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The Queen's Pride

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It had been tempting, of course, respectable wedded bliss and children and a sinecure post in the Governor's service. Elizabeth had been tempted too, Will knew; she'd had a taste of real pirate life and hadn't been as impressed with the hard, cold facts as she was with the legends as a child. Perhaps she did sincerely want children, as her father had told him. He did; he wanted a son. But not yet.

He'd told himself, when they sailed for England where there were more opportunities to sell his swords, that it wasn't because he missed the sea but because it was an opportunity to make his name. And that her wistful looks until he offered to take her along were because she would miss him, and not because she wanted to be at sea, as well.

They'd encountered pirates not three days out. The brigands knew a heavily defended military cruiser when they saw it and steered clear, but one never forgot the way a pirate ship ran. Elizabeth leaned so far out over the rail that she nearly fell, and when Will caught her waist, they looked at each other and made their decision.

It was half an hour's work to pack and lower a boat in the dead time when the watches were changing that night, and by morning they were passengers aboard the Fate's Liar, a sleek and decent vessel built for speed (like Elizabeth, Will said once).

It wasn't the Black Pearl or the Interceptor, both having already built up their reputations anew as vessels it was dangerous to cross, but it was adventure and duels, and they made a pretty penny by the time the Fate's Liar was sunk by a Navy ship that happened on it unexpectedly during a raging storm.

Fortunately, Will and Elizabeth knew enough of Navy ships to lead the pirates to victory over the troops. Though the Liar was lost, the Queen's Pride was gained.

Will Turner took the captaincy in a slightly mutinous turn of events and installed Elizabeth in high state as the queen of the Pride. He had his love and his blood sang in the rigging, and Will Turner was happy. Elizabeth herself had learned to fight and shoot and had never again been required to wear a tight corset, and if Will was happy, she was in ecstasies.

It was a bright day and the Pride was running with full sail across a sea so blue it hurt to look at when a fellow in piracy was spotted on the horizon, and flags of greeting were run up. There were no heroes among thieves, as Will liked to say, but there were brothers.

"Will!" Elizabeth cried, from the crow's nest. "Will, it's the Pearl."

"Our Pearl?" he called up. "Good Christ, do I pay you to scrub or to scrimshaw?" he asked a deckhand, who hurried about his business.

"What other?" she shouted down.

"Run alongside and salute," he commanded. "Best behaviour, boys; and don't let on your captain is Blade Turner."

Elizabeth, descending swiftly, laughed at him. "Blade Turner my foot. You're Bootstrap's Boy and always will be."

"Be careful; I'm dangerous to know," he answered with a grin.

They pulled near enough to the Pearl to give a proper salute and let their Mates exchange news; Will saw Jack at the wheel, capable fingers lovingly handling the old worn spoke-handles, and felt something warm and real fill him. Jack Sparrow was a scoundrel, an unwashed scallywag who would cut his own mother's purse and probably had, but he was responsible for what Will was, and Will's father had loved him.

"Doesn't he look dashing," Elizabeth murmured.

"HAIL THERE!" the Mate called. "BE THIS THE QUEEN'S PRIDE?"

"IT BE!" Will answered.

"UNDER WHOSE COMMAND?"

"BONNY QUEEN ELIZABETH!" Will shouted.

"AYE, SO WE HAD HEARD," the Mate replied, somewhat wryly, Will thought. Female pirates were not unknown, but they were vaguely disapproved of, like priests.

"BE YE THE PEARL UNDER CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW?" Elizabeth shouted.

"WE BE!"

"SWING OVER, MATE!" Will called, and the man obligingly mounted the rail and took hold of a swingrope, flying the short distance down to the lower-riding Pride.

"D'ye carry post for the Pearl?" the man asked, a standard question in a day when one gave a letter to an outbound ship in the hopes they'd stumble across the right person.

"We carry no post, but would speak with Captain Jack Sparrow," Will said. "My wife, the Bonny Queen."

The man bowed. Elizabeth offered her hand. He kissed it, appraising the large ruby ring on her finger as he did so.

"My wife has a fancy for pirate captains; we would have Captain Sparrow to dinner," Will said. "She so rarely encounters a chance to wear her finery, you see."

He could see the man's thoughts clear enough; if this silk doublet and brocade skirt, the gold and silver on her neck and fingers and at her ears was not her finery, how rich did the Pride run?

Apparently Captain Jack Sparrow wondered too, for word soon drifted back that the men of the Pearl would host the men of the Pride, and Captain Sparrow would be pleased to dine with the Queen.

***

"Do I look fine enough, do you suppose?" Elizabeth asked, for what it seemed must be the hundredth time. She had taken out a scarlet dress that would never do for ordinary piracy, and decorated her hands with Indian silver.

"You are a queen," Will said. "Presentable?"

He felt quite as nervous as she did; he knew Jack would only scorn a clean shirt on a man, but he had nevertheless found one and put it on. Jack did not know Bootstrap's Boy, only William Turner the swordsmith. Will was not sure Jack would approve of Bootstrap's Boy.

"Oh yes," she said. She kissed him, too, which was more reassuring. She'd told him about the night she and Jack had spent on the sandbar, drinking, and he was always slightly jealous of it somehow. Then again, he had been the man to sail alone with Captain Jack Sparrow ahead, and in defiance, of the English Navy.

He offered her his arm and she took it, and the ring on her finger meant that she had chosen him anyway; Bonny Queen Elizabeth could have had any pirate in the world, but she had Bootstrap's Boy.

They waited in the larger room that adjoined their small bedroom, filled now with food and decorated with swinging gold lanterns and the finest of their spoils -- mahogany trunks, brocaded settees and sandalwood tables, rattan chairs lined with silk.

Jack's bootsteps rang on deck and Elizabeth caught her breath; when the door opened, Will grinned. Same old Jack; he was preceded into the room by one of the Pride's own cabin boys, carrying three large bottles of rum.

"Milady queen," he said, sweeping off his hat and bowing before he'd gotten a proper look at them.

"Captain Jack Sparrow," Elizabeth said, eyes dancing. There was a pregnant pause. Jack looked up without leaving his bow.

Then he straightened and began to laugh, uproariously. The cabin boy fled, leaving the rum behind him on the table.

"Will Turner and the governor's daughter," he said, knuckling away a tear with one grimy hand. "If it isn't the princess and the pirate's son."

"That's queen to you," Elizabeth said haughtily. Jack seized her hand and kissed it, then executed a second overly-elaborate bow to Will, who clubbed him on the shoulder in joyful greeting.

***

Wanted, dead or alive: Female, age approximately twenty-eight, dark hair, olive complected, answering to Bonny Queen Elizabeth, in command of the Black Pearl, the Queen's Pride, and the Interceptor. Companions: Captain Jack Sparrow, Bootstrap's Boy, Black Annamaria. Known also as the Queen Admiral. May generally be seen to wear scarlet silk and large hats. Is known to be illicitly married to both Bootstrap's Boy and Captain Jack Sparrow. Wanted on charges of high piracy, misuse of a naval vessel, rum-running, smuggling, and impersonating a nun. She is believed to be one of the most dangerous pirates of the Caribbean.

END