jackxwill - pirates of the caribbean slash

Title: Collide
Author: Dala (the_dala@yahoo.com)
Pairing: J/W
Rating: NC-17
Summary: An AU retelling of the movie in which Will, fostered by Barbossa and his crew, needs Jack's help to get back to the Black Pearl.
Part: 1 of 3
Notes: thanks to lizzie_omalley, who was kind enough to beta a good portion of this in its earlier stages. Title from the Howie Day song, which was my soundtrack when I didn't have the movie going in the background on an endless loop. Apologies for being late! It's, um, really long, if that helps any.
Written for: Veronica Rich and N. Ranken. Request: Gosh, let your imaginations run wild. Normalverse, AU ... just try in some way to show the deep connection between these men that goes beyond friendship or physical desire. NC-17 won't be turned away, but it's not necessary. (I had a free rein! Muahaha!) Restrictions: No wimpy Will! (Our standing requirement) No deathfic. (only movie canon deaths, I promise)

“Take him below.”

Sailors came forth to obey Lieutenant Norrington’s command. Elizabeth stepped aside to allow them to gather the unconscious boy up, still clutching the pirate medallion behind her back. Duty warred with curiosity in her mind; her father had said to look after the boy, but if she followed him below, she’d miss all the excitement on deck. A genuine pirate ship – perhaps the boy had been part of the crew, a cabin boy to the captain or a cook’s mate –

Peering past the wreckage, running her thumb over the cold, bumpy surface of the medallion, she gasped aloud at the sight of ragged black masts and sails ghosting through the mists. She should cry out, alert the marines – but it was sailing away from them and had disappeared within seconds.

Relief imbued her sigh as she surreptitiously tucked the medallion into a pocket. Fascination with pirates or not, she certain wouldn’t wish an attack on the Dauntless.

A shout erupted from the lookout. Turning her eyes back to the place where she’d seen the black ship disappear, Elizabeth managed to catch the flash and the thunder before a heavy body threw her to the deck. The wooden planks beneath her shuddered from the impact of the cannonball, which had caught a boom on the mainmast and sent splinters showering over their heads.

“All righ’ there, missy?” Seaman Gibbs inquired, crouching beside her. Elizabeth nodded, suddenly fearful that her singing might be blamed. Another shot ringing out distracted the sailor, however, and her father was soon by her side, lifting her to her feet.

Elizabeth bit her lip at the strain in his face. “We are to go below, Elizabeth dear,” he said, clearly trying to reign in his panic. She nodded, flooded by an eerie calm even as she felt the recoil from the gun deck when the Dauntless began firing back. Lieutenant Norrington’s voice rang clear above the hubbub, issuing orders and directions.

In the cabin she and her father were sharing for the journey, they found the ship’s doctor carefully laying Will Turner down on Elizabeth’s bunk. He tipped his hat to them before rushing off to be of service. The little scullery maid they’d brought from England was huddled in the corner, still wrapped up from having taken an impromptu dip in the ocean earlier that day.

“Let’s see how he is, shall we,” said her father, mopping sweat from his brow with a shaking hand. His other hand had not loosened from its grip on Elizabeth’s shoulder and she shook herself free, bending over the boy. At her touch on his arm, his long lashes fluttered open. Brown eyes peered fuzzily up at her before he let them close once more. His skin was not so cold as when he’d first been pulled out, which was a good sign.

Together they pulled a wool blanket over him. Elizabeth studied his pale face while her father cast worried glances at the door.

Guilt struck her as she remembered the heavy gold hidden in her skirts. Reaching up to unfasten the silver chain tucked under the neckline of her dress, she transferred the small cross that had belonged to her mother to the boy’s neck. Her father was watching her out of the corner of his eye.

“It will keep him safe,” she said so as not to have to explain herself, and he smiled.

There was the sound of a scream, too close to the cabin for comfort, before the door banged open. Elizabeth shrieked at the sight of two hulking, hard-faced men while Estrella whimpered and clung to her. Both girls were immediately yanked behind her father, but the pirates took barely a notice of him, the dark-skinned one smashing a fist into his face. He fell to the side and did not move.

Elizabeth clutched her hands behind her back, trying to quell their shaking. The two pirates blinked at her in surprise; the other one’s dirty face cracked into a mean grin.

“Purty li'l misses,” he said in a gravelly voice. The one who’d struck her father shrugged.

“We’re here for the boy,” he said to his companion. Groping behind her, Elizabeth found Will’s cold hand. Beside her, Estrella had her eyes shut tight and was reciting the Lord’s Prayer under her breath.

“I won’t – I won’t let you take him,” she said in a quavering voice. The pirates laughed and shoved her aside like empty sacking.

She knelt at her father’s side, checking for a steady pulse but not taking her eyes off the intruders. The second one touched a hand to the chain shining against the boy’s neck and nodded.

“Up wiv’ ‘im, then,” he said, hauling Will over his shoulder. Elizabeth squeaked in fright when their boots trod near her face, but they took no notice.

At the door, the one with matted blond hair turned to glance back. She tried to make herself smaller.

“Should we kill ‘em?”

“Nah,” said the dark one. “We got th’ boy. We’ll leave the pretty Pollys wit’ somethin’ dark t’ haint their dreams.” He flashed white skeleton’s teeth at her before they left, slamming the door behind them.

In her bed in Port Royal, Elizabeth woke herself with a scream that was cut off by a palm across her mouth. Dark, feral eyes glinted down at her in the gloom and the man hissed, “Quiet, darling.”

Aboard the Black Pearl, Will twisted himself out of his hammock with a yell. He blinked, violently awake, as his ears were assailed with put-out groans. A boot went sailing past his head and he ducked.

“Sorry,” Will called, rubbing a hand over his eyes. It wasn’t as if they really needed to sleep, anyway, he thought bitterly as he clambered back into his berth.

In the hammock beside him, Ragetti’s one eye peered out from under a ragged scrap of blanket. “Wot ye do that fer, Will?”

“Dream,” said Will shortly, flinging his arms up over his head as he settled onto his back and stared at the beams above.

“Bad ‘un?” the skinny pirate wanted to know. He was the one who’d told Will years ago that the crew didn’t dream even when they could manage to sleep. He always sounded wistful to hear of Will’s own dreams, be they pleasant or otherwise.

“Same as always,” he sighed. It was no clearer than usual this time; no matter how he tried to cling to the bright flashes, they continued to elude him, slipping out of his grasp like an eel. Fire, and dark crushing water – something shimmering – and her. He remembered the beginning and the end of that day; he remembered being struck on the head and waking up in Captain Barbossa’s cabin; but no matter how hard he tried, what had happened between those two events was a jumbled mess of hazy images.

“Wot ‘bout th’ angel? Was she ther? Was she, Will?”

“She was there,” he said softly. “She’s always there. I wish I could remember her – I wish I could find some way of thanking her.”

“Shut up!” came a hiss from Ragetti’s other side.

“Oy, shut up yerownself!” Ragetti said loudly, thumping the complainer.

“Ev’ryone shut up!” The bo’sun’s yell thundered through the crew’s quarters, making Will wince and Ragetti tuck himself back under his blanket.

“Mebbe ye’ll remember ‘er one day,” said Ragetti.

Will nodded once, then twice, then stilled as he drifted back into sleep, the image of the girl who had meant something to him that day burned against the insides of his lids.

“Jack, you cad!” Elizabeth hissed, whapping him solidly on the shoulder. “You gave me a fright!”

“Sorry, lass,” said the pirate, looking anything but as he made himself comfortable at the foot of her bed. “Saw you were havin’ a bit of a nightmare and thought I should wake you before the whole house got brought down upon me ears.” He grinned at her, the gold in his mouth sparkling in the moonlight. “Not all atwitter at seeing old Jack again, are we?”

She was biting her lip to keep from smiling back at him, Jack could see. “And why should I welcome you when it’s been nearly six months without a word, hmm?” she demanded with an arched eyebrow.

Jack winced. Elizabeth could do frosty as only well-bred women were capable of. “Because I missed you dearly?” When this earned him nothing more than a contemptuous sniff, he tried again: “Because I brought you a present?”

Narrowing her eyes at him, she held out her hand impatiently and he pulled the little wooden carving from his pocket. It was a smooth-finished robin with its breast painted red and polished bits of opal for eyes. Elizabeth took it from him, her lips curling in girlish delight, before she flung herself across the length of the bed. Jack laughed and hugged her tight, trying to ignore the curves he could feel beneath her night shift. Six months was a long time, long enough to pass from awkward, coltish youth into the slender-curved woman he held in his arms. Oh, she was as strictly off-limits as always, of course, but that didn’t keep him from noticing.

If any thoughts of impropriety went through Elizabeth’s mind, she didn’t voice them. Sitting back on her heels and closing her hand around the modest gift, she studied him with critical eyes. “You look a trifle thin, your hat’s more waterlogged than ever, and what’s this?” She touched a fingertip to the healing cut on his jaw and he batted her hand away.

“‘S nothing,” he said. “Barroom brawl.”

“Right,” said Elizabeth smoothly, though the set of her mouth told him that she didn’t believe it for a second. He’d made it clear from the beginning, the first night he’d stumbled bleeding and nigh unconscious against the windows of the governor’s parlor, that the uncommon bond between them would only be strained if she questioned what he did in the months between visits. The little girl of fourteen years who’d been reading by the fire that night had pouted and pestered him, but time had made her see the wisdom of it, and she had never asked again.

To draw her attention away from stones best left unturned, Jack nodded to her mussed hair. “You were having an awful rough sleep there. Dreaming of the boy again?”

Elizabeth sighed, her hands coming up to rub at flushed cheeks. “I wish you didn’t know me so well.”

Putting his own interests in the tale aside, Jack hated to see how it ate at her. “It was years ago, love,” he said softly, leaning against a bedpost and stretching his cramping legs out. “You were just a child.”

“I know that,” said Elizabeth, drawing her knees up and propping her chin on them, her face paled with an age that should not have been there. “It’s only that I cannot keep from going back and thinking there was something I could have done, something more.”

Jack nudged her with a booted foot. “Nonsense. Put it out of your pretty head.”

She scowled, probably because his words were too close to the admonitions of countless tutors and governesses. “You know very well I can’t, Jack.” A sigh. She hugged herself tighter. “He’s probably been dead for a long time. Don’t you think?”

“Could be,” said Jack, very careful to keep his tone neutral. In truth, he had no idea what Barbossa might have done with a random boy, though the thought had crossed his mind many times in the past six years. If it had been Bootstrap’s son, the curse would theoretically have been lifted and the Pearl’s servitude ended, her crew once again vulnerable to the death Jack was itching to bestow upon them.

But Elizabeth was not aware of that strip of past, had not seen the way his knuckles whitened on the handle of his cup when she’d told him the story. He had blamed the spilt tea on a surge of pain from the nasty gash in his side, making sure to control his reactions from that moment on.

A part of him had always wondered why Elizabeth was not more suspicious of the attention paid to her by a rather infamous pirate. He supposed she was too grateful for any excitement to question it, and he in turn was grateful for that.

The cry of a night bird came through the open window, startling them both. Jack rolled over to drop his head over the side of the bed, groping underneath for the pallet she kept hidden. “Consider th’ reunion over, then – I could do with a few winks.”

Finding the dusty thing at last, he hopped off, avoiding her well-aimed kick. “Not even a story?”

“I’ll tell you two tomorrow,” Jack promised, laying his bedroll out beneath her nightstand.

Elizabeth stuck her tongue out at him, but rolled over and burrowed beneath the covers once more. “Three,” came the demand from beneath a mound of silk and down.

“As my lady wishes,” said Jack theatrically, sweeping his arm above his head.

She giggled. “Good night, Jack. Make sure you’re out that window before Estrella comes to wake me in the morning.”

“Always am, Lizzie.” He listened as her breathing evened out and deepened. It was insane, really, to keep coming back here. Her trail to Barbossa was long since cold. Each time he told himself it was the last, that he’d roll his soft heart in soot if that was what it took. And yet he’d find himself creeping back into this fancified bedroom weeks or months later, depending on whether he had easy passage to Port Royal. Something about her lively eyes, her sharp tongue, and her little girl’s smile kept drawing him back as surely as north kept dominion over the compass needle (excusing that of his own, of course).

Problem was, he reflected soberly, she wasn’t a little girl anymore. He’d have no cause to call upon her once she was married, once she made her bed in another man’s house. It was dangerous enough now, but when that time came it would be downright impossible. He was saddened by the thought and irritated by his sadness. He was not supposed to need something warm and welcome like this; a home port was not meant for the likes of him. The Pearl ought to have been all he needed...

Ah, thought Jack with a bitter edge of amusement, and therein lies the rub.

Elizabeth snored a little and he smiled to himself. He’d stay for a couple of days, alleviate the boredom she always complained of, before heading out to Tortuga again to glean whatever scraps of information might be available. Elizabeth would be fine. Jack himself would be fine.

Somewhere out there, if he had any manner of luck at all, Bootstrap’s child was fine, and Jack would find him before Barbossa did.

They were becalmed and the sweeps had been run out. Grunts of effort and muttered complaints filled the still air – merely out of habit, of course, since not one of Barbossa’s men could actually feel the oppressive heat or the strain of arm muscles pulling hard and long. Seeing Will’s eyes slowly glaze over as he rowed without saying a word, the bo’sun had finally snorted in contempt and ordered him off duty. Will had protested, ashamed as ever that he couldn’t keep at anything the way the pirates could. Secretly, however, he was glad, because he’d been on the verge of collapse.

He was contemplating taking a soothing dip with a rope around his waist when Pintel came shuffling astern. “Cap’n wants ye,” he said gruffly.

“What for?” Will wanted to know, and Pintel shrugged. Men didn’t often ask Captain Barbossa any question beginning with ‘why;’ Will had been cuffed enough times for his natural insolence that he should have remembered it by now, as various members of the crew were constantly reminding him.

A knock on the door to the great cabin got him an invitation to enter and he stepped inside. Immediately he was bent over, sneezing and coughing into both hands at the scents pervading the enclosed space. It smelled like an opium den, but when he wiped the water from his eyes enough to look up again, he saw nothing burning. There was only a wizened little man sitting on a bench, skin the color of an old walnut. His feet didn’t quite touch the floor and he dangled them a bit.

A glance to Barbossa told him that it would be most unwise to inquire after the odd visitor. Will supposed they’d picked him up on the last jaunt to Tortuga, but that being nearly a week ago, it was odd that Will hadn’t seen him before now.

“William, lad,” said Barbossa, the foreboding vanishing from his face as he smiled crookedly at Will. “Come in.” As always, he offered Will a tart apple, and as always, Will grinned a thanks he didn’t feel and bit into the fruit. The sharp taste was enough to turn his stomach, but he knew better than to refuse.

Barbossa’s eyes lingered on his lips as he flicked out his tongue to catch a drop of juice. Will ignored him, long used to the pirates’ fascination with his ability to taste his meals. The captain shook his head suddenly, almost like a dog. “Pleasant day, is it?”

“It’s bloody hot, sir,” said Will honestly. He was a bit disoriented by the sudden dark of the cabin after the brightness of the sun, and he was having to blink spots out of his eyes. “But I trust the wind will pick up soon.”

“Aye, I suspect as much,” said Barbossa with a nod and a strange little chuckle. He swept a ragged-nailed hand out at the small man, who was playing with some small trinket that glittered in the candlelight. “Allow me t’ introduce ye to a dear friend o’ mine.”

Will held out his hand, feeling the captain’s unwavering gaze like a prickling between his shoulderblades. He said hello and looked into the stranger’s eyes, and everything went black.

The boy froze, his arm dropping back to his side as if he were fashioned of wood and hinges. Barbossa stepped carefully around him, noting that his eyes had gone unfocused, the pupils wide and dark. “Is ‘at it?”

Nodding gravely, the man tucked his coin-sized chunk of crystal into a fold of his robes. “He is underneath,” he said in a voice like rock striking rock.

“I c’n ask him, or must it needs be you?” Barbossa couldn’t keep the eagerness out of his own voice. Ten years, ten long years, and what was locked inside this boy’s head might be the key to his release. Well, that and his blood, but blood meant nothing without the gold.

“Ask what you wish.”

His mouth twisting in something between a triumphant grin and a snarl, Barbossa passed a hand in front of Will’s face just to make sure. The boy’s eyes didn’t move. He softened his tone when he spoke. “Remember when we pulled ye outta the water those eight years ago, boy?”

“You didn’t.” Will sounded distant and detached. “Men in blue coats pulled me out.”

The navy – that told him nothing, they’d already gleaned that much. “Names, William?”

“Captain Lear.” It didn’t ring a bell. “Lieutenant Norrington. Governor Swann.”

Barbossa let out a slow whistle, belatedly hoping it wouldn’t affect the spell Will was under. Norrington, was it? He’d risen to prominence very quickly in the years since. And Swann, unless he was mistaken, made his home in Port Royal.

“Elizabeth Swann,” Will added. His body swayed at bit. “Elizabeth,” he repeated. “She gave me her necklace. To protect me. I thought she was an angel.”

Rolling his eyes, Barbossa pressed him further. “What happened when she give you the cross, eh?”

“She took my medallion,” said Will. “It was a gift from my father. She called me a pirate and took it.”

“Not lost after all,” Barbossa whispered, feeling a stirring in his breast such as he hadn’t known in far too long.

“Not lost,” Will repeated blandly.

Curling one hand into a fist, Barbossa said in a low voice, “The little bitch must have it still. Well, there’s things can be done about that, oh yes.” He stroked his beard, pleased as punch to have the final coin so near.

He turned to the holy man. “Take him out o’ it now. I’ve learnt what I need.” Looking not at him but at Will, the man withdrew the crystal again and made a scratch on it with his thumbnail.

Will blinked and his tense body relaxed. “Excuse me,” he said, extending a hand to the man who’d just bespelled him. “It’s good to meet you.”

Barbossa grabbed his arm and marched him to the door. “Done wi’ that now – no one important, get on about yer work, there’s a good lad.” He shoved a mildly protesting Will out onto the deck and bellowed for the bo’sun.

“Sir?” The huge man was at his side in an instant.

Barbossa looked up at the sails, seeing a faint breeze rippling through the tattered shreds. Even the Pearl needed wind to sail, though he had never quite figured out how she managed when she was as skeletal as the rest of them. Damned contrary creation in his opinion, really perfectly suited to Sparrow.

He had to raise his voice over the cheers of the men. “Set a course for Port Royal. We’ve fin’lly found our young man’s angel.”

Understanding slowly overtook the other man’s face, and he bared his teeth in a grinning leer. “Aye, sir. And the old man?”

Barbossa shrugged. “Served ‘is purpose. Do what ye will.”

He gave the old magician a jaunty grin as the bo’sun dragged him out.

Next morning, it occurred to Jack that he could not bid Elizabeth a fond farewell until he obtained some kind of vessel. Anamaria’s boat, though as hardy and seaworthy as one could expect it to be, had not exactly survived the journey into port. He winced as he skulked around town with his hat pulled low, thinking of what sort of retribution might be demanded of him should their paths cross in the future. The woman had an uncommonly long memory and he’d heard that she had relieved men of their testicles for lesser offenses than sinking her only mode of transportation.

Still, no need to worry about that quite yet, just around this corner to find a bite to eat and...

“Well, hello lovely,” Jack murmured, catching sight of a more private dock and a pretty little brig. As he crept closer, sliding in amongst the trees, he was relieved to see that the dock was guarded only by a couple of lobsterbacks. He might have been suspicious of such meager provisions for the lady’s protection if he had not caught a few words of gossip about Captain Norrington’s promotion ceremony. Interesting fellow, Norrington; men spoke of him as though he’d singlehandedly made it safe to set foot outside their doors, while women tended to flutter their fans and make tittering innuendo about his many skills and assets. Elizabeth, when he’d asked her last visit, had merely shrugged and said he was good with a blade. She was probably the least sentimental female he’d ever come across outside the company of whores, so it didn’t mean much that he had so far made little impression upon her.

But enough fretting about soon-to-be-commodores, Jack thought, refocusing himself on the ship and her two attendants. He stood for a few moments to take the measure of his opponents. The taller, plumper one stood with his chest puffed out, clearly proud of his post, while the ginger-haired one picked at his ear and held his rifle somewhat less than expertly. He turned to his companion with a curious tilt to his head. The other man sighed and seemed to disagree, delineating his points with a stabbing forefinger.

Jack quirked an eyebrow. They were bumbling idiots, and this was going to be far too easy.

His first impression didn’t change much when he approached them and began to turn their heads in circles. They were really nice enough though, almost sweet, and he didn’t begrudge the time it took to lay a tale on them while he waited for them to relax their white-knuckled grips on their weapons. He chose the one about the Indian merfolk warring with the pod of porpoises, and his audience listened with rapt attention.

“...And then they made me their chief,” he finished with a cant of his head intended to inspire further questions. They were standing near enough to knock their heads together, but he’d prefer them a bit more distracted before he tried it. Mullroy went slightly cross-eyed with confusion, while Murtogg nodded thoughtfully.

The sound of a great splash nearby made all three of them turn their heads. “Elizabeth!” cried a figure standing atop the fort battlements.

Jack glanced up at the handful of uniforms. They quickly darted off, but she would be fish food long before they were able to reach her.

The two men at his side peered at him and at one another in panic as they all leaned over the side.

“Will you be saving her then?” Jack inquired of them.

“I can’t swim!” said Mullroy. Murtogg could only stare at him wordlessly, jowls quivering

Bollocks and damn the girl for fouling up his perfect plan.

“Pride of the King’s navy, you are,” he muttered in disgust. No wonder they’d been left down here all by their lonesomes. The rest of his effects followed his hat into the arms of the astonished marines. “Do not lose these,” he instructed them firmly before taking a neat dive into the sea.

Elizabeth had been dragged straight to the bottom, her face ghostly white in the darkness. Jack threw her over his shoulder and kicked hard, surfacing briefly before he was dragged back down again. It was the dress – foolish heavy thing – lungs burning, he tore at the stomacher and let the thing fall from her arms to drift to the sand below. The swim to the dock was far easier and he spent it mentally cursing the unconscious girl in his arms.

His two companions were at least good for something. They pulled her out of his grasp and settled her down, bending over her anxiously.

“She’s not breathing,” said Murtogg in alarm.

“Move!” Jack shoved him to the side; meddling wench though she was, he was not about to see Elizabeth die today. The problem was immediately apparent. Bloody women and their corsets, he thought as he split the thing and thrust it upwards into someone’s hands. Elizabeth gasped and coughed, turning her head to the side to spit out seawater.

“Never would’ve thought of that,” Mullroy said, clutching the corset.

“Clearly you’ve never been to Singapore,” said Jack, a bit lacking for breath himself. He caught something bright slipping down the side of Elizabeth’s neck and reached for it more out of reflex than anything else. A gleaming skull grinned up at him and he met Elizabeth’s eyes.

“Where did you get that?” he murmured. She stared up at him, still sucking in breath, defiance and fear mingled in her brown eyes.

“On your feet,” said a new voice, confident and hostile. The point of a very sharp sword presented itself at his throat and he raised his hands. This day just kept getting better and better.

Getting up, he was vaguely aware of Elizabeth being taken under the wing of her father. Jack took somewhat more notice of the man when he gave an order to shoot.

“Father!” Jack traded glances with Elizabeth and her face hardened. “Commodore, do you really intend to kill my rescuer?”

Ah, so this was Norrington then. Jack took in the glitter of his formal uniform, but was far more intrigued by the way he looked at Elizabeth. Perhaps he had escaped her interest, but clearly the reverse was untrue.

“I believe thanks are in order,” said Norrington, turning back to Jack and offering his hand. There was a trap in his eyes, but Jack figured he didn’t have much choice. Grasping his hand firmly, Norrington reached out and yanked his sleeve up, revealing the brand he’d received long ago. The commodore smirked and Jack winced. “Had a brush with the East India Trading Company, did we, pirate?” He said the word as if it were something bitter to his tongue.

“Hang him,” said Governor Swann imperiously.

Jack shot him a look – the fortunes of others changed so easily when one was rich and powerful – while Norrington raised his sleeve further, noting the tattoo he’d gotten years ago to commemorate the name he'd chosen for himself. “Well, well – Jack Sparrow, isn’t it?”

Pleased to meet you, Jack thought bitterly. Trust Elizabeth to attract a beau such as the commodore. “Captain Jack Sparrow, if you please, sir,” he corrected. There was always occasion for politeness.

“Well, I don’t see your ship, Captain,” said Norrington, putting the same spin on ‘captain’ as he had on ‘pirate.’

“I’m in the market,” said Jack, slitting seductive eyes at the man, “as it were.” He doubted he’d have much effect on Norrington, but it didn’t hurt to try. It had worked on the man ordered to brand his brow, in any case – though little good that had done him today.

He stood silent, barely keeping himself from snatching his things away as Murtogg and Mullroy eagerly handed them over for the commodore to rifle through.

“You are without a doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of,” said Norrington when he was finished maligning Jack’s effects.

“But you have heard of me,” Jack pointed out, enjoying the way Norrington’s lips thinned. Elizabeth was going to have a job on her hands with this one. And speaking of the devil, why on earth couldn’t she open her mouth while they made quick work of binding his wrists? He fixed his eyes on her over the smug lieutenant’s shoulder. Squaring her jaw, she flung off her father’s coat and planted herself in front of Norrington in just a thin, soaked shift. Jack fought back a smirk as he saw that the commodore was as baffled by her tenacity as he was distracted by the evidence of the water’s chill. Clearly he didn’t know the lass all that well yet.

“Carefully, Lieutenant,” he said to the man with the irons, trying to ignore her.

Elizabeth, of course, would not be deterred. “Pirate or not, this man saved my life,” she said passionately.

“One good deed is not enough to redeem a man of a lifetime of wickedness,” he said, lowering his voice and sounding more like he was arguing with her than attempting to put her in her place, which Jack could at least respect. He’d prefer Norrington to bend like a willow on this particular issue, but still.

“Though it seems enough to condemn him,” he put in, spurring Elizabeth on.

They both looked over at him, she with a determined frown and he with ill-concealed annoyance. “Indeed,” he snapped.

The young lieutenant made the dire mistake of taking his hands off of Jack’s manacled wrists. “Finally,” he said with relief, already composing an apology as he swung his arms over Elizabeth’s head. She gasped at the cold steel chain stretching across her pretty throat.

“No, don’t shoot!” Swann ordered, his face beset by sudden paralyzing fear for his offspring.

“I knew you’d warm up to me,” said Jack, feeling Elizabeth’s wet hair rasp against his cheek as she lifted her chin. “Commodore Norrington, my effects please, and my hat. Commodore!” he barked when the man hesitated. With a despairing glance at Elizabeth’s face, Norrington gathered his armful.

“Elizabeth,” Jack murmured, a perverse part of him enjoying having the free-spirited young thing under his power. Still, it wouldn’t do to suggest anything improper between them. “It is Elizabeth, isn’t it?”

“It is Miss Swann,” said Elizabeth furiously. Jack was mildly insulted; he really couldn’t see where she got off being angry with him, when after all his arrest was her fault in the first place. As for keeping the medallion hidden from him – well, there were too many lost opportunities there for Jack to properly lament them at the moment.

Norrington deposited everything in Elizabeth’s arms. Deciding that she needed to be teased a great deal for her impudence, he said in a overly rough voice, “Miss Swann, if you’d be so kind.” Elizabeth turned in his arms, glaring at him, and he matched her look for look. “Come come dear, we haven’t got all day.” She fiddled with his sword belt and he rumbled, “Now if you’d be very kind.”

Elizabeth put her arms around him, looking as though she’d like nothing better than to tighten the leather around his neck until his eyes popped. He took the opportunity to leer at Norrington over her shoulder. Fastening the straps, Elizabeth gave the belt a vicious tug, causing Jack to suppress a grunt. “Easy on the goods, darling.”

He could see the indignation in her eyes, reading her easily – how dare he use such familiar terms in public, especially when he’d forced her into this.

“You’re despicable,” she snarled, every inch of her transmuted to coiled fury.

Well, this was not quite the goodbye he’d had in mind, but it was all he was going to get. He was under no illusions that he’d ever be allowed through her window again. “Sticks and stones, love. I saved your life, you saved mine...” A pause to let his next words sink in. “We’re square.” He held her gaze and saw exactly when she understood. She pursed her lips, the heat of her gaze cooling.

Another moment and they’d become suspicious. He spun her around, realizing that it might have been sensible to ask for the key to the shackles, but no matter – it would’ve been a much riskier demand. “Gentlemen,” he said more loudly, then in Elizabeth’s ear, “milady –” Her back straightened just slightly. “You will always remember this as the day that you almost caught –” He grinned, delighting in his big exit. “Captain – Jack – Sparrow!” He thrust Elizabeth forward into the arms of her father and the commodore and got himself hauled to the top of a beam, swinging away to freedom.

Or rather, he made a valiant attempt. Later he would console himself with the chase he’d led the soldiers on before tripping over a squealing runaway pig in an alley and sprawling at the feet of Norrington himself. It was small comfort, but that was better than none at all.

“But Captain, I want to come along! I want to help!”

Will trailed behind a stalking Barbossa, doggedly following him fore and aft despite repeated threats of a whipping. He simply refused to spend another raid battened down on the Pearl, bored and completely useless while the crew made their fortunes on foreign shores or foreign decks.

“For the last time, Will, no!” Barbossa thundered, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

“But –”

He caught a flash of bared yellowed teeth as Barbossa spun, surprisingly quick, and grabbed him by the shoulders. Hauling Will in front of him, he grabbed Will’s chin and forced his head straight so that he was staring at three bodies hanging next to a sign meant to warn away pirates. Will grit his teeth at the pain in his neck, but remained still, Barbossa’s other hand gripping his arm hard enough to bruise.

“See that, boy?”

“Aye,” said Will, gasping as Barbossa twisted his arm painfully.

“An’ what might it be?”

“Dead men,” said Will, his defiant shoulders slumping as he realized what Barbossa was getting at.

The captain’s breath raised little hairs on his neck. “Right ye are. Dead as dead can be – dead like we cannot be, and you can. I’ll not waste a single one o’ me men keepin’ an eye on a foolish half-pint.”

“I don’t need to be looked after,” Will muttered seditiously. Barbossa loosened his grip, but gave him a little shake.

“Need or no, you be mortal,” he said. He turned, the anger clearing from his eyes, and smiled. “Have we an understanding, William?”

Will cast his eye down to his scuffed boots, resentment simmering deep down where the captain could not see it. “We do.” Barbossa cleared his throat and Will added, “Sir.”

Barbossa clapped him on the back. “We’ll be sure to fetch ye somethin’ especially special,” he said with an unreadable wink that Will noticed, but was too unhappy to puzzle over. He knocked shoulders on his way across the ship, tugging at the chestnut curls that had come undone while he’d pursued Barbossa all over the ship.

“Cheer up, mate,” said Jacoby sympathetically. “‘Ere, I’ll leave ye a few o’ me grenades t’ toss at gulls.”

Will made a face, but thanked him anyway. He found himself a free spot at the railing and dug his nails into the wood, silently fuming. It just wasn’t fair. What good was teaching him to fight if he was never to be allowed off the ship? It had been understandable when he was younger, perhaps, but he wasn’t a child anymore – hadn’t been one for a long time. Even being unable to age himself, Barbossa should have understood that. Perhaps they feared him running off, but that was absurd; he had nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to, and he’d have to face arrest on his own.

He found himself largely ignored as they moored in a small cove a few miles away from the town, the pirates working easily in the low twilight. A few of them cast sympathetic glances his way, but they were all used to the way things worked, and they would not have defied Barbossa’s command.

Will paced in the darkness until he ran into the captain again, quite literally. Barbossa grabbed him by the shoulders and studied him with a raised eyebrow. “Cabin,” he finally said after Will had begun to squirm with discomfort.

The boy’s mouth fell open. “No!” he said in outrage.

“Pardon me, William?” said Barbossa in that quiet, dangerous tone he usually saved for when he was about to snap.

Will’s throat worked for a moment without any sound. “I only mean – there’s no need, sir, I promise you –”
But Barbossa had him tightly by one arm and was hauling him towards the captain’s cabin. “I’ll be the judge o’ that, young Turner. There’s plenty drink in there to keep ye busy, and this way the boys ‘n’ I’ll be assured of yer safety.”

“Captain –” Will tried once more, but Barbossa shook his head. He released Will once he was safely ensconced, then locked the doors from outside. Will slammed his fists against the wood, hearing derisive laughter from the other side.

This was humiliation not to be borne. He didn’t deserve this – hadn’t tried to sneak off during a raid in years...

Will released a gust of frustrated breath and flung himself down into a chair. The cabin, like all the ship, smelled of rot and death. Sometimes the fresh salt air almost pervaded the scent, but it was never truly gone, and it was worst in enclosed spaces.

Most of the time, it was easy to forget how much he hated Barbossa in moments like this. No matter that the man had taken him in, fed and clothed him when civilized folk would have left the son of a pirate to die – no matter than he had done all this despite the fact that William Turner the elder had been a contemptible turncoat, and it was part his fault that they were all stuck in this mess. It was this connection which bound Will to the Pearl, allowing Barbossa to claim the debt owed to him by Turner blood. And Will was not unhappy, for all that; he spent the majority of his days grateful for the opportunity to be taken into the fiercest pirate crew in the Caribbean, even grateful for the concern Barbossa paid him, and certainly glad that they had let him stay on when others might have turned him away or killed him for his father’s actions.

But this was the other side of the coin. As Will’s father had been weak and disloyal, so too did they fear the same qualities in Will. If he could just find some way to prove, once and for all, that he was as game as the rest of them...

He started as the cannons began firing, peeking out the windows at the small port they were attacking. Somewhere in Jamaica – he couldn’t quite remember the name of the place, only that Tortuga was near to it. He could hear the shouted orders from the gundeck, and his hands moved along with them. God damn them – he knew how to load the guns, knew how to wield a sword, how to fire a pistol, how to fight a man barehanded, how to...

How to pick a lock.

Will seized the errant thought before it could flit away. Quietly, ducking his head so he wouldn’t be seen, he tried a dagger first. It didn’t work, so he cast about for something else, finally coming up with a bit of wire meant to hang a gilded mirror on a wall hook. “Come on, come on,” he muttered, to the improvised pick or to the lock or to the Pearl herself. One of them heard and obeyed, for he heard the click of tumblers and felt the lock release.

Grinning, Will tucked the wire into his pocket in the event it might come in handy later, perhaps for springing the brig door when Barbossa discovered him missing and threw him down with the rats. First, however, he intended to make a raid of his own, and bring back a hearty share of riches to contribute to the overall haul.

There was no one on deck, though he could hear Barbossa still bellowing at the gun crew below. The rest of the men had taken the boats ashore. Will could see the explosions from the ship, as pirates ran amok and the soldiers atop the stone fort returned fire. He slipped into the water and swam as quickly as his body would take him, alighting on the strip of sand where the boats had been pulled up. He snuck into the town, keeping in the shadows and ducking around corners whenever he saw one of his brethren.

Somehow, he had not thought to expect this much screaming.

At least, he thought to himself, turning to a wall as Jacoby went running after a shrieking woman with his grenades, the moon was clouded over tonight. It would be difficult to imagine a greater bout of hysteria than the one currently taking place, but if anything could do it, it would be the sight of pirate bones gleaming in cold light.

Avoiding a contingent of redcoats, Will belatedly realized that he’d brought no weapons other than the dagger tucked into his belt. He peered at the signs above his head. The apothecary and the milliner were questionable, but here was a blacksmith – at the very least, there ought to be a hammer.

The shop did not appear to be a target for the pirates, for it had not been ransacked. There was a donkey tethered in a corner. It snorted in fear and Will quickly bent to calm it, lest it attract unwanted attention. The animal quieted under the hand he stroked down its nose, along its neck. There were times when Will missed the beasts not found onboard a ship, even if his mother had never made nearly enough money to keep a horse. Barbossa’s monkey was a terror and didn’t qualify.

He patted the donkey one last time and made his way nearer to the forge, plucking a sizable hammer off of an anvil. He chose a poker as well, thankfully cool to the touch, but left the only real weapon in the place: a shoddy, rusted old sword that looked as if it had been made with the smith’s eyes closed. Hefting an iron instrument in each hand, he paused in the cool, dark building and pondered what steps to take next. Now that he was finally here, he was finding himself less than eager to actively seek out violence. The screams of the townspeople were still ringing in his ears, along with gunshots and yells from the invading pirates. It wasn’t as if Barbossa would know – he could later claim to have killed scores of men, as long as he brought back something to add to the Pearl’s hold. Most of the pirates were ferocious enough, but not exactly renowned for their wit and powers of observation – Will wagered they were so intent on their mad rampaging that they might be leaving valuable treasures in their wake. All he had to do was sneak around into abandoned homes, brandishing his weapons if anyone should come upon him, and fill his pockets at his leisure.

They never lingered long, however, so he’d best get to it if he wanted a ride back to the ship. The back entrance to the smithy was quiet, so he padded quietly across the dirt floor.

He was so intent on listening for noises outside that he never heard the stumbling footsteps behind him, or the bottle smashing as it cracked against the back of his skull. He fell, makeshift weapons tumbling down beside him.

Mr. Brown, blacksmith and town drunkard, peered down at the unconscious figure. “Got meself a pirate,” he said, before he fell over backwards and passed out again.

The donkey looked over at the two fallen men and brayed mournfully, hoping someone would come along to feed it breakfast.

Jack spent most of the night listening to sounds of the siege and coming up with increasingly creative ways to do Barbossa in. He’d gotten up to a complicated procedure involving a flask of coconut oil, a bushel of apples, and a dull paring knife when he drifted off. Morning found him with a crick in his neck and the prison still more or less deserted. He supposed he was not exactly a top priority at the moment. A pair of guards came down to check on him now and then, chattering about the goings on, and that was how he learned of Elizabeth’s capture.

He wanted to be angry with her for keeping the coin hidden from him all these years; if she had not, none of this would have happened. But he knew how she was likely to factor into Barbossa’s plans, and so he found himself fearing for her instead. It was unfortunate, perhaps even more unfortunate than the fact that Barbossa had finally gotten his missing piece and would soon be ripe for the killing again at the very same moment Jack would be swinging in the breeze. The girl had fouled things up completely, but she was an innocent – she and the boy, the two of them caught up in circumstances they couldn’t control, had not asked for. Jack pitied them, as he pitied himself.

To distract his mind from such thoughts, he worked at the lock in the door with whatever he could find. There was a bit of shrapnel from the cell beside his own, but it didn’t work any better than the pointy ends of the ornaments braided into his hair. He was giving a fragment of the dog bone another try when the door to the prison thumped open.

Abandoning his quest, Jack flung himself back down into the straw, affecting a posture of casual ease. Eyes closed, he listened to the steps come closer. That was odd; they were softer than the soldiers’ fancy buckled shoes, more like a lady’s slippers. He had an impossible notion that Elizabeth might somehow have gotten free and come to rescue him. But no, the footfalls were heavier than that, perhaps from boots like his own –

“You – Sparrow,” said a husky male voice.

“Aye,” Jack replied, lifting his head to look up at his visitor. He was young, perhaps not yet twenty. A boy more than a man, tall and lean. The boots Jack had guessed at were there, worn and scuffed like his clothing. He was sailor in every line of his body, from his deep tan to his trim muscles to the way he stood. There was the earring and the tattoo visible at the edge of his sleeve, of course, but no indicator was clearer than the slight unsteadiness of stance that came from walking dry land after months on a rolling deck. His face was the kind of handsome that could break the hearts of young women and old men alike. Eyes wide and alert, accustomed to meeting a gaze squarely; a determined chin said he was patient, though the shape of his mouth betrayed a fierce temper. There was something familiar about the way his nose curved, the set of his brow...

Watching him still, the boy crossed in front of the cell. “Get up,” he said, and there was too much bravado in his voice, so that Jack knew he’d never had a command of his own.

“An’ why should I do that?” Jack kept his own voice lazy, his eyes half-closed. Better to keep his observations to himself; for all he knew, the lad thought him a town drunk thrown behind bars to sober him up for a night.

The boy shrugged and turned away, lifting Jack’s effects from the hook on which they were perched. The hat he tossed to the ground, the coat he left where it hung, and the belt he strapped onto his own body.

Jack watched the stranger’s fingers run over the hilt of his blade with a twinge of dislike. He wasn’t unnaturally attached to his belongings, but they were hardy things and he’d rather hang onto what worked than have to procure new ones. The pistol had somewhat more sentimental value, he would admit. The boy checked its shot and raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. He cocked it and pointed it at Jack’s head.

“Up,” he said, almost pleasantly, jerking the weapon in the proper direction.

“Well, that’s quite another story, mate.” Jack got to his feet slowly, the niggling feeling that he knew this person enhanced somehow by the gun. “An’ who might you be?”

He came forward to hang against the bars and the boy took an involuntary step back, his lips thinning. “I am someone you don’t want to cross.” Jack might have laughed, except staring down the barrel of a pistol as he was, it was true for the moment.

“You know who I am,” he said instead, tapping his nails against the iron crosspiece. “And y’ seem somewhat familiar with my effects.”

The boy’s nostrils flared and Jack wondered what he had done to earn himself such instant ire. Men didn’t usually look at him like that unless he’d fucked their sweethearts or commandeered their ships. “I do know who you are,” he snapped. “I’m acquainted with a man you used to call friend. And I believe you knew my father as well.”

Jack narrowed his eyes. He knew of only one sailor with a son who’d be this age now. “You’re Turner’s whelp,” he said quietly, an image of Bill superimposing itself over the boy. Slimmer than his father, taller, and his eyes were brown where Bill’s had been blue. He’d named the child after himself, if Jack recalled correctly. It was William Turner the Second who’d been taken by Barbossa eight years ago, the boy in Elizabeth’s dreams – the boy from whom she must have gotten the last coin. “Will, is it?” he asked, taking a guess. The wife would not have called the boy the same name as his father.

Will lifted his chin. “If you must call me something, that will do.”

“I’ve heard you sail with the Black Pearl these days,” said Jack, choosing his words with care. There was no telling how Barbossa had mangled the story of their history together, though judging from Will’s attitude, Jack had not come out ahead.

The boy shifted his posture, his arm probably tiring. “I need to get out of this port before the navy finds me. I cannot crew one of their ships on my own, and I...” For the first time he faltered, eyes falling to his feet before he looked up again, defiant. “I know where the Pearl will be going, but I don’t know the way. You were captain once – you must remember.”

So he knew part of the truth. That took an edge off of Jack’s advantage, but not by too much – he didn’t know about the compass or it would have been the first thing he looked for. “If I do, what of it?” he said. “What makes you think I’d help you, eh? Surely you’ve sussed that there’s no love lost ‘twixt me and the dog you call captain.” No flare of defensive rage – that was interesting. So Barbossa hadn’t been the best of father figures to the boy. Jack couldn’t say he was surprised.

“I’ve a lockpick,” said Will. “I can get you out of here.” He brandished the pistol in a short arc. “Or I can shoot you and take my chances with the lobsterbacks.”

Jack cocked his head and said nothing, holding the boy’s gaze. Will’s cheeks grew pink with the desire to look away. It was not only an empty threat in the sense that he couldn’t be stupid enough to expect to walk free after drawing the guards with the sound of the shot. He’d never killed a man before. Jack had no idea how, after years spent with Barbossa’s lot, but he looked into Will’s eyes and knew it was so. That did something to his trust in the boy, but he wasn’t sure if it had in fact gone up or down.

“And when we reach the fabled isle, what then? Seems to me a question of whether I die now or in a few days’ time.” The longer he kept Will talking, the more he was likely to reveal. Jack had no objection to playing this new development by ear, but it was best to set off with at least some idea about his companion’s temperament.

Will took a long breath and bit his lip. “You have my guarantee of safe passage once we get to the Pearl. Captain Barbossa will spare you if I ask it of him.” It was a curious manner of lie – Jack could see that Will half-believed his own words, perhaps because he was alone and frightened and had no other choice.

Jack studied the stone floor, pretending to consider. It was a done deal; where the Pearl and the Aztec gold and the blood of William Turner met, Jack would go. It would be a bonus if he might spare Elizabeth in the bargain, and maybe the boy as well, but he would settle for his ship and a bullet in Barbossa’s heart.

“Well then, Mr. Turner” he finally said, nodding to the anxious lad, “if you spring me from this cell, I swear on pain of death I shall lead you to Isla de Muerte and your jolly crewmates, provided I come to no harm at their hands. Do we have an accord?”

For the first time, the shadow of a smile appeared on Will’s stern young face. “Agreed.” He uncocked the pistol, holstered it, and shook Jack’s hand firmly, sailor’s calluses thick on his palms.

Jack’s eyes fell to the hilt of his sword and Will closed his fingers over it. “You understand I must keep your weapons, of course,” said Will, stepping back to let Jack in front of him. “For my own safety.”

“Aye,” said Jack reluctantly, biting back a scowl. “Guess you’re pirate after all, lad.”

Pride shone in Will’s bright eyes as he followed Jack up the stairs. Good for the boy to keep a high opinion of himself – it would lower his defenses.

Besides which, he was a fine sight to look upon when he smiled.

continued in part 2

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