Parrot shifted from foot to foot, bobbing his head. His claws gripped tight once more to a familiar shoulder. The scent, the gait; everything was right again.
He shuffled along the upraised arm to perch on the hand, where he clutched tight with his claws and spread his wings to flap vigorously for a long time. He screeched his glee and sang snatches of song.
Taking wing, Parrot flew in a wide circle round the ship, before landing once more on the beloved shoulder. He nibbled fondly on the ear and danced awhile longer. It was good to be home.
He really was an astonishing rogue, Groves thought, later that day, when the Dauntless's rudder was repaired and they were under sail at last. Too clever by half, of course. A danger to law and order, naturally. Damnably attractive even so with his cheeky swagger and dash, his wicked eyes and golden grin.
Poor Gillette was very nearly beside himself with rage at being out maneuvered by the man. And the Commodore, for all that he was perfectly civil to his officers, was in a black mood as well. But Groves still thought him the best pirate he'd ever seen.
Jack the Monkey scampered up the shrouds to the maintop and thence to the crow's nest, earning a curse from the man on watch with a bite to his ankle.
Before the pirate could retaliate, Jack shot down a forestay to a point where he could leap to the foresail yard. He stayed there some time, gibbering and grimacing, jumping up and down and daring the man to shoot him.
Eventually the game palled and he shot down a back stay and dove through the open hatch in search of the ship's cat, then to the galley to torment Cook.
The Interceptor fled downwind. They had crowded on every inch of canvas she could bear. The stays hummed, taut as plucked harp strings; her every timber groaned as the masts, tugged by the mountain of sail, sought to tear themselves free. The sails themselves quivered as they were set and re-set to catch every tiny shift of wind.
The doomed brig leapt forward as they lightened her, wringing still more speed from her creaking hull. And yet it was not enough.
The pursuer was in range when they dropped anchor, desperately club-hauling, and the Interceptor stopped dead in the water.