Title: The Tempest
Author: Sparrowhawk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: A storm at sea stirs up more than wind and water.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.
The searching, seeking winds tell the tale, and it's a tale Jack Sparrow knows by heart: the sea covets his ship and all those aboard her and will claim them for her own if she can. He steers the Pearl onward through battering surf as the deck pitches beneath his feet and the canvas snaps wildly overhead, lashed by currents of pounding rain, currents of churning air. Through hurricanes and white squalls he's sailed, through hell and high water, and so far he has eluded the deadly embrace of the deep by his wits and more than his share of luck. He can't help but wonder when his luck will finally run out.
Raindrops and waves and maybe even God's own tears drench the blue-black decks and cause the boards to shine with the wet like a mirror. A glance down then away, away from a reflection of a dead, drowned thing with hollow black eyes and lank hair and the spokes of the wheel like bare bones, away from the image that even now stalks Jack's uneasy dreams. He offers up a half-formed prayer to whatever indifferent deity watches over sailors but he asks nothing for himself, just peace for Bill. Ten years gone and Jack still misses him, ten years gone and Jack still can't forget him.
Jack knows there is more alive under the waves than shore-dwellers can ever understand, but not all that abides in the sea lives, no more than men who reside safely on dry land can say that there's life in their living. With a madman's certainty Jack knows Bill lives on, become a creature of the depths no less than dolphins and sharks and kelp and conch but so much more than that. He belongs to her now, Bill does, for what you give to the sea she keeps forevermore. Jack can't begrudge her that, though he would've kept Bill for himself had things been different. In the buffeting wind he hears her whispering Bill's name; with every storm-lashed surge of wave over gunwale he hears her calling "Jack, Jack" as if he were late to join them. Perhaps he is, at that.
In the gloom that surrounds him the world has turned to cool water, stinging his eyes, flooding his mouth, seawater, rain, tears, it's all the same in the end. Over the bulwarks or over the edge of the world, the sea claims each and every sailor someday. Jack's been to the edge of the map and looked over a time or two, and some too-bright mornings he wakes up sober and hurting and reaches for his pistol one last time. But it hasn't ever been the last time, at least not yet, and he knows it'll be water that takes him, not fire, when it's his turn. A blast of lightning close by sears a sizzling path overhead and a heartbeat later its echo comes like the leaden sky has been ripped asunder. Still more water floods from the cracks between the clouds. The heavens are conspiring with the sea tonight, but to what end?
The Pearl bucks under Jack's hands against the storm surge that lifts her like a great black bird, giving erratic flight to weathered planking and well-worn sailcloth. The hull creaks and complains, and with a splinter and snap a sail wrenches itself free and is swept away in an instant, dark against the darkness. Jack frowns at the storm's renewed assault; there'll be enough work to keep the crew busy for a while after this one. Most of them know enough to stay below in this mess but--damn the boy, there he is on deck again, making his way to the helm without the sense God gave him to get in out of the rain.
"Get below, Will, ye damn fool!" Jack yells, but the gale steals his words and the rain driving in sheets blurs his vision worse than usual. Bloody stubborn Turners! Will has the nerve to grin at him, wet as a bilge rat, dark hair plastered to his face streaming rivulets over the ridge of that fine determined jaw. "Look, Jack, it's beautiful!" And for a moment it is, the white-capped swells and the white-tipped clouds, the dance of pelting raindrops and the needle-fine spray of brine, sea and sky painted in shades of liquid gray. And for a moment Jack can't help grinning back at the impetuous whelp who argues with him and guards his back and makes him stop to look at rainstorms and sunsets.
An instant later a great breaker from astern swamps the quarterdeck and takes both of them off their feet. Jack comes up spitting seawater and wiping salt from his eyes, scrambling on once-familiar decks now become treacherous. The ship is heeled over hard before the wind and Will is crumpled against the rail on the main deck, black water swirling hungrily just beyond. With a heartfelt curse Jack launches himself down the ladder, barely touching the treads. Will is coughing, the deck is tilting, Jack can hear himself shouting but can't understand the words. Another surge and the deck floods, more foaming water than the scuppers can easily clear.
He's dragging Will along like a dead weight, determinedly bound for the helm and some semblance of control, when the hairs at the back of his neck prickle a keen warning. With instincts born of surviving a thousand dicey situations, Jack spins round and shoves the boy behind him. And looks into eyes he'd thought never to see again, brown eyes like drowned wood and a face so familiar and unchanged that he hears Will gasp in astonished recognition.
A cold ripple of fear crawls up Jack's spine. *How in hell...?* He's dimly aware that the wind and waves have quieted. All around him is silence and stillness and a yearning so tangible he could reach out and touch it. His hand lifts of its own accord and he does reach out, and he's sinking in the depths of those beseeching eyes, straining his ears for the whispers of a voice so dear: "Come closer, Jack, come with me." Jack swallows hard and takes a halting step forward, then another, about to grasp the hand reaching to meet his.
From behind him comes a roar of outrage--"No!"--and Will shoves his way between them. "You can't have him," Will growls, chin raised defiantly, standing his ground though Jack can see him trembling. The entreating whispered reply, "Come with me, son," is a test no man should ever have to face and Jack takes a firm hold on Will's arm. By the gods, looking into those drowned eyes and saying no is the hardest thing Jack's ever done, but he does it with a lump in his throat, speaking for both of them. "Sorry, luv, we won't be joinin' you just yet."
In the space between one heartbeat and the next Jack and Will are staring into silent, empty air. Jack gives his head a quick, sharp shake, the way he does when it's been too long since he had a drink and his eyes start playing tricks on him. His hands are shaking just like they do then, too.
"You all right?" Jack forces his voice to be gruff and steady, but he can't quite bring himself to let go Will's arm.
Will draws a deep breath and nods. "You?"
"I'll live." Jack manages a crooked smile, grateful that Will reminds him what it is to be alive.
"I'm counting on that."
Around them the Pearl breathes a sigh of relief; the tempest has passed and its mysteries with it. The sea rocks them gently now, her passion spent, and the last scattered raindrops patter against black sails.
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