Title: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours
Author: Sirocco (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Rating: R, possibly crossing into NC-17
Warnings: Lots and lots of words. Also, author's notes fore and aft because I'm obsessive about details.
Disclaimer: Disney owns Pirates of the Caribbean. I don't.
Feedback: Tell me what I did wrong, please.
Archive: The JackXWill Archive; others please ask.
Summary: Written for the JackXWill Ficathon 2 for Tess:
"My request is simple - I want:
1. the seduction of Will by Jack, and its aftermath
2. an entirely epistolary format. That's right, letters! I want this to be a postal seduction :)
Restrictions: the seduction can't be achieved through threats or lies."
Edited on 8/30/04: Many thanks to Sparrowhawk, both for organizing the Ficathon and for her ex post facto beta work, and who caught an incredibly stupid and wholly avoidable continuity error on my part.
I apologize for the extreme lateness of this entry. I developed a stubborn case of writer's block that lasted until right around the deadline. When I finally started making real progress, I concentrated on the format so much that I completely forgot about the restrictions until I was nearly finished. I don't think I went too far astray, but perhaps we could consider them "guidelines"...? :)
R.I.P. singer-songwriter Syreeta Wright, who co-wrote the song Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours with her ex-husband Stevie Wonder, and who lost her battle with breast cancer on July 5, 2004.
Despite the title, this is NOT a songfic.
- There is a reference to "The Immortal Captain Jack Sparrow" deleted scene from the PotC DVD, because I prefer it to the scene in the theatrical film.
- In the original screenplay, Gov. Swann's line, "Perhaps, on the rare occasion [when] pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy, piracy itself can be the right course?" referred to Will's participation in stealing the Interceptor to save Elizabeth. In the movie, it seems to refer to letting Jack escape, where it makes much less sense to me. Here, I put it back where I think it belongs.
- Great Britain did establish a postal system for its West Indian colonies in the late 1600s and early 1700s, but the information I was able to find for that period pertained specifically to mail delivered between the colonies and Britain rather than amongst the islands themselves.
Therefore, where necessary, please assume that mail within the Caribbean was transported at least partly via private messengers and merchant ships, and that delivery could take anywhere from several days to several weeks.
If anyone has any more accurate information, please let me know so I may include it in a future revision.
- For obvious reasons, it is also necessary to assume that all characters involved are literate, even though most of them probably wouldn't have been in real life.
- This story takes place around 1730, in a universe in which Port Royal was not destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. Historical accuracy takes a holiday in Mouseland.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours - Part 1
I could wait no longer to tell you again how happy you've made me. I am, without question, the most blessed man on Earth, for the loveliest, kindest, most wonderful woman on Earth has consented to be my wife. When you retire tonight, go to your window and look down into the garden, so that I may be the last person you see before you sleep, and so that I may carry the vision of you under the moonlight home to my dreams.
My darling Will,
I wish I could make the hours pass more quickly, so that I could see you again that much sooner. Or that I could get away from these servants and my father for just a little while. For now we will have to be content with stolen moments, but before long we will have all the time we could ever want.
All my love,
I hope, if this letter finds you at all, it finds you well, for I have marvellous news. Elizabeth and I are engaged to be married, though we have not yet set the date. I do so wish you could attend, or even stand up for me, for I consider you the closest friend I have - next to Elizabeth, of course. I imagine that must sound strange to you, since we've spent only a few days in each other's company and we've not laid eyes upon one another in the months since your escape, but you've affected my life every bit as much as Elizabeth has. I would not have survived my voyage from England were it not for her, and I would not have lived to win Elizabeth's hand in marriage were it not for you.
However, Norrington is still hunting pirates, and Port Royal is not safe for you. Still, can you envision it? If the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow were to waltz into the wedding of the governor's daughter, mingle with the most respectable British citizens in the Caribbean, and walk out again unscathed? It would be a fine addition to your legend, wouldn't you agree?
Additionally, I have completed my apprenticeship and I am now a journeyman blacksmith. Normally I would strike out for another town or settlement and try to solicit trade or set up my own smithy until I can earn my Master's papers. I do want to establish myself somewhere before we marry so that I may support Elizabeth -- if not in the style to which she is accustomed, at least comfortably. Not only am I loath to leave her for the unforeseeable amount of time required to make a name for myself in a new place, but it has become increasingly obvious to others beside myself that Mr. Brown's shop will not last long after I leave. Perhaps if I can scrape together enough capital, he will sell the business to me -- after all, I have run it nearly singlehandedly for the last several years.
I eagerly await your next dispatch, for Elizabeth enjoys your stories as much as I do.
With my fondest regards,
My Dear Mr. Turner,
Words cannot express the pleasure that overtook me upon my most recent visit to Tortuga, when I entered The Faithful Bride to discover your missive waiting for me there. It is always the best kind of surprise to receive correspondence from you.
While I will be sadly unable to witness you plight your troth to Miss Swann, if it's money you need, I've convenient access to more loot than I will be able to spend in a normal lifetime, and I'd be happy to send you a little something to get you started. It's the least I can do for the man who kept me from snuffing it at the end of a rope.
Since you so sensibly persuaded me to relinquish my previous go at immortality, I've decided to try a different tack and seek a solution with fewer deleterious side effects. I've recently become privy to some reliable intelligence regarding the whereabouts of the fabled and elusive 'fuente de la juventud' -- or Fountain of Youth if you prefer. I've got my ship, my crew, and have come into possession of a map made specially to lead one such as myself to the Spaniard's secrets. I am of the opinion that Capitán de León knew far more than he ever let on, and cannot completely discount the possibility that he's at this very moment living it up on some lush Floridian isle, surrounded by nubile natives, some two centuries after his purported passing-over.
It's a terrible shame indeed that you won't be able to join me, as I always have a use for an able-bodied man with a strong sword-hand. If ever you should become disillusioned with domesticity, you'll have yourself a place here on the Pearl.
With greatest affection,
Captain Jack Sparrow
If you are reading this note and have not rent it into a thousand pieces, please know how sorry I am.
What happened this afternoon in the garden was entirely my fault. It is not that I find you undesirable, or your charms so easily resisted, or that you are anything less than irresistible; I assure you that it was only that you took me unawares, and there was such a great danger of our being seen. I would not risk sullying your reputation in that way, even if we are to be married. Besides, it will not be long 'til our wedding day, and just think how much better it will be to hold each other as husband and wife, without guilt or shame, and without worry of being caught.
If you believe nothing else, believe that I love you as much as any man has ever loved a woman.
All my devotion,
Dear Mr. Turner,
Following our conversation of yesterday, I wish to make clear the reasons for my concerns and to propose a compromise that may lead to a solution.
First of all, I want to impress upon you again that I believe you to be a fine and honourable young man. I also believe that you truly do care for my daughter, and I can see how deeply she feels for you. As her father, I want nothing more than her complete happiness, but no less than that, I want to know that she is safe. She has a wildness in her that has been there since she was a little girl; her mother was the same, rest her soul. I have tried my best to tame this quality in Elizabeth, out of worry for her well-being, for she has always been too daring for her own good. You have seen as well as I that my efforts were met with little success.
As for yourself, you must understand that I do not condemn you for your actions regarding the Interceptor. Ill-advised though your deeds may have been, your intent was not to flout the law but to save my daughter, and I cannot claim I would not have done the same had I been in your place.
What concerns me is the stability of her future with you. I do not speak only of financial stability, for I have seen for myself the quality of your work and I am confident that you will earn yourself a good living. However, your experiment in piracy seems to have awakened in you a certain adventurousness I had not observed previously, and Elizabeth has remarked on it as well. She tells me of the latest adventures of Jack Sparrow as you have related them to her, and she has made your fascination as plain to me as her own. I had hoped that her horrid encounter with those accursed fiends would put to rest her infatuation with pirates once and for all; if anything, it has had the opposite effect.
This, then, is the crux of the problem: I am concerned that your growing restlessness will lead you to drag -- or, if I am to be completely honest, follow -- Elizabeth on some dangerous new exploit that may end in serious injury or worse. As much as I want to see her happy, I would also choose to give her to a man who might produce a calming effect in her, for her sake as well as that of my future grandchildren. I will not forbid her from marrying you, because, strong-willed as she is, she is fully capable of running away or doing something equally injudicious just to defy me. I could not bear to lose her that way, either.
I present to you now the proposal I was prepared to make before Elizabeth interrupted our discussion. I suggest that you and Elizabeth postpone your wedding plans for a period of one year, during which time you may feel free to indulge whatever swashbuckling urges you might still possess. Get it all out of your system, so to speak.
Since Captain Sparrow occupies a high position in your esteem, as you -- and even Elizabeth, to a certain degree -- have so clearly demonstrated, I have decided, should you choose to join with him, to grant him a full pardon from his past trespasses, provided he agrees to take you on whilst he acts on behalf of the Crown.
After a year has passed, and if you and Elizabeth still feel as strongly about marrying, you may wed with my unreserved blessing. As a wedding gift, I will gladly provide you with sufficient funds to set you up in your own blacksmithing shop as well as a house of your own; alternatively, we can consider it a loan if you prefer, but there is no need to discuss that now.
I've little doubt that your enthusiasm for my offer will be rather equivocal, and Elizabeth will not be pleased at all, both at the delay in your nuptials and at being left behind whilst you are away. But she is my only child, and I cannot let her go without satisfying myself that she is being properly cared for. I'm sure you will understand when you have children of your own.
With all my best regards,
My sweet Will,
My father has informed me of his discussions with you. It is my opinion that he secretly hopes my love for you is but a temporary affliction, an irritating phase that I will quickly outgrow; and that if he can only delay us for a while, I will come to my senses.
He has insinuated previously that he worries for my future security and comfort, and that life as a blacksmith's wife would be so great a change from the manner in which I was raised that I could not bear the shock of it. I reminded him that I have endured kidnapping, marooning, and multiple threats of imminent death, and that the possibility of financial hardship does not frighten me.
(Not that I fear such a thing in any case; it may be Mr. Brown's name on the shingle above the smithy door, but most all of Port Royal knows who is truly responsible for all the fine work that comes out of that shop.)
I have pleaded, I have wept, I have bargained, and I have considered ceasing to speak to him altogether. I have tried to reason with him thus: it would make far more sense for you to prove your worthiness (to him, my love, not to me) by staying right here, working hard as you always have, and showing him just how responsible you truly are. He will not budge on this, no matter what I do or say.
His professed concern for my well-being may be sincere; but I suspect there is more to his decision than that.
It is one thing for the Governor to grant clemency to a man who commits piracy in order to save the Governor's daughter from kidnappers and certain death. It is another thing to further excuse that man for interfering with the lawful hanging of a known pirate, even when that pirate has himself rescued the Governor's daughter from certain drowning. But for the Governor to allow his daughter to marry the man who breaks the law so easily... well, such a decision might lead some to question the soundness of the Governor's judgment, and his fitness to retain his office.
And yet it may be that the reason he gave you is the true one after all: he fears that in your heart you are not a blacksmith, but a pirate, that it is only a matter of time before you follow in Jack Sparrow's weaving footsteps, and that when you do, you will leave me unprovided-for. Or even worse, that I shall go with you.
In that latter respect, at least, he is right. I have already impressed upon him the unfairness of letting you have your head whilst keeping me tightly reined, but that has made no difference either. I am all he has since my mother's death, and I know he's had such hopes for me. I am certain he would prefer me to marry James Norrington, whom he believes is the man best suited to look after me.
Well, if my father thinks a few short months of separation will cause us to forget our love for one another, we will simply have to prove him wrong, won't we? He may have won this battle, but this war is far from over. I will be sure to wave my engagement ring in front of his face every chance I get, and I will speak of you endlessly in glowing terms, to remind him his plan is doomed to failure.
I would greatly prefer to tell you all this in person, but Father is taking a tour of the island and he insists I go with him. I will not be able to see you for several days.
I have half a mind to simply marry you on the sly, and my father would be powerless to prevent us. It is of no consequence to me whether I am the wife of a blacksmith or a buccaneer. No matter what the future holds, my heart shall belong to you always.
It will tear me in two to have to leave you behind, but I have decided to make the best of the situation: if nothing else, I will experience something of the life my father led, and I could undoubtedly learn a lot from Jack. I may even be able to bring back a bit of plunder for ourselves as a souvenir. At least Jack will no longer be an outlaw, and will no longer be in danger of execution. Well, not as much danger.
As much as it pains me to admit it, your father may have a point: I have been somewhat distracted of late. The excitation of our adventures has stayed with me more than I thought it would. It is most likely nothing more than the thrill of the unfamiliar, and after a few weeks at sea, the newness of it will be gone and I will be counting the days until we can be together again.
I am not deaf to the townsfolk's talk: I am aware that I have gained a certain notoriety since our adventure, and that people have learnt to credit my swordsmithing skills in one breath, and to question my loyalty to the Crown in the next. I can only imagine what they would think or do if it became common knowledge that I did not merely suffer a momentary lapse of judgment toward a pirate, but that I am a pirate's progeny as well. I doubt there are many amongst the working classes of Port Royal, or even the aristocracy, who can lay claim to an unspoiled lineage, but they have learnt to keep such matters to themselves.
I have already sent a message off to Jack explaining the situation and asking if he is still willing to accept me into his crew. I would much rather never leave you, but the sooner I go, the sooner I can return home to you.
I would be absolutely elated to welcome you as a member of my crew. By a serendipitous happenstance, I require an additional hand or two after our last supply run.
While the notion of dividing my spoils with His Royal Majesty is somewhat antithetical to the entire concept of being an independent businessman, I must admit to finding a certain appeal in the idea of prancing about under Norrington's nose whilst he is obliged to regard me as a peer.
You may inform the Governor that I am favourably disposed to his offer of amnesty, and that I will contact him about the niceties. I'm quite certain he will be all a-twitter to see me again. Perchance I will be able to attend your wedding after all.
In anticipation of our mutually educational and satisfying working relationship,
Captain Jack Sparrow
I do hope all is well with you. I have been here a week, and this is the first moment I've had to myself.
This is not my first time on a ship, of course, nor is it the first time I have served on a crew. But the previous occasions were quite different from this. When I travelled here from England, I was mourning the loss of my mother and seeking a father I had not seen in years; and then we were attacked by the Black Pearl. I nearly died and I never did find my father, but one good thing came of it: I met you, and my life has not been the same since.
The first time I crewed a ship, the circumstances were rather more dire than these, and although I learnt what was necessary for me to know, I was far too preoccupied with concern for your safety to give those lessons my full attention.
The first time I set foot on the Pearl -- well, that wasn't terribly pleasant for you nor me nor Jack either, I would think.
I would not be parted from you for one more minute, but as your father has made this venture a condition of his approval of our marriage, it is for that reason alone I agreed to it. What I find most ironic is that I know how very well you could acquit yourself on a sailing ship's crew, and how wonderful it would be if you could be here with me. You would have to take orders from Jack, however, and I doubt that would be healthy for either of you, or for anyone around you.
Jack has not changed a whit since you last saw him, and he sends his best wishes. As luck would have it, by the time I arrived, Jack had signed on a few additional hands and the remaining berths in the crew's quarters were filled, but he has gone out of his way to make me feel welcome. He has very graciously offered to share his cabin with me until other arrangements can be made, and when I attempted to bed down on the floor, he would not hear of it, insisting instead that I share his bunk as well. I expected the rest of the crew would resent such exceptional treatment being given to someone so green, but no-one seems to mind. I felt odd about it at first, like an intruder; but the captain's bunk is far more comfortable than the crew's hammocks, so I shall enjoy it for as long as I can.
I shall write to you every day, and post my letters whenever and wherever I am able.
Until I can return to your loving embrace,
I just today received your most recent bundle from the Post Office. As much as it pains me that you are so far away, when I read your letters I can imagine that you are here, that I can feel your arms around me, and look into your eyes. It is hard to believe you can find the time to write so often, but I am thankful for it.
I have made it plain to my father in no uncertain terms what I think of this little exercise of his. I will take an unambiguous satisfaction in welcoming you back to me and demonstrating to him how our love can withstand any obstacle he should place in our path.
Commodore Norrington has suddenly become a frequent guest at dinner, and while he has made no untoward advances, I have seen the look on my father's face when he sees us exchanging pleasantries. It is the look of a wolf who is hosting dinner for that charming family of sheep from down the lane.
Today he asked me how I found the Commodore yesterday evening. When I replied that he'd been a perfect gentleman as always, and that I expected nothing less from him, Father looked positively disappointed. I resisted the temptation to tell him that the only man from whom I would accept that sort of forwardness is you, my love.
If you would be so kind as to convey a message to Captain Sparrow, please tell him that I fully expect him to return you to me safe and sound; and that if you suffer any serious harm while you are in his care, he will answer to me.
Forgive me; it has been several weeks since my last letter to you. I am learning of so many things I never knew existed, and not only about sailing. Jack has travelled to parts of the world I have never even heard of, and tells me stories that, though they seem improbable, bear some semblance of truth. Sometimes, at any rate.
We took a Spanish merchant ship a few days ago. No-one was killed on either side, and no-one bore any grievous injury; the reputations of both Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl are weapons more effective than cutlasses and cannon-fire. I did have to remind Jack last week that he can no longer attack English ships, even if they are full of rich, easily-frightened, slow-moving tourists.
I recall telling you once that Jack has not changed. I was wrong. Obviously I did not know him especially well before I came to the Pearl, but I certainly saw what he was like during the few days we spent on the Interceptor. He was perfectly at ease on the ship, naturally, even though he had never set foot on its deck before; but now, on the vessel he has called his own even through a years-long estrangement, I can see a difference in him.
It is difficult for me to put it into words, but he has become more himself since his return to the helm of the Black Pearl. It is very much as if, in regaining his ship, he has also regained some essential part of himself that had gone missing. When you asked, during our first encounter with Jack, what sort of man would trade a man's life for a ship, I had only a flippant reply that dismissed the matter as the unfathomable, amoral workings of the pirate mind.
But now, after observing him here, I think I begin to understand what drove Jack to consider such seemingly extreme measures. This ship -- she is part of him, as much as any lover or spouse. She is a living thing to him, and he believes in his heart that she loves him in return. Not long ago I would have called those convictions merely another sign of his madness, but you and I have both seen and done things that defy all reason. It seems but a small step to accept that there is more to this galleon than wooden planks and canvas.
There have been times, usually at night when the rest of the crew has bedded down, that Jack encourages me to listen to her voice, and to feel her heartbeat, and to learn her moods. I have not seen him do likewise with anyone else, but then I am the least experienced of us all and have been here only a short time. Perhaps he has already done this with the others, or perhaps with them he saw no need, as they were already familiar with the workings of a ship.
I have begun to wonder if Jack's madness is infectious, for sometimes I think I can hear her speaking -- perhaps not directly to me, but I'd swear she is saying something.
As ever, I look forward to hearing your voice again, my beloved.
With all my love,
I am not even sure why I am writing this letter. There is no chance you will ever read it, of course, though that has not stopped me in the past. I remember when I first arrived in Port Royal and Governor Swann was generous enough to allow me to share in Elizabeth's lessons. I was so excited to be learning to read and write that I read everything I could get my hands on, and I wrote you long letters every week. Obviously I had nowhere to send them, but I needed to believe that you were still alive out there somewhere, and that somehow you would know what I was saying to you.
I thought I might grow up to become a fine gentlemen like Gov. Swann or Lt. Norrington, and that someday Elizabeth and I would marry. But my formal education came to an end when I found myself apprenticed to Mr. Brown, and I discovered that I was not to be a gentleman after all, but a blacksmith.
A blacksmith, my master informed me, had little need of reading and writing, only of numbers for keeping the books; and that I would do well to forget such highfaluting ideas. And for a time, I did, for if I was to become a blacksmith, I would be the best blacksmith I could be.
Currently, I am barely even that.
In fact, I am no longer sure what sort of man I am at all. That is, I suppose, the reason I write this letter which, once it is finished, I will cast into the sea, as if the waves will carry my words to you. I have feelings and thoughts that I can speak of to no living soul; I hesitate even to offer prayers to the Almighty in a plea for forgiveness, because I cannot say with honesty that forgiveness is what I want.
What I do want is knowledge and understanding. Perhaps if I can express these feelings in words, make them real with ink and paper, if I can describe them to someone whom I can imagine would understand and not judge me, I can exorcise them.
I met your old captain, Jack Sparrow.
Part of me thinks that should be explanation enough, but of course it is not. I would fill several pages trying to recount the entire story, but as you may guess, it concerned the gold medallion you sent me and the curse attached to it. I was also introduced to your subsequent captain, Barbossa, and would have been bled dry by him were it not for Jack. What matters is that Barbossa is dead and Jack and I are not. And Jack has got his ship back.
These emotions that I struggle with -- they are for Jack. I cannot say for certain when they began, whether it was only after I joined his crew on the Black Pearl, or if it was long before. When I stopped his hanging, I think I told myself that I was repaying a debt -- if Barbossa'd had his way, you and I would have met again face to face by now.
But I realise now that he has never been far from my mind, even whilst my everyday life was filled with Elizabeth. When I had not seen him in months, his face, his voice, even his gait, were as clear in my memory as if I had encountered him only the day before.
Easily enough explained, I thought. He had, after all, played a crucial role in the events that led to Elizabeth and myself finding our way to each other.
Even my decision to seek a place with his crew -- I reasoned that if must leave Elizabeth for a time to reassure her father of my readiness to marry her, and learn the ways of the privateer, who better to teach me than the captain under whom my father himself had served? The choice was obvious, and at the time, as innocent as such a thing could be.
Now I am here on his ship, and I can no longer dismiss what I feel. He is never far from me whilst we are at sea, naturally. Even when I cannot see him, I know that he is only a few steps away, and I often find myself picturing what he might be doing at any given time. But when I can see him, Father --
I cannot know if his manner has changed much since you knew him, but his odd ways seem so fundamentally a part of him that I am unable to picture him any differently. He leans close when he talks, so close that I can smell the rum on his breath (even when he has had no apparent chance to drink) and feel the heat from his body. When he lays a friendly hand on my arm or my shoulder, he might as well have taken a shovelful of smouldering ash from the forge and dumped it onto my skin.
I have caught myself studying him -- beneath all the hair and beads and the kohl around his eyes, or perhaps because of them, he is actually quite a handsome man. No, 'handsome' is not the word I want, for to me it suggests a certain ruggedness of appearance that he lacks. Instead, he has uncommonly graceful features that would not seem out of place on a woman, and quite a lovely one at that.
I should find these thoughts abhorrent, but I do not.
The worst of it is that I do not know if what I feel has any basis in reality, or if I have constructed it from whole cloth. Jack's glances and touches and closeness are not reserved for me alone; he is the same with Gibbs, and Cotton, and Moises. Not so much with Anamaria -- I think she frightens him.
When I first came aboard, I shared Jack's cabin and his bed out of necessity and politeness, or so I told myself. There was no room with the crew, and I did not wish to insult Jack by refusing his hospitality. I was unaccustomed to sleeping in proximity to anyone and I felt quite awkward for the first night or two. But Jack told me tall tales of his own picaresque life to make me laugh and put me at ease until I fell asleep, and within a few days I had lost any sense of strangeness about the arrangement.
Jack snorts and mumbles whilst he sleeps, and he steals the blankets at every opportunity, but I was flattered that he trusted me enough to sleep so near to me, and he seemed not to mind the imposition of giving up half his bunk for my sake.
One morning, after I had been here a week, I awoke startled to find Jack's arms wrapped around me. He still slept soundly, and I managed to disengage myself, dress, and leave the cabin, all without disturbing him. I did not know what to make of this turn of events, but Jack behaved no differently than usual throughout the day, and I concluded that he had no awareness of his nocturnal posture and had meant nothing by it.
That evening when we retired, I kept to my side of the mattress, reckoning that we had simply rolled too close to each other during the night. The next morning I again awoke in his embrace, and again he appeared to have no memory of what he had done, and I decided to accept it at face value. Jack touches others frequently when he is awake; why should he be any different when asleep?
From that night forward I simply let Jack's arms fall where they would as we slept. It was harmless enough, and I actually found the closeness surprisingly comforting. It is not often that someone has touched me in a way that was not a rebuke, or a challenge, or an entreaty. Elizabeth would hug and kiss me affectionately, even passionately at times, whenever we had a moment to ourselves; but as we are not yet married, we have never slept in each other's arms.
For his part, Jack never seemed to mind when he awakened before me to find that I had unconsciously followed his example and pulled him close to me during the night, as if I were a child and he a stuffed toy. He actually seemed more amused than annoyed, and he brushed off my embarrassed apologies until I left off being embarrassed. Within a month, sharing a bed with Jack was not only comfortable, but it felt natural.
Then came the morning when I woke pressed against Jack, and I was erect. Before that day, I tried to regard such an occurrence as nothing more than a normal daily bodily function, with no further significance than that. But on that morning, I dreamt.
I dreamt of Jack, lying as close to me as he was in actuality; but in my dream, we were both wide awake, and there was nothing at all accidental about the way we held each other. And there was more besides, but the rest was burnt away by the sunrise climbing through the cabin windows.
The dream was vivid enough that the feelings it ignited stayed with me long after I woke; I could recall no details save that it was dominated by Jack, and it had left me hard and aching and rubbing against him like some feral, depraved creature.
I was immensely grateful for three things: that I awakened when I did, that Jack was still fast asleep and had no idea of what I had done, and that we were in the habit of wearing our breeches to bed. It horrified me to imagine what might have ensued otherwise.
As it was, I made up my mind to move out of the cabin that very day; I would sleep on the open deck if I had to, as long as I posed no risk of repeating my deplorable behaviour of the previous evening. It happened that one crewman had decided to retire from sailing and stayed behind when we stopped at a port for supplies, and so a berth had been freed up.
I made up some excuse to Jack -- that I felt guilty about inconveniencing him or enjoying better accommodations than the rest of the crew, I don't entirely remember what I said -- and pointed out that now there was no more reason for me not to bunk with the others.
Now I spend my nights in the crew's quarters, where there is no such thing as privacy. For one such as myself, who has spent much of his life in relative solitude, it came as no small shock to learn that I was expected to perform the most personal tasks in full view of any number of other men. But everyone behaves as if it is all perfectly normal, and I am adapting reasonably well.
I think that I will not be telling you anything you do not already know when I say that the lack of privacy has provided the opportunity -- if one can call it that -- to learn how men gratify themselves during long months away from female company. (Again, Anamaria does not count, for the rest of the crew is every bit as terrified of her as Jack is.)
When I first took up residence with the crew, Jack did try to warn me about what I would see and hear after lights out. What they do to themselves -- well, I am no stranger to that. What they do to each other -- I had heard of such practices, but could never understand the desire to actually do them. Now there are nights when I am quite literally surrounded by them, and sometimes when my curiosity has outweighed my civilised upbringing, I have watched what they do. Thankfully, it is usually too dark for me to see who is doing what to whom, and when someone lights a lantern or the moonlight streams too brightly through the window, I keep my eyes tightly shut. I do not do it out of revulsion, though perhaps I should, but rather to keep my sanity. I have come to like and respect most of the crew, but there are some aspects of their lives that I do not need to know.
But there is more to it, and it is more troubling by far.
I am sure that if I had bunked with the crew immediately upon my arrival, I would have been nothing but disgusted at what went on around me at night. But after what happened -- or almost happened -- with Jack, I cannot stop myself from envisioning Jack doing some of those things to me, or myself to him. I do not have to wonder what his warm skin feels like under my hands, or how his hard wiry body feels in my arms; I already know.
I know many things only too well: the salt-spice scent of his hair, the rhythm of his breathing when he sleeps, the scratchy tickle of his beard against my bare shoulder, the feel of his hot rough hands around my waist. I know the way our clothed legs tangled together, and I have wondered how it would feel without the barrier of fabric between us.
Today I roused with a start, from a dream as before; but this time the new knowledge I have gained from bunking with the crew has filled the gaps in my imagination, and I remembered everything. I woke shaking, awash in both shame and yearning, and when I realised I was alone in my hammock instead of in Jack's bed with him beside me, I felt cold and bereft.
Even when I saw Elizabeth nearly every day, and held her hand, and kissed her lips, I never felt longing such as this. Those gentle touches were always enough to sustain me 'til next we met, and I felt no need to demand more. I must tell you that she was considerably less concerned with propriety than I, and it was I who put a stop to things before they progressed too far. I told myself -- and her -- that it wouldn't be right, not before we were married. I told myself that I was acting the gentleman, and that I was simply treating her with the respect due her.
Now I must ask myself if I was being honest with either of us. Elizabeth is easily the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and any normal man would consider himself blessed beyond all measure if she thought him worthy of her favours. If she made advances toward him, a normal man might struggle -- and most likely fail -- to stop himself accepting what she offered.
But for me, it was far too easy to push her away. There I was, with my arms full of everything I had ever wanted in my life, and I set her away from me. The knowledge that I had wounded her feelings troubled me more than the knowledge of what I had given up.
Have I now become so starved for affection that I will seek it from anyone, even members of my own sex?
Yet it is not 'anyone' for whose attention I ache. Only Jack's. He has given no indication that he finds me objectionable, but neither has he made any clear sign that his feelings for me are anything more than fraternal.
Perhaps I am only deluding myself, and he is drawn only to women. Or perhaps he is afraid the Pearl will be jealous. I no longer know what to think.
Writing a letter to a dead man is far from the strangest thing I've done in my life, merely the most recent. Will has already told you his side of the tale, so it's only fair that I get my say.
I didn't mean to snoop, I swear, but it wasn't my fault. I was minding my own business, standing at the helm and being all captainy, when Cotton's parrot swooped down over my head and dropped something at my feet. Turned out to be a packet of parchment, just barely damp, written in Will's hand (which I have come to know well) and addressed to you.
Now normally that sort of thing should be none of my concern, but my own name leapt out from the pages at me and my natural curiosity -- well, you know how that usually goes with me. So I read what was written, and it turned out that the boy had spilled out the contents of his heart into that letter. And as fate or luck or what-have-you would have it, the contents of his heart consist of -- me.
This year has been a good one for Captain Jack Sparrow. First Fortune smiled on me and gave me back my ship, then she dropped Will into my cabin. He was still besotted with the wench (I won't even tell you what she did to my rum, Bill -- it would break your heart), so I knew I'd have to go slowly with him.
It was a happy coincidence that there was no more room in the crew's quarters when he came aboard, but I did my best to turn it to my advantage, and to test his receptivity to the idea. Nothing too brazen, just a little friendly snuggling. He warmed to it quickly enough, and he even reciprocated after a week or two, so I presumed I was making progress.
I thought I'd finally made my point clear when he made his, right upon my derrière that morning when I woke to find him grinding against me like a cat in heat. Imagine my disappointment upon realising that he'd been asleep and dreaming the whole time; and what's worse, that the incident spooked him so badly that he moved out of my cabin and into the crew's quarters before nightfall.
Sorry, mate. That's probably rather more than you wanted to know, was it not?
I've never made it a secret that my inclinations in these matters tend to be rather fluid, and you know well enough that warm, reasonably healthy and more or less pleasing to the eye is frequently all I seek in temporary companionship. And I am aware of the extremely high likelihood that the very last thing you want to know about is my lewd and lustful designs on your innocent and unspoiled only offspring. But before you throw down a thunderbolt to strike me dead where I sit or send up a swell to swallow me whole, hear me out.
Oh, I wish you could see him, Bill! He has grown into a fine man -- handsome and strong, with more bravery than brains at times, but you and I both know that apple didn't fall far from the tree. He's got your eyes, and your smile, and even that little scowl you used to get when your nerves got tweaked. His skill with a sword is that of a man of twice his years, and he might make an excellent pirate someday if he grows himself some good sense.
And yet, if he had already done so, I would be quite thoroughly dead at this moment instead of back on my Pearl where I belong. But because your boy is possessed of the superlative stupidity of youth, he elbowed his way through a bloodthirsty crowd, engaged the hangman in single combat, and planted a blade he'd fashioned with his own hands in the scaffold beneath my feet so's to keep my neck from stretching.
And again, William, you should have seen him! Stood his ground against a garrison of His Royal Majesty's Finest, with bayonets all 'round us and an officer's steel at his throat, and for what? All to keep my sunbeaten hide in one piece.
Have to credit that girl of his for getting Norrington and his trained lobsters to back down (and by the same token, I must credit the boy for having the good sense to make friends in positions of influence, even if it wasn't his brain doing the thinking for him), but she did it for him, not for me; I've no doubt whatsoever that she would have stood by and let me swing had Will not taken matters into his own hands.
And what hands they are! Not yet a pirate's hands, but give it some time. Long, elegant fingers, nimble and strong from years of working metal, and just rough enough to catch one's attention when they chance to brush across one's own hand. Or arm. Or naked abdomen, just below one's navel and just above the waistband of one's breeches when he throws his arm across one in his sleep.
At this point it should be no monumental feat to deduce the reason I have so presumptuously summoned you from your eternal rest. Which is that I, Captain Jack Sparrow, fancy your son.
I'll not lie to you, William. When I first met your boy and learnt who he was (it was really no surprise when he told me his name, he looks that much like you), it was my intention to use him to reclaim my Pearl and settle my enmity with Barbossa. As for Will, he didn't even attempt to disguise his contempt for me, and made it more than plain that he was using me every bit as much as I was using him. It was a bleeding miracle, frankly, that both of us came out of it with body and soul intact.
Would I have let him die, if it had come to that? I wanted my ship back, Bill, and I wanted Barbossa's heart wrapped 'round the shot from that pistol he gave me, and I'd waited ten endless years for the perfect opportunity to get both. If I had let it pass, I was not apt to be afforded another. I strongly dislike spilling more blood than I absolutely must, and while it was never my plan to put your boy into an early grave (make no mistake, though -- he was perfectly willing to send me to my reward for the sake of his fancy lady), if I'd had to choose, I would have my Pearl and Valhalla would have one more valiant swordsman.
But thanks to the ingenuity of yours truly it never did come to that, and he's still breathing God's fresh air. Thanks to that great daft heart (and throwing-arm) of his, so am I.
Here's the final proof of my intentions, if you require it: I have gone legitimate for him.
Never thought the day would come, did you? But I have indeed foregone the joy of commandeering all those lovely sleek English warships and those fat succulent English passenger vessels, filled to bursting with jewel-bedecked, powdered, pampered, ponced-up tourists on a pleasure cruise. Why, I would have been doing them a service by raiding them! Think how much more exciting their holiday tales would have been, if only they could have told their friends and families about how they had survived an attack at the hands of dread diabolical pirates!
But I gave my word in exchange for Will's presence on my ship, and it wouldn't do at all to put a noose around his neck as well.
I suppose I could try getting him spifflicated and having my wicked way with him, but I'd much rather he were sober and in his right mind and fully aware of every lascivious act I intend to perpetrate upon his person.
But we've time aplenty together. I can be a patient man when patience is called for. If I could wait ten years for my Pearl to find her way to me, I can wait a little while for your Will to do likewise.
After all, he thinks I'm lovely.
By the way, Pearl likes him too.
Best of luck to you in the afterlife,
I will be forever grateful for the kindness and hospitality you have shown me, but it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that I can no longer stay on the Black Pearl.
I take with me only fond memories of my time spent on your ship and under your command. I doubt I will find another captain whose company and friendship I enjoy as much as I have yours, but another six months of nautical obligation remain under my agreement with Governor Swann. When I tell you my reasons for leaving, I think you will agree that it is best that I complete my obligation elsewhere.
I know that men in the seafaring life function under a set of rules far removed from those under which I was raised, and I fear that I have adapted to them only too well. While I have not personally engaged in those acts, I have surmised that most who participate must do so out of privation and a lack of alternatives. When we go ashore, they seek out women -- even those men who claim to be married. I could not bear to be unfaithful to my Elizabeth in that way, but for those who have been away from their homes for very long stretches of time, I believe I can understand what drives them to that, and to the other as well.
But I also understand that what they do belowdecks seems to be a purely physical act -- that while they may hold a certain camaraderie with one another as friends and colleagues, their true, natural desires lie elsewhere.
I am very much afraid that I can no longer say the same for myself.
My feelings of friendship toward you -- and I like to believe we are friends, despite our inauspicious beginnings -- have become twisted into something base and unspeakable. You haunt my dreams, and my waking thoughts as well.
I have never harboured feelings of this sort toward anyone save Elizabeth, and I can only conclude that my prolonged separation from her has caused this confusion in me. I have never been apart from her for so long since we met, and the alienation has clearly unsettled me more than I could have ever anticipated.
But in recent months I have found myself entertaining thoughts of a sort I would never have believed myself capable. I can too easily picture you and I commingling in ways that would earn us both a trip to the gallows back in Port Royal, and I do so with increasing frequency and alarming vividness.
I would not have stayed so long, but this was the first shore leave we have had since I realised that I have come to think of you as much more to me than captain or friend, and that consequently I can think of you as neither.
I can tell you these things now because I expect our paths will not cross again, and after what I have just revealed, I trust you will want nothing further to do with me.
In gratitude and regret,
Allow me to begin by saying that if the distinguished innkeeper in whose care I have placed this message is capable of reading this, and has taken it upon himself to in fact do so, and if he thinks I won't know it if an uninvited pair of eyes were to examine the contents of this letter, I implore him to think again. I sincerely assure him that the wrath of Captain Jack Sparrow against the excessively inquisitive is indeed a terrible thing to behold.
It has cost me two sleepless nights and nearly a pocketful of coins (not my own pocket, but that's beside the point) to learn where you have taken up lodgings in this miserable port town. Honestly, William, if I had known you were so hellbent on jumping ship somewhere, I might have at the very least prevailed upon you to display better taste than this pitiable excuse for a pirate haven.
I would infinitely prefer to conduct this communication face-to-face, but your farewell message led me to believe you would panic at the sight of me, and either bolt or run me through. In truth, there are several extremely important and urgent sentiments I wish to impress upon you, but which can be adequately imparted only in person.
I do not, and will not, wish for you to leave my service, and most especially not under circumstances such as these. I assure you that the propensities you have previously expressed are in no way offensive to me. Completely contrariwise, in fact.
I had hoped that if I practised a bit of subtlety and bided my time, you would perceive my interest and respond in your own time. It appears I was too subtle, for I now see that you have been labouring under the extremely erroneous assumption that your ardour goes unanswered. I assure you it does not.
The only exigency that would compel me to put you off my ship posthaste is one in which I discover that you aspire to visit another mutiny upon me. Since 'being lecherous of the captain's personage' is by its very definition entirely excluded from the category of 'mutinous thoughts,' I am afraid that the reason you have proffered for leaving my crew is utterly unsatisfactory. Impeccable judgment such as this should be rewarded, rather than reprimanded.
Your intractable Captain,
Replying to you in this fashion must seem craven and unmanly, but I have had a great deal to think about since I received your message yesterday, and I do not entirely trust myself to speak of it, or even to reason clearly, in your presence.
I have been forced to question everything I have ever believed about who I am and what my life is to become. If I am to return to your ship, I need to know what possibilities await me -- whether I will be returning to my former place amongst the crew, or to something altogether different. I am not at all certain that, were I to proceed on this course, I would be able to treat the matter with the same nonchalance I have observed in my shipmates.
What I am contemplating will irrevocably alter the two most important relationships in my life, and though I concede I may act rashly from time to time, I cannot make a decision such as this lightly.
I have just now been apprised of your return to the Pearl. Please do forgive me for failing to welcome you back personally, but as captain it falls to me to ascertain the calibre of the rum we have procured for the ship's stores during our visit to this wonderful town. Happily, this stock appears to be of exceptional, even unexpected, quality and potency; unhappily, its very excellence rendered me unavoidably indisposed at the time of your arrival.
However, upon regaining consciousness I was very shortly thereafter informed of the felicitous news, and despite having temporarily assigned command of the ship to Anamaria, and being generally disinclined to leave my cabin at present, I want you to have no doubt whatsoever that I am unreservedly overjoyed at your decision.
You wished to know what you could expect from me upon your return. Very well then. I shall tell you.
First, I want to gaze upon you. It is a rare thing indeed to find beauty as exquisite as yours, in woman or man. You are blessed with eyes so warm and complexion so fair that lady and harlot both would kill to possess them. You have a smile that shines more brightly than the sun, and it warms my heart -- and other less noble organs -- whenever I am fortunate enough to witness it.
Next, I will admire the drape and cling of your clothing against your finely formed torso and limbs: the way your shirt bunches and stretches with the flex of your arms, and shows off the angles of your broad shoulders, and gaps at the collar to display a mouth-watering but oh-too-brief expanse of bare skin across your chest; the way your breeches crease at the backs of your knees and scrupulously hug the curve of your arse. Oh yes, I have noticed -- how could I not, after all those weeks of lying together with you nestled so close to me? --- and it sets my already indecent imagination aflame.
I'm getting ahead of myself. No point in rushing things.
I don't believe I told you what I thought of that new pair of leathern boots you picked up on Antigua a little ways back, but they feature rather prominently in my more feverish fantasying. You've the look of a true pirate in those boots, even more so now that they've taken on a bit of wear. They perfectly accent those long shapely legs of yours, and make me think thoughts almost as wicked as the breeches do.
When mere looking is no longer sufficient, I'll want to touch. The hair first, running my fingers through those silky curls, watching it fall across your shoulders. Seeing your hair caressing your shoulders will cause me to want to do the same, so I'll have to remove your shirt to do the job right. I'll pull it over your head, which will have the lamentable effect of obscuring your face, and those few seconds will seem an eternity. But that short-lived pain will be worthwhile, for I will be rewarded with an unobstructed view of your muscular trunk, made solid and strong by years of bending iron to your will. I am jealous of that metal, but I am hopeful I will soon find myself in its place.
But I said I wanted to touch now, and I am a man of my word.
I will run my fingers over your shoulders, feeling the strength and tension there, and begin planning ways of exploiting that strength and relieving that tension. From here my hands will want to travel in too many directions at once, and I'll let them have their way, roaming covetously over your hard smooth chest and belly and back and anywhere else they can reach. I will stroke and pinch and rub and caress, and the sound of your gasps and moans and whimpers will only make me want more.
I will wrap my arms 'round your narrow waist and pull you close against me, so close you could not slip a knife's blade betwixt us, so close that you cannot question the intensity of my desire for you, and I'll hope to note the identical response in you. I will feel your warm moist breath against my face, and now, finally, I will do what I have wished to do since long before you came to sail with me, and I will kiss you on the mouth.
I fancy you might taste of those peppermint and chocolate confections you like so much, and I will want to lap up as much of that sublime flavour as I possibly can, from your lips and your teeth and the inner walls of your cheeks and your tongue.
Not that I would find your natural taste lacking in any way, but since I, at the time of this writing, have never properly tasted you for myself, I must, for the purposes of this hypothetical, substitute the next best thing. Rum would be better yet, of course, but I fear the flavour of you plus rum would be too much joy for me to withstand, and I would simply drop dead on the spot. While I can think of few better ways to expire than in your arms, I would prefer to stave off my extinction until I have experienced all the treasures you have to offer, a task that will require a great deal of time and dedication. So I cannot die yet, don't you see?
Speaking of your arms, don't think for a moment that I'll allow you to stand idly by and let me do all the work. I fully expect to feel those powerful blacksmith's arms around me, crushing me against you so that I can scarcely draw breath.
Since first I clasped your hand through the bars at the gaol, I have wanted to know further the sensation of your fingers upon my skin. Every callus, every rough patch, every flaw will be perfection to me. I want to feel them touching my face, tugging at my hair, tracing every scar and line of ink on me. I want them to brush against all the places that drive me wild, and I will take immense pleasure in pointing them out to you. I want you to feel my heartbeat quicken against your palm.
Oh, but I mustn't forget the tasting! For while kissing your lips would be to me as nectar is to the gods, I cannot stop there. I will retrace the trails my fingers have already blazed, across your collarbones, over those charming little freckles that decorate your shoulders, down your breastbone. I want to nibble at your nipples, and feel your hand -- the one that is not busy digging its nails into my back -- tighten its hold in my hair, and hear you cry out.
At this point I will proceed to your navel, where I will suck and tease and tickle until you are trembling; and since I am already on my knees, this seems the perfect opportunity to unbutton your breeches and pull them down and off with all due alacrity.
If you have been honest about your partiality toward me, and if I know my way around a man's body (and I do), you will have been hard long before now, and I will be eye-to-eye, as it were, with what I have every confidence is the most awesome, most magnificent weapon you have ever forged. When I seize it in my hand, it will not cut me, but stand strong and proud in my grip. When I run my tongue along its length, I will taste not cold lifeless steel but the searing salty sweetness of your flesh, throbbing with vitality and passion. And when you sink it into my welcoming body, I will die, but only from pleasure; and I will want to suffer that divine demise again and again and again, until we collapse together sweaty and spent, and neither of us has strength enough to move.
But I'm getting ahead of myself once more.
For the nonce, I still have you captive in my mouth, and after I've weighed your jewel-purse in my palm (thus proving beyond all question that this is no eunuch before me), I want to feel you slide across my lips and tongue and palate (a most appropriate place for a delicacy such as this) and oh, I want to feel you filling my throat and your fingers clutching in my hair, and I want to feel the thrusting of your hips and the clenching of your buttocks beneath my hands, and I want to smell the scent of wood smoke and metal and the sea in your skin, and I want to hear you pant and moan above me and I want to see your shimmering, wondrous eyes burning down into mine, until my every sense knows nothing, nothing but you.
And if I've done my job right, it won't be long before your rapture overcomes you and you erupt like a volcano, spilling your hot bliss into my mouth. And if tasting your lips is nectar, then this is ambrosia, and I will greedily devour every last drop until your glorious long legs will support you no longer, and then I shall take you up in my arms and set you down upon my bed.
Then I shall -- well, I should perhaps leave some things to the imagination. But that is only the beginning.
And after that, I intend to perform as many variations and inversions on the activities listed above (as well as many more not here enumerated) as I can devise (and I can be very creative), every day if I can manage it, for as long as you'll have me.
But you may be assured that whatever transpires between us will be no furtive rough groping nor crude coupling of the sort that so often occurs in the darkness of the crew's quarters and is so rarely spoken of in daylight. You should be warned that I will do everything in my power to make you scream in ecstasy, and I've no doubt in my mind that you will induce me to do the same. The entire crew will know what is between us, along with anyone else within earshot on land or sea, and they will envy me for it; and the legend of Captain Jack Sparrow will only deepen because I will have the most courageous, most resplendent, most breathtaking man in the Spanish Main at my side and in my bed.
And that, dear William, is what you may expect from me should you choose to stay.
My goodness. Look at how much I've written already, and I haven't yet reached the very best part! And as if I needed further proof of the effect you have upon me, the mere thought of you has eradicated all traces of the rather thunderous malaise with which I was afflicted this morning when I
fell out ofarose from my bed.
I'll not summon you to my cabin as one would a servant or a concubine, but rather you must come to me of your own volition. If you should find what I have described herein to be in any way disagreeable, let us then return to our former amicable relations and not speak of this again.
Still and all, the Pearl is in capable hands, and will remain so for a while longer. I've no urgent business to attend to, except that which involves you, if the notion is pleasing to you. You know where I'm to be found.
My Dearest Ruby,
The past month has been relatively uneventful, as far as the sailing goes. I've sailed under a privateer before, and the main differences in it are that we must let pass half the ships that come within our reach, and there's one less country that wants to hang us. The haul has been good so far, and the weather has held in our favour, so I have no real complaints.
I know what a soft spot you have for a romantic yarn, so I was moved to pass this bit of business on to you.
As you well know, many folk assume that because I cannot speak, I must be deaf, blind, and slow of thought as well. It is easy to think that because I choose to let the bird talk for me, I can express myself in no other way, and that I therefore pose no great threat to anyone. This misconception has saved my life on many a day, and it has also put me in a position that few others enjoy. To some I am a confessor because they know I will not spill their secrets. To others I am a sounding board who will not interrupt or contradict them. And to yet others I am little more than part of the woodwork, to be ordered about when I am needed and ignored when I am not.
Captain Sparrow treats me as he does any other man. Perhaps it is because he is himself so often underestimated by those who do not know him -- and sometimes by those who do -- that he treats me with greater respect. Whatever his reasons, he has turned out to be a competent captain and a fair-minded man, even if he is a bit excessively attached to his ship.
I have told you already of my initial venture with him, of the Aztec treasure and the curse. And I mentioned the young man who accompanied us, who by turns abandoned the Captain to our adversaries and, to hear Jack tell it, singlehandedly faced down the whole of the King's Navy to keep him from the gallows. Unlike the rest of us, he was not in it for the loot but, as I said earlier, for the love of that young lady Barbossa took. She was a good-looking enough girl, but she couldn't hold a candle to you in your prime, my love. Apparently he won her heart and Jack's freedom all at once, and we left him behind with her in Port Royal.
As it turns out, there are chapters of that story yet to be written. The boy, Will Turner by name, signed on with us a few months back. Seems his sweetheart's father -- who is Jamaica's governor, in case you have forgotten -- requires him to pass some sort of test to prove himself worthy of the girl's hand in marriage. Do you remember what your father put me through when I courted you? The boy has it easy, if you ask me.
He is not of the Brethren, though it seems his father was, and he was no sailor when he joined us either, but he's done his fair share of work since he's been with us. He is almost always unfailingly polite to everyone, including me, and he's pulled as taut as a bowline most of the time. Sometimes when he speaks to me I am tempted give him a stony stare in return, without a gesture or response of any kind, simply because he is so easily flustered. But I usually resist, because it would be like taking a toy away from a babe. If I know you (after thirty years, I like to think I do), you'd want to mother and coddle him within an inch of his life, just the way you did with our own sons. (Don't be cross with me, love; you know they adore you as much as I do.) And yet when it comes to fighting (I know how you hate to hear of it, but it does happen) he is strong and quick and without fear -- a real asset to the crew.
You must be wondering why I am telling you all this. Well, Captain Jack Sparrow by himself is a reliable source of entertainment; Captain Sparrow plus Will Turner only increases the amusement fourfold.
I have seen the way they look at each other when they think no-one is watching, and it would appear that the Governor's daughter has a rival in the Captain. Others have seen as well, though not half as much as I, and speculation on the pair has become the most popular subject of ship's gossip and gambling these past weeks.
On one occasion when he and I were the only hands on deck, Turner launched into a long, rather vague monologue about love and fidelity and honour and pursuing one's heart's desire. He never admitted he was speaking of himself, but he sounded far more like a man suffering from unrequited love than one whose beloved was ready and eager to marry him upon his return home.
A week ago Turner went ashore and failed to return, and we thought we'd have to find new sport to pass the time, but then the Captain himself disappeared for a few days. We figured it was finished for good when he came back alone and dove into the rum like there would be no tomorrow, but to everyone's surprise, Will climbed the gangway and stepped onto the deck shortly after dawn, and headed directly for the crew's quarters.
Someone must have alerted the Captain, because shortly thereafter he asked me to deliver a letter to Will. It was rather heavy, and appeared to be several pages long. I did not read it, of course -- it was none of my business, and as much as people may entrust their secrets to me, I do not go seeking them out without their consent -- and I went about my chores for the day.
I couldn't help but notice Will's face as he read the letter -- his eyes grew wide and his cheeks grew pink and I was almost certain his teeth would meet through his lower lip, and while he was reading he sat down hard on the nearest barrel, and when he was done he didn't move from the spot for a good ten minutes or more. I wanted to laugh aloud, but the boy is tense enough as it is, and he didn't need me making it worse for him. He was in a daze for the rest of the day, needing to have every order repeated before he could follow it.
By the end of afternoon watch Anamaria's already fragile patience reached its breaking point (though she must have known better than most what was going through the boy's mind) and she declared him finished for the day. I was mending a loose floor plank near the Captain's cabin at the time, but that woman's voice carries remarkably well. A few minutes later Will walked past me without so much as a "hullo" or even a nod of acknowledgment, which is very unlike him. Given the state he'd been in since reading Jack's letter, I doubt he even knew I was there.
From the corner of my eye I saw him halt in front of the Captain's cabin, raise his hand to knock, stop himself, turn and take a step away from the door. Then he faced back to the door with an expression of grim determination, made as if to knock once more, and paused again, determination replaced by genuine fear, which I've rarely seen on this boy. He replayed this pantomime several times before fear finally won out and he began to walk away from the cabin in earnest.
I heard running footsteps from inside the cabin, and before Will had taken five steps down the corridor, the door flew open and there was Captain Sparrow, looking rather frantic.
Turner stopped, swallowed hard, and turned toward Jack and away from me. I watched them stare silently at one another for what must have been a minute or two (during which time I forgot to keep up the pretence of working, but neither of them noticed), then Will took a step forward. Then he took another, and another. With each step the Captain's smile grew, and by the time Will reached the threshold, Jack was grinning from ear to ear. He stepped aside to let the boy enter, then the door closed with the two of them inside.
Four hours have passed and first night watch has begun, and as far as anyone knows, that door has not been opened yet. But the walls are thin, and we all agree that it sounds as if they are having a grand old time of it.
I have won half a crown tonight, and am sending it along to you as I always do.
Take care, my jewel, until I can see you again.
Your loving husband,
William, my darling, if you are reading this, then you have awakened alone and for that you have my sincerest apologies. By all rights it should be my head, rather than this note, that you see on the pillow beside you. While I would have loved nothing more than to be the very first thing upon which you lay those lovely, limpid eyes of yours, my presence was required elsewhere this morn. Seems there was a bit of a fire in the galley -- nothing irreparable, but we almost lost several precious bottles' worth of that spectacular rum. One must take control of these situations when one is captain.
Of course, there is every chance you'll never have to read this, since I did my utmost to tire you so thoroughly that you'd sleep through a hurricane, and I will have returned to your adorable sleeping side before you even know I've gone. If that be the case, I shall endeavour to wake you in the most delightful way imaginable and nothing short of capsizing shall drive me from this cabin. (You will notice I did not say 'this bed,' for I see no good reason to limit ourselves.) In fact, if you are indeed reading this, consider yourself free to feign slumber upon my return so that I may have the pleasure of waking you by the aforementioned means.
DO NOT DISTURB
By Order of the Captain
Transgressors WILL be
keelhauledshot on sight
I'm in the crow's nest.
With a full bottle of rum.
Come to the pantry.
Bring the red silk scarf and the ostrich feathers.
I've got the honey.
The crew took a vote, and are all of one mind: that the pantry, galley and mess be used for cooking and supping purposes only. PLEASE.
HERE BE DRAGONS
KNOCK AT YOUR OWN RISK
ENTER AND FACE CERTAIN DOOM
I am living in Jack's cabin once again, but everything is so different now.
In some perverse way, I am almost glad you are not here, because I doubt very much that I could discuss this with you personally, and I doubt even more that you would want to hear the intimate details of what I have allowed him to do to me, and what I have done to him in return. For all I know, you may have done similar things yourself whilst at sea; but as much as I have wished we had known each other better and spent more time together, I frankly would not want to know about that either.
But it is important to me, somehow, that you understand what I feel for him.
I have done with Jack the things I dreamt about; but my dreams could not match the reality of him. He has used his hands on me, and his mouth, and his cock, and he has invited me to do the same to him, and I have felt nothing so incredible in all my life. I have taken him inside me, first in one way, then in another; and I have loved all of it.
I once believed those acts degrading; now I know nothing could be further from the truth. Jack never hesitates to do whatever I ask of him, if he thinks it will bring me pleasure; and I can do no less for him. If he has any inhibitions, I have not yet found them; but he gives me everything in him. He does attempt to maintain a level of decorum whilst I am on duty, but at other times he readily embraces me even in front of the crew, who respond with rolling eyes and good-natured laughter, but no censure that I can see. I receive no special treatment when it comes to work, however, and I would have it no other way.
It seems such incongruous behaviour for a man so guarded in his secrets. I wonder, is he this free and open with all his lovers? But I have never seen him with another lover since I came to the Black Pearl.
I assume that he visited the brothels as often as the taverns when he went ashore. Now he goes only to the taverns, and when he does, he always tries to persuade me to accompany him. On the occasions when I decline, he pouts and says he cannot enjoy himself properly without me, and sometimes even stays behind with me. But when he does go, he returns to me with renewed fervour, as if he missed me unbearably during those few hours we were apart.
There are some days when he infuriates me beyond all reason, and others when I think he would like to feed me to the sharks, but I can no longer imagine my life without him in it. I have explored every part of him, and yet I learn something new each time. I know how and where to stroke and kiss him to make him gasp and shiver and cry out my name. I have heard the stories behind all of his tattoos, many of his scars (he says that the knife-wound on his right forearm came from you, the first time he met you), and several of the trinkets he wears in his hair. He still has his secrets, some of which he may never tell; but what I already know is enough.
Joshamee Gibbs has known Jack for a long time, and tells me that he knew you too. He, like Jack, calls you a good man, and thinks you would be proud of the man I have become. He says that Jack is in better spirits now than Gibbs has seen in all the years they've known one another. I'm inclined to think it is due more to his reunion with the Black Pearl than to anything I have done, but he seems to believe that we both are good for Jack, and that we make him happy. I want it to be true.
For most of my life, I have been told by others what I can and cannot, must and must not do. Here, there are no such restrictions (other than the prohibition against attacking ships belonging to England and her allies, naturally); we can go anywhere, associate with anyone. There are no class distinctions, and every man (and woman, sometimes) is judged by merit rather than birth.
When I go back to Port Royal, I will once more be Will Turner, Blacksmith -- who stole a warship and aided a pirate and thinks himself good enough to marry the governor's daughter.
The entire purpose of this undertaking was to allow me to vent my more impetuous nature, so that, having exhausted it fully, I could then assume my place as the sober and stalwart husband Elizabeth deserves. My great fear now is that it has instead had the opposite result: having lived with Jack this way, and experienced all that I have, I can never again be content with anything resembling my former life. Even Elizabeth, who has been the single most important person in my life for eight years, may no longer be what I truly need.
The end of my yearlong 'apprenticeship' grows ever closer, and Elizabeth will be expecting me home. Of course I want to see her again -- she is my oldest and dearest friend. But the longer I am with Jack, the more difficult it becomes to think of spending the rest of my life with Elizabeth, and leaving Jack behind.
How can I marry her now? Would she want me still, if she knew what I have done, and with whom? Should I tell her, or keep it from her? Should I simply put an end to our engagement, and stay where I am?
And what of Jack? Would he even want me to stay? He may like my company well enough now, knowing that our time together is limited; would he feel the same if he knew he would not be so easily rid of me? What would I do if -- no, when -- he grew tired of me?
I hear the Pearl's voice more clearly with each passing day. She does not speak in words, but I think she is telling me that she approves of my place in her captain's life. Will she change her mind about me if Jack changes his?
Now do I wish you were here, Father, so that you could advise me as to the path I should take.
It appears that my worst suspicions about my father have been confirmed, and we are both victims of a cruel contrivance. Because I am unable to express my thoughts at this moment without resorting to profanities, I have enclosed a page I found in my father's study, and it should easily explain what I cannot. I think you will recognise the hand in which it was written.
To the Right Honourable Governor Swann,
Your correspondence came as a most unexpected surprise, to be sure. The frequency of someone of your station addressing someone of my station without including the words 'warrant,' 'arrest,' 'crime,' 'hang,' 'neck,' 'dead,' etc. is generally, in my experience, exceeding low.
So as to avoid taking more of your valuable time than necessary, I will come to my point straightaway. I have given serious and thoughtful consideration to your proposition, and I can see the benefit in it for both of us.
Here, then, is my answer: I shall take young Mr. Turner under my wing, so that he may immerse himself in his newly-awakened lust for intrigue and excitement, and so that you may strive to put an end to Miss Swann's determination to bind herself in holy matrimony to a noble but humble blacksmith. After all, you are naturally in a far superior position than I to assess both her temperament and that of her betrothed; and if you believe that William longs for the life of a buccaneer, and that in his absence your daughter's attentions might be diverted to a more suitable suitor, who am I to argue?
In return I get to plunder and pillage to my heart's content in the name of His Royal Majesty, with the inestimable boon of Mr. Turner's company on my ship for as long as he has the stomach for it.
On the latter point, I have but one minor stipulation to add to our negotiations: that the amnesty extended to me shall endure even if Mr. Turner's presence on my ship does not. Given our past dealings with one another, it would not shock me terribly if one day he were to suddenly pitch me overboard and seek a place with another captain. I don't know if you've noticed, Gov, but pirate or not, the lad is rather tightly wound.
If these terms be acceptable to you, I will await word that my Letters of Marque are stamped and sealed, and we shall have an accord.
All that remains is how to implement your quite laudably shrewd stratagem. Under the circumstances, an invitation directly from me will likely be met with a polite, if somewhat reluctant, demurral; however, the same offer from his future father-in-law will be immeasurably more challenging to refuse. Therefore, I will leave it to you to broach the subject with Mr. Turner in whatever way you see fit.
Your soon-to-be obedient servant,
Jack Sparrow, Captain of the Black Pearl
By the time you read this, I will be gone. Perhaps I will seek a position on another crew, or perhaps I shall settle on an island somewhere, or I shall return to England, or I shall travel to the American Colonies. The only certainty I have is that I cannot return to Port Royal, and I cannot remain on your ship. Strange that I once thought I must leave you because you could never return my feelings for you. Now I must leave because, for a time, I believed you did.
I have been derided before for my single-mindedness. I clung to my fantasies of Elizabeth whilst other, more available girls made their interest known to me. I was blind to everyone but her, and I was roundly ridiculed for it, and I did not care. I simply could not see myself sharing that kind of intimacy with anyone else.
You will laugh at my sentimentality, but all I have ever truly wanted in my life is to love someone and to be loved in equal measures. After years of loneliness, I believed I had finally found that with Elizabeth. Then I deceived myself into thinking I had found it with you. I shared more with you than I ever did with the girl I'd loved for half my life, and gained back more in return; I should thank you for that, at least.
I realise now that your every word and action toward me has carried with it an ulterior motive. What I took for gestures of genuine friendship and more were in reality calculated to seduce me away from Elizabeth, whom I loved more than my own life.
You should be proud of yourself, Jack. You succeeded outstandingly.
I have asked myself why you would use me so harshly. I know I abandoned you to Barbossa not once, but twice, and there has always been tension between you and Elizabeth -- was this your way of exacting revenge against me? Against us? Or did you simply find pleasure in abusing my laughable naïveté?
It is no matter now. I have been taken in by your machinations for the last time, and you shall not get another chance to mock me further. I may be an unnatural man in the eyes of many, but I am no mindless plaything, nor a toy to be discarded when you become bored with me and picked up again when you are in need of a pleasant diversion.
Bill, if you're paying attention, lend me a hand here, mate. Will's run off from me. He's got it into his pretty head that I've been trifling with him. It isn't true, Bill, on whatever my honour is worth. It was nothing more than a tragic misunderstanding.
At our first meeting, I kept secrets from him and he quickly learnt I was not to be trusted, to the detriment of us both. One would think I'd not make the same misstep yet again, but evidently one would be wrong.
If I had any sense myself, I'd know better than to take up with a boy half my age, but then good sense rarely has a say in this sort of thing, has it?
Finding him amongst these islands is daunting enough, but I've still got my informants, and gold sufficient to keep them honest; with his looks and bearing he'll stand out like a beacon, and he'll be spotted ere long. Getting him to heed me is a different matter entirely. He's unkindly disposed toward me at present, and angry enough to cut me down where I stand if I get within sight of him. If you could see your way clear to putting in a good word on my behalf, I'd owe you one.
Of course, being dead as you are, the odds are slim that you'll find yourself in any real need of favours from this side, but I'll make it up to you in the only way I know: I'll do right by him, Bill. You've got my word on it.
I was not surprised to learn that you do not intend to return to Port Royal. I am in complete sympathy; in fact, I have left my father's house and Port Royal altogether. I am now at Tortuga, but you needn't be unduly concerned for my safety. I have tied my hair up and put on men's clothing, and the denizens here know me as a boy. Today I even got into a fistfight. Don't worry -- I won, though I'm afraid I did have to cheat a bit. The bruise on my jaw smarts a little, but it will only serve to make my disguise more effective, and it will fade soon enough. I daresay it was rather fun, but I would not necessarily want to make a daily habit of it.
I am seeking to sign on to the crew of a ship that will travel through the Bahama Islands, whence your response to my last letter came; it will be wonderful for you to join us there as well, and we can sail together. I have some money saved, enough for us to settle somewhere, or perhaps even to buy a ship of our own.
If I am to return to Port Royal someday, it will be as your wife. While I would have preferred to marry with my father in attendance at my side, we do not need his permission. We can have a private ceremony and live anywhere we like. I have tired of living in a mansion filled with dainty, delicate, fragile ornaments that may be seen but never touched, and I have tired of being one myself.
With all my love,
By now I presume Elizabeth has told you of her discovery. If that is so, then you may well have chosen to dissociate yourself from Captain Sparrow and you may never receive this letter. Nevertheless, you deserve an explanation from me.
Everything I said to you before you left Port Royal is true: you have grown into a fine man, and I know Elizabeth adores you. It may appear to you that I thought you unworthy of her affections. Far from it; your character and integrity have been plain to me for years, and any man would be proud to call you his son.
What mattered most to me was that you kindled my Elizabeth's spirit in a way few other things have, which both pleased and unnerved me. In the same way I saw that you brought out the best in each other, I was afraid you would bring out the worst as well. Both of you are young and much too fearless for my peace of mind, and I worried that you would inspire one another to make reckless and foolhardy choices.
I have never believed for an instant that you would ever do her a deliberate injury, but I felt your actions belied your wisdom and sound judgment. You already know that I advocated a different suitor for Elizabeth. I thought that a more mature, more settled man would act as a balance to her fiery nature. I wanted her to marry a man who would keep her out of the sort of trouble that befell her during the past year, not follow her headlong into it.
I freely confess to you now that I had hopes that, with you removed as a distraction, Elizabeth might grow to appreciate Cdre. Norrington's greater consonance as a husband. I was convinced that if only she gave him a chance, she would eventually see him as a more appropriate mate for her, and in time she would learn to feel as strongly for him as she does you.
I wanted only to do everything in my power to protect her from harm. Instead I have myself accomplished that which I feared most: I have indeed lost her, not through mishap brought on by you or anyone else, but by my own actions. I have driven her away, possibly forever.
The greatest irony in this situation is that if you had seen your obligation through to its conclusion and you and Elizabeth were still eager to marry, I likely would have given up any further interference as a lost cause, and I would have fulfilled my part as well; the two of you could have wed if you'd wanted, and neither of you would have been any the wiser. But I could not let her go without making one last attempt to sway her opinion.
I told you once, in granting you clemency, that doing the wrong thing is occasionally justified if it is done for the right reasons. That, now, is my only defence. I have mistreated you, and in so doing, I have hurt my daughter and damaged her faith in me. I now ask your pardon, and if you should have any further contact with Elizabeth, please do tell her how very sorry I am and that I pray that someday she will forgive me.
I am glad to hear you are well, but I am saddened to learn you have left home, for I can no longer give you what you want. Perhaps I never could.
Maybe your father saw in me something that I could not. I have been nearly a year away from you, and during that time I have learnt some difficult truths about myself and my fitness to be your husband, though they may not have been the lessons your father intended.
If their scheme had come to light sooner I would be with you now instead of attempting to explain why I can no longer become your husband, and we might have made the worst mistake of our lives. Even so, I cannot say more than this: I have been unfaithful to you, and to our love. To elaborate would only cause you unnecessary pain.
I wish I could blame Jack or your father for my failure to honour you, but I cannot. I hold myself alone responsible, and it is for that reason that I can neither return to you nor ask you to join me.
I do love you, and I always shall. However, I cannot in good conscience continue our marriage plans, and I would do you a great disservice if I were to allow you to believe otherwise.
With humble apologies,
It has recently come to my attention that you have taken up temporary residence at Tortuga under an assumed identity. Although I am not at liberty to disclose how I came by my information, please be assured that knowledge of your whereabouts is being held in the strictest confidence.
I have spoken to your father, and have also learnt of the circumstances behind your estrangement from him. On my behalf, I can say only that I knew nothing of the arrangement between him and Jack Sparrow nor would I ever have condoned it had I known, despite the fact that I was evidently the intended beneficiary of their plan.
I have chosen to contact you in this fashion rather than accost you without warning because I want you to feel able to put your trust in me. You should be aware that I have taken it upon myself to ask several of my most discreet and trustworthy men to watch over you in order to ensure your safety, and they have been doing so since shortly after your arrival. They have undertaken this task as a personal favour to me, and are acting in no official capacity whatsoever. I have instructed them to step in only if you are unable to defend yourself, and they are otherwise not to interfere with you or hinder your movements in any way. Should you decide to leave Tortuga in pursuit of Mr. Turner, or to depart with him, no-one will attempt to prevent you.
I have also made the decision not to inform the Governor that I have located you. While it is my duty to protect British subjects wherever they may be found, I serve at the King's pleasure, and therefore my first loyalty is to him rather than to his appointees.
However, I would request your express permission to inform your father that you are indeed safe and will remain so. I sincerely hope the two of you will resolve your differences as quickly as possible, of course, but that is a family matter and it is not my place to intervene uninvited.
I am aware of what your father was hoping to achieve, and why you fled Port Royal. With all due respect, the Governor does not understand me quite as well as he thinks he does, for while I do very much wish to protect you from harm, it has never been my desire to be your gaoler.
Your faithful servant,
Due to some unexpected developments, I now find myself at loose ends. It appears I will not be leaving with Mr. Turner in the future, or indeed doing anything at all with him. While I have had quite enough of guardians and am most definitely not in the market for another fiancé at present, I would very much appreciate a friend.
Don't ask how I found you. You would neither believe nor like the answer. Trust me.
You undoubtedly are of the opinion that I owe you an apology. Well, you may be right, and if I were a less selfish man, you'd probably get one. But I'm not so you won't, at least not in the way you expect.
I would have been content to leave you and Miss Swann to your drab and dreary landlocked lives if I thought you stood a chance of being happy with that, but the good governor led me to believe that there lived in your brave soul a disquietude that boded ill for his little girl's ability to settle down into her predestined future as the perfect matronly blue-blooded snob.
You accuse me of using you poorly, but I have told you no untruths, I cast no bewitching spells upon your head, and I put nothing into your mind that was not there already, nor made you to do anything you did not want. What I did was to avail myself of an opportunity worth more to me than diamonds.
I may have neglected to mention a nuance in the sequence of events that led to our compact, but Swann was minded to separate you from his precious daughter, so much so that he was willing to strike up a bargain with a nefarious scoundrel such as myself. He solicited me with his little plan because he wanted you abstracted from Elizabeth, and he sought to meet that end in the most genial way he could think of, by means of my very willing self. I accepted my role in it simply because I wanted you.
If the girl'd had as sure a hold on you as you claim, no chicanery of mine could have broken it, and no amount of skullduggery on my part could have torn you two asunder. Remember that in the end you came to me, not under captain's orders or because no other venues were available to you. You came to me because your hunger for me was every bit as overwhelming as mine was for you.
You may have pirate's blood in your veins, but I thank my stars every day that it's not a pirate's heart in your breast, else I would be feeding the gulls at the end of a rope. How could I not want a treasure like that for myself?
But lest you misbelieve that gratitude alone served as my motivation, or that I regard you as little more than a vessel upon which I carelessly slake my lust, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.
At present you have little incentive to believe anything I say to you, but I am going to put this down in writing, in my own hand, with my signature, so that you -- or anyone else -- may hold me to it if need be, and so that there is no further misunderstanding between us.
I, Captain Jack Sparrow, am arse-over-teakettle in love with you, William Turner the Second.
In the event that you did not fully digest the preceding statement, allow me to recapitulate.
I, Jack Sparrow, love you, Will Turner.
Once more for good measure.
I love you, Will, and I want to fall asleep next to you when night falls, and awaken the same way when the sun rises. I want you to work beside me during the day, and fight beside me when the need arises. I want to drink with you and dine with you and yes, satiate my each and every carnal desire with you.
And no matter what else you think you may have become, you will always be too honest for your own good, and you will always follow that great heart of yours wherever it should lead you. If you can truly say that you were happier at any time in your life than you were with me, I will sail away and never darken your doorstep again.
In conclusion, I repent not a single manipulative, underhanded manoeuvre of mine that had the effect of bringing you to me, and if I do have any regret, it is that I did not tell you sooner of the place you occupy in my soul.
I intend to find the most disreputable and iniquitous ale house in this town, and make myself at home in it; and I will wait there every night until my crew threatens to leave without me, or until you come to me. Even if you hold fast to your decision to extirpate me from your life, let us end it face to face, as men.
Whatever your decision, I remain yours,
You'd never guess who came into The Three Horseshoes during the past fortnight -- Jack Sparrow. That's right, the hangman didn't get him after all. Looks a little worse for wear, as do we all here on this side of the hereafter, but otherwise doing well for himself. Seems he finally wrested the Black Pearl back from Captain Barbossa -- henceforth to be known as the late Captain Barbossa. If you happen to see that scurvy whoreson (and may all the past and present whores of my acquaintance forgive this insult to their honourable profession), be sure to give him a good swift kick in the bollocks for me. And then give him one for yourself as well.
So Jack sashays into the place like he owns it, sits his still-shapely arse down at a table in the back, facing the door, and orders a round for the entire house. This is the kind of talk I like to hear, especially on a busy night like it was, so I served him myself (after I ensured his gold coin was real) and asked how he'd been. He didn't recognise me at first, since I look quite a bit different from when he knew me (and not solely because years of living well have added something to my girth). I give him the name I used back when I'd served on the Pearl, a few weeks after you and I parted company.
His jaw falls to the floor, and braces himself like he expects me to knock his head off his shoulders, and starts blathering some nonsense that proves he remembers me, all right. I tell him I've let bygones be bygones and that his first drink is no charge. I figured I owed him since he was one of the very few men who knew my secret back then, and he never gave me away, even after I declined his advances and turned my eye to one of his mates instead. Fat lot of good that one did me.
He asks me how much I know already, and I remind him how I left him and the Pearl at Tortuga, when he went seeking a crew to sail to the Isla de Muerta and it was getting harder to conceal my condition, and that I got word of the mutiny soon after I retired and turned landlubber here in New Providence. I tell him that the last time I'd seen him was a half-year later, in this same tavern. A few men, thinking a ghost had walked in, fainted dead away. I, of course, know a little something about conversing with the departed, and I knew this was no spirit but flesh-and-blood. I say how I'd heard him tell how he'd got off the island, sea turtles and all, and that I'd been glad to see he wasn't dead.
Then he remembers seeing me working here as a lightskirt after Tortuga. Only the place was still called the Bloody Stump then, before I bought and renamed it.
Someone asks how he missed dancing the hemp jig, and he gets this faraway look in his eyes, downs half his mug in one gulp, and says, "An angel descended from the heavens and caught me up in his arms in the moment the trap gave way, and he held off all the King's men with his terrible flashing sword in one hand whilst with the other he set me down safe upon the deck of my own ship."
From that point onward he carried an air of sadness about him that no amount of rum or promises of other pleasures could dispel. He stayed until closing, then came back the next night, and the next. Each night his generosity was undiminished and he always bought a round for everybody.
He tells his stories to all who'll listen: his escape from his marooning on the sea-turtle raft, how he took Nassau Port, how he put a lead ball through Barbossa's shrivelled black heart. But he'll say no more about his escape from the hangman, save that the angel visited him again and stayed awhile with him, only to abandon him after finding Sparrow no longer worthy of his blessings.
This goes on for a full week, by which time a cheer goes up whenever he walks through the door, because everyone knows there's at least one free drink to be had, possibly more.
Tonight marked the seventh night in a row he's made an appearance. He takes his seat at his usual table, facing the door, and buys a round. Some tar I'd not seen before asks about the rumours that Sparrow has it in his head to find the Fountain of Youth, but Jack gets that sad look again and says he's lost his taste for immortality of late.
I should have mentioned before that whenever he's here, he glances toward the door every chance he gets, as if he's waiting for somebody. Well, plenty of bodies come through every evening, but none seems to be the one he seeks.
Around midnight the inn is full and as boisterous as ever I've seen it, when Bootstrap Bill Turner walks through the door.
Now hold on -- I know what you must be thinking. Hell, you knew him and Sparrow both long before I ever turned pirate. You had already moved on by the time I met them, but I remembered well the stories you told me, and I knew who they were the moment I laid eyes on them. That's why I signed on with Sparrow, you know -- so you and I would have yet another bond betwixt us, as if we needed another. But the loss was still fresh to me, and it seemed a good idea at the time.
But you must know as well as I by now that Bill has been ten years at the bottom of the sea -- yet here he was, looking not a day older than he did when I knew him, and prettier than ever before. I still say I can discern a ghost from living flesh, but in that moment I had my doubts.
A harlot went up to him and named him a price, and a sea dog in his cups made him a challenge. He answered the latter with an icy glare and a hand laid upon the hilt of his sword, and the former with a blush and a "no thank you." (The place was noisy, but you remember how keen my ears are.) The Bill I knew was never so proper, nor so bashful.
It soon becomes obvious I am not the only one who wot the fate of Bootstrap Bill, for as he stands looking about the room, the whole house falls silent as the grave, if you'll pardon the phrase, love. The spectre's eyes search the room and stop. I can guess, without turning, where his gaze has lit; yet the more I stare, the more I begin to wonder if Jack Sparrow has not found that magical fountain after all, for this is a youth of no more than twenty, and Bootstrap had at least half again as many years when I made his acquaintance more than a decade past.
Jack is on his feet, swaying to and fro like a tree in the breeze. Only he doesn't look as if he sees the ghost of a murthered crewman. He looks as if he sees -- an angel.
I watch them face each other down: one, the man who was briefly my captain; the other, the man I once pined after. And all at once I recall Bill as he turned me away, saying he had a wife and a young son, and he was going home as soon as they'd found the Isla de Muerta, and he was trying to be true to them until then.
At the time I felt foolish and angry, and I thought this 'family' of his was merely an excuse for rejecting me, so that he could avoid saying that I was not to his liking, for when had that ever stopped a pirate before? But now that much, at least, rings true -- this is not Bootstrap after all, but his son, grown into a man.
You could cut the air with a knife as they stand, not moving, not speaking. Bootstrap's son hasn't taken his hand from his sword, and I wonder if it's going to get ugly. Fisticuffs are the way of things around here, but I don't suffer redworks in my place. Image of Bootstrap or not, if this whelp means to bring trouble, I'm more than ready to hand it right back to him. I may be retired, but my steel is still sharp and my pistol is loaded.
The boy finally lets go his sword, and extends his hand to Sparrow, as if in greeting, or in truce. Jack just looks back at it like he's never seen one before and I'm thinking that fight is getting closer with each passing second.
I've spent a total of but a few months in the presence of Jack Sparrow, and he's never failed to surprise me. The first was when he stumbled upon the truth of who and what I was and told no one, even when he could have done so to hurt me, or tried to force me to buy his silence with my favours. Now that serpent Barbossa -- he'd have turned to blackmail or worse in the blink of an eye, but thank all the gods, he never found me out.
So Jack drags his gaze from the lad's outstretched hand and up to his impossibly pretty face, and heat flashes in Jack's eyes, and the thought crosses my mind that it'll be a damned shame to see such lovely fair features bruised and bloodied (oh, if I were ten years younger...), and Jack darts forward, quick as he ever was -- and he surprises me once more.
Instead of delivering a blow to the young Turner's jaw like I (and most everyone else in the place, I'd wager) expect, Sparrow grabs the boy's face in both hands, pulls him in close, and lays a kiss full on his mouth.
The boy is dead still (sorry, love) for a second or two, then throws his arms around Jack. And there they stand in the middle of my tavern, surrounded by pirates and thieves and rapscallions of every stripe, snogging away like there's no-one else in the room.
Well. I'd never seen Bootstrap do that.
Somebody -- a dark-skinned woman I'd seen ofttimes during the last week and who seemed to have an uncommon familiarity with Sparrow -- shouts out "Get a room!" and the whole crowd erupts in cheers and laughter. Whilst everyone else returns to their drinking and carousing, I'm counting in my head the number of rooms I've let, and reckoning whether to give this pair one for the night gratis, since it's not often we get such agreeable entertainment in here, when in the midst of all the clamour I hear Jack Sparrow murmur something about 'love' and 'forever', words I've not heard him speak to anything but his precious ship.
The boy gives him a long, searching look -- he's got eyes you could just fall into, Mary -- and my sharp ears hear him say in this soft, sweet voice that I've heard come out of no pirate I've ever known, "Let's go home."
And with that, the Son of Bootstrap's Ghost takes Jack by the hand and leads him out the door and into the night. I watch them leave with tears in my eyes, knowing already that Jack Sparrow and his money will not be returning tomorrow night, and in the moment after they are out of my sight, I hear -- no, more than that, I feel -- someone laughing next to my ear. I know, I know, I was surrounded on all sides by drunks -- some cheerful, some belligerent, nearly all loud -- but this was something different. It was a hearty belly-laugh, the kind Bill used to give when he was feeling truly merry; the kind that was always music to my ears.
I thought you'd be tickled by that. I will write again in another week, as is our custom. Little Mary sends her love.
Yours in eternity,
Meet me in the hold behind the flour barrels.
You've a cabin with a door and a lock that works. Unless you want another mutiny, USE IT.
I'll be in the forge until sundown, then I'll meet you in our cabin after supper.
I've bought a fresh crock of molasses and I made a new set of manacles.
More notes for readers who care about such things:
- As some may have figured out, "Anne" is Anne Bonny, and "Mary" is Mary Read, the two most famous female pirates in Western history. I knew practically nothing about them before writing this fic, and I didn't plan to include them, but clearly they had other ideas.
Mary spent most of her life dressing as a male, serving as a sailor and joining the military before marrying one of her fellow (male) soldiers. Together they ran an inn called The Three Horseshoes in Breda, Flanders (now part of the Netherlands) until her husband's untimely death, whereupon Mary put on men's clothes again, travelled to the West Indies and joined "Calico" Jack Rackham's crew.
There she met Anne Bonny, another female pirate disguised as a man; they became close friends, and a few accounts suggest they may have been lovers. Anne, Mary and Calico Jack sailed together for around a year and a half before they were captured by British soldiers in 1720, and by all accounts the women fought far more bravely than the men.
Anne and Mary escaped hanging by asserting they were pregnant, although there is some skepticism about the truthfulness of their claims. Mary is said to have died of a fever in prison, while there is no reliable information about Anne's fate after 1720. A few accounts say she may have been executed later, but many say she was probably pardoned and released. After that speculation diverges wildly; she may never have been pregnant at all, or she may have given birth and gone to live a respectable, law-abiding life on her father's plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, or she may have returned to piracy in masculine drag.
- New Providence on the island of Nassau was a well-known pirate haven.
- The years between 1700 to 1730 are considered to be the Golden Age of Caribbean piracy, but by 1730 the pirate way of life was dying out due to changes in trade laws and increased military opposition. Amnesty was offered to freelance pirates who agreed to work for the British government.
- Before the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753, English weddings were frequently informal affairs. A couple could exchange vows in a private ceremony without a clergyman or other official, as long as two witnesses were present and the couple was of legal age. These legally binding canon law marriages were far less expensive and complicated than formal weddings, and were popular with lovers of differing social classes because no parental consent was required. The primary purpose of the Marriage Act was to protect the wealth of the gentry and the virtue of young (upper class) girls.
- Apparently the word "snog" did not come into use until the mid-twentieth century. Nevertheless, I like it and I thought it fit the scene.
- The honey and ostrich feathers were borrowed without permission from Linaelyn's "Nice Hat."
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