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Strangers in Strange Places

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In the process of fulfilling her father’s increasingly demanding requests that she and the children spend time with him at the family manor in Port Royal, Elizabeth resigned herself to weeks of uncomfortably tight corsets, ungainly if pretty dresses and more useless finery than she could shake a cutlass at. Her children aren’t nearly as despairing as she was, but that was mostly because Bill somehow has a hoard of young scamps to run wild with even here, much like he had a pack of children following him everywhere in Singapore. And in nearly every other town Elizabeth had found need to be in for longer than a few days, in the past decade or so. She supposed she should be grateful, as it meant that she needn’t have to go out of her way to keep him entertained, but instead, she found herself hoping that Victoria did not turn out to be half as boisterous a child as her brother.

Still at the tender age of three, however, young Victoria was turning out to be a hellion even worse than her brother. Elizabeth would freely blame Will’s bloodline for their boisterousness, but her father had taken one look at Victoria rushing about in her underclothes, screaming in denial whilst Elizabeth’s hand ladies attempted to coax her into a dress – the heavy, unfortunately constricting kind that all young girls were forced to wear alongside their older sisters and mothers – and had insisted Victoria clearly took after her. Completely unwilling and unaccustomed to being clad in anything heavier or more constricting that the child-sized breeches and shirts or light tunics and skirts that she had worn while they had been at sea or docked in any one of the ports in various cities in the South China sea, Elizabeth was very sympathetic to her daughter’s plight. She suspected that absolutely no one would be willing to let her little girl scramble about in a shirt and breeches any time soon within Port Royal.

Elizabeth was willing to give her father and the town a few days to inure themselves to her and the children’s presence before she chose to start making waves. Thankfully, she had an unspoken agreement with the current government in power in Port Royal, that they would take no measures to attack her or hers as long as they were within the town limits. It made for much discomfort whenever she passed by the Naval officers in the marketplace, or if she was out for a stroll with her children because the mansion felt too constricting at times, mentally if not physically. Several of the more senior and experienced officers were willing to treat her equably, having been contemporaries during her youth in Port Royal, but the younger members of the force appeared to be on edge, whenever they caught sight of her moving about freely.

She would be lying if she said it didn’t amuse her.

It was on one such outing that she first met the stranger. Enduring the constrictive bind of the corset around her – this had not been her choice of attire while preparing to set out, her attendants had insisted – and both hands latched around the shoulders of her children, neither too appreciative of this show at being regular citizens of the Port, she had been too beleaguered to actually stop even when she sensed the person that had just stepped into her way.

They collided with a sharp sound on both their parts, an instinctive reaction to the unexpected intrusion on their physical space. The man was kind enough to stand his ground and not topple over, going as far as to steady her with a light hand on the tips of her shoulders and not venturing any lower.

The action was gentlemanly enough that that she expected to see one of the higher born residents of the Port, out on a jaunt, or possibly one of those darling naval officers she seemed to terrify by her very presence. The dark skinned face, complete with dark eyes and an odd tuft of a beard on the bottom of his chin, was rather at odds with her expectations.

“Oh!” she gasped, her tumble combined with the dratted constriction leaving her more short of breath than she would have liked. That, and this new face looked almost unnervingly like Jack’s, admittedly sans the long matted hair, accessories and rogue-ish smirk, it was making her uncomfortably nostalgic. Particularly since she hadn’t seen the ship-less Captain in close to an year.

Elizabeth tended to rest easier when she knew what Jack Sparrow was up to, at any given point in time. The fact that neither of the more erratic men in her life were easy to keep a watch on would forever be a point of unease for her.

“My Lady? Are you unhurt?” the man murmured, and from the tone, she doubted it was the first time.

Elizabeth hid her wince beneath a polite smile.

“I’m quite well, I do apologise for walking into you,” she replied, raising a hand in feigned embarrassment, as would be expected of her.

She was pleasantly surprised when the man’s brows rose slightly, not enamoured by the polity of her smiles in the slightest.

“Good. If you’ll excuse me-” he said, taking a step back and easily extricating himself from the knot that had formed in the marketplace around their point of collision.

It was Elizabeth’s turn to stare after him in bemusement, because his disinterest was atypical of most of the men in the Port.  Or, admittedly, any of the other sectors of urbanity that she had chanced to find herself in. Judging by the unfamiliar style of his high collared greatcoat and the passing glimpse she’d had of oddly textured blue breeches, the man was a traveller of some sort. She wasn’t given much more of a chance to consider the topic, before her children chose to drag her forward, impatient.

She let the matter settle to the side, laughing freely when Victoria tugged her into a run, lifting her skirts so they didn’t get trampled in the dirt and ignoring the scandalised looks the higher born women passing by with their retinues were giving her.

Another week, and she would be back to her breeches, no matter the horror it would cause her father or the attendants he had hired to aid her. Or a more manageable form of attire, at the least – these skirts were proving to be ridiculous. Elizabeth was practised at dressing well, but she had had no reason to subject herself or her children to anything of the sort when they were at home.

The thought of her flagship, and being out on open waters, with no reason to hide anything of herself, filled her with a deep sense of yearning. She held the feeling close before letting it go, well-acquainted with fulfilling her duties before bowing to need.

She’d certainly managed for more than a decade, after all.

*

For all that she hadn’t seen the man before, that first meeting certainly wasn’t the last time she set eyes on him. Somehow, over the course of the next month, the strange man appeared in the most unexpected places, never really calling much attention to himself and yet drawing her eye with no real effort on her part.

Again, she supposed it was because the man reminded her so very much of Jack. He was years younger than the Captain, Elizabeth was quick to realise, but he had that same air of contained chaos about himself. She strongly suspected that he was a man of some disrepute even if she wasn’t quite sure what it was that he was involved in. From more unexpected encounters in the marketplace while accompanied by her children to the times when she tired of being primped at by her attendants, instead disguising herself as a man and stealing away to the pubs in town for a quiet breath, he appeared to be both everywhere and nowhere at once.

She observed him, at first curious, and then increasingly wary because he never seemed to be doing anything. As she had never really seen him attached to any of the ships docked at the Port, or connected to the various businesses or trades in the town, she could only assume that the man was unemployed. Which made his access to sufficient coin to arrange room and board for himself, in addition to the coin necessary to eat and drink at leisure, highly suspect.

Perhaps it was the discomfitingly familiar face. Maybe even her instincts roaring to life. Or even the simple fact that like drew to like. But the longer she observed him, if in stolen moments, the more she was convinced that the man was a pirate.

*

She has to admit that she’s at least a little charmed when he buys her a drink on one of her nights spent outside the confines of her father’s manor, after her recognises her out of her skirts. The scamp doesn’t even have the grace to look startled after he matches her face to the first and only time they actually met, and even takes her obviously masculine garb in stride with absolutely no disbelief. She had met plenty of men out on the seas who were titillated by women in long trousers, ruffled shirts or even jackets cut for men, but she had rarely encountered anyone who’d accepted the sight of a woman in the clothes of a man so equanimously.

“We must stop meeting under such odd circumstances,” he said in a low tone, the corner of his lips tugging up in a wry smile, once her fingers are curled around the handle of a tankard.

The lack of a title was something Elizabeth was grateful for, but it didn’t stop her from slamming her hand hard on his back in the manner of any of the young men spread out through the bar, yelling and laughing rather raucously with their companions, male or female.

“I should agree, if it weren’t for the fact that these circumstances are hardly odd at all!” she called back, consciously deepening her voice to something closer to that of a young man.

The stranger, if he could even be called as such at this point, looked momentarily exasperated before taking the rough treatment with a sigh.

“What brings you to these waters, stranger?” she finally allows herself to ask, once they have both emptied their tankards at least part of the way through.

He shoots her an unusually sharp look before subsiding with a wry twist of his lips.

“I am… searching, I suppose. For fellow travellers I was separated from while at sea.”

“Oh?” she said, leadingly.

The man tilted his head back, staring up into the murky shadows hanging low over the room. For all the crowd and noise, dingy little pubs such as these always had the most appalling levels of lighting.

“There was a storm,” he replied, “and I think the boat overturned. I can only assume we were close to land, which would be the only reason I was able to save myself, but when the violence of the storm wore out, my companions were nowhere to be found. I’ve been travelling, following any rumours I’ve heard since.”

“And your rumours led you here?” Elizabeth asked, unsure if she was ready to believe such a tale.

On the other hand, there was no real reason for the man to lie. Not when he didn’t even appear to know who she was, either as the daughter of a former Governor of Port Royal or of her identity as the current Pirate King.

“Yes,” the man said simply, and Elizabeth ducked her head slightly, accepting him at his word.

“You may call me Will,” she offered primly, and was successful in winning a laugh from the otherwise taciturn man.

“Trafalgar Law,” he offered in turn, his mouth stretching into the shape of an easy smirk, one that seemed to be quite at home on his face.

*

She continued to run into Law on more than one occasion, freely stopping to converse with him if out on a jaunt to escape from her father’s talk of luncheons and tea parties, of all things, to the point that her father had started to hesitantly question her about the ‘friend’ she had made in town. The tone he chose to use had her perplexed for all of a moment before she realised what he was insinuating.

“Father!” she snapped, not sure if she was chiding him or reacting in disgust.

Mystical bindings on her faithfulness to Will aside, Law was nearly a decade younger than her in age. And his aesthetic similarities to Jack aside, the man made for interesting company, his acerbic wit offering her a diversion from the mundanity of her existence at the Port.

Something of his manner reminded her of the open seas, of the sort of freedom that she had grown inured to in her years away from her childhood home, and she missed that freedom with a desperation that had her clinging to nearly anything that reminded her of it. And Law was nonchalant enough that she barely considered their conversations an encumbrance on her daily life.

Her father, though, remained unswayed by her indignation, his brows lowering further in unease.

“You must know what the people are beginning to say-” he began entreatingly, but she cut him off with a huff.

“This is sheer idiocy, the man is half my age, and I am a happily married woman besides,” she snapped.

“And yet, happily married to a man that no one has seen in years. Married under circumstances and in a church that none here are even privy to-!”

“Father, I am a mother, I have children I love, and I love my husband dearly even if he was unable to journey to Port Royal at my side for this vacation! Why you find it necessary to be swayed by the gossiping of the maids-” she stopped when he reached out to catch her by the hands, and Elizabeth found herself softening at the exhaustion on his careworn face.

“My dear,” he said, “you have been so much happier since you happened upon this stranger, out on the streets, no less. Am I not allowed to worry for you?”

She heard what he left unsaid, and honestly, she should have realised that her father could tell when she was feeling suffocated by the lifestyle she was forced to lead while staying by his side at the Port. He recognised her distress all too well, but he selfishly continued to keep her by his side. Not that Elizabeth was ready to point any fingers – she clung to her father with nearly as much selfishness, else she would have had no reason to subject him, herself or her children to any of this drudgery. She would unhesitantly drag him out to sea at her side if it weren’t for the fact that her passive-aggressive acts of piracy would serve to dismay him.

It was easier to ignore word of her exploits when he wasn’t actually beside her to see them take place, after all.

“A friend, father,” she said softly, and gripped his hands just as tight. “He is a friend. Nothing more, and nothing less.”

“Perhaps,” he said, voice as mild as milk, “you should bring this friend of yours to visit. For tea, some day.”

“Perhaps,” she agreed, and tried not to laugh at the thought of Law being subjected to one of her father’s dratted tea parties, filled with members of the aristocracy in Port Royal, all bedecked, dazzling and trying to cut each other off at the feet.

*

She supposed she shouldn’t have been too surprised, when the later course of events were about as enjoyable as being sent to heaven in a wheelbarrow1. Her acquaintance and slowly strengthening friendship with Law had lasted for barely two months before the Port was attacked by Pirates, seeking to ransack the town.

Of course it was pirates.

She was more than a little incensed, because for all that Port Royal and her inhabitants exasperated her on the best of days, her father’s home came under territory that she had lain claim to for years. Even if the Caribbean technically belonged to Jack. They’d squabbled over the matter for long enough, since Jack was in no position to defend his territory when he didn’t even have an active crew, and Jack had finally relented, allowing her to lay claim to the Port, if nothing else. He’d been terribly amused about it, too, teasing her incessantly about her willingness to lay claim to territory, being a good little Pirate King, and-

She breathed in deeply, and forced herself to forget the laughter on both his and Will’s faces, after that particular conversation. She had other matters to resolve.

More immediately, the matter of the men pounding at the front door of their home.

Throwing off her robes and exchanging them for a more practical great coat that would actually have some chance of defending her, in lieu of time to attire herself in higher quality armour, she bade both Bill and Victoria to hide in her father’s chambers, drawing both cutlass and pistol and belting spares to her person at the same time.

The doors had already been borne down by the time she had seen herself down the stairs. The men who had the cheek to break them down had barely moment to leer at her and the maids stumbling away before she was upon them. The first man went down with a look of puzzled stupefaction on his face, while the rest paused, peering down at the fellow in confusion.

Elizabeth, having rent the man open from shoulder to opposite hip, made good use of the pause to knock the head of another straight off his shoulders. This had the men squawking in a mix of outrage and shock – not that it did them much good. Twisting lithely past the man aiming to throw himself at her, and tripping him up while ducking the hatchet swung wildly at her head, she managed to slam her blade home in the gut of the third man, the furthest to the back and fumbling with the still unlit bombs he was in the process of drawing out of the saddle bag attached to his side.

She aimed her pistol in the face of the hatchet bearer, shooting him between the eyes just as he turned around, simultaneously shoulder-checking the falling deadweight of the man stuck on her cutlass and pushing him off. The pirate she’d tripped had just managed to get himself to his feet before she sent him down again with a vicious slash to the spine.

The exchange couldn’t have crossed more than a minute. The maids, still standing in the entryway of the manor, were gawping at her in unbridled shock. Elizabeth paid their disbelief no heed, ordering them to either leave or return themselves to the upper levels of the manor, where her father and children still hid. Hopefully with the presence of the few manservants still in her father’s employ.

She left them there, instead taking to the streets to see what aid she could offer the men of the garrison in either taking down or chasing away the pirates that had attacked. The entire affair was ridiculous, and if her father had been willing to suffer her crew or any of the men under her command in the vicinity of Port Royal, she suspected this wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

Pirates, encroaching on her territory. Hers. And erstwhile the territory of the goodly Captain Jack Sparrow, which could be enough of a reason to avoid a place, in these times. Jack had managed to amass enough unnerving legends over the years that even Elizabeth was wont to find any place connected to his name not worth involving herself with, and she knew the man well enough to know that not all those legends were quite as supernatural or fantastic as the stories made them seem.

…admittedly, the ones with some measure of truth to them had been situations troublesome enough that she couldn’t begrudge any of the wariness Jack’s name inspired.

“Madam Turner,” said the lieutenant she stumbled across whilst enroute to the docks, only distantly familiar from when she’d first arrived weeks prior, “the Commodore would be much comforted if you kept to Lord Swann’s manor; rushing about in the midst of this attack does none of us any-“

He hurriedly broke off when Elizabeth dragged him further out of the range of the cannon fire still being aimed at every possible target within range of the ship.

Ships, Elizabeth realised after a long moment, fighting the urge to hiss under her breath, not when it would do neither her nor the youth by her side any good. The poor man, named Scott if she wasn’t mistaken, looked uncertain enough that this might very well be the first major attempt made upon the Port since he’d joined the service.

“We must away. To the town. We can no good here,” the lieutenant offered, after a shared moment of grim silence.

With the number of ruffians still flooding the bridge that led to the shoreline, Elizabeth had to give her acquiescence to the thought.  Perhaps another route might prove to be more viable, but here there were simply too many men for her to bring down on her own with none but Scott to watch her back.

They were abruptly interrupted in the oddest manner possible – a lone swordsman appeared out of the dark to take the bridge at a run, his alarmingly long sword cutting down the men in his path as easily as she had seen tribal huntsman and trackers hack through swathes of tall grass or shrubbery.

Elizabeth took the opportunity for what it was, throwing herself forward to add to the effort and ignoring the way Scott yelped behind her.

She didn’t get the opportunity to actually see the man’s face until they reached the other end, meekly followed by Scott who attempted to watch their backs to whatever extent he could and making a surprisingly good effort at doing so. When she did glance to her side, roughly wiping away the blood and sweat dripping into her eyes, she was surprised to see that she actually recognised him.

Law, for his part, looked utterly exasperated. He slashed his longsword with a motion that rid it of the majority of the blood clinging to its surface and pinned her with an inscrutable look.

“Am I to apologise for being able to wield a blade?” she asked him snidely, once she was past her surprise, raising a brow expectantly.

He gave a rude snort, sliding the sword back into its sheath.

“Two whole months in your acquaintance, and you couldn’t have bothered to mention that you’re the one they call the Pirate King?” he said, voice annoyingly bland.

“I don’t see how I was required to mention anything of the sort, surely it is your own fault to have remained uninformed for so long whilst in-port.” She returned, perfectly mildly.

Poor Scott looked fit to keel over where he stood, peering between the two of them anxiously. Law eyed her archly, his knuckles going white as his grip tightened on the sheath and hilt still in his grasp. She stared him down, pistol held easy at one side and her cutlass at the other, still glistening and dripping with blood, all but demanding him to make some manner of complaint.

His lips unexpected tilted up at the corners, stretching into a slow, sharp smile that was at once far more alarming that even the sight of him clearing the bridge nearly all on his own had been. And it had been alarming – Law might very well have ensured his own passage to the docks without any additional support. Elizabeth could have sworn that she’d seen him moving too fast for it to be wholly natural, men seemingly being drawn to his blade to be cut down.

She was well acquainted with oddities on the sea that could not be explained rationally; her husband was one of them, and their closest friend another. Clearly the friend she’d made as a last recourse to holding her boredom at bay was another.

“Later,” Law declared, turning away and making for the flashes of cannon fire that were now far closer than before. “We’re out in the middle of the ocean, having this town ransacked isn’t going to make it any easier for me to leave, now that I know the ones I’m searching for aren’t here.”

“They aren’t?” Elizabeth repeated, bemused, blocking the tall brute that had tried to charge them. Scott bravely aimed a shot over her shoulder that took him down without much effort on her part.

Later.” Law insisted, unsheathing his sword and somehow succeeding in taking down the next five men down in a single swing.

“Return to your commanding officer and tell him that the way is clear.” Elizabeth directed at Scott, the next chance they had to gather their bearings.

Scott, panting for breath, raised his arm to salute her, pausing mid-gesture with a peculiar expression on his face. Holding back the urge to laugh with no little effort on her part, Elizabeth nodded back, and stared him down until he shuffled away, gaining speed the further he got from them.

Law, for all that his face remained as inscrutable as always, seemed silently amused at her side.

She sighed, and turned to make her own way forward. The pirates weren’t going to be routed all on their own, after all.

Taking the first ship was far easier than she had expected it would be. Law’s silent presence at her side had proven to be staggeringly useful; where her notoriety made them wary of her, once they had realised who it was that hunted them, Law was an unknown entity. One that frightened them all the more, seeing as he’d appeared to aid her and had lain waste to men and ship with no visible effort on his part.

“Are you a spirit of some sort?” she questioned him pleasantly, her pistol pointed between the eyes of the captain kneeling before her, wild-eyed.

“Hardly,” Law replied, his sheathed sword resting on his shoulder, looking utterly disinterested in the proceedings.

“Kindly lend yourself to capturing the captain of the other ship without bringing down the main mast, if you please.”

“I do not please, Madam. Feel free to lend yourself to the effort if you wish to scare the men into obeisance and capture their ships in turn.”

“…parley?” the captain requested weakly.

Elizabeth twitched, and Law turned a slow, incredulous look on him.

“It’s in the Code.” The man insisted.

“Speak not to me of the blasted Code,” Elizabeth groaned, but she lowered her pistol regardless. If she could have a shilling for every scoundrel who had requested her for parley in her years of reign…

“You can’t be serious.” Law said, looking for a moment as though he were going to laugh.

“I’m afraid he is. And I’m afraid I am, as well. The terms, captain.” She said tiredly.

“Not yet. Let’s hold him captive until we’ve brought down the other ship as well, Madam Turner.” Law cut in, his brows lowering. It was barely any shift in expression, but he looked far more forbidding even with such a slight change.

“Safe passage from the port for all the men who remain on board, and any close at hand who still survive.” The captain said immediately, paying him no heed.

“I hear no return offers, captain. I make one of my own. Everything in your holds, and you make your safe passage. Only with those on board.”

This had disgruntled murmurs rising from the men still on deck, staying well away from where Elizabeth held their captain captive. More to stay out of the range of Law’s sword than any real fear for their captain, she suspected. They silenced themselves when the slightest shift of Law’s wrist had his sword clinking audibly in its sheath.

“If you’ll excuse me. Room.” Law said abruptly, irate, and he was gone in the next moment. Elizabeth scarcely had the time to be surprised, distantly noting that a hat of some sort dropped to the ground where Law had been standing, before screams erupted from the other ship.

“Done.” The captain said, in the silence that followed once the other ship had been thoroughly routed, quivering where he knelt.

Ah, Elizabeth thought, smiling down at him. This must be how all the more ludicrous stories about Jack and Will began.

There was something to be said, about being in the right place at the right moment.

*

“I don’t see why you felt the need to cosset me quite so much,” she complained later, once they had retired to her father’s manor.

“How exactly is getting rid of invaders as fast as possible anything like cosseting?” Law said, exasperated, nodding in thanks when the maid refilled the glass before him with more wine.

“I could very well have taken the next ship and subdued her captain myself. There was no reason for you to go quite so out of your way to ease my path.” She countered, frowning at him when he tried to deny the claim.

“This was easier,” he said finally, shooting a dark look at girl who’d tittered behind him. She immediately fell silent, going pale.

Elizabeth reached out to rap him across the knuckles, frowning when he shot her an incredulous look. It was followed with a grimace, and a mutter that made little to no sense to her.

“What was that?” she asked with a polite smile, raising a ready hand to deliver another swat if necessary.

He eyed her with a shuttered gaze, then leaned back into his chair with a sigh.

“Madam, you are far too similar to one of the men I’ve been tracking for my comfort.”

“Oh, do tell, Mister Law. I seem to remember you mentioning that you had no reason to remain in Port Royal, now that you know I am the Pirate King.” She said, and the poor maid fainted right away. Elizabeth shot a sharp look at the attendant who had thankfully steadied her as she swooned, and he drew her away immediately.

Law was directing an amused look her way. When she turned to look back at him expectantly, he rolled his eyes, crossing his arms and tilting his face up to stare at the ceiling.

“One of my missing companions is rather well known for his, shall we say, fondness for the title of Pirate King. Upon being separated from them, the first I heard mention of it I made sure to follow the rumours, hoping to find them on the other side.”

Elizabeth stared at him, honestly bewildered.

“I can’t say I have any real attachment to the title, Law, but it is mine. And is guarded jealously by all who sail under my flag. There hasn’t been another Pirate King in at least a whole generation.” She said, her bewilderment only increasing when he gave a short laugh.

“I can’t say I’m surprised, though I will make sure to invest in a set of earplugs before I have the ill luck of being caught on the sidelines when Mugiwara-ya shows up to challenge you for the title,” he said dryly.

“’Mugiwara-ya’?” she repeated uncertainly, her voice awkward over the pronunciation. It certainly sounded East Asian, though not a language she was intimately familiar with. Perhaps, a name?

“You would say Straw Hat.” Law answered easily.

 “…is that a title of some sort?”

Of sorts, I should say. The marines in our world are fond of christening pirates with strange names, and we mind them just as jealously as your crew guards your title.”

It took her a full thirty seconds before she could find any real answer to that, staring, flabbergasted. Her father, certainly, looked thoroughly disbelieving of the claim. Elizabeth wasn’t as quick to put it aside as a fanciful quibble, her acquaintance with Jack, to say nothing of some of the strange things she had encountered whilst sailing the South China Sea, had taught her that the strangest things could be possible sometimes, but Law’s brazenness did give her pause.

He shrugged, clearly reading her silence for reproach rather than disbelief.

Mugiwara-ya has the bad habit of appearing at the most inopportune moments, and from my time spent with him, I know that he will make no attempt to keep our origins hidden. It’s easier to warn you in advance before he barrels through your port.”

She eyed him suspiciously, as something about his tone seemed… disappointed.

“…I had hoped that he would be present at the attack last night.” he admitted, smirking when Elizabeth’s brows rose in incredulity.

“Surely not. In the midst of a pirate attack?”

“We are pirates. I don’t see how it being a pirate attack should make his appearing unexpectedly any stranger than it would be otherwise.”

Elizabeth continued to stare at him, and reached out to pat her father’s hand when he made a low, wounded sound, bending wearily over the paltry repast the scullery maid had attempted to put together for them, as the head cook was nowhere to be found, having fled the manor in the earlier attack.

“I suppose you hadn’t any luck in locating him, earlier?”

“None whatsoever. I nearly feel the need to complain, the next time I see him. I had grown used to him appearing when uncalled for.” He said, smiling faintly.

Elizabeth had never seen a smile filled with such menace before, except possibly on dear Will’s face, when he was tried to the last dregs of his patience. The incongruity of seeing the expression on the face of a man that had reminded her so much of Jack when she was first acquainted with him startled a laugh out of her.

“Perhaps he did not appear because you went in search of him.” She offered, teasingly, and was rewarded with an owlish blink, before his face twisted with such a look of self-flagellating disgust that she was set to laughing once more, heaving with the force of it.

“Would he truly find his way to the port, questing after my title?” Elizabeth asked, later, well after her father retired to bed, finally tired after her continued avoidance of his appeals to leave Law to one of their guestrooms while he was yet awake.

“I don’t see why not. He is oddly attached to it, after all. He has claimed that he would be the next Pirate King for longer than we were ever even acquainted with one another. Even the presence of his first mate isn’t likely to quell his urge to challenge another for the title, and that is if Roronoa and he remained together after we were separated. To say nothing of our other travelling companions.” Law said, brooding over the wine in his glass.

“Other worlds. How strange,” she said, pausing until he could down the last of the glass and pour himself another. “I cannot claim this is the first I’ve heard tell of them. But I certainly had not expected to ever be acquainted with travellers from another world at any point.

“It does not much surprise me, however, that I am proven wrong.” She continued, laughing ruefully when he shot a curious glance her way.

“Ah, the tales of my misspent youth. I have a friend who sounds rather much like this Mugiwara-ya of yours, Law. He appears and disappears at will, and drives everyone to drink besides. I suspect that he is your best chance of hearing anything else if you seek information of other worlds and otherworldly phenomena. My husband,” she added, “Is another worthwhile source of information, but Jack is certainly easier to meet than Will.”

“And so I find the source of that ridiculous alias you supplied me with,” Law said lightly, making her roll her eyes.

“If you were at all familiar with Port Royal, the name would have supplied you with my true identity well before I introduced myself to you. There aren’t many women in this town who would dress in breeches and take on the name of William Turner.” Elizabeth offered him a cheery little grin to counter the pained look he shot her way.

*

“Perhaps I should see if I can track down this friend of yours,” he murmured the next morning, whilst they broke their fast.

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth agreed, in the process of fixing a cup of tea for herself, “But it would do you better to remain here in Port Royal. Jack is likely to appear here sooner than later, he knew of my plans to holiday in my father’s home with the children.”

“I would that he appeared later than sooner. Sparrow is naught but a nuisance, and his every visit coincides with some manner of mischief that lays the town to waste, the Devil take him.” Her father muttered at their side, making Law stare at him, visibly amused at how vehement he sounded.

Elizabeth sighed, and reached out to pat him comfortably on the shoulder.

“He means well, father. Jack can’t help being himself, after all.”

“But you complain about Uncle Jack all the time, mother,” Bill piped up, completely unconscious of the consternation his words drew from her, or the snorts of amusement they invited from both her father and Law.

“You were yelling bad words at him when he stopped by the ship last summer,” Victoria added innocently, “Father said they were very bad and that we should not repeat them.”

“Oh Good God, hoisted upon my own petard, and by my children no less,” she grumbled, covering her eyes, and was met by laughter from her father, her children quick to add their own, needing no excuse to join in the merriment.

Law remained unsmiling, but Elizabeth noted that he watched them all with an oddly removed hint of nostalgia to his silence. It made her wonder, what reason a man such as him had to turn to piracy. He had been nigh undefeatable the previous night, his skill with his sword and the unnatural reach it gave him, combined with his strange abilities ensuring that very few men had been able to get anywhere near his person without him actively planning for them to do so – certainly such a man had other options available to him than piracy?

Her own introduction to the career had, obviously, occurred because of her attachment to Will. And Jack, she admitted, in the privacy of her own head. Neither she nor Will would have condescended to consider piracy at all a viable lifestyle for themselves if it weren’t for that blasted man. Jack was like a leech or some other odious parasite, he attached himself as he pleased to whatever caught his fancy and was highly unpleasant to either endure or remove.

Perhaps Law had similarly inexplicable reasons to turn to piracy. The life suited him, clearly - for all his polity and manners and even her congenial acquaintance with him, she could not deny that he still carried the air of a scoundrel about himself. Yet for all his highhanded ruthlessness with his sword and the wry, dark humour he affected, she could sense an odd softness to him. Again a familiar trait, and one she had, over time, realised ran true in both Will and Jack, the dear fools.

She wondered, if he recognised any familiar traits in her demeanour. If that was why he chose to linger in Port Royal, rather than making post-haste, as she had determined he was usually wont to do, in this quest of his for his lost companions.

It was, she supposed, watching as he answered a question her father posed him about his career, if he had any aside from piracy (Medicine? Of all careers to pursue, medicine? With piracy on the side?), as good a reason as any to remain in a town as alien as any other would be, to him.

*

Elizabeth wasn’t particularly surprised when he chose to take his leave in spite of her avowals that Jack would definitely appear in Port Royal at some point within the next few weeks. She stood by the door to his room at the inn, watching as he put together what meagre items he travelled with, and admitted to herself that even if she wasn’t particularly surprised, she was disappointed.

“You are good company,” she explained when he shot a quietly curious look. The admission put a look that seemed very much like astonishment on his face before he tucked it away, his expression flattening like wrinkles smoothed out of fine silk.

“You would be the first to say so, Madam.” he responded, blunt. It made her shoulders shake with good humour, even if she thumped him on the back for forgetting to make use of her alias whilst abroad and with her in breeches.

“Surely your Mugiwara-ya considers you worthy company. You certainly sound vexed enough with his to warrant that distinction.” She said, chuckling when his face twisted in that grimace of disgust she had seen before.

They walked towards the shoreline together, comfortably silent in the midst of the hubbub of the market and streets, and only paused by the quay so Elizabeth could bid him farewell.

“Keep this Sparrow landlocked should he come visiting before I have opportunity of approaching him myself, if you please. I will return within a month’s time, at the latest.”

“Certainly, though I wonder what manner of searching you can possibly get done if you mean to find Jack in that timespan.”

Law only shot her a stubborn look at these words, and she had to sigh, feeling at once irate and fond. How the man managed to remind her of both Will and Jack’s best and worst qualities, she could not say. That he was so much younger than her only increased her tendency towards irrational fondness. Motherhood had ruined her, she swore, though Jack had once insisted that it made her all the more vicious and coldblooded than before.

(Will had quickly taken leave of them both, muffling his laughter in spite of looking terribly pale as he went. With good reason, she supposed. Jack had sorely regretted saying anything of the sort, though he’d insisted in a sullen mutter that she was only confirming his words by her actions.)

“Take care,” she insisted, and clapped him on the shoulder when he sighed, clearly exasperated. And looking oddly embarrassed, all the same.

As she watched him leave, vanishing amidst the crown that had already filled the docks, she wondered about the strange companion he had mentioned, and if she would see his companion before either Jack or Law returned to Port Royal. It would be justifiably ironic, she supposed, if they managed to miss each other.

It might have made things easier if Law had left her with a name. But, then again, she did have the name of the first mate. Inquiries were to be made; even if the boy hailed from another world, she would be most displeased if he thought she could make a play for her title for no other reason than whimsy.

She might not be particularly attached to it, but she was Pirate King, by right. And woe to anyone who challenged her right over the territory she presided over, she would set them straight and make them regret to have misjudged her mild manner for weakness.

Though she was willing to make a concession to this worldhopping upstart. The amount of vexation that plagued Law whenever the boy was brought up had made her terribly curious to meet anyone who could made such a taciturn man look so irate.