jackxwill - pirates of the caribbean slash

Title: Treading Water

Author: Kaija West (kaijawest@yahoo.ca)

Pairing: J/W

Rating: PG

Summary: While in Tortuga, Jack finds Will, distraught and heartbroken.

Part: 1 of 2

For: Cheryl Baker
Request: Jack picking up the pieces after Will is left at the altar, of course Will
feels insecure and desolate; any type of h/c with Will being comforted

Disclaimer: I own only Shelly, Nicholas and Henry.
Everyone/everything else is not mine and I make no
money from this.

*****
Chapter 1

“An thas’ when I tol’ him those weren’t barnacles in
‘is bed!” Jack finished his tale with a flourish of
his mug as the rowdy crowd laughed. Seated at the head
of his customary table, Jack smiled and threw back
more rum. Story telling, at least the way Jack did it,
was a parching activity. He watched as rough and rowdy
sailors and pirates slowly dispersed throughout the
tavern. Several of his own crew remained at the table
as Jack took a break from his dramatic storytelling.

Over the rim of his mug, the tavern owner’s wife
caught his eye. Shelly, a woman probably only a few
years older than himself, had caught Jack’s eye the
very first time he’d entered The Rusty Heel. He’d
mistaken her for one of the numerous ladies of leisure
at first and had threatened a man propositioning her
in a less than appropriate way. She’d been most
grateful, and Jack had thankfully discovered that she
was the proprietor’s wife before he’d gone on to make
any ill conceived propositions of his own. The next
day, upon discovering that the man harassing her had
been found dead, likely a victim of poisoning, he
doubly thanked his lucky stars that he was on the good
side of both Shelly and her husband Nicholas. It was
most useful to be friends with the house, particularly
in a place like Tortuga where most people would as
easily slit your throat as let you pass by. While Jack
still found Shelly more appealing then any of the
“available” ladies, he knew to leave well enough
alone. He flirted with her like mad whenever in the
tavern, but had no intentions of ever bedding her. He
did however take time to talk with her whenever in
Tortuga.

Tonight would be no exception. Jack watched her
grabbing some things behind the bar, pouring drinks,
all normal but for the look of concern on her face.
She was dealing with the rowdy and noisy patrons in a
distracted way that was very different from her normal
game and fun attitude. She might not be a member of
his crew, nor was she a conquest, but Jack was
certainly not going to leave her alone looking so
unhappy, if for no other reason than he’d managed to
entertain and enthrall every occupant of the tavern
during his stories earlier; it simply would not do to
have someone, let alone a woman he considered a
friend, not enjoy the bright mood.

Getting up and staggering just a tad more than he
wanted to, Jack weaved his way across the crowded room
toward the bar. Having a crew (a TRUSTED crew, he
amended) around, and finding himself in a tavern where
he knew the staff would look out for him as well, Jack
drank far more freely. He was almost surprised to find
himself that drunk, but then they’d been at it all
day, and he’d never quite managed to get a meal. No
longer surviving all by his “onesies”, Jack was a bit
less careful about the amount he drank while ashore.
Still, he’d learned his lessons the hard way, and
wasn’t about to put all his trust in others to protect
him. Those who he did trust to help watch his back
meant a great deal to him, however, and as Jack
reached the edge of the bar, bumping into it slightly
before resting his hands on the edge, it occurred to
him that his thoughts were bouncing around just a bit
more than he was used to. Looking up from the bar to
see Shelly handing off a drink to the man next to him,
Jack remembered why he’d walked (the term being used
rather loosely) over from his table.

“Shelly!” he said a touch too loudly, his words
slurring together. “W’as a matter, Luv? Ye look like
somebody dropped an anchor on yer wee puppy.”

“Captain Jack, ‘is good to see ya,” Shelly said
sincerely with a smile, though the look of concern
never left her face totally. About to say something
else to the reeling pirate, Shelly was interrupted
when Jack was smashed into from behind. She saw him
get shoved hard into the bar from behind before she
could warn him.

“Jus’ a moment, Shel,” Jack said, grinning at her. He
turned and cuffed the offending man hard on the ear.
Addressing the young man, who was now holding his
wounded ear, Jack growled out, “Best be watchin’ who
ye be bangin’ into, and more importantly who ye be
interruptin’.”

While Jack had been referring to Shelly, the man
recognized the infamous pirate captain and immediately
apologized, a nervous look in his eyes. “S-sorry
Captain Sparrow,” he said with a small duck of his
head.

Impressed with the man’s way of addressing him, Jack
clapped an arm around his shoulders, and spoke loudly
enough to be overheard by many in the bar, though he
seemed to direct his speech to those of his crew who
were seated at the table.

“CAPTAIN, eh? Well, you may not ‘ave the best of
manners, but you do have the good sense to address me
properly.” Jack paused and glared at his crew,
especially those who were forever leaving out his
title, though he suspected they did this just to irk
him. “Tell you what, mate, you apologize to th’ lady
Shelly here for interruptin’, and maybe there’ll be a
place for a man like you abord t’ Pearl. How’s that
sound then?”

Several minutes later Shelly was leading Jack to a
small table off to the side where they could talk more
in private.

“You gave ‘im a job cause he smashed inta ya or cause
he got yer name right?” Shelly asked, watching as Jack
sat down, and nearly tipped over the side of the chair
before righting himself.

“I gave ‘im a chance on me crew ‘cause the lad clearly
has no clue how to win a bar fight, nor does he ‘ave a
position on any ship.”

“And you know this how?” Shelly asked.

With a small shrug, Jack admitted, “Been watchin’ him
all evenin’ since he came in ‘ere. Been turned down by
every man ‘e asked for a place on a ship.”

“So he ‘as no ability at convincin’ others and he
can’t fight. Well, there’s a winnin’ pirate for ye,
Jack,” Shelly observed.

“Lad’s persistent and knows how to address a Captain,”
Jack said with a meaningful look. “He can learn the
rest.”

“Well, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow, groomer of young pirates
then, eh?” Shelly asked with a grin. “Enjoy lookin’
out for clueless youngins do ya?”

Jack was watching the young man, Henry he’d learned
was his name, as he talked with some of Jack’s crew.
Henry was animated, and looked pleased as he conversed
with Gibbs, likely about the details of his new
position on the Pearl. Jack could tell Henry clearly
knew next to nothing about pirating and likely had
little knowledge about sailing, but the lad was strong
and had potential. There was something about the young
man that reminded Jack very much of another youth he’d
run into some months back.

Turning back to Shelly, Jack saw the smirk on her
face.

“I know yer a big softy, Captain. You jus’ want to
keep the ignorant lad safe, don’t ya?” Shelly asked,
finally getting it.

“Pfft! I needed another crew member. Tha’s all,” Jack
justified. They both knew he was lying. They both also
knew a man who couldn’t handle himself in a bar fight
would have to learn to either be a better fighter or
be more careful whom he slammed into.

After a moment, the rum in Jack’s brain sloshed in a
different direction, and he finally remembered why
he’d come over to talk with Shelly in the first place.


“So why’r you lookin’ so glum t’night? I ‘aven’t seen
hide nor ‘air of ye all a’fernoon.”

Shelly sighed, the concerned look back in place on her
features. “Well let’s jus’ say the last young man who
did something stupid didn’t have the benefit of you
around to help ‘im out.”

When she paused, Jack motioned to her to continue with
one hand, glugging rum from his mug with the other.

“Upstairs, e’s in one of the rooms. Was pretty badly
beaten by th’ time Nicholas pulled him out of the
brawl last night. Nice enough lookin’ young lad.
Polite as you can imagine even when he was half
passin’ out. In rough shape now though. Can’t imagine
what a well mannered lad like that would be doin’ here
or ‘ow he came to be mixed up in such a fight.”

Jack looked around the tavern, and, seeing his
audience and crew spread out and otherwise
entertained, he decided to see just who this young man
was. Shelly might know more truth about Jack’s
motivations than he’d like but it was true that,
likewise, he knew she was never one to turn out a
wounded or needy man. If she’d been so concerned about
this young man, then Jack figured the least he could
do was go see if he needed a doctor or if perhaps he
needed a job.

“Well le’s go see him then,” Jack said as he rose
unsteadily from the chair.

Shelly got up, shaking her head slightly, a knowing
grin on her face.

At her look Jack said, “Well, I might be in need of
another crew member.”

Guiding the wobbling man towards the stairs, Shelly
snorted, “The Black Pearl’s a large ship, Captain, but
at this rate you’re not going to have room enough for
all your treasure.”

Jack paused for a moment, a look on his face like he
was considering her words.

He decided that just having a chat with the young man
couldn’t hurt. He could set him straight, give him
some advice, maybe find him passage on a ship back
home if he weren’t the pirating type.

Following after Shelly, and holding tightly onto the
railing of the rickety stairs, Jack shook his own head
at his actions. When had he become so concerned with
the fates of young men? He supposed it started with
finding himself alone for so long, stuck in his
arduous quest to regain control of the Pearl. Living
that solitary life had taught him the importance of
having a safe and secure home on a ship surrounded by
trustworthy … well, pirates. As trustworthy as any
such group could be at any rate. He didn’t envy those
who found themselves without a place and fellow crew,
as he himself had been for so long. But really, he
knew that this particular interest, this almost
paternal watching out for young men, especially those
with more bravery than brains or savvy, had been the
direct result of his encounter with one Will Turner.
Their adventure had so impressed upon him the
importance of guiding whelps, in particular those who
would charge to the rescue in what was seemingly the
most reckless and unplanned way possible. Henry had
potential, that was true, but he paled in comparison
to Will, who had all the makings of an even better
pirate than his father had been.

Weaving his way down the dim hallway after Shelly,
Jack sighed. ‘You damn well better appreciate him,
Elizabeth,’ he thought. ‘Whole pirating business is
missing out ‘cause of you.’

“Quiet now, ‘e was sleepin’ las’ time I looked in on
‘im,” Shelly warned.

Jack followed her through the opened door, into the
room. There on the bed laid a very badly beaten man.
Jack however hardly noticed the bruises and cuts he
was so intent on the unfocused, defeated look in the
young man’s red rimmed and puffy eyes.

In shock, Jack softly said, “Will?”
*****

Chapter 2

Will stirred at the familiar voice. He struggled to
focus on the blurry figure. Seeing his obvious
difficulty, Jack moved closer to the bed Will was
lying on.

“Jack, it IS you,” Will said, sounding somewhat
relieved. His voice had a roughened edge to it, almost
as though he’d been screaming. Taking in the puffy,
crimson-streaked eyes, Jack figured out it was more
likely there was another reason for the gravelly
scrape to his voice.

“What’re you doing ‘ere, Will?” Jack asked. He held
back the natural impulse to make some kind of
suggestive comment about just what he figured Will
should be up to with his new fiancée. Quickly
considering the date, he amended that it was likely
that should be wife, not fiancée. But if Will was
here, in Tortuga, a place he’d claimed to loath last
time they left it together, then that could only mean
something had gone very wrong. “You didn’t lose yer
bonny lass to cursed pirates again now did ya?”

Jack could hear Shelly snort softy behind him and he
turned to glare at her before returning his attention
to Will. He winced at the look of absolute despair
that had returned to Will’s face.

“Oh Jack, I-I did lose-“ Will began before a surprise
cough interrupted him. Jack watched as Will curled on
his side, breathing hard through his nose, arms
tightly curled around his chest.

Unable to stop himself, for Jack knew what it was like
to hurt that much, he placed a reassuring warm hand on
Will’s shoulder. “s all right, lad. We’ll talk more on
it later. Be back in a jif.”

Jack quickly spun around and left the room before he
lost the ability to go. Will looked up at Shelly,
unshed tears in his eyes.

“Rest quiet now, boy,” Shelly said softly. “Hurricane
Jack’ll surely return for ye.”

“Thank you Miss Shelly,” Will said looking for all the
world like he wanted nothing more than to burst into
unmanly tears but was holding it back for all he was
worth.

Shelly was headed for the door when Jack’s arm came
through the doorway and yanked her out in a hurry. She
was about to rebuke him when she caught the look in
his eyes. Will’s expression had nearly broken her
heart, but seeing Jack’s barely contained, seething
rage was something all together different. Feeling his
fingers bite into her upper arms as he held her pinned
to the hallway wall wasn’t exactly pleasant either.

“What…the hell…happened…to Will,” he growled out.

“Same thing I tol’ ya downstairs, Jack. Fight, losin’
end,” she said, nodding her head towards the open
door.

“Captain Sparrow,” Shelly’s husband Nicholas said from
behind them. “I’ll be askin’ you to unhand my wife
now.”

As though he was only just now realizing his position,
Jack let go of Shelly and backed off.

“My sincerest apologies,” Jack said seriously to both
of them with a slight bow and clasped hands.

Nicholas nodded and Shelly returned to Will’s room,
giving Jack a very cold look as she went by.

“So you know the Turner lad then do you?” Nicholas
inquired.

“I know ‘im. I know tha’ it would take one hell of a
fight to put ‘im in such a state. Will can hold ‘is
own,” Jack said.

“I don’t think he was trying to win, or at least not
tryin’ that terribly hard,” Nicholas explained.
“Caught part of the mess m’self. He did well enough
but seemed like his heart wasn’t in it. Was
outnumbered as well.”

“Why didn’t you do somethin’?” Jack asked, his tone
somewhere between honest uncomprehension and anger.

“Not my place an’ you know that, Jack. I pulled him
out when things got too rough, but you know I’m not
‘ere to be watchin’ over every argument and brawl that
happens under this roof.”

Jack sighed. He understood where Nicholas was coming
from, even if he wasn’t sure he agreed with him at the
moment. “I’m goin’ to send one of my men to find th’
doctor.” Nicholas nodded as Jack continued, “An’ then
I’m gonna ‘ave a little talk wif Will. Would you ‘ave
Shel send up a couple bottles when she’s done?”

“I’ll be bringing them up,” Nicholas said as Jack
headed for the stairs.

“I am sorry ‘bout that. Didn’t meant it,” Jack said,
gesturing the hold he’d had on Nicholas’s wife. He was
still embarrassed with himself for nearly losing it on
Shelly.

“I know Jack, but she’s a touch funny ‘bout some
things. If you want to still be breathing tomorrow,
best to not ask her to be servin’ you.”

Remembering the poisoning victim of before, Jack
nodded and added, “I’ll be keepin’ that in mind.”

He went downstairs.

*****

Jack knocked lightly at the door to Will’s room. The
doctor had come and gone, having been retrieved in
record time by Henry. Shelly was back downstairs. Jack
had made certain of this before returning from the
noisy tavern into the relative quite of the upstairs
boarding rooms. He planned on giving her a wide berth
for the rest of this visit and hoped he’d be back on
her good side next time he arrived in Tortuga.

Opening the door slowly, Jack poked his head in. Will
looked over and again appeared relieved to see it was
Jack. Taking this as his cue to enter, Jack came
inside, shutting the door behind him.

“Are you feelin’ any better?” he asked as he made his
way to the chair beside the bed.

“Yes, thank you, Jack. I understand I have you to
thank for the doctor’s visit.”

Jack looked slightly puzzled as he considered Will’s
words and tone. The young man certainly looked better.
Jack could see fresh bandages wrapped tightly around
his chest under the open shirt. The doctor had also
covered the gash on Will’s arm. The bruises that were
just now starting to darken were still present, of
course, and a number of minor cuts were clearly
visible. Overall, Will looked pretty bad still, but
now that he was sitting up in bed against a pile of
pillows and wasn’t as pale, he looked far better. But
there was still a look in his eyes that all but
screamed that he was anything but all right, and his
tone and wording was almost formal in stark contrast
with his earlier words.

It was obvious that Will was hiding something. Jack
had long since admitted to himself that he wasn’t
always a subtle man, but this was clearly a situation
that would require some level of tact and subtlety. On
the one hand, he wanted to joke that he’d had a hard
time choosing between sending a doctor to Will or one
of the lovely “ladies” instead, that he’d been unsure
who would make Will feel better in the end. However,
since Will was clearly falling into formality to
distance himself from Jack, this didn’t seem to be the
best of all conversation starters.

Jack leaned over to the small bedside table snatching
a bottle of rum that Nicholas had obviously remembered
to leave for him. He took several swigs before
offering the bottle to Will. As expected Will refused,
a look of distaste on his face.

“Go on. I won’t be spreadin’ rumors an’ tarnishin’ yer
reputation for just ‘avin’ a bit now, ‘specially
considerin’ yer injured an all.”

With a weary smile, Will said, “Jack, I very much
doubt you could do any more damage to my reputation.”

Not sure if it was intended as an insult, Jack decided
to let the comment go. For now anyway. “It’ll help ye
feel better. I’ve been hurt far worse b’fore and
this,” he said, sloshing the steadily emptying bottle
for emphasis, “has often been of a great deal of
help.”

Will looked like he was considering the rum for a
moment when he remembered the doctor had left him a
bottle of medicine.

“The doctor left that,” he said, pointing to a small
bottle of dark liquid sitting on the table.

Jack picked up the bottle and uncorked it, giving it a
sniff. He couldn’t remember where exactly he’d smelled
the medicine before but it brought up very unpleasant,
if hazy, memories.

“I’m not entirely sure I trust that man,” Will said,
referring to the admittedly shifty doctor who’d
visited earlier.

Jack pushed the small cork back into the bottle.
“Well, can’t hurt anymore, eh? Might as well give it a
shot, hmm?” He unthinkingly tossed the bottle the few
feet to Will who caught it with an audible hiss. The
sudden movement had started his already sore, broken
ribs, to hurting all over again.

Jack watched as Will threw back a large mouthful of
the medicine. Something wasn’t right, he was more sure
of it than ever. Will, an excellent swordsman, had
been trounced in a fight - in a place he’d loudly
vowed never to visit again - and now he was gulping
down an unknown medicine from a person he obviously
had doubts about. Jack considered Will’s behavior to
be too rash and unplanned at times but this was too
far off. And if all of this wasn’t evidence enough
that something was very wrong with Will, then that
ever present look of despair in the lads eyes was.

Jack leaned forward and snatched the small bottle back
from Will. Since he had no idea of its contents, he
couldn’t be sure, but somehow doubted it was supposed
to be consumed in one sitting as Will had seemed
intent on doing.

“Tha’s prolly enough for now,” he said, setting the
little bottle beside his own rum bottle on the bedside
table.

By the time he looked back at Will, he could see the
drug taking effect. The boy’s eyes were at half mast
and his pupils so large they nearly blocked out all
colour.

“Better?” Jack asked.

“Mmm Hmm,” Will murmured, clearly not feeling as much
pain. In fact, judging by the little smile on his
face, Jack would venture Will wasn’t feeling much of
anything anymore. He surreptitiously tucked the bottle
into the drawer and out of Will’s reach when he wasn’t
looking.

‘Well, I’d been planning to get him drunk and talking,
but this was just a whole lot faster and easier,’ Jack
thought. ‘Best be getting’ rid of the rest of that
stuff though. Anything that works that fast can’t be
good for him.’

“So Will,” Jack began, rum bottle comfortably held in
his left hand. “Exactly what ‘er ye doin’ in Tortuga
of all places?”

“Hated it here,” Will said, his words slightly
slurred. “So I had to come.”

“Allllright,” Jack said. Maybe this wasn’t the best
idea. If he couldn’t make sense of what Will was
trying to get across, then this would be something of
a waste of time. He decided on another tactic.
“Where’s Elizabeth, Will?”

“She left me,” Will said nodding slightly, brown
creasing. “She left me standing in front of the
priest.”

“You don’t mean-“ Jack began before Will interrupted.

“Yup, right there at the alter,” he said. There was a
noticeable lack of emotion behind the words as though
Will either was too numb to feel it or simply refused
to feel anything at all at that moment. Jack watched
as the young man’s trembling fingers pulled at a
thread in the blanket.

“I wanted her Jack,” Will continued, his voice
suddenly too full of emotion, his words nearly choking
on it. “She’s all I ever wanted, all I ever dreamed of
for 10 years. I saw her, in her wedding dress. She was
the most beautiful sight I’d ever dreamed of. Like an
angel, she seemed to float down the aisle.” His voice
turning flat again, he continued, “But I knew. The
moment I looked into her eyes. She didn’t want to be
there.”

“Will I-“ Jack started, but Will charged on.

“She waited until the last moment. She looked at me
and I could see it all in her eyes. Said she couldn’t
do it, couldn’t m-marry me,” Will finished with a
choked sob. He seemed to swallow down his sorrow as he
looked out the tiny window across the room, into the
dark black.

Without thinking, Jack got up and sat on the bed
beside Will and pulled him into an awkward hug.

“What are you doing?” Will asked, sounding slightly
alarmed, though it had taken several moments for his
mind to catch up with what was happening.

“Shhhh,” Jack shushed him softly. He wondered whether
he’d pushed the boy too far, trying to get the truth
from him. But it seemed that Will needed to say it,
let it out. It might be Will Turner in his arms, but
this was by no means the brave sword fighter who had
challenged him in a dusty blacksmith shop not so long
ago. Somebody had seriously hurt the young man, and
while Jack could see the wounds on Will’s body, it was
becoming increasingly clear that the source of most of
the pain couldn’t be traced to brawling pirates. No,
this pain had a different cause, and Jack found
himself wishing for a moment that he’d put a bullet
into the head of the girl back on that burning beach.

Coming back from his thoughts, Jack realized that he’d
somehow managed to arrange himself behind Will so that
the boy’s trembling back was pressed against his
chest, his arms encircling the slightly shaking body.
He could tell that Will wasn’t crying, but the strain
of holding so much sadness inside was causing the
quaking Jack felt against him.

“It’s never going to feel better is it, Jack?” Will
asked in a small voice. “It’s just going to go on
forever, this…” he trailed off.

Holding Will tighter, Jack found himself instinctively
rocking them both a bit. Eventually Will’s tremors
ceased.

In a tired sounding voice, Will asked, “Jack?”

“Mmm?”

Sleepily, but now sounding clearer than he had all
night Will continued, “You know that feeling when you
realize that tomorrow you’ll find things terribly
awkward, but for the moment you couldn’t care less?”

“Yes, Will,” Jack said. Then he waited. And waited.

After several moments, it occurred to him that Will
had finally fallen into an exhausted sleep.

*****

Chapter 3

The next morning, Will had the nagging feeling that he
should be embarrassed. The problem was he wasn’t
entirely sure why. He’d woken alone and in
considerable pain. It had taken his mind several
moments to remember where he was and why. When he saw
Elizabeth’s face in his head, heard her words as she
turned and ran out of the church, he wished he hadn’t
awakened at all. Sniffling, he rolled over, moaning
softly as his ribs felt like they were grinding
together, and curled up on his side. His back was to
the door and he could see out the tiny window. Will
had only once felt this alone and lost before. But
then there had been a beautiful young lady who smiled
at him and promised to take care of him. In the end
she’d broken that promise, and Will felt like he’d
come full circle, might as well be floating in the
ocean alone. Maybe things would have been better if
he’d never been found…

*

Jack made his way back up the narrow stairs to Will’s
room. When he’d woken that morning, an hour ago, he
been mildly surprised to find himself still
protectively holding Will in his arms. Seeing the
sleeping boy curled up on his chest, Jack had made
some decisions.

Will had been totally off-limits before. Clearly the
boy had a definite single-mindedness when it came to
his bonny lass. She was, however, no longer the same
kind of obstacle. Still, Jack had doubts that Will
would let her go quickly. Maybe he wouldn’t let her,
or the idea of her, go at all. The thought of watching
the young man pine away over her indefinitely sickened
Jack, more because it saddened him to consider Will so
set on something that was now clearly a one sided love
than because it would mean that he’d never have a
chance with the boy himself.

Jack had always equated love more with admiration than
lust, and he’d known the moment Will challenged him
with a sword that he admired the brave youth. Given
their quest to rescue Elizabeth, Jack had figured that
his feelings should stop there, at admiration. It was
different now though. Very different.

Barely resisting the urge to kiss the top of the soft,
messy curls just under his chin, Jack carefully
squiggled out from underneath Will. As he laid the
still sleeping man back on the pillows, Jack sighed to
himself. Seeing Will laying there, so innocent and
soft in the weak morning light, Jack admitted to
himself he was feeling something very different than
admiration. The feelings were something much deeper
and it wasn’t just a sense of responsibility.

After lingering a moment to assure himself Will hadn’t
woken during the move, Jack silently slipped out of
the room. His thought were much too clear for his
liking. Walking down the hallway, he considered
getting some breakfast while he waited for Will to
wake, but decided that some rum would quell not only
his hunger, but also the nagging voice in his head
that was insistent on telling him that he was falling
for the broken man on the other side of the door.

*

Will was yanked up from his dark thoughts when the
door popped open and Jack swaggered into the room. He
couldn’t stop the rush of relief he felt as he saw the
familiar man. Remembering the previous hazy night,
Will realized that every time Jack appeared he was
able to almost block out the painful memory of his
love turning and running from him, from what was
supposed to be their life together. The dark swirl of
blue and black and beads almost made him forget the
elegant flow of ivory satin and lace, as it carried
his love away from him.

Jack watched as Will’s expression changed from
recognition and relief to loss and sadness in only a
moment.

“Will?” Jack asked as he approached the bed, trying to
pull the boy from his thoughts.

After a moment, and with a small shake of his head,
Will looked to Jack, a forced grin on his face. “Good
morning, Jack.”

“Are ye doin’ any better?”

“I’m still feeling rather poorly to tell you the
truth.” It was an understatement on all accounts.

Jack reached into the drawer and pulled out the small
bottle of medicine. “Maybe you should try a lil’ more
of this, should dull things. Unless of course you’d
prefer somethin’ else,” Jack said holding up the
bottle of rum Will hadn’t even noticed he’d been
holding.

“What time is it?” asked Will.

“Morning,” Jack said with a shrug. He took a pull from
the bottle in his hand.

“Do you always drink so early?”

“Not always, no. But ye see on land there’s not so
much fer me to do. Need to entertain meself some’ow.
Little early for the ladies an’ much too late for
stories ye see,” Jack said in a roundabout
explanation. “Now drink up a bit of tha’ vile stuff,
we ‘ave to be goin’ soon.”

“Going?”

Nodding Jack said, “Back to the Pearl. ‘s time to be
‘eading out soon.”

“Oh, well, don’t let me hold you up, Jack. Thank you
for looking out for me last night, for getting a
doctor I mean. Perhaps I’ll see you again sometime
when you’re back this way again,” Will said, sounding
unsure and saddened. He knew Jack would have to leave
at some point. He’d just hoped maybe the Captain would
be on the island for a couple more days.

“You weren’t seriously plannin’ on stayin’ in Tortuga,
were you mate?” Jack asked with a toothy grin.

“I was - um, was going to - that is…” Will sighed. “I
don’t know Jack. I don’t know what to do. I mean it’s
not as though I planned on being in this situation.”

Hearing Will’s uncertainty and discomfort, Jack said
quickly, “I need someone to do a few minor repairs on
the Pearl, need a man who’s good with his hands and
tools.” Jack mentally kicked himself for his double
speak but let it go when Will didn’t seem to catch any
secondary meaning in the words. ‘Need to be more
careful how I speak. Can’t be letting ideas and
thoughts just worm their way in like that. Down boy!’
he thought before continuing aloud. “Tortuga is no
place for you Will. So, what do ye say? Help a mate
out?” Jack asked with a tilt of his head.

‘Jack’s giving you an out you fool!’ Will yelled in
his mind. ‘You don’t really want to stay here and mope
forever do you? Well … maybe I do. It suits. I’m
miserable, so I might as well be somewhere that fits
that for me. Couldn’t very well go back to Port Royal,
see them all shaking their heads at me, their looks of
pity. No, Tortuga is a far better fit. But Jack, I
could go with him, could venture away. Maybe being on
the sea would help me forget Eliz- … forget HER. But I
don’t want to forget her … do I?’

Jack sighed as he watched Will get lost in his
thoughts again. Clearly the young man couldn’t make
the decision to leave Tortuga in his present state of
mind. Jack decided he needed to make the decision for
the distraught young man, though really, he already
had. He had wanted to at least give Will the chance to
say it.

Jack placed the medicine bottle in Will’s hands, saw
him look up with confused eyes almost as though the
young man had forgotten he was even there.

“We’re ‘eading out in a few minutes. ’s a long walk,
especially in your condition so I’d be drinking a bit
of tha’ to dull the pain if I were you.”

Will felt too tired to argue. His mind was exhausted
and he decided that at least for the moment it would
be easier to do as Jack directed him.

Watching Will pull the cork on the bottle Jack warned,
“Jus’ don’ try an’ drink it all at once like you did
las’ night.”

Taking a swallow, Will looked up at Jack. He couldn’t
remember the previous night very clearly. He did,
however, feel a twinge of embarrassment, though he
wasn’t sure about what exactly.

“Jack? Did I … say anything foolish last night? Or,
um, do anything?”

“Nah,” Jack half lied. “Just up and passed out on me
af’er tryin’ to drain that bottle.”

“Oh, well, I guess I own you an explanation as to why
I’m here in Tortuga and how I got myself in this
condition,” Will said, gesturing to the bandages that
adorned his arm and chest.

“No ‘splaination’s necess’ry, Will. I know things wen’
badly with Elizabeth.” Jack cringed inside when the
mere mention of the girl’s name caused Will to frown.
“You don’ need to be tellin’ ol’ Jack anythin’ right
now. Not ‘till ye want to, savvy?”

“Thanks, Jack,” Will said with a small smile that died
before it reached his eyes. He could feel the medicine
already dulling the sharp pinch he felt in his chest
with every breath. He could also feel it clouding his
mind, and he welcomed the feeling because at the
moment he felt everything too clearly, too painfully.
He knew the pain in his chest wasn’t caused only by
his broken ribs. He took another swallow of the
medicine. The numbing sensation was a relief.

*****

Chapter 4

Jack was right. The walk was long and not at all
pleasant for Will. They were barely outside The Rusty
Heel when Will’s head had started pounding and his
legs were none too steady. Jack had carefully put an
arm around Will’s waist, mindful of his injuries, and
guided the young man through the winding, filthy
streets.

When he felt Jack’s arm around him, Will looked
nervously at the other people on the street. If there
was anything out of place, if it was at all odd to see
two men with their arms around each other, nobody gave
any kind of indication. Will mentally kicked himself
when he remembered that this was, after all, Tortuga,
and the sense of propriety that currently permeated
Port Royal didn’t seem to exist here. Nobody gave a
damn what he and Jack looked like. Will supposed that
was a good thing, as he was still wearing very
expensive, broquade breechers and a now torn and
stained, but still very elaborate and obviously
costly, white shirt. He refused to take his jacket
with him despite Jack’s protests. He wanted nothing to
do with the clothes he had worn to his almost wedding.
In fact, Will would have been more than happy to leave
behind the rest of the outfit except that he assumed
walking (or limping as the case were) through town
naked would have drawn unnecessary attention. Not that
he’d have ever seriously considered doing that. As
another person passed them, clearly disinterested in
the pair, Will wondered if he’d have drawn any
attention at all had he gone parading around in the
nude.

“Jack?” Will started, slightly winded though they were
not going very quickly. “How is it this place is so
different during the day? It almost feels abandoned,”
he commented as they turned a corner only to find yet
another nearly empty street.

“’s the middle of the night Will,” Jack said. He was
becoming more certain that Will wasn’t going to make
it all the way back to the Pearl under his own power.
While he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of carrying the
young man, Jack could tell it was becoming a very real
possibility that he might need to.

Looking up at the sun that was not yet overhead but
shining down on them nonetheless, Will gave Jack a
confused look. “It’s not night, Jack. I wasn’t hit
THAT hard on the head you know.”

Smiling, Jack shook his head. “Well for the folks ‘ere
it migh’ as well be. Work on a different clock. When
yer up all ‘ours of the night, mid mornin’ becomes the
wee ‘ours, savvy?”

“Not so much,” Will admitted. He wasn’t sure if it was
the pain or the medicine that was making it so much
harder to understand Jack, but Will was certain there
must be an explanation for why next to nothing the
pirate captain said made sense to him since they left
the tavern.

Stopping and pulling away a bit as though to assess
his condition, Jack narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing
Will. The lad seemed particularly daft this morning.

“They’re all sleeping, Will” he said slowly,
enunciating his words.

“Ah, yes, I see,” Will said, nodding slightly. His
head was now not only pounding but there was also a
faint buzzing too. He imagined a miniature version of
himself in a smithy located inside his head, banging
over and over at a piece of metal laid out on an
anvil. There was also some kind of giant bug standing
in place of the donkey, its enormous wings flitting
over and over making the horrible buzzing sound in his
mind…

“Will!”

Will felt himself being shook a little. He pulled
himself back out of his thoughts. “What?”

“I’ve been sayin’ yer name for awhile now,” Jack
explained, a look of concern on his face.

“Sorry, Jack. Just got a little, uh, distracted.”

“Pearl’s not that much farther.” Putting his arm back
around Will, Jack slowly started guiding the unsteady
man forward again. “Be there in no time.”

Will looked back in the direction they’d come from.
The movement made his head hurt worse. He was right to
leave this place with Jack. He could leave behind the
memories of getting into a stupid fight, unarmed and
exhausted. He could forget his mistake. Now if only he
could forget what had come before…

*****

Surprisingly they’d made it to the Pearl and were on
board before Will’s battered body finally gave out.
Jack had been talking with Gibbs (who was very pleased
to hear Will would be joining them) and several other
crew members whom Will had not met before. The Captain
had been giving instructions about their departure,
though Will wondered if perhaps that was more a
formality given the way the crew confidently and
efficiently went about making the ship ready to sail.
Will had been watching one of the men shimmy up a rope
in an almost gravity-defying manner when he’d started
to get dizzy. Black and red spots blotted out his
vision quickly, and he could feel himself blacking
out, but was powerless to stop it. As soon as his
knees buckled, and right about the time he began to
slip away so far that he no longer cared he was
passing out right on deck, Will felt Jack tighten his
hold. He hadn’t even realized Jack still had an arm
around him, supporting him, until his unplanned nap
caused Jack to tighten his grip in an effort to
prevent him from taking a nose drive into the deck.
Unfortunately, the hastily tightened grip caused the
pain in his ribs to flare up, and Will heard himself
groaning just before he was pulled unwillingly into
the darkness.

*

Anamaria waited until Jack had Will settled on his own
bed before she slapped him on the face.

“What do you think yer doin’? Bringing a hurt man on
board-“

“Now Ana,” Jack started, surprised by her outburst.
Anamaria wasn’t a typical female, so Jack expected no
sudden show of sympathy or hysterics, but he
definitely hadn’t expected she’d object to Will’s
presence onboard.

“…and makin’ him stand there ‘till ‘e drops!” she
finished, ignoring his interruption. Turning to look
at the unconscious man lying on the bed, she
continued, her tone now softer, “What ‘appened to
‘im?”

“Elizabeth lef’ him at the alter.”

“I could have tol’ ya that was gonna ‘apppen,”
Anamaria said, though there was no pride or smugness
in her voice. On Jack’s look of confusion, she
explained, “Women’s intuition.”

“Yer no’ a woman. Yer pirate,” Jack said.

Anamaria rolled her eyes before continuing, “What else
‘appened? Elizabeth might be a spirited lady, but
there’s no way she did all tha’ to ‘im.” She gestured
to the red and purple bruises and cuts on Will’s face.

“Losin’ end of a fight I’m told,” Jack said looking at
the marks again. He leaned over to unbutton Will’s
shirt and make him more comfortable. “Nothin’ too bad,
nothin’ permanent anyway. I expect he won’t be up an’
around much for a few days though.”

Anamaria nodded as she watched Jack work. He was so
careful and gentle as he loosened Will’s clothing and
pulled the covers over the sleeping man.

“And th’ other? ‘ow’s he feelin’ ‘bout being left like
that, ‘bout ‘er droppin’ ‘im?”

“Don’t know,” Jack admitted as he took a seat on the
side of the bed. “Not too happy ‘bout it so far as I
can tell.” After a pause, Jack admitted, “Hell, he’s a
mess.”

Feeling like it was a good time to give Jack some
space, Anamaria started to leave the cabin. “I’ll see
us off. You take care of him, you hear me, Jack?” she
threatened unnecessarily and out of habit.

“That’s Captain Jack!” Jack said as she left. When the
door swung shut as she left without an apology, Jack
returned his attention to the figure on the bed.
“Don’t you worry, I’ll be watchin’ o’er him,” he said
softly to himself.

Though he kept his eyes closed, mainly because his
head was still threatening to explode, Will barely
resisted the urge to smile. Again he felt as though
things were coming full circle.

continued in part 2

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