1761 ~ Somewhere in the Caribbean
This time, when the woman awoke, there was awareness in her blue eyes, not the confusion of fevered agony from earlier awakenings. But there was also fear; something Jack fervently hoped he would never again see in her eyes when she looked upon him. Unconsciously, he reached out a hand to brush back her hair, as he had done so many times over the preceding days, pulling it back abruptly at her flinch. "Be at ease, Vizcondesa de la Fuente, you shall come to no harm here," he said with soft reassurance. "You are aboard my ship, the Black Pearl, not," he hastened to add, "the ship of which you have heard so many fearful tales." One of the things he now regretted most was in allowing the young widow to continue to believe that the ship that had taken hers was the Pearl from the time before he'd recovered his ship and destroyed the curse. "Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service."
"My stepdaughters?" she managed to ask in a ragged whisper.
"They are safe aboard ship. You have my word," he added, seeing the expression of doubt on her face.
Nodding, she closed her eyes. "How long has it been?"
"More than a week." The memory of her collapsing at his feet, her blood coating his flesh as he lifted her into his arms was still a vivid one.
"So long," she whispered.
"You were badly injured in the storm that nearly destroyed your ship." Truly, he wasn't sure how she'd managed to stay on her feet with such a wound, never mind challenging him to a duel. It had been a foolish thing to do, but an incredibly brave one.
Opening her eyes, she said, her voice raspy, "We do what we must, Captain Sparrow." It was as if she had read his thoughts.
"That we do, m'lady," he agreed.
Searching his eyes, she asked, "Why, Captain? Why take such care of me?"
"We do what we must," he repeated her words with a shrug.
Her response was cut off by a fit of coughing. He held out a goblet of watered down wine. "You are weak, would you allow me?" At her nod, he gently raised her far enough off the pillows to drink a little. As he laid her back down, she gasped. "Are you in pain, m'lady?"
"I am well, thank you." Her voice was stronger this time.
The formal politeness of her patently untrue statement made him grin. "Is it not a sin to lie?"
"The state of my soul is hardly your concern, Captain," came her arch reply.
"Are you certain?" he countered. "After all, angels can be found in the strangest of places - or so I am reliably informed."
"Captain Sparrow, are you actually suggesting that you are an emissary of God?"
"It is a possibility, however remote it may be," he pointed out, raising a finger in the air to punctuate his argument. "And can you prove I am not?"
A pained laugh escaped her lips as she shook her head. "You are quite the oddest pirate I have ever met."
"And you've met many, I suppose?" he asked wryly.
"You might be surprised, Captain." An impish smile tugged at her lips.
"I might at that, m'lady."
This time, when he made to brush back her hair, she didn't draw away.