Title: Between Wind and Water
Author: Pigeon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: PG13 / 15
Series: Part one of the Afloat Trilogy. Comes before Floodable Length and Pierhead Jump
Summary: Will and Jack are just trying to stay afloat.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I'm also stoney broke. Don't bother suing. All credit goes to Disney, and everyone involved in PotC.
And I know that all I'm saying is wrong etched in the night time and rhymed in a song Come tomorrow I'll lighten-up and drink to the ones Who love without asking for loving
"Here in my Heart," Ocean Colour Scene
Will learnt to swim within his first month at Port Royal.
Some of the sailors that saw him, stripped to underclothes and spluttering salt water, laughed. They were hardened men, tanned men with tattoos and faded silver scars. They were men who lived their lives at sea, who knew the ocean's moods and how she could take your life at a second's notice.
Drown fast, boy, they insisted, Don't swim, don't even try. Drowning don't hurt. Don't stay afloat, just let her take you.
Will didn't pay any heed.
Every Sunday he went down the water, lowered himself gingerly in, and slowly taught himself to swim.
He could remember the burning in his lungs, the water closing above his head, the blind panic.
Dying would have been easy.
He could remember how his limbs felt so heavy, how his head got dizzy and vague.
Dying would have been so easy.
Dying would have been giving up
He could remember kicking, clawing, struggling up, latching onto the floating debris before darkness took him.
Some things had to be fought.
Jack's been tossed and caught in all manner of storms.
He's met gales and hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. He has felt the sirocco, the meltemi, the trade, and antitrade winds, and a thousand others whose names have long since slipped from his memory.
He knows when to brace and weather the storm, and when to run.
When he was a child in Bristol, Will had a small toy ship his mother told him was a gift from his father.
It was painted red and white, and had the name 'Freedom' emblazoned on the side.
He used to carry it with him always, floating it across the washtub, or, when the rain came down hard and fast, in the puddles that grew and spread and deepened in the small backyard. His mother would smile at him and make up stories about his seaman father, about what adventures he would be having and about how he'd be thinking of them, his family, through it all.
Will made up further stories in his head. He created make-believes of how his father was forever trying to return to them. Trying to find his way home, only to be frustrated at every turn.
Jack's been trapped in the doldrums too.
When the wind dies and the sails grow slack and it's only so long until the fresh water goes.
When the sea is calm and flat, and resembles more a millpond than an ocean.
When there is nothing to do but wait.
On the Interceptor the days are long and the work is hard. Will is young and fit and healthy, but he has never had to man a ship before, and his hands and muscles are used to bellows and anvils, not the tug of tarred rope and the blaze of noonday sun.
By the time that night comes around and they drop anchor he is beyond tired and slips fast into a too deep sleep that cannot last more than a scant few hours before he wakes and tosses restlessly.
The wood creaks, and the sway and rock of the boat is still unnatural to him.
He rises and leaves the small cabin he has commandeered.
The night is clear, the moon bright, and the breeze gentle.
Will leans over the rail and takes deep breaths. He can still feel what it was like to be twelve years old, with water crushing his chest. He is dressed in just his breeches; his shirt, stockings, and shoes having been abandoned for the night. Sweat from bad dreams and the close confines of the cabin, dries on him leaving him chilled.
"Trouble sleeping, lad?"
He turns to see Jack leaning against the mast, bottle of rum in hand.
"Thought you'd have been in the lad of nod, dreaming about your bonny lass by now."
"No." His sword is below deck, and all in all he is just too tired to take offence at anything Jack says. "I wanted some air," he scrubs at his face and yawns.
Jack sidles and sways and shimmies until he is at the rail, beside Will. He lays an arm around the boy's shoulders, feeling flesh damp and covered with goosebumps. "Yer not used to a fine ship yet. That'll change." He takes a long swig from the bottle. "'Course this is nothing compared to my Pearl, she'll rock you to sleep like you were in your mother's arms." He glanced at Will, "Can't sleep on land properly anymore. Right unnatural the way it don't move."
"Of course, Jack," Will agrees, focusing on the stripe of moonlight across the surface of the water, and not the arm tight about his shoulders.
Jack takes another swig, the motion sending more weight against Will. "Have ye been on many ships? Or have ye been landlocked all yer life?"
"I " Will pauses, frowning. He pushes back his hair, left loose for the night, and takes Jack's bottle from him, downing a large mouthful. "Not since I came over." He looks over at Jack, "We were attacked, the boat was destroyed, everybody died. Then Elizabeth saved me."
"And you've been pining over the girl ever since."
Will shook his head but didn't answer.
It takes three days to sail to Tortuga. Three days sailing, and three nights anchored in whatever cove or shelter they can find.
Jack gets used to Will coming up on deck, breathing in the night air and trying to distract himself from memories he'd rather not have.
Jack also gets used to watching Will when he's asleep.
He sees bad dreams play across the boy's face, and lets his fingers skim across the furrowed brow until tension eases and he's peaceful again.
On the first night Will doesn't wake until long after Jack has left.
On the second night Will opens his eyes and asks sleepily what Jack is doing. "Nothing to worry over, luv," Jack replies, "You go back to your dreams now." And he does.
On the third night Will feels a hand cupping his cheek, and another curved half way down around his chest.
He sits up suddenly and stares, open mouthed, at Jack perched on the side of his bunk.
Jack has nightmares too.
Sometimes he sees the Pearl burnt, sinking, wreaked at the bottom of the ocean.
Sometimes its Barbossa's face leering at him.
Sometimes it's that bloody island, only this time there are no rumrunners and no rum, and he's there all alone and dying slow and painful.
There are other things too. Things he doesn't like to admit he remembers.
And when he wakes with a gasp, and reaches instinctively for the bottle that's always there, he looks around the empty room and drinks deeply.
"What " and it really is rather pitiful how much of a squeak Will's voice resembles at this point. He takes a breath, and tries again in his normal low tones, "What do you think you're trying to do, Jack?"
"Pirate." Jack smiles, the boy looks confused, and it's perfectly plausible at this point that he mightn't know why a man would be sitting on his bed in the deep of the night. And isn't that just an inspiring thought. Jack traces the cut of the boy's cheekbone, the near hollow beneath it, "You're the spit of your da."
Will nods sharply, and tries to shift further back.
"Course he weren't so tall as you, and his hair were a might longer." Jack tips his head to the side, considering, "His mouth could have been a shade smaller as well." He puts a finger to Will's lips for a second, then smiles.
Will is still trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes, his heart is racing, and his face burns.
"Never met your mum, but I bet you got your complexion like from her, lad. Or mayhaps its just you've been kept outta the elements all yer life." Jack smirks and leans in closer, "Yer da were rougher to the touch, all dark and weathered in, savvy?"
Will frowns, and dodges as Jack's hand comes up to touch him again. "What is it you want, Jack?" he growls out.
"Captain Jack, lad, Captain Jack." He catches Will arm gently, fingering the old faded burns from the forge that litter his skin. "And who said that I wanted anything?" He gets up from the bunk, steeping over toward the door, "And who said I'd tell ye if I did?"
Tortuga is nothing like Will could ever have imagined.
Tortuga is sin and debauchery.
Tortuga is where men and women come up and proposition him, laying hands freely on him, whispering in his ear.
Tortuga is where he discovers his use, his role, his leverage.
Tortuga is just as Jack remembers.
Tortuga is as near to freedom as you can get on land.
Tortuga is rum, and warmth, and scallywags, and pickpockets, and folks as happy to kiss you as cut your throat.
Tortuga is where he bargains and deals and makes concords he has no idea if he intends to keep.
Jack knows no one will attempt to steal the Interceptor.
A fine looking boat like that would have a crew worthy and hardy and brave
No one would credit it being unmanned in a den such as Tortuga. It is unthinkable.
Will can see Jack is drunk, his speech slurred more than usual, his sway more excessive. They take a room above the tavern, Will using Jack's money to pay for it, and trying not to ask where he came by so many coins.
Jack flops down onto the double bed and grins up at Will.
Will locks the door, but doesn't venture further into the room.
"Well, are you going to come over here or not, lad?" Jack raises an eyebrow, and the dim light from the lantern glints off gold teeth. "William," he drawls, "Come and join me."
When Will was twelve and on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, he watched the sailors and how they interacted with each other.
He heard them wax lyrical about the wives they hadn't seen in months.
He heard them extol the dubious virtues of countless whores.
And he heard the gasps and moans they made together in the middle of the night.
Will stands by the door and hears again Jack calling him 'leverage'.
He remembers how Jack had sat on the edge of his bunk and touched his face.
And he knows what he will have to do to save Elizabeth and himself.
"Yes, Jack," he whispers and steps forward to the bed.
Jack grins and reaches up, pulling the boy down beside him. "You remind me of your da," Jack pauses. "That is had I known him when he was as young and fresh as you, and not older and more experienced which is how I did know him, so all in all you don't remind me of him, as I didn't know him at this point in which I know you."
Will shuts his eyes and just nods.
Jack will sell him out for a boat.
Jack, who smiled at him, and kept close, and had a look in his eye as if he wanted to kiss him, will betray him.
Only he will not have the chance, for Will shall betray him first. And Will knows that Jack will probably die.
"Be quiet, Jack," Will whispers, and then he kisses him.
Jack got sick on opium once.
He felt it fill his chest and his head, felt it block out the normal, everyday world, felt it become all in that moment, when his skin was on fire and his eyes filled with tears.
And it wasn't until later he felt that tinge of almost-would be- regret, as he threw up and cursed the drug.
And this is what he is reminded of as Will softly kisses him.
Will doesn't pretend to know what he is doing, but he isn't stupid or simple, and he had always figured that anything of this sort would start with a kiss.
After that is where his imaginings start to get a little murky.
But Jack has his hands everywhere at once and doesn't seem to notice or mind that Will has done nothing to progress this further, or does not in fact have any knowledge to progress this further.
Will feels the rasp of Jack's beard scrape against his skin.
He feels the taste of Jack, of warmth and rum and tobacco in his mouth.
He hears beads and charms clink against each other, and his own soft gasps above the constant roar of noise that is Tortuga.
And when he dares look at Jack he finds dark eyes looking straight back at him.
Will can't breathe for a moment.
Will can't breathe.
Jack is looking straight at him and he can't breathe.
Jack has many scars.
He has a thousand stories for each of them.
Just below and to the left of his navel is a small white V.
He'll tell anyone who asks that it came from cannibals, from a witch- doctor, from a duchess, or a tribe of pygmies.
He has never told anyone voluntarily what the true story is.
Truth is, after all, purely subjective.
And if Will were to ask right now, at this very moment, when his hands skim over the muscles in Jack's back and his mouth is full of gasps, and Jack can focus on nothing but sweat and skin, where the scar came from Jack still wouldn't say.
It isn't only Jack's breath that smells of rum, his flesh and clothes and hair all seem infused with the heavy dark scent.
Will's helplessly reminded of Mister Brown, of being twelve and Governor Swann pushing him forward to meet the stranger into whose care he was suddenly placed, of the nights and days he struggled to look after the old soak.
And Will suddenly knows he doesn't want Jack to end up like that, to have nothing but alcohol running through his veins, for his mind to know only the need for another drink.
And as Jack's teeth nip at the soft skin of his inner thigh, he remembers that in days Jack'll most likely be dead.
Jack only has hazy memories of his first time with another man.
He knows he was young and drunk and that they never quite made it to the bed.
Will fists the sheets and squeezes his eyes shut. Jack is everywhere and it is like being caught in some strangely burning hot squall that whips and whirls about you.
Jack's mouth is searing him.
The heat is more that anything he has ever felt, greater than the forge, or the sun at midday.
And there is a scream caught in his throat, and the world tilts, and then Jack is smiling down at him.
"William," Jack is whispering his name, his fingers running down the side of Will's face.
"It's okay, Jack," Will catches his eye and holds it. He is naked and Jack is wearing just that red scarf around his head, but he isn't going to blush and he isn't ashamed. "This was... this was..." and he can't quite bring himself to say this was right, no matter how true it is.
"That weren't nothing, lad," Jack grins. "Yer too green by half, if you don't recognise that as the prelude."
"Prelude to what?"
They collect a crew, and they set sail away from Tortuga and all its debaucheries, and Will aches and remembers and beds down alone, away from the crew below deck, away from Jack in the captain's quarters.
The oar strikes Jack's head and he falls.
Will feels sick and steps away from Jack's limp body.
Will's mum took him to church every Sunday. She patched his clothes and starched his collars. The first words he was taught to read were the Ten Commandments, and he could recite them while he still lisped.
When he was four he learnt of Original Sin.
He cried and his mum held him and promised that it made no difference. There was nothing to fear, yes, there was sin within him, but if he was good and virtuous and kept to the laws of man and god he would not suffer eternal damnation.
Will swore to only ever do what was right.
Jack doesn't question the actions of others.
They betray and strike out and only ever think of themselves.
This is how it is.
This is how it should be.
He trusts his Pearl. That's enough.
continue to part 2: Floodable Length
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