CAPTAIN JACK AND THE SHIP THAT FLEW

~~~~~

Years passed without word of Jack. Years that saw even the fictionalised tales of the Kamon forgotten by most. The fishermen remembered - but then the fishermen had more reason to. Lord Charles Montgomery remembered - but nobody who heard his tale ever believed him, and he learnt to keep quiet about the beast, and about the man he thought had conjured it. Nobody else seemed to care, and even the drunks in the taverns and the most ancient of sailors - lovers of all the tallest tales - talked of the beast no more. It was a long, long time since Jack's name had been spoken within my hearing, even by Anne and Celeste. I told myself that I didn't remember him; not his smile, not the shine of his eyes, nor the strange fashion of his speech. I told myself that I didn't care; that it meant nothing to me that he had failed to return. I told myself that if he had died in that last battle against the Kamon that I didn't mourn him - that if he had escaped, and left for other shores, that it was nothing to me. And I returned to my life on the seas, chasing rich vessels, rich cargoes; running the gauntlet of the ships sent to capture mine. Jack was long gone; long forgotten - or so I liked to tell myself. The truth of course was that I could never forget, no matter the passing of the years. I could never forget that man, and the things that I saw in his company. And I know now that I never stopped waiting for the day when he might return.

~~~~~

"Computer?" It had taken a long time for Jack's vision to clear, and rather longer before he had felt at all confident about finding his voice. Speech wasn't easy when you couldn't entirely remember where your mouth was. "Computer?"

"I am functioning." It was hardly the reassuring voice of a nurse, or the kind tones of a concerned friend, but to Jack it was the greatest voice in the world. He managed a weak grin.

"Thought I'd lost you for a minute. You okay?"

"I am functioning." A brief pause. "My systems appear undamaged. The ship, however--"

"Is pretty much shot to hell, yeah." Very slowly Jack began moving his limbs, testing to see what was what. The alarming glow that had made him think upon waking that his eyes were on fire had finally resolved itself into clouds of nanogenes, so he was inclined to think that he was probably unharmed. If he had been hurt, the tiny little healers would have fixed him by now. Certainly he could move his arms and legs without any major discomfort. "What happened?"

"There was a massive explosion," she told him. He nodded his head, and struggled to a sitting position.

"Yeah. Gotcha. The explosion I remember. Did we kill the Kamon?"

"Insufficient data. However the alien creature was inside its vessel when the explosion occurred. Probability of survival was zero point two percent."

"Then I guess we call it dead." He stared around at the ship. Everything looked to be in the right place, but there were a lot of sparks fizzing around the control station. Given the condition that the ship had been in prior to the explosion, it seemed highly unlikely that it was anywhere near flight-worthy now. "Give me a damage report, computer. How long till everything is fixed?"

"All main ship's systems have suffered damage. Auto-repair is in progress. Estimate completion of repairs in three days."

"Three days?" He groaned. Three days stuck in 1735, in the middle of the Caribbean. And to make matters worse, he had told Josiah to set sail. How was he supposed to catch up with the Dragon now that his own craft was out of commission? "Terrific. What am I suppose to do for three days?"

"I am programmed with a number of popular texts," offered the computer. "Both fiction and non-fiction are available for reading."

"I know. And for an hour or two in the evening, that's great." Jack stood up, wobbled, and managed to pat the nearest console in a friendly fashion. "But for three entire days, it's pushing it just a little, thanks anyway. For now I think I might take a walk. How long until you can make the ship invisible?"

"Do you wish invisibility to be a priority?"

"I don't know. I can probably find a way to hide you both." He stared out of the viewscreen at the rocky beach onto which they appeared to have crashed. "Looks like there's a lot of seaweed out there, and that'll help. But three days is a long time, and a ship like this is a hell of an anachronism in 1735. Yeah. You better make invisibility a priority."

"Affirmative." There was a bleep from one of the consoles. "Information corrected. Estimate of date is in error."

"Date?" He frowned. "Joe seemed pretty sure, computer. You can't expect the natives to get something like that wrong."

Another bleep answered him. "Information corrected. Kamon terminated in 1735, local era. Date now..." There was a pause, and a chattering of circuits. "1750, local era. Explosion of alien vessel, and malfunctioning of this ship, combined to create a time warp. Suggest that explosions during malfunction are best avoided."

"You don't say." Jack sat down in the pilot's seat, and whistled. "That's two time warps in two days, computer. Are you sure?"

"My function is to guide this time vessel. I am not capable of error in matters relating to the calculation of our position." She almost sounded offended. Only half paying attention, he reached out and patted the console again.

"Sure. Sorry, computer. Looks like we really want to be careful when we've got battle damage, huh. Are further time warps likely?"

"Probability of encountering further time warps, zero point six percent. Probability of encountering further time warps resulting from large explosions... unable to calculate. Insufficient data. Once repair is complete, there should no longer be any risk."

"Good. So if I go for a walk, you won't get zapped another fifteen years into the future while I'm gone, right? Provided nothing explodes, I mean."

"Affirmative."

"Thanks." He rubbed his head. "Okay, I'm going to hide the ship as best I can, then head..." North? South? East? West? He didn't have a clue. "Computer, where are we in relation to our last fixed position? The place where we teleported the two native humans off the ship?"

"We are three point two kilometres due north of that position."

"Okay. Then I'll be heading south. Nobody is likely to recognise me after all this time, and I fancy a drink. Can you still contact me through my wrist computer?"

"Affirmative. Suggest that Captain Jack Harkness remain within ten mile radius of present position. Communications at less than five percent efficiency."

"Okay. Thanks. I'll call in later for an update."

"Affirmative." She sounded almost as though she was glad to be getting rid of him, which he could sympathise with. If it hadn't been for him interfering before, and dragging the ship off on his little crusade against the Kamon, everything would have been well on its way to being fixed by now. He stretched uncertainly, still a little stiff in places, then headed for the hatch.

"So long, computer."

"Bon voyage, Captain Jack." It was one of the phrases that he had added to her databanks himself, and it always amused him when she used it. He grinned, and was still grinning when he swung out of the ship, and down onto the sand and rock of the beach. She was an awkward travelling companion at times, but whoever said that an emotionless chunk of circuitry and motherboards couldn't be fun to have around? She was better company than a lot of his former colleagues in the Time Agency had ever been.

It was a long and difficult task to cover the ship with seaweed. Great long fronds of the stuff, and big, heavy clumps, all dragged from damp rocks, or fetched from the furthest corners of the cove. By the time he had finished the ship was largely hidden, at least from a distance, and was camouflaged reasonably well even at close quarters. Jack, however, was hot, sticky and smelt of brine and seaweed. He scowled at his salty hands, then waded out into the surf until the water was splashing around his knees, and washed himself off as best he could. It did little to get rid of the salt, and his hair still felt like he was wearing too much gel, but he smelt a little less like something washed up on the beach. Cheered by the rudimentary splashing, he headed up the beach, and turned off towards the south. The weather was beautiful, the view out to sea more than pleasing, and the air was filled with birdsong. He couldn't help but feel cheerful, even if he was to be stuck here for three days. If the weather held, three days wouldn't be so bad. He would be comfortable enough even if he stayed on the beach, and he had more than enough stores to last him several times that period if necessary. Spirits lifting all the while, he broke into a merry whistle - some sea shanty, he thought, that he had heard at the Shark's Tooth Inn. Fifteen years ago now, he supposed. That could be a long, long time in the life of a tiny colony in the back of beyond.

He had been walking for about half an hour when he heard voices ahead of him. He slowed to a halt then, wondering what was best. Should he hide, to see who was coming? Walk straight on, and act like any native? He was still dressed in the clothes that he had borrowed from Josiah, so unless the fashions had changed radically in the last fifteen years, he should pass muster as one of the locals. Admittedly he looked a trifle bedraggled, but from what he had seen of the eighteenth century, there were not many people who looked especially pristine. Coming to a decision, he squared his shoulders, quickened his step, and carried on walking. Look confident, and there was less chance of being challenged. Hide like a fugitive and risk discovery, and things were immediately much more complicated. Unconsciously he whistled a little louder, and tried not to flinch when he realised that the oncoming people were soldiers. A group of five or six of them, walking in a ragged column, and entirely failing to march in any kind of unison. He swallowed his initial concern. Fifteen years - what were the chances that these soldiers were the ones he had met then? What were the chances of them recognising him? How likely was it that anybody would give a damn now anyway? The Governor might have sentenced him to hang, but nobody would care about that now. It wasn't as if his photograph was posted on the local information net.

"Morning." The soldier at the head of the column nodded to Jack in passing, and flashed him a scrappy salute. Jack nodded smartly back, but refrained from returning the salute. His military side was always lurking beneath the surface, but he didn't want to show it here. Here he wasn't a soldier. He was just a man out for a walk on a pleasant, sunny morning, heading nowhere in any particular hurry. He smiled indirectly at the marching men, and continued on his way. There was no reason for them to challenge him. He wasn't breaking any laws. He hadn't done anything wrong. He started to whistle again, and turned to look out to sea.

"Excuse me?" The man at the back of the column was calling out to him. Jack slowed to a halt.

"Yeah?" He only half looked back. He didn't want to get dragged into a conversation with these people. His speech marked him out as being different. He didn't want to talk to soldiers or any other kind of official. He just wanted to pass unnoticed as much as he could.

"I just wanted a word." The soldier was breaking ranks, turning to speak to him properly. The man at the head of the column called back to him.

"Problem, McDougal?"

"Not sure, sergeant." The soldier was eyeing Jack with a frown that the time traveller didn't like one little bit. The sergeant slowed, bringing the column to an uneven halt.

"Not sure? We have work to do, McDougal. This isn't the time for distractions. Let this man go on his way."

"Thankyou, sergeant." Jack gave the man another nod, and turned back to continue his walk. He was stopped by a sharp shout. McDougal again. Jack was starting to dislike the man a great deal.

"Wait a moment, sir. Please."

"What is it?" He used just the right amount of irritation. He was just an ordinary man, being held up for no good reason. He was being polite, but impatient. It was convincing enough, he was sure. Jack was a good actor. It was one of the things that made him a good con-man. McDougal, however, was obviously not in the mood to be dissuaded. He was walking towards Jack, and one hand was on the pistol in his belt. Jack's right hand twitched reflexively, but his laser pistol was back on board his ship, and he had no other weapons. He forced the smile back onto his face, and did his best to look innocent.

"McDougal! You'd better have a good explanation for this!" The sergeant was coming towards them, and the rest of the men were coming with him. Jack's muscles tensed, though there was horribly little that he could do if this came to a fight. They were all armed, and he had nothing but his wits. He was outnumbered, and as the soldiers fanned out into a rough semi circle around him, he was left with nowhere to run save over the edge of a discouragingly high cliff. He kept up his innocent smile, but his pulse was beginning to race.

"I'm sorry to hold things up, sergeant." McDougal had instinctively jumped to a sort of attention, like a man making an official report. "It's just that I couldn't help noticing a few things, sir. That's all."

"Such as?" The sergeant didn't look as though he appreciated being delayed. Jack sympathised.

"Such as the state of him. Looks like he's been swimming in his clothes, doesn't he."

"What a man chooses to do with his time is nothing to do with us, McDougal. Swimming in your clothes isn't against the law."

"No, sergeant. But that does depend on where he's been swimming, doesn't it. Look at him. His clothes are a mess, but they're expensive. That's nice material. And look at that scarf around his neck. My father was a tailor, and I know silk when I see it. Who goes swimming in a silk scarf?"

"That's an interesting question." The sergeant folded his arms and stared pointedly at Jack. "Well?"

"I was walking along the rocks and I slipped." Jack offered the sergeant one of his best smiles. "Looking for shellfish. Felt like a fool, and I'm glad there was nobody to see. So can I go now? I'd like to wash off some of this salt."

"Slipped, you say?" McDougal was like a dog on a scent, determined not to give up. Jack would cheerfully have punched him right in his overactive mouth, if he had thought he could do so and walk away. "You didn't jump into the sea while you were escaping, maybe? Say from a ship out in the harbour?"

"McDougal..." The sergeant was beginning to look testy. McDougal, however, was not to be silenced. With a sudden, sharp movement, he caught hold of one of Jack's arms, and held it up.

"Look at this, sergeant. Maybe he did slip into the sea. Maybe he does have a good reason for going swimming with his clothes on. But can you think of a good reason why an innocent man would be wearing handcuffs?" He jerked the pinioned arm towards the sergeant, so that the loose, damp sleeve fell back to reveal the cuff still fastened around Jack's wrist. Inwardly Jack winced. Outwardly he managed a smile that was remarkably blithe.

"Handcuffs? These are all the rage in New York just now. Everybody wears them."

"Do they." The sergeant was clearly not convinced. Jack didn't blame him - it was one of the lamest excuses he had ever come up with. He smiled uncertainly.

"I know what this looks like..."

"It looks like you were put in manacles, and then found a way to break the chain." With sudden violence, the sergeant grabbed Jack's other wrist and twisted it up. "Shot it apart, by the look of it. Do you want to try explaining how that happened? How does an ordinary, law abiding man get put in manacles? You weren't freed, or they'd have been taken off properly. You wouldn't have had to shoot them off." He smiled suddenly, an ugly gleam in his eyes. "Good work, McDougal. There'll be a bonus in this for you."

"Thankyou sergeant." The soldier drew his pistol now, and pointed it meaningfully at Jack. "Just doing my job."

"Yeah. Great." Jack reconsidered the possible escape route offered by the cliff edge, but had to dismiss it. The sea did not quite reach the bottom of the cliff, and he had no chance of diving into the water and making any kind of a getaway - save one that was permanent in a manner that he really didn't fancy at all. "Nice work, soldier. I appreciate it."

"I'm sure you do." The sergeant's tone was dry. "At the double now, men. Our orders can wait for the time being. It seems that we have a prisoner to deliver to the town."

"I don't suppose you'd believe that this is all just a giant misunderstanding?" Jack's eyes drifted along the line of men, and saw no hint of a thaw. "No, didn't think so."

"Get moving." The overly enthusiastic McDougal gestured with his gun, pressuring Jack to fall in. He liked to think that the computer would have heard his plight over his wrist communicator, and come to his rescue with lasers blazing - except that the laser cannon wasn't working, and neither was the ship. Even if the computer had been inclined to help, there wasn't anything she could do. Given a hefty shove by a nameless soldier clearly sore that he had not been observant enough to win a bonus himself, Jack had no choice but to go where he was directed. There were six pistols pointed at him, and six pairs of eyes watching his every movement. Angry and helpless, there was no way that he could think of to escape.

**********

The gaol looked just as it had when he had left it, though the town around it had grown somewhat. A few new houses had appeared here and there, and others had been shored up and tidied. The harbour was a little bigger, the market beside it a little larger - but on the whole the town was easily recognisable as the one he had visited fifteen years before. Jack was ushered through the streets much as he had been the last time - just a few hours ago, by his reckoning - and into the stone building that seemed so familiar. He wondered if he would get the same cell, and then wondered what day it was. Hadn't they talked about Tuesdays being the usual day for hangings? If justice was as summary now as it had been then, he could find himself stretching his neck at sundown, with little or no chance of escape. His laser gun would have been useless even if he hadn't left it on the ship, since he had drained its power pack escaping the first time, and he didn't have Josiah and Anne ready to come dashing to his rescue now. Some day he was going to have to look for a different profession. Not that he actually had a profession, technically, but whatever the hell it was that he was doing now, it wasn't proving to be conducive to good health.

"Over here." The sergeant pushed him over to a brassiere, where flames flickered with annoying good cheer. A sweaty-faced man whom Jack recognised as the very same individual who had fixed his manacles the first time, glowered at the broken chain, and then glowered even more fiercely at Jack. Apparently it was an act of great vandalism to break official manacles. Jack smiled his usual smile, and trusted in fifteen years worth of miscreants and offenders to have wiped all memory of him from the grumpy smith's mind. Certainly there was no glimmer of recognition in the gleaming face.

"Escapee?" he asked the sergeant. His answer was a shrug.

"I'm guessing so. Escaped from somewhere, certainly."

"Not somewhere. Here." The gaoler peered at Jack, face still a blank. "These are my chains, but I don't remember putting them on him." He pointed an impressively thick finger at Jack. "When did you get them?"

"They were a gift from a friend." Jack's smile didn't waver, but it felt as though it wanted to shatter into a thousand pieces. The gaoler just glared.

"The governor will want to see him. Don't get many people escaping from custody. He'll want a show trial, and a hanging with the whole town turned out to watch."

"Do you think so?" McDougal looked delighted, clearly hoping that there might be a promotion in it for him, as well as just a bonus. The sergeant nodded.

"Oh, Lord Charles will want to make a big deal out of it alright. The next hanging day is going to be a big one anyway, and this will only make it bigger. There'll be quite a party made out of it, I would think. Probably be selling souvenirs in the town square."

"It's always nice to be the centre of attention." Jack tried not to sound too sarcastic. "I always like to be a big... Hang on. Lord Charles? The Governor in the big white house with the fancy gardens? That Lord Charles?"

"There is only one Lord Charles in these parts." The sergeant frowned at him. "You know the Governor?"

"We... met once. A long time ago." Brilliant. Of all the people Jack had met in this place, Lord Charles was one of those most likely to recognise him fifteen years on - and the one who was going to be least happy to see him. The Governor had already accused him of witchcraft, and when he saw that he hadn't aged in the slightest since 1735, his opinion was hardly going to be changed. He couldn't be taken before the Governor. It would be an absolute disaster.

"Well, then I'm sure that Lord Charles will be delighted to see you again." The sergeant sounded pleased with himself. Jack's smile finally wavered. Delighted? Only in the sense that he would finally be getting the chance to hang a man he loathed. Maybe he would get lucky - maybe Lord Charles wouldn't recognise him. It had been fifteen years, after all... Somehow, though, he just couldn't believe that he would be that lucky. Where was a gallant pirate captain when you needed one?

"I don't suppose you'd take a bribe?" he asked the gaoler. The other man eyed him with distaste.

"Do you have anything that there's any chance I'd want?"

"Honestly?" Since Jack had nothing save himself to give, quite clearly this was going to go no further. "No."

"Then hold your wrists out, keep still, and shut up." The gaoler struck off the broken manacles and tossed them to one side, then fixed a new set into place. "They suit you."

"You're very kind." Jack flashed him a sharply acid smile that could have cut through concrete, then felt himself almost tugged off his feet by the ever enthusiastic McDougal, eager to lock him behind one of the solid iron doors. He found himself in discouragingly familiar surroundings, then, though it wasn't the same cell as before. A tiny barred window, straw beneath his feet, cold stone and dingy half light. Lovely.

"I do hope that you'll be comfortable." The sergeant was rapidly rising to rival McDougal's position at the top of Jack's Least Favourite People Of 1750 List. He smirked at Jack now from the doorway, then slammed the door shut and locked it. Just as before it was a featureless barrier, with no window, and no lock on the inside. The perfect prison door, as effective as anything from the dungeons of the future. More so, perhaps. In Jack's experience, primitive prisons were much harder to escape from, as there were far less opportunities to turn their own technologies against them. He scowled, kicked hard at the straw, then leant against the wall and folded his arms. It was a good position in which to sulk, traditionally, but the cold, damp wall soon discouraged him.

"Computer?" Thank goodness, at least, for his ever functioning wrist computer. It provided him with the means to stay in touch with the computer on board his ship, as well as performing any number of other functions that were largely useless to him now. "Computer?"

"Greetings, Captain Jack Harkness." She sounded just the same as ever. "Do you wish for an update on the auto-repairs?"

"You haven't suddenly repaired the teleport, I suppose?"

"At current rate of progress, teleport will be functional within thirty-six hours."

"And how long after that until I can use it?"

"Teleport not recommended for transport of organic life forms for forty-three hours." There was a pause. "Suggest walking instead."

"Thanks computer. That's a great idea." He pushed the button to break contact, then scowled even more fiercely than before, and kicked the straw again. It was just as dissatisfying this time as it had been the last time, though he tried kicking it again, just in case. "Damn it!"

"Be careful of your language. There are ladies present who may be able to hear you." The voice seemed to come from outside, but when Jack, filled with sudden hope, pulled himself up to look through the window, he could see nobody there. He frowned.

"Hello? Who's that?"

"Name's Barlowe." There was a scratching noise, then a small movement caught Jack's eye. Over to his left, another man was hauling himself up to peer out of his cell window. It was almost impossible to see each other properly, but Jack caught a glimpse of a weathered, sun-tanned face before the other man dropped back out of sight once again.

"Pleased to meet you, Barlowe." Jack also lowered himself down. "What are you in for?"

"I was arrested for piracy. Most of us were. Yourself?"

"It's complicated. I think it was escaping from custody."

"You escaped?" Barlowe sounded impressed. "From here? When?"

"Here, yeah. Fifteen years ago, I guess." Jack considered kicking the straw again, in a sudden flash of irritation at his predicament, but reined in his temper. "I was arrested that time for causing a riot. I think. They were a little vague about the charges."

"Fifteen years on the run!" Barlowe laughed. "It's bad luck that you were captured again, my friend. By the sound of you, you must have been little more than a child fifteen years ago. A child escaping from this place! No wonder they wanted you back."

"Yeah. They were certainly a lot happier about it than I was." This time Jack did kick at the straw, then swore loudly when it yet again failed to do any good. He considered kicking the wall instead, but didn't really feel angry enough to risk breaking any bones. Not quite yet.

"Language, friend. I warned you of that once before." Barlowe's voice carried a sharp reprimand. "This may be an unpleasant place, but that's no reason not to be polite. And there are ladies present. A lady, at least."

"Then she has my apologies, if she can hear me." Not really considering his damns and hells to be actual swearing, Jack was glad that he hadn't said anything stronger. There were curses enough in his vocabulary to make Barlowe's delicate eighteenth century sensibilities self-combust. "Though surely if she's a pirate as well, she must have heard a lot worse in her time."

"Not from me." Barlowe sounded testy. Jack grinned. A would-be gentleman, it seemed, and apparently carrying a torch for his unseen female fellow prisoner.

"Does this Belle of the Bastille have a name?"

"Anne." Barlowe spoke it like poetry, with a relish that would have benefited from more syllables, or a surname at the very least. "And belle is right. She's French, and the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes upon. She's never looked at a man, they say, but I'm not one to be discouraged. She won't want to sail the seas, fighting the enemy, forever."

"I guess not." Jack couldn't help thinking that sailing the seas and fighting any kind of enemy forever would be better than giving in to the rather lacking charms of the lovelorn Barlowe, but he smiled to himself and gave the other man the benefit of the doubt. Just because he sounded dry and reactionary was no reason to assume that there wasn't more about him. "This Anne. She wouldn't have a thing for fine dresses by any chance? Impractical, but somehow perfect? And knives. Big knives."

"You know her?" There was an edge to Barlowe's voice now, as if he expected competition. "She wears the finest dresses, although I can never tell how she manages to fight in them. Her natural grace, perhaps."

"Sheer stubbornness more like." Jack kept his voice low, so that his fellow prisoner couldn't hear his sarcasm.

"She fights with knives, or with short swords. Several at once, more often than not." Again there was that obvious relish in Barlowe's voice, as though he were reading Shakespeare, rather than describing the woman of his dreams in somewhat workmanlike phrases. "You really do know her?"

"I did know her. Once." So Anne was in this prison, and possibly not far away. Only just out of earshot perhaps. A thought struck him then, and he hauled himself back up to peer out of the bars. Barlowe was no longer visible at the window, but it made them feel closer together, when Jack could at least see the other man's cell. "Do you know of a ship named the Dragon?"

"The Dragon?" There was an unmistakable frown in Barlowe's words. "She went down... eight years ago now, it must be. Sunk by a merchant ship, and lost with all hands. Shame really. I heard that she was the best ship of her day. Outgunned in the end, though. They all are eventually."

"Lost?" Slowly Jack lowered himself back down to the ground. "You're sure? The whole crew?"

"Every man of them. Bad business, but in a way I should be thankful for it. I wouldn't be alive today, if things hadn't happened the way they did." There was a long pause, and Jack waited impatiently for the other man to speak again. "I was set to hang that day, but I got a reprieve from the Governor himself. He was that glad to have finally been rid of the Dragon. Lucky I made myself scarce, though, as I doubt his good temper lasted long once the full story got out."

"Full story?" Jack was beginning to feel like a bad, listless echo, but he couldn't help it. Josiah - drowned eight years ago, when they had been talking only a short while before. And Jack had promised him so much, without ever delivering. He left hearts and souls scattered throughout time and space without a care, but he felt bad now for doing the same thing to Josiah. It made his conscience stir, in a way that it hadn't done in years.

"Yes. The crew had mutinied. They wanted to go after a cargo that the captain didn't believe they could take, so they threw him and a few others overboard, and went off anyway. He was right of course - they were sunk, as I said. Every man of them, and a fair few that weren't hardly that yet. Bad business, but like I said, it saved my life." He laughed briefly. "I'm almost sorry I wasn't around to see what happened when the Governor heard that he was only rid of the crew and the ship, and not of the captain. Must have been fire and brimstone at the mansion that day."

"Mutiny?" Again Jack was playing the part of an echo. This time, however, he didn't seem to mind. "Mutiny? Then Josiah didn't go down with the ship? He's alive?"

"Josiah? Captain Day, you mean. He's alive, yes, for what it's worth. Alive until Tuesday, anyway. I'm losing track of what day is what in here, but it can't be very far away. You don't happen to know the day today, do you? And if it's Monday or Tuesday... well, just tell me that you don't know."

"I don't know. Haven't got a clue." Jack was grinning suddenly, with no obvious reason for it. "Josiah's in this prison? Josiah and Anne? Both of them?"

"They're here, certainly. Some cells down, I should think, as I'm not entirely sure if they can hear me. I wanted to try to make Anne feel a little better about her imprisonment - perhaps with a poem or two - but I couldn't make my words reach her."

"That's... a shame." Jack didn't doubt for a moment that Anne would have done her best not to hear the poor fellow's attempts to romance her. She might be fifteen years older now than when he himself had known her, but he didn't imagine that she would have changed all that much. "Maybe my voice is louder than yours?"

"That's why I keep warning you about your language. But it's not a good idea to shout too loudly, friend. The guards don't like us to talk to each other."

"I'll take the chance." Hauling himself up once again, so that his head was pressed against the iron bars of the window, Jack shouted as loudly as he could. "Joe? Anne? Josiah?! It's Jack Harkness. You there?"

"Ssh! Quiet, man, quiet!" Barlowe sounded horror-struck. "Do you want the entire regiment roused?"

"They have better things to do than worry about us." Jack could feel his grip beginning to fail, but he clung on, and shouted so loudly that he felt the bars vibrate with the sound of his voice. "Josiah! Where are you?!"

"Great heaven, man, keep your voice down!" Barlowe still sounded terrified. "Do you want us all flogged?"

"No, not especially." Jack lowered himself back down to the ground, muttering sulky imprecations at the universe. It wasn't fair to throw the death of a friend at him one moment, resurrect him the next, and then place him far out of earshot. That just wasn't playing the game. He sat down on the straw-covered floor, and stared morosely at the far wall. Brilliant. He was rapidly coming to hate the Caribbean. Hardly an hour back here, and he was already locked up, likely intended to hang, and the only person who seemed to offer any chance of help in the escape department was locked up as well. They couldn't even plot their breakout together - or at least not without every soldier for miles around hearing them, which rather defeated the object. He drew his knees up to his chest, rested his handcuffed wrists on top of them, and stared speculatively at the chain. There had to be something that he could do. Escapes were something of a speciality of his - he had escaped from prisons on worlds and spaceships spread far throughout the universe. That said rather a lot about his unfortunate tendency to get himself locked up in the first place, he supposed, but c'est la vie and all that. In the meantime all he cared about was getting out of this cell, in this prison, in this infuriating blasted seaside town. Whoever said the Caribbean was meant to be fun?

"Have you known them long?" It was Barlowe again, obviously bored and anxious to make conversation with somebody. Jack wasn't sure how to answer that. Technically he had known them for fifteen years. Literally he had known them for a handful of hours. He shook his head slowly.

"Not really. We fought alongside each other once. Do you know them well?"

"I've known them for some years." Barlowe had a hint of pride in his voice now, as though he enjoyed the idea of being the one better acquainted with the duo. "After they lost the Dragon, I helped them to find a replacement for her, and then later, when the Governor became rather too eager to see my neck stretched, Captain Day invited me to join his crew. I'm not really a sailing man, but I am something of a surgeon. I like to think that I have my uses aboard the ship."

"A surgeon?" Jack did not know Barlowe well, but what he did know didn't leave him overwhelmed with confidence in the other man's likely medical skills. Quite the opposite. "Do they need you often?"

"I've had to extract a few teeth." Barlowe sounded mildly disgruntled. Clearly he would prefer the challenge of a full scale cannon battle, just to prove his mettle as a physician. "You said that you had fought alongside the captain. Before the loss of the Dragon, I take it, since you didn't seem to know that she had gone down?"

"Yeah." Jack would miss the ship, he realised - Josiah had been so proud of her, with her fabled speed and beautiful, sleek shape. It would have been nice to spend a few days sailing on her, whilst his own ship fixed itself. "Yeah, it was back when he had the Dragon. A long time ago now, I guess." He almost added: He probably doesn't even remember me, but didn't. The Harkness ego was just a little too big to admit to that possibility. He grinned suddenly. "Does Josiah... have anybody? Somebody he goes to see when you've put to shore?"

"A woman you mean?" Barlowe's assumption was predictable, but on his own in his cell, Jack merely smiled. "No, he doesn't have a woman, at least as far as I'm aware. There are rumours that he and Anne perhaps..." This idea was obviously distasteful to him. "But I don't think so. They don't behave as lovers." There was a long pause. "You're a gentleman to phrase the question that way, friend, but I suppose I can guess why you're asking. If you think that you might have some chance yourself with Anne, though, then you're wrong. She's not interested."

"I wouldn't try to come between the two of you." Jack swallowed a grin, in case, unchecked, it might show itself in his voice. The poor sap - even the mention of Anne's name seemed to make his voice go all shaky. Jack could understand it more or less; when he had known her she had been as beautiful a woman as he could have hoped to meet, and with the character to match. Fifteen years was unlikely to have changed that, especially since she seemed to have been leading an active life. The mental image of Anne and Josiah spending all those years buckling their swashes on the high seas was attractive to say the least, and Jack leaned back against the wall, staring into the middle distance to ponder the idea for a little longer. Barlowe didn't seem to like the silence, and Jack heard him moving around, coming closer to the wall that separated them.

"Did you really not know what day it is?" he asked after a moment. Jack smiled faintly. Poor Barlowe. The idea of his upcoming date with the hangman clearly did not sit well with him. That was fair enough - waiting for an execution was never easy. When there was no immediate escape plan it could become a bleak prospect indeed.

"I don't have a clue," he admitted, although he couldn't be bothered to come up with an excuse as to why that should be. "It's 1750. Beyond that, I'm in the dark. Feels summery, though."

"Whatever you've been drinking, I think I should like some the night before the executioners come." Barlowe sighed. "I've lived my whole life on the wrong side of the law. I was told when I was a boy of seven that it would all end for me on the gallows, but now that that day is finally approaching, I'm finding it a good deal harder to face than I thought I would. And what of you, friend? Jack, you said that your name was, didn't you. How does death look to you, Jack?"

"Sulking that it's missed me so often, probably." Jack didn't especially want to talk about hangings. Escapes made a much better topic of conversation. "Don't worry, Barlowe. Nobody's going to hang us. Not this week, anyhow."

"I'd like to know how they could fail to do so. I'm in a prison that no man could easily escape from, surrounded by armed guards who are under strict orders to watch us all closely. The Governor isn't going to let Captain Josiah Day escape, and all those who were captured alongside him are nearly as valuable. You have a confidence about you, Jack, but I'm afraid it's misplaced."

"Confidence is never misplaced." Jack jumped to his feet, suddenly feeling more cheerful again. "Barlowe, you and I... say, do you have a first name?"

"Timothy." Barlowe sounded as though he was frowning. "You and I what, Jack?"

"You and I, Tim, are going to get the hell out of here, get Josiah and Anne out of here, and then find a ship and get as far away from this godforsaken place as we possibly can. You game?"

"Game?" The other man sounded confused. "I don't... How are we going to get out of here?"

"Blind luck usually does the trick." There was a sudden rattling from the direction of the door, and Jack winced. On the other hand, of course, it could be that this was Tuesday, and that his blind luck was back at the ship getting itself repaired alongside the time drive. "Am I imagining it, or do we have guests?"

"There's somebody outside my door as well." Barlowe's voice showed a faint tremor, that he was doing well to disguise. "Can it be Tuesday already? It's early morning, though, not even nearly sundown. I had hoped for longer... Perhaps a chance to try to remember something from the Scriptures."

"Remember quickly. You'd be surprised what comes back to you when you're on the way to an execution." The cell door swung open, and Jack found himself looking at the business end of two muskets. "Hi. Captain Jack Harkness, Royal Navy. You'll have to excuse the accent, I'm undercover."

"Out." One of the new arrivals gestured with his musket, and Jack scowled. Apparently they were in a hurry to hang him. Since he was in no particular hurry himself, there was clearly a conflict of interest here. All the same, getting shot would get him to his death a damn sight quicker than walking leisurely out of the cell would, so he dismissed all thought of rebellion and strolled out into the corridor. Barlowe was also being hustled out of his cell, and Jack got his first clear view of his fellow prisoner. Timothy Barlowe looked to be about forty, of average size and build, and with the obvious weather-beaten appearance of a man who had lived most of his life at the mercy of the elements. He looked capable enough, but his clothes were more those of a man of books than a man of action, and his walk was not the rolling gait of a sailor. If he really had been accepted as a member of Josiah's crew, he did not seem to have adapted well to the life.

"Jack?" He smiled rather shakily, obviously glad for a friendly face. "I feel bad for making your acquaintance only on the day when we leave this life, but perhaps there'll be time in the next world for us to become proper friends."

"You're not being hanged today." The nearest guard turned Barlowe around, and pointed him towards the door leading back to the open air. "You've been summoned for an audience."

"With the Governor?" Inwardly Jack winced. Oh well - now was the time to find out just how memorable a thorn he had been in His Lordship's side. He couldn't help thinking that the reunion would consist largely of swearing, accusations of witchcraft, and a swift dispatch courtesy of the nearest pistol, but then he hadn't had the luxury of fifteen years in which to forget Lord Charles Montgomery. Lord Charles would have seen a lot of prisoners come and go in the past decade and a half, and every face could help to dilute the memory of those that had come before it. Luck could be an obliging soul at times, at least when she was in one of her better moods.

"Barlowe!" The shout pre-empted any chance of the guards to answer Jack's question; if indeed any of them had been planning to answer it. A familiar shout. The sort of shout that came from a known and very welcome voice. "Barlowe, are you well?"

"Captain!" Barlowe sounded delighted. Josiah Day had always brought out the best in his men, remembered Jack. His presence had seemed to give them extra strength and courage in the face of adversity. "I'm in good enough health, yes. And Anne, my dear. Prison doesn't seem to have marked you too badly."

"We've been here barely a day and a half." Anne's voice was as familiar as Josiah's, and as cutting as Jack might expect. He grinned to himself. She wasn't looking at him, standing with his back to her. Neither was Josiah. They hadn't noticed him, and certainly had no way of recognising him from behind. As the guards, losing patience at this merry little reunion, began to hurry the prisoners along, Jack turned to meet his two former associates. He was good at choosing the moment - at picking the right time for the best possible effect. This way he caught them both off guard at exactly the same moment, and by the look of things infuriated the guards still further.

"Hi." It was a hopelessly anachronistic greeting in 1750, though the waggle of his fingers that accompanied it gave some indication of what he meant. "So, er... how are you both?"

"I don't..." Josiah was gaping at him - an older, more weathered Josiah, and quite possibly an even more attractive one than before. His sun-bleached hair was turning white in patches, his skin was an even darker brown, and the grey silk shirt that he wore so fetchingly loose, matched his eyes quite perfectly. "Jack?!"

"Hi," said Jack again, not entirely sure why he couldn't think of anything more scintillating. "You look... well."

"Well? I--" Josiah was still gaping. "Jack, I... You... I thought..." He shook his head for a moment, then advanced suddenly on the other man, stopping barely a foot away. He was clearly oblivious of the increasingly annoyed guards, which served to annoy them still further. "You haven't changed. You still look... Not a day... I didn't know what to think, Jack. Dead, alive, gone away... I didn't... I waited. I waited for months, but..."

"Yeah. Slight, er... I kinda got..." Jack gestured vaguely in the air with one hand, mimicking the actions of his ship when it had spun out of control and crashed down onto the beach. "I got zapped. Blasted. Blown up. Well, blown up quite a bit, actually, as it turned out. Sorta... there was a time warp, and... and we're going to get shot any minute if we don't go where the guards are trying to take us." He smiled, rather uncertain all of a sudden. "I'm sorry. I don't usually... I thought you were dead."

"You're all going to be dead if you don't start moving." A guard gave him a hefty push, and Jack obeyed the instruction without thinking. Josiah had also been pushed onward, and they went up the stairs together. Barlowe was looking confused, Anne was frowning, and the soldiers all looked ready to explode. Not that Jack gave a damn for what anybody else thought.

"You thought that I was dead?!" Josiah sounded stunned. "What would make you think that? It was I who thought that you were dead. There was only one other reason I could think of, as to why you didn't return to me that day, and it wasn't one that I greatly wished to contemplate. Not after... Well. You know."

"Yeah." Jack could see that the last thing Josiah wanted was to be open about their relationship in front of other people, and he respected that, at least up to a point. "Sorry. I would never have... I mean, I was really looking forward to... really looking forward to... er... getting better acquainted. I just... anyway, that's not what I mean. Back there, in the cell. Your friend Barlowe told me that the Dragon had gone down with all hands, and I thought you were dead. I realised I felt really bad about never having got to... you know." He frowned. It wasn't easy, having to avoid being direct, especially when you were Captain Jack Harkness, and direct was your middle name. Or one of your middle names, anyway. The others were no less flagrant. "I'm sorry. It's complicated, and really hard to explain. Or at least it is here, like this, now. It has to do with where I'm from, and who I am, and... and lots of things. I'm just glad that you're okay."

"I am well enough, at least for the time being. You know that I'm to hang?"

"I rather think we all are. I think it's some kind of national sport, actually. Either Charlie is trying to beat the record for most people hung in a single term of office, or the local people are going for some kind of community award on law and order. Your fault, as it happens. That I got to be a part of it all, I mean."

"It is?" Josiah looked confused. Jack shrugged.

"Your clothes." He gestured to his own attire. "I got these from you, remember? No, you probably don't. Long time ago - for you, anyway. I've been arrested twice now because your expensive clothes got certain soldiers' alarm bells ringing. And speaking of which, what the hell is this scarf around my neck? Because that's not helping, either."

"Scarf?" Josiah frowned, as though only just seeing it. "Good heavens, man. You're still wearing that?!"

"I can't get the damn thing off!" Jack heard Barlowe's sharp intake of breath, and knew that he was supposed to apologise to Anne for his language. Anne, he was fairly sure, would be insulted by the attempt, so he didn't bother. "It used to belong to Charlie's wife, you know. Last time I got dragged up in front of him, there I was trying to look innocent, and all the time I'm wearing the stolen silk scarf of the wife of the Governor Of Jamaica. Do you have any idea how incriminating that can be?"

"My apologies, Jack." Josiah was smirking. "I must have tied it rather better than I thought. Still... fifteen years?! It's only a good sailor's knot. You probably tightened it by trying to remove it the wrong way."

"Then it was you who put it on me."

"I'm afraid so. I think it was that night when we got drunk at the Shark's Tooth. I found it in the pocket of my coat, and I seem to remember thinking that it would suit you. Of course I was quite wrong as it turned out. I should have given you the blue one instead. But by then I had tied it on, and I couldn't seem to undo it. Drunk of course. Knots become so much more complicated at times like that. I asked Anne to help, but..." He shrugged. "There was some reason why she wouldn't. Something to do with forfeits, no doubt. Truth be told, I remember very little about that night. But then it was fifteen years ago."

"Feels like yesterday." Jack smiled happily. "Mind you, from what I remember it was the sort of evening to stick in the mind. It's not often even I manage to wake up in bed with two men, two women and a parrot." He winced. "While a man-eating alien beast is busy laying waste to the local fishing fleet."

"Nice though this reunion would appear to be..." Anne sounded sharp and distinctly annoyed. "Shouldn't we be thinking of other things? Captain Jack, it's good to see you again. Or it may be, depending on whether there are any monsters with you this time. But we should be talking of something else besides knots and parrots."

"Like escape?" Jack gestured around them, and raised his voice to an artificial level. "You want us to talk about escaping, when we're surrounded by soldiers who'd hear every word?" Anne shot him a lethal glare.

"You'd rather wait until we're locked up in cells again, and have no way of communicating?"

"You'd better not talk at all." One of the guards, by the look of him even closer to the end of his tether than his companions, steered the little party off the road and on up the slope that led to the Governor's residence. "I was told to bring Captain Day up to the house, and those of his associates that seemed most senior. As long as Captain Day survives to reach the house, I'm prepared to lose the rest of you. So be quiet, or I'll have you shot one at a time."

"We'll do as you ask." Josiah sounded insulted by the demand, but his voice carried an authority that guaranteed his companions would follow his lead. Jack might have objected, but silence was admittedly better than death. He ceased talking, and wandered along beside Josiah. It seemed odd seeing the other man looking fifteen years older, when they had been apart for just a few hours, but he supposed that it must seem even more strange to Josiah. He had not seen Jack for years, and now was thrown suddenly back together with him again, to find him un-aged, unchanged, and still speaking in terms that he couldn't understand. If they got the chance to be alone together, Jack wondered about giving him a proper explanation. He deserved it, all things considered. The question was, how to couch it all in terms that the pirate captain would be able to understand, without just taking Jack for a madman and choosing to give him a wide berth.

They reached the Governor's residence without further incident, and were ushered in through a side door. As far as Jack could see, the place hadn't changed much in the years since his last visit - the same ornaments seemed to be standing in all the same places. He expected to be taken to the same room as before - the grandiose and solemn inner sanctum of Lord Charles Montgomery - but instead they were led down a long, dark corridor to what seemed to be some kind of parlour. Heavy lace curtains hung at the small windows, and in place of the dark wooden panelling of the Governor's office, there were whitewashed walls and bright little paintings. It looked like the refuge of a wife who didn't care much for her husband's taste in decoration, though Jack didn't think much of hers either. The chairs bore antimacassars that were far too fussy; the paintings were all of hopelessly idealised rural scenes; a dresser groaned with the weight of a truly hideous collection of porcelain figurines. Definitely not a room designed by Lord Charles. Definitely not a room designed by anybody with half an ounce of sense, either, as far as Jack could see. There was a woman at the far end of the room, dressed in rather a severe style, and clutching a book of Shakespeare's sonnets with the air of a person who had thought hard about how she would most like to be found by her guests. She even contrived to look surprised by their arrival, as though caught out whilst going about her usual business. Given the long gap between the knock on the door and her summons to enter, any surprise was either extremely false or the mark of a hopeless idiot. The lead guard saluted her stiffly.

"The prisoners, my lady."

"Thankyou, Hallows." She laid down her little book of sonnets and came closer, revealing the face of a woman of about forty, pretty, pale and well cared for. She knew exactly who Josiah was, and directed her words to him. "My name is Lady Caroline Montgomery. You're Captain Day."

"Ma'am." Josiah was not a man to be rude, whether or not he had the same low opinion of Lady Caroline as he did of her brutal husband. She smiled at him, distracted.

"You have no reason to look fondly upon me, Captain Day. I wasn't the one who sentenced you and your men to hang, but I think we can assume that I have no objections to my husband's decisions and attitudes."

"You did marry him," observed Josiah. Lady Caroline nodded.

"I did indeed. And willingly. This is no marriage of convenience. If it were, I perhaps wouldn't care so much. You are here, Captain Day, because I care so much."

"I don't understand." Josiah looked around, as though expecting Lord Charles to pop up out of the furniture. "I thought that we were being brought here to see your husband?"

"Would that you could, Captain. In point of fact you were brought here because my husband has disappeared." She lowered her voice slightly, as though suspecting that there might be people hiding somewhere in the building, anxious to overhear what was being said. "His Excellency the Governor enjoys fishing, as perhaps you know? Yesterday he went out for a voyage on a boat, to attempt some fishing in deeper waters, and he didn't come back. I received a message at first light this morning, telling me that my husband will be killed if I don't pay a ransom of ten thousand guineas." She drew in a deep breath. "It's not the money. I could probably raise the amount. If I did, though, I have no guarantee that I would get my husband back, and I know that he would be furious with me for paying a ransom anyway. I can't send the soldiers from the garrison, as I can't allow this news to be widely known. It would soon get out, if I was to send out even one of our ships - and besides, the soldiers don't know the seas and the coast the way that you do. If my husband is to come back alive, Captain Day, you're the man to make it happen. I'll pay you a thousand guineas if you'll do it - and you'll get your freedom as well. You and your crew, back on your ship and out at sea. None of you need hang, at least this time. It's the best that I can offer you, and I hope that you'll think about it at least."

"I'm flattered, Lady Caroline." Josiah had one eyebrow raised, and seemed to be faintly amused. "To be considered for such a task as this is quite an honour... if something of a surprise. You must know that I despise your husband? I mean no offence, of course, but he has hanged a good many of my friends, and a good many more innocents that he falsely accused."

"I know that my husband's zeal for justice has made him few friends amongst certain circles." Lady Caroline spoke with the same clipped courtesy as Josiah. "But he is my husband, and I won't allow him to die when I have a chance of preventing it. I am offering you money and your freedom, Captain Day. I am offering you the chance to save the lives of the members of your crew. These people with you, what have they to say?"

"Very little." Josiah glanced around at his companions. "My ship's surgeon has been sentenced to death more than once by your husband, and the whole of Jamaica knows how Anne feels about him. Jack here isn't a member of my crew, and I'm not altogether sure why he's been brought along with us, but I feel sure that I do know what he thinks of Lord Charles. We seem an odd group of people to charge with this task, my lady. And even if we agree to it, what's to stop us from merely setting sail and ignoring your husband's plight altogether?"

"Simply put, Captain Day, if you agree to the deal then you'll be taking some of my men along with you. They will help you to stay focused upon the task at hand." She smiled sweetly. "As for your companions here, I asked that your more senior crew members be brought along so that they could assist you in coming to your decision. A pistol at the head of a close friend or colleague is a fine encouragement at a pivotal moment, I'm sure you'll agree. If this man is not a member of your crew, perhaps we could begin with him?"

"Or perhaps not." Jack stepped neatly out of the way of the pistol being raised towards his head. "I'm sorry Josiah. I was calling your name when Tim told me you were in the prison too. I guess they heard and thought I was one of your men."

"There's no need for apologies, Jack. Not from you." Josiah only spared him a brief glance, but it was a meaningful one. "If I agree to this, Lady Caroline, how am I to know that your husband will honour your word? As soon as we bring him back here, he could have us arrested whatever you've promised."

"He won't." Lady Caroline's stare was direct, and apparently honest. "You'll have your freedom, Captain Day - as long as you bring him back. If you fail..." She gestured vaguely with one hand, and Jack found that there was once again a pistol pointing at his head. He tried glaring at it, but it didn't seem to be at all intimidated. "Your freedom is intricately tied to that of my husband. If he doesn't come home, neither do you. If you see what I mean."

"I understand completely, Lady Caroline." Josiah inclined his head in a polite nod. "And I accept. Jack?"

"I'm with you." It was better than prison, and he still had three days to kill before his ship was repaired. Spending a little time with Josiah was definitely a good idea. The pirate captain smiled.

"I had hoped that you would say that. It'll be good to have you back aboard. And possibly have a few of my questions answered?"

"You can always ask." Jack flashed him a killer grin, the kind that had been known to make lesser beings faint, and came loaded with enough subtext to make the tips of Josiah's ears turn pink. "This could be fun. A nice sea voyage, no alien monsters trying to eat us this time. Cool."

"Cool?" Lady Caroline was frowning at him, so he offered her a smile as well.

"Cool. Nice. Fun. You know."

"Jack, in my experience nobody in these parts ever really knows what you mean." Josiah spoke like a man anxious to provide a little damage limitation, but Lady Caroline didn't seem annoyed. Perhaps she was as susceptible to the Jack Harkness smile as most people seemed to be; or possibly she was just so worried about her husband that she wasn't really paying attention. Jack shot Josiah a withering glare.

"I make perfect sense. Almost all the time."

"Who are you?" Lady Caroline was still frowning at him. "And why is that scarf around your neck so familiar?"

"Jack is a colleague. His assistance will be invaluable." Josiah seemed to think that he had spoken up just a little too quickly for propriety's sake, and coughed faintly. "He's a... very talented navigator."

"Then I won't have him shot." The Governor's wife was still staring at the scarf. "I fancy that I had something much like that myself once. A number of them, though it must be nearly twenty years ago now. They were a wedding present from my sister..."

"I think I picked this up in Tahiti." Jack's smile had become faintly awkward, but fortunately the guards, who had heard all about the scarf and where it had been stolen from on the journey up from the gaol, didn't feel that it was their place to say anything. Lady Caroline nodded vaguely.

"Mine went missing. I should think I wore it out of doors on rather too windy a day, and it wound up being used by some fisherman to fix his nets. Captain Day?"

"Ma'am?" Masking his relief, Josiah snapped to a gallant attention.

"You'll put to sea today. I don't expect it to be a long voyage, so there will be no need for long planning, or for the loading of unwieldy cargoes. On my husband's desk is the chart that shows where his fishing expedition was due to take place. One of his own men accompanied him there, and returned safe and sound, so we do at least know that he met with the fishing boat. The ransom note was delivered to the parson, by a man that he didn't recognise, so I can't tell you where he might have come from. All that I can tell you is where my husband was."

"That's something." Josiah offered her a smile that was intended to be encouraging, even though he had no real care for her or for her worries. "My crew...?"

"You need take only a skeleton crew. As I said, it's not to be a long voyage, and I want to be sure that I give you extra reason to return. You might succeed in killing the men that I'm sending along with you, so I intend to be doubly certain of our accord. You have two men with you here, I shall send you with five of my own." Anne positively bristled, and Lady Caroline seemed to notice. "The... lady... is a full member of the crew?"

"She is, yes." Josiah didn't look at Anne, trying to be as breezy and offhand as he could manage. Their hostess nodded slowly, though clearly with a measure of disapproval.

"Then including yourself, Captain Day, you should have a crew of ten. I think that that will be enough to sail a ship. Your vessel is not a large one."

"Ten, your ladyship?" Josiah had the look of a man who had already guessed who the tenth member of the crew would be, and was hoping against hope that he was wrong. "I count only nine..."

"Do you think that I would allow you to search for my husband without me? If he is hurt, or..." She crossed herself. "Or killed... I should be there."

"Lady Caroline, if the Governor has been taken by people who want a ransom, you could be delivering yourself into their hands too. They could demand twice the price, and I've no doubt that you have relatives back in England who could pay any amount asked. Imagine being held prisoner for the length of time it would take such a demand to reach them? You could be killed or injured yourself; and besides, you call yourself the tenth member of the crew, but... your ladyship, you can't expect to assist us in any great way."

"I'm sure I could be of use. I could... steer, perhaps? You have one woman on your crew, and if she can assist you, then I can as well. Besides, Captain Day, you'll not be sailing without me. And if you don't sail, you hang." She gestured to one of the guards, and Jack found a pistol once again pointing at his head. "And if you hang, you do it only after watching your friends die first."

"Point taken." Josiah pulled Jack out of the line of fire. "Very well. We'll be glad to have you aboard." He suppressed a sigh, then turned towards the windows and stared out at the sky. "The weather should hold, for a day or two. At this time of the year, and with the weather that we've had lately, there shouldn't be any danger of storms. Very well. We sail in two hours. Barlowe?"

"Captain?" Having watched and listened to everything with a palpable sense of mounting dread, Barlowe leaped to clumsy attention now.

"Check the stores. Make sure that we've provisions enough for ten for one week. I don't intend to be that long about this, but we'd best be certain. Anne, make sure that the ship is seaworthy. She took a little damage during our capture, and I haven't set eyes on her in a day and a half. At the hands of some soldiers, that's enough for lasting harm. Or even wilful sabotage. Jack and I will look at this chart of the Governor's, and consider our options. And we'll need these chains removed. It's Hallows, isn't it?" This last was directed to the guard that Lady Caroline had addressed by name earlier. The soldier nodded mechanically, responding automatically to the authority in Josiah's voice. "Good. You have a key?"

"Y-yes." Hallows looked to Lady Caroline for permission, and she nodded her head without real interest.

"Jolly good. Hurry along, man. We have a great deal to do if we're to save the Governor."

"I... Yes, captain." Hallows did not look happy, but he produced a key and removed the handcuffs. Josiah nodded his thanks.

"Fine. Jack, you know where the Governor's office is. Fetch this chart."

"Sure." Jack was halfway to the door when Josiah raised his voice slightly.

"And Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Just the chart." There was a meaningful note in the pirate captain's voice. Jack would have glared, had anybody else dared suggest that he might have let his light fingers roam - especially since the suggestion came from someone who was a known thief himself, and knew little at all about Jack. Instead he just grinned, and vanished through the door. Josiah nodded thoughtfully.

"I think that's everything. Gentlemen, Anne, Lady Caroline - we have a ship to board. Shall we go?" He gestured towards the door through which Jack had just exited, and Lady Caroline nodded her greying head.

"I think we shall. I look forward to sailing with you, Captain Day."

"Indeed." Josiah clearly did not at all look forward to sailing with her. "We shall see, Lady Caroline. But by this time tomorrow, you may well regret ever leaving the shore."

"I doubt it." For all her fashionable aristocratic delicacy, she looked determined now. Josiah merely raised an eyebrow at her retreating back.

"Yes." He didn't sound convinced. "Well as I said, we shall see." He sighed, and dropped his voice to a whisper that only Anne could hear. "And soon enough, no doubt."

**********

Jack felt in almost ridiculously high spirits as he followed the others down the slope away from the Governor's residence. Being out of prison was one hell of a tonic, and getting rid of the handcuffs cheered him up no end as well. He had been beginning to think that he was stuck with the things permanently - in theory at least he had been wearing them for fifteen years. Catching up with the rest of the group, he handed the rolled up chart to Josiah with an elaborate flourish, then caught Anne into a hug, spun her in a circle, and kissed her hard on the mouth. Barlowe's eyes nearly popped out on stalks.

"Jack!" His shock was obvious. Anne pushed her way out of Jack's enthusiastic embrace, and glared furiously. Jack got the distinct impression that she would have punched him, had Barlowe not been there to hopefully get the wrong idea about their relationship. He had rather been counting on that.

"It's alright, Barlowe." She spoke with the tone of voice that one might use for an annoying small child or a recalcitrant dog. "Captain Jack and I are old friends."

"So I can see." Barlowe looked away, struggling not to appear offended. Josiah laughed loudly.

"Jack, you're incorrigible. Most people might have slowed down somewhat in their old age." He frowned suddenly. "But then you don't appear to be old. Has old age passed you by?"

"Age?" Jack also frowned, then realised what the captain meant. "Oh. Yeah. I don't age much, that's all. Some people don't show it."

"Fifteen years shows on a man's face, Jack." Anne was frowning at him as well now. "And on a woman's. It's less noticeable with some people than it is with others. You'd hardly see the difference in Celeste. But there is still a difference."

"It's been fifteen years." He looked away, hoping to avoid anything like a direct question from either one of them. "You just don't remember how I looked then."

"I've seen your face a thousand times since then, Jack." Josiah's voice was gentle. Anne nodded.

"And I never forget a face. It was a useful trick in my old line of work, back at the Shark's Tooth. Always knowing every customer, even the ones who had been away at sea for years. You haven't changed, Jack. You haven't changed a day. You wander back into our lives wearing the same clothes, with that same scarf knotted around your throat. The material isn't faded or worn, and those are those same absurd boots that you were wearing before. You left your own on the roof of the Shark's Tooth, and Celeste said that you'd taken a fisherman's instead. They're the same ones, Jack. How can any man turn up again fifteen years after he went away, without a single day of that time showing on his face, without any change in the colour of his hair, and without any change to the clothes that he's wearing? It just isn't possible."

"And yet clearly it is." He flashed her a hopeful smile, but all that she did in response was to reach out for the scarf at his neck and pull it aside.

"And no tide mark. No sign of a change in the colour of your skin where that scarf has been for the last fifteen years. The Governor accused you of witchcraft. Was he right?"

"Keep your voice down, Anne." Josiah was watching the soldiers and Lady Caroline nervously. They were slightly ahead of their former prisoners and did not seem to be paying any attention to the conversation going on behind them, but there were some things that he did not want even to risk being overheard. The accusations of witchcraft that seemed to go hand in hand with Jack's particular eccentricities certainly came into that category. "Jack, I always knew that you were no ordinary man. I saw how you came to be amongst us the first time. I saw your ship. Anne and I both saw it, and the things that it could do. We've not forgotten how you took us aboard it, and let us both off it later." He broke off, and Jack failed to meet his eyes. "Is this another thing that you can't explain?"

"I could explain it. Probably." But time travel was never a thing that it was easy to account for. It was hard enough in a scientific age, but in a world where flight was not yet known, explaining a flight in time was well nigh impossible. People took it so hard, too - the idea that Jack was from a time when they, and all that they knew, were long gone. Some asked questions about the future - questions that he couldn't and mustn't answer. Some were terrified by the idea, or were thrown into a panic. It was a subject that he rarely enjoyed raising. There were reasons why the Time Agency forbade its members from even hinting at the subject in conversation. There were reasons why time travellers didn't generally like to broadcast what they were.

"Yes, well we'd best forget it for now." Josiah was slowing, for they had reached the docks, where a number of ships lay berthed. Lady Caroline and her men were already gathered beside one particular vessel, and Jack realised that he was getting his first look at Josiah's ship - the replacement for his beloved Dragon. She was a lot smaller than her predecessor - not big enough for a crew even half the size of the old one. She was still beautiful though; sleek and clearly built for speed. Her name was painted on the side, in scarlet as though to be sure that everybody could read it - that everybody would know what she was, and who her master was: Seagull. It was a name far removed from the Dragon, but it was a name that seemed to fit. She was a beautiful vessel. Josiah drew to a halt, and gestured up at her.

"So what do you think, Jack? Is she a fine ship?"

"I'm not exactly an expert." He smiled at the other man's pride and enthusiasm. "But yeah, she does have a certain attraction."

"More than that. She's the finest ship in the Caribbean. Built to order by a plantation owner with more money than sense, and a desire for an ocean holiday. The ship was taken by pirates after less than three days at sea, and when Barlowe found her for me, she was in a terrible state." He shot the soldiers a sharp glance. "She'd better not be now."

"I'm sure that everything is in order, Captain Day." Lady Caroline looked a little tense. "How long will it be before we can set sail?"

"Not long." Josiah led the way onboard, and Anne and Barlowe disappeared to complete their allotted tasks.Josiah rolled out the chart, and studied it for several thoughtful moments.

"Well?" asked Lady Caroline, with obvious impatience. He didn't answer at first.

"Your ship would be useful, Jack," he eventually commented instead. "We would be able to survey the seas much faster that way."

"I know. It's a no go though I'm afraid. I'll be lucky if it ever works as well as it used to. Right now it's not working at all."

"Then we shall just have to do this my way." The pirate captain nodded his head slowly. "It's perhaps for the best. Given our present company."

"Probably." Jack held up his right arm, where his wrist computer was always strapped. "But on the other hand, if you've got an advantage, you might as well use it. Get us out to that area, Joe. I might be able to track the Governor then."

"We'll be at sea! It does not hold tracks like the earth. You can't follow a man in such a fashion upon the water."

"I can." Jack flashed him a grin. "Trust me."

"Trust you? I trusted you before, and you left me for fifteen years." Josiah sighed, unable to say the things that he wanted to say when there were others listening in. "Yes, I trust you. For better or for worse, and for reasons I shall never understand, I trust you. I shall probably regret it."

"You should never have regrets." Jack wanted to smile at him fondly, and touch his face or stroke his hair, but he knew that the other man would be mortified in front of so many witnesses. It barely occurred to him that Josiah might not even be interested after a fifteen year separation. "Regrets are a fool's game." The pirate captain merely frowned.

"Here." He pushed the chart into Jack's hands. "Never mind regrets - go below and find my cabin. It shouldn't be difficult. There's a bigger version of this chart there, that shows the surrounding seas, including this coast. Bring it back up here along with my compass."

"Yes sir." Jack mocked him gently with a snappy salute, but Josiah merely raised an eyebrow.

"My ship, Jack. And a ship needs only one captain."

"Fair point." Jack left on his errand, willingly enough, rather glad to be out of sight of the sharp-eyed Lady Caroline for a while. Possibly she was suspicious of the scarf around his neck, or had heard rather more than he would have liked of the earlier conversation about him. At any rate, there was something about her scrutiny that he really didn't enjoy.

It was easy to find Josiah's cabin, just as he had been told. There weren't many to choose from on this newer, smaller ship, and the captain's was at the end of a short corridor, with a brass nameplate and an ornate door handle to mark it out. Jack went in, finding a lighter, more airy space than the captain's cabin aboard the Dragon, with less of the sporadic ostentation. There were heavy red curtains hanging before a large window, and a couple of fairly expensive looking paintings breaking up the monotony of the plain bulkheads. Jack crossed to the desk and rummaged through the various charts that lay there. They were not hugely different to the space charts that he used when navigating his own ship, and they made a certain sense to him even though he was not a sailor. It was not hard to find the right one, and a quick glance told him about the region they were heading for. There were a number of coves that might provide refuge for kidnappers, and it would take forever to search through them all. The 51st century to the rescue once again, he thought grimly, and wondered how best to use his wrist computer without the soldiers seeing him. He doubted that they would be as accepting of such things as Josiah and Anne had proved to be, fifteen years before. They didn't really look the type to be accepting of anything.

"You seemed to be taking some time." It was Josiah, standing in the doorway. "I thought perhaps you were lost." Jack didn't look up.

"I stopped to look at this." He held up the chart. "You told them I was some kind of navigation genius. I thought maybe I should try playing the part."

"Yes." Josiah laughed faintly. "Sorry about that. I had to tell them something, so they wouldn't send you back to the prison. I was angry with you Jack, but I didn't want you hanged."

"Angry with me?" That didn't make sense to Jack for a moment - then he nodded slowly. "Oh, right. Fifteen years is a long time."

"But not, it would appear, to you." Josiah came over and sat down on the edge of the desk. "There is a story here, isn't there. A reason why you haven't aged. We should be able to have a few minutes alone now..."

"I live well. Plenty of fresh air and organic vegetables."

"Jack..."

"Sorry." He sat down on the edge of the desk as well, still holding the chart. It had rolled itself up in his hands by now. "Where's Lady Dracula and her mob?"

"Lady Dracula?"

"Never mind. They're not down here, anyway. That's the main thing." He was silent for a second more, then looked askance at his companion. "Do you ever think about yesterday, Joe? Or how about a year from now, or two hundred years? Did you ever wonder what the world might be like in three thousand years? Or what it was like three thousand years ago? Or about the other worlds that there might be? It's 1750 now - astronomy is progressing, right?"

"There are no other worlds, Jack. And as for the way that this world might change in one or two or even seventeen thousand years - it's immaterial. I shall never see it."

"You could. No, listen to me. Just suppose that you could see it. That you could travel to another point in time. Visit Rome when it was first being built; see dinosaurs when they were more than just fossils? Sorry. I guess dinosaurs are another thing you don't really know about yet." He sighed. "All the people in all the time zones, and I have to be having this discussion with somebody who thinks science is just another kind of philosophy."

"I don't--"

"You're forgiven for the dinosaurs. I guess I'm a little early for that. But it's more than a hundred years now since Galileo was doing his thing. You know something about space now, right? That the Earth goes round the sun? That there are other planets out there?"

"Does this have something to do with why you don't age?"

"No." Jack's shoulders slumped slightly. "Probably not. Time doesn't work the same way for me, Josiah, that's all I'm trying to say. For you it's been fifteen years since we last met, and I'm sorry about that. Really sorry. For me it's been just a day."

"Then you truly are a magician." Josiah looked away, towards the door that led back to the rest of the ship. "And a magician would have no plans to stay here, would he."

"You'd honestly want me to?" Jack was confused, if somewhat encouraged. Josiah's expression changed in a rush.

"No. No, that wasn't really what I meant. You have to understand, Jack... how it's been." He seemed to be struggling for the right words. "I thought that you were best forgotten. That I didn't mind that it seemed you were gone for good. And then suddenly, seeing you again... I thought that my heart might burst through my chest."

"Ow." Jack winced in sympathy, and for a second Josiah seemed about to laugh. Then he looked away again.

"I really have missed you, Jack."

"Thanks." He wasn't sure quite how else to answer. "I'd say the same, but like I said, I've only been gone a day. I'm sure I would have missed you, though. Given the chance."

"I doubt it. A man who can flit through time like a ghost through walls, has no need of anchors." Josiah sighed. "And speaking of time, we're wasting it. We should be about our business."

"Yeah. Getting the Governor back. You still drinking to his damnation with every glass?"

"I fear that I am a creature of habit, Jack." This time Josiah really did laugh, though briefly. "And besides, he deserves it. He kills people just because they look like pirates. He burns houses as punishment when a man is seen talking to someone who may be a pirate. I certainly wouldn't miss him, if we weren't able to get him back."

"Except that her ladyship up there would probably have us all hanging from the yardarm before we got the chance to celebrate." Jack frowned. "What is a yardarm, anyhow? If I'm going to be hanging from it, I want to know what it is."

"Nobody will be hanging, from yardarms or elsewhere." Josiah stood up. "Come on. Look sharp. We have an enemy to rescue, and a vastly annoying woman to charm. That will be your task, I think."

"You want me to sweet talk that?!" Jack shook his head. "No way. You might be the boss on this ship, Joe, but there is no way I'm obeying that order."

"Josiah. And you don't think that you could manage it?" There was a teasing look in the captain's eyes. Jack glared.

"Oh, that's smart. You think I'm that easy to figure out, right? Well I'm not biting. I might flirt a bit here and there, but just because I'm irresistible doesn't mean I don't have standards."

"Here and there?! Jack, with Anne and myself you never stop. Why not with Lady Caroline?"

"Because she's..." He made a face, that proved to be rather more eloquent that any words. "It's been fifteen years, Josiah. You're confusing me with somebody else. I haven't flirted with Tim, or with the soldiers. Besides, you're going to need me to track down the Governor." He tapped his wrist computer. "Tell Tim to get friendly with her. It'd make Anne's day."

"That it would." The pirate smiled faintly. "I don't think that I'm confusing you, though, Jack. Much though I've tried to forget you these last fifteen years, I've never been able to manage it. I remember your ways. Your manner. I remember wondering if I ought to be shocked by your behaviour at the time. Then I decided that it was the way that you were, and that I could hardly judge you by our ways, when you had just fallen out of the sky in a burning ship. You're no ordinary man, and I certainly remember that."

"Thanks." Jack grinned crookedly. "Come on. Before they start wondering what we're up to down here."

"Jack!" Josiah looked pleasantly scandalised. "You have a talent for making my mind work in the most twisted ways."

"Years of practice and experience." Jack slapped him on the shoulder, then gave the shoulder a gentle squeeze. "And if you don't get me up on deck again soon, I'm going to wind up trying to twist your mind even more." He smirked. "I might like to try twisting a few other bits, too."

"Get up on deck." Josiah gave him a push that seemed mostly good-natured. "You may fly through time, my friend, but I have to plod through it like the rest of mankind. You can't jump back into my life after all this time and expect me to fall at your feet."

"I'd only known you for a few hours the last time." Jack conceded anyway, allowing himself to be propelled back along the corridor. Josiah gave a short laugh.

"I was a lot younger then. And besides, for all you know, I've already found someone who deserves my fidelity. Someone who isn't a magician from a world I could never hope to share."

Jack turned to look at him, as they both climbed up the ladder leading to the deck. "If I can visit your world, Josiah, there's no reason why you shouldn't visit mine."

"I'm not a magician. And besides, we don't all want just visits, Jack. We don't all want fleeting unions a decade or more apart." Josiah pushed him gently on up the ladder. "If it has been just one day for you, then I'm truly sorry. But for me it has been so much longer, and so much has happened. I can't be the man that I was then. So for now we worry about Lord Charles, and we win our freedom from his... charming... lady wife. And then... then we shall see."

"Yeah." Jack clambered out through the hatch. Josiah's words made sense, though it wasn't easy for him to hear them. He had seemed to sweep the captain off his feet before, but this time he sensed that it would be a much harder fight. Still - a challenge was always good. Turning around, with a flourish he pulled Josiah up onto the deck after him, then snapped him a jaunty salute and headed off for the bow. Josiah sighed.

"How are things?" It was Anne, appearing at his side with the same silent tread she had always seemed to possess. Josiah might feel his age now, when confronted with an ageless Jack, but Anne never seemed to acknowledge the passing years at all.

"Things?" He saw that she was concerned, presumably about how he was feeling now that Jack had returned. He smiled. "Things are fine. I'm fine. How is the ship?"

"She's in good shape. They've not damaged her. There's some superficial splintering along the port side, where that cannonball struck her, but that shouldn't cause us any worry at sea. Barlowe is happy with the condition of the stores. I would say that we're ready to go."

"Good. Cast off, and we'll see what kind of sailors these soldiers are likely to make."

"A guinea says that they'll all be green and bent over the rail before the sun gets much higher."

"My dear, you know that I never bet." He smiled at her. "Especially when I'm sure that I'd be losing."

"They'll be begging us to take them back to shore long before we've found their precious Governor." She went to the bow to untie the large rope that kept them moored, and nodded to Barlow, who followed suit with a second rope further aft. It was hardly a quick task to take the ship out of the dock and onto the open water, but they made good time nonetheless. A brisk wind was in their favour, and the Seagull was an obliging little vessel. Jack soon realised that he was enjoying himself immensely. The weather was much better than it had been during his brief trip aboard the Dragon, and not being confined below decks infinitely improved the experience. He stood with the wind ruffling his hair, and the sun chasing away the last of the prison blues, and smiled a happy smile. This was definitely a good way to travel. Having other people do most of the work certainly helped.

They weighed anchor in the afternoon, in the place where Lord Charles had intended to do his fishing. Three of the soldiers looked decidedly green, though the voyage did not seem to have been too hard on Lady Caroline. She sat on a chair that somebody had fetched for her from below decks, and fanned herself with a tiny lace handkerchief. Despite her assertion that she could be as much a part of the crew as could Anne, she had done nothing at all of any use so far. Not that Jack wished her ill for that. He had done little himself save some steering, and some highly confused attempts to make head or tail of some of the ropes. The latter had left him half convinced that the ropes were more tangled than spaghetti, and that somebody must have attached them all wrongly. Josiah had laughed at him, though, and that in itself had made a rope burn and a minor case of hurt pride rather more worthwhile. There had been fondness in that laugh, Jack was sure of it. The fondness of a man who wouldn't want to keep him at arm's length forever. Or so Jack chose to interpret it.

"And now what?" asked Lady Caroline, when they had all stood around for some while, staring out to sea as though expecting to see her husband floating somewhere. "How do we find out where Charles is?"

"Within a day's sailing of here, there's a stretch of coastline riddled with potential hiding places." Anne stared off towards the horizon, apparently picturing the coastline in question. "There's a reason why pirates and the like have always used these waters. It's hardly because of the lax enforcement of the law in these parts."

"Quite." Lady Caroline's voice was like ice; clearly she disliked Anne intensely. Anne, for her part, clearly didn't care.

"We have several options at this stage. Either we sail along the coast and try to search for the Governor that way, or we find somebody who might know something, and see what he can tell us." Josiah didn't sound happy at the prospect. "Neither is an ideal method, but both are better than sitting back at the town and hoping for more news."

"I have my methods too, remember." Jack's left hand moved unconsciously to toy with the strap of his wrist computer. Josiah nodded.

"You always have your methods, Jack. The question is, do the rest of us understand them?"

"I would certainly doubt it." Jack flashed him a hopeful smile. "You trust me, right?"

"You know that I do." Josiah hesitated nonetheless. Trust was one thing - but the ways of Jack Harkness were complicated and strange. Lady Caroline stood up, her gaze sharp.

"What is this?" she asked, with a decidedly imperious tone. "Your own methods? Methods that we wouldn't understand? Are you some kind of soothsayer?"

"No." Jack smiled warmly at her, but by the look of her face, his smile had found one of the few people that it couldn't charm. "No, I'm just really good at finding people."

"Then find my husband." This time her voice sounded as though it could have frozen the sea clear from Jamaica to Ireland without too much effort. Jack nodded.

"Alright. If you're sure you want him back."

"Quite sure." She met his eyes, holding his gaze with a look so sharp that it could almost have sliced into his eyeballs. Jack's smile didn't waver, but if it had belonged to a less self-assured man, it would have exploded into a million fragments.

"Okay. You got it." He turned away, heading back to the bows where he all but climbed out onto the bowsprit. Josiah had followed him, he knew; but the others seemed to be holding back. Flipping open the cover of his wrist computer, he typed in a brief series of instructions, and studied the tiny screen. Josiah's face showed itself for a moment, reflected there behind the flashing, scrolling words, and Jack smiled. Then he looked up.

"Interested?"

"I can hardly fail to be. Everything about you is interesting, Jack."

"Glad to hear it." Jack frowned back at the screen. "Ordinarily I'd use the communicator in this to contact my ship, and have the computer there use the onboard scanners to look for Charlie. They're more powerful than the one I have here. That's a little out of the question just now though."

"Is your ship badly damaged?"

"Yeah, you could say that. When I blew up the Kamon I pretty much blew myself up in the process. The ship didn't enjoy the experience too much." Jack flashed him a rueful grin. "Not something I'd recommend."

"The Kamon? But you killed that fifte--" Josiah shook his head. "I find all of this so hard to comprehend, Jack."

"It's just time travel. Like sailing from the docks to this place, except that I sailed from 1735 to 1750. Time is like space, in its own way. You just sail a bit differently, is all."

"And all without magic, of any kind?"

"Science. Science and technology. Once upon a time nobody would have believed that you could look through a tube and make the stars seem closer, but you own a telescope, right?"

"I do own a telescope, yes. But that's--"

"Different, yes I know. You understand telescopes. Two hundred years ago you wouldn't have though. Two hundred years ago you might have thought it was witchcraft. Right?"

"Yes." Josiah nodded slowly. "So where you come from, does everybody travel in time?"

"No. If everybody did it we'd be in a hell of a mess. You have to know what you're doing." He frowned back at his wrist computer, and turned in a slow circle, watching the screen all the while. "Has it rained since he disappeared?"

"Rained?" Josiah shook his head slowly. "I was in gaol, back in the town. I have no idea if it has rained here."

"Good point." Jack tapped a few more instructions into his computer, and a few more scrolling lists of results ran past on the screen. "Looks like it has. Early this morning."

"How can you tell?"

"I can't. This can." He waggled his wrist. "I need to do a stronger scan. The rain might have washed away any sign that he was ever here."

"Well I would suggest hurrying. Lady Caroline looks ready to demand answers, and I imagine that she would do so with the force of arms."

"Yeah. It must look pretty strange to her. Me stood here waving my arm in the air." Jack industriously typed instructions, then waved his arm in the air again. "The scanners are usually operating on a low level, so they'll have scanned Charlie when we were together before. All they have to do is check for matching readings now." The computer beeped, and he grinned. "Kinda like that."

"You've found him?" Josiah didn't look at all convinced. Jack shook his head.

"Not exactly. I've got a sort of a fix, though. Look here." He held out the wrist computer, and pointed at the screen. "He was here. And he headed... south west. If we follow, I can scan again closer to the shore. I should be able to pinpoint him more exactly then."

"South west?" The pirate captain was frowning at the screen, trying to see how the leather band strapped to Jack's wrist could possibly tell this, and how Jack could hope to interpret all the spinning, flashing symbols and pictures that kept appearing on the screen. "You're sure?"

"Yeah. Sure enough. Why? That's not back the way we just came, surely."

"No." Josiah leant back against the wall, staring at the deck at his feet. "No. South west from here, on a direct heading, leads us to Independence. It's a very small town that grew up around the beached wreckage of a pirate ship, the Independence. She was destroyed in a battle with about six other ships, and the survivors washed ashore with all that was left of their vessel. They pitched a camp of sorts, and over the years that camp grew. It's not much of a town at all - you remember the settlement around the Shark's Tooth Inn? It's no bigger than that." He shook his head, looking distinctly unhappy. "But it's a tough place, for all its lack of size. More murderers and cut-throats per square foot than you'd find in the most damnable part of London."

"Sounds like my kind of town." Jack couldn't help grinning. "It's really that bad? No offence, Josiah, but you're a pirate. You must have done a fair bit in your time that other people find pretty offensive."

"I've killed. I've stolen things, I've sunk ships, and I've held at least one person for ransom. It's not the most blameless life, but I'm not ashamed of it. The people of Independence are different. It's not safe there."

"We're not exactly helpless. I've seen you and Anne fight, and I know that I can give a good account of myself. Plus we have soldiers to back us up. They might be annoying, but they must be some use with weapons."

"We can fight, yes. I'd rather not have to, given how greatly we'd be outnumbered, but we can certainly fight. It's not that simple though Jack. To get into that town, and get the Governor out alive - if he's in there - would require stealth rather than force. We could anchor just off the coast and blast the place with our cannons, but what good would that do to Lord Charles?"

"Then we sneak in. A small party - you, me and Anne maybe. You broke me out of prison. You can break him out of wherever."

"Yes. Yes, I did, didn't I." Josiah smiled faintly. "But most of the guards had gone that day. They were out fighting your beast, or trying to fight it. Here we would be facing a town full of people; and they're people who have no reason to love me. They know me, they know Anne, they probably know Barlowe. If we were seen it would be a disaster."

"But they're pirates too, right? So are we talking professional rivalry here, or something else?"

"Something else." Josiah glanced briefly back towards the others, who for the most part appeared to be arguing. Anne, probably, trying to dissuade Lady Caroline from interfering in whatever Josiah and Jack were up to. "The captain of the Independence, and the leader of the town, is a woman named Kate. She and I were once... close." He winced. "No, not close. Not really. It was several years ago, and I was lonely. For a while I thought that it might work, but instead it turned unpleasant. If she sees me, she's likely to slit my throat and enjoy doing it."

"Then we don't let her see you. I did say we should sneak in, and that usually means not being seen. What do you say?"

"I suppose I say that it's worth taking the risk, given that so many lives depend upon the safe rescue of Lord Charles." Josiah didn't look happy. "You win, Jack. I'll turn us about. You tell the others."

"Aye aye captain." Jack snapped off a salute that managed to look both jaunty and more or less respectful, then set off across the deck. Josiah smiled after him as he went. It was all so hopelessly strange to have him back, unchanged and young. Josiah had tried to follow the explanations, but everything had gone over his head. He didn't seem to understand any part of it. All he knew was that a part of his past had just dropped back into his life like some rogue cannonball, and a part of him was delighted about that. To see Jack again, to hear his strange words and see his strange ways - it made that one part of him want to smile all the time. If he could only have understood it all, he might have been able to enjoy it more fully. Instead he could only struggle with it, and try to understand what was suddenly making his heart beat so fast. Confusion? Or perhaps something that he had long forgotten how to embrace.

**********

They anchored around a promontory that hid them from the little town of Independence, and went ashore by the Seagull's lone longboat. Despite the best efforts of Jack and Josiah, it was not the small, three-man party they had been hoping for. Lady Caroline, for all her lack of experience, insisted on accompanying them, with the faithful Hallows in tow - though he did at least help with the rowing. With Anne, Jack and he to power the oars they made good time, and the sun was still just above the horizon when they reached shore. They hid the boat by dragging it up far above the high water mark, amongst a tumble of rocks, then struck out on foot for the town. Josiah was restless, Lady Caroline was greatly ill at ease, and Hallows looked all the while as though he expected an attack from his sometime prisoners, but Jack wasn't ready to give up hope yet. They could still pull this off. It would be dark soon, and there at least was an advantage that could hide a thousand ills - usually. On the other hand, so far the Caribbean had not exactly proved to be his luckiest ever locale.

Hallows insisted on leading the way, although if he actually knew where he was going he gave no indication of it. Jack swept the area with the scanner in his wrist computer, but the results were somewhat inconclusive. There were people about, certainly, but they didn't appear to be moving. For all he knew, they were asleep in their little town. Too many weapons of the period didn't show up on the scanner, which was calibrated to search for something rather more sophisticated than cutlasses and flintlocks, so he couldn't even be sure if the people he detected were armed. He pressed on after Hallows with an uneasy feeling, and tried to keep his eyes peeled. It wasn't easy. The world was in total darkness - the darkness that only existed in places where electricity was unknown. With the moon now vanished behind drifting cloud, he could barely see Josiah just beside him.

"We're close to the town," hissed Anne, as they rounded a corner at the bottom of a towering cliff. Jack put out a hand to slow Hallows.

"You sure?" he asked Anne. She nodded.

"I've been here before. Josiah and I both have. Independence is off limits nowadays because of..." She glanced over at Josiah... "happenings. We used to come here, though, when we were still allies of a sort."

"Of course you used to come here." Hallows looked disapproving - or sounded it. It wasn't entirely possible to see the expression on his face. "All pirates. All as bad as each other."

"Not quite, no. If I was to capture you, I wouldn't shoot you unless you gave me good reason." Josiah nodded in the direction of the town. "The people of Independence would shoot you without a second thought, just because of who you are and who you are with. Not all pirates are cut from the same cloth."

"I'll take your word for it." Hallows didn't sound convinced. "At any rate, let's just get on with this, shall we? You may not want to see the Governor home safe and sound, but I do."

"I assure you that I have every intention of seeing him safe if I can. The lives of my crew depend upon it." Josiah began to move forward again, but Jack stopped him.

"Hang on." He tapped a few keys on his wrist computer, scanning the area for signs of life. If they were about to enter the town, it was better that they be pre-warned of danger. His scanner might not be able to tell him who was awake and who was asleep, or even who was armed, but it should at least help to decide which areas they should avoid. The readings showed him various life-forms - glowing dots and bio-traces, and little moving images that were people circling nearby. Guards out on patrol most likely. A lot of guards. A lot of guards moving very quickly in his direction. "Uh oh."

"What's wrong?" asked Josiah, just as the light of a flaming torch broke through the darkness up ahead. Jack's shoulders slumped.

"Somehow I don't think sneaking in is really an option."

Hallows spun about. "What do you--"

"Nobody move!" With a roar, the lawless men of Independence came out of the darkness, descending upon them in an instant. Jack and his companions struggled, but there was little opportunity to fight, and in no time at all they were overpowered through sheer force of numbers. Hurried and hustled along, they were taken down a dark, worn path, to the place where the crew of the long lost pirate ship had made their ramshackle home. It was lit by a number of fires along the sea front, and by torches that flickered and burned, casting an irregular glow that dazzled the unwary. They got their first proper look at their captors, then - twenty or more of them, in ragged, colourful clothing, armed to the teeth and clamouring about trespass and justice. Only when their ranks parted to allow a woman to pass did the noise fade away and the jostling cease. A pair of men stepped forward, holding their torches up to allow the woman to properly see what they had brought her. She smiled instantly, though her eyes did not stray much along the line of prisoners. They were interested only in one man - Josiah. Jack didn't miss the look that passed between the two pirate captains, and he couldn't miss the obvious fact that neither was pleased to see the other. He eyed the woman with growing unease.

"Kate?"

Josiah nodded, not with enthusiasm. "Kate."

"Ah." She was beautiful though - he had to give her that much. Josiah's opinion of her had coloured his own, and he trusted the other man's instincts - but by Mars she was beautiful. Red-blonde hair lightened in streaks by the sun, skin deepened to a darker gold for the same reason; a billowing shirt in scarlet silk that gave her a swashbuckling appearance Jack approved of most highly. Her eyes, though... bluer than the sea though they might have been, her eyes were as dead and cold as a nuclear winter. She stared hard at Josiah, and he met her gaze steadily.

"Josiah." With one hand she gestured towards him, like an auctioneer making the most of a splendid lot. "Captain Josiah Day, men. Once the captain of a fine pirate ship; now apparently at the beck and call of the wife of the Governor of Jamaica."

"That's not quite how I would have phrased it myself." He tried to smile, but didn't quite succeed. "It's good to see you again, Kate."

"No it isn't. When we last met we both agreed that we never wanted to see each other again. I told you that if I so much as laid eyes upen you, I'd cut your own eyes out. We're not friends, Josiah. And if you've come here to free the Governor, we're a whole new kind of enemy."

"So that's the way it is?" He seemed sad, and probably was. It seemed to Jack that the pirate captain considered himself responsible for her hatred of him; that he believed that if he been stronger, and not allowed himself to have that brief liaison, then their relationship might not be the way it was now. Jack was not inclined to blame only Josiah - but then he and his friend had a very different attitude towards guilt and responsibility.

"That's the way it is." Her eyes trailed across the little group. "You're all dead, each and every one of you. And before morning, you'll be nothing but food for the birds."

"Kate..." Josiah was trying to smile at her again, but it was obvious that his heart was not in it. Her eyes shot daggers at him in return.

"You knew that you wouldn't leave here alive if I saw you, so why try to change my mind now? And why should I stop with just you? The wife of the Governor of Jamaica; a soldier of the king's army; your most trusted associate..." Her eyes lingered upon Anne, showing clear hatred. "There's no reason why I should leave any of you alive."

"Kate--"

"I wanted a ransom. I'm owed that much. You know the sort of man that Lord Charles is. He killed most of my crew, and he killed my brother - but when I try to make him pay, you choose to help his wife get him back." She shook her head. "I didn't expect friendship from you, Josiah, but I don't expect to be slapped in the face instead."

"You're not being slapped in the face. I'm not here because I've taken the Governor's side against you, however it might appear. Why would I do that?" He shook his head sadly. "However we might feel about each other personally, Kate, we're still on the same side. You have my word on that."

"I've had your word once before, Josiah. It didn't do me any good then, and I've no reason to trust it now." Gleaming with contempt, her eyes turned away from him, and drifted back instead towards the rest of her prisoners. They rested upon Jack, the one face in the group that she didn't recognise, and the only one who wasn't looking at her with dislike. On the contrary - whatever his situation, and whatever his respect for Josiah's opinion, he couldn't help the gleam in his eyes and the somewhat libidinous grin that was brightening his face. He raised an eyebrow, unable to resist responding to her sudden attention.

"Hi." She frowned in return, and he mentally rolled his eyes at the lack of understanding. "Well good evening is technically inaccurate, and goodnight sounds a little too final for my liking. I'd compromise with 'hello', but you don't know that one either, do you."

"You're a foreigner," she concluded. His smile grew ever more warm.

"You can't begin to imagine just how foreign I am. If you were to put off the execution for a little while, maybe we could discuss a few of our... cultural differences." He took a step forward, trusting that he wasn't about to get shot. "Captain Jack Harkness, ma'am, at your service."

"Jack Harkness?" For a second she held his gaze; for one second she stared back at him, and he saw something stir within her eyes; then she snapped back around to look at Josiah, and there was a new kind of hatred in her expression. "Him? He's the one? Well congratulations, Josiah. I'm glad that you found each other again. Perhaps I'll let you watch him die before I kill you too."

"Um... excuse me?" Confused, Jack looked from one to the other of them. "Am I missing something here? It's Kate, isn't it. If I've done something to offend you, Kate, I'd be only too willing to help ease the pain." His smile brightened for a second. "I'm good at that.

"No doubt. Oh I've heard all about you, Jack. The nights when Josiah was sleeping badly. The nights when he dreamed aloud. I've heard all about you."

"You have?" For a second he grinned yet more broadly, his ego delighted by the idea that Josiah had talked about him - then abruptly it sunk in. Josiah, lying in bed with Kate, talking aloud in his sleep about the man he had so nearly had a relationship with. The man he had apparently never quite been able to leave behind. He winced. "Ah. Sorry about that. Still, there's no reason to take any of that personally. It's not Joe's fault if his mind wanders occasionally when he's asleep." He saw the sharp spark in Kate's eyes and winced again. "Or at... other moments..."

"I've wondered about you, over the years." She looked him up and down, though not in any kind of way that he liked. This was not the appraising eye of intrigue and interest, or the appreciative eye of attraction. It was the cold scrutiny of someone with a definite grudge. He could see then that Kate was more than a lover with an axe to grind. A brief fling ended through incompatibility was how Josiah had seen it. Kate obviously saw something very different. Quite suddenly she didn't seem entirely sane. Jack kept the warmth in his expression nonetheless.

"Josiah told me about you, too, when we knew that we were coming here. I was hoping to meet you. You're quite the legend in these parts."

"Everybody is afraid of me and my men." She was proud of that. It showed in the haughty lift of her head, and the sudden flare of light in her eyes. "Everybody. Or so I thought." For a second she frowned at him, the dislike giving way to interest. "You're not, are you."

"Oh, I am." He continued to meet her gaze, his eyes showing his own interest. Beside him Josiah was clearly edgy, but he was keeping quiet. Either he recognised that this conversation had to be between Jack and Kate alone, or he just didn't know what to say. Jack, meanwhile, moved forward slightly, to lessen the gap between him and the woman before him. "I'm petrified. Quaking, actually. You can probably feel it." To his surprise she smiled.

"You're an odd one for Josiah to choose. Odd in many ways, I think. Was that the attraction, Josiah?"

"You're quite wrong, Kate. I haven't seen Jack in fifteen years. Whatever you're thinking..."

"I'm not interested." She cut him dead, not caring in the slightest what he had been saying. "What I'm interested in now is your friend here. Tell me, Mr Harkness--"

"Captain," he corrected her, apparently not at all worried about the risks involved in interrupting and correcting somebody who showed every sign of being unbalanced. "Captain Jack, at..."

"At my service, yes, so you said. Well we'll see about that later. For now, tell me something, Captain Harkness. What price do you put on the lives of your companions here?"

"Price?" It was a clear enough question, but he queried it anyway. He didn't like the way this seemed to be heading. She smiled in answer, clear and cold and with eyes so icy that Jack could almost have believed they might snap.

"Yes. Price." She reached out with one hand, and took one of his, her body language a clear challenge to Josiah. "What do you think they're worth?

"More than the Governor." He frowned. "You're not having a change of heart. So why act like you are?"

The glint in her eyes matched that in his own for the first time then. Playful. Warm. She almost smiled. "I've been waiting a long time to meet you, Captain Jack. I hoped that I might get the chance some day, but it's a big world. People disappear into it. I never dreamed that I'd have you here; you and Josiah, together, in the most perfect way. Now answer my question."

"What do I think they're worth? I don't know, I never had to buy a person before. That's what this is about, right? What it's worth to you to let us go? Well I don't have anything. Nothing that I can give you, anyway."

"I don't think that she's interested in what you've got, Jack. This isn't that kind of an exchange." Anne had been watching events with quiet scrutiny, but now she no longer wished to stay aloof. "Kate, this really isn't necessary."

"Be quiet!" Kate spat the word with a burst of fury that seemed to come from nowhere. "This is nothing to do with you!"

"Yes it is. Of course it is. I was there, Kate. I saw what happened between you and Josiah. It wasn't his fault, and it certainly wasn't Jack's. He's been away since the thirties. How can he have been to blame for anything that's happened here since then?"

"He'd quite like to know that himself, actually." Jack looked from one to the other of them, then over to Josiah. The latter had fallen quiet, and was staring at some indeterminate point away from everybody else. "You want me to do something, don't you. What is this? Some kind of revenge, because you think you lost Josiah over me?"

"Revenge is for fools." Kate smirked at him, then moved a little closer, and reached out with one hand to touch his face. "But I asked you how much you thought these others were worth. Your life, perhaps?"

"I doubt it. Meaning no offence, but I tend to rate my own life pretty highly."

"Good. Then maybe you'll fight to keep it." She turned away, looking back towards Josiah. "I promised that I would kill you, Josiah, but I'll let you walk away from here alive. I'll let all of you walk away from here alive, and the governor too - if your great friend Captain Jack can win you your freedom. Do we have a deal?"

"Don't be such a damned fool, Kate." Josiah stirred himself from his thoughts, and turned sad eyes upon the woman he had tried to love. "Anne's right, and none of this is Jack's fault. If you want somebody to play your games, then why not let it be me. I am the only one who is responsible for what happened between the two of us."

"Perhaps. But on the other hand, it will be so much more entertaining to watch you watching him struggle. So much more entertaining. Jack?" She swung back around to face him. "What say you? A competition, with your lives as the prizes?"

"Strangely enough, I think it's a really bad idea." He glanced away briefly, then looked back at her. "If I don't accept the offer, we die anyway, right?"

"One by one, or all at once. Yes, you die anyway."

"Yeah. Thought so. But if I agree to this competition, and win, you'll let us go? Really let us go?"

"She's a woman of her word, Jack." Josiah sounded heavily tired. "But you won't win. She wouldn't offer the competition to begin with if she thought that there was any chance she would lose."

"Yeah. I kinda guessed that, too." All the same, though, trying seemed better than just standing around waiting to be executed. Where there was life, there was hope. And where there was hope there was... well, quite a big chance that hope would run away and leave him up to his armpits in trouble, if he was brutally honest. Even that was better than just getting shot, though. He nodded. "Yeah, okay. I'll take the deal. What's the competition?"

"A fight. Simple enough. No rules, and anything goes. The winner is the one who manages to stay on their feet." She smiled, very coldly and very cruelly. "Let's see what you're made of, Jack. See a little of the reason why Josiah seemed to prefer you to me."

"Me not being psychotic springs to mind." The words fell out before he had considered the consequences - but Kate showed no reaction. The insult had gone right over her head. He silently thanked psychologists for not having invented themselves yet in the eighteenth century. "Josiah never said he preferred me, you know. Thinking about someone doesn't mean you want them."

"Will you fight?" She had no interest in being talked out of her plan; no desire to listen to reason. Jack, who had a similar lack of desire when it came to risking his life fighting for the freedom of Lord Charles - or most other people if he was perfectly honest - found himself stuck in an unenviable position. He had a nasty suspicion that he wasn't going to be fighting just anybody. Kate didn't want him to win; she wouldn't even be suggesting this if she thought he had a chance. On the other hand, of course, he was Captain Jack Harkness - adventurer, alleged hero, gallant space pirate extraordinaire... or so the story went. The only man to escape from the prison colony on Bratel IV. The only human to face the Gractel beast and survive; albeit entirely accidentally and through no real skill of his own. Ogrons had tried to kill him and failed. Well - one Ogron, admittedly drunk and none too cognisant. But it still made a good story. He smiled, and gave Kate a cheerfully confident nod.

"I'll fight."

"Jack, don't do this." Josiah was clearly neither cheerful nor confident. Jack put that down to the fact that the pirate captain had never seen him fight - that or the fact that Josiah had rather more sense than he did. He flashed his friend a grin guaranteed to dazzle even the most cynical pair of eyes, and took a few steps forward, effectively distancing himself from his companions.

"Who's the other guy?" She smiled immediately, and her eyes flashed bright enough to rival his dazzling grin - though with a light that was cold and cruel.

"Me." She reached out again, and again stroked the side of his face, the sparkle in her eyes both mocking and amused. "To the death, if you'd like."

"You?" She did look athletic, certainly; like Anne she gave the distinct impression that she could take care of herself. Jack had fought women before, in other times and on other worlds; and this eighteenth century society, that preferred its women in dresses and its men in uniform, was far, far from his own. It was not misplaced chivalry that made him hesitate now. Kate was dangerous, and he did not believe for one moment that she planned to fight fair. He had already realised, though, that he had very little choice. He nodded again.

"You're on."

"If that's an acceptance..."

"It is."

"Good." She smiled with obvious relish. "Then there's nothing more to be said, is there."

**********

She gave him some time before she started the fight, though he wasn't entirely sure what he was expected to do with it. Possibly she wanted the time to prepare herself, although she didn't seem to be doing much save flex her arms and down what looked like half a bottle of darkest rum. She was not a large woman, but she obviously had a great deal of speed and agility on her side. Jack was no slouch himself, but when an eighteenth century human woman from a culture like this one showed such great confidence before a fight with a man, he couldn't help thinking that there was good reason to be worried. Josiah certainly seemed to think that he was a fool for accepting the challenge.

"And I was supposed to let her kill us I suppose?" Jack watched Kate out of the corner of one eye as he argued with Josiah, and made a stab at copying a few of her limbering up exercises, just to look as if he knew what he was doing. Josiah shook his head.

"You are letting her kill us. You should have turned her down. I could have spoken to her."

"She wants to slit your throat, Josiah." Anne was on Jack's side. "I know that she can fight. I've seen her in taverns in the past. But this way we have a far better chance. Jack may win."

"He won't." The pirate captain was emphatic. "It's not an insult, Jack. I know that she's smaller than you, and I'm sure that you can fight well enough. It's just that you've not seen her. She can move like the wind, and she's deadly. Truly deadly."

"Yeah, well it beats a musket ball in the head." Jack glanced back at Kate. "I think."

"She will try every dirty trick you've ever seen, and more besides."

"You think?" Somehow he doubted that she would try the sort of dirty trick practised by the three-armed Xargonnas, a tag team of which he had once fought in a market place on a Martian space station - or the Deron battle robots, programmed to fight as dishonourably as a situation would allow. But then he had come off decidedly for the worst against them, too, so the cultural limits on Kate's underhandedness were not necessarily to his advantage.

"I don't think, I know." Josiah dredged up a small smile. "I don't suppose there's some spell that you could use?"

"Yeah. And if I really was a magician, that might work." Jack toyed with his wrist computer. "Although there might be something. Mill around me. Keep me out of sight for the time being."

"You plan to escape?" asked Josiah, doing his best to 'mill'. It wasn't easy when it was just him and Anne. Hallows and Lady Caroline were trying to distance themselves from everything - possibly in the hope that this would save their lives, or possibly just because they would rather go to their deaths unsullied by involvement with such unpleasantness.

"No. Yes. Hopefully, in a bit." Jack lifted the computer to his mouth, horribly conscious, as usual, that he was about to do something that would probably scare off Josiah yet again. "Computer. You there?"

"Where else would I be?" The ever polite, ever good-humoured voice of the ship's computer came to him over the speakers in his wristband. "What do you require?"

"Some help." He relayed his instructions as quickly and clearly as he could. "In five minutes, then. Got all that?"

"Affirmative." She fell silent. Had the computer been human, Jack would have imagined that she was thinking about what he had just said, and trying to work out what the hell he had got himself into this time - let alone how her new orders were supposed to help. Instead he assumed that she was just processing the instructions, and returning to her usual duties.

"I'm not going to ask." Anne was looking at him as though he had just had a conversation with a palm tree, and from her point of view, he probably might just as well have done. He flashed her a faintly apologetic smile, then took off the wristband and handed it to Josiah.

"Keep it out of sight. Try to stand somewhere where you're not too visible."

"Jack..."

"It's not magic."

"No, Jack--" But it was too late, for a pair of Kate's men loomed up out of the brighter glare of the torches, to take Jack away for his fight. He tried to shoot Josiah a smile in farewell - something rakish and confident and courageous, and hopefully utterly irresistible - but one of the men holding him was also holding a torch, and all that Jack saw was a painful flare of red and orange. He was pushed into a circle of light, and felt his boots sink slightly in wet sand. The sea slapped against his heels.

"Ready?" Kate stood a stone's throw away, sleeves rolled up and tied with strips of ribbon. She looked, he couldn't help thinking, absolutely gorgeous. Under normal circumstances, grappling with somebody who looked like her would be enjoyable to the extreme.

"I'm always ready." He tried a suggestive grin, but either she had no time for innuendo, or she just had no time for him. She balled her fists, and shot him a cold glare.

"Good. No rules. Try to stay alive."

"You want me to win?"

"No. I just don't want the fight to be over too soon." She took a step towards him. "Throw the first punch."

"If you like." He took a step forward, deliberately clumsy at first in an effort to throw her off. She wasn't fooled. At the first move from him she dropped to the ground, grabbing up a handful of sand to throw in his face. Sheer instinct saved him from being blinded, and he twisted away just in time, feeling the sand showering over one of his shoulders. If it had been fine, dry sand, it would probably have blown into his eyes anyway. Damp as it was, it just fell away.

"Naughty naughty." He wagged a finger at her, but had to stop his clowning rather abruptly when she came for him again. She had speed, that was for certain. Dodging away, he tried to make grab for her, but she was gone before his hands could close. He tried to trip her, but she avoided his feet easily; he tried to hit out, but she was fast enough to prevent any blow from striking home. He soon wished that he could say the same.

She came out of nowhere every time; a punch here, a jab there - a rain of blows that hammered into him with relentless force. Deadly, Josiah had said. She was certainly that. The best that he could do seemed to be to deflect the worst of the force. He wondered how long they had been fighting. Why had he told the computer to wait five minutes? One would have been too long. It felt as though this had been going on for an hour already, but he knew that it could not have been any more than a minute or two. Every step made the sea spray up around his feet, but his trousers were barely wet. Hardly any time at all, then. Barely a heartbeat.

He hit her once. In all of the fight, despite all his experience and skill, he got in one blow that connected; a solid jab that hit her on the right shoulder and made her stagger. He could do nothing else. The rest of the time it was just dodging and stumbling, and trying to stay on his feet. He was beginning to doubt that he could even stay conscious - it was like being steadily beaten up by a professional. Apparently that was exactly what it was; he could hardly have accused Kate of being an amateur. Falling back against the ranks of spectators, he felt his feet lose contact with the ground momentarily, as he was pushed forward again. It was a moment of near total disorientation, and he almost forgot to duck when Kate's fist sailed towards his neck. He twisted, stumbled - and received her foot instead, right in his stomach. What there was left of his vision blurred alarmingly, and for a second all he could see were pinpricks of light from the torches; miles away it seemed, and surrounded by endless black. He dropped to one knee.

"Jack!" Josiah's voice. Something glinted - he thought that it was a knife. A small knife, but probably just as effective as a bigger one. He had one of his own somewhere, didn't he? A knife, that might provide him some chance of escaping. Back aboard the ship, his subconscious told him, and a flash of memory told him that it was right. The knife was lying on the floor somewhere. He had used it during his work on the ship shortly before destroying the Kamon. No knife then. Great. Just a pounding head, bruised ribs, and lungs that no longer felt as though they were capable of inflating. Life could be unexpectedly painful. Suddenly he was wishing for the Deron battle robots. At least they had had the decency to knock him out quickly.

"Nobody move!" The voice rang out with such startling volume that Kate actually jumped. Jack took advantage of her distraction to knock the knife aside and wobble to his feet. "Stand still! This is the local garrison. Drop all weapons. Your prisoners are to remain unharmed."

"What the hell?!" Kate was turning in circles, trying to stare into the impenetrable blackness behind all of the torches. "That's impossible! Where are the guards!"

"Don't argue with soldiers. They're always looking for target practice." Jack raised his hands slightly, and with them his voice. "Hello? Don't shoot!"

"Nobody move! This is the local garrison! Drop all weapons!" Somebody near to Jack dropped his musket, and a second later somebody else did the same. As though to emphasise the demand for surrender, several gunshots rang out, and a lot more men dropped their weapons immediately. Kate was furious.

"I gave no order to surrender!" She was still trying to stare into the black, looking for whoever was shouting the order. The voice came from close by - very close by - but she could see nobody, and certainly not the lots of somebodies that the voice had implied were here. Another few shots rang out - loud and sharp - pistols as well as muskets. Something exploded, or sounded as though it did. A lot more of Kate's people dropped their weapons.

"Line up along the beach!" The voice was even louder now - closer. Kate's head snapped around, but aside from her own men she could see only her prisoners. None of them seemed to have spoken. Certainly none of them were armed. The voice was so close, though. So blastedly, infernally, close.

"Drop all weapons! This is the local garrison!" Whoever it was, they had little imagination, thought Kate. They were shouting the same things over and over again. No imaginative threats. The soldiers that she had met before were usually far more inventive - far more enthusiastic in their attempts to intimidate. Not that that made any difference to the force of their arms. Beside her, Jack still had his hands raised, and Josiah and Anne were now standing likewise. She probably could still kill them - one of them at least - before the soldiers killed her. The thought was not hugely appealing. Very slowly she raised her own hands, and the knife slipped almost unseen to the ground.

The rest of her people of Independence surrendered as soon as Kate had done, and soon they were all lined up on the beach, their weapons left behind. Hallows collected them all into a pile, then called out to the soldiers to approach. Nobody came. Jack took his computer back from Josiah before it could give the game away by shouting any more orders. Kate would certainly smell a rat if she was told to line up on the beach after already having done so. He couldn't help noticing how eager Josiah was to be rid of the wristband, but Jack couldn't worry about that now. They had to be gone, before somebody began to wonder why no soldiers had appeared.

"Where are they?" Hallows stamped over looking furious. "They should have advanced by now. They must be being led by a coward."

"I'm not sure that there are any soldiers." Lady Caroline was looking at Jack's wristband with a highly suspicious expression. Apparently she at least had pinpointed the source of the voice and weapons-fire. "What trickery was--"

"Shut up!" It was hardly the way in which she expected to be spoken to, but there was no better way to phrase it. Jack shot a sharp glare that unexpectedly did shut her up, and immediately. "Do you want to give the game away?!"

"We need to leave. Now." Josiah grabbed what looked like his sword from the pile. "Back to the longboat as quickly as we can. If they catch on, we'll be dead in minutes."

"Catch on to what?" Hallows was still looking out for the soldiers. So, apparently, was Kate.

"Where's Barlowe?" she asked the question quite unexpectedly, as she stood with her compatriots, still in the line on the beach. Josiah blinked, looking rather like a startled rabbit.

"He's back aboard the Seagull," answered Anne, quite truthfully. Kate's lip curled in an unpleasant smile, that managed to be wholly visible even if most of the rest of the beach was in darkness.

"Is that so. He's not, say, hiding somewhere nearby, running about a bit and pretending to be some soldiers? I know Timothy Barlowe, and he'd follow you to the ends of the Earth, Anne. He's really back aboard the Seagull, with you here risking danger?"

"He is." Josiah considered picking up a musket, but one gun, and one shot, wouldn't help him much just now. Hallows levelled his own musket at Kate.

"Barlowe? What would he be doing here? And what's keeping those blasted soldiers?"

"Exactly!" Kate swung around. "Trickery, Josiah. Clever trickery, perhaps, but nonetheless still games. He's out there, isn't he. Just him, hiding. If there were any more of them out there, my men would have found them when they found you." She raised her voice. "Barlowe! Give yourself up, or I'll kill your beloved Anne!"

"He's not out there." Josiah nodded to Jack. "Get everybody moving. We have to get out of here."

"You'll wait for the soldiers." Hallows was as suspicious as Kate, though for different reasons. "We still have to find the Governor, and nobody is leaving here before then."

"You'll die if you wait around here." Anne turned her back on him. "Though we're dead if we run, too. Josiah..."

"I know!" Josiah didn't know what to suggest any more than did she. Jack's trickery, or magic, or science, or whatever this latest thing was that he didn't understand, had bought them some time, but now he had no idea what to do. Kate started to laugh.

"Throw down your weapons. I might let you live, then."

"Keep back!" As she began to advance, Hallows readied himself to fire. Josiah pushed his musket away, and it fired harmlessly into the sand.

"No," he said firmly. The soldier stared at him in a fury.

"She plans to kill us!" He seemed about to lash out at the pirate captain with his now empty musket, but instead he threw the weapon to the ground and went to grab another. Kate was walking towards them now, slowly and calmly. Jack couldn't fault her for her courage - she had no real reason to believe that there weren't really soldiers hidden out there somewhere, or that even if she was right, Barlowe wouldn't shoot her down straight away. No gunshot came of course. There was nobody out there to fire.

"Nice try." She was smiling pleasantly enough, but there was murder in her eyes. Jack's hand went to his wrist computer, but he couldn't think of anything else to do with it. The ship's computer had relayed sounds from her databanks, and disguised her voice using stored voice prints, but that trick was over now. If he tried it again, everybody would see that the noise came from a strap around his wrist. That was asking for trouble.

"Go back to your men." Hallows had fetched another musket and was pointing it at her, but her men were advancing now too.

"I don't think so. I think I've had enough of this game." One more step and she would be within reach of Josiah. He had his sword in his hand still, but Jack didn't think that he would use it. He had already just saved her life once. He wouldn't take it now, and she knew it. One more step... and they would all have to surrender then.

With a boom that rang out along the shoreline, a shower of water burst up from the surf. Birds nearby, disturbed from their sleep, squawked in fear and rose up into the air. Kate spun around, worried for one moment that she might have been wrong about the trick - and then realising abruptly that she had not been. She swore under her breath.

"That's a ship's gun." One of her men was pointing out to sea. "There! A flash of light!"

"Not just a ship's gun." All of a sudden Josiah was grinning like a fool. "That's the long nine aboard the Seagull! It's Barlowe! He's brought the ship around!"

"Barlowe?!" Anne's face lightened with relief. "Good heaven. Perhaps he's not such an annoyance after all."

"Oh, he is." Josiah smiled at her. "But sometimes he's a useful one."

"All of which sounds like the end of the battle." Crossing to stand before Kate, neatly preventing her from getting any closer to Josiah, Jack had a hard expression on his face. She smiled faintly.

"Sounds like it. I was right though, wasn't I. There are no soldiers out there."

"No Barlowe either."

"So it would appear." She was frowning at him. "It was your doing, wasn't it. Under cover of the fight. Josiah has never been one for trickery."

"You'll never know." He kept his voice even. "We'll be leaving now, and we'll be taking Lord Charles with us."

"If you're sure that you want him." For a second she stared at him, eyes as hard and as sharp as nails - then she looked away, towards one of her men. "Fetch the Governor. Don't hurt him."

"Aye aye, captain." He left, moving as smartly as the best Naval sailor, and disappeared beyond the line of torches. Jack didn't watch him go - he didn't dare take his eyes off Kate.

"You're a clever man," she was saying, her own eyes now trailing up and down him with cool appraisal. "I don't know how you did all of this, but I will find out. Eventually."

"I doubt it." He smiled coolly. For a second her eyes flared.

"You're just a man, Captain Jack. And I can outthink any man. Whatever trick you've played here today - and there's a trick in it somewhere, I know there is - I will figure it out. I'll come after you then. I'll come after you anyway."

"Believe me, honey, where I'm going you'll never come after me." He glanced over at Josiah and Anne as they came towards him, Hallows and a white-faced Lady Caroline just behind. The Governor's wife was clearly shaken to the core, and looked like she wanted to cling to something for support. Since all that was available was a selection of pirates and a lowly soldier, she had to make do with quivering, and trying to look as though she wasn't.

"My husband," she said, as she drew nearer to Kate. "Where is my husband?"

"Over there." Kate nodded towards the ring of torches, into which her subordinate had vanished. "He's coming. I want him dead, and I want the ransom I think I'm owed - but I won't risk my men." Her eyes danced with hatred. "You'll never be safe, Lady Caroline - you'd better remember that. Next time I might just get you both - and next time I'll make sure you don't have your own little pirate crew to rescue you."

"Next time I won't need pirates. We'll be ready for you next time." Despite her obvious fear, Lady Caroline's voice was as hard as Kate's. "I should have you killed before we leave. We could destroy your town with the cannons aboard that ship."

"But we won't." Josiah was staring out to sea, where the glint of a torch marked the position of the Seagull. Lady Caroline seemed about to argue, but instead fell silent and looked towards the torches. Apparently the felt that somebody should be going to look for her husband, although she didn't quite feel capable of doing so herself. She was just about to order Hallows to go when two dark shapes loomed up amongst the flames, and Lord Charles appeared there, escorted by the man that Kate had sent.

"What's going on?" Half-blinded by the light, the Governor looked this way and that. "I heard noises. Voices. I demand to know what is going on!"

"Charles!" Her voice a shriek of almost girlish delight, Lady Caroline threw aside all decorum and rushed towards him. She remembered herself just as she reached him, and instead of hugging him, took his hands and kissed one of them with restraint. "It's good to see you again Charles."

"Caroline?" He stared at her for several moments, before his eyes also fell upon Josiah and his companions. "Him?! He's behind all of this?"

"Not exactly, Charles. I made him--"

"And him!" For a second the fury in Lord Charles's voice gave it a volume to match the noise of the long nine. Jack who, newly spotted, was the 'him' in question, looked up in bemusement.

"Charlie." He nodded a greeting. This was the bit he had been looking forward to least. "How have you been?"

"You." The Governor took several steps forward. "Witch. Magician. Murderer."

"Hey! I didn't kill anybody!"

"Your pet did. Am I supposed to forget that? You with your tricks, and your machine that flies. I haven't forgotten. I swore that I would bring you to justice, and I still intend to do that." Lord Charles looked back at his wife. "They kidnapped you as well, my dear? And you, Hallows?"

"No, Charles. They helped me to come here and find you. I didn't know what else to do..." She caught up with him, and took his hand once again. "Witch, you say?"

"He's a conjurer. You've heard me speak of him before. The man who brought the monster that killed half of my men fifteen years ago."

"All of which is fascinating no doubt." Anne pointed towards the torch that showed them where the Seagull was waiting. "There's a man over there on a ship, and he has a gun readied to fire. If we don't get back to that ship soon, he's going to assume that we're dead or still prisoners. He'll fire again, and I'd rather not be here if he plans to fire often, especially if he's got the cannons loaded as well. Perhaps we should argue this out when we're back aboard?"

"Perhaps we should." Lord Charles looked hard at her. "But don't assume that you can distract me. I've waited fifteen years to see that man again, and I aim to make him answer the charges against him. Whatever he is, I want none of it."

"A witch?" Kate was looking at Jack with new interest, but he was looking only at Josiah. He didn't expect Anne to say anything in his defence, but he did hope that Josiah might. All that it needed was a quick refutation - a comment in passing. He was no witch, and surely Josiah knew that by now? Josiah, however, said nothing, and merely stared out at the darkened sea.

"We should go," said Hallows in the end, confused and embarrassed by talk of witchcraft, and unnerved by the idea that Barlowe might be about to pound them all to dust with the long nine and its cannon brothers. "The longboat...?"

"Is too far away." Josiah didn't want to go back to the beached boat - not in the dark, not with Kate and her men likely to follow them, and not with the ship now so close to them anyway. "We can all swim, can't we?"

"My wife and I can swim, yes." Lord Charles did not look delighted by the idea, but he clearly did not intend to appear weak. Hallows looked less confident, but he nodded anyway. Josiah nodded as well.

"Good. They won't try to shoot us, even if they can see us well enough. Barlowe will hear any gunfire." He wasn't entirely certain that Barlowe was capable of firing with any kind of accuracy, and didn't think for a moment that he would be able to competently return fire with the long nine. He was just as likely to shoot his swimming friends as he was the people firing on them. All the same, he was a good deterrent. The Seagull was small, and didn't carry many armaments - not like the Dragon, or the ships that flew the Governor's colours - but it had weaponry enough to do damage to Independence. Kate knew that.

"I'll see you again, Josiah." Kate held up a hand in farewell. He half expected her to throw a knife at him.

"No doubt. Next time, you can keep the Governor."

"Next time I think it'll be your witch that I'm after." She looked towards Jack and smiled, but he ignored her. It didn't seem right leaving her here - they should be arresting her and her men, not leaving them free to go back about their business. It might be impossible to take them all back in the Seagull, but it still seemed wrong just to leave. The Governor would come back, though; he knew that. He would bring his fleet, and a hundred cannons, and they wouldn't stop at warning shots. He felt sorry for Kate then. She was going to lose her town, and she knew it. Her mad eyes, her cold smile, and her murdering ways aside, he still felt sorry. And she had probably been right all along - the Governor probably had deserved to be kidnapped.

"We should go." If he stayed any longer this place was going to start getting to him - all dark and largely invisible, with the harsh light of all those flaming torches. The people he couldn't see, milling about just of sight, eager to regain the upper hand, kept back only by the threat of the unseen Barlowe and his long nine. He didn't like Independence. He didn't like saving the Governor, and he didn't like the atmosphere that prevailed here; the ice of Kate and the sudden odd aloofness of Josiah. The way everybody seemed to be looking at him, now that the Governor had accused him of witchcraft; the way that the sensation of all those eyes made the back of his neck prickle with unease. Being back aboard the Seagull wouldn't get rid of all those suspicious eyes, but it would relieve him of most of them. He started to walk into the surf.

"Stay within my sight, witch." The Governor was almost upon him, voice harsh and sharp. "I want to be sure that you're not summoning any more of your monsters." Jack considered threatening to do just that, but kept silent. Lady Caroline was clinging to her husband now, he saw - the look in her eyes one of a new kind of contempt. He didn't care what she thought of him; she was just as bad as her husband, and he had no time for either of them. He didn't care that Hallows was watching him more closely, either, but it did bother him that Josiah hung back on the beach for a moment; that he stopped to say a farewell to the woman who had wanted to kill them all. Jack didn't mind that kind of gallantry. He had stopped before to bid his farewells to his enemies, especially the ones that were as beautiful and as interesting as Kate. It bothered him, though, that Josiah was taking his time to follow; that he seemed to be putting distance between himself and Jack. It was Anne in the end who swam closest to Jack on the voyage back to the ship - Anne who climbed up alongside him. Anne who protested with sudden volume when the Governor ordered the soldiers to lock him up below decks. He had already been dragged away before Josiah came back aboard, and although he listened for the sound of feet against wood, nobody came to see him. He sat alone in the dark for the rest of the night, and wondered what the hell was going to come next.

**********

Dawn came eventually. It seemed to have taken forever to arrive, and even after it came Jack did not find his prison much lighter. A pale grey light seeped into the room, showing him a few details that he had missed in the near total darkness of before. He was in some kind of storeroom, though there was little enough in there now. A chest half-filled with cloth, a bare table, and an empty barrel that smelled of stale rum - that and a rat the size of a small horse. Jack tried talking to it, but apparently his legendary charm didn't work on rats. Not giant ones with teeth bigger than his own, anyway. He sang softly to himself to pass the time; a sea shanty he had heard in the Shark's Tooth Inn; a nineteenth century show tune he had picked up somewhere; a twenty-first century ballad that had been in the music charts when he had last visited that particular period. None of it entirely chased away the silence, or the dank depressing nature of the room. None of it brought anybody to see him, either to find out how he was, or to tell him to shut the hell up. He sang louder, even though he shouldn't really risk eighteenth century people hearing nineteen-twenties music hall songs, but still nobody came. Josiah didn't come - that was what really hurt. Perhaps they had all been taken into custody, and they were all locked in cabins - Josiah, Anne, Barlowe...? But Barlowe had been at the long nine. Jack had seen him there when he had climbed aboard. If that was deterrent enough for the people of Independence, it was certainly deterrent enough for a tired bureaucrat and his frightened wife. And besides - the others were needed to sail the ship. The only other possibility for Josiah's absence was that he wasn't allowed to visit, but Jack knew that that wouldn't stop him. Josiah was captain aboard his own ship, and wouldn't be given orders by anybody else, no matter his position, or how many armed soldiers he had to back him up.

It was a long day. The pale grey morning became a pale grey afternoon. The voyage to Independence had been a sunny and a breezy one. Jack had spent it on the deck, spectacularly failing to be useful, and making Josiah laugh at his confusion over the ropes. They had joked about Lady Caroline's disapproval of Anne, and about Barlowe's lovelorn gazes at that same redoubtable lady. It had all been well-meaning enough, even if Josiah had made it clear that he couldn't just pick up where they had left off. He had been bothered by certain things, yes... but this? The contrast on the voyage back was huge. Jack played listless chess on his wrist computer, and argued with the computer back on the ship about the rate at which the auto-repair was progressing. He had her play him some music, and sang softly along as he lay on his back on the table, and drew patterns on the ceiling with the laser pointer in his little ship's remote. He tried to play I-Spy with the ship's computer, but she didn't seem to want to play. Instead she argued with him about the length of time it would take to repair the teleport, and hinted that she thought he got into trouble far too often. He turned up the volume of the music, and tried to ignore her. It was a damned shame that the rum barrel was empty. He would have enjoyed a convenient supply of the stuff right about now.

Josiah came in the late afternoon, finding Jack in a room full of music that seemed to have been conjured from nowhere, and conducting along with the laser pointer as his baton. Caught out during a particularly energetic moment of Beethoven's Eroica, Jack was almost sorry for the interruption, even though he had been longing for the visit since the previous night. He turned off the music and the laser pointer, and stowed away the little remote. Great move, Jack, his subconscious told him. Music and light from nowhere is always a good way to shake off a charge of sorcery. Right now, though, he just didn't care.

"Hey," he said, by way of greeting. Josiah nodded.

"Good afternoon, Jack. I've brought you some water and some food."

"That's very thoughtful." He didn't think that it was, really, but there seemed little point in being churlish. Not at this point in the conversation, anyway. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. Fine. Lord Charles is rude and unpleasant, but he's letting me command the ship in my own way. Our freedom is still assured. I'm to have my crew returned to me when we get back to the docks."

"That's nice." Jack didn't ask if he was to be included in that assurance of freedom. It seemed rather obvious that he wasn't. "So, you want to tell me what's going on here? Only last I looked, we were friends. Now suddenly the Governor is trying to accuse me of witchcraft, and you're more interested in making up to the ex-girlfriend who just tried to kill us all. You couldn't stand up for me just a little?"

"I don't know." Josiah lowered his eyes. "Every time I think that I've come to a decision about you, you do something else and I'm lost all over again. When he accused you of being a witch, I couldn't say that you weren't. I just didn't believe. Not enough."

"So you let him lock me up? Thanks. Remind me to do the same for you sometime."

"Jack..." Josiah sat down on the edge of the table and, after a second, Jack sat next to him. "I've just discovered you playing music without any instruments. If Lord Charles had come here instead of me, he'd have had you executed straight away, without bothering to set up a trial. You can't pretend that it's not strange."

"But it's not magic." He looked away, out of the porthole. "Yes, I know - it looks like it is. I know I've let you see things I should never have let you see. Coming back here now was an accident, and we should never have met again. Letting you see me like this, unchanged... I've broken more rules than I like to think. It makes me an idiot, but it doesn't make me a witch."

"Jack..."

"It's okay. They won't hang me. I'll be gone by then. As soon as I know you're safe, I'll escape. My ship's teleport should be fixed by morning, and we'll hardly be back to shore by then."

"We'll arrive after dawn, certainly. It's a longer voyage back, and it took us most of a day before." He looked uncomfortable. "So few people believed him when he tried to explain what happened the last time that you were here. He very much wants to put you on trial, to prove that he was telling the truth. It could be several days before anything happens to you, so I could try--"

"You won't need to. Like I said, the teleport will be fixed by the morning. Probably. That's the light that makes me disappear, incidentally - which also isn't magic just in case you haven't got it yet."

"You're bitter."

"No." He sighed. He wanted to put his hand on Josiah's, and he wanted to bring those fifteen years back. Forty-eight hours ago he had been about to sweep the pirate off his feet. Today was a different decade. A different set of rules. "I'm not bitter, I'm just... I don't mind if you think I'm a witch. Though I do kinda prefer 'wizard'. Witch is... well do I look like a wizened old woman with a hooked nose?"

"No." Despite himself, Josiah smiled.

"Good. Anyway, I don't mind that. What I mind is the distrust that comes with it. I don't give a damn if Charlie thinks I'm the king of all wizards, and wants to burn me at the stake. What I care about is what you think of me. You and Anne. One minute we're comrades in arms, the next you won't look me in the eye, just because somebody shouts 'witch!'. Do you think I'm evil?"

"No." Josiah was emphatic. "Though if you don't mind, I shall reserve judgement on whether or not you're wicked."

"Fair enough." This time Jack did put his hand on Josiah's, and although the other man tensed, he did not pull his own hand away. "When you said you had some stuff you wanted to work out, I didn't realise how serious you were."

"When I first met you, I had no idea of the things you were capable of."

"Yeah. I guess I do ask a lot when it comes to trust, don't I." He smiled, and held the hand in his just that little bit more tightly. "Don't try to rescue me. I can do that easily enough on my own."

"That I believe."

"Good." They shared a smile. "Afterwards..."

"Afterwards is something that I cannot speak for, Jack. If you come to find me when you've escaped, I'll be glad to see you. I'll always be glad to see you. But I don't know what will happen. I don't know what I want."

"I can't leave yet. It'll be another day before my ship will work properly. I'm stuck here at least until then."

"Then we shall see." For a second the pirate captain looked at their hands, then gently he prised his loose. "I'm sorry I have to leave you in here, but he could just as easily have us all killed. He has numbers on his side. I've got Barlowe staying by the long nine, and for all I know that's all that's keeping us alive."

"It's okay, I understand. You need to get back to the shore alive anyhow. Your crew are still in prison."

"Yes." He smiled awkwardly. "The promise of the wife of the Governor. I wish that I could believe in it. I wish that I could be sure that all of this will go smoothly." He stood up. "I shall hope to see you, Jack, if you manage to escape. And I am sorry about all of this. I should have known what would happen when the Governor set eyes upon you. He holds a grudge, and he has a powerful religious hatred of magic. A powerful hatred. You be careful."

"Yeah. You too. I don't want to bust out of prison just to find that you've been shot by Hallows and his men."

"I shall keep Barlowe awake at the swivel gun. The poor fellow is a terrible shot, truth be told, and he's terrified of the thing - but he is helping to remind Lord Charles to be grateful for his rescue... Goodbye now Jack."

"Yeah." Damn it, why was he always saying goodbye, before things had any chance of getting interesting? Confounded time warps and their tricks, and the superstitions of men who did not yet understand science. He smiled. "Bye." The door closed, and Josiah was gone. Jack sighed, and with a flick of his little ship's remote, called up some more music to keep him company. It was quiet this time, just to be on the safe side. Nothing to conduct along with, or sing along to. He lay back down on the table, and stared up at the gently rocking ceiling. An unlit lamp swung from a rafter, empty and hung with spiders' webs. He listened to it creak, an eclectic rhythm to keep the music company; then slowly, without really being aware of it, he drifted off to sleep.

**********

He awoke with the grate of a key in the lock, and quickly turned off the music that was still gently playing. Lord Charles himself opened the door, accompanied by two of the soldiers brought aboard by Lady Caroline - both looking as if they had drawn the short straw. Jack offered no resistance, and it amused him to see how relieved his guards were. They had evidently been told that he was a dangerous magician, and had apparently chosen to believe it. He considered waving his hands in the air, or saying something that might sound like magic words, but soon decided against it. There was no reason to risk things getting unpleasant, and escape was generally a lot easier if you didn't get yourself killed first. Escorted onto the deck he was amused to find Barlowe still at the swivel gun, by now looking slightly the worse for wear. Hallows, weaponless, was nearby, standing with Anne.

"As soon as I get back to the shore I'll have your men sent out in boats to meet you." The Governor was obviously confirming something that he and Josiah had already discussed. "With Hallows here as a hostage there's no reason to distrust me. I wouldn't leave one of my men behind to have his throat cut."

"I'd glad to hear it." Josiah nodded a greeting at Jack. "As soon as my men are aboard, I'll leave. Hallows can row himself back easily enough."

"See that you put a lot of distance between yourselves and this port. My word only goes so far, Captain Day. If I so much as see the tips of your masts come noon, I'll send my ships to blast you out of the water."

"If they can catch us." Josiah smiled thinly. "Goodbye, Lord Charles. And the best of luck Jack."

"I'll be seeing you." Jack looked around. "How are we getting ashore? We left the boat behind, and I don't have my broomstick."

"I've signalled the shore." Lord Charles sounded pompous - a man rescued from a somewhat embarrassing situation, anxious to reassert his authority. Sure enough, a boat was just drawing up alongside, rowed by two pairs of men. Barlowe's grip tightened upon the long nine, but everything seemed peaceable enough, if not exactly friendly. The Governor and his wife climbed down first, followed by Jack and Hallows' men. It was an uncomfortable boat, and crowded, but it was nice not to have to row. Jack settled down where he had been told to sit, and decided that he might as well enjoy the short trip. The weather was nice, the sea was calm, and he was stuck in a boat with rather a lot of people who couldn't get far enough away from him. It wasn't exactly enjoyable, but it did have its funny side. It was rather a shame to reach the docks, and have to start thinking about prisons again. Prisons, cold walls, tiny windows, and more of those blasted handcuffs.

"Get his men here from the prison." Lord Charles was speaking to a rather splendidly dressed officer who had been waiting to greet them. The officer nodded.

"Yes sir. After you signalled from the ship, I ordered some men to release the crew from gaol. They should be here at any moment."

"Good." The Governor sounded dispassionate - almost disinterested. "Wait until they're climbing aboard, then use every cannon we've got. I want to be sure of getting the whole lot of them at once. I want that ship in pieces so small nobody will ever be able to tell that it used to be a ship. Is that understood?"

"What?" Jack was aghast. "You promised! You even left one of your men behind. You can't do this."

"Get him away from here." Lord Charles spoke with utter loathing. "I didn't promise, Captain Harkness. My wife did, and my word overrules hers. Hallows can take his chances. He might survive."

"He won't. You know he won't. None of them will." A pair of soldiers began to pull at Jack, trying to lead him away, but he fought back. "They risked their lives to save you. We could all have been killed in Independence, but we went there to get you back. You can't kill them!"

"They're pirates." Lord Charles nodded to the soldiers holding Jack, and they tugged him away. He almost lost his footing, but he fought on, hoping to similarly unbalance the guards.

"They saved your life! You'd never have made it out of that town alive, and you know it. That why they have to die? You can't face owing your life to a pirate?"

"Do you honestly think that I care about that? My life isn't theirs to save, and I'll be damned if I'll be beholden to them. My wife saved me. My wife came to find me. The others are immaterial." His expression darkened as he turned his attention to the soldiers. "Now get this man out of my sight, and be sure not to let go of him. Take him to my house and lock him in the cellar. He's escaped from the gaol before, and I'd rather not risk him doing the same again. Somebody is to stay with him all of the time."

"You can't do this, damn it!" Unable to prevent himself from being dragged away along the docks, Jack fought all the way nonetheless. "You can't kill them!"

"And you can't stop me." Lord Charles turned his back, the conversation over. Jack turned his attention to the road instead. Perhaps he could warn the crew of the Seagull as they went on their way to the docks. They didn't know him, but they might listen. They might be able to do something, say something to Josiah to warn him in time. Jack couldn't see how that would help, since the Seagull would still be stuck out at sea with all the coastal defences being readied to fire against them - but if it gave them some small chance it was better than nothing. There was no sign of the crew, though. He was dragged on up the road to the Governor's residence, and saw not a sign of anybody.

"Get in there." He was manhandled through the main door, still trying to escape, still trying to twist and turn in his efforts to see the crew of the Seagull. It was no use - they were nowhere that he could see. Helpless and frantic, he was dragged along a short corridor, and bundled down into the cellar. Rows of wine racks stood there, hung with cobwebs, and filled with bottles thick with dust. Jack was thrown up against a wall.

"Lord Charles said to stay with him," pointed out one of the soldiers, as the other began to climb back up the stairs. His confederate shrugged.

"Stay with him then. I want to be up there to see the fireworks. He's not going anywhere."

"Maybe." His rather more conscientious companion hesitated on the steps. "You believe he can really do magic?"

"No. Reckon the Governor's had it rough; he's over-tired maybe. Not like us, is he." Jack edged away slightly as they talked, trying to find a place where he was out of their sight. "Give him another day, he'll realise he's mistaken. Witches are old. Everybody knows that."

"Computer." Keeping his voice as low as he could, and his eyes fixed upon the two soldiers on the stairs, Jack hissed at his ship in urgent tones. "Computer, how's that teleport coming?"

"Probably of successfully transporting Captain Jack Harkness now sixty-seven percent."

"Good. Will the ship fly?"

"Sixty-seven percent is not a recommended--"

"Never mind that now. Will the ship fly?"

"One further day is required for proper flight in time and space. The ship is able to fly within this atmosphere, but manoeuvrability may be limited. Recommend that--"

"I'll talk to you later about recommendations, computer. Get me aboard. Now."

"If you wish." There was a faint buzzing sound - a blur of blue light that prickled across Jack's skin. He had been doing too much of this lately - using a teleport that wasn't up to scratch, dashing around in a ship that wasn't at full strength. Jamaica, it seemed, was somewhat hazardous to his health. He would have closed his eyes tightly, had he still had eyes to close - then a second later he was back aboard his ship, and his eyes were indeed shut tight. He opened them again, and tested his limbs cautiously.

"Welcome aboard," the computer said by way of greeting. He threw himself into the pilot's chair, and grabbed for the nearest keyboard.

"Get us in the air. Head for the docks."

"One further day is required for--"

"I know! I don't want to fly in time or space. Are we invisible?"

"Yes."

"Good." He flicked a series of switches and heard the hum of the engines build around him. "Come on!" Things couldn't move fast enough for him now. He wondered, briefly, if his guards had realised that he had disappeared - if there was an alert being sounded - if Lord Charles might be ready for him when he arrived. He didn't care. It didn't matter. The engines roared their way to what passed for full power right now, and he sent the ship leaping skyward. Nothing mattered. His ship being seen; the Governor trying to turn his cannons against him again. All that mattered was getting to Josiah in time.

"How long until we reach the docks?" he asked. It was hard to keep his voice level. The computer beeped a few times.

"Sensors show several sets of docks. Which do you mean?"

"The ones we were at before. Where we nearly crashed the other day, in 1735."

"Estimate arrival in ten minutes."

"Ten minutes? We can't get greater speed than that?"

"Unlikely. Shipboard auto-repairs require considerable power. Energy levels are low until repairs are completed."

"Great. They're sure to be reaching the docks by now. In ten minutes they'll have pretty much rowed out to the ship." He knew that the computer didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but he didn't care. "We can't go any faster?"

"Expending power on speed will result in a loss of efficiency. Will you be requiring weapons?"

"I don't know." Confounded computer, always being logical and seeing sense when he just wanted to indulge himself in being irrational. So either he could go fast, arrive in time, and not be able to do anything when he got there, or he could go slowly, have power to spare, but risk being too late to do anything. This was definitely one of those moments when it was nice to have something to punch.

"Do you require greater speed?" asked the computer. He scowled at the nearest console, and shook his head.

"No. Forget it." He racked his brains as he flew along, searching for some plan that would help Josiah and the others. The rest of the Seagull's crew would be getting into boats by now, he was sure. Beginning to row out to their ship. Barlowe was probably still waiting by the swivel gun, not that it would give him any defence when the moment came, and Hallows was waiting to leave. Trusting in Lord Charles Montgomery to keep his word and let him return to the shore. Jack felt sorry for him. Hallows wasn't one of his favourite people by any means, but he didn't deserve to be pulverised by cannon-fire just for being a jerk. The problem was, Jack couldn't seem to think of any way to prevent him being pulverised. Him or anybody else. The teleport wouldn't work again so soon, and certainly not on so many people, and that left him with very limited options. He could only fit a few people on his own ship. Giving them a tow was out of the question. Wasn't it? A slow smile grew across his face.

"Computer? How's the tractor beam?"

"Tractor beam is operational."

"Efficiency?"

"Current operating efficiency is seventy percent."

"Fine. Turn off our invisibility. Turn off everything except the engines. Give everything you've got spare to the tractor beam and the engines. And computer?"

"Yes, Captain Jack." She sounded so calm. Sometimes that rankled. Today he was glad of it. Had she been any more human she would have asked annoying questions and wasted time.

"What I'm about to do, you're not going to see. Anybody asks, it didn't happen."

"I do not understand, Captain Jack Harkness." She didn't sound bothered though. Man, but he loved her on days like these. He grinned at the nearest screen.

"Just give me all that power for the tractor beam."

"Affirmative." Things buzzed. Bits of equipment he hadn't yet learnt the purpose of clicked and whistled at him as she carried out his orders. He put the ship on auto-pilot and slid beneath the console. No harm in helping things along. Besides, he needed something to do with his hands that could keep him from looking at his watch. Various wires glowed at him, and it occurred to him that he really ought to learn what they all did. Lately his life seemed to involve an awful lot of rewiring and rejigging bits of the equipment onboard the ship. It was bound to help if he actually knew what it was that was being rejigged.

"Approaching docks." It seemed an age before the computer issued the warning. Jack popped up from beneath the console, wiping sweat and several singed strands of hair from his forehead. "Do you wish the ship returned to a state of invisibility?"

"No. Screw it." He turned off the auto-pilot, and gripped the controls tightly, doubling their height and scanning the tableau that awaited him. He had been right - ten minutes was nearly too long. Already there were men climbing aboard the Seagull, and no doubt the cannons back at the shore were all ready to fire. He could destroy them ofcourse - he had just the one laser cannon now, but it could outshoot its ancestors down at the dock. He had no idea, though, of how quickly the Governor's fleet of ships could be ready to sail. He might drain his power reserves blasting one arsenal, only for Josiah to have to face another. No, there was only one way out of this that he could see. Somewhere the cannons were waiting, were being loaded. Somewhere a row of men were holding lighted tapers. Below him, men were clambering up into the Seagull, unaware of the threat, and moving too slowly. He couldn't do anything until they were aboard. If he waited, he might be too late. Somewhere, he knew, the order was about to be given. One chance, then. Scare them. Buy the Seagull some time.

With a scream of the engines he dove the ship down, feeling her shudder briefly beneath him. He saw the cannons, he saw the men ranged up alongside them - he saw Lord Charles shouting and gesticulating. Behind him, he hoped, Josiah would have seen, and understood. He would have realised that there was a threat. He would be hurrying his men, and telling them that they had nothing to fear. Nothing to fear. Jack had no idea if that was even true. He was all too aware that this could go horribly wrong, and all that he could do was keep going and hope that it didn't. He was good at hoping. Good at being lucky. He was going to need to be now.

Whirling the ship about, the controls juddering in his hands, he headed straight for Josiah's ship. Behind him acannonball smashed into the water. Somebody overeager, firing too soon, and without proper aim. They had seen it, though, aboard the Seagull - they certainly knew now that they were in danger. Several of the crewmen were pointing up at Jack's ship, others were gathered by the rail, hauling up the last few of their fellows. Jack kept his course steady, and dipped the ship's nose. Lower he flew, lower and lower. He could see patterns in the surface of the sea where his engines were blowing at the water. He could see Josiah's face, upturned. He felt the shockwaves as another cannonball smashed into the sea. The aim was improving. Just a matter of time now, then.

"Computer! Lock the tractor beam onto that ship beneath us."

"Object is too large to--"

"Do it!" He tightened his hold on the controls. This was not going to be a smooth flight. The computer beeped an affirmative.

"Tractor beam activated." Bright lights - the distinctive rings of the tractor beam - lit up the screen before him. Again he saw Josiah's face - wondered, briefly, how he was going to explain this one. If the Time Agency ever found out about his trip to eighteenth century Jamaica, he was a dead man. Or a locked up one at any rate. A third cannonball smacked into the sea, and this time spray showered the deck of the Seagull. Jack took a deep breath.

"Up." He heaved back on the control stick, flicked buttons like mad, hit switches and yelled at the computer to increase power. If this had been the Dragon then he wouldn't have stood a chance - but this ship; this smaller, lighter ship... maybe... the engines screamed again. The whole ship shook. Beneath him he saw several people leap overboard in sudden fear - what looked like Hallows amongst them. He didn't see where they went. He couldn't think about that now. Clinging onto the controls with all his strength, he felt his ship lift up - felt Josiah's ship lift up. Everything was shaking now. There was smoke coming out of a nearby console. Smoke, sparks - something hissed into life to put out the fire, but sparks still spat themselves at Jack. He clung on, smelling a powerful burning scent, hearing nothing now save the engines and the buzz of the overworked tractor beam. Below him, though - below him was a sight worth all the effort. Worth the electric shocks that bit at his fingers; worth the smoke that threatened to choke him, and the strain on his muscles as he fought to keep the ship in the air. Below him was the Seagull, her sails billowing in the wind, her hull showering a million rainbow-coloured droplets of water down onto the surface of the sea, her crew gripping the masts and rails in disbelief. Up into the air she flew, just like the birds with whom she shared a name, up and out of reach of the cannons, on towards safety. Somebody back at the shore fired again - Lord Charles most likely, thought Jack. He didn't stand a chance with the erratic motion of both ships to spoil his aim, and Jack's grin threatened to split his face in two. It struck him that this time he might have gone too far - that this time Josiah wouldn't be able to accept his explanation. That couldn't matter now. He had done the only thing he could, and Josiah would just have to live with it - just like the Time Agency, if they ever found out. Sometimes you had to break the rules - and sometimes the rules were a joy to break. Beneath him, enveloped in its glow, the Seagull soared with eccentric beauty. Sailing ships should fly more often, thought Jack. Everybody should see what he was seeing now. His fight with the controls was suddenly no longer such a chore, and he felt like shouting with joy. Damn, but his plans were good sometimes - if you weren't too worried about your ship exploding. The Time Agency wouldn't have agreed, but that was their affair. Days like this were good days indeed.

**********

He landed the ship just a short distance away - the tractor beam wouldn't have carried it much further. It didn't matter that they had not gone far, for they had escaped the cannons, and that was all that really mattered. With a head-start to give it an advantage, the Seagull could outrun anything sent after it, and Jack was counting on everybody being too afraid to give chase now anyway. The Seagull crew were not in a much better state of mind, but between them Josiah and Anne were able to get the men moving. Josiah knew how they felt - he wanted to stand and gape as well. Of what further tricks was Jack capable? What other magic could he perform? He knew that if he asked, Jack would merely flash him that same old grin, and tell him that it was nothing. Jack thought that all of his magic was 'nothing' - that it was all just feats that anybody could perform. It scared Josiah, more now than it had fifteen years ago. Then, somehow, that grin had made everything alright. A blasť comment or a sudden and unexpected kiss had buried his questions about impossible guns, and lights that made people disappear. Now here he was, standing on the deck of a ship that had just flown over the heads of his enemies, and he didn't think that a blasť; comment would work anymore. Jack had made voices and guns appear out of thin air, to help them escape from the people of Independence. He had found Lord Charles Montgomery apparently just by waving his wrist in the air. Too much strangeness. Too much magic. Too much wishing that Jack could be nothing but an ordinary man, even if it might have meant that they would all now be dead.

They met up again shortly after the Seagull landed. Jack brought his own ship down low, and bouncing it gently over the surface of the waves, he slowed it to a virtual standstill, and tied it to the Seagull's rails. The Dragon had also had his ship tethered to her rail, remembered Josiah - that was how all of this had begun, when Jack had fallen down out of the sky, and first made an ordinary ship's captain a part of his strange world. The crew of the Seagull stood along the rail and stared at him as he clambered out of his ship, and he gave them a smile and a cheery wave that was just as nonchalant as ever. Josiah wasn't sure whether he wanted to hug him or hit him.

"Hi!" Swinging over the rail, Jack flashed Josiah what might have been his biggest grin yet, before pulling him into an enthusiastic hug. "How was the flight?"

"Disturbing. Impossible. Your ship might fly well enough, Jack, but I had never thought to see mine do the same." He ordered his crew to be back about their business, then took Jack's arm and led him down below. Jack was grinning all the while, chattering happily about the escape. Josiah caught a comment about it being against all the rules, something that Jack appeared to find extremely satisfying; but he couldn't work out what rules it might be against, or who in their right minds might come up with a set of rules governing the flying of sailing ships. Just how often did sailing ships fly, anyway? He shook his head wearily, pushed open the door of his cabin, and wandered inside. Only when he collapsed into a chair with a look of clear exhaustion did Jack cease his talking.

"You okay, Joe?" He came over, sitting down on the edge of the desk beside the chair. "You weren't hurt?"

"Hurt? No, nobody was hurt. Thanks to you." Josiah sighed. "I'm just... I'm tired, Jack. It's been a fraught few days. Our capture, thinking that we were all to be hanged - and then you." He made it sound like an accusation, and then was immediately sorry, and equally immediately not. "Seeing Kate; almost being killed when we got back to the docks... I'm not a young man anymore."

"You're hardly old. What are you? Fifty? That's nothing."

"Fifty-three, and right now I feel twice that." The pirate captain stared up at his companion, and smiled faintly. "I'm sorry, Jack. I should be thanking you for what you did... I think. You saved us all, even after I... It's just that the way in which you did it..."

"I know. Here I am always trying to convince you that I'm not a magician, and then I pull something like that. I just didn't know what else to do. You'd have been pounded into dust if I hadn't done something. There'll be hell to pay if anybody ever found out." He grinned again. "But no one will. It'll turn to legend, like every other tall story that sailors tell. Charlie will be gunning for me - for all of us - but he can shout 'witch' at me all he likes. I don't care."

"No. You can always turn him into a dog if he makes trouble."

"A dog? No." Jack sounded happy, and Josiah wished that he could join him in that. "A snail, I think. Leave him crawling around in his garden, chewing the flowers."

"And could you? Could you turn him into a snail?"

"Not without one hell of a molecular converter. I doubt that kind of equipment even exists." Jack frowned. "What kind of a question is that?! Of course I can't turn him into a snail. I'm not a magician, Josiah. You know that. I've explained it so often you must know the argument by heart."

"Yes. But that was before you made my ship fly."

"A tractor beam! It's like an energy field, that's all. Think of it like a kind of vacuum cleaner." He frowned. "No, that's a little out of your time, isn't it. Think of it like you picking up that quill on your desk, but doing it with light instead of your fingers. Easy."

"For you." Josiah shook his head. "I think I'd like a drink."

"Sure." Jack jumped to his feet. "Where is it?"

"There's a bottle of rum in the cupboard behind me." Josiah didn't watch as Jack fetched the bottle and poured him a glass. "Thankyou."

"You shouldn't let it get to you." Jack sat down again, staring at his friend with sudden intensity. "I mean it.Everything I do, I can explain away easily."

"Yes, I know. Picking things up with fingers of light. Ships made of metal, that fly instead of float. Visiting yesterday, or tomorrow, or three thousand years ahead of us, as easily as I can visit another cabin."

"Not necessarily all that easily, no. Aimed for 1910 recently, and landed smack in the middle of World War One. Not pretty." He grinned. "Picked up a great revolver, though. I should show you that. Or... really I shouldn't, but you'd love it. It's like the great-great-grandson of those relics you use."

"Revolver?" Josiah drank his rum, and wished that all of this made sense. He did so want it to. He did so want to understand who Jack was. His companion frowned.

"Sorry. It's a gun. See, the barrel revolves, and... Never mind. Maybe later. You really are tired, aren't you."

"Not tired in the sense that you probably mean, no. My mind is tired, Jack. A little sad, perhaps."

"Sad? We won! Everybody is alive, we escaped from Kate and from Charlie. What's to be sad about?"

"You don't understand." Josiah offered him a thin smile. "You're a good man, Jack. A complete enigma to me, perhaps, but a good man. I like you. I like you more than I should."

"Yeah. You always did as I recall." This time the grin that Jack summoned made Josiah's heart lift, but only a very little. He nodded.

"Yes. But therein lies my problem."

"I don't see any problem. You're a sailor. It may only be the eighteenth century, but people have always turned a blind eye to sailors--"

"That's not exactly what I mean. I like you Jack. For fifteen years I tried not to think of you. You were a good memory of one brief day that was over all too quickly. I thought that you were gone forever. I thought that I no longer wished for what might have been. Even after everything that happened with Kate, I still thought that. But now you're back, and I know that I do still wish for what might have been. Nothing happened between us really. Nothing. But all these years I've wanted you back, all the same."

"And here I am." Jack made it all sound so simple. Josiah nodded.

"Yes, here you are. And you made my ship fly. You came out of nowhere, and made my ship fly. Jack, you can tell me that it's easy to explain, but it's not, is it. Any more than it's easy to explain how you haven't aged a day - not a day - in fifteen years. Your world is not my world. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So here I am, all of this time, wondering about you - wanting you to come back. But when you do, I know that it's all hopeless. You won't stay here. You're not like me. Are you even human?"

"I'm not an angel. I thought I told you that."

"Once, yes. A long, long time ago. I know that you're no angel, but I'd like to be sure of what you are instead."

"A man. A man with a ship, just like--"

"Not just like me. I can't step through time. I can't make ships fly!"

"So that's it." Jack reached out, and gently took the glass from Josiah's fingers. "Look at me."

"I am looking at you."

"Yeah, but you're not seeing me. You're seeing obstacles and fairy tales. I'm no magician, Joe."

"But you're different. You're too different. And you won't stay here, will you."

"Wouldn't matter, if you came with me."

"And fly in your ship, and live through centuries without ageing? Fight monsters from other worlds, and get lost in so many things that I can never hope to understand? No. If there is one thing that this day has taught me, Jack, is that you and I do not belong together. I belong here. You don't."

"Then I don't. So what? I'm here now. Why worry about all the rest? What does it matter if you don't understand what I do?"

"It matters. I want more than a man who appears every fifteen years when he's next in search of adventure. I want more than a man who says things and does things that make me feel like a fool."

"You want me."

"Yes, I do. But I don't want to want you."

"You're talking about forever, Joe. I'm not here forever. Neither are you, if it comes down to it. Think about today, not next week."

"Is that when you'll leave again? Next week?"

"Maybe. Maybe it'll be in a month, or maybe it'll be tomorrow, when my ship has finished its repairs. I don't know."

"And this is supposed to not matter?" Josiah wanted to be angrier than he was. He wanted to be more than angry. For some reason all he could do was look hopeless. Jack seemed to sense his feelings, and offered him an annoyingly irresistible smile.

"I never got the chance to say goodbye last time. I didn't mean to leave."

"But you did, and you will again. You have to."

"Yeah. But this time... this time it's different. The trouble's over..."

"... I doubt it..."

"... I'm all yours..."

"... I doubt that, too..."

"... and we've got all the time we need just to kick back and have some fun. See what happens. No strings, no worries, no need to get your brain in a knot. Just relax, Josiah. Stop complicating things."

"You are a complication." At some point during the exchange, Jack had contrived to work his way around behind Josiah, and was rubbing his fingers into the tense muscles at the back of the pirate's neck. It felt disturbingly good. Josiah had no idea what he was doing, but he knew that he didn't want it to stop. "You are the most complicated complication..."

"I try to be."

"Jack..."

"Not now." Jack carried on with the massage, easing the tensions out of Josiah's body. He might not be a magician, but he could perform magicks of a sort - and this was one of them. Moonlight flooded the cabin, obligingly romantic in its soft white glow; the slap of the sea and the gentle motion of the boat were almost as good as music. Josiah was still mumbling his worries, but his voice grew fainter all the time.

"Jack?"

"What?"

"I've missed you. I hardly know you, but I've missed you."

"Thanks. I think."

"Stay?"

"Tonight. Sure."

"And tomorrow night? The next?"

"The Time Agents will come for me eventually, you know. If I stay."

"But you do have a while."

"I don't know." Jack worked his fingers into the taut shoulders, and smiled at the back of the greying head. "But I like it here. It's friendly."

Josiah shifted his position slightly, and sighed contentedly. "Very friendly. Thankyou Jack."

"What for?"

"For keeping your promise. For coming back, even if it was fifteen years late."

"Jack Harkness always keeps his word." Jack ceased his massage. "Well, usually. I once promised my mother I'd always be good..."

"What went wrong?"

"Don't know. Glad it did, though."

"Yes." Josiah leaned back in his chair, and smiled at the spreading patch of moonlight. Why he was letting this happen, after all his misgivings, he didn't know. Somehow it was as if none of that mattered anymore. "So am I."

And soon enough, all of his worries were gone.

~~~~~

I don't know how long Jack stayed. Two days? Three? We both knew that he would be leaving again soon enough, and when he went, perhaps I was ready. I didn't mourn his loss that time anyway, and for that I'm grateful; because this time he didn't come back - or hasn't yet, and by now I'm too old to go adventuring with him. Too old to fight monsters, and sail on ships that fly. In my dreams, though... in my dreams all the ships fly, and the skies are full of dragons. The seas are filled with monsters that could tear a man to shreds, but they're dreams nonetheless, and not nightmares. He's there, with his gun that fires light, and his bracelet that talks to him, and his smile that still makes me smile too, and I'm never too old for that. Who could ever be too old for magic? Who could ever be too old for him?

And Jack? I don't know where that story goes next, but I do know that he's still out there somewhere. How do I know? Because not a month ago, I was reading a book - some old piece that I stole once upon a time - and in it there was a picture; a simple line drawing, of a man that I would know anywhere, anytime. Captain Jack Harkness, 1526 said the caption underneath it, as if I needed it to tell me who he was. Jack - my Jack - and for all I know, your Jack too. Two hundred years before I met him, and he still looked the same; was still getting himself noticed, and letting the world know who he was - and he was wearing the scarf that I gave him. So even though I'm old now, and it seems I'm the last one left who remembers all that happened, I know that Jack is alive. That he's still out there, still young, still adventuring. Still having his own kind of fun. And as far as I'm concerned, that's how it always will be.

~~~~~

THE END