Dawn Appointment with the GallowsBY: Sparrowhawk
Will knows upon opening his eyes in the weak pre-dawn light
that this may prove to be the worst day of his life. He knows
that in a cold stone cell somewhere inside the walls of the fort,
Jack is also awake and waiting for the sun to rise. And he
knows that all the commodore's hangings take place promptly
at dawn. He begins counting the minutes.
By the time Will arrives at the fort, the sun is close to cresting
the horizon and the enclosed courtyard is packed with curious
spectators. Immediately he sees that Jack has already been
led to the raised wooden platform. The pirate looks as completely
bored and unconcerned as one would expect, but the set of his
shoulders and the tilt of his head tell Will otherwise. Not for the
first time, Will's heart twists with a wretched tangle of emotions
he won't allow himself to name.
Just last night it was that a pirate once again cornered him
inside the smithy -- Gibbs, a wanted man himself, come to
ask Will's aid. Will agreed, of course; he already knew that he
could not live with himself if he allowed Jack to die. Now he
gathers his courage to do what needs to be done and to say
the last thing that needs to be said.
"Governor Swann." Will forces himself to nod courteously in
greeting despite his heart trying to pound its way out of his
chest. "Commodore." The tall officer looks none too happy
himself, but Will doesn't think for a moment that will make
any difference as to the morning's proceedings. Then Will
draws a deep breath and turns to the governor's daughter.
"Elizabeth... I should have told you every day from the moment
I met you: I love you." To his own ears the bold words sound all
too clearly like a goodbye.
Elizabeth's eyes widen, locked onto his, and he can see her
surprise slowly give way to a pleased smile. Only shocked
silence from the two men by her side, he notes with grim
amusement as he deliberately turns away before she can
make any reply.
Will strides through the crowd with firm resolve, ignoring the
nervous clenching in his stomach. A quick glance up at the
gallows confirms that Jack has spotted him; those sharp black
eyes are intently tracking his movement across the square.
Will searches the crowd for Duncan, knowing that Jack's gaze
will follow his. There -- the red-haired sailor is loitering near
the back of the mass of onlookers, conveniently near the main
gate, exactly as planned. Will can almost hear Jack putting two
and two together as he chafes restively at the rope that binds
his wrists before him. When Cotton's blue and orange parrot
flaps into view, Jack's lips twist in a barely suppressed smirk.
Will pauses a few paces from the platform and acknowledges
both Jack and Duncan with the barest of nods. The air vibrates
with snare drums buzzing like angry bees but the eerie silence
that follows is even more unnerving. Then the formal words
condemning Jack to an untimely death are read and Will is for
the first time grateful that the list of charges against the pirate is
a long one. He wants to fidget but forces himself to be still,
calming himself by checking once more the position of the
ax tucked into his belt, hidden for now beneath his cape. The
drums resume their droning, faster now, and he wipes sweaty
hands on his trousers. *What in heaven's name is the holdup?*
Across the square he can see Duncan shifting nervously from
foot to foot.
Then cannonfire thunders nearby and as a shot impacts the
stone wall with shattering force Jack's eyes dart to meet Will's.
Duncan cries out on cue, "Pirates! They're attacking the fort!"
and the spectators erupt into a running, shouting mob,
heedlessly pushing soldiers out of their way as they rush in
panic from the courtyard. Confused orders send redcoats
scurrying this way and that and Will doesn't waste another
second. The ax feels solid and familiar in his hand as he
slips it from his belt, takes careful aim and hurls it in a swift,
fluid motion. Time slows to a crawl as the ax spins and slices
through the air and with a satisfying "thunk" buries itself in the
gallows pole, neatly severing the rope that ends in a noose
around Jack's neck.
Then time is flowing swiftly again as Will charges up the
gallows steps. Jack throws himself at the burly hangman
and Will barely dodges the man's falling bulk and flailing
arms to grab Jack before he too falls. Together they spill
down the steps as another explosion close by sends debris
raining down, covering their desperate dash across the square.
Just outside the gates, Duncan is waiting anxiously in a
mule-drawn wagon and then Will and Jack are both diving
headlong into the back. Duncan slaps the mule smartly with
the reins and the cart lurches away down the hill toward the
harbor, picking up speed as it goes. Will can hear cannonfire
continuing to pound the fort's sturdy walls and he fervently
hopes that the assault delays the Navy's response just a little
Jack is sprawled heavily across Will, bound hands caught
between their chests. The dusty canvas that conceals them
dims the bright morning sun and all Will can see is Jack's face
inches from his, those midnight eyes closer than they've ever
been, and for the space of a heartbeat Will freezes. Then Jack's
mouth comes down on his in a kiss that's feral and hungry and
not at all gentle, stopping Will's breath, stopping his heart until
in a blinding rush he finally acknowledges that this is what he's
wanted all along. The world ceases to exist but for the heat of
Jack's hard lean body stretched shamelessly along his and the
searing kiss that burns away everything Will thought he believed,
everything he once was but is no longer.
Will is gasping for breath by the time the wagon jerks to an
abrupt halt but somehow he summons the presence of mind to
slip his dagger free, and Jack puts just enough space between
the two of them so that Will can sever the rope still binding his
wrists. Jack is grinning madly and Will grins back and as if from
far away they become aware of Duncan pleading *come on,
dammit!* Moving in tandem they hit the ground running, the
ominous crack of musket fire speeding their steps as they race
down the long wooden pier. Will can see Gibbs waiting in the
skiff at the end of the dock, eyes darting nervously up the hill
but waiting nonetheless, and farther out he sees that the Pearl
also waits, cannons still smoking.
Jack has outpaced Will by a few feet and leaps with practiced
grace into the boat, turning in time to steady him as he steps
down somewhat more awkwardly. Jack's hand on Will's arm
is strong and possessive as he pulls him down onto the narrow
wooden seat and Duncan piles into the boat behind them.
Gibbs is already putting his back to the oars as if all the hounds
of hell were at his heels and Duncan grabs up the other set of
oars. The dinghy races across the sparkling turquoise bay
toward the Pearl where she drifts, sails hoisted but slack, poised
and ready for a quick getaway.
Jack gives Will's shoulder a little nudge. "So you're desertin' your
bonny lass after all that trouble we went to gettin' her back?"
Will wishes for a quick clever response but settles for the plain
truth, choosing his words with care. "I haven't been allowed to
speak to her since we returned to Port Royal. She's made her
choices and I've made mine."
"Ah." Jack pauses, strokes his moustache thoughtfully, and
Will vividly recalls Jack's demanding kisses and the enticing
chafe of that wiry black hair against his skin. "Well then, I
expect the Pearl could use another able hand," Jack says at
last. "But Will -- can you sail under the command of a pirate?"
It seems a lifetime ago that he first asked that and Will didn't
answer. This time he does.
"I can," Will replies without hesitation. "If you'll have me."
Jack's wicked glance says that having Will on the crew is the
least of it, because they both know with absolute certainty that
he'll have Will in his bed by nightfall. And perhaps it's due to
the adrenaline still surging through Will's blood, but he's not
afraid anymore -- not of his own feelings, not of Jack. He's
burning with new awareness, burning with anticipation, and
once again counting the minutes -- this time until they can be
alone again. But their escape isn't quite complete and there's
a distinct lack of privacy in the little skiff and for the time being
he'll have to make do with the promise in Jack's eyes.
Considering the heat of the pirate's gaze, it's almost enough.
The Black Pearl looms above them, a rope ladder dangling
against her sleek curved hull. Jack swings up first, ascending
the dizzily swaying rope as if it were a grand staircase. Will
follows and gratefully accept a hand from Jack pulling him
aboard. All the crew crowds close around Jack, cheering and
laughing and slapping him on the back, and a moment later
*Captain* Jack Sparrow is barking out orders like a true
commander. Sailors are scurrying to do his bidding and Will
stands alone on deck as they scatter since he doesn't know
what else to do. Jack is halfway to the helm before he realizes
Will isn't following.
"Coming, William?" Jack pauses and turns with a sly golden
grin as if he and Will have just pulled off the most daring caper
ever. Certainly it's the most daring caper of Will's life, at least
so far, and he knows the days ahead hold grand adventures
and the nights sensual pleasures as yet undiscovered. There
is nothing left to consider, nothing left to decide. Will hurries to