49 Three Little Words
In the security of the Jamaican Brotherhoods hideout, Jemima recovered. Thomas stayed beside her for as long as he could, telling her what had happened while he had been in England, the Templar plot, Elizabeth's betrayal and the assassin victory. In return, Jemima told him of her exploits, assisted by Anne, Mary and Rackham, their capture and Kenway's arrest. Thomas was concerned to hear of each of his friends. Anne and Mary were sentenced to death, Mary being ill, Kenway had been captured while investigating the Observatory and no one had heard from Rackham since the arrest. Even more so, the pain struck him deep to learn of the death of his daughter, the daughter he never knew. She never even drew breath, he was told.
"Why did you come back?" Jemima asked him, her pale hand gripping his. "You could have gone anywhere, anywhere in the world. Why here?"
"Because you're here." Thomas smiled. "I love you, Jemima."
"Oh, Thomas." She slowly sat up, throwing her arms around him, pressing her face into his shoulder. "I love you, too. I'm so happy you came back."
"I came back for you." He whispered, holding her tight.
"Am I disturbing something?" A voice said and the two pulled away.
Thomas stood and gave a nod of respect to Ah Tabai, the assassin Mentor.
"You are most welcome here, Thomas." He was told. "I have heard of your successes over in England, very highly commendable."
"Thank you, sir. Likewise, I've heard much about yourself."
"Indeed." He nodded and glanced to the bed-ridden woman. "So I see you've already started your rescue missions."
"Yes, I was just in the right place and the right time." Thomas replied, still so grateful that he had come back in time.
"I can see. You must understand that I couldn't carry out a rescue myself, with Anne and Mary still inside, they would set up extra precautions if and when I came back to save them."
"You never meant to rescue Jemima?" Thomas paused.
"No. I heard she was ill, and likely to die in prison. There was no assurance I could rescue her and save her life before she was hung. I had intended to rescue the three women just before their times were due, there would be little guards as not many like to hear the painful screams of a woman. Jemima's time came too soon and it was a risk I wasn't willing to take."
"You'd let her die to save Anne and Mary instead?!" Thomas burst, losing his respect for the man temporarily.
"Thomas, it's fine." Jemima said weakly. "If it's the loss of one life to save two, that's justified. And besides, Mary's an assassin, like you. Her life is worth ten of mine."
"Not to me." Thomas said, kneeling beside her.
"And you saved my life anyway. Now we just need to rescue Anne, Mary, Kenway and Rackham."
"Some may be more difficult to rescue than others. Rackham is not our priority and neither is Kenway but we could use one of them to help rescue the women." Ah Tabai decided.
"I'd rather see Kenway walking free than Rackham." Jemima said. "I've forgiven him for what he's done, mainly because he means so much to Anne, but I'm still a little bitter."
"Aye." Thomas agreed. "If we can, we'll rescue Kenway."
"Their time is near." Ah Tabai informed them. "Although I hear Mary is ill, so we will need to work quickly."
Jemima closed her eyes.
"It was my fault." She whispered. "I got sick and she tried to take care of me. In fact, I probably would have died in there if she hadn't been with me. But she caught it. Please, we need to help her. I promised I would."
"We will. As soon as you recover, we will leave." An Tabai said.
"So she is important after all?" Thomas said sarcastically.
"We need skilled fighters. And Jemima is just that. But if she is not well enough by the time we have to go, we leave without her." He said and stepped out of the door.
"Delightful man." Jemima said.
"Aye. But what he said rings of truth. You're a skilled fighter, love. And you're strong enough to recover in no time." Thomas smiled.
"Now that you're here, I'll have more strength than ever."
As Jemima slipped back into sleep, Thomas pulled up a chair and sat beside her. So much had happened in the past months. He had left Jemima but she had never left him. He still regretted doing so, more so everyday. He thought little of Elizabeth, the fond memories replaced by painful betrayal. And there was so much still to come. Rescues, reunions and starting again. Everything would be right again when all his friends were back together. He was sure of it.
Thomas returned to Jemima's room and paused at the door. She sat, her knees pulled up to her chest and her head bowed.
"Jemima?" He said, his voice soft, and she looked up.
"Oh. Hallo, Thomas." She gave a weak smile.
"How are you doing?"
He pulled up a chair and sat beside her. He extended a hand, in an attempt to comfort her, but she flinched at his touch and he took his hand back.
"What's wrong?" He asked, noting her avoided gaze.
"Nothing." She whispered and closed her eyes.
"Jemima, don't lie to me. You know I love you-"
"But do you?" She turned, the skin around her eyes red and her lips dry.
"What? Of course I do!" Thomas was taken aback.
"You left for your life with Elizabeth, your true love. When that didn't work, you came back for me. I... I was your second choice." She said, her voice harsh. She had had a lot of time to think about this.
"Look, honestly, that's what I thought too. I thought that's where my life would play out, beside her. But I was wrong. I knew I was wrong the moment I left you. Please, don't doubt me when I tell you I love you more than I ever loved Elizabeth, that I thought of you more often than her."
"Then why didn't you come back to me?" Her bottom lip quivered and her eyes held tears ready to fall. "I would have travelled with you, you with me and our daughter might still be alive!"
Thomas took her shoulders and stared at her deeply into her dark eyes. Jemima stared back and knew that his eyes held no lies, no possible deceit. He loved her. He truly did.
"Jemima, I regret it every day that I left you, that our daughter is not in our arms but in the lap of God. But if I was beside you, what's to say I would be tried and executed like all the other pirates? I hear Rackham is to be sentenced to death. Who's to say that couldn't have been me if I was with you that day you were captured? Fate led me back here at the right time. I was there, at that scaffold, just at the moment I needed to, to save you." He gave a smile. "Our paths crossed five years ago and changed me far more than I ever thought anyone would. Our paths then parted and it was always meant to. Now, our paths are aligned and I promise I will never stray. I love you, Jemima. I loved you longer than you knew. Longer than I knew.
Tears fell from her eyes, but not because her heart pained, but because it nearly burst. She loved Thomas, for longer than he knew either, but her fear was always that it would go unrequited. Now, she knew for sure.
"Oh, Thomas." She wept and buried her head in his shoulder as he held her, and repeated the same three little words over and over until both forgot their pasts and all they had was the present.