Title: Degrees of Decency
Author: kHo (email@example.com)
Summary: After the sails were deflated, and the anchors were dropped, the crew would sit around with their scrapplings of food and their seemingly endless stream of alcohol. Brandy, Rum, Ale... any myriad of drinks were on board at all times, always being replaced before they had the chance to run out.
Series: On High Seas, pt 2
For most of his life he had loathed piracy. He had done so because his mother had, and because most decent people did. He considered himself a decent person, and when told horror stories of the atrocities that pirates committed, he never stopped to think that perhaps stories were blown out of proportion.
Pirates were scoundrels, and scalawags, and improper. Then again, Will never had been considered exactly proper himself... which perhaps explains the amount of distain he once held for pirates. His hair was unkempt and he lived in a dingy room full of holes and rats and cobwebs. He'd never been able to attend school like a proper boy because most of his time was spent earning his keep by cleaning other people's messes, or melding other people's swords. He'd taught himself to read, with the help of strangers who took pity on him, and he read as many books as he could get his hands on.
He studied how the likes of the Norrington's of Port Royal walked, and talked, and conducted themselves, and he melded himself accordingly. He did this in the hopes that one day he too would be considered a gentleman, but money spoke louder than actions in that town, and he didn't have enough of it to keep himself properly fed much less enough to purport himself as a true gentleman.
None of this stopped him from staying the course though. He still studied the books he could buy with his lowly salary and he still spoke as well as the best-dressed man in town. He bowed when he saw a lady, and he offered an elbow to elderly people walking over a precarious crossing. He carried his head high, and he held a stiff upper lip even as he heard the people of the upper echelon mocking the scuffing on his shoes or the mislaid hemming of his pant legs.
As a result of this he never truly fit in anywhere. He'd long ago realized he'd never truly be a gentleman in the eyes of the aristocrats, but he'd also alienated the peasants with his high class words and his quest to be as unlike them as he could. He kept to himself most of his life, and he'd become accustomed to it for the most part. It would be a lie to say he never let it get him down that no one would speak to him when he walked through the town, but he never let it show.
Elizabeth had been the only one of the townspeople who never treated him with anything but friendliness, and perhaps a little more than that looking back on it. He'd at one time thought it was pity, but when he was around her she seemed genuine in her demeanor and slowly he fell for her. By the time he was old enough to have feelings for the opposite sex he'd decided she was the only one for him, which wasn't just because she was the only one that gave him the time of day. She was sweet mannered, never condescending, and always had a smile for not just him but anyone she saw.
It had truly never occurred to him that his feelings might be returned until Jack told him what she'd done for him. He'd been resigned to the fact that the likes of him wasn't good enough for someone as classy as her since he was sixteen. It was then that her father had disallowed her to spend afternoons with him in the shop, claiming that a work place was not the proper placing for a lady of her caliber. She'd gone unwillingly, but she'd stayed true to her father's wishes.
To discover that the woman he'd pined after for as long as he could remember could possibly pine for him back was a heady prospect for him to accept. Even after proclaiming his love for her in front of Norrington and her father, and after she'd stepped between Norrington and him and proclaimed her love back, he had trouble accepting it. During their time together he'd worry that he wouldn't be able to provide for her properly. He'd worry that he wouldn't be able to give her what she deserved out of life. Her answer was always to laugh and kiss him, and she never even dignified the thought with a rebuttal.
As time passed though, she began to get tired of his frequent bouts of self-doubt, growing annoyed with him. Sighing instead of kissing him, and telling him to stop it instead of laughing it off. She never stayed annoyed for long, and almost within a blink of the eye she would be planning their wedding and where they would live, looking as happy as ever. He learned to keep his fears inside, and merely stopped voicing them.
When she left for London he felt as if his heart had been broken. She promised to send letters on a weekly basis, and that nothing would change. She said she'd be back as soon as she could, and that she'd dream of him every night. She wrote twice weekly for the better part of the first year, each letter consisting of mundane details of a life of boredom in England, and long passages proclaiming her love for him.
It was the last six months that they began to falter. She wrote once a week for two weeks, once every two weeks for a month, and then only sent two more letter for the next four months. The last letter had been half the length of her last, which was half the length of her first, and in it she'd only dedicated the closing for her profession of love. She seemed to have found the more exciting part of London by that time, and wrote of plays she'd seen, and restaurants she'd gone to. She divulged much less of herself in those last few letters, sticking to facts and details instead of emotions.
Will found himself retreating even further into himself in those months. He spoke when spoken to, and only ventured out of his room when he was required to, for work or food. He buried himself in Elizabeth's books of piracy, wondering why he'd never bothered to read them before. She'd always been somewhat obsessed with the darker tales of life, perhaps because her life was so docile and threat free. The books were flowery, and full of romanticized adventures, and probably 90% untrue.
That's when he found himself thinking of Jack again. The first few months after Jack had left Will had wondered how he was doing, worrying that perhaps Jack had never even been picked up by the Pearl after all. As he and Elizabeth got closer though, his thoughts of Jack retreated to the recesses of his mind, popping up only at odd moments in the middle of the night or when he'd see a boat with dark sails. The books, though, made him think of him more and more often. Made him want to ask Jack if there were any truth to them, or if they were all hogwash.
It turns out that they were, mostly, untrue. The overall feeling of the books though, the pursuit for treasure, the taking pleasure in the small things in life, like oranges and brandy and rum... that was true. The freedom of being on the Pearl, with the wind in his hair and the salty air in his nose, was even more exhilarating the books could have possible been able to explain. Perhaps his favorite part, though, were the tales that were told on board.
After the sails were deflated, and the anchors were dropped, the crew would sit around with their scrapplings of food and their seemingly endless stream of alcohol. Brandy, Rum, Ale... any myriad of drinks were on board at all times, always being replaced before they had the chance to run out. Will himself had found that Brandy was too strong for him, and Rum left a bad aftertaste, but Ale was just about perfect. Jack chided him about his weak palette, but he did it with a twinkle in his eye that let Will know he chided with love.
He'd spent 19 years wondering what his father was like, and aboard the Pearl he found out quite a bit. Gibbs had known him through Jack, and several of the crew had had drinks with him on several occasions. Cotton nodded excitedly when his name was brought up, but his parrot was never able to articulate anything with any semblance of sense, so Will never learned anything from him. Gibbs was the one who talked the most about Bootstrap Bill, but Jack was the one that knew him best. He'd let tidbits out every once in awhile, but never enough for Will.
He tried to be understanding when Jack would back away from the conversation, knowing that the days when Jack knew Bootstrap Bill were days he didn't like much to think of anymore. Those days represented betrayal, and mutiny, and having Jack's livelihood stripped unceremoniously from him. Will tried not to pry too much, but he and Jack argued on more than one occasion on Jack's reticence to talk to him about his father.
"Why, love," Jack said, shrugging and settling back on the hammock, folding his fingers delicately over his slightly grumbling belly. "He's long gone now."
"Because it's important to me, Jack," Will bellowed, not caring if the rest of the crew heard him outside Jack's room. "He was my father!"
Jack sighed, looking lazily at him with one eye. "He was a good man, Will. He was a good man, and good swordsman, and the only one who remained loyal. What else is there to know?"
"Why did he leave my mother," Will asked, sitting on the table in front of Jack.
Jack laughed, rolling his eyes. "You have to ask?"
Will nodded, clenching his hands together, Jack's laugher grating on him. "Obviously, else I wouldn't have, Jack."
Jack turned his head to look at him, running his eyes over Will's face for a moment before continuing. "Will, do you doubt my feelings for you?"
Will sat back slightly, frowning. "What does that have to do..."
"Do you," Jack asked, lifting his head and looking at him.
"No," Will said without hesitance.
Jack nodded. "Good," he said, resting his head back on the hammock. "Then I ask you this, mate... do you think for one second that if you hadn't come with me back to the Pearl, that I would have stayed in Port Royal?"
Will hesitated, licking his lips. "No."
Jack looked at him. "An' why is that, love?"
"Your home is the sea," Will said matter-of-factly, shrugging.
"William Turner was 10 years my senior. That's ten more years he spent on the sea than me, love," he said quietly, looking at the ceiling. "No matter what he might have felt for your mother... which, by the way, I have no way of knowing... nothing would have compared to that."
"But he was there," Will said, his voice full of wonder. "For two years he lived with my Mother and I."
Jack smiled sadly at him. "Which is two years longer than I would have."
"But he had responsibilities," Will yelled, his arm sweeping through the air haphazardly. "A decent man would have..."
"Decent," Jack scoffed, laughing. "What is your obsession with decency, Will?"
Will frowned, glaring at Jack, boring a hole into the side of his head. "It's how a man should behave, Jack."
Jack laughed again, casting a dubious glance at Will. "This coming from a newly made pirate."
"A man can be a pirate and still be decent," Will hissed. "I have rules, I have lines I don't cross... I steal only from those who deserve it."
"Aye," Jack said, nodding. "But you know we don't follow those same rules, mate."
Will frowned, crossing his arms. "I can not control what rules you follow."
"He who lies with pigs, mate," Jack said softly.
Will stood up quickly, kicking a chair nearly half way across the room in the process. "So you're saying I'm no better than a common thief because I associate myself with them?"
Jack looked at him, his face neutral. "Aye."
"I see," Will said, nodding his head.
Jack threw a leg over the side of the hammock, sitting up and facing him. "I guess I never realized you thought we were common thieves though, William."
Will looked at him, his indignation faltering. "Jack..."
Jack held up a hand, smiling a humorless smile at him. "You always have thought yourself higher than us," he said. "I should have remembered, mate."
"You are different," Will said softly, watching as Jack studiously began to pick at his dirt caked nails. Jack never let you see his eyes when he was upset. He never let you see the jaw clench or the betrayal pass over his face. He picked at his nails, and he grinned. The less he spoke, the more offended he was. "Jack."
Jack looked at him, smiling. "Never you mind, love."
Will sighed, sitting backwards in the chair and placing his hands on Jack's knees. "Jack, you are different."
Jack shrugged. "Yes, because I'm honestly dishonest, which somehow makes me honest... I am different in my sameness."
Will sighed, squeezing Jack's thighs. "You're different because you don't steal for greed. You steal enough to get by on."
"Not true, love," Jack said, shaking his head. "We steal more than that."
Will breathed deeply in through his nose. "I don't think of you as a common thief, Jack," he said softly. "I was angry, and I spoke without thinking."
"Anger only reveals what you already feel, love," Jack said, shaking his head and chuckling softly. "I've never said an untrue word while angry... only things I wished I hadn't."
Will sighed, sitting back. "I don't think that, Jack."
Jack nodded, swinging his legs back up on the hammock. "I'm a might tired, Will," he said quietly, still picking at what was probably a hangnail. "So unless you want to join me..."
Will grunted, slamming his hands into the back of his chair. "I'm so sick of you shutting me out, Jack!"
Jack laughed. "I'm not shutting you out."
"You are, Jack," Will said, staring at his stiff posture. "Face me if you're not."
Jack looked at him, chewing on the corner of his lip. "Eye to eye, mate."
"You asked me earlier if I ever doubted your feelings for me," Will said, clasping his hands together.
"Aye," Jack said, nodding.
"Do you know you've never told me," Will asked.
Jack laughed. "Don't have to, love. I show it."
Will nodded. "Yes, you show it," he said. "But you never say it."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Why do I have to," he said, laughing. "Do you need reassurance?"
"No," Will said, shaking his head. "Not on that. But you never share any feelings, Jack," he said, licking his lips. "Any emotion you feel, I have to read. Hurt, betrayal, loneliness, vulnerability, self doubt... I only know you feel those because everyone does, so you must."
Jack shrugged. "What's the point of letting people know, love," he said softly. "Only good that does is let them know your weaknesses." He looked at him, raising an eyebrow. "As you well know, I've had a hard lesson on that one."
"Not by me though," Will said, leaning forward. "Don't you trust me? Didn't you say you've trusted exactly three people?"
"Aye," Jack said, nodding. "You, your father, an' me-self."
Will nodded. "So you should feel free to clue me in, Jack."
Jack sighed, dropping his hands to his sides. "You want to know why I don't talk about your father," he said quietly, tilting his head to face Will.
"I want to know about you, Jack," Will said softly. "You make that nearly impossible."
"Baby steps, love," Jack said softly, looking once again at the ceiling. "William Turner made me what I am today," he said quietly. "Took me under his wing, told me how to be a pirate. Told me how to be a man. Taught me how to look out for me-self, and how to not let other people's thoughts of me affect my thoughts of me-self."
Will watched Jack smile slightly, wondering where this story was leading. "When I took over the Pearl, he was the only one that had faith in my abilities. I was still a pretty young buck, and despite what you may have heard, this swish-swash manner of mine was not learned on that island I was marooned on. I've always been this way."
Will laughed. "I always knew you were never normal."
Jack smiled, looking at him. "He was more the captain of that ship than I, at first," he continued. "I didn't trust myself those first few years. Ran my ideas, my plans, by him first. 'Cause I knew he was the one guy that wouldn't stab me in the middle of the night for himself."
"And then one day he cut me off. Said to never tell him anything before I told the crew. Toughened me up, is what he did. Learned to be my own captain, and in the process learned to be theirs." He turned to face Will, frowning. "An' I was a good captain, Will."
"I've no doubt," Will said, nodding.
"I've told one person, in the entirety of my life, who I truly am," he said softly. "An' that's your father." He paused, his eyes flicking back to the spot of nothingness on the ceiling. "But I never was a satisfactory captain to them. They all turned on me, 'cept him. Wasn't even on the ship when they did it."
"Where was he," Will asked, enraptured by the uncommon earnestness in Jack's voice.
"Dunno, mate," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "On some trip... he and a couple of others went into town that night. Little pillaging, plundering... general merriment." He paused, clearing his throat. "Snuck up on me in the middle of the night, is what they did. Waited till I was asleep, tied me hands behind me back, bag over my face... set off sail to that godforsaken island. Left me with one bullet... you know the rest."
Will nodded, absentmindedly grabbing one of Jack's hands and stroking it with a thumb. "So how do you know he wasn't in on it?"
Jack smiled and shrugged. "Didn't have it in him," he said softly. "Never lied 'bout nothin', not to me. Never would've."
Jack looked at him, his eyes serious and leaving no room for questioning. "Didn't have it in him, love."
"You never questioned him," Will stated rather than asked. "Never even crossed your mind that he betrayed you?"
Jack shook his head. "Not once."
Will smiled, nodding. "Pintel and Ragetti, they said the same. Said it never sat well with him what they did to you."
Jack nodded, smiling at him. "He was a good man, Will. Nothing for you to be shamed by."
Will nodded, licking his lips. "Same as you," he said quietly.
Jack laughed. "Reason I don't talk about it is because its too hurtful, Will," he said. "Too fresh... too much of a reminder of what I lost when they betrayed me. Not just me ship... but me best mate." He smiled slightly, shrugging. "More like a father, really."
"Makes us brothers, then," Will said, wrinkling a nose. "Let's not refer to him as your father again, shall we?"
He laughed again, lifting the hand that Will held, kissing Will's hand. "Well hop in," he said, his voice taking on a more lighthearted tone. "Hammock's lonely without you."
Will laughed, stepping around the chair and laying down in the hammock next to Jack, smiling as Jack wrapped him solidly in his arms. "You do show me, you know," he said quietly. "Words wouldn't do it justice."
"What's that, love," Jack asked, locking eyes with him.
"How you feel about me," Will said, smiling and brushing a hand into Jack's hair. "I honestly don't mind that you don't say it... it's the other that bothers me."
"What other," Jack asked.
"You just shut down sometimes," he said softly. "The light goes out of your eyes... jaw goes slack. You start barking out orders and shut me out."
Jack nodded, running his fingers lightly over Will's face. "I know, love."
"I understand it, though," Will said. "Know where it comes from."
"If I thought you didn't," Jack said, smiling down at him. "I never would have taken you with me back to the Pearl."
"I just want you to know that you don't have to hide from me," Will said softly. "That if you ever wanted to... I'd never judge."
"You're nothing if not a good listener," Jack said, chuckling softly. "Still a little too sensitive for the likes of a pirate, if you ask me."
Will laughed. "I suppose I am."
"Swordsmanship makes up for it though," he said, resting his mouth to Will's temple and taking a breath. "Just like your father."
"You always say that," Will says in wonderment. "Don't know how it's possible..."
"Runs in the blood," Jack said. "Can't deny the blood, love."
Will lifted his head to kiss Jack, breathing in the scent of salt and rum. As he pulled back Jack wound his hand in his hair, pulling him back in for a deeper more satisfying kiss. Jack's hand reached around Will, pulling him closer as his tongue delved into Will's mouth. The hammock rocked gently beneath them as they continued, threatening to spill them over.
It was moments like this that showed Will how Jack felt about him. For all the external calluses, all the barriers Jack held himself behind, his kisses were tender and full of passion. His hands were soft on Will's skin, despite the scars and weathered skin. His lips conveyed the message louder than any words ever would, his touches echoing it a million times more than any amount of of I-love-you's could.
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