Title: Dawn Appointment With the Gallows
Author: Sparrowhawk (email@example.com)
Summary: What if Will had a better plan to rescue Jack from the hangman's noose? An alternate (and slashier) ending to the movie.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.
Will knows upon opening his eyes in the weak pre-dawn light that this may prove to be the worst day of his life. He knows that in a cold stone cell somewhere inside the walls of the fort, Jack is also awake and waiting for the sun to rise. And he knows that all the commodore's hangings take place promptly at dawn. He begins counting the minutes.
By the time Will arrives at the fort, the sun is close to cresting the horizon and the enclosed courtyard is packed with curious spectators. Immediately he sees that Jack has already been led to the raised wooden platform. The pirate looks as completely bored and unconcerned as one would expect, but the set of his shoulders and the tilt of his head tell Will otherwise. Not for the first time, Will's heart twists with a wretched tangle of emotions he won't allow himself to name.
Just last night it was that a pirate once again cornered him inside the smithy -- Gibbs, a wanted man himself, come to ask Will's aid. Will agreed, of course; he already knew that he could not live with himself if he allowed Jack to die. Now he gathers his courage to do what needs to be done and to say the last thing that needs to be said.
"Governor Swann." Will forces himself to nod courteously in greeting despite his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest. "Commodore." The tall officer looks none too happy himself, but Will doesn't think for a moment that will make any difference as to the morning's proceedings. Then Will draws a deep breath and turns to the governor's daughter. "Elizabeth... I should have told you every day from the moment I met you: I love you." To his own ears the bold words sound all too clearly like a goodbye.
Elizabeth's eyes widen, locked onto his, and he can see her surprise slowly give way to a pleased smile. Only shocked silence from the two men by her side, he notes with grim amusement as he deliberately turns away before she can make any reply.
Will strides through the crowd with firm resolve, ignoring the nervous clenching in his stomach. A quick glance up at the gallows confirms that Jack has spotted him; those sharp black eyes are intently tracking his movement across the square. Will searches the crowd for Duncan, knowing that Jack's gaze will follow his. There -- the red-haired sailor is loitering near the back of the mass of onlookers, conveniently near the main gate, exactly as planned. Will can almost hear Jack putting two and two together as he chafes restively at the rope that binds his wrists before him. When Cotton's blue and orange parrot flaps into view, Jack's lips twist in a barely suppressed smirk.
Will pauses a few paces from the platform and acknowledges both Jack and Duncan with the barest of nods. The air vibrates with snare drums buzzing like angry bees but the eerie silence that follows is even more unnerving. Then the formal words condemning Jack to an untimely death are read and Will is for the first time grateful that the list of charges against the pirate is a long one. He wants to fidget but forces himself to be still, calming himself by checking once more the position of the ax tucked into his belt, hidden for now beneath his cape. The drums resume their droning, faster now, and he wipes sweaty hands on his trousers. What in heaven's name is the holdup? Across the square he can see Duncan shifting nervously from foot to foot.
Then cannonfire thunders nearby and as a shot impacts the stone wall with shattering force Jack's eyes dart to meet Will's. Duncan cries out on cue, "Pirates! They're attacking the fort!" and the spectators erupt into a running, shouting mob, heedlessly pushing soldiers out of their way as they rush in panic from the courtyard. Confused orders send redcoats scurrying this way and that and Will doesn't waste another second. The ax feels solid and familiar in his hand as he slips it from his belt, takes careful aim and hurls it in a swift, fluid motion. Time slows to a crawl as the ax spins and slices through the air and with a satisfying "thunk" buries itself in the gallows pole, neatly severing the rope that ends in a noose around Jack's neck.
Then time is flowing swiftly again as Will charges up the gallows steps. Jack throws himself at the burly hangman and Will barely dodges the man's falling bulk and flailing arms to grab Jack before he too falls. Together they spill down the steps as another explosion close by sends debris raining down, covering their desperate dash across the square.
Just outside the gates, Duncan is waiting anxiously in a mule-drawn wagon and then Will and Jack are both diving headlong into the back. Duncan slaps the mule smartly with the reins and the cart lurches away down the hill toward the harbor, picking up speed as it goes. Will can hear cannonfire continuing to pound the fort's sturdy walls and he fervently hopes that the assault delays the Navy's response just a little while longer.
Jack is sprawled heavily across Will, bound hands caught between their chests. The dusty canvas that conceals them dims the bright morning sun and all Will can see is Jack's face inches from his, those midnight eyes closer than they've ever been, and for the space of a heartbeat Will freezes. Then Jack's mouth comes down on his in a kiss that's feral and hungry and not at all gentle, stopping Will's breath, stopping his heart until in a blinding rush he finally acknowledges that this is what he's wanted all along. The world ceases to exist but for the heat of Jack's hard lean body stretched along his and the searing kiss that burns away everything Will thought he believed, everything he once was but is no longer.
Will is gasping for breath by the time the wagon jerks to an abrupt halt but somehow he summons the presence of mind to slip his dagger free, and Jack puts just enough space between the two of them so that Will can sever the rope still binding his wrists. Jack is grinning madly and Will grins back and as if from far away they become aware of Duncan pleading come on, dammit! Moving in tandem they hit the ground running, the ominous crack of musket fire speeding their steps as they race down the long wooden pier. Will can see Gibbs waiting in the skiff at the end of the dock, eyes darting nervously up the hill but waiting nonetheless, and farther out he sees that the Pearl also waits, cannons still smoking.
Jack has outpaced Will by a few feet and leaps with practiced grace into the boat, turning in time to steady him as he steps down somewhat more awkwardly. Jack's hand on Will's arm is strong and possessive as he pulls him down onto the narrow wooden seat and Duncan piles into the boat behind them. Gibbs is already putting his back to the oars as if all the hounds of hell were at his heels and Duncan grabs up the other set of oars. The dinghy races across the sparkling turquoise bay toward the Pearl where she drifts, sails hoisted but slack, poised and ready for a quick getaway.
Jack gives Will's shoulder a little nudge. "So you're desertin' your bonny lass after all that trouble we went to gettin' her back?"
Will wishes for a quick clever response but settles for the plain truth, choosing his words with care. "I haven't been allowed to speak to her since we returned to Port Royal. She's made her choices and I've made mine."
"Ah." Jack pauses, strokes his moustache thoughtfully. "Well then, I expect the Pearl could use another able hand," Jack says at last. "But William -- can you sail under the command of a pirate?" It seems a lifetime ago that he first asked that and Will didn't answer. This time he does.
"I can," Will replies without hesitation. "If you'll have me."
Jack's wicked glance says that having Will on the crew is the least of it, because they both know with absolute certainty that he'll have Will in his bed by nightfall. And perhaps it's due to the adrenaline still surging through Will's blood, but he's not afraid any more -- not of his own feelings, not of Jack. He's burning with new awareness, burning with anticipation, and once again counting the minutes -- this time until they can be alone again. But their escape isn't quite complete and there's a distinct lack of privacy in the little skiff and for the time being he'll have to make do with the promise in Jack's eyes. Considering the heat of the pirate's gaze, it's almost enough.
The Black Pearl looms above them, a rope ladder dangling against her sleek curved hull. Jack swings up first, ascending the dizzily swaying rope as if it were a grand staircase. Will follows and gratefully accept a hand from Jack pulling him aboard. All the crew crowds close around Jack, cheering and laughing and slapping him on the back, and a moment later Captain Jack Sparrow is barking out orders like a true commander. Sailors are scurrying to do his bidding and Will stands alone on deck as they scatter since he doesn't know what else to do. Jack is halfway to the helm before he realizes Will isn't following.
"Coming, Will?" Jack pauses and turns with a sly golden grin as if he and Will have just pulled off the most daring caper ever. Certainly it's the most daring caper of Will's life, at least so far, and he knows the days ahead hold grand adventures and the nights sensual pleasures as yet undiscovered. There is nothing left to consider, nothing left to decide. Will hurries to join him.
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