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The Breaking Wave

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It's not as hard as it ought to be, turning away from Elizabeth to the gallows, and Will tries to tell himself that it's because he's doing the right thing. But the leap in his heart when he jumps onto the scaffolding has nothing to do with conscience. It's that same rush of feeling as when the ship climbs a swelling wave, when he feels the clash of blades all the way up his sword arm.

Jack is laughing out loud as they trip up half a dozen redcoats with the rope they were going to use to hang him, and Will can feel the grin stretching his own mouth wide. They're running through a small forest of swords and bayonets, making a path for themselves with sword and dagger against the blades that don't really want to drink their blood. He and Jack take turns boosting each other up the battlements, Cotton's parrot like a bobbing lure ahead of them.

The soldiers are on their heels, and there's nowhere to go but up and over, but that's where they're going anyway. Jack's hand is tight on his own and his gleeful yowl is ringing in Will's ears as they tumble through the air and hit the water. The Black Pearl is curving into view around the promontory, and only a few reluctant bullets chase them as they strike out across the water.

The sunset that evening is gorgeous and regal, gold and crimson scattering on the water, in the sky. Will stops to watch it for a moment while he gathers up his drying clothes from the deck. Jack is still busy making love to the wheel and his bottle of rum, singing occasionally-audible snatches of vulgar songs.

The captain's cabin is almost absurdly large and formal, full of neat little drawers with porcelain knobs and impractical glass-fronted cabinets. The table is covered with linen and set with silver, and there's more cutlery than Will knows what to do with. He looks down at his salt-stiffened clothes and considers dressing for dinner. He'd stripped down to smallclothes and boots to lay everything else out under the sun.

"Pretty cloak," Jack says, poking his head over Will's shoulder and snatching it away. He swirls the red circle of it around himself and does a little dance across the cabin before tossing it onto a dresser and dropping into the chair at the head of the table. Will can't help smiling, and he puts the rest of his pile of clothes aside.

The food is plain, but there's plenty of it, and salt air and hunger are all the spice he needs. Will lets Jack ply him with rum and stories both lewd and improbable, and, some short time later, with sly touches that guide him to the bed in what Jack possibly thinks is a subtle way. They tumble among the sheets and goosedown pillows, and the beads in Jack's hair bump Will's cheek while they climb the wave together.