Latonya Quarles

Employee at None

She'd been mostly spending her time in the Captain's cabin. She hadn't socialized with the crew much, so she wasn't sure what to expect, and neither were they. It was one thing to know there was a witch aboard who was working with the Captain. It was entirely another to be dancing with her. She could not have planned a better first impression. The crew of the Kestrel were consummate sailors, confident, brash, unbridled in their approach to life. They were used to attraction and sexual thrills being short lived affairs without any real promise or deep meaning. They felt that way about most things in life. Moments were just moments, meant to be enjoyed but dismissed when they were gone. It was a trait that came with the life they lived. They were folk who braved the elements and faced the possibility of death on the seas with dismissive bravery. They'd all signed on for what they knew was going to be a very dangerous mission. They were gamblers, throwing their lives in as the ante, hoping to win big. People like that didn't tend to get hung up on things like prejudices, superstitions, or jealousy. They were exactly the right kind of people for Bella to find a sense of community with. She whirled from partner to partner, her skirts swirling and her tamborine slapping her lush body to the beat. She was light on her feet, full of energy and unabashed sexuality. The Nivalese sailors immediately reacted, turning the dance into something akin to the festival the night before. The Mainlander sailors might have been taken aback, but the Nivalese rhythms and enthusiastic grins drew them in. Even without a rum ration to lower their inhibitions further, the music and the energy in the air made them all quick to enjoy the unbridled sexuality their new ship's witch was adding to the festivities. Doctor Friday quickly took Bella's lead. The striking Nivalese woman was completely used to such displays, and was obviously enjoying the turn things had taken. Even some of the more conservative Akula sailors joined the dance after a bit. There were only a handful of women aboard, so they were in high demand. For the most part, the women were only made up of Bella, Friday, and a half-dozen of Lace's rigging crew. Many men simply formed a circle, watching and clapping to the beat. A few danced with each other. Some tried to get Jack to join them, but she stayed in the circle watching Bella, waiting her turn with the sultry witch. Will spent most of his time dancing with Janie in the mirror, but after a while he'd turned the mirror around and somewhat awkwardly acted as a cavorting eisel, holding up the mirror from behind so that Janie could dance with the other members of the crew. Then one of the crewmen took the mirror so Will could dance without holding it. Soon after, the big mirror was being passed around the circle as the sailors each took their turn. They had no idea who Janie was, but she was mysterious and gorgeous, so they didn't much care. Most of them simply assumed she was some kind of mystic spirit bound to the mirror in service to their witch. It was a strange thing, but they'd already accepted a witch aboard so strangeness was expected. Bella's looks and infectious grin made accepting things fairly easy. She earned herself more than a few admirers while the music played, but they were all reasonably respectful. Bella was clever enough to whirl away to a new partner the moment someone started getting too familiar with their words or hands. Fortunately, those moments were few. With anyone else, they could have sparked jealousy or frustration, but one of the benefits of being a known witch was that people tended to behave very respectfully. No one wanted to risk a witch's ire. There was a moment tension when Bella whirled from her previous partner and found herself unexpectedly in Jack's arms. She started to tug jack into the circle, then paused as she realized who she was dancing with. The tension only lasted a moment, but both their hearts seemed to clutch in their chests. Jack started to step back, but the gorgeous N'madi witch gave Jack a sensuous but shy smile and a small curtsey, then fiercely pulled Jack into the middle of the circle, spinning and skipping together. Jack was surprisingly adept, despite her earlier protests. She'd had years of dance training, quick to adapt, and was light on her feet so she found the freeform Nivalese rhythm easy enough to move to. Jack felt like the world got smaller. She forgot the music and the crowd and just moved, watching Bella's joy at finally being able to let her guard down. Jack knew how rare it was for her, and even though her chest was a knot of tangled feelings she was absolutely determined not to screw this up for Bella. They didn't talk, but their eyes said volumes to each other. Jack's apprehension and care was clear on her face, and Bella was encouraging but guarded. The crowd loved watching the two women dance together. There was quite a lot of applause and jeering, but it was good natured so neither Jack or Bella cared. They shared a momentary exasperated look as one of the sailors encouraged them to kiss. Another sailor next to the bold man elbowed him in the arm. Bella leaned in and gave Jack a light, momentary kiss on the lips, then spun away to a new partner, leaving Jack alone, wide eyed and dazed. The crowd roared and clapped. Jack blushed bright red and stood there dazed. Will rescued her. He took her hand and pulled her into a fast waltz. Jack had the good sense to let him lead, moving naturally while her mind reeled. After a few moments she looked up at him, the expression on her face a tangle of confusion and elation. Then she realized how they were dancing. "This isn't waltz music, Will," Jack called over the music. Still, she kept pace with him and allowed herself to be turned under his arm. "It's the only dance step I know," Will grinned. "Because I taught you," Jack laughed. Will shrugged. "You looked a little lost when Bella left. I wanted to check on you." Jack's impulse was to roll her eyes and tell him she didn't need taking care of. She held that reaction down. She didn't need it. That was true. She liked that he was trying to look out for her though. She gave him an appreciative smile. "Thanks. I think I'm about done with dancing though." "Me too. Come on," Will said. They reached the edge of the circle, and slipped into it. Then through it, and were out of the chaotic tangle of musicians, onlookers and dancers. They both laughed and took a few breaths to calm their pulses. They both started talking at the same time, stopped, waited for each other, then laughed again. "You first," Will said. "Bella kissed me," she said, looking happy, but worried and confused. "I saw that," Will grinned. "You didn't even trip over your own feet." She swatted him in the arm, then sighed. "I can't get a read on her." "Her kissing you isn't a pretty clear sign?" Will asked. "This morning she told me she was still mad at me, but every time we talk, she's supportive and helpful, but guarded," Jack explained. "Supportive, helpful, and guarded is most of Bella's personality," Will chuckled. "Just have to add mischief and innuendo to round out the total package." Jack chose to ignore the joke and stay focused on her thoughts. "She's trying to help me figure all this out, but she's definitely not letting me know what she really thinks or wants. Then she kissed me just now. I'm just... I don't know what it means." "Don't ask me," Will shrugged. It was a lie. He knew exactly what was going on in Bella's head and what her goals were, but he felt like it wasn't his place to tell Jack. "Big help you are," Jack sighed. They found a bench at the prow and sat down. "What were you going to say?" Will gestured to the mirror that was bobbing and turning in the arms of a brawny sailor. "Janie thinks you and I need to talk." "We have been talking." Jack gave him an incredulous look. "Talk more. Talk better. There's a lot we haven't really gone into," Will said. Jack looked worried. "I know. Are you saying you want to talk now?" "No. Things feel nice right now. I think the conversation is going to be hard, and I don't want to ruin something good. Besides, I don't think I should leave Janie out here by herself," Will said. "She's in a mirror, I think she will be fine," Jack said with a sardonic eyebrow. "She's never been dancing before," Will said. "I think she still hasn't," Jack smirked. "Clapping on the other side of a window someone else is dragging around is hardly dancing." "True. It's a milestone for her though, and I don't want to disappear in the middle of it," Will said. "Good," Jack nodded. "If it were me in her place, I'd be pissed if you vanished in the middle of my first almost-dance. I'll have to thank her for letting me get out of our pending conversation." "You don't want to talk?" Will asked. Jack sighed. "I do. I'm just nervous." "Me too," Will agreed. "Tomorrow?" Jack asked. "I was thinking later tonight, when the festivities wind down," he suggested. "Even better," Jack said. She never was one for waiting. Even though she was nervous about the conversation, she still wanted to hurry up and get it over with. "It might get ugly," Will said. "Things have been mostly good between us the last few days, but the truth is I'm ignoring a lot of things that make me pretty mad when I think about them. There might be some long overdue yelling." "Thanks for the warning," Jack said. "Do I get to yell at you too?" "If you need to," Will shrugged. "Not sure what I did though." "I'm sure I'll come up with something," Jack said with a conspiratorial grin. "Great," Will rolled his eyes. "Looking forward to it." "Can we still just have fun tonight? I don't want to think about this stuff right now," Jack asked. "Sure," Will agreed. He put his arm around her shoulders and they lost time watching the dance and the shuffleboard game for a bit. When the music changed, Jack nudged him with her shoulder. "Go dance with your mirror girl." Will gave Jack a final squeeze around the shoulders and got up. "Come with me." Jack's face twisted up in aprehension, but she got up and the two of them rejoined the circle of revelers. The music had gotten slower. Bella was dancing with a sailor and talking to him. Doctor Kalfou was in the arms of another. Janie was in the outer circle, her mirror leaning against a sailor so she could watch. Will wove through the dancers and hefted the mirror. Janie looked surprised. "You disappeared," she said with playful accusation in her voice. "Had to talk to Jack for a bit," he explained. "Oh, good. How'd it go?" Janie asked. "Well, I think. I took your advice," Will said. "Oh, you're actually going to talk?" Janie asked, smiling excitedly. "Later. Tonight, I just want to have a good time," he said. He carried her mirror into the middle of the circle and started waltzing to the slower music. He could hardly see anything around him. The bottom edge of the mirror was sitting against his belt, his arms holding the sides of it. Everything in front of him was blocked, so he stayed right in the middle and slowly rotated in a circle, hoping that the other dancers gave him wide berth. "This is a little silly," Janie said. She had her hands on her side of the mirror and was swaying back and forth to the music. "Yeah," Will grinned. "Fun though." "It really is. Thank you," Janie smiled. "We'll do this for real someday," Will said, adjusting after being bumped by another dancer. "I'd like that," Janie said a bit shyly. "Did you have fun dancing with everyone?" he asked. "I did! I feel like I mostly just watched and let whoever had the mirror do the moving for me, but it was fun to see everyone having fun. The sailors seem nice. Most of them didn't actually talk to me, but a few did. They asked why I was stuck in the mirror," Janie giggled. "What did you tell them?" Will asked. "I told them I'm trapped by evil pirates, and Bella's magic mirror is the only way I can see out into the world," Janie shrugged. "A few of them want to rescue me." "You work fast," Will smirked. "What?" Janie asked. "Convincing men to risk their lives for your favor," 'Will explained. "Funny," Janie said dryly. "You're a succubus luring men into wicked fates," Will snarked. Janie's face blanched. "Please don't say that, Will." Will slowed his dancing and looked worried and apologetic. "I was only joking." "I know. It's alright. Lets just keep dancing," Janie said with a small smile. "If something is wrong, you can tell me," Will said. "I told you earlier, you aren't the one I'm going to be venting to until I'm off this island. I'm fine. Something happened earlier, and your joke... nevermind. It really isn't important," Janie said, really hoping Will would let the subject drop. He did. They danced in silence for a few minutes until Bella cut in. "Help me turn the mirror around," she said without preamble. Together the somewhat awkwardly turned the big mirror so that Will was holding it from behind. He had his face turned and the frame leaned back to balance on his head. It wasn't comfortable and he could see even less in this position, but once the weight of the mirror was settled it wasn't too bad. His wounded hand was protesting slightly, but he ignored it. He felt Bella's hands gently grab his and start guiding him in a slow circle. It was sort of like dancing with Bella, letting Bella lead, but with the awkward mirror frame between them. "Having fun, luv?" Bella asked. "I am. It's been nice to see more of the ship, and Barcola last night. Your mirror is the only thing keeping me from going stir crazy," Janie said. "Can you tell Tonya I want to do another lesson tomorrow?" Bella said. Will could practically hear the witch winking. "Oh my," Janie giggled. "What will she be learning?" "How to make a Rocky," Bella grinned. "Can I..." Janie trailed off. "Watch? Of course," Bella said happily. "I'm thinking noonish?" Will kept turning, content to be a prop for their dance as they talked. ____________________ Will and Bella carefully hung the mirror back on the wall. It was mostly Will, holding the big mirror from the sides and letting it lean against his head while he shuffled back and forth to Bella's directions. She was standing off to the side helping him get the brackets on the back of the frame lined up with the nails in the wall. "This is a wonderful view," Janie snickered. From her side, she could see Will's cheek pressed awkwardly against the glass. It looked like he was pressed against a window. "Funny," Will said as he felt for the weight of the mirror to be caught by the nails. Captain Vex was kicking off her boots and hanging her hat and coat. "What happens if the mirror breaks?" "Nothing," Bella said. Will settled the mirror and slowly let go. Bella tilted it so it was straighter and wedged the two nails at the bottom to hold it in place. "The enchantment is in the frame. Even if the mirror gets cracked, it will work. Pieces removed from the frame go back to being normal mirrors." "So if it broke, we could replace the glass and it would still work?" Janie asked. "Yes," Bella said. "If the frame itself gets broken, the enchantment will end. It's basically acting as a containment circle for the magic, like the ones I draw on people." "So, if the frame cracks it would be like a circle being broken," Janie nodded in understanding. "What about on my side?" "It's all the same. I enchanted it from this side, but when I connected them they became one object, metaphysically speaking. Think of them like... I don't know, two sides of a coin, or two ends of a rope." Captain Vex unbuttoned her shirt, casually peeled it off and tossed it onto her large footlocker. The golden rings on her full, high breasts glinted in the light of the lanterns mounted to the wall next to the mirror. Will gave the Captain a look of happy appraisal. She returned his look hungrily. "The mirror's back in place and the lanterns on this side are lit, you can blow out your candles," Bella said to Janie. "Oh good, they were getting pretty low," Janie said. "There's more in the cupboard below the shelves," Bella said. Janie disappeared from the mirror. "Oh Cabin Girl," Captain Vex said playfully. Bella turned, and her eyes lit up at the sight of the topless blond. "My pants aren't gonna to remove themselves," the Captain smirked. "I better slip out before things get so far along that I don't want to leave," Will said. Captain Vex hefted her breasts invitingly. "What, these dinnae have ye there already?" "Oh, they do. I'm guessing it's only going to get harder from here," Will said collecting his hat. "Oh yes, you'd better leave before it gets... harder," Bella snickered. "Ye better be back soon," Belita said. "I need ye and your 'harder' before the night's over, Mister Sterling." "Captain's orders," Bella grinned. The way she unbuttoned Belita's breeches was deliberate provocative. "I'll be back as soon as I can," Will said. "Good luck," Janie said from the mirror. "Try to keep your goals in mind." "Eyes on the horizon," Will nodded. "Thanks." He slipped out the door and onto the quiet deck. "Where's he headed?" Bella asked. "To talk to Jack," Janie said, sounding a little worried. Bella's expression mirrored Janie's concerned tone. The Captain shrugged. "Good. The sooner that little drama sorts itself out, the better." _____________________________ Jack answered the door and gave Will a small smile. Behind her, Doctor Kalfou was sitting on her small bed wearing only a sleep shirt, in the middle of a yawn. Her long dark legs reached out and her ankles crossed as she stretched. When Will gave her a small wave, she smiled at him and put a pillow in her lap to protect her modesty. Will could see the white serpentine tattoos that wounds down her thighs and calves. They ended with the two snake's tails on top of her feet. "Let's take a walk," Jack said. She stepped out into the hall and pulled the door shut. "You sure you want to do this now?" Will asked. "It could wait until tomorrow." "Now is fine. Waiting won't make it easier," Jack said. They went up the stairs onto the deck and climbed the aftcastle stairs. "Which one of us should start?" Will asked. "You," Jack said firmly. Will took a deep breath and sat down on the bench at the back of the aftcastle. "I've been thinking about this, trying to figure out what to say but all my threads of thought come back to the fact that I just can't trust you, Jack." Jack closed her eyes and nodded. "That distrust is poison," Will continued. "It keeps me from being able to really relax around you, and it makes it impossible for us to be partners. I really don't think it's a good idea for me to go on the expedition with you, but I promised Bella I would. So I have to figure out a way to work with you in spite of the fact that I'm worried you're going to get me killed." "I would never..." Jack began, but trailed off. "You already tried, Jack," Will said, his tone was mostly neutral, but he was clearly holding back a lot of anger and bitterness. "No, I never tried to get you killed. That wasn't what happened," Jack protested. "You might not have meant it that way, but at the time, and for years after, that's what it felt like. You never even tried to explain it," Will said. His anger was starting to bubble up, and finally he wasn't feeling the need to hold it back. "I tried!" Jack protested. "You didn't want to listen." "Your excuses didn't make any sense, and when I asked you to explain further you refused. You treated it like I was the one being unreasonable. You even called me an idiot for wanting to know," Will said bitterly. "You made it seem like you'd done me a favor, and that I was overreacting and being ungrateful."

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