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It wasn't as though Jack minded being stuck on the Empress while he plotted to get his Pearl back. He had the charts, after all, and the Fountain wasn't about to sink into the mists of mythology in the meantime. If Jack knew Hector Barbossa, he’d be running raids across the Caribbean as soon as he discovered Jack had stolen his heading - taking out his frustrations, as it were. There was time enough to uncover the rumors about where he was bound.

The Chinese ship was a dainty vessel at first glance, but she was light and quick – suited her captain to a tee. And Sao Feng had been kind enough, or vain enough, to furnish her living quarters so sumptuously that Jack didn't have to bunk with the crew. Which was for the best, really, since before the close of his first week aboard, he had already gotten himself into a mild spot of trouble by mangling the few scraps of Chinese he possessed. Not that he could really blame the boy who drew his sword – according to Tai Huang, Jack had requested to bathe his feet in lavender water and then do something of questionable anatomical possibility with them. Jack could have sworn he was asking about the weather, but he supposed some confusion was inevitable when one picked up all knowledge of a foreign language in that country’s best brothels.

His dubious relations with the crew notwithstanding, not being on the Empress would have meant not bearing witness to young William’s triumphant return. Apparently Captain Turner had worked out some bargain with Calypso which allowed him to come calling on the other Captain Turner from time to time. Jack didn’t think he’d ever seen so happy a surprise in his life – which was only fair, since their surprises had all been of the unwelcome sort for longer than he cared to think about.

An entirely unsurprising event was Will and Elizabeth immediately shutting themselves up in her lavish cabin. Jack was feeling so magnanimous towards the reunited lovers that he avoided his own cabin – accessible by lacquered door from the main cabin, which route the captain had felt free to utilize at her discretion and Jack’s general irritation – in order to give them a greater illusion of privacy. He spent his time catching up with Bill, trying his damnedest to keep both crews from coming to blows in games of dice, and decidedly not straining his ears to pick up any wayward noises from any sequestered Turners.

Elizabeth was jolly as a tinker following this visit (though the Dutch corvette they took down the day after Will left proved to be in a somewhat testier mood). But before long her spirits had dropped again. The bulkhead separating Elizabeth’s cabin from Jack’s was thin enough that he could hear her retching every morning and sometimes in the afternoons. She stalked about the ship in a foul mood, perpetually stormy expression daring anyone to mention the probable cause of such a condition.

When Jack told her heartily that her cheeks were looking rosy (they weren't, as she had just thrown up the plainest meal her cook could concoct and she was faintly green around the edges), she had him tossed in the brig for the rest of the day.

After he had been set free and retired for the night, she came slinking into the cabin, biting her lip. It was the first time she’d seen fit to use the bloody door in weeks, and it had developed a creak. Jack ignored her and held his book so that it blocked his view of her, his nose nearly touching the musty-scented paper. She settled herself on the foot of the bunk anyway.

“I’m sorry,” she said after a moment, her voice small.

Jack flipped a page.

“I’m pregnant,” she said next, her voice heavy.

Jack sighed and laid the book aside. She was sitting cross-legged, resting her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, looking at once younger than her twenty-one years and far, far too old.

“I know.”

She wasn't looking at him but down at the silk coverlet with its pattern of dark, darting starlings. “Does everyone know?”

“Yes. Except, one would surmise, for dear William.” At the mention of his name Elizabeth closed her eyes, her head bowing further.

Jack cocked an eyebrow, nudging her shin with his toes. “Is this how you plan to tell him as well?”

She sighed, drawing a crimson shawl more closely around her shoulders. “I don’t know how to tell him. I’ll have to think about it. I have been trying not to think of it, actually.”

“In the meantime, what shall I tell you?” Elizabeth blinked, puzzled. Jack wasn't sure he was the best candidate for any type of verbal comfort, but at the moment he seemed to be the only taker. “Shall I tell you that it’s a common affliction in fully half the human race?”

He was heartened by the slight lift at the corner of her downturned mouth, and continued, “Shall I spin tales of Mistress Cheng and her many strapping sons? Recommend a midwife in Shipwreck Cove? Offer to empty the bucket in which you've voided your breakfasts for the past weeks?”

“Not just now, thanks,” said Elizabeth, a smile on her face no matter how watery. “I would like you to tell me that I might sleep in here tonight.”

Jack swept a hand over his heart. “And leave me the grand, downy bed fit for kings? It’s a tall order but my generosity knows no bounds, Captain.”

She rolled her eyes and stretched out across the bed, shoving him none too gently to the side nearest the bulkhead.

“Shut it, Jack. And if you make even the suggestion of overly familiar motion, I will have you chucked in the brig again – this time without rum.”

He grinned, lying on his back with his hands behind his head while she curled up beside him. It was his instinct to be insulted that she obviously considered him so little a threat, but he could hear her breathing start to deepen and he let it lie. Better that she should finally get some sleep, and better that he should continue to ignore the fact that he wanted nothing more than to make an overly familiar motion or two. Better around for all of them, really – the unsuspecting babe included.

She began the next night in her own bunk, but after listening to her toss and turn for an hour, Jack took pity and went to her. Elizabeth clutched his arm tight and finally sighed herself to sleep. He listened to the beat of the heart in its locked trunk for awhile before he did the same.

After that they were back and forth, not every night but perhaps every third or fourth. The growing child made her restless of an evening; she often caught a nap during the day to make up for it. For some reason neither of them cared to name she slept more soundly with Jack beside her. He did as well, though he still dreamed from time to time, fevered dreams he wouldn't remember after she pulled him close and stroked his damp hair back from his brow.

Temptation beckoned as it would, but in a rare instance Jack fought it. Elizabeth always wore a long nightshift, and he always wore trousers and shirt, and if he woke sometimes with a natural reaction to her proximity they both pretended to disregard it. It didn't hurt that she preferred to play the big spoon (he should have guessed that one, really).

She was fortunately back in her own bunk when Will came round again. Jack took pity on the lad, for it was clear he didn't understand the looks of mingled sympathy and apprehension that kept being tossed his way from the moment his feet hit the deck.

Clapping him on the back, Jack said, “Go with God, mate,” and sent him into the breach. Then he crept into his own cabin and took up a post by the door. It wasn't eavesdropping if you just happened to have excellent hearing.

Will was one of the best swordsmen against whom Jack had had the privilege of cheating, but that particular sort of grace seemed to have deserted him. After a short silence, Jack heard what could only be the thud of a man’s body hitting the deck, as well as the tinkle of breaking china. He muffled his snicker in the palm of one hand. Based on Elizabeth’s exclamation and Will’s very loud protestations that the chair was wobbly, he presumed no lasting damage had been done.

There was quiet murmuring for while, the actual words of which he couldn't catch no matter how hard he pressed his ear to the plank. Then silence, which after a time was broken by a low, breathy sound that made his toes curl in his boots.

Jack beat a hasty retreat to his bunk. He had not yet sunk far enough to be listening at knotholes for his pleasure. If, when he took himself in hand, he thought of Elizabeth’s golden hair tumbled across a pillow, of Will’s long nimble fingers on her fair skin - well, there was no one to tell save Jack, and he wasn't in the habit of speaking to himself anymore.

 

 

Will had discovered early in his captaincy that he didn't need sleep as he once had, but he did enjoy the languor and warmth of a good doze, particularly after he’d seen to his wife’s needs and his own. Lying in the comfortable bunk beside Elizabeth, drifting on the open sea, he could almost forget their burdens. Even the news with which she had just flummoxed him slipped his mind in the easy contentment of their embrace.

Reality made a swift return with Elizabeth’s sudden scramble from the bed. She flailed for a flask hanging from a nail, tugging the stopper from its unusually wide mouth and taking several deep breaths. Will peered at her in confusion, not understanding its purpose until she began to retch. Then he was up behind her, holding her hair back from her face and rubbing his palm over her back.

“All right?” he asked when she was finished.

“Mmm,” she said, rinsing her mouth out with a swig of rum from another flask. Her nose wrinkled as she replaced them. “Merely unpleasant.”

“I’m sorry.” Will kissed her nose as she curled up beside him once more.

“Yes, well, you should be,” said Elizabeth, her voice tart. Will spread his right hand over her belly. The faint bump was not yet visible under her clothes but he could feel it now, harder beneath his touch than he would have expected.

Though she was teasing, he couldn't help feeling a certain measure of guilt. They had discussed the chance of pregnancy during their one day ashore, despite everything else that had occupied them. Elizabeth had been quite certain that it wouldn't happen yet. But if it does? Will had said, after the first time and before the second (he was a practical man but he was not a saint). She shrugged, said they would worry about it when the time came, and bore him down to the sand.

If someone had told him several years ago that his wife would conceive a child on their wedding night - and that said wife would be Elizabeth Swann - he would have been overjoyed. But he could never have foreseen the wheels that would be set in motion by a chance meeting with a pirate, culminating in his being bound to an otherworldly ship that would carry him away from his family time and time again.

“What are you thinking?” Elizabeth traced the set lines of his brow with a fingertip.

Stroking his thumb over her skin, he admitted, “I’m worrying about the baby, and about you.”

“Not now,” she said, fixing him with a stern look. “Captain’s orders. We have seven months to worry, after all. Can’t we have a moment of happiness first?” There was an edge to the question which made Will feel like a cad. She had probably spent weeks fretting over how to tell him, and his initial reaction had been less than ideal.

He leaned down to press his lips below her navel, half-expecting some kind of movement despite knowing it was too early.

“I am happy about it,” he whispered. “That’s what worries me.”

If only he could just think of Elizabeth holding their son or daughter in her arms - not how she would fare in childbirth; not whether he would be there for it; not the sort of life the child would lead with a pirate lord for a mother and a father who sailed the Dutchman beyond the veil.

“Oh, Will,” Elizabeth sighed, taking his face between her hands. Her gaze on him was steady and unblinking. “Truth be told, I wasn’t handling it well at all - not until you came aboard tonight. Because when I saw you again…” She pressed her lips together. “I remembered how it felt when I thought I’d lost you. It would have broken me. This, what we have now, it may not be the future we planned, but it’s the one we fought to keep.”

Will remembered it too - not the pain of a mortal wound, which was distant to the man he was now, but the last thing he’d seen had been her stricken face. Even as his eyes slipped closed he had wanted to tell her it was all right. And the last thing he’d felt had been Jack’s hand closing about his wrist.

“And we’ll keep fighting,” he said, swallowing hard. What right did he have to fear in the face of her belief? “Elizabeth -” He raised himself on an elbow and paused, feeling something sharp dig into his skin.

They both stared at the small silver bead he dug out from beneath the pillow.

“He stays in here some nights,” she said quietly, taking it from him. “Both of us fully dressed, nothing indecent about it. It’s only that I’ve had trouble sleeping lately and it’s a comfort to me. And to Jack, I think, not that he would admit it.”

Will watched her roll the bead between her fingers. His first thought was not of Elizabeth kissing Jack before chaining him to the mast, but of sighting the two of them on the Pearl’s deck when the Dutchman had risen from the depths at his bidding.

“I would not begrudge you any comfort you might find,” he said after a long moment. “But we swore to be honest with one another, on the island.”

“Yes, we did.”

He had thought to ask a question, but that wasn’t how it came out. “You still want him.”

“I would never do anything without your consent. Besides...” She let the bead roll from her hand and off the mattress, looking at him from beneath her lashes. “Don’t you?”

Will let out a heavy breath and crossed an arm behind his head, staring up at the deck beams. “I’d ask how you could possibly know that, but I doubt I would get a straight answer.”

“I have your heart in my keeping, Will Turner,” Elizabeth said, fingering the edge of the scar tissue on his chest. “I know all its secrets.”

He wondered if that was where it had begun, on the deck of the Dutchman. Or perhaps they had been bound together from the moment he saved Jack from the noose and Elizabeth stood beside them on the battlements. The threads had been tangled after that, by doubt and betrayal and what lay at the edges of the map; but they had come right again after Elizabeth married him in a maelstrom and Jack gave up immortality to save his life.

“I suppose,” he mused, running his hand down her arm to close on her hip, “we did leave off ‘forsaking all others’ from our vows.”

Elizabeth slid her leg up, nudging his knees apart. “We got all the important bits.”

This reverie was soon interrupted by a sound from the back cabin. Muffled though it was, it was clearly one of distress.

She glanced over Will’s shoulder at the door, her fingers tracing patterns on his spine.

“He’s dreaming of the Locker,” she said. Her eyes met his, bright in the glow of the lantern. "Go on, then."

Will drew back, found his clothes at the foot of the bunk, pulled the painted red door open.

Jack had kicked the coverlet off and was stretched from corner to corner on the bed. The moonlight limned his body with silver except for his hair and the musket holes on his breast, which were black as pitch.

"Jack," Will murmured, perching on the mattress.

Jack grunted, his legs twitching. Will laid a hand on his shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch.

“It’s only a dream. Listen to my voice."

All at once he came awake, jerking himself upright. One hand caught Will by the collar while the other drew a dagger from beneath the pillow.

Will stayed perfectly still.

"Never again, Jack," Will said, his voice going low and rough. "I promise you that."

He watched the wildness fall from Jack's eyes. His grip on the knife faltered but his fist was still clenched in Will's shirt. Will leaned forward, touching his lips to Jack’s brow and then his mouth. Jack stiffened and turned him loose.

"What in seven hells -" he began.

"Will," Elizabeth called from the great cabin. Jack's eyes darted sidewise.

With a wry twist of his mouth, Will drew Jack to his feet. "As our king commands."

 

 

She bit down on a giggle at the sight of them: Will towing a rumpled Jack through the door, Jack digging in his heels when he spotted Elizabeth propped against the pillows with the sheet pooled about her waist.

"Am I still dreaming?" Jack asked in a plaintive tone. "Is this some new manner of torment from me addled brains?"

"Why don't you come find out?" She held out a hand to him.

Still Jack hesitated, looking back and forth between the two of them like a wary colt. Perhaps her suspicion was wrong and he hadn't left that bead on purpose.

Will, ever prosaic, pinched him through his worn trousers.

"Ouch!" Rubbing his backside, Jack glared at him.

"Not a dream," Will told him with a rakish grin. He tugged on Jack's wrist, hard, so that he had to catch himself against the bunk. From there it was a simple matter for Elizabeth to draw him down.

She went for his waistband at once, remembering those nights when she hadn't been allowed to touch him - hadn't allowed herself.

"God's teeth, Elizabeth," he said, aggrieved, "will you not let a fellow catch 'is breath?"

"No," she said, stealing it from him in a kiss. The familiarity brought a faint sting with the memory of the last time she’d kissed him. But that was past, and they were moving onward.

He still lost himself in the taste of her mouth, though; when they parted he had abandoned his reticence and draped his lean body halfway across her. He blinked several times as if surprised to find himself cupping her breast. Gooseflesh prickled over her skin at the chill of his rings. She pushed his hand away as she’d done to Will.

“Tender,” she explained with a shrug.

Jack quirked an eyebrow and leaned down, his breath hot and damp on her skin. “Too much?” he asked, dragging the tip of his tongue across her nipple.

“No, that’s…” She broke off with a moan as he did it again. It was a softer touch, yet it drew an edge on her pleasure that made her nerves sing. His never-still fingers went wandering southwards and she shut her eyes tight, her legs flexing under the light pressure.

Jack chuckled, but for all his smugness he was not unaffected. She could feel his cock growing hard against her thigh and his rhythm faltered when she grasped it.

“Are you only going to watch?” Elizabeth asked without opening her eyes. Jack kept stroking her but turned toward the foot of the bunk, his hair falling across her ribs.

“It’s a pretty sight,” said Will, warm and slow - the way he spoke when he made love to her. Jack twitched in her grip and she grinned to know he was likewise affected.

“Even prettier from over here,” he pointed out. A wicked twist of his fingers caused Elizabeth to make an entirely unpretty noise.

The mattress dipped under Will’s weight. She forced her heavy eyelids open to witness her husband stretching out on Jack’s other side, catching him between them. She couldn't mourn the loss of his touch, for the sight of him twisting to offer Will his wet fingers made her blood throb in her veins. Will sucked them into his mouth, his dark gaze flickering to her, and she pressed her thighs together with a gasp.

It was drowned out by Jack’s groan as Will pressed against his backside. He craned his neck to kiss Will, long and deep, hand sunk into his curls to hold him fast. Elizabeth bit her lip, her breath quickening, knowing she’d be gone in an instant if she touched herself now. She decided to blame the unfamiliar moods and urges of early pregnancy.

It was a palpable relief when Jack broke the kiss at last, just as if she’d been caught up in it herself.

“D’you want to fuck me, lad?” Jack asked, his voice a rumble that she felt in her bones. He was asking Will but he was looking at her, his eyes glittering in the dying lantern-light.

Will lifted his head over Jack’s shoulder. “I...yes,” he said hoarsely, his face open and raw, not quite a plea. It was sweet of him to consult her, but her only concern at the moment was that the oil last long enough to for her to see them.

She lifted her arm with some effort, brushing the back of her hand across his cheek. Will kissed her knuckles before bending down to mouth at Jack’s neck.

“Oh good,” said Jack brightly. “Mrs. Turner, if you’d be so kind?” He reached between her thighs again and she understood his intention at once. Yet he lingered, his thumb pressing just so above the folds of her flesh.

Elizabeth dug her nails into his forearm and cried out as she came.

“Damn you, Jack,” she muttered, tossing her head back on the pillow.

He was unrepentant, winking at her as his hand slid between his own legs. “I trust you’ll recover in good time.”

“Jack,” Will said. His arm had disappeared from Jack’s flank and she knew he was stroking himself. “Are you -”

“Aye,” said Jack roughly. He rolled toward Elizabeth for a better angle, tucking his knee between her own. Will took him by the hips and began to push in.

Elizabeth let out a breath along with Jack, watching the shadows play across his face, fascinated that he was experiencing the sensations she herself felt when Will was inside her. The inexorable press of his cock, the sense of fullness, the desperate abandon in his voice -

Jack…”

“Jack,” she echoed, her lips against the hollow of his throat so she felt the thrum when he said her name, and Will’s.

His cock was hot and hard on her hip. She turned his own trick back on him and slicked her hand before she grasped it. Jack made a keening sort of sound, shuddering all over. Will stilled for a moment before his movements gained more strength and she loved that, loved that she could still make him lose control like this.

“Rock and a - hard place,” Jack panted, clutching at her shoulder as Will thrust into him from behind and Elizabeth worked him in front, grinning fiercely at his own wit. Elizabeth rolled her eyes and twisted a little so that she could press herself against the heel of her own hand and the tip of his leaking cock. Not inside, not quite, the angle wasn’t right - another time, perhaps.

She didn’t realize she’d spoken aloud until Jack hissed, “Oh fuck,” and spent himself in her palm.

Elizabeth,” Will said in a broken voice, as he always did when he was so close. He buried his face in the nape of Jack’s neck and whispered, “Jack,” much softer, almost wondering. It was then that Elizabeth’s climax crashed over her, more gently than the last.

It was some time before she surfaced, finding the sheet bundled off and the mess cleaned up as best Will could manage. God knows Jack wouldn’t have bothered, she thought, and climbed over him to kiss her husband’s cheek. His eyes were closed but he smiled tiredly and put his arm around her.

“Oy, who says ye get to claim the middle?” Jack wanted to know.

“Pregnant,” she said, cutting her eyes at him.

Jack rubbed his chin as he considered this. “Fair enough.”

His arm snaked over her as well, his hand settling on her middle. She realized with some surprise that it was the first time he had touched her there, tonight or otherwise.

She had thought about this, the three of them, since before she’d begun sharing a bed with Jack. At first it had been a passing fancy to liven up her lonely nights, when she thought she’d go mad missing Will. After she had realized she was with child, the fantasy did not satisfy; it became too complex with the harsh light of reality shining on it. She didn't want to consider what would happen once Jack got the Pearl back, would not think on him being gone from her as well as Will. In her darker moments she had called it selfishness. Will couldn't deny his destiny, and Jack was not hers to keep.

But he is, she thought to herself with a hard-won affirmation. He belonged to her as much as Will did; they belonged to each other, and that was not the same thing as being fettered like she had once feared and knew Jack did as well.

Will's fears, on the other hand, had always been driven by his father's fate. They were on his mind now, she knew, and she would do her best to shore him up in the time they had together.

She pulled his head down to her shoulder, hoping for a few more minutes of peace. He sighed against her collarbone.

"Peas in a pod," Jack murmured, watching them.

"It is the height of egotism to quote yourself," Elizabeth informed him.

He let out a laugh and pressed his lips to her arched brow. "And who would, 'f I didn't?"

It had been a long time since she'd seen him so at ease - perhaps she never had, not like this. For that, too, she was grateful.

"Hush," said Will, clearing his throat. "Sleep."

Like guilty mates caught out in the schoolroom, they made a face at one another and subsided.

Will's fingers tangled with Jack's on her belly, anchored over the faint spark of life that would become their child. It had been difficult to envision when it hadn't yet made itself known aside from the wretched nausea.

Now she dozed, and dreamed of Will's hazel eyes set in a tiny pink face.

It was not long, maybe an hour, before she felt him stir beside her, half-rising to look out the stern windows.

“I have to go,” he said quietly.

Elizabeth tried to keep her gaze level, though she felt her jaw go tight. Turning on her side, she watched him slip out of bed to fish his things from the floor.

"How do you know that, William?” Jack sounded curious, as well he might be; it was the first time he'd done this.

“I can feel it.” He tugged his shirt over his head, covering the lash marks on his back.

She remembered this, how he grew restless and distant from her, his focus fixed on a far horizon. It made her hate him just a little, just for a moment, deep down where she would never let him see it.

Then he turned, his heart breaking in his eyes, and she let go of her misdirected resentment.

“Does it hurt?” she asked. She'd never thought on it before, but Jack's question had made her wonder.

Will sat on the edge of the mattress and stroked her hair. “Not exactly. It’s more like a - a tug, right here." His left hand closed into a fist over the scar on his chest.

“A wind at your back,” Jack suggested. “Time and tide and all that rot.”

Will’s smile was strained. “Something like that.”

She wondered if it had pained Davy Jones to ignore the call for so long. Jack took note of her shiver and shifted closer, his beard tickling between her shoulder blades.

Will glanced up at the window again before he leaned forward.

“I know where Barbossa’s taken the Black Pearl,” he said. Elizabeth felt Jack tense at her back.

"And were you planning on sharing this tantalizing tidbit?"

Will inclined his head. There was nothing playful about his manner now; she was reminded of the serious boy he’d been in Port Royal as well as the commander. "I was. But I want your word on something first - from both of you."

Elizabeth frowned. "What would that be?"

"Promise me you'll put in at Shipwreck by August," he said, holding Elizabeth’s gaze.

"That's two months before I'm due," she protested, sitting up and crossing her arms over her chest. "I was planning to sail to Singapore to deal with Sao Feng’s affairs. I’m responsible for what goes on in the South China Sea, if you’ll recall. "

"You could send Tai Huang. I know you trust his loyalty."

"That's not the point," she snapped. She shrugged him off and reached for the dressing gown hanging at the corner of her bunk.

"Point is you and the bairn will be safe in Shipwreck.” As always Jack could never resist having his say, and he was impervious to her glare. He didn't even have the grace to look away and shuffle his feet as Will did. "There are midwives and healers aplenty, not to mention a whole mess of folk who wouldn't want to run afoul of the Dutchman's captain. Nor the King of the Brethren," he added in a blatant attempt at flattery.

Elizabeth wrung the belt of her robe. She hadn’t taken them both to bed to have them gang up on her.

"Mutiny," she grumbled.

“I’m not on your crew," Will retorted mildly.

Jack propped himself up on an elbow. "It's not so dire as all that, Lizzie. We'll have ourselves a proper adventure - can't wrest the Pearl back from Barbossa without a bit o’ help, after all. And who knows what shape she'll be in? Last time he redecorated I found motheaten tapestries hanging in my cabin, with wood nymphs and gnomes and fairies on ‘em.” His lip curled in a sneer of distaste. “Dreadful.”

There was no mention made of the fact that the Pearl was both swifter and better armed; he would never malign her Empress so to her face. Elizabeth appreciated the ship because it was her own, but she couldn’t deny that it was more ornamental and less hardy than the little junk they’d sailed to the end of the world. She fully intended to trade up once she got a look at the other vessels in Sao Feng’s harbor. But the idea for that voyage had, of course, come about before she missed her courses and counted up the days since the last one she’d spent ashore.

“You’re right,” she conceded with a long sigh. “Very well, I won’t be making any long crossings for a time. But Barbossa can’t have gone very far.”

“He’s headed to Belem, off the coast of Brazil,” Will said, rubbing his temple. “He thinks the Fountain of Youth is on the Amazon.”

“He’s a fool,” Jack said flatly. “How exactly did you come by this information, if I may ask?”

His voice was cool but he was picking at a loose thread on the bedclothes, studying it rather intently.

“No one you know, Jack,” Will said, understanding in his eyes.

Jack snorted. “Not that it matters, seeing’s how they left me stranded in Tortuga to go haring off after some old Spanish legend what prob’ly ain’t even real.”

“Except for Mr. Gibbs,” Elizabeth reminded him, nudging him with her foot.

Gibbs was still in Tortuga so far as they were aware, enjoying his newfound notoriety while telling the tale of the great battle to anyone who would buy him a drink. As for the more fickle Pearls, she doubted most of them would have lingered once they realized Barbossa didn't have the charts (her charts, really, since they had belonged to Sao Feng). But there was no way to know for sure until they set foot in the usual haunts, which they’d have to do soon to take on fresh stores. She’d been putting it off and the hold was growing bare.

Stalling was more accurate, really; she had been waiting for Will to call on her once more before she made for land.

He framed her belly with both hands. She could feel the warmth of his palms through the silk.

“It will be a month before I can return, maybe two,” he said wistfully. “Time passes differently here.”

“I know,” Elizabeth said, swallowing past the lump in her throat. She wouldn’t weep, not this time.

He lifted his hands an inch or so. “You’ll be bigger,” he said with a quick twist of his mouth that couldn’t quite be called a smile.

Jack tapped his wrist. “Nay, she’s scrawny and can’t keep her suppers down, the babe’ll stay hidden for awhile afore it pops.”

“Stow it or I’ll flog you both,” Elizabeth ordered. Her voice was steady but her hands trembled as she reached for Will.

He caught her up in his arms, crushing her to his chest. “I love you, Elizabeth, so very much.”

“I love you,” she whispered against the shell of his ear, and kissed him, feeling Jack watching them all the while. Just before he would have begun to fidget, she stayed him with a hand on his arm.

She kept her other hand at the back of Will’s neck as he leaned down to kiss Jack, thoroughly and for a few moments longer. Elizabeth wouldn't quarrel with that; he’d been so untrusting for so long that he would need further convincing.

At last Will stood, after a final fleeting touch of his lips to hers.

“Keep each other safe,” he said, looking from Elizabeth to Jack and back again. She opened her mouth to promise they would, but he was gone before she could speak. The lantern finally guttered out in his wake.

Blinking as her eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness, she confessed, “I hate when he does that. It’s so unsettling.”

“Aye, he always did have a flair for the dramatic,” Jack agreed. “Remember the hat?”

Smiling despite the ache in her heart, she sank down in the bunk. “I made him take the feather out.”

“Smart lass.”

He settled back on the pillows, let her curl up against his side, and wisely said nothing while she brushed a few tears away.

“So Brazil, eh?” he said, twirling the ends of her tangled hair.

Elizabeth put her fingertips to his mouth. “We can talk about it in the morning, Jack.”

He hummed a few bars of a particularly ribald sea shanty, just to be contrary. She was trying to think up some new and creative threats even as the tune sent her to sleep.