loose before it takes our bowsprit with it!" Not wasting time by replying, Blackbird vaulted over the rail and onto the slick bowsprit. Clinging firmly to the backropes with one hand, she used the other to slide her knife out of its sheath. Calculating the plunging and swaying of the bowsprit, she readied herself. At just the right time, Blackbird slashed at the taut rope and swung herself under the bowsprit at the same time. The heavy canvas, now freed, lashed out like a whip only inches from her head. A few seconds later on her swing and it would have knocked her unconscious and into the sea. She swung herself back up onto the bowsprit and made her way back to the ship. Blackbird couldn't help but cock her head defiantly at Will, who had been watching, before returning to her work.
She made it through the end of the watch, but the second it was over she collapsed into her hammock and was instantly asleep.
A young girl of about ten years sat watching her father pack his things. "But why must you go?" she pleaded.
Her father set down his pack and looked over at her. "Raven, how is this any different from all the other times I've gone?"
"You'll die if you go! Please…" she begged.
"Well, sometimes we don't want to do something, but that's no excuse not to. What would happen if I quit, Raven? Jack needs me and you need me. Sailing may not be the safest job, but it puts bread on the table," he said, shouldering his pack.
Raven watched sullenly as he made his way to the door. He was almost out when she ran after him. "Don't go, Daddy," she said, clinging to him. "I love you."
"Raven," the man said, stroking his daughter's braids. "I'll only be gone a few weeks. Joe promises he'll come check on you every day." He knelt and placed his weathered tricorn hat in her hands. "There," he said. "That will be my promise to you. The sea won't claim Bootstrap Bill Turner."
* * *
Blackbird woke with a start. "Take it easy," Will said. "I only thought I'd inform you that the watch is starting." She looked down and realized that she had her knife in her hand.
"Sorry, mate," she said, sliding it back in its sheath. "I guess I was more tired than I thought." She forced herself to get out of the hammock.
"Is something the matter?" Will asked.
"No, nothing," she said wearily. "Just a dream."
Blackbird studied the sky. The sun was just peeking over the horizon and the eastern sky was red. Not a good sign, she thought to herself.
"What would drive birds this far from land?" Will asked suddenly.
Blackbird looked where he was pointing and, sure enough, a small flock of red birds was flying from the west. "Blood birds. Most likely storm-driven," she replied. "Nothing to be worried about. I doubt it's more than a squall line."
"I agree with Blackbird," Jack said, returning from the helm. "The Pearl can take it. She's ridden out far worse."
Within an hour the wind was gusting and dark clouds could be seen on the western horizon. Not just flat grey rain clouds, but billowing, black, thunderheads. Even from the distance an occasional flash of lightning could be seen in the upper layers. "Jack," Blackbird said worriedly, "I'm revising my opinion about those clouds. I think we should try to find a safe harbor before the storm hits. Even the Black Pearl has her limits."
Jack just shook his head. "Well I say that we use these winds while we can and then ride out the storm to the best of our abilities. She can take it; we sail through."
"You know when I said that Jack knew what he was talking about?" Blackbird said as they worked to secure one of the sails. Will nodded. "Well," she continued, "this isn't one such case. I don't know what's in his head that makes him think that we can pull this off."
"He seems pretty confident that she can make it," Will replied.
Blackbird looked up from her work. "I don't doubt the resilience of this ship, only that of the crew. We're only mortals; there's only so much we can do. However," she said, "he is my captain and I would follow him to death."
"What ever happened to 'Any man that falls behind stays behind'?" he asked.
"That hardly applies to friendship," Blackbird said. "Jack's my best friend, even considering how often we argue. I've had my share of stupid decisions that he's backed anyway; it holds fair that I do the same now."
Will laughed quietly. "I never thought I'd receive a lecture on friendship from a pirate."
Blackbird gave him a wry look. "I never thought a blacksmith from Port Royal could become one of the best pirates I ever met in a matter of four days. People can surprise you like that."
* * *
As soon as the watch was over, Blackbird went to look for Jack. She finally found him sequestered in his cabin with maps strewn about. He looked up from the map he was studying. "What?" he asked.
"Jack," she said uncomfortably, "I'm..."
"I forgive you," Jack said with a grin. "I know how much you hate to admit you're wrong."
"Oh, I still think you're an idiot for attempting this," Blackbird corrected hastily. "But you are the captain and it wasn't my place to argue. For that, I am sorry."
Jack just smiled. She was still in many ways the stubborn thirteen-year-old he'd hesitantly let on his crew ten years ago. When she didn't leave, he asked, "Is something else on your mind?"
Blackbird hesitated. "Well...it's just..."
"It's Will, isn't it?" he finished for her.
"Yes," she said gratefully. "How do you always know?"
"The same way you recognize my walk. It's one of those little things you pick up over the years. What about Will?"
"Nothing," she said, searching for the words. "I'm just thinking that if he's not ready to hear it now, he'll never be. He already suspects he's not being told something. You know as well as I do that he's been asking around. It's only a matter of time before someone else tells him, which I'd like to avoid. This is something he needs to hear from me."
"Probably so," Jack agreed. "If you don't tell Will something, he has a tendency to go find out himself."
* * *
In the crowded room adjacent to the galley, Will grabbed a rum, which he had taught himself to at least tolerate, and sat across from Gibbs at a small table.
"Something I can help ya with, Will?" Gibbs asked. "Or did you just sit down there because it was the only open seat?"
"I need information about someone. Preferably more complete than your 'information' about Jack," Will said.
"Well, that would depend on the individual, now wouldn't it?" Gibbs replied.
"Blackbird. What can you tell me about her past?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Even less is know 'bout Blackbird than is known 'bout Jack."
"Well, then you wouldn't know who her father was, would you?"
The pirate hesitated. "I don't know that I should be tellin' ye that, Will. Blackbird's sensitive 'bout that subject, an' Jack would 'ave my head if I said anythin' I shouldn't. All I can say is that she lost 'im far too early. He goes off on a routine journey and gets killed for doing the right thing. Left 'is ten-year-old daughter orphaned and penniless. Bootstrap was a good man; 'e didn't deserve to die." Seeing the look on Will's face, Gibbs realized about thirty seconds too late what he had said. "Bloody 'ell, Will! You know not to get me talkin' when I'm drunk! I start talkin' an' before ya know it, I've gone an' said too much. Blackbird'll have my head when she hears 'bout this..."
"While it's tempting, I think I'll pass," Blackbird said. "I doubt Jack would appreciate the mess. Will, Jack and I need to have a word with you."
* * *
Blackbird led Will to Jack's cabin and closed the doors behind them. "Did you tell him?" Jack asked.
"Tell me what?" Will said, growing frustrated. "Would someone please tell me what's going on?"
"Will, you remember when I said that you were Bootstrap Bill's only child?" Jack started slowly.
"Well...I lied," he said awkwardly.
"I see," Will said. "And who is the other?" Blackbird cleared her throat. "Her?" Will asked in disbelief.
"My name is Raven 'Blackbird' Marie Turner. My father was William Turner," she said quietly.
Will looked to Jack, hoping that this was some joke. In his heart, though, he knew it wasn't. It explained the sense of familiarity he had so often been struck with. Now he knew where he had seen that look of determination. It had been on the face of his mother every day. "Jack," he said finally, "why didn't you tell me? You had every opportunity."
"I didn't think it was the right time," Jack replied.
"And what, pray tell, was the right time?" Will asked, becoming increasingly angry.
Jack hesitated. "...Now?" he offered. Will glared piercingly at him. "Alright, alright," he said. "I didn't say anything because I needed your blood. I'm a terribly selfish man incapable of seeing beyond my own problems."
Blackbird interrupted. "Mind if I say something since, you know, this is kind of about me?" Jack nodded gratefully. "Will, I asked him not to say anything. Not before your ordeal with Barbossa, but when Jack told me that he had encountered you, I asked him to stay silent. When you showed up in Tortuga and joined the crew, I made certain that nobody would say anything. To be quite honest, I was afraid that if you found out before you got to know me to some degree, you would hit the ground running and never look back. I tend to have that effect on people; I know I normally don't come across as the sanest individual." She glanced out of the window at the darkening sky. "Well, I think I'd better rest up before that storm hits. There's nothing worse than being tired on duty."
When Blackbird had left, Jack looked around the room uncomfortably. "Well..." he finally said, "You're probably slightly irked at me right now, eh mate?"
"To put it mildly," Will replied. "How could it never cross your mind the entire time we were pursuing Barbossa that I might want to know?"
Jack shrugged. "It did on many occasions. I thought that the information about your father would be plenty for the time being. The easiest way for me to explain would be to start at the beginning. When I was a young man, not much older than you are now, I served on a small pirate ship in the Indian Ocean. On one particular journey, the captain brought along a new recruit, something he hadn't done in years. Apparently he saw something special in that inexperienced, awkward, sixteen-year-old named Bill Turner. Years later, I agree with him. Despite the age difference, he and I became fast friends. For the next five years, he was content to serve on our ship. Then he met your mother. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Marie and soon proposed to her. He knew that a pirate's life would not provide for her, so he gave up the one thing he loved doing for the one thing he loved more. They settled in a small cottage in London, but he and I stayed in touch. Soon Marie was pregnant and gave birth to twins- a boy and a girl. Bill was the proudest I'd ever seen him. Then, almost two years later, something came between them and they separated. Bill still loved Marie and hated to leave her with two children to care for, but couldn't afford to support both. Finally, they agreed that he would raise their daughter and their son would stay in London with Marie. He moved into a small house in Tortuga and took odd jobs to provide for himself and his daughter. When Blackbird was about six, however, the call of the sea was too great. He spoke to me about a temporary contract on the Black Pearl, and I agreed. That 'temporary' contract ended up lasting about four years. Then, I received word of the legendary treasure of Isla de Muerta and got the bright idea to go after it. As you know, there was a mutiny. I never blamed Bill for not standing up against twenty-something armed, angry men. Several months later, I found out that he had been killed in an argument with Barbossa."
Will turned abruptly and left the room without speaking. Jack just sighed and went back to his maps. He'd come around
Raven hopefully set the table with two places. It had been six months since her father had set out on his journey, but she still hoped that he might turn up. After all, he had been on trips before where things simply got complicated and his return was delayed. She had just sat down to a meager meal of stolen bread when a heavy knock came at the door. Pulling a short box over to the door, she peered through the small hole to see who it was. To her surprise, Jack Sparrow was standing out in the rain.
"Raven?" he called out. "I know you're in there, and I'd be much obliged if you could let me in. It's a bit wet out here for my likings." She hastily pushed away the box and opened the door.
"Jack!" she said in surprise. "Where's my father?" Jack ignored her question and seated himself in front of the small fire. When he didn't say anything for several minutes, she tried again. "Jack, where's..." The look on his face stopped her mid-sentence.
"Raven..." he started, searching for the words. "Your father...he's...well... he's not coming back, alright?" The girl stood there trying to comprehend. She understood, of course, but it was slowly soaking in. The maturity with which she took the news softened his voice a little when he spoke next. "I don't have time to explain now, but Barbossa is looking for you. You have five minutes to pack whatever you need. After that, we must leave."
Raven shoved a spare set of clothes into her bag and hastily pulled on her boots. The news still hadn't fully set in, but she refused to give it a chance. She grabbed her father's hat and shoved it on her head. Remembering her father's pistol and dagger, she ran back into his bedroom. As she knelt down to get them out from under the bed, a skeletal face peered into the window. Suppressing a scream, she flew back into the kitchen and told Jack what she had seen. Swearing profusely, Jack grabbed her hand and hurried out the door. They flew down several alleys, her feet barely touching the ground as he pulled her along. When they finally came to the docks, they ran up the gangplank to a ship and Jack shouted hasty orders to the crew. Within seconds they were off. Raven looked back just in time to see her house leap up in flames. She roughly brushed away the solitary tear sliding down her cheek. There was no going back. Ever.
* * *
Blackbird was thrown out of her hammock by the wild pitching and swaying of the ship. She hurriedly put on her boots and ran onto the deck. The dark clouds had completely overshadowed the sky and the wind was staggering. Rain was falling in thick, blinding sheets. Men scurried about, attempting to tie down all loose items. Fighting the wind and crashing waves, Blackbird made her way to the helm.
"This is madness!" she shouted to Jack over the driving rain. "There is no profit to be found at the bottom of the sea!"
"She can take it!" he argued. "Call all hands!"
Blackbird hesitated. "All hands! All hands on deck!" she called out. As the last few men hurried on deck, she turned back to Jack. "Maybe your ship can hold together, but the men can't! There's only so much we can do!"
As if in response to her words, they heard one of the men cry, "Man overboard! Man overboard!" Blackbird hurried over to them and looked where they were pointing. Ghost was in the water, flailing his arms about wildly in an attempt to grasp the rope they had flung him. He was swallowed again by a wave. When he didn't resurface, Blackbird tied a long rope tightly around her own waist and tossed the other end to Will.
"If you let go of that, there'll be two lives on your conscience!" she shouted. Before he could say anything in reply, she dove off the rail and into the raging water. She had been under for more than a minute before Will felt her furiously tugging at the rope. He pulled with all his strength and hauled her up. She pulled herself over the rail with Ghost over her shoulder and laid him on the deck. Coughing up salt water, he sat up slowly.
"Thanks," he said with a weak smile. Blackbird only shrugged and went right back to work.
As the storm intensified, Jack finally had no choice. "Hands aloft!" he shouted. "Reef all sails!"
Blackbird and the rest of the crew scrambled up the rigging. Holding firmly to the spar with one hand, Blackbird worked her way out, struggling with her free hand to tie down the lines. She had almost finished when the mast swung violently and caught her in the middle of switching hands. By sheer luck, she managed to grasp the slick spar. There she hung, suspended above the raging sea. Every attempt she made to work her way back only loosened her grip more. Her little swim had drained every ounce of strength she had left, though she hadn't let on to it. She had almost given up when a rough hand firmly grasped her own and pulled her up. Blackbird looked up in surprise to see Will. She just smiled gratefully and worked with him to tie down the last few lines.
After a few hours, the storm reduced to a misty rain and the crew worked to clear the debris from the deck. Blackbird awkwardly approached Will.
"Thanks for, y'know, saving my life and all back there," she finally said.
Will gave her an odd look. "That's what family's for, right?" he replied.
She smiled. "Yeah, I guess so." In one sentence, he'd just told her everything was okay between them.
Blackbird went looking for Jack. When she found him, she just gave him a look that clearly said, "I told you so."
"We could have fared worse," Jack finally said in response to her stare.
"Two able bodied sailors almost died!" she argued.
"A child and a woman," he muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me?" Blackbird said, her eyes like embers. "Are you implying that a woman might not be as capable of staying alive?"
Jack tried to walk away but she blocked his path. "Sorry," he apologized. "Stress can make ye say things ye don't mean."
Blackbird struggled to maintain an angry expression, but she couldn't help but smile slightly. "Good," she said shortly. "Might I remind you that if I wasn't here, you'd be dead by now."
Jack shrugged. "At least it gave you and Will some nice family bonding time. He can't entirely hate you if he saved your life."
"Probably not. I'll be the first to admit that he's taking this better than I thought, though a few drinks can lessen the shock a bit," she replied.
"He was drinking?" Jack asked in surprise.
"Not as much as I would in his situation," Blackbird said, "but enough."
Jack smiled. "Maybe there's hope for him yet."
* * *
Blackbird sat up on the small wooden platform surrounding the mainmast staring out in to the endless black of the sea. The slight breeze blew the few wisps of hair that had escaped her loose ponytail. She always marveled at how incredibly calm it could be right after such a violent storm.
"Mind if I join you?" Will said, pulling himself up to the platform.
"Sure," Blackbird said absently. She hesitated. "Are you still angry? I don't blame you if you are."
Will thought for a minute. "No," he finally said. "A little confused...uncertain...but not angry. All things considered, I have to admit that I would have acted similarly in your situation. I don't blame you for not wanting me to judge you immediately. You are absolutely right in your statement that you don't come across as the sanest individual."
Blackbird laughed slightly. "You remind me too much of Father," she said.
It was Will's turn to hesitate. "So when did you find out about his death?" he asked.
Blackbird searched her memory. She kept those things buried deep inside her, so secret that even she couldn't remember at times. Her gaze grew distant as she spoke, as if she wasn't really there. "I was eating dinner one night when someone knocked at the door. I opened it to find Jack standing there. He came in and wouldn't speak for quite some time. When he did, he just told me that my father wasn't coming back. He said that Barbossa was looking for me and I had to get out immediately. The second I had packed my things, we hurried to the docks. His ship was waiting and we set sail within minutes. I looked back to see my home burning to the ground." She paused for a minute. "All I have left of Father is what I keep with me: my gun, my knife, and my hat. This hat was his," she said, indicating the weathered tricorn that she always wore at a slightly crooked angle. "It was his promise to me. He said the sea wouldn't claim Bootstrap Bill Turner. He failed to mention men."
Will looked over at Blackbird. Where those tears in her eyes? He must have imagined them, because when he looked again they were gone. He sighed and started to climb back down the ropes. There would be no more questions for tonight.
[Author's note: As I lack creativity and time to invent a new language for the Kelumari, I will be using Elvish in the few places that native dialect is used. English translation of the words will follow any use of Elvish.]
The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon when the cry came. "Land ho! Land ho!" one of the men shouted from the crow's nest. Blackbird hurried to the bow of the ship, followed closely by Will. She gazed off into the distance.
"That, Will, is Kelumar," she said, pointing in the direction of the island. Will looked toward greenish-gray mass on the horizon. Using the spyglass Blackbird offered him, he could make out the white shores and lush green vegetation typical of the Caribbean.
"How long before we reach land?" he asked.
Blackbird estimated the distance. "Before noon," she said, "if the winds hold."
Fortunately, the winds did hold and it was a matter of hours before the crew was loading goods on to rowboats. Since there was no official dock on Kelumar, anything that was going ashore had to be transported in this matter. As the last of the goods were unloaded and they stepped out of the boats, they were met by a small group of natives armed with spears. Most of the crew hung back, but Blackbird confidently moved forward, her hands extended palm-up as a sign of peace. A young woman with flowing blonde hair stepped out from the group of men and ran forward to greet Blackbird.
"Mae govannen, mellon nin! Manen nalyë?" she exclaimed, embracing her friend. Being a good foot shorter than the other woman, Blackbird's feet nearly left the ground. ["Welcome, my friend! How are you?"]
"Im gelir ceni ad lín, Lalaith," Blackbird replied. [I'm happy to see you again, Lalaith."]
Lalaith smiled. "And who is this?" she asked, examining Will with sapphire-blue eyes.
"This is my brother, Will," she said. "Will, this is my friend Lalaith. Her father, Chief Alagos, is ruler of this island."
"Tolo," [come] Lalaith said, gesturing to the crew. "You are expected." She gave the soldiers some sharp orders in their native language before heading down a winding path through the palm trees. The soldiers shouldered the goods and followed.
They had followed the path a short distance when they broke through the trees and came to a large clearing. Palm trees and lower vegetation surrounded the village densely on three sides, but the fourth side was open to the sea, providing a dazzling view as well as a pleasant breeze. The houses were simple enough, being constructed out of long poles bound closely together and topped with branches and reed mats, but by no means primitive. They all held multiple rooms and a few even had two stories. All of them had windows on the South side to provide a view of the sea. As they made their way through the streets, they were generally ignored. The children, however, found them fascinating. They ran all around them asking questions excitedly in their own language until even Gibbs had to smile.
Finally they came to an enormous house made of stone. A guard greeted them at the door. "Chief Alagos is expecting you," he said, gesturing through the doors. They made their way through richly decorated halls. It seemed that gold and gems were normality here, as everything was heavily adorned with them.
"I didn't know that illegal rum traders were so formally welcomed," Will muttered to Blackbird as they came to a large, open room without a roof.
"They aren't," she replied. "Long-time friends of the chief and his family, however, are."
At the other end of the room, there was a large golden throne. On it sat a wizened, but strong, old man. He rose slowly to greet them. Jack motioned for the rest of the crew to stay back while he and Blackbird approached the throne.
"Aiya, Chief Alagos," he said, bowing slightly. ["Hail, Chief Alagos"]
The chief nodded in response and ordered for two chairs to be brought. Jack and Blackbird sat talking with him for some time. Finally, they both stood up and, bowing again to the chief, made their way back to the crew.
"Arrangements have been made in the guest quarters for us," Jack explained quietly to the crew. "During our stay, I would advise you to be at your best behavior. I know that all this gold and finery can be very tempting, but if we took but one thing that wasn't ours, we'd never be allowed back. The Kelumari are good people, but they do not forget grudges easily, nor do you want them against you. We are invited to a feast this evening in honor of Lalaith's birthday, but until then you are free wander about. Explore, sleep, whatever, but make a point of being punctual this evening. On a more personal note: the Kelumari are particularly talented at the art of making rum. I would recommend a visit to one of the local bars, but it's up to you. Dismissed."
* * *
Though a few of the men chose to go to their quarters and rest, most preferred to simply look around and stretch their legs. As for Will, he was allowing Jack to show him around the main parts of Kelumar. Will marveled at how modern much of the layout was. There was a commercial area lined with shops and businesses, a residential area filled with houses, and an agricultural area for raising livestock and native crops. The streets were not paved, but the dirt was level and tightly packed to the point that it was probably better than those of Tortuga. Jack was silent for the most part, only speaking to point out buildings of particular interest (mostly bars). Finally, he spoke up.
"So, how are you and Blackbird getting along?" he asked. "Was I accurate in my prediction?"
Will sighed. "I'm getting used to her, yes. I still don't have her entirely figured out, though. Every time I think I'm getting used to her, she goes and does something completely unexpected like risking her life to save another."
"That's Blackbird for you. I've known her twenty-three years and I still don't have her entirely figured out," Jack said with a smile. "Don't ya love it when I'm right?"
Will laughed. "No, I hate it. I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds it disturbing for the crazy one to have all the answers."
Jack feigned a hurt. "Well I like it..." he muttered. "Might I remind you that the crazy one's lived nearly twice as long as you, boy? Remember one of the first things I taught you?"
"Never stand between a mentally deranged pirate and his way out?" Will offered sarcastically.
"Well, that too, but I was thinking of the fact that brilliance and insanity frequently coincide. Take Blackbird, for example. She's twenty-three years old, fluently speaks four languages, can get by speaking two more, and runs most of the finances on the Black Pearl. She's also as crazy as they get and she knows it," Jack said.
"So what makes her the way she is?" Will asked. "Is she just that way, or does it have to do with her past?"
Jack contemplated the question while examining a beautifully ornate carving from one of the shops. "I think it's both, but mostly her past. Think about it, mate. She's raised by only her father; never knew her mother. When she's ten, the father dies and leaves her with a crazy old pirate to look after her. An equally crazy old pirate is after her blood and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Her childhood alone is enough to make anyone go insane. All things considered, her mental health is remarkable."
Will looked surprised. "Then Barbossa knew about Blackbird?"
"Aye," Jack said. "He hunted her for ten years. She was who he thought Elizabeth was. I'm sure it really threw him off when you showed up, since he'd only met Bootstrap's daughter. Honestly, though, you were the better option. She's definitely a Turner, no doubtin' that, but the blood runs even more thickly in you. Not to mention, Blackbird would've put up quite a fight, if they even found her. I doubt Barbossa could've gotten her blood unless he killed her. You were there, and you were willing to sacrifice for Elizabeth. That's far easier."
"Alright," Will said, satisfied for the time being. "I have only one more question: Which one of these do you think Elizabeth would like more?" he asked, holding up two necklaces from one of the stands.
Jack shrugged. "I'm afraid that when it comes to the ways of women, you've come to the wrong pirate. I've never had much luck with them myself. My advice: buy 'er both. Whichever one she seems to like more is from me, savvy?"
"Whatever, Jack," Will said with a laugh, paying the shop owner for the jewelry and shoving them deeply into his bag.
"No," Jack replied. "I was serious."
* * *
Blackbird followed Lalaith to her home. As they approached the house, a young girl ran out to greet her mother. Lalaith scooped the girl up in her arms and hugged her.
"That's Crabaniel?" Blackbird asked in surprise. "Last time I saw you, you could barely walk!" ["Crabaniel" is Elvish for "Raven"]
"Oh, she can definitely walk," Lalaith laughed, "and much more. Five years old and she already tries my patience. It somewhat reminds me of you."
"Evidently not in appearances," Blackbird said, indicating the child's flowing blonde hair and blue eyes. "She's a true Kelumarian."
"That she is," the woman agreed, turning to go back inside the house. She was met by her husband, who greeted her with a kiss. Blackbird nodded in acknowledgement to Aladan. Neither one was particularly fond of the other, but they were at least on speaking terms.
The two women sat out in Lalaith's extensive garden behind the house exchanging information about all that had happened in Blackbird's absence. "I noticed that Captain Sparrow has the Black Pearl back. How did that happen?" Lalaith asked.
Blackbird shrugged. "I wasn't there, personally. You'd have to ask Jack. All I know is that he has her now and that's all that matters. How are things here?" she asked.
"About the same," Lalaith replied. "You know that things seldom change here. Isn't that partly why you left?"
"That...and other things," Blackbird said, playing with a loose curl of hair. "Look at the life you live, Lalaith. You're happily settled down with a husband and a child, content to continue living this way until you die. That's great for you; I'm just not suited for that sort of lifestyle. The sea is my home; I'm avoiding the authorities, I'm wanted dead or alive in many parts of the world, and I never stay in any one place for an extended period of time, but I'm happy. Honestly, I think settling down would kill me. Hard to believe that we were so alike as girls, isn't it?"
Lalaith nodded. "But it doesn't affect our friendship, right?" she said.
"Of course not," Blackbird replied. "However, if I don't rest up before the feast tonight, it won't be pleasant for anyone. I'll see you in a few hours, Lalaith."
As Blackbird headed to her cot in the crew's quarters, she noticed several of the men sitting in the far corner of the large room. Most of their faces were hidden from her view, but she recognized Ewing. They all looked up suspiciously at her as she walked by and stopped talking until she settled down on her cot and pretended to sleep. When they resumed their discussion, their voices were lowered to the point that Blackbird could only catch little bits here and there.
"What about Turner?" she heard. "No...too loyal...tell..." They paused as she stirred slightly. "How many?...dunno...nine, maybe ten...enough? Yeah...won't know...'im." The men all rose in unison.
"Then it's agreed?" Ewing said. The men grunted in agreement and began filing out the door, casting suspicious glances at Blackbird as they left.
Blackbird turned over on her cot and closed her eyes. Making careful mental notes about the conversation she'd just overheard, she dropped off into a restless sleep.
Later that evening, everyone was called to the central meeting place by the sounding of strange horns. Hundreds of people poured into a large, open courtyard decorated richly with endless streamers of colorful flowers and flickering torches that illuminated every inch of the square. Tables had been set up around the entire perimeter of the enormous space for people of importance, and even more spaces had been provided for standing or sitting on the ground. In the center of it all was a slightly raised wooden platform, which dancers flowed gracefully around while exotic music was played.
The people were just as decorated as the courtyard itself. Everyone was dressed in bright tropical colors and draped with jewelry made from polished seashells and freshly-picked flowers. Will suddenly felt very conspicuous in his drab white shirt and black pants. Scanning the crowd, he spotted the crew and began to join them. He was stopped by Blackbird, who caught his attention and motioned for him to join her and Jack. They weren't seated directly next to Chief Alagos (those spots being reserved for his family), but their positions clearly places of honor. Hesitantly taking a seat, Will studied Blackbird. She, at least, had "dressed up" for the occasion, though in reality it made her look all the more like a pirate. Her usual plain clothes had been exchanged for a more fitted black shirt over a blood-red corset top and long black pants. The braids in her hair had been redone and the beads gleamed in the torchlight. Her already intense eyes had been magnified even more by a fresh outlining of kohl. Despite her relaxed manner, Will noted that she still had her pistol and sword strapped at her side, as did Jack.
Once almost everyone was seated, Chief Alagos gave the signal for the feast to begin, and servers brought out trays of food. The tables were soon laden with an unimaginable variety of foods. Fish, caught only hours before by Kelumarian fishermen, was the main meat, but there was also pork, chicken, and a strange meat Will wasn't sure he wanted to identify. Bowls overflowing with fruits of all shapes and sizes were placed along the low tables. Some of the servers brought around baskets filled with a sweet bread, while the others filled everyone's large goblets with a rich red liquid that Will quickly identified as a kind of rum. As soon as everyone was served, people began eating.
The roar of conversations was almost deafening as people socialized with friends and family from all over the island. Will attempted to hold a few conversations with those around him, but it was difficult with their limited knowledge of English and his nonexistent knowledge of Kelumarian. Most of the time Blackbird would have to intervene. After a while, Will noticed her talking to a girl in her late teens. When he shot her a questioning look, she smiled mischievously and leaned across the table toward him. "She thinks you're cute," Blackbird said, indicating the girl.
Will hesitantly looked down the table at her and, sure enough, she giggled and waved at him. Sighing, he said, "Would you please inform her that I'm married?" Blackbird shrugged and repeated his message to her. The girl's face fell slightly at the news, but she immediately cheered back up.
Blackbird laughed. "She still thinks you're cute," she said. Groaning in exasperation, Will turned all his attention to the food on his plate.
As it grew late and people had had more than enough food and drink, the noise began dulling to a drowsy hum of conversation. Slowly, the crowd began to leave to their own homes. Will waited for Jack and Blackbird to appear ready to leave to stand up himself. Blackbird said her farewells to the chief and Lalaith before rejoining Jack and Will. "I'll see you in the morning, Will," she said. Turning to Jack, she muttered, "I need to talk to you alone."
Jack nodded and waved goodbye to Will, who was already leaving. "C'mon, then."
* * *
They walked along the beach in silence for quite a while, until they were far away from the lights and noise. Jack stopped at a steep cliff overlooking the black waters. "Now," he said, "what's this about?"
"I'm concerned about the men," Blackbird replied quietly. "They grow restless, and there are whisperings of disloyalty. I fear that if they don't see some action soon, they'll create their own."
Jack frowned. "Seeking adventure is nothing uncommon in pirates. That's what makes them such good fighters, but it's certainly a risk you take. Why should it be concerning?"
"It wasn't…until today," she said. "When I went back to our quarters to rest, I overheard several of them speaking. They lowered their voices when I came in, but what I could hear hinted of mutiny."
"Mutiny?" Jack asked in a worried tone. "That is troubling…who was there?"
Blackbird shrugged. "The room was dark and they kept their backs turned to me. The only face I could make out was Ewing."
"Then it would depend on who's backing him," Jack mused. "I doubt Ewing alone could lead a mutiny, he's not together enough mentally. You didn't happen to catch how many they had, did ye?"
"Nine or ten is what I heard them say."
"Nine or ten men…" Jack muttered. "That's nearly 'alf the crew…"
"I'm afraid they're extremely cautious around me, so it's hard to find out anything. They know that I report to you," she said.
"And I appreciate it," he replied. "Many a scheme has been thwarted thanks to you."
Blackbird was silent for several minutes, staring out at the glassy sea. "Jack?" she said suddenly. "Do you think I'm crazy?"
Jack hesitated before answering. "You're a beautiful young woman who would make her father proud," he finally said.
Blackbird laughed dryly. "Thanks, but I don't think that's what I asked you. I want an honest answer, Jack."
"I'm not really in any position to say yea or nay, Blackbird," Jack argued. "I'm just as crazy, if not crazier."
"Then your answer is yes," she concluded.
Jack hesitated again. "Yes…but with reason," he said uncomfortably. "Thinkin' about all you've gone through, I'd say your mental health is remarkably good. All pirates have to be somewhat touched in the head." Blackbird just nodded absently and stared off into the distance.
Jack studied her more closely. He knew the pain that Kelumar held for her, the memories. She kept the pain concealed until she could hold it no longer. Nobody saw that side of her… Nobody saw the grief in her eyes when other people weren't looking… Nobody remembered that ten-year-old girl that just found out her father wasn't coming back… Nobody, that is, except him. He knew he was a far cry from the fatherly figure she needed, but he had done his best. He often wondered what he'd been thinking, taking her under his care like that. Had it really done any good?
"Raven…" he started.
"Don't call me that," she said roughly, cutting him off. "I'm not Raven; she died with every other part of me that night." She stood up suddenly, squaring her shoulders. "My name is Blackbird; that is my identity. Good night, Jack," she said, walking away into the night.
Blackbird walked along the sandy beach in silence. She didn't know and didn't care where she was going; Kelumar was a big island. Finally alone, she allowed her emotions to run their course. Visits to Kelumar were always a painful reminder of her past, but she could normally just focus her mind on other things. Will's presence changed that. The combined stress of revisiting her past and seeing the spitting image of her father was just too much. Anger, grief, pain, loneliness…all the emotions she kept masked inside were now freely coursing through her like a raging river that threatened to consume her. Tears that she refused to surrender to blurred her vision as she stared out at the moonlit ocean.
"It's getting late," a voice said, shaking her out of her thoughts. "You shouldn't wander alone."
"I can take care of myself," she muttered. "I just couldn't sleep."
"Neither could I," Will said. "Is something the matter?"
Blackbird shrugged off the question. "Just memories," she replied quietly, wishing that he would go away.
Will gave her an odd look. "What is your past with Kelumar?" he asked. "Some of the natives told me that you lived here for a time, and you seem familiar with almost everyone."
"That would probably be because I am," she said. "After Father's death, Jack couldn't exactly take care of me, being too busy running his own ship and plotting to recover the Pearl. Since I was obviously too young to take care of myself, Jack took me here. Apparently Jack and Father were both good friends with the chief of these people, so I was to stay with his family until I was old enough. Jack's plan was to wait until I was sixteen and then turn me loose, but I had my own ideas. I asked to join Jack's crew when I was thirteen, but he simply told me that a pirate ship was no place for young ladies and advised that I 'find myself a nice husband here on Kelumar.' I was just as stubborn back then and much more foolish, so I simply stowed away. Three days out into the journey, Gibbs found me in the cargo hold and took me to Jack. Naturally Jack was furious at me, but he reluctantly agreed to give me a chance. He threatened that if he ever caught me complaining or failing to do my duties, he'd drop me at the nearest port and never give me another chance. As is fairly evident from my current status, that never happened."
"I see," Will said simply. He hesitated before speaking again. "You know, Blackbird, you weren't the only one to lose a parent at an early age. I was twelve when Mother passed away. She arranged for some friends to take me for the day, and when I got home she was dead. That's when I headed to the Caribbean in search of Father, as Mother had told me to do should something happen to her. Our ship was attacked by Barbossa, who sought the piece of gold Father had sent me. The rest, as you know, is history."
"At least you got some closure," Blackbird said bitterly.
Will shrugged. "It doesn't hurt any less," he replied. "I just want you to know that you aren't the only one familiar with grief. You aren't alone."
Blackbird smiled faintly. "I think, Will Turner, we're finally beginning to understand each other."
Blackbird stepped out of the boat and back onto land. The last of the supplies had been loaded onto the Pearl, and all that was left was goodbyes. Many of the men clung to their new-found sweethearts, vowing fiercely to return soon. Several even attempted to sneak girls onto the ship, but were quickly caught by Blackbird and Jack.
Lalaith hugged Blackbird tightly. "Namárië, mellon-nin," she said quietly. "Don't wait so long next time."
Blackbird smiled dryly. "I suppose that would depend on how thirsty people get, now wouldn't it?"
"You don't always have to come on business," Lalaith said seriously. "You- and your family-" she added, glancing over at Will, "are always welcome here."
"I will keep that in mind," Blackbird said, stepping into the boat. "Namárië, Lalaith."
"Navaer!" Lalaith shouted after them.
"So that's it?" Will asked once they were back on the Pearl. "All that's left is the trip home?"
Blackbird nodded. "I'm afraid you didn't choose a particularly eventful journey to accompany us on."
"Well, so far, I've fought one of the most dangerous criminals in Tortuga, got in a bar fight the same day, joined the crew of a pirate ship, discovered my twin sister, saved your life, visited an uncharted island, and, most importantly, made a new friend. While that's certainly not chasing after cursed pirates, I wouldn't call it uneventful."
"No, I guess not if you're a blacksmith from a small town," she said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Will asked.
"Oh, nothing," Blackbird replied. "It's just that after being a pirate for ten years, it takes a gun being put to your head to make the day even begin to qualify as exciting."
Will spotted Jack behind them silently slipping out his pistol and attempting to sneak up behind her. Before he could even, position the gun next to her head, Blackbird said, "Don't even try it, Jack."
Sighing, Jack put the gun away. "Can't you let me have my victory just once and pretend not to hear me coming?"
"Nah, I prefer catching you every time and making you look like an idiot in front of your crew," she replied casually.
"I was just trying to make your day exciting…" he argued.
"While I appreciate the kind gesture, I'm perfectly capable of generating my own excitement."
"I'll say…" Jack muttered. "Don't you have a job to do?"
"It's not my watch," she retorted. "Don't you have a ship to run?"
"Would you two please stop arguing?!" Will interrupted. "I know it's entertaining to you, but it's getting on my nerves."
"Whatever," Blackbird said. "I'm going down to the galley, anyway."
Will followed after her. "I think I'll join you."
"Mornin'," Joe said as the two walked through the doorway. "What can I do for ye?" He took Will's request and turned to Blackbird. "Nothin' for ye, lass?"
"Just coffee, Joe," she replied. "I couldn't for the life of me sleep last night." Joe busied himself with Will's order and handed Blackbird a steaming mug, which she gulped immediately in the unladylike manner Will had grown accustomed to.
"Joe," he said suddenly. "You said that you've known Blackbird all her life. If that's so, I'm guessing you knew a little bit more than you told me. Am I right?"
Joe hesitated and looked up from the stove. "I'm a pirate, lad, lying's part o' the job," he replied. "Blackbird asked that I stay quiet 'bout it, so I did."
"He's right," Blackbird added. "He was following my request. I've already explained my motives, so I see no need for doing so again."
"I wasn't asking you to," Will replied. "I was just wondering. You knew my father well, then?"
"I already told you that," Joe said. "Bootstrap was a good man; I can see him in both of you. The same strength, the same fire…" his voice trailed off. After a moment, he shook his head. "Sorry," he said, "I'm getting' old."
Blackbird laughed. "I hate to tell you this, mate, but you are old…but no less capable," she added hastily. She stood up from the stool and drained the last few drops from her mug. "Thanks, Joe, but I think what I really need is rest."
* * *
Blackbird had no sooner settled down to sleep than Jack shook her awake. "Blackbird," Jack said urgently. "We need you on deck." Groaning, Blackbird forced herself out of the hammock and followed him up the steps.
Once on deck, Jack handed her his spyglass. "Can you make out anything out there?" he asked, indicating where she should look.
"A ship," she said plainly.
"Yes, anyone can see that," Jack said in exasperation. "I meant can you make out any details?"
Blackbird studied the area a bit longer. "She's large, but by no means slow, flying the flag of the British Royal Navy, compliment of maybe forty men. I can't make out how heavy their artillery is, but they're certainly well-protected. Shall I give the order to attack?"
Jack hesitated. "No," he finally said. "They're bigger, and they have the wind gauge. Besides, our holds are too full to hold much more swag. I'll just swing wide around them and try to seem casual. With luck, they'll just treat us like any other passing ship." Saluting, Blackbird hurried off.
After several hours, it became evident that they had been spotted. The other ship had turned and was now following a course seemingly parallel to the Black Pearl's. They were just close enough that Blackbird could see men running around on the deck. "Jack," she called up to the helm. "They're becoming increasingly active. I suspect they're preparing to attack."
"That's out of character for the British. They normally wait for the other ship to show signs of aggression."
"Unless they know we're pirates," Blackbird pointed out.
"We haven't raised our colors," Jack argued. "Surely they couldn't identify the Pearl from that far away!" As he spoke, a cannonball bounced off their stern. Swearing under his breath, a look of determination came over Jack's face. "Fine. It's a fight they want, and it's a fight they'll get. We'll teach them not to cross Captain Jack Sparrow."
Men scurried around the deck preparing cannons and strapping on their own personal weapons. "What's going on?" Will asked Blackbird over the noise.
"That ship over there just fired a warning shot. The message was fairly clear: surrender or die," she replied.
"So we're going to surrender and hope they don't search too thoroughly?" Will asked hopefully.
"Of course not!" Blackbird said. "We're going to teach them a lesson!"
"Great," he muttered. "Now I can add 'attacking a ship of the British Royal Navy' to the list of crimes I've committed. I'm practically begging to be hung upon my return to Port Royal."
"Look, mate, technically they attacked us. We gave them every chance to ignore us, but they want a fight. Understand that if we're boarded, we might as well resign ourselves to the gallows. All they need is this little mark to kill us without trial," she said, exposing the 'P' that had been branded into her wrist. "The best chance we have of anonymity is fighting back. At least then we have a chance." Without replying, Will hurried off to the forecastle.
I was an idiot, Will thought as he strapped on his sword and loaded the pistol. A bloody idiot. I knew the voyage couldn't go this smoothly. What had he been thinking, agreeing to this? His responsibility was at home with Elizabeth and their child, not preparing to fight onboard a pirate ship. What would happen to them if he was killed? He found himself all the more determined to win with that thought.
As he started up the stairs, Will paused at a tall mirror that was leaning against some of the other spoils. He looked like a pirate. His dark hair was tangled and unkempt, his clothes dirty and loose. Any shine his boots had had was gone, worn by use and weather. The weapons at his side and the look of determination only added to the effect. Oddly enough, it looked more natural to him, like that was how he was supposed to be. Enjoy it while you can, he told himself. I won't be doing this again.
The other ship was now drawing steadily nearer. As the two ships jockeyed for position, Blackbird studied their opponent. The name HMS Goliath was painted on the side, and the ship fit its name. It had looked large from a distance, but up close it looked positively enormous. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, Blackbird thought dryly to herself.
* * *
As soon as everything was ready, Jack gave the order to raise the Jolly Roger and fire. The Black Pearl's cannons boomed, some hitting their marks, others not. Goliath immediately returned fire, splintering the Pearl's hull in several places. The two ships continued to volley for several minutes, but neither one could succeed in badly damaging the other. The distance between ships was still too great to swing across, but men stood ready with hooks and ropes. The Goliath might have had better trained men and more firepower, but they would stand no chance in hand-to-hand combat against the ruthless pirates.
Suddenly, the Goliath revealed her secret weapon: a hidden row of cannons below the first. The now-doubled cannons fired again, this time managing to strike the Pearl's foremast. A deafening crack was heard as the mast fell to the sea. British soldiers swarmed onboard the ship and began engaging in one-on-one fighting. Sensing defeat, Blackbird slipped below deck.
Will looked around as they were surrounded by soldiers, but Blackbird was nowhere to be seen. Typical of a pirate to hide at the first sign of danger. He only wondered what made her think she wouldn't be caught.
The soldiers parted to make way for a young man who Will presumed to be the captain. "Will Captain Jack Sparrow please come forward?" the man asked loudly.
Jack stepped out from the crew. "That would be me, sir," he said submissively. "And might I add that I'm flattered that my name has reached your most worthy ears."
The captain scoffed. "Indeed. I doubt there is a sailor in the Caribbean that hasn't heard your name, it is on wanted posters in every port," he said. "Jack Sparrow, you and your men are under arrest. We will arrive in Port Maria tomorrow, where you are sentenced to be hung. Fetch irons for the lot of them, men."
As the cold metal clamped around his wrists and his weapons were taken away, Will mentally cursed his stupidity. Now who would take care of Elizabeth? He immediately regretted asking the question he already knew the answer to: Norrington. He would comfort the grieving widow and then offer to help raise the child, seemingly out of charity. Will couldn't believe he'd been so stupid.
"Come on, scum," one of the soldiers muttered, leading him below deck to the brig. As they disappeared below deck, Will heard the captain give the order to search the Pearl thoroughly and take her as a trophy. There goes Blackbird's escape.
* * *
"Over here!" one of the soldiers shouted. "It's a lady!"
Blackbird stood up at his motioning. As soon as she had slipped below deck, she had donned a simple blue dress and taken the braids out of her hair. "Is it over?" she asked fearfully.
"Aye, miss," the soldier said, offering his arm for support. "Might I ask what you were doin' down 'ere?"
"Oh, it was dreadful," she replied. "My ship was attacked by these pirates about a week ago and I was taken captive. When I heard cannon fire today, I thought it best to hide myself, lest I get caught up in the fray. Thank goodness you soldiers showed up; I was beginning to think I'd never see home again."
"Well, I don't know about home, miss," he said, "but you'd best speak to our captain about your situation. I'm sure any information you have concerning these pirates would be helpful." Blackbird nodded bravely and followed him up the stairs. If the captain was as gullible as this soldier, she'd easily gain passage on the ship. Impromptu acting had always been a strong point of hers.
Blackbird was sure to maintain her brave-but-frightened expression as they approached the captain. He was in his mid-thirties and had neatly tied blonde hair with striking blue eyes. "Captain Jones," the soldier with a salute, "I found a prisoner hiding below deck. Miss…I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?"
"Turner. Marie Turner," she said, curtseying slightly. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain Jones, though I do not much care for the circumstances."
"The pleasure is all mine, Miss Turner. What circumstances would find you prisoner onboard a pirate ship?" the captain asked. Blackbird hesitated, though mostly for effect.
"She says her ship was attacked by these pirates last week, sir," the soldier said. "I thought she might be able to provide us with some valuable information."
The captain nodded thoughtfully. "Miss Turner, you have my sympathies. If you would be so kind as to join me in my cabin, I'm sure anything you can tell me would be appreciated."
Blackbird quickly agreed. They had bought it. "I will do anything you ask to bring those men to justice," she said, following him below deck.
Captain Jones' quarters were large and nothing like Jack's. Instead of being strewn all over the floor and desk, the maps and books were arranged neatly on bookshelves. The captain offered her a seat and then sat in the chair opposite. "Would you care for a cup of tea?" he asked.
"That would be lovely," Blackbird lied. Truth be told, she hated tea, but it was necessary to keep up the act.
As soon as the tea had been brought and they were alone in the cabin, Captain Jones said, "Now, Miss Turner, would you please tell me everything that happened."
Blackbird wove a tragic tale of how she was on her way to visit family in Port Royal when their ship was attacked by pirates. Being only a small passenger vessel, they had been poorly armed and were soon forced to surrender. The crew and other passengers had been killed, but the loathsome captain had taken special interest in her and ordered that she be taken captive. "I had begun to give up all hope of escape," she concluded. "You have my eternal gratitude."
Captain Jones nodded graciously. "It was the very least we could do, Miss Turner. We will arrive in Port Maria tomorrow. Once we arrive I shall personally see to making arrangements for your trip to Port Royal. Until then, I offer you my cabin. I hope it will do."
"Oh, thank you, Captain Jones," she said. "I promise you shan't even know I'm here."
"I doubt a woman of your beauty ever goes entirely unnoticed, but you are welcome," the captain replied. Blackbird blushed slightly in spite of herself. She was accustomed to men courting her, but not like this. Stay focused on the task at hand, she reminded herself. This isn't the first man you've caught the eye of, and it won't be the last.
* * *
The crew was crowded into three small cells below deck. No one spoke, but the looks Will was giving Jack were saying plenty.
"I'm sorry, alright?" Jack finally said. "You knew the risks when you signed onto the crew."
"I know," Will muttered. "I was an idiot. How long do you think it will be before they find Blackbird?"
Jack hastily motioned for him to be quiet. "Hopefully they won't," he whispered. "Hopefully they'll find Marie Turner. You see, Will, Blackbird has an advantage that we don't: the captain won't jail a lady."
Will scoffed. "I would hardly consider Blackbird a 'lady.'"
"Nor would I, but the soldiers don't know that," Jack explained. "All they need is a dress, a sad story, some good acting, and a bit of flirting. I doubt Blackbird will have any trouble gaining passage."
"And what of us?" Will asked.
Jack shrugged. "That's up to Blackbird."
True to the captain's word, they arrived in Port Maria late the next morning. Before Blackbird had even had the chance to leave the ship, Captain Jones had made arrangements with a friend who was heading to Port Royal in a few days. He ordered that her "belongings" be retrieved from the loot onboard the Black Pearl. As he escorted her down the gangplank, he explained the arrangements to Blackbird. "I've spoken to a friend of mine who runs a merchant vessel," he said. "His ship will be leaving for Port Royal in three days, and he has agreed to grant you free passage. I hope you will not mind being my house guest until then. I assure you the utmost privacy during your stay."
Blackbird readily agreed. "Thank you, Captain Jones," she said, accepting his help getting into the carriage.
The house they pulled up to wasn't enormous, but it was by no means small. Apparently the captain was very wealthy, though he was unmarried. An elderly butler greeted them at the door and arranged for Blackbird's trunk to be carried to one of the vacant bedrooms on the far wing of the house. Captain Jones motioned to one of the young maids that stood waiting. "Sarah," he said. "Take Miss Turner to her room and see to it that her needs are met."
"Yes sir," the maid said, bobbing a quick curtsy. "Right this way, Miss."
Sarah led Blackbird to a spacious bedroom and had water drawn for a bath. After all was set in order, the maid lingered.
"You may go now," Blackbird said, a bit impatiently.
"Will ye not be wantin' help with ye bath, Miss?" she asked in confusion.
"No, that won't be necessary," Blackbird replied hastily. "I am perfectly capable of bathing myself. I will call you should any trouble arise."
The maid hesitated before curtseying. "As ye wish, Miss. I shall be right outside should you need me."
As soon as she was sure Sarah wouldn't be coming back in, Blackbird undressed and sank gratefully into the water. While she was fine without bathing, she never turned down the opportunity. She had sent the maid away because of her telltale scars that were now visible: whip marks across her back, the 'P' branded into her wrist, and, most obviously, the two round scars on her chest where she'd narrowly escaped death. No "lady" would have such scarring, so Blackbird knew it was necessary that they remain hidden.
When she'd had all she could stand, Blackbird put on the gown that had been provided and lay down on the luxuriously soft bed. There was a timid knock at the door and Sarah stepped in. "Miss?" she asked softly. "The Master requests that you join him for dinner this evening. What may I tell him?"
Blackbird hesitated. She hated any kind of dining that didn't involve storytelling, drunken singing, and free rum for everybody, but she also knew that it would seems suspicious for her to decline. "You may tell him I accept," she finally said. Nodding, the girl disappeared into the hall again.
Later that evening, Sarah and another maid worked to get Blackbird ready for the evening. They struggled a bit with her shorter, tangled hair before settling on brushing it and just leaving it loose. Blackbird selected a dress that would cover most of her scars and donned lacy white gloves to disguise her rough hands. The maids selected a simple necklace and earrings to complete the outfit. When all was said and done, Blackbird had to admit that it was an improvement. She'd never hear the end of it if her crewmates saw her like this.
When Blackbird finally went down into the dining room, Captain Jones could only stare. Remembering his manners, he cleared his throat and bowed slightly. "Miss Turner, I'm glad you could join me this evening; dinner by myself can get quite lonely at times. Won't you have a seat?" he said, pulling out a chair for her. Blackbird smiled graciously and sat down.
Servants brought out the meal one course at a time, each one more delicious than the last. Blackbird was secretly grateful for the etiquette she had been forced to learn at an early age. Her father hadn't wanted her to be limited in any way by her background, so he had made sure she was well-educated. She had hated at the time, but now she was glad she only had to occasionally glance in the captain's direction to be sure of which utensil to use.
They talked all through the meal and well after, until finally they had to retire to the large balcony overlooking the sea so that the servants could clean up the meal. They discussed childhoods, current occupations, and future dreams. Of course, everything Blackbird said was a lie, but Captain Jones didn't have to know that.
"I've always wanted to sail," he was saying. "Ever since I was a lad, the sea has fascinated me. I feel…called to it." Blackbird, deciding it was best not to mention her own "calling", simply nodded.
As it grew late, they both struggled to suppress yawns. Finally, they said their goodnights. "Oh, and, Marie," Captain Jones called after her as she retired, "the pirates are scheduled to be hung at dawn and my presence is required. Will you be accompanying me?"
Blackbird nodded. "I wish to see those men brought to justice," she said firmly. Dawn. That would mean very little sleep before she would need to get busy. Wishing the captain goodnight once more, she disappeared into her room.
* * *
Once she was sure that everyone in the house was asleep, Blackbird got out of her bed and got her trunk ready. Pulling out her shirt and pants from a hidden compartment at the bottom of the trunk, she quickly dressed. Since her room was on the first floor, it was child's play for her to climb out the large window with her things. Blackbird marveled at how quiet it was as she crept silently down the streets. In Tortuga, this time of night was the peak of activity.
She was surprised to find that the Pearl was unguarded, and even more to find that the cargo hadn't been touched. After she had stored her belongings in the forecastle and performed a quick check of everything, Blackbird silently snuck back to the captain's house. Once she was back in the bedroom, she slipped the nightgown over her clothes and settled down to sleep. She had no sooner dozed off than Sarah came to wake her up.
* * *
Will leaned against the wall of the jail cell and closed his eyes, but sleep eluded him. Despite Jack's reassurances, he was still apprehensive of the next morning. They had already been informed of the hanging at dawn and he had been given a special honor: he would hang at the same time as Jack. Apparently Jack was not having the same worries, because he was resting peacefully in the other corner. Will stirred uncomfortably on the hard floor.
"You might as well rest while ye can, mate," Jack said, sitting up. "We'll need all your energy in the morning."
Will shook his head. "I can't sleep," he replied.
"If you're still worryin' about the mornin', don't. Blackbird'll get us out; we can trust her."
"Can we?" Will asked. "She is a pirate."
"So are you, mate," Jack pointed out. "You seem forget whose daughter she is, Will. Bootstrap wouldn't've left a friend to die, you wouldn't leave a friend to die, and neither will Blackbird. She's a devoted pirate, but she'd sooner break the Code than let her friends down." With that, Jack put his hat over his eyes and went back to sleep.
Sighing, Will did the same and managed to doze for a few hours.
They were woken up by the cell door being unlocked and several soldiers coming in. One bound Will's hands while another did the same to Jack. Once they were both secured, one of the soldiers smiled grimly and muttered, "Let's go."
Blackbird looked around the square where the gallows had been erected. For so early in the day, a lot of people had shown up. It was all the better, actually. The soldiers would be slowed down in an attempt to protect the civilians. She fanned herself lightly; it was also very hot for the time of day. Leaning over, she muttered, "Captain Jones, I'm feeling a bit lightheaded. I think I'll step inside for a moment."
"Do I need to accompany you?" the captain asked in concern.
Blackbird shook her head. "Thank you, but I'll be fine. I just need a moment to cool off." Hesitantly, Captain Jones watched her go.
* * *
The Black Pearl crew sat despondently in the Port Maria jail. "I told ye she'd abandon us," Gibbs was saying. "She's probably enjoyin' her stay with th' young cap'n right 'bout now." They were all startled by the guard falling down the stairs.
Blackbird slipped her knife back into its sheath. "I hate mansions, I hate maids, I hate formal dining, and I loathe corsets, so don't even get me started about my stay, Gibbs," she said, unlocking the cells with the guard's keys. "Where are Will and Jack?" she asked, examining the crew.
"The soldiers just came for 'em," Gibbs said.
Blackbird swore in frustration; she had less time than she'd thought. "Get the crew back to the Pearl," she ordered. "Tell them to make ready to set sail, but don't leave yet. I'll take care of Will and Jack. Do not leave without them, Gibbs, or I will have your head."
"What about yeself?" Gibbs asked.
"Don't worry about me," Blackbird said grimly. "Just do as I say."
* * *
Will stood next to Jack on the wooden platform. As hard as he tried, he couldn't help but feel nervous. Even Jack was becoming apprehensive and was continuously scanning the crowd with his eyes, but Blackbird was nowhere to be seen. Will shuddered involuntarily as the ropes were placed around their necks and found his thoughts turning to Elizabeth. He didn't think about his death as much as he did their life. Raising their children, watching them grow up, growing old together…now he would miss all of that. Well, at the very least, I won't give anyone the satisfaction of saying I died a coward, he told himself. He forced his hand to stop shaking and waited.
Finally, a man stepped up onto the platform with a document in his hand. "William Turner and Captain Jack Sparrow…" he read. Jack smiled slightly at finally being addressed as 'Captain'. "…you have been brought here today on account of your crimes against His Majesty, King of England. Said crimes being innumerable in quantity and sinister in nature…" his speech drew on much like the one Will had heard in Port Royal and Jack's "hanging". As the man read out the list of crimes, something apparently caught Jack's eye. "…For these crimes, you have been sentenced here today to be hung by the neck until dead. Have you any last words?" Jack opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off. "That the ladies present may hear?" the man added. Jack stroked his beard thoughtfully. He was buying time.
"Oh!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I got it: Look out behind ye, mate."
The man turned around just in time to be caught by the hilt of Blackbird's sword. She cut the ropes around their hands and gave them their swords.
"Better late than never," Jack commented.
Blackbird shrugged. "I was delayed," she replied offhandedly.
Will cut in. 'Uh…I hate to interrupt, but we have thirty-something angry soldiers to deal with. Might I suggest that we get going?"
"I call twenty-eight of 'em," Blackbird said with a grin. "You two can divide up the rest." She jumped off the platform and into the chaos, closely followed by Jack and Will.
The three fought their way through the tide of red. Blades swinging, they stayed back-to-back to keep the soldiers from splitting them up. Fortunately, they had the element of surprise and few of the men were fully armed. Blackbird pushed forward, her blade perpetually in motion. She didn't bother to kill each and every one; they only needed through. They had nearly reached the exit when Captain Jones came with reinforcements. All three were growing tired, but they kept going. Finally, the broke through the line. Blackbird stepped aside to let Will and Jack through the door while she held back the soldiers. When both had gone, she turned and started through the door. Suddenly, she felt a piercing fire in her chest and remembered no more.
Blackbird opened her eyes and looked around her. She was back on the Black Pearl, in Jack's cabin.
"Feeling rested?" Will asked. "You gave us quite a scare." He was sitting on a low stool next to the bunk she was lying on.
Blackbird attempted to sit up, which was difficult with her left arm in a sling. "What happened?" she asked, rubbing the back of her head.
"We were almost out of the fort when I heard gunshots behind me. I turned around to see you collapse. Jack and I carried you with us until we reached the Pearl. .Fortunately, Gibbs already had everything in order and we were able to set sail within moments. I think they were took shocked to chase after us. After we were on our way, we brought you in here and Jack carefully extracted the bullet. You were incredibly lucky; it wasn't much more than an inch from your heart."
"How long have I been unconscious?"
"About two days," Will said.
"I must've hit my head going down, or something," she said. "That would at least explain my pounding headache."
The door opened and Jack walked in. "Oh, good," he said. "You're awake. Maybe now Will can get some sleep; he's hardly left your side. How do you feel?"
"Like I got shot in the shoulder," Blackbird said with a slight laugh. "Other than that minor detail, I'm great, how about you? I'm certainly well-rested."
"I should hope so," Jack said. "You've been occupying my bed the last two days."
Blackbird gave him a challenging glare. "I wouldn't have needed to if I wasn't saving your life, yet again."
"You two are unbelievable!" Will exclaimed. "She's not been conscious five minutes, and already you're arguing!" They both smiled, and the mischief behind those smiles was eerily similar.
"Well, I'd better get back out there," Jack said. "I only came to check on you. I'm glad you're feeling better, Blackbird."
Blackbird and Will sat in silence for a while after he left. "You know you broke the Code by saving me," she said suddenly. "Any man that falls behind stays behind."
Will gave her an odd look. "That rule hardly applies to friendship. Anyway," he added, "I do believe you're a woman."
Blackbird had to laugh. "Yeah…I guess there are a few advantages to that detail. Thank you."
"I owed you one," he replied. "I wasn't about to let you have anything over me when I got back to Port Royal."
Blackbird smiled and attempted to get up, wincing as her left shoulder hit the low top of the bunk. Will reached out to steady her, but she waved him away dismissively. "I'm fine," she said. "I just haven't used my legs for two days."
"I don't know that you should be moving around so soon," Will said in a concerned tone.
"Relax. I'm just stretching my legs. I won't start working until tomorrow."
"That's not what Jack told me, and he's Captain," Will argued. "Just give yourself time to heal."
* * *
Blackbird strode restlessly around the deck. Jack was treating her like a child again, ordering her not to work. It was her business whether or not she was capable of doing her job. Of course, she knew she wasn't in any condition to be climbing up in the rigging, but she still did little jobs here and there to spite him. Looking up from the rope she was splicing, Blackbird noticed that not even half the current watch was on deck. Concerned, she went up to the helm.
"Jack," she said. "Where did everyone go?"
Jack looked around the deck. "I don't know…" he muttered, half to himself. "They seem to have just…disappeared…All hands!" he shouted suddenly.
The entire crew rushed onto the deck, but not in response to his call. Every one of them had his sword drawn or pistol loaded, and all of them were pointed at Jack. "What is the meaning of this?!" Jack asked, though he knew the answer all too well.
Ewing stepped forward out of the group. "We're doin' what shoulda been done a long time ago: we're takin' what's rightfully ours!" he said angrily. "Already we ain't been gettin' the kind of respect we deserve from th' likes o' you, and now we're expected to twice the work for 'alf the pay!" Several angry affirmations came from the crew. "Everythin' you've ordered 'as cost us more work and less profit!" he continued. "We're only doin' what's right by replacin' ye 'ere an' now!" The crew pushed forward angrily, still pointing their weapons at Jack.
Suddenly, Blackbird stepped between Ewing and Jack, her sword drawn. "If you want a piece of him, you're going to go through me first," she said, looking Ewing in the eyes.
"And me," Will added, stepping out from the crowd.
Gibbs took a big gulp out of his flask and stepped forward. "My loyalties lie with Jack."
Ghost hesitated before taking his place beside Blackbird. "Ain't nobody gettin' to him without dealin' with me."
Joe crossed over to where the small group was standing. "I'd choose this side in a fight any day," he said. Slowly, one by one, men started to join the group, until Ewing stood almost alone.
Ewing looked around at what he had thought were his "loyal" supporters. "Fine!" he said angrily. "I don't need any of ya; I can do this myself!" he drew out his pistol and aimed it at Jack. Before he could even cock it, Jack had removed it from his grasp and positioned it next to Ewing's head.
"Don't even try that, mate," he muttered. "Blackbird, Will, would you be so kind as to escort Mister Ewing to the brig?" Each grabbing him by one arm, the twins dragged Ewing away. He could still be heard spewing curses as they locked him in one of the cells.
Jack looked around at his crew thoughtfully. "Let Ewing be an example to you; my authority goes unquestioned. Perhaps if he had listened to me, he would have found out that we lost none of our cargo in the battle and that you will all still be receiving your fair pay. Next time I hope it won't come to this. Everyone go back to your work."
* * *
It was still dark when the Black Pearl pulled into Port Royal. Between the dark and using the smaller east port, they hope to go unnoticed. Goodbyes had been said the night before, so Will didn't bother to tell anyone he was leaving. His bag slung over his shoulder, he made his way down the gangplank. He was almost all the way down when he was stopped by a hand on his arm. Blackbird gave him a gruff hug without saying anything and tried to smile. Though she didn't cry, Will knew he wasn't imagining the tears this time. Smiling, he whispered goodbye once more and turned to leave. He was home.
Blackbird sat at a small table and looked around the tavern. She sighed; Jack was late, as usual. She rubbed absently at where she'd been shot on her left shoulder. It had been nearly six months since Will went back Port Royal, and as much as she hated to admit it, she missed him. She was startled by a rough hand being placed on her shoulder.
"You're late," she said as calmly as she could.
Jack smiled. "I got you and you know it. Happy Birthday, Blackbird." He handed her a beautiful sword. The blade was shining steel and the hilt was ornately decorated with silver and black pearls.
"It's beautiful…" she breathed.
"I know, and it cost me a pretty penny, so don't lose it," Jack warned. Blackbird cocked a questioning eyebrow at him. It must have been good for Jack to actually spend money on it. Normally he just stole whatever caught his eye on his way to see her.
"What?" she asked, seeing a mischievous look on his face.
"There's more to ye gift, but it's a surprise," he explained. "I don't have it here, so you'll have to come with me."
"Jack…" she said suspiciously. "What is it?"
He just grinned. "You'll see…come on." Hesitantly, Blackbird followed him out of the tavern.
They had walked several blocks when Jack suddenly stopped and turned around. "I almost forgot: this is yours," he said, taking out a blindfold and tying it tightly around her eyes.
"I'd better like this, Jack…" she warned, warily allowing him to lead her into a house.
"Oh, don't worry. You will."
"I hear there's need of a blacksmith here in Tortuga," a voice said. "Is that position still available?"
Blackbird tore off the blindfold. "Will!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?!"
Will smiled. "I believe I already explained that," he said. "I'm losing business in Port Royal, which isn't good for supporting a family. I was informed by a fairly reliable, though somewhat biased, source that there was quite a bit of opportunity in Tortuga. We decided it would be in everyone's best interest to move here."
"We?" Blackbird asked.
A young woman came in from the other room carrying a bundle in her arms. Will put his arm around her. "Blackbird, I'd like for you to meet my wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth, this is Blackbird."
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Blackbird," Elizabeth said with a smile. "Will has told me so much about you, I feel I already know you."
Blackbird nodded in reply. "Is this your daughter?" she asked.
Will smiled. "Her name's Marie."
Jack went over and examined the girl. "She's a Turner alright," he said. "She has the eyes."
"She certainly takes after her father," Elizabeth agreed.
Jack shook his head sadly. "Poor kid…" he muttered, earning a sharp blow on the arm from Will.
Blackbird hesitated. "Well, you're probably too tired from moving in to join us at the tavern, aye?"
Will glanced at Elizabeth, who only nodded. "Actually, I think I have time for a drink or two," he said.
"Then let's get going!" Blackbird said impatiently. "I wasn't exactly allowed to finish my last drink, and I'd really like another."
Kissing his wife, Will followed them out the door.
The three sat around the same table they'd occupied months before. Jack paid Rose as she handed them all drinks. Hesitantly, Blackbird raised her mug, and the others did the same. As their glasses clinked, Blackbird looked at her friends and smiled. "Drink up me hearties, yoho!"