jackxwill - pirates of the caribbean slash
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Title: Tangible Proof
Author: kHo (khohen1@bellsouth.net)
Rated: PG-13
Pairing: J/W, ofcourse
Summary: He knew the time would come when he'd have to explain it but no matter how hard and long he thought about it, he never could come up with a reason. 

Series: On High Seas, part 7

When they were in Singapore, Will found a jewelry box that was old and battered and used beyond its capabilities.  The jewels decorating it were chipped and scratched and lackluster, the wood bulging out where it had become warped by being stored in too damp places.  There had been at one time something scrawled on the inside of the lid of it, but stains and whirls in the wood and time itself had rendered it unreadable.

It fascinated him, and when the shopkeeper offered to let him have it for free he'd thrown down 5 coins and insisted he take it.  Jack had gone behind him and tried to get the coins back, of course, but Will had glared at him silently and he'd backed off immediately.  He'd frowned at Will and barraged him with questions on the way back to the ship, but Will had only smiled at him and run his fingers over the weathered wood.

When night would fall Will would take a rag out and polish the box with a concentration that wasn't unlike the amount he paid to forging his swords.  He'd use the tip of his short blade for a point and wrap the rag of cloth around it and dig out the bits of grime and tar that covered the jewels.  He'd use oils on the wood, and sometimes Jack even caught him talking to it, whispering that one day it would shine as beautifully as it had when it had first been made.

Eventually the jewels did shine.  Not as much as they once would have, but more than they had when Will had first seen it.  The wood still bulged in the wrong places, and the bottom was weak and ready to break if any pressure was put on it, but the outside glistened as much as it could.  Two weeks had passed by the time Will was satisfied with it, and when that time came, he still spent hours a night trying to read the inscription.

He knew the time would come when he'd have to explain it but no matter how hard and long he thought about it, he never could come up with a reason.  He felt Jack's gaze resting on him as he slaved over the jewels and wondered how long it would take for Jack to voice the things he'd been thinking since the moment Will bought it.   He began to wonder what exactly it was this box meant to him, but it never came to him.

Sometimes you have to talk around things and through things to understand them, though, and that was something Jack knew well.  It was his modus operandi after all, wasn't it?  So when Will spent night after night polishing otherwise worthless jewels and oiling wood that would never truly shine, he sat silently by and waited for Will to have talked himself out through his fingers.

Will never neglected his duties though.  He wasn't so obsessed with the jewelry box that he forgot to tie the lines, or forge a new sword when one of the crew broke one.  He still kissed Jack with the same passion as he ever had, and when Jack curled around him his hand always curled around Jack's wrist even in his sleep. 

The box never got dusty though, and every night Will had a new method to try and read what had once been carved into the lid.  He held a lit candle to it one night to see if the smoke would darken the rest of the wood enough to catch a few words.  He'd taken some of Jack's kohl that he lined his eyes with and tried to trace the words, but all that had done was make it nearly impossible to get the wood back to it's natural tan appearance.

After two months Will finally lost his patience and when Jack walked into their quarters that night he was muttering at it and using his blade to scratch the inside of the lid in harsh jagged lines.  Jack had stood before him with a frown and narrowed eyes and when he asked what Will thought that would accomplish Will heaved the box against the opposite wall and watched it fall to the floor, no worse for the wear.

"Why is it that I've spent months trying to restore it to no avail, but the one time I want to break the thing, I get no satisfaction," he said with a wry smile that really should have been a frown.  "Thing's more bloody trouble than it's worth, I say."

"Not the box's fault, William," Jack said, crouching before him and regarding him with a cool gaze that would have been detached if it weren't for the flicker of concern Will managed to catch.  "If it's any trouble at all, it's because you've made it so."

Will nodded, laying on his stomach and propping his head up on his crossed arms.  "Don't know why I care," he muttered.  "Stupid old ugly thing."

Jack nodded, looking back at the box that lay on the floor and getting up and walking over to it.  He bent down and picked it up, frowning in concentration as he looked at it.  "This box holds some kind of secret in it, I think," he said, his eyes flicking to Will.  "Some kind of secret you don't know about yourself."

"Throw it overboard for all I care," Will said, flipping over on his back and resting his hands on his stomach.  "It's stupid, and it's taken too much of my time away from me as it is."

Jack nodded, placing the box carefully on his desk of drawers before walking back over to Will.  "What is going on, Will," he asked softly, sitting next to him and placing a hand on top of Will's.  "What is it about this box that's got you so fascinated?"

Will shrugged, laughing in a way that made Jack's teeth grind together.  "It's stupid."

Jack shrugged.  "There's plenty o' stupid tings I've done and thought in my life, love.  Tell ol' Jack, let's see if we can't figure it out."

Will took a deep breath, closing his eyes.  "It's got a history, Jack.  It's old, very old, and it's got some kind of history.  I want to know where the scratches came from.  I want to know what the words say.  I want to know if it was given to someone as a present, or if someone found it and kept it.  I want to know why they let the jewels get crusted over with grit and grime and why they let it become ugly."  He shrugged, laughing again.  "I don't understand it either, Jack."

Jack nodded, reaching out and running his fingers through Will's hair.  "You're overly curious, that's all."

"No," Will said, sitting up and leaning back on his elbows.  "It's more than that.  I feel like it's important that I know what the story is.  I feel as if someone should know what the story is, or else the box becomes yet another forgotten thing in the annals of time that no one gave a care about."

Jack frowned.  "Will.  It's a jewelry box.  It was probably a wedding present.  Or an anniversary gift.  Something a father gave to his daughter when she turned into a woman."

"But it meant something to someone once," Will said, and the frown on his face said even he knew how weak his argument was.  "To someone, maybe, it was everything.  This thing that brought back happy memories and a smile."

Jack nodded, reaching up and fingering one of the many trinkets braided into his hair.  "Like this," he asked, raising an eyebrow.  "Like how every time I see this orange bead I remember the time your father and I pretended to be clerics in London?"

Will nodded, sitting up.  "Exactly.  Exactly.  There are memories in that box.  There are reminders.  There are words, and if I could just..."

"If you could read them you would what," Jack asked, cocking his head to the side.  "That would be it?  That's all you need?  That would be the end of it?  You'd no longer have any questions or doubts in your mind about whatever this is that's been plaguing you since you saw it?"

Will's mouth opened but all that came out was a defeated sigh as he lay back on the bed.  "I don't know," he said, shrugging.  "I just can't help but think that if that were my box, I wouldn't have let go of it."

"Well," Jack said, laying down beside him and tracing circles on Will's chest.  "S'yours now."

"I just don't understand why they'd let it go, if it meant that much to them," he said softly.  "How they could just sell this thing that meant so much to them."

"Maybe they lost it," Jack said, frowning.  "And maybe, Will, it didn't really mean anything at all to them."

Will shook his head.  "It says love," he said.  "It says something, something, love always, something.  I can't read the whole thing, but I know it says love.  And the always, well... half of it I can read, and then I can tell by the length of the word that that's what it said."

"Maybe they lost it, Will," Jack said softly, an ache in his chest at the sight of Will's obvious sadness. 

"I wouldn't have let it go," Will said fervently.  "I would've done what it took to keep it."

Jack frowned.  "Will..."

Will suddenly laughed, covering his face with his hands.  "That's what it is."

Jack smiled slightly at the laugh, and leaned closer to Will.  "What's what it is?"

"I don't have anything," Will said, shaking his head.  "Nothing of importance.  I have my clothes, and my swords, and that's all.  That's all I have of my memories.  That's the only physical proof I have of a life I used to live."  He sighed again, looking at Jack.  "I don't have any kind of physical, tangible proof, that I existed before this ship."

Jack nodded.  "You've your memories, Will.  You don't need any physical proof that you existed.  You're here, that's proof enough."

Will nodded, smiling and looking at Jack.  "But you know what this is really about?"

Jack frowned.  "I really don't, Will."

"My medallion," he said softly, and his smile trembled just enough to make Jack's heart clench.  His hand reached out to trace Will's jawline, trying to soothe him before the tears actually manifested themselves.  "For the first part of my life, the only thing I had of my father's, the only physical thing that I could touch and hold, was that medallion."

"Oh, love."

Will laughed again, but the tear came out anyway, and Jack immediately wiped it away with a kiss.  "I know.  It had to be given back.  We had to get rid of it.  It was more trouble than it was worth, but..."

"I know, Will," Jack said, kissing him again and curling a protective hand around the boy's chest, drawing him to him. 

"It was all I had of him," Will said softly, his eyes falling shut as he turned his head into Jack's neck.  "And I thought I lost it on the trip, but... Elizabeth had it.  And just when I almost got it back..."

"I know, love," Jack said softly, brushing his hair back lightly.

Sometimes the only way Jack knows how to comfort Will is to touch him. 

To glide his fingers lightly over him and whisper things he'd never say to anyone else in his ear. 

To kiss him soundly and chastely and tell him the things he still can't say out loud even to him through his caresses. 

Their lovemaking that night is slow and soft, and about nothing but comfort. 

They fall asleep with Jack's arms wrapped tightly around Will and Will's nose buried into his neck. 

When Will wakes up the next morning Jack is already on deck, and he doesn't notice the orange bead in his hair until he bends down to tie his shoes.

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