|Game 1: Risk
Author: Guede Mazaka
I don't actually know much about computers, so sorry for any inaccuracies.
Two hours, and she was still banging away. Jack had to admit, he was impressed at her persistence. But he could really have done without the floor planks shaking and shivering beneath her stomping. Was playing hell with his nice, neat grocery list.
"Salaud! Jack, if you don't open this door right now--"
Bracing himself against the sink, Jack hastily stuffed pencil and paper into a pocket, and then kicked the door handle down. The door instantly flew inwards with a startled cry, and he leaped over the crumpled body, then nimbly dodged the hurled bottles of complimentary hand lotion and shampoo/conditioner, making for the balcony as quick as he could. As the frosted-glass door slid shut with a definitive click, he could hear Anamaria screaming one last oath, "Next time, I'll book you into a prison-gated rehab center, you goddamn-"
There was a reverberating slam as the bathroom door closed behind the brown-skinned fury. Puzzled, Jack turned to the other cowering occupant of the balcony and asked mournfully, "I don' think I deserved that. Did I?"
"Eh, well," Gibbs demurred. "Y'know the girl can't be bothered this time of the month."
"She's got her very own bathroom," Jack protested, braids clinking in agreement. "Why's she keep on in m'room?"
Raising an eyebrow, Gibbs pointed out, "Jack, the police still have it cordoned off, 'member? 's why we're all sleepin' here."
"Oh." Smiling deprecatingly, Jack pulled out his sheet of paper again and commenced to finishing his list. "Slipped m'mind, it did. So, headquarters call yet?"
"Uh, yeah. Said 'twas messy, but the cover story's holding, an' we did go above an' beyond, so just to head on to the next step." Squinting in the bright sun, his grizzled companion hesitantly tapped Jack on the shoulder. "Sparrow-"
"Captain." Jack flashed gold teeth in a wolfish warning grin.
"Captain, what are we doin' next?"
"Well." Tapping his pencil on his teeth, the slender, deeply-tanned man looked thoughtful as a schoolboy. "Don't rightly know, yet. Thought I'd do some shoppin,' then consider it. We're a bit short."
Curious, Gibbs came across and peered at the list. "Guns, ammunition, tech…geek? Jack-"
"Anamaria's good at th'stealin', but not so with th'installation," Jack quipped, making another note. "Plus," he added triumphantly, "Should get th'damn accountants off our backs. No more budget difficulties. Savvy?"
"Liz, I'm not quite following here," Will sighed. Bent over, shoulders pulling painfully against the strain, he delicately twitched the wire into place, and then soldered it to the motherboard with a hair-thin flame. One hand rummaged among the various chips and capacitors scattered about him, and came up with the next connection. "We've a decent racket here, with the tourists and the college students. Why would we want to mess with spies?"
"They aren't spies, Will," Elizabeth argued, giving the semiautomatic in her hands one last rub. She checked the trigger action and the bullet cartridge, then slipped it into the holster dangling from the back of her partner's chair and picked up the next pistol. "They're a strike team. And they say they know something about what happened to your father."
Shoving abruptly back from the table, Will glared up. "I opened the door to get the paper and found him hanging from the roof. From a noose of bootstraps. I think it's pretty clear what happened to him," he growled, running one furious hand through his loose hair.
"Will," Elizabeth tried tentatively. She reached out a hand to those pained eyes and set jaw, and after a moment, he took up the pale fingers, kissing their tips. "Sorry," he muttered. "It's just…I always thought Da was a merchant shipper. Till he died. And then the British wouldn't even admit he was one of theirs, and everyone thought he was some gangster that'd crossed the wrong man…Mom dragged us back to Florida, and the rumors still killed her."
"Look, we don't have to-" she began, but Will cut her off, grabbing her waist and pulling Elizabeth into his lap. "A contract is a contract," he whispered, nibbling her ear. "I'll hold up my end of the deal. But I'm still upset."
"I think I could do something about that," Elizabeth murmured back, sliding a hand deliberately down his front. She dropped the half-cleaned gun back on the table.
"Thought you had experiments to see to," Will said absently, more interested in the destination of her hand.
"I am seeing to one. I want to know what your mouth tastes like right now," she drawled, leaning in.
As Miami went, it was the usual set-piece: distant palms swaying against a brilliant flaring sunset, puddles of sewage sprinkled with broken needles at the boot-tips. Normally, Jack wouldn't even have noticed, but Anamaria was apparently still angry from earlier, and every so often she would try to tip him over the dockside. Not that she ever succeeded, but by the time they reached the meeting place, Jack's pants had been liberally splashed with foul…liquid that he didn't care to think on.
"My boat, my bike, and now my bathroom," the bloody-minded wench muttered sourly. "Putain, you're lucky I hate all the other team leaders in this sector, or the loa would be dicin' with your balls by now."
"I knew you liked me," Jack smirked. Before she could retaliate, he quickly clapped Gibbs' hand over her mouth and dragged all three back into an alley.
"Fuck!" Gibbs hissed, yanking away his hand as soon as Jack let it go. "Ana, he's the one did the gaggin'-" jerking a thumb at Jack "-so why'd you bite me?"
"No man touches me and gets away with it. Or calls me 'Ana,'" she retorted, readjusting the bag slung across her back. "I'm goin' up now, and Sparrow, stay out of my sights, y'hear?"
Without waiting for a yea or nay, she was up the wall and onto the rooftop. The two men below could hear a series of clicks as she assembled her rifle. "Right, then," Jack shrugged. He touched his headset briefly, checking to see that the rest of his men were all in place, and then he thumped Gibbs on the shoulder. "Time t'sally out, man. An' don' forget, any shootin' before m'say an' I'll have all of you walkin' kindergartens for beats."
"Yessir," his friend grinned back, withdrawing into the shadows. Alone, Jack paced out into the small open space, a patch of wood boards framed by ramshackle drydocking sheds at one end and a small pier at the other, with several banged-up speedboats looped to its poles. He perched himself on a crate facing the only clear path in amidst all the debris, flipping out his rum bottle with the one hand while his other shook out a cigarette and lit it.
Four butts littered the ground before Jack heard anything. First, many more cars than the one expected. Then the familiar sound of someone getting pistolwhipped. And then the unmistakable racket of an angry woman. Lazily shifting off the box, he rolled himself behind some stacks of broken motors just in time to avoid being tripped over by the arguing group of newcomers.
Elizabeth Swann handled her forks and spoons like a princess, spoke like an Oxford College professor, and drove like a shipwreck. Which was the reason why Will had more or less banned her from the wheel, but on this particular night, she'd managed to nick his car keys during their make-up session and she refused to give them back. "Liz! Damn it, we're already late."
"That's why I should drive," she returned saucily, tossing goods and man into the car, then slamming the door just after Will had yanked in his legs. Sliding across the hood, she was in the driver's seat before he could finish raising his head. "You, Mr. Turner, cruise slower than a three-legged tortoise."
"Eliza-" the screeching of overheated rubber on pavement cut Will off, and the pair shot off into the tropical night. Ten blood-thumping minutes later, they pulled up to the door of Will's middleman, a perpetually drunken sot by the name of Mr. Brown who constantly shortchanged the pair when given half a chance. But he also told them, truthfully, to whom their work was going, which was a trait beyond rare in the Miami underworld.
It wasn't till Will and Elizabeth had already made it to the kitchen, still bickering about Elizabeth's driving, when they noticed something was amiss. The empty bottles that normally littered the floor weren't rolling and crunching underfoot. Quietly slipping her gun from her back holster, Elizabeth warily peered around the corner, only to find an empty room, stove bubbling with some burnt-smelling soup. "Huh. Guess he's probably passed out again-" she began to say, turning back to Will.
"I wouldn't, poppet," a gravelly voice interrupted, and a huge shotgun shoved Elizabeth's head back forward, though not before she caught a glimpse a tall, scarred man heading a group of lurking thugs. One of whom had Mr. Brown slung over a broad shoulder, and the other of whom had a machinegun held to Will's temple. "Pleased t'meet ye, miss," their leader continued. "Y'look like a right bright one."
"We don't have any money," she replied tersely, slowly raising her hands. The man behind her snatched away the gun, then roughly and lewdly patted her down, removing several knives and another pistol. "'s all right, m'dear," he drawled. "We're not here for that. We've come abouts for a reckoning."
"Barbossa," Will suddenly blurted. The leader laughed. "So ye recognize me, then! Good, good. Leaves less explanations. Well, m'darlings, your dealer here promised me a few trinkets that he hasn't quite managed t'provide, an' he ain't got the money for returning. But he do have another customer t'see t'night, who I'd happen to know would be happy t'donate t'our merry cause."
"It doesn't seem to sound as if our presences are required then," Elizabeth said with false cheer. Barbossa was the preeminent smuggler in the Caribbean, first in speed and first in kills to his name; furthermore, he was rumored to have extremely powerful backers in several South American governments.
"Oh, but they are, poppet," Barbossa murmured softly. "They are. Y'see, you were a bit late and so's we had to occupy ourselves lookin' about at some of your samples. An' that's quite the interestin' logo y'have, that Aztec coin. Will ye be tellin' which of ye came up with it?"
"This drunk in the gutter," Will quickly put in. "He told us some queer story about cursed gold and we thought we'd use it."
A loud smack resounded in the small house, and Elizabeth clenched her nails into her palms till the pain fought down her anger. "Don't lie, boy, not when I know your blood," Barbossa growled. "But enough of this. We've all got an appointment t'keep."
They were handcuffed, dragged out and shoved into separate cars, while Mr. Brown was unceremoniously tossed into a trunk. Will had his head shoved into the flooring by one skinny and particularly talkative pirate, who booted him every time he tried to raise his head. But the growing smell of salt and refuse was more than enough to tell him their final destination. The first thing Barbossa did once everyone had gotten out at the docks was slam a bootheel into Mr. Brown's face, which resulted in a wet squishing crack that made Will and Elizabeth both wince, and a long stream of mashed babbling that ended up being the details of Brown's rendez-vous with a 'Captain Moineau.'
Smiling contently, Barbossa silenced the prone man with a swift kick to the throat. Brown gurgled once, horribly, and then his head fell back to trickle black clots onto the ground.
Jerking forward in his captors' arms, Will hissed, "You bastard! He was harmless, you fuck-"
The smuggler casually turned and hit Will across the face with a gun-butt, sending the slighter man reeling back with jarred vision. "Seems I 'member the same from your Da," Barbossa remarked, offhandedly biting. "Y'know, the resemblance is truly uncanny. Makes me itch t'see if you'll hang the same."
"Like hell!" Elizabeth snarled, suddenly flinging herself backward. Caught off-guard, the men holding her stumbled, and she stomped on their unsure feet, breaking a heel. They all toppled down in a mess of curses, while Will took advantage of the distraction to wrestle away from the men gripping his arms. Hands still cuffed behind his back, reeling wildly in an attempt to regain his balance, he staggered blindly, trying to make it over to Elizabeth. Someone's fingers scraped against his shoulder, and he whipped away to see Barbossa's snarl behind a huge semiautomatic. "Whelp, y'damned well-better-" the smuggler began to yell.
Then a shot cracked out from overhead, sending everyone except Will and Elizabeth diving for cover. More gunshots rained about as smugglers fell and blood pooled. Gagging by now, Will suddenly found himself teetering on the edge of the dock. Wood splintered from a pole a mere inch from his ear, and he startled backward. "Oh fuck!"
"Whoa! Watch it, boy!" someone slurred, and in mid-tumble, a hand seized Will's ankle, jerking him back just enough to send him into a speedboat instead of the water. His head was smacked painfully for the nth time that night, and already dizzy, Will could make out nothing about his rescuer but a smear of clattering dark hair and blinding white teeth. Another body fell into the boat, and Will shrieked, struggling wildly until he realized the other person was one: alive, and two: shooting away from them.
"Sparrow!" Barbossa's gravely voice shouted, and then his terrifyingly furious head appeared over the side of the dock. Not exactly thinking anymore, Will kicked out by reflex, throwing the speedboat into jarring gear. It leaped away from the dock just as Barbossa sprayed the water with bullets, leaving the smuggler to curse viciously and call his men back into a retreat.
At first, Elizabeth felt nothing but a primal elation at seeing the smugglers run off in such disarray. But then the smell of blood and the sounds of moans faded into harsh noise, and then-"Will!" Looking about wildly, she spotted one body around the right size and raced over, but her hands-"Goddammit."
Hastily sitting down, uncaring of the splashes on the ground, Elizabeth quickly worked her wrists down over her ass and legs till she could slip them under her feet and in front of her. "Thank fucking God for ballet," she muttered, crawling back over to the body. It wasn't Will, but one of the men that'd held her back. Lips peeling away from her teeth, she thumped, hard, on the leaking bullethole in his shoulder, provoking the man into a scream. "Where's Will?" she demanded, shaking him. "What did you want with him? Goddamn you, tell me! Tell me! Tell-"
She was abruptly yanked away to the music of a low, rich female voice, "Goddamn, fille, calm down. You're killin' 'im, and then we're never find out."
"Who the hell are you?" Elizabeth snapped, turning. And then she stopped. Grinning broadly, brown eyes twinkling, the mocha-skinned woman toting the sniper rifle extended a hand. "Name's Anamaria. Your friend fell in one o'those-" she gestured at the speedboats lining the piers "-wi' our captain. He's fine."
"Really," Elizabeth said, caustic disbelief in voice and action as she reluctantly took the offered hand. Anamaria pulled her up, then turned and rattled out, incomprehensibly-fast, a series of orders at the other men and women slipping out of the refuse piles. "You…you're the strike team Mr. Brown was talking about," Elizabeth realized.
A dull plink drew her attention to the ground at her feet, where a pair of handcuffs now resided. "Yeah," the other woman answered. "C'mon, petit chou. We got coffee for your insides, and a grudge 'gainst Barbossa to discuss. An' don' worry 'bout your Will. Jack'll bring 'im back."
"I am not a vegetable," Elizabeth replied stiffly, marching off after the others. Anamaria and Gibbs followed, hanging back slightly. Gibbs tapped his colleague on the arm and whispered warily, "How's we know Jack'll give 'im back?"
"That wouldn't be our problem, ducon," she muttered back. "Just worry about finally gettin' a lead on Barbossa."
They'd probably gone a mile or so before the other man managed to crawl over Will to the wheel and turn the boat back to shore. "Not bad, Turner, not bad," he murmured.
"Why does everyone know who I am?" Will grumbled, levering himself awkwardly up. His much-abused head finally got to his stomach, and lurching, he leaned over the side of the boat and threw up. Which nearly put him into the water, again.
"Holy Mother, boy, if you'd be that eager t'swim, y'could at least wait till I've got y'cuffs off," the other man scolded, his strong arm dragging Will back to safety.
"So get them off already," Will retorted tiredly. He felt fingers fumbling at his back, and then the pressure lifted from his wrists. Sinking down onto the floor of the boat, he absently took the proffered rag and wiped his mouth clean, then rubbed alternately at sore wrists and sore head.
"Well, y'feelin' better?" Scowling, Will looked up to take in his rescuer fully for the first time. And he stared.
Blinking, Jack looked back quizzically. "What? Is it th'teeth? Knew I shouldn't have had the spinach. 's a pain t'get out o'the teeth. Or maybe 'tis the bones? Did I lose some? Th'damn tailbones are always slippin' off, little bloody pebbles that they are. An' Anamaria always asks if I've lost my marbles when I'm lookin' for 'em. Right nasty one, she can be. Don' really understand why…I give her all th'vacation days her little Creole heart wants for huntin' season-"
"Jack Sparrow…" Will trailed off slowly. Slapping a hand to his forehead, Jack heaved a world-weary sigh. "Captain," he corrected patiently. "'s Captain. Just 'cause I let m'self get recruited for th'CIA don' mean I f'got my origins. Still own a half-share in Singapore ships, an' the Pearl's mine beyond doubt, even if that half-cocked Barbossa-"
"You showed up in the reports on my father's death," Will gritted, rising with deliberate menace towards Jack, who hurriedly put up two palms. "Listen, Turner, I knew your father as a friend. One of the best friends I've ever had, and certainly the only one who I ever wept over."
"And so you were going to use your memories of him as a bargaining chip," the younger man snarled. "To get whatever the hell you need from me, now. Which makes me what between you and Barbossa…leverage? Another mark on your wall?"
"Hey!" Jack protested, grabbing both Will's wrists and pulling both men down before the boat tipped. "Barbossa's a smuggler! Of drugs. Bad drugs. I'm tryin' t'put him out o' business, here."
"Using whatever means come to hand." Will grinned nastily. "Including whatever knowledge your old friend would've happened to leave with his son."
Sucking in a breath, the older man searched his companion's face carefully. "If you know what that is, you're liable to get killed," he told the other man, voice and visage completely serious.
"I…" Will couldn't look into those kohl-smudged burning coals. Dropping his head, he gazed blindly at the sea. "Why didn't you come to the funeral?" he asked softly. "No one did, except for my mother and me and the priest."
"Bootstrap never told us where his family was," Jack replied gently. "And he worked for MI6, mainly. Just collaborated with us, so when he dropped out of sight, the British government refused to say anything except that he'd been relocated."
"Relocated," Will snorted. "Christ. Bloody Christ on his bloody cross." He kept his head down for several minutes in silence, and when he finally looked up at Jack again, his eyes were dull and worn with resignation, cracked leather in a face made suddenly far older than it should have been. "Elizabeth," Will said. "Is she…"
"She's fine," Jack earnestly reassured him. "Saw Anamaria takin' her in. She'll be waitin' for you, when we get back."
"When can we do that?" Shrugging, Jack mentally carried the two to get the fifteen that he multiplied by the six and then added to thirty-nine since nothing could ever be divided by zero. "Three, four days, mebbe," he said at last. "Anamaria and Gibbs've got t'move everyone 'cause of Barbossa, and then they'll be setting up th'secure lines…"
"Okay," Will agreed aimlessly, though he seemed somewhat more cheerful after knowing that his girl was safe. Puzzled, Jack went on cautiously, "We'll be finding a bed till then, most likely. 'm believing the Tortuga's near here, an' the owner'd be owing me a few."
"Tortuga…as in the café," the younger man inquired, not sounding as if he really cared. "All right. But I need a laptop."
The sun dawned on Jack's rum-soaked head. "You're the one what's been makin' the gadgets and comp programs an' such?" he demanded, astonished. "Brilliant! An' what's your, ah-"
"Liz. She's a chemist," Will returned, watching Jack with some bemusement.
"Liz. Lovely name. Lovely profession, chemistry. You'll fit right in!" And with that happy comment, Jack turned his attention back to the wheel.
"Fit in?" Will wondered to himself.
"So why should I tell you anything?" Elizabeth demanded. Not that anyone was listening. They were all too busy ferrying mysterious boxes and duffel bags back-and-forth between the cars and the nondescript gated hacienda at which they'd arrived. And then another two cars drove up, prompting Anamaria to reach a new level of double-tongued invective as she directed traffic. Huffing, Elizabeth sat herself down on the porch steps, where she immediately received an accidental kick to the back. "Sorry, sorry," apologized a…the box ascended another step and Elizabeth finally saw the midget holding the other end. The midget with the large parrot and the Magnum strapped to his side.
She dropped her head into her hands, ruefully massaging her aching temples. "I've been kidnapped by CIA cultists," she muttered to herself. Behind her, a safety clicked off.
"Name and rank," snapped a cultured British voice. Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth reverted to her original accent, even more posh than the newcomer's. "Elizabeth Swann, illegitimate daughter of the Viscount Weatherby Swan, chemist at large," she replied haughtily.
"Norrington, get that damned gun out o' the girl's face 'fore I call Ghede on you," Anamaria growled, striding up. The identified man, which Elizabeth discovered upon turning her head, was somewhere in his early thirties, and possessed green eyes, long dark brown hair tied into a neat ponytail, and a ridiculously nice suit. "So she's yours?" he asked, making the gun disappear…somewhere. Okay, Elizabeth admitted, that was cool.
"Mine, hell," Anamaria tossed over a shoulder, in between spewing curses at an unfortunate who'd been stupid enough to drop a bag. "She's a friend of Bill Turner's son."
Norrington froze, eyes growing more piercing. "William 'Bootstrap' Turner?" he said warily.
"I," Elizabeth announced grandly, still using her aristo accent, "am bruised, hungry, and pissed off. Feed me. Now."
Above her, Norrington automatically slipped off his jacket and dropped it onto her shoulders, then threw a questioning look at Anamaria, who rolled one shoulder. Looking like he wanted to snort, he turned elegantly on one heel and stalked back inside. "Listen, fille," the older woman said, "We just had to shift our entire operations 'cause o' Barbossa. Give us a bit to set up, an' then we'll talk. Go inside and grab someone t'play doctor. Gibb'll be in with the Thai soon enough."
Elizabeth opened her mouth, but was summarily cut off by Anamaria's frightening glare. "March!" the other woman commanded, and Elizabeth did, scrambling away. As she entered the house, she could hear distantly, "Dans le nom du ciel, damned if I know why I'd bother-diable! Merde, don'-go left. Left!"
In all actuality, Elizabeth wasn't feeling too badly, aside from her worries about Will, but there was nothing she could do about that at the moment, and long experience had taught her that protesting the immutable only wasted energy. Better to wait for an opportune moment.
She did as Anamaria had suggested and steamrollered some poor agent into giving her bandages, antiseptic and salve, then locked herself in a bathroom to wash up a little. Once done there, she made her way to the kitchen, which, she found to her dismay, contained nothing but some water bottles, freshly-brewed coffee-colored sludge, and a moody Brit. Norrington stood up when she entered, handed her a mug of coffee, and immediately afterwards sat back down. All the while saying nothing.
Irked, Elizabeth pulled out the chair next to him and sprawled out deliberately in it, wordlessly taunting his iron-correct posture. "You're not CIA," she observed as an opening shot.
"No," he agreed.
"You're probably MI6," she continued.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss such matters," he replied dismissively.
"You went to Oxford," she noted.
"So did you," he remarked, a touch of asperity creeping past the bland politeness in his tone.
"You came to my father's house once," she mentioned casually. That not only got his attention, it provoked a full-body twist. It was a nice body, Elizabeth noticed absentmindedly. And a nice voice, even when he was demanding, "What on earth-"
"I remember now," she interrupted. "It was Christmas, and you'd just gotten some promotion. So my half-brother brought you home and showed you off to the family. And for entertainment, you played something on the piano. I heard the music and sneaked downstairs, and then my stepmother caught me and dragged me back up, where she slapped me around a bit and locked me in my bedroom.
Norrington just stared, pity and horror warring in his eyes. "Handel's Messiah," he finally said. And then, almost apologetically, he added, "I never enjoyed your brother's company, but it would have been rude to refuse the invitation. And I was sorry to hear when your father-"
"-died and got his fortune snatched up by Stepmum the bitch?" Elizabeth finished, poisonously sweet. Then the sarcasm dropped from her face, and she sighed. "Fuck. I'm sorry, I know what my brother was like, and it wasn't your fault you got roped in. It's just been a very, very bad night for me, and…well, seeing you makes me remember all the shit I left behind in England."
"Takeout's here," caroled a voice from the door, and the two jerked apart as Anamaria, looking content for once, shouldered in with several burgeoning bags of deliciously-scented, steaming food.
Jack looked at the door. He arched his eyebrow at it. He glared. He put on his best pleading face. And then it crashed open. The straggle-haired head of Will Turner popped out, followed by a towel-wrapped body. "What are you doing?" the younger man asked curiously.
"Nature's needs must," Jack quipped, scooting into the bathroom and shutting the door. The rational part of his mind twitching feebly, Will sat down on the bed and flipped open the laptop Jack had gotten him, and got to work. Just after they'd gotten their hotel room, Jack had made a quick call somewhere and found that, as suspected, Will and Elizabeth's apartment had been completely trashed. He'd promised Will that someone would be over to salvage whatever was left. If Will hadn't been so unexpectedly fatigued, he would've told Jack not to bother; it'd happened quite a few times in the past, when Will and Elizabeth had been chipping out their niche in Miami. As a result, they never kept more than what they immediately needed on hand. And Will had learned to stash bits of information in the vastness of the Internet, his own private treasure islands.
His father had showed him the beginnings of how, on the rare occasions Da'd been home, and then when he'd been killed, Will had turned to computers and engineering for solace. And then investigation, as he'd learned to slip through firewalls and pick system lockdowns. Piece by piece, Will had sifted through the gifts his father had mailed him: the toy ships, the curious trinkets. All that remained of Bill Turner. Had found the fragments of code and strung them together, and then followed them to the online caches, tucked here between bank numbers, modeling software.
And then he'd found the reports on the events leading up to his father's death. Scared beyond belief by the surging anger that had whipped his blood into a tempest when he'd read them, he'd burnt all his father's presents in one afternoon. And, salty crusts of tears still gluing his eyes half-shut, had sat down to delete everything he'd found. Discovered he couldn't, and had spent the night feverishly hiding it away on computers around the world.
His mother had died soon after, and he'd had to make his own way. The struggle had left little time to reflect on the past. But now the past was here again, was out torturing and poisoning under the moon, was in the bathroom singing under the showerhead.
The bitter tang of vengeance seeping over his tongue, Will began typing.
"Now that we've introduced everyone," Anamaria drawled, "Time for you t'spill, fille. 'fess up." She jabbed a determined pair of chopsticks at Elizabeth, who met it with an insolent gesture.
"Why?" the other woman asked again.
Throwing up her hands, Anamaria stalked off around the table. "Putain de merde, if she don' see now…Norrington, do somethin'. Further the international inter-agency cooperation, or…feh," she spat out disgustedly.
"Elizabeth, do you know who Barbossa is?" the Brit began.
"Yeah," the younger woman snapped, voice completely American now. "Smuggler and strong-arm man for the Colombian drug cartels. Asshole. Probably pawing through my silky drawers as we speak."
Norrington flushed at the last one, but went on bravely, "He's a bit more than that. He more or less is the cartels in the Caribbean, and he's now expanding into the trans-Atlantic shipping lines. About nine years ago, the U. S. and the British governments attempted to infiltrate his organization."
"Will's father," Elizabeth murmured. Norrington hesitated, but Anamaria nodded vigorously. Lips tightly disapproving, he resumed his argument. "It failed, and it succeeded. The operative, William Turner, was found out and assassinated, but not before he had managed to steal something crucial from Barbossa. Something that set back Barbossa's timetable considerably. But he's ready to try for the Atlantic again, and we have to stop him now, before he's fully launched, or we'll never be able to eradicate him."
"Just tell me how much danger Will is in," Elizabeth demanded, brushing aside Norrington's passionate words.
For the first time, Gibbs spoke up. "Miss Swan. Bootstrap disappeared from Barbados on a Monday. When Will found his Da hangin' from the porch roof, in London, Barbossa'd had 'im for nigh a month. 'Twas a closed-coffin funeral, we heard."
"Will…never told me that," she answered weakly, clutching her hands in her hair. Then her head whipped back up, eyes hanging fire in their depths. "Well, what good are you to me? You've been fighting Barbossa for so long, with nothing! You had a shot at him tonight, and you let him go!"
"Oh, for-" Anamaria stepped forward and wrenched Elizabeth's chin around to stare her in the eyes. "We hadn' been expectin' him t'night, either. An' the neither of us knew where Will'd gotten off to, this past few years. Your boyfriend did a damn fine job o' hidin' himself. So either you help us, or he gets killed, one way o' th'other."
Jack exited the bathroom just in time to see his old friend Scarlet, the proprietor of the Tortuga, thrust out her considerable bosom at Will. "And if you'll be needing anything," she purred in a Southern drawl, "Do ring down, and we'll do our very best to please you."
"My thanks, ma'am," the younger man answered politely, carefully looking at her eyes. Smiling coyly, she sashayed away, then paused briefly in front of Jack. "Sparrow, darlin'-" a palm sent a wide streak of pain across his face "-I love you dearly, but get my insurance premiums hiked again and, why, I don't know what I'll do."
Throwing one last appreciative look at Will- with still nothing but a towel 'round his waist-she slipped out of the room. Rubbing at his maltreated cheek, Jack plopped down onto the bed next to Will. "A fine lady," the older man stated admiringly, then dropped his tone to sorrowful. "'s a pity about her temper. Do believe I didn' deserve that. Was all the Brazilians' fault."
Snorting, Will handed over one of the rum bottles lined neatly across the breakfast tray that had magically appeared on the mattress. "She said you'd know how to 'treat this proper,' he said, irony lurking just beneath the nonchalant voice.
"So I do, so I do," Jack affirmed, twisting off the cap and taking a healthy swig, then passing it to Will, who tried to refuse. "C'mon. Y'll be needin' warmth in your belly after tonight. Savvy?"
Finally, the other man accepted the bottle, but didn't drink. "I was checking some of my father's notes," he began. Jack swiveled his head, scanning the room frantically. Will smacked his shoulder. "Online," the younger man explained. "I don't keep anything important that can't go electronic, or in my mind."
"And?" Jack urged.
"And I miss Elizabeth," Will declared. "Are you sure we can't call?"
"Well, you'd know th'answer better'n m'self," the older man pointed out. Breathing out sharply, Will nodded, saying unenthusiastically, "Yeah. I know, I know."
"So do I," Jack said sympathetically. "Miss my Pearl, always. 's like a great ragged-edged hole inside, an' you can't help but stare at it."
Will blinked. "You don't seem like the type to have a girl," he remarked.
"A-a girl!" Jack stuttered indignantly. "The Pearl's no fickle woman, boy. She's the best ship ever to take to water. Savvy?"
"O-kay." Gazing at the rum bottle, Will took a tentative lick at the remnants clinging to the rim, then regarded it thoughtfully. He took another lick, and Jack got to watch as the other man circled glass with curious pink, tongue exploring every dip and curve.
"Barbossa took her as a trophy," the older man said, more forcefully than he'd meant to. "He used to work with me, and then he went native, crossed over to the Colombians. 's got the Pearl chained to some dock in Cuba. Bloody fuck never even liked sailin'; he's just got her 'cause he hates me."
"So he'll go after Liz, because she means something to me," Will noted, slanting a look over at Jack's averted face. The younger man took his first gulp of rum, then chased it down with half the bottle.
"Most likely," Jack responded, snagging and opening another bottle for himself.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Will said darkly, "I used to dream of my father coming home. And then he did, and I kept dreaming. Only when my mother opened the door then, she'd scream and scream because, well, he didn't exactly have all his bits anymore."
"Will," Jack sighed. "I am sorry about-" He was cut off by a fumbling kiss. Moving to straddle him completely, Will removed both rum bottles to the side-table, and then held still for a moment, watching Jack with reddened cheeks and slightly-unfocused eyes.
Jack raised a hand halfway to the long neck curving above him. "Will," he started again, voice low and warning. "You've no idea what you're doing."
"Oh, yes I do," Will answered him, face eerily calm. "I'm going to fuck myself on you. And then I'm going to help you kill Barbossa, because it'll get me back to Elizabeth."
He leant down and stole Jack's breath again, mouth wet and welcoming as it eased ever-so-slowly over the curves of Jack's lips. And Jack couldn't help but surge up into it, overcome by the taste, the feel, the kiss. He found himself moving up against the headboard so he could pull Will in closer, shoving his own tongue forward until the other man whimpered, devouring every bit of flesh that passed by his mouth. Something was roaring in his ears, his-
Yanking away, Jack panted, "What about Elizabeth?"
"Is she here?" Will asked, slipping clever fingers up under the edges of Jack's clothing. He nuzzled past the wild fall of black hair to find a delicate ear, nipping as he traced its coiling. "Lizzie's my best friend," he whispered, smoothing a hand over the planes of Jack's chest. "I'd die for her."
"No worries then," the older man muttered sarcastically, frantically and futilely trying to stop Will from undoing his clothing. Except his hands apparently had other ideas, and kept fluttering away from him, tugging a towel there, a zipper here, catching a nipple between rough-skinned fingertips and pinching lightly. Arching into the caress, Will moaned into Jack's neck, and sent a hand swooping down Jack's waistband. Over the gasping, the younger man managed to say, "Liz is better than having a sister, 'cause I can fuck her and she can fuck me. We love each other, you see. But we aren't in love."
"Yeaaaah," Jack hissed, rocking up into the firm grip, peeling clothes off the both of them. "I see. An' y'think if we do this, then I'll cleave to you?"
Laughing mockingly, Will licked a heated stripe down the line of Jack's throat. "No," he replied too-knowingly. "Da's notes say no. Sparrow's a good name, good for a man who can't stay to anything. Except your damned ship." And he lifted up long enough to shove Jack's pants down to ankles, then climbed back up, nearly tripping over the bunched fabric and falling off the bed. Jack grabbed the other man's shoulders to steady him, and quick as a snake, Will twisted his head around and bit down into a firm bicep, then laved the area in insincere apology.
Feeling anger course along with the lust, Jack took good hold of Will's face and kissed him savagely, till those rum-laced lips split under his, and then he swiped up the blood and laid stinging bites all along the edge of Will's jaw and neck. His hands moved mercilessly over Will's back and chest, splaying over the corrugation of ribs, digging down into a solid, flat abdomen. And then his head snapped backward, thudding against the wall hard enough to put literal stars in his eyes as he looked back at Will.
The writhing thing on his lap grinned painfully back, then shifted hips so Jack's cock shoved itself even farther into the grasping heat. "Jesus Christ," the older man nearly keened, involuntarily seizing the jerking thighs spanning his lap. He felt the scraping strain inside, and some tiny part of his mind screamed halt. "Wait-wait. You're going t'rip-damn it, boy, did you use anything-"
"Rum," Will replied, and it came to Jack's ears like crazed distant shouting. "Rum and my fingers. Can't you taste it?" And he latched his mouth to Jack's again, tongue fucking Jack as surely as Jack was fucking Will's ass. He kept it there, drinking in all Jack's moans and groans and shouts as he rode the other man, muscles clenching and unclenching till Jack's cock gave up with a flood, nails raking the walls till he came as well, gouging plaster from the walls.
As soon as he felt capable of it, Jack forced them both down, him on top and still inside of Will, and pinned those damned hands to the bed while he ripped his bruised lips away from Will's. "What-why?" he demanded.
"Did you fuck him?" Will snapped back, the words cracking across Jack like a cat o'nine tails.
"Never," Jack vowed, face growing even harder. "What th'hell happened to you?"
"You," the man under him said, suddenly falling limply back into the bedding. Will gazed up, unwavering and hollow. "I didn't have anything left of Da," he breathed, confessional hurting and black as night. "The government took most everything for their investigation, and one day when I was at school, Mum threw out what was left. I went digging, after she'd died-did you even know she'd died?-and found a few traces on the 'Net. Strings of ones and zeroes, on/off switches in some big server somewhere. But nothing I could touch. So I buried it all. And then you and Barbossa, and you knew him…"
"Do you love your Pearl?" Will suddenly hissed. "More than anything? More than your life, your soul?"
"Good." Finally turning his head away, the younger man repeated, "Good. Then I know how far to trust you, and you know how far to trust me. Now get off."
Eventually, Jack did, quickly glancing over at Will as he went. No blood, miraculously, but by the way the other man was moving, it would be a few before he was up for much of anything. He straightened himself out, then idly began picking up the bottles and toppled food tray, mopping up regretfully the broken glass of the one bottle that had been shaken off the bed. When he finished, Will was asleep, curled protectively into the rumpled bedsheets.
Pensively, Jack got back on the bed, avoiding the wet spot, and sat. He didn't bother closing his eyes for a long time, preferring to stare at the mysterious splotch on the wall opposite him.
"I'm a chemist," Elizabeth said unwillingly, drawing circles on the kitchen table with one finger. "I mean, I should have been. Came over to the U. S. for my degree, and then my father died and my stepmother cut off my money. Lawyers were too expensive, so I did what my roommate suggested and set up a meth lab. Two years later, Will found me and took me in, in return for some basic chem. analysis on some stuff. Extremely pure cocaine, with a few odd properties."
"Aztec Gold," Anamaria murmured. When Elizabeth looked up inquiringly, the other woman elucidated. "Th'brand-new shit Barbossa's staking his rep on. 's got a different scent, so dogs can't detect it, and it lasts longer in transport. Hasn't hit market yet, but th'test subjects have already been poppin' up here an' there. They're like zombies; y'can hit 'em wi' all y'got, an' they still won't go down till y'hit an artery."
Absorbing this, Elizabeth went on, even more reluctant, "Will said his Da liked to tinker with computers in his spare time; a good hobby when stuck on a ship for long periods of time, I guess. That's why people called him 'Bootstrap': not after the object, but after the geek definition. A bootstrap's when a program is written in one language, and then an interpreter written in a different language is used to run it. But without the interpreter, the program's nothing but nonsense."
"So that's what Barbossa is looking for?" Norrington asked. "An interpreter for a program? And Will's got it."
Elizabeth hunched over her coffee. "I don't know," she admitted. "I think so. Will never talks about his father if he can help it."
"Well, what use is she?" muttered someone behind Elizabeth, but before she could respond, Anamaria whipped around, hands on hips. "Fuck off, cochon," she snarled. "The fille's actually seen Aztec Gold, an' that's more than we can say."
"Better than that," Elizabeth smirked. "Give me a decent lab and a few weeks, and I could probably reproduce it for you."
"How 'bout mass-produce?" Gibbs asked.
"A formula that complex?" Elizabeth replied skeptically. "It'd take years to figure out a way-" She stopped, eyes widening in comprehension.
"Ah," said Anamaria. "Well, can't do nothin' but wait for Jack, then." She slurped up the last of her noodles and dropped the empty carton and chopsticks into the waste bin. "Back to work, people."
Grumbling and shuffling half-heartedly, they did, though Norrington remained behind. "Elizabeth…"
"Liz." Over the lip of her mug, Elizabeth gave an exhausted smile. "Call me Liz. And you're…"
"James." He snagged the coffeepot and offered; she shyly scooted her mug over so he could pour. "Are you feeling better?"
"Don't know, Jaime," Elizabeth told the ceiling, sinking back to rest her head against the top of the chair and her feet on the vacated chair on the other side of the table. "It's been a very, very long night." She lolled her head sideways to look over at him. "You're much better-looking than I remember. That, at least, is an improvement. The prep-school cut made you a bit of a primp."
"Ah…thank you. I think," he replied. "I'm sure Will is fine," he reassured ineptly.
"Really? Just what kind of man is this Captain Jack Sparrow?" she queried, eyes curious.
"I keep asking that myself," James muttered, mostly to himself. He put some odd inflections in those few words; getting it, Elizabeth grinned. Exactly like Will talking about his second ex-boyfriend. A little louder, Norrington said, "He's a good man. Overly flashy, certainly lacking in some areas of morality. But at the bottom of it, he can be counted on to accomplish the mission. Though usually not in the fashion expected."
"He dresses rather oddly," she commented, recalling the headscarf and beaded braids. "I suppose it's not too different from downtown Miami, but…"
"Yes, well, he is nearly impossible to pick out when he wishes, and nearly impossible to ignore when he doesn't want to be," James sighed irritably, though traces of fondness could be detected around his mouth and chin.
"Doesn't seem like the usual CIA type," Elizabeth added, flicking her words up in a question.
Obligingly, James enlightened her. "Jack Sparrow was originally one of the most successful pirates in Southeast Asia," he said. "He used a combination of the latest technology and old-fashioned sailing to run circles around everyone. And then, I believe, he visited the Caribbean and South American coasts on business for an acquaintance and tangled with the Colombian druglords. His crew, of which Barbossa was first mate, mutinied and Sparrow barely escaped. Mostly because his exploits had caught the eye of a few influential people, and he was recruited into the CIA."
"He's cute," Elizabeth quipped, watching the pink filter into James' pale skin from the corner of her eye. Studying her own hand, gilded by the Florida sun, she amended, "Or at least, from what I could see in ten seconds. He any good in bed?"
Coughing, James turned his head to stare. "You and Will Turner aren't…"
"We're family," Elizabeth told him bluntly. "Blood isn't worth anything when it comes to relationships, I've found. But yeah, he's got his dates and I've got mine. And nobody pries us apart."
"Oh. I see," James answered, in that blank tone that said he really didn't, but he was going to be polite and compassionate and politically-correct. Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth leaned over and kissed him.
And promptly sank into it, far more quickly than she'd expected. God, it was sweet…he was gentle but fiercer than she'd predicted, and his hands were brushing feather-light over her hair. When they finally parted for air, he took in the tiniest shaky breath.
Stung, Elizabeth abruptly pulled back. "Listen, Jaime…shit. I'm…"
His green eyes shaded to hurt and then to expressionless apology. "I apologize, Miss Swan," James interrupted woodenly. "This is a very vulnerable time for you, and I'm taking advantage of it. Please forgive me." And he left, footsteps echoing in Elizabeth's heart.
"Fuck," she muttered, knuckling one hand to her forehead.
"Not bad, fille, not bad at all" came a by-now familiar drawl. Elizabeth tilted her head up to find Anamaria leaning against the other kitchen door. "You would've had 'im, and 'is help, if you hadn' backed off. I thought y'liked your Will more'n that."
"Go. Away," Elizabeth ordered, and heard only a throaty chuckle in response as the other woman crossed over and appropriated James' chair. An arm suddenly draped itself over her shoulders; warm softness and hot smooth muscle pressed up against her suddenly tingling side.
"'s a good ploy, gettin' yourself compromised, then askin' for help," Anamaria continued. "An' Norrington's just honorable enough for it t'work. 'Course, that'd be why you couldn't, hmm?"
"What, he turn you down?" the younger woman snarled.
"Hey, now. 'm telling you truth, fille." A hand slid confidently across Elizabeth's belly, tracing her bellybutton through the fabric of her shirt. "Pity you couldn't. 'Cause, y'know, ain't gonna work on Jack."
"Jack's not exactly here for me to try, is he," Elizabeth gritted out, trying to ignore the moistness gathering between her legs.
"An' now you tryin' tell me your bro' ain't tryin' this very same thing on Jack right now," Anamaria purred into Elizabeth's ear. "Well, I'd know better. An' either of you hurt that swayin' bastard when he comes to collect you, an' I'll set the hounds on your trail. Comprend?"
"Oui," Elizabeth gasped, squirming. All the fire suddenly went to cold smoke, and the next she knew was Anamaria's voice drifting from the hallway. "Bonne nuit, amant. Be seein' you in the mornin'."
Kicking the table, Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself and cursed again, heartfelt. "Goddammit."