Categories > Movies > Pirates of the Caribbean > Nor Silver, Nor Gold

Chapter Five: Time to Duck

by compassrose7577 0 Reviews

The new guest of the Black Pearl gets a taste of a little bit o' honest pirating.

Category: Pirates of the Caribbean - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Humor - Characters: Gibbs,Jack - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008/04/09 - Updated: 2008/04/09 - 5235 words

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Chapter Five: Time to Duck


Cautiously, Kate stepped out of the cabin out on deck. The shirt and breeches were still a bit damp, but she had been confined to the cabin much of the day waiting for them to dry. Unable to wait any longer, she donned them, hoping the omnipresent breeze would finish the job.

It felt awkward to be wearing breeches. Standing in the center of the cramped sleeping quarters, she ran her hands down her thighs and across her rear. Over-sized as the shirt and pants were, they barely touched anywhere other than at the shoulders and waist, where everything gathered. She felt as though she was standing the middle of them. Even with the volumes of fabric tucked into the breeches, and the ties at the back pulled up as tightly as possible, the waistband still hung precariously at the waist. A belt might help, but there was none. She considered the possibility of fastening the breech’s buttons at the knees, perhaps offering a bit more support, but decided that would offer little help.

Experimentally, she shifted her shoulders, grateful for Jack's bit of insight, laughing softly to herself at his uneasiness. Modesty had never been much of a burden, but she would have felt extremely exposed to have herself bouncing about. Although she was not that large-breasted, there was certainly enough of her to make a show every time she took a step. She checked the tie at the collar a second time, making sure it was secure, still unsure what to do about the opening of the shirt which gaped nearly to her navel. The bindings around her breasts prevented anyone from getting any kind of untoward view of anything, but it was still disconcerting to know the opening was there. Making a final check, she left the cabin.

Peering overhead, she found Jack on the quarterdeck, at the helm. She thought for a moment that maybe he'd look her way, but he didn't, his eyes focused on the horizon ahead instead. Taking a deep breath, she made her way to the gangway, nodding to several of the crew, feeling their gazes as she climbed the steps. This could prove a little more difficult than she had imagined.

Holding her head high, she continued to the quarterdeck. Leaving her standing there for several awkward moments, Jack finally slid a look her way, the point of his hat casting a sharp shadow across his face. Spreading her arms out to the side, she turned slowly for his inspection.

“What do you think?” Suddenly, she felt like a little girl looking for her father's approval.

“Not bad,” he conceded, with an appreciative gaze that traveled the length of her. He tipped his head, arching a critical eyebrow. “Looks like you could use a belt.”

“I know,” she said, giving the waistband a tug. “I hesitated asking for one.” She shifted nervously. “I was afraid you might decide to use it on me first.”

One corner of his mouth twitched, but he hid it quickly, clearly trying to maintain his austerity. His attention shifted to the horizon again, his hands gliding effortlessly back and forth across the spokes of the wheel. She moved a little closer, fascinated.

“You smell a little better, as well,” he said, his eyes still forward.

She blinked, jerking her attention from his hands. “Um, thank you, I guess,” she added meekly. “I suspect I over-reacted, just a bit.”

Now he did smile, gold twinkling between his lips. “You?” he laughed, the corner of his eye crinkling. “Never!”

The shouts of the crew on the forecastle distracted both of them for a moment, Jack scowling slightly with concern. Satisfied the verbal sparring was of minor consequence, he turned his attention back to the helm.

“Can I watch?” she asked, sidling closer.

Giving her a quick glance, he shrugged. “Certainly.”

During her months on the Melody, she had stood near the helm, watching, but she'd never had the same feeling there as she had now, on the Black Pearl. The ship had a feel of her own, a determination, an ardent zeal the Melody lacked. Leaning with into her work, the Pearl looked for the wind, moved with breeze and water in unison, slicing it as the dolphins that occasionally played at her hull. Always, the Melody had felt like she was plowing her way through the water like it was a heavy sludge, fighting for every bit of progress.

Watching Jack, she instantly realized the connection between him and his ship. They anticipated each other, responding through each other’s touch, the Pearl under his feet, his hands, on her wheel. Feeling a slight pang, she watched, long, gentle fingers skimming the wheel’s spokes. They were the hands of a man in love, holding his beloved, pausing to caress a soft curve, seeking her needs, guiding her at his pleasure.

“You look like you've done this for ages,” she observed, hesitant to break the communion between him and his ship, but needing to break her own thoughts.

“Sailing, you mean? Went to sea at thirteen.”

“No, I mean at the helm, with the Pearl.”

He gave her a tight-lipped smile, shaking his head slightly, his ornaments tinkling softly. “All tolled, only a few years,” he said, pausing for a moment, working the wheel in response to a freshening gust of wind. “Had her for a couple years then lost her.”

“What happened?” She braced a hand on the binnacle in answer to the increased tilt of the deck.

“Mutiny.”

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...”

“No worries, luv,” he replied, with a reassuring flash of gold and white. “Took ten years, but I got her back. Minor set back, there, just for a bit, but she's mine now.” He stroked the wheel lovingly, his fingertips tracing the worn-to-a-polish wood. “We're back together, as we should.”

“You seem to have a deep connection,” she said, batting a piece of hair from her face.

“It shows?” His hand jerked away as he grimaced, his mouth twisting, clearly self-conscious.

“It's like a silent conversation, reading each other's mind.”

He smiled widely, gold glittering, clearly pleased.

“So, what are you doing out here?” He shot her a confused glance, so she clarified herself. “I mean, is there a destination, or are you just sailing around?”

“Prowling, luv; cat after the mouse.” A devilish glint came to his eyes. “A bit o' pirating, looking for anyone unsuspecting that may stumble in our path.”

“Sail ho!”

“What!” Jack shouted, tilting his head toward the main masthead. “That’s impossible! You’re hallucinating!” he shouted up. “What is it?”

“Double-master, sir, rounding the island to port quarter stern, sir!”

“Bugger!” He said it with the same intensity as if he had just been told dinner would be a little late. “This is damned ironic; I was to be the cat, not the bloody mouse.”

“Orders, Cap'n?” Gibbs shouted, leaping up the steps.

“How do you make it?” Jack asked, his eyes already sweeping the surrounding waters, assessing options.

“Got a bit of an angle on us, she does; sun’s behind ‘er, too,” Gibbs observed, squinting slightly into the glare of the sun. “She'll be makin' a stern run, for sure.”

“What is she?”

“Can't say right off, double-master, sloop-rigged.” The first mate paused, watching, waiting the several minutes, until the foe further cleared the protection of the far island. “Flying the Company flag,” he announced, grimly. “Privateer.”

“The Melody must have told them we were out here. How, I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter now, anyway.” Jack muttered. “Okay, alert the gun crews, larboard. Chain shot for sure, this time. They'll try to board, if they can't first blow us out of the water. Prepare boarding parties as well, pistols and cutlasses.” He paused a moment, peering quickly around, casting an eye upward toward the sails, judging the wind, then back at the surrounding waters. “There's a fair reef over there, we may be able to rake them off, but I wouldn't count on it; she's probably as shallow as we are. Hands to the braces; stand by to bring her about, hard to larboard. Go, man, go!”

Gibbs thundered down the gangway, shouting urgently, the crewmen scattering to their posts.

Kate stood frozen at the rail, unable to move her eyes from the oncoming ship, flashes of those last few moments on the Melody racing through her mind. This was different, though. Before, it was a pirate ship, bearing down, threatening death and doom. Now, she stood on the deck of that same ship. The fear was there, tight in her stomach, but doom was lacking. Somehow, she felt more confident with the crew of the Black Pearl and her captain than she had the Melody.

Jack's hand on her arm pulled her attention away. Turning, she found his eyes dark and sincere. “I need you to get below, luv,” he said firmly, but without panic. “They'll be making a stern attack, if they can. You need to get to the hold; go as far forward as you can. Mr. Gibbs!” he shouted, diverting his eye toward the main deck. “Get her a pistol!” He looked back to her, solemn. “Listen to me, luv.” He touched a finger to her chin, locking her gaze with his. “Take the pistol; save it for yourself. They could actually be from the Company, which could mean your arrest, or it could just be someone a bit more nefarious, flying the flag, trying to play a ruse. Either way, if we're boarded, use it; don't hesitate. Don't allow yourself to be taken. Do you understand?”

She nodded, her stomach plummeting. “But what..?”

“No worries,” he said, his face breaking into a wide smile. “I've done this for two decades; just need to know you're safe. Don't come out on deck, no matter what you hear.” He kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Now go!”

The world whirling around her, she moved woodenly down the gangway, trying to understand how Jack could be so foreboding one moment, and smiling the next. She nodded numbly as Gibbs shoved a pistol in her hand. Slipping into an odd fog, she could see the crewmen scrambling about, their mouths moving, wide open, shouting, but heard nothing. It was like trying to hear underwater, an awareness of sound, but nothing to give any firm hint of what it was. Stopping at the top of the companionway to below deck, she looked up to see Jack standing overhead at the rail, waving an arm, shouting orders, his face serious, but dead calm. Turning, he caught her eye; giving her an encouraging smile, he winked and waved her on. Gaze fixed on him, she made her way down the steps, her final sight of him at the helm spinning it furiously.

The gun deck was chaotic with noise, but the men moved with a calm precision, each one knowing their duty. Grunting with the effort of swinging the ports open. The guns' wheels rumbled across the wood of the deck, hauled into position by their rope harnesses. She wondered why Jack didn't want her to just stay there, but didn't question it enough to disobey. If she had any faith in him at all, she'd have to trust his judgment, and do as he had asked.

Reluctantly, she made her way down the next companionway into the hold, grasping the hand rope as the ship made a hard turn. It was dark and dank, what little bit of light that shone through the hold grates fading to nothing within a few steps. Clutching the pistol tightly, she groped her way forward, sliding one foot carefully in front of the other. A few times, she thought she had reached the bow, only to discover it was a barrel or crate or some other obstacle. Feeling her way around, she pressed ahead, Jack's last words still ringing in her ears.

“If I'm not to worry for him, then why had he told me to shoot myself?” she thought.

The deck pitched just as she finally reached her furthest point, a solid bulkhead. The momentum of the ship made her slip on the damp boards, falling hard on one knee. Groping in the total darkness, she pressed her back to the bulkhead and slid down to the floor, ignoring the wet soaking up through her breeches.

The hold was like being in a hollow barrel, every sound reverberating, echoing. It made it impossible to separate the benign from the hazardous sounds. All were equal, all were frightening: shouts, footsteps, scraping, pounding, creaking, water, waves. All seemed loud and important, until the first gun fired, somewhere overhead. It echoed in the cavernous hold so loud and deep, she had to clamp her hands over her ears, still feeling the sound passing through her. With barely enough time to recover, a second roar, fired from further astern, but still deafening.

The sound of cannons certainly was not new; she had heard far more than she ever wished. But those had been spread across a battlefield, instead of just barely overhead. Desperately, she tried to tell herself she should be taking strength from those guns, the Pearl's guns. They were their defense; they were keeping them safe.

She had nearly convinced herself of this when the splintering crash and the following shudder of the Pearl taking her first hit dissolved away all confidence. She cringed against the bulkhead, visualizing gaping holes in the hull, walls of water rushing in, drowning them all. The shouting grew louder, more urgent. Overpowering the dank and moldering smell of the hold was a more pervasive odor of gunpowder. The Pearl's guns continued to fire, with near perfect timing, hesitating only for a split second when she took another hit. This one was closer; she could hear screams now, of someone wounded. Over and over, she prayed it wasn't Jack.

Not now, please, not now!

She felt the Pearl carve another turn; there was a shrieking grind of wood, something heavy and hard against the hull, vibrating the entire hold. The guns were silent now, replaced instead with dozens of thundering feet, and shouts. The metallic clash and clatter of blades could be heard, taking an odd toy-like sound, along with sporadic pistols fire. It seemed to last forever, but it seemed to last for only a few minutes; she had no way of telling. In the Stygian darkness of the hold, there suddenly seemed to be no time, only noise, constant and unnerving.

At last, quiet fell, odd and eerie. Still, there were footsteps, voices, screams and shouts, but they seemed a silence compared to the previous calamity. If she had been scared before, she was terrified now. What happened? Who won? Was there such a thing as victory in this kind of battle or was victory just a matter of who took the least number of deaths? She kept the pistol snugly cradled in her lap, wedged between her legs and her chest, curled up as she was. Seeking the handle, gripping it tightly, she waited, wondering, her ears straining for any hint of what was happening.

Time passed interminably slowly. The smell of gunpowder was still heavy in the air, but the sharp copper tang of blood was beginning to waft its way down. She fought the urge to go up, to see if any of the Pearl's crew was in need of her help, chanting to herself that Jack had told her to stay put.

When she did see the lantern coming down the gangway, she thought it a dream at first, she had wished for the sight of it for so long. Pressing a hand to her mouth, lest the rasp of her breathing give her location away, she cowered tighter against the bulkhead.

“Miss Kate?” a voice called through the dark. “Miss Kate?”

It was the one called Marty, the dwarf. Stern-faced, but a kindly natured sort; she had treated his hand—when was that? Yesterday? The day before?

“I'm back here!” she called, feeling her way out, the lantern as her beacon.

“Captain said you can come out now.” And then he disappeared above, taking the lantern with him.

Unable to recall her path, she groped her way back, at least having the light from the hold grates, clouded in a bank of lingering gun smoke, to guide the way. Nearing the gangway, the noise of the aftermath came clearer.

The screams from the gun deck and from above decks, as well, were the most piercing. The first injured man she approached was a face she didn't know. As she went to kneel, Pintel touched her on the arm, stopping her.

“Don't bother, ma'm.” There was an uncharacteristically gentle look in his eyes. “’e's gone.”

Her first impulse was to say “No, he's still alive”, but looking down, she understood. As the man clutched his abdomen, she could see innards, intestines, oozing between his fingers. He wore the wide-eyed shocked vacant look of one about to die.

Further, down the deck, she could hear more cries and moans interspersed with others not wounded, shouting. Wanting to help, she lingered for a moment, hesitant then raced above deck. She had to find Jack, first. Seeing him safe would allow her the freedom to aid others.

In the dimming light of impending evening, the main deck was a different story, far more chaotic than below. Canvas, rope, splintered wood, crates, barrels and bodies were scattered everywhere. Well forward, somewhere near the bow, a man was screaming horribly. Blood pooled around those already dead; some faces she recognized, some she didn't.

Vaguely, as she searched, she noticed that the ship lying alongside the Pearl appeared to be in far worse shape. One mast was shattered, and shredded canvas draped nearly half the ship. For the moment, she was uninterested; she had to find Jack. Finally, she located Gibbs, his voice the giveaway, barking orders in his usual orator's bass. He jerked when she touched his shoulder, a startled look in his eyes as he turned, gentling when he saw it was her.

“Aye, miss, he's over there,” he said, tipping his head toward the opposite gangway. His eyes clouded a bit. “I’m thinkin’ he could be a-usin’ ye.”

Circling the curving banister of the gangway, she found Jack, sitting a few steps up, leaning against the rail. He looked up slowly as she approached, apparently hearing her footsteps, a bright wet red cloak spreading from the side of his head, over one eye and down his neck and shoulder. A dark red circle on his breeches marked where the blood slowly dripped from one of the cords of his hair.

He gave her a weak smile as she knelt before him. “Are you all right?” His voice was a mere rasp of his usual gruffness.

She found it ironic he would be asking about her welfare, injured and bleeding. Nodding, she bit back a smile of her own. “You look bloody awful,” she choked.

“Can't say as I disagree,” he grumbled, blinking. “Seems I didn't duck fast enough.”

A distressed look came to his eyes and he lurched up, leaning over the rail just in time to vomit, retching several times. Shakily, he lowered himself back, groaning.

His eyes flickered up toward her and he frowned. “Am I so bad you need to shoot me?” he asked flatly.

Looking down, she realized the pistol still hung from her hand, forgotten.

“Give me a good reason, and I'll use it,” she said. “C'mon, we need to get you inside.”

He swayed precariously when he stood. Bracing him up under his shoulder, she guided him down the steps and toward the cabin. He halted, at one point, a small crooked smile tugging one corner of his mouth.

“You smell funny.”

“You sent me down in that hold on purpose, didn't you?”

Not committing one way or the other, he only rolled his eyes.

“Cap'n!”

“Aye, Gibbs?” Jack answered, with considerable less enthusiasm than usual.

“Orders?” Gibbs asked coming to an abrupt halt, waggling one heavy brow expectantly, allowing Jack time as he struggled for several moments to collect his thoughts.

“Where's the captain of that fair vessel?”

“Dead, it would seem, sir,” Gibbs reported, without the least hint of remorse, mopping his brow with his sleeve. “Piece o’ the mast near cut him in half.”

Nodding thoughtfully, Jack strove to focus. “Assess the damages, take what you can. Disable the rudder; jam the guns.” He paused, blinking his eyes wide. “And burn that bloody flag.”

“He'll take that personal,” Gibbs warned.

“Good, because it is.”

Wobbly-kneed already, Jack's legs buckled, sagging so heavily against her as to cause Gibbs to lend a hand, taking his captain’s full weight.

“Take him in there,” she said, waving a hand to indicate the sleeping quarters as they entered the cabin. “Put him in the bunk.”

“That's your place,” Jack protested, floundering in sparse resistance.

“It's yours again, today,” she replied firmly, as Gibbs lowered Jack to the bunk. “And take off those boots!”

Gibbs tugged the boots free and left, brushing past Kirkland at the curtain, who bore a bucket of hot water, a basin, and cloths. The round cook gave his captain a concerned look.

“He'll be fine,” Kate assured, pouring water. “He took a good crack on the head, but he'll be fine.”

“I'll be back in a bit, then,” Kirkland said, scurrying out. “There's much to do,” he called, from beyond the curtain.

Splayed out on the bed like a rag doll, Jack feebly tried to rise. Failing, he fell back again on the pillow, limp.

“I shouldn't be here,” he said, weakly, still floundering. “It'll be all bloody.”

“We'll worry about that later.” Gently pushing him back, she sat on the edge of the bunk and carefully pulled away his headscarf. One side of his head was matted, wet with blood, but the hair on the other side billowed out, clearly relieved to be free.

“You've quite a head of hair,” she said quietly, hoping to distract him. Her brow furrowed slightly as she probed his head with her fingers. “As wild as mine.”

“I like it! Your hair, I mean.”

Deeply involved in her work, she barely noticed what he said, murmuring an indistinct ‘thank you.’

“Hmm, well, it looks like if it wasn't for that scarf of yours, you'd have a good piece of your scalp gone. As it is, it's a nasty scrape, but you'll make it.”

Nestling the basin on the mattress between them, she carefully washed the wound, picking out bits of hair, cloth and wood from the deep abrasion, the water swirling red as she squeezed out the sponge. He sucked in sharply several times as she dug extra deep, seeking some bit of foreign object.

Seizing the candle, she held it higher for better light. “Can't quite see all the way to bone, but it's almost,” she murmured, leaning close.

Pausing, she glanced down, seeing his eyes shifting nervously from one side to the other. In her concentration on her task, she hadn't realized how tight she had brought herself against him, her breasts nearly against his cheek. Had it not been for the binding, the entire side of his face would have been engulfed. Seeing the opening of her shirt was gaping as well, she quickly sat back, tugging at her front.

“We'll need some kind of salve for that,” she said, after clearing her throat, unable to look at him.

“I'm afraid I've made a mess of things.”

Following his gaze, she looked downward. The entire front of her shirt was deep red, blood smeared down well past her waist and along both arms as well.

“Guess I'll have to wash it again,” she sighed.

“Music to your ears,” Jack murmured, displaying a smile with some effort.

They laughed quietly together, falling silent as she continued to clean him off.

At first, he seemed tense under her hand, but soon relaxed. Intent on her work, she looked down to find his eyes tilted up toward hers, watching through his lashes. Until then she hadn't noticed how dark and heavy they were, fanning wide across his cheeks when his lids were lowered.

Changing the water several times, she rinsed his hair, dipping several of the heavy cords and braids directly into the basin, swishing and squeezing until all residue of red was gone. Moving to his face next, she carefully wiped away the blood, necessarily removing the kohl from his eyes as well. She tried not to stare, but was mildly shocked at seeing him for the first time.

Unwittingly, she stopped, their gazes locked. Reflected in the coffee depths were mercurial glimpses of endless disappointments and hard-learned lessons, betrayal and destruction, dreams smashed and faiths shattered; a buoyant spirit existing valiantly in a savage world. She understood now exactly what the kohl was; stripped of his mask, he was laid bare and exposed. Gone was the scalawag, the rogue, leaving only a quiet, compassionate, intelligent, gentle man. As he looked at her, she saw questions: 'Can I trust you?' they seemed to say. 'I want to; I need to. Can I?'

On the Melody, she had been told of Captain Jack Sparrow of the Black Pearl, pirate and malefactor, scoundrel and pillager, ruthless and vile. The stories had conjured an image of a pernicious, dark-hearted, ruthless marauder, lacking completely of any redeeming qualities. The man who sat before her bore none of those characteristics.

As best she could, with her own gaze, she offered him her answer, angling her head slightly, catching the candle's reflections in the luminous pools. One corner of his mouth twitched, as relief flickered across his face, his lids hooding his eyes. A gentle smile on her own lips, she resumed washing cheeks, nose, mustache, mouth, beard, braids, and neck.

“What happened to your cheek here?” she asked, scrutinizing an odd shaped red blotch. Too red to be a bruise, the skin wasn't broken either.

His eye clouded for a moment then brightened. “Oh, that! Nothing much, mutinous bastard Barbossa hit me. His bloody rings left a mark; never went away.”

“Who was it you were talking about out there?” she asked, a short time later.

“Who? When?”

“Out there, when you told Gibbs to burn the flag, he said ‘He’ll take it personal.’ Certainly couldn’t have been the captain of the other ship.”

He was quiet for so long she began to think he wasn’t going to answer. Glancing down, she saw his eyes lost in thoughts far beyond where he currently sat. Suddenly, she regretted having asked, sensing perhaps she had crossed into a realm too personal.

“Did you not notice the flag?” he finally asked in a remote voice.

“I remember black and some letters.”

“E-I-T-C.” He spoke each letter with firm distinction. “East India Trading Company.” He looked up mildly curious and suspicious. “You have heard of it.” It was spoken more as a statement rather than a question.

“A little, while I was on the Melody; none of it very flattering,” she said, busily tending the wound.

“Justifiably so, darling,” he said pressing his lips tightly together.

“And the ‘he’ would be…”

“The current master in these waters, one Lord Cutler Beckett.”

A brief wry smile tugged one corner of her mouth. “Well, I can certainly see Mr. Gibbs’ point; he wouldn’t appreciate the company flag burned would he?”

“No,” Jack replied with a smug air of satisfaction. “I can only hope it’s the first thing that he sees when that ship finally makes port.”

His shoulders slumped slightly, now at complete ease under her touch. His eyes closed and she thought he dozed for a bit, rousing when she sat back, finished.

“Does this physician ever prescribe a bit of rum?” he asked hopefully, his vision more focused than before. Head nestled deep in the pillow; he looked tired, but peaceful.

“I've still a bit of bandaging to do,” she observed then narrowed one eye, teasing him with her delaying consideration. “You probably have a pretty good headache.”

“Hurts like the dickens,” he added quickly, his anticipation heightening.

“Well, in that case, a bit might be allowed, for medicinal purposes only.”

“Of course!” he agreed happily, then quickly sobered, lowering his voice. “Of course.”

Having no difficulty finding a bottle in the salon, she returned; his face fell as she poured a dollop into a cup she also brought.

“One cup,” she said firmly, handing it to him. “No more!”

“They say power corrupts,” he muttered, posing a pout, but took the cup willingly, wincing as he moved to drink.

They fell quiet. He avoided her gaze as she wrapped his head, either hiding or lost in his own thoughts. Somehow, he looked more injured and infirm with the bandage than he did with the side of his head bloodied. The near-white bandage against the darkness of hair and tan was a stark contrast.

Finished, she picked up the basin and walked to the curtain. “Sleep well, Captain.”

“Where are you going to sleep?”

“I doubt if there will be much sleeping tonight,” she said, stopping at the curtain. “There are quite a few wounded out there. I suspect I'll be busy, most of the night. Don't worry, I'll find someplace. Good night, Captain.”

“Jack!” he shouted, wincing. “I've asked you to call me Jack!”




As forecast, it was a long night. The moon had already long finished its journey across the sky when Kate finally returned to the salon in the Great Cabin. Shaking with exhaustion, she fell into a chair, staring blankly, unaware of what was in front of her. Every part of her ached, starting from her head and running through neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs and feet. Dispassionately, she looked down at herself; a dark reddish brown stain, stiff and sometimes crackling, spread from mid chest, down. Even her bare feet were crusted.

Sitting, kneeling, standing, slipping and sliding, she had been in blood most of the night, in some form or fashion. Either washing it away, squeezing it off with stitches, staving it with a bandage or probing her fingers in it as she sought glass, splinters or bullet. Some, barely recovered from injuries from the fighting the day before on the Melody, now had needed her attentions again. There had only been a dozen or so men, injured some from the Black Pearl, some from the other ship—she didn't even know their names, and, what's more, didn't care—but each had required his share of her time. Between herself, Gibbs and Kirkland, they had seen to every one, all now resting comfortably, thank you Demon Rum!

She knew she needed to wash, wanted desperately to get off the fouled shirt and breeches, but lacked the energy. Ruefully, she realized it would still be there in the morning; it wasn't going to suddenly disappear. Besides, she had nothing to replace any of it. Even the quilt was occupied at present, spread over Jack.

Groaning deeply, she fell forward across the table, bracing her head on her arms and instantly fell asleep.
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