The decks of the Avenger were covered with bodies. The sea breeze whipped through the sails, and the clash of swords vied with the moans and groans of the fallen pirates, and the war cries of those still standing.
It was all really, really cool.
Mabel bounced over the pirate she'd just taken down, lunging full force towards Black Jack behind him. He met her thrust with a wicked parry and Mabel danced backwards, trying to remember all of the footwork Frederic had drilled her on over and over. The lessons might have stuck a little better if she'd spent more time watching his footwork and less time watching his butt. (But it was such a nice butt!)
Thrust, parry, pivot, thrust, don't slip, close! She banged into her opponent and brought her knee up hard. Black Jack groaned and went down, and she grinned with gleefully bloodthirsty satisfaction. (Frederic's eyes had crossed when she'd done it to him, and she still couldn't really regret that -- honor and duty, her ass!)
It was a little bit of a scramble over the railing to the fo'c's'le deck, but her boots found the toehold, Frederic finally grabbed her wrist and pulled, and then she was up and over. Grinning wildly, Frederic kissed her before she'd quite regained her footing, his eyes glowing with the fun of it all. She almost laughed, shouted "Duck!" instead, and lunged past him to skewer her next target, who clutched his chest and writhed beautifully on his way to death.
"Nice one," Frederic congratulated her; Mabel shrugged with fake modesty.
"You're not doing so bad yourself. Where's the King?"
Frederic gestured over and up, in the general direction of the mainmast. "Where do you think?"
Mabel rolled her eyes, finally spotting the King's flowing silver hair as he pranced along the main topmast, exhorting his pirate horde to greater deeds with flowing sleeves and sweeping gestures. Two of Mabel and Frederic's men tried flanking him from either side, but the King's smile only widened as he danced between them, sword flickering in the sun. There could be no escape -- but Mabel was sure he'd find one, anyway.
Although... "If he rips the mainsail again, we won't have to take him down. Ruth will do it for us." Mabel considered. "Which could be a good plan, actually. We should have thought of that."
"Maybe." Frederic said, with that adorable little headtilt-forehead wrinkle thing that said he kind of agreed, but still thought she was crazy. "Down!"
"Oh, right!" She knelt to let Frederic lunge over and past her, engaging in battle with... was that Sam? Yeah, Sam and One-Eyed Jack. Frederic fought fiercely, holding them both off with fancy flips of his rapier, his left hand planted firmly at his waist in best approved piratical form.
Mabel appreciated the sight for a moment (oh, that butt!), then had to scramble back to her feet to jump off the fo'c's'le and onto Davy's back before he could finish skewering Kate (who had taken to swordwork with enough fervent glee to have all of the pirates walking very carefully around her, which Mabel thought was really funny. Plus, watching his men tiptoeing around a small blonde woman drove the Pirate King to increasingly hilarious levels of frustrated sarcasm, which Mabel also thought was really funny).
Kate recovered her footing as Mabel pounded her feet against Davy's ribs; he outweighed Mabel by 150 pounds, and used those muscles to flex and growl and dump her backwards. "Ow!" she squeaked embarrassingly as she hit the hard deck. So much for her image as a dashing heroine.
"Mabel? Are you okay?" Frederic's worried voice carried over the noise of the fray.
"Fine," Mabel called back, locating her sword and diving back into the fight with a snarl. "I just bruised my dignity. And my butt."
"Awwwww. Don't worry, babe, I'll kiss it better later."
Mabel disarmed Davy with a shouted "Olé!". The five people closest to her, including Davy, corrected her with a shouted "Touche!" She let her sword droop a little and made a disgusted face at all of them. Kate took advantage of the moment's distraction to trip Davy to the deck with a foot hooked behind his ankle (which had absolutely been Mabel's plan all along and she was sticking to that story), and threw herself down on his back to keep him there, tossing her curls in satisfaction as he thrashed underneath her weight. Mabel saluted her sister, then ran back towards the fo'c's'le to help Frederic.
"Was that a promise back there?" she asked with a quick eyelash flutter that may or may not have actually worked. Kate and Isabel were still working on teaching her that one.
"Of course it was a promise." Frederic shifted to let Mabel slip in beside him. "It's my duty to take care of my girl. And my pleasure," he added with a wide smirk and heavy innuendo.
"Woman," Mabel corrected, smiling toothily at Sam as she waggled her sword point in his direction. "And you bet it will be your pleasure."
Sam looked like he was going to barf. "Can we have less of the cute stuff, please? People are trying to fight to the death here!"
As if to prove his point, a brace of pistols went off a few feet away. Everyone ducked reflexively; Sam recovered first, dancing backwards to jump on the railing and engage Frederic with a height advantage.
"Showoff!" Frederic accused under his breath, and used one hand to leap agilely onto the railing himself. Their boots scraped against the thick wood as they scuffled back and forth, trying to kill each other without falling and actually killing each other. From way back on the... quarterdeck, right, Ruth yelled at them not to break the ship, and they both managed to free a hand to wave agreement at her.
Mabel shook her head and laughed at all of them, and jumped back over the railing to try to kill Long John Silver. John swiped his crutch at her feet as his bird squawked curses at her; she jumped over the crutch and retaliated by lashing out at his huge plumed hat. The hat went flying and John had to scramble after it before it could go overboard. Mabel laughed and moved on to Bearded Jack, who met her with cutlass and curse and pants that were trying to fall down around his knees -- someone had gotten lucky and severed his belt. Mabel supposed she should have pity on him, but hey. War was still hell.
She fought off Bearded Jack and Iron Jack and Percy, then Frederic called out her name and she whirled sharply towards him (almost decapitating Irish Jack when he didn't finish falling down quite fast enough). But the deck was empty of pirates -- only she and Fredric were left standing. Which was good, except that -- oh, goodie.
A hearty laugh reverberated around them, and the Pirate King came flying through the air, swinging on a rope from the peak of the top mast to land in front of them (didn't the man ever stumble?) on the deck, running forward a few graceful steps (honestly, was once too much to ask?) before stopping and posing.
"Damn it, I always forget about him," Mabel sighed, planting her sword's point in the deck and leaning on the hilt.
"I don't," Frederic grimaced, hauling out his sword out of his belt (and that never stopped sounding dirty, ever) and taking an en guarde position.
The King smiled widely, moving his own sword in showy circles as he strolled towards them, his boots thumping on the deck. "Well, well, well. My once-apprentice and his lovely wife." He leered in Mabel's direction and she glared back (although, honestly, it had been a pretty effective leer. The King might be kind of evil, but no one could say he wasn't sexy as hell.) "It comes down, as it always does, to only we three."
"But this time will be the last," Frederic challenged him.
"And how many last times have we had?" The King circled a little to the left; Frederic moved to the right. Mabel just stayed where she was and waited for the talking to be over, so she could kill him and be done with it. Men.
"Truly, I begin to suspect that the pair of you are teases -- never finishing me off."
Mabel and Frederic rolled their eyes in unison -- that was a new line. "Don't worry, Commander," Frederic snarled. "We'll be done with you this time."
The King's smile widened. "Then let us begin."
Frederic lunged, the Pirate King parried, and Mabel yelled her lungs out in support of her man. "Get him, Frederic! Olé! Watch his right hand! Lunge to the left! No, your left!"
"Mabel!" Frederic finally yelled, spinning away from the King's lunge in a rather nice move that almost sent the King over the railing. "I'm a little busy here, babe."
"Well, excuse me for trying to help!"
"Well, how about really helping?"
"I thought you might have some silly macho thing going about having to fight him all by yourself."
"Normally, yes." The King did something tricky with his sword that almost caught Frederic's arm; Frederic dropped to the deck and rolled, coming up hard against Mabel's feet. He looked up at her with his beautiful blue eyes. "But this time, I'll make an exception."
"Oh. Okay." She helped him to his feet, pulled her sword out of the deck with a bit of an effort, then flourished it in the King's face until Frederic had his balance.
It would have been nice if the King had looked intimidated. He didn't. "Oh ho, a ménage à trois. How very daring, Mabel."
"In your better dreams." Mabel and Frederic lunged forward together, forcing the King into a fast retreat. They backed him all the way across the deck to the fo'c's'le, and drove him up the stairs one at a time. He was supposed to trip and fall helplessly backwards, leaving them in a triumphant win. That was the idea, anyway.
Which was why it took her a second to realize that the King's boot had just hooked behind hers; then, she was tumbling backwards down a step to sprawl on the deck. The King's sword was suddenly at Frederic's throat, Frederic's sword clattering to the ground beside his feet.
"My point, I believe," the King smiled broadly at them, his blade and his teeth gleaming in the sun. "Don't you agree?"
"Nuts!" Frederic yelled, but reluctantly held his hands up. "The battle is yours."
Mabel pounded one fist against the deck, then blew out her breath in defeat. (Unless Frederic had been assigning her a target, not surrendering. But probably not.) "Fine. You win."
Cheers rose deafeningly around them, and the mass of pirates suddenly bounced back to their feet. Their assortment of grievous injuries were forgotten as they waved to the Pirate Days crowd applauding outside the boat, and took their bows with theatrical glee. Sam blew a kiss at a woman in a miniskirt, Kate curtsied prettily between Davy and One-Eyed Jack, Long John Silver waved his crutch at a couple of people he knew, and a crowd of teenagers looked like they were ready to drop their Pirate Gold ice cream in favor of getting themselves some pirates.
Mabel took the King's offered hand with bad grace, letting him pull her to her feet. "We've talked about this!" she growled in his ear under the noise of the crowd. "No changing the fight choreography. We're the good guys, we're always supposed to win!"
"Mabel." The King smiled and pulled back just enough to bow gracefully over her hand. "That only happens in dreams."
He turned towards starboard to sweep a bow without letting go of Mabel's hand; she had to bow too, and smile, and pretend this had been the plan all along.
Frederic wrapped his arm around her waist from the other side, and pulled her tightly against him. "Aw, let him have some fun, Mabel. We've won the last three times."
"I like winning. Losing sucks." But she couldn't quite keep the pout going. The Pirate King played so gleefully to the crowd, Sam and John were dancing a ridiculous little hornpipe, and Frederic's body was warm against hers. And she did love the cheers and the applause, even on the losing side; it had been a whole year since Frederic had found her on that beach, but the sheer joy of these performances never went away.
"I'll make it up to you," Frederic said against her ear, the warmth of his breath sending shivers down her spine. "As soon as we finish cleaning up and the gates close, we'll load up the boat and sail off into the sunset. Just you and me."
"Well...." Mabel pretended to think, then smiled, turning in her husband's arms to kiss him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and his arms settled snugly and securely around her waist, holding her close. "I guess that can count as a happy ending. Just this once."