Tangible Schizophrenia


Ringing in the Changes

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R
Pairing: Main focus on Will/Jack, other pairings included.
Feedback: Fave lines, constructive crit.—anything you want, at any length.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Modern-day AU. I used Theodore for Groves’ first name and Alexander for Edrington. Guest appearances from Horatio Hornblower [movies], Master and Commander [movie] and Sharpe [movies]. Prequel was Related Dysfunction.
Summary: New Year’s Eve! And let us all take a moment to reflect.



Jack always slouched, but this time he made it look like a prelude to an apocalypse. “I’ll throw th’lot of them overboard.”

“You’re not throwing Liz over,” Will snapped, giving the bars one last kick. That made his toes sing with blinding pain, but he just managed to resist crumpling into a pathetic little heap on the floor. Instead, he limped back and flopped into the pile of blankets someone had remembered to leave them. “I get to do that.”

The prospect of that didn’t seem to cheer Jack any, and he slumped into the shadows till Will had to wonder at the man’s skeletal structure. Perhaps all the rum had turned them to rubber?

Oh, shit. Will dove for Jack and hastily patted the other man down, dodging kicks and yelps—then some purring and attempted gropes, since Jack never lost an opportunity, period—but all he found was another lousy conclusion. Jack had no rum on him. Jack and he were locked in the brig of the Pearl. Come morning, one of them was going to be dead out of sheer aggravation.

When it became obvious that Will had no intention of taking things into…mutual comforting, Jack irritably pried himself away and went back to sulking. “Stop poutin’, Turner. Y’re a grown man.”

“Pouting? Me? What about you? I could hang my chains from your lower lip.” For emphasis, Will flipped through the links at his hip.

“What about me?” Jack repeated, voice rising a bit. “This is m’own bloody ship! And—”

“And this is the brig I helped redesign, and they’re all fucking dead the moment I figure out a way around the alterations someone had put in after I was done.” It wasn’t exactly fair to glare at Jack, considering the man was just as much a victim as Will was, but then, the situation wasn’t exactly conducive to fairness. Besides, it was New Year’s Eve, Will was stuck in the high-tech jail of an old-fashioned sailing ship, and he had melting snow in his hair even though it was a typical warm Miami night. Jack had to have something to do with it all. Everything was too weird for him not to have.

They sat there in the half-dark for a few seconds before Jack lost patience with silence. “Hornblower.”

“Definitely him,” Will muttered.

* * *


Horatio, James was mildly amused to see, seemed terrified. Though it was a toss-up as to whether it was Harper controlling the snow machine’s nozzle or Elizabeth with a martini that was responsible for the fear in the man’s face.

A long white plume of snow went soaring over everyone’s heads, briefly obscuring James’ view of the deck. When the fluffy stuff had settled, he saw that Elizabeth had accomplished her goal of backing Hornblower against one of the cannons and was now working on forcefeeding him a Flying Dutchman. A quick check revealed that William was deep in conversation with Gibbs about something, while triangulated from him and Horatio was Archie sampling the cheeses. The Earl seemed to be absent, curiously enough.

“Come on,” Elizabeth was wheedling. “Nothing cures worry better than this, believe me.”

“Oh, I do,” Horatio answered, tone making it clear that he didn’t trust her words in the least. “But—”

Fed up, Elizabeth tossed the drink back herself and rolled her eyes at him. “My boyfriend will not kill you.”

By the food, Archie mouthed something like ‘he’d better not,’ but otherwise remained serenely nibbling away.

“Anyway, you just won the annual prank contest. Shouldn’t you be happy? Celebrating? You’ve got bragging rights for weeks now.” At that realization, she made a face, but like any good operative, Elizabeth could sacrifice a little dignity for lasting results, and so she forged on. “Relax, Horatio. Or I’ll stuff you into leather and let the others relax you.”

To Gibbs’ confusion, William suddenly flushed red and coughed into his champagne. Archie, meanwhile, had a smile of fond nostalgia on his face. James briefly considered the wisdom of sitting his men down for a talk about propriety and discretion, but then decided he couldn’t deliver that kind of lecture while he had tinsel in his hair, courtesy of a somewhat-drunken Giselle. It could wait till they were back on shore.

Harper had turned the snow machine back over to a pinch-faced Gillette—which expression probably wasn’t helped by Scarlet standing extremely close to the man’s backside, James theorized—and was now genially ambling over to Elizabeth. “Grand party, Swann. Sadly, I do believe my shift’s up.”

“Really? Already? You did get some of the eggnog—” Elizabeth stopped and grinned at the brown-paper-wrapped bulge Harper pushed out of his coat. “All right, well, have a good, quiet New Year’s. And afterward, enjoy your day off while we’re all suffering through our hangovers.”

“Oh, I will, never you worry. Especially since the Major and I went through and debugged the bedroom yesterday.” Pat smiled like an old grandfather. Who had a fortune buried beneath his bed and a shotgun standing by. “We’ll put ‘em back on the second.”

Just then, Teresa and Alexander emerged from the cabins, carrying boxes of champagne and chatting. As they passed the food table, he peeled off to join Archie, while she continued on to hook her arm through Harper’s. Her left eyelid dipped in a wink at Elizabeth as she and Harper prepared to lower a speedboat. “Sorry, but no tape.”

“Unfair,” Elizabeth pouted, but she didn’t push the point. She did, however, twist and make a grab for Horatio, who’d seen his opportunity and by now knew when he needed to take it. Unfortunately for him, she had gotten very good at thwarting men bolting for freedom. “Honestly, Hornblower.”

“What about Jack?” he hissed, looking nervously down at the deck. “He’s got a long memory, doesn’t he?”

Elizabeth looked a bit thoughtful for a moment, but quickly shook it off. “Jack’s not a movie villain, you know. After all, I’m fairly sure he screwed your old mentor just because…Peters…Pellman…”

“Pellew,” Horatio corrected, now faintly green. He actually winced.

“Pellew happened to be a naval officer, and Jack was a pirate.” Tom went by Elizabeth with a tray of glasses, and she snagged one before continuing. “Don’t worry. Jack’ll be annoyed, but he won’t kill you.”

Unconvinced, Horatioi also took a glass and drained about half of it, much to Elizabeth’s surprise. “That’s not what worries me.”

But before she could query him further, he turned on his heel and stalked for William, a determined look on his face. Apparently, Horatio had decided to make the best of his last carefree moments before Jack’s revenge; James had to say that that was probably the most sensible course of action. He himself was under no illusions about the sword hanging over his own head, but then, he did have means of diverting Jack’s certain anger that weren’t open to Hornblower. And Jack was, beneath all that flamboyance, pure practicality, so he would appreciate the end result even if he didn’t the methods by which it was accomplished.


* * *


“An’ James,” Jack muttered, silently plotting the many, many different ways with which he was going to remind Jaime that one did not relegate one’s lover to the brig. Especially to the brig of his own ship.

For some reason, Will looked surprised. “What about him?”

“Y’don’ actually think th’lot of them would go this far wi’out support from one of us, d’you? Or maybe it’d be more appropriate t’say ‘protection.’” Damn the man, but James had learned his lessons from Jack far too well to be able to pull off such a feat. He was going to need to handling when Jack got out. At the very least, some trimming of the…well, James wasn’t one for bragging, but etiquette did allow for a bit of silent glowing pride. Which, to be truthful, irked Jack considerably more than vocal boasting did.

What was currently irking him the most, however, had nothing to do with what would come after. “Will? Jaime been actin’ odd lately?”

“What, besides having a sudden taste for trickery?” Poor Turner couldn’t stand being thwarted by his own work any more than Jack could, and so the man was pouting adorably in the other corner. If Jack were in the mood to observe adorableness, which he wasn’t really. “No. What’d you do to him?”

“Me? An’ why would y’suppose that it’d be something I did?” Jack raised a brow and a hand, groping for something—oh, damn. So that’s what Will had been looking for earlier.

And Jack must be getting on a bit, if first James and then Will happened to be a step ahead of him. It wasn’t just an unpleasant thought, but a worrisome one as well, considering how many shadows from the past Jack still had to lay to rest. He’d had a good run so far, was looking to keep the streak going, but now the end wasn’t just a dot on the horizon. Now he was just about able to see the signposts of the one crossroads he’d never welcomed.

Will was eying him funny, like a small child would a clown, unsure as to whether he was supposed to be amusing or frightening. “What?”

Startled, Will tried to scrabble backward before realizing he was already up against the wall. But Jack hadn’t named the man successor just out of favoritism, and Will’s chin was soon back up. He shrugged and crawled across the separating space to pick something out of Jack’s hair. “Your first gray one.”

And Jack just couldn’t trust anything any more, could he. His fingers snatched the strand back and tucked it tightly beneath a beaded dreadlock. “Well, isn’t that a pretty thing.”

“Not really.” At first, a faint smile touched Will’s face, but then that disappeared as he leaned in close enough to see Jack’s expression. Curious how he couldn’t distinguish emotion, but he could pick out the one streak of age from the lively nest Jack was proud to call his scalp. “Why are you so damned touchy?”

“Who said I was touchy?” The man was bending just a bit too far, Jack saw. One slight nudge…would topple Will into Jack’s lap, just like that. Though maybe Jack should’ve taken the elbows and knees into account, considering how surprisingly bony they were. “Maybe…I’m a bit annoyed wi’ y’r tiptoein’ around me? I’m not toothless yet, Will.”

With a huff, Will shoved himself off and thudded down next to Jack, trying to prove some point with his proximity. “I’m not tiptoeing around anyone.”

Jack didn’t deign to answer that. If the man was going to be stubborn, then there was no point in wasting the effort. When he wanted to, Will could be hard as nails and tougher to shift than a ton of wet sand, and no one could change that till he himself felt like it.

“You’re not having a midlife crisis, are you?” Will suddenly said, shooting Jack a look that deserved a good slap. Shame that Scarlet wasn’t near; she had the best arm. “Look, aging is part of the natural cycle. And it’s not as if you’re really slowing down—”

“Will. Stop while y’re in th’storm an’ before y’hit th’reef.”

The other man merely looked triumphant. “Spouting proverbs?”

“They’re full of wisdom that’s lackin’ nowadays,” Jack retorted. Not defensively. Not in the least.

James was going over the side. And after him, Elizabeth, with or without Will’s consent.

* * *



Tom blinked and carefully shielded his martini from the short, explosive gust of air. “Bless you.”

“Sorry,” Elizabeth muttered. She could feel the temporary warmth of the rum recede away, leaving a only a chilly certainty that someone had been thinking deboarding thoughts at her.

Well, perhaps the chilly feeling was from the snow, she amended. After his initial reluctance—and probably some liberal dosing of champage—Gillette had taken to the snow machine with great glee. In fact, between the melting fluff and the rolling of the Pearl, the deck was beginning to get dangerously slippery. People were sliding around as they got drunker, and even Anamaria stumbled a bit as she stalked across the planks. She didn’t look happy.

Naturally, Elizabeth ducked behind Tom, who coughed a bit but was a gentleman and positioned himself so she wasn’t visible. When Anamaria was gone, however, Pullings rounded on Elizabeth and gave her a questioning look.

“She…er…wasn’t in on the lock-Jack-and-Will-up-till-they-talk plan.” Elizabeth put on her best doe-eyed pleading face. “We told her they left to see to something ashore. I think she might be getting suspicious.”

His reaction was instant horror, which was understandable, given the kind of unholy fury Anamaria could unleash. And she did not take being left out of the loop well. On the other hand, she wasn’t very fond of manipulating Jack via practical tricks—something about it never working with her brothers, and them being stupider than Jack—so that hadn’t given Elizabeth and James much choice.

“Well, go distract her!” Tom hissed, jerking his hand at the departing Anamaria. “Quick, before she notices!”

“She’ll notice for certain if you keep flapping about like a bird,” Elizabeth shot back, grabbing his hand and pulling it down. Then she had to break off her next sentence and tug them back, because a rather flushed Horatio and Archie were approaching.

Horatio had a determined set to his jaw that contrasted oddly with his wavering stance. He was mostly draped over Archie’s left shoulder, which was skewing the both of them. “Swann. No rum.”

Which made little sense in any case, and even less than that when it was Horatio speaking, since the only interest he ever took in alcohol was when someone was trying to get him drunk and playful. For once, Archie also seemed to be completely at a loss. “Er. Horatio. We can get you some, if—”

“No, not me. Him!” Hornblower actually stomped his heel like a little girl while he glowered. “He has no rum! I just remembered! He was getting a refill when I told him James wanted to see him in the brig, and he never picked up his flask!”

Elizabeth still didn’t understand, so she drained the last of her current drink. And then she glanced down, and then she understood. “Oh, fuck.”

* * *


Withdrawal was already beginning to hit, Will noted. Jack was grumpy and keeping himself curled up instead of sprawling like he normally did, and his fingers had switched from idle picking at loose threads to concerted fidgeting with beads, rings, and anything else within reach.

Will’s watch confirmed that it was only a little more than an hour since the last possible time Jack could’ve gotten a drink. “Lush.”

“What’d y’say?” Jack’s head perked up to deliver an accusing stare at Will.

“Nothing.” Best innocent look. Sadly, Jack was still some years ahead in experience with that, and it was clear he didn’t believe Will’s employment of it. A change in subject seemed like a good way to divert Jack’s attention, so Will straightened up and made himself look as non-accusing as possible. “Jack, come on. James doesn’t pull stuff like this without a really, really good reason. Why?”

Despite Will’s care, Jack’s reaction was a glare at him, who damned well didn’t deserve it, and a mutinous growl. The man rolled onto his feet and prowled around the edge of the brig, re-examining the bars Will had just looked over, as if Will could’ve possibly missed something. Bastard.

“Goddamn it, Jack. Grumpy old men—” Will stopped and tilted his head, frowning. Now that had definitely been a flinch on Jack’s part.

All kidding aside, Will hadn’t taken seriously any mention from Jack about aging. Come to think of it, he hadn’t even really believed Jack’s talking about retirement, mainly because as involved as the man was now—and as much as he seemed to thrive on having his arms up to the elbow in something—it just wasn’t something Will could wrap his head around. Of course, Jack wasn’t really going to retire from anything except official duty, but still. He didn’t let go easy.

And there were still those occasional phone calls that seemed to get under Jack’s skin like nothing Will had ever seen do. The only explanation Will had ever gotten was by way of Elizabeth, who’d said she’d overheard Jack muttering about his father once, and that didn’t make too much sense by itself.

“Though all right, I don’t have much experience with fathers,” Will muttered, letting his head fall back against the wall. “Since mine’s been dead for over a decade now.”

“What?” But this time, Jack sounded slightly nicer about it. Possibly even worried, once Will had taken a good look at his face.

Well, it seemed as good a time as any for a second try. So Will started to ask again why they were in a stupid brig with no champagne, then reconsidered. His small devious voice suggested a slightly modified approach, which his practicality seemed to prefer. “You aren’t…what, frightened of growing old, are you? And I’m not trying to be insulting. But you know, I do hack the backfiles sometimes and read all about how most agents ‘retire.’”

It worked. Jack grinned a little and flopped down in front of Will, somehow landing already cross-legged. He set his hands on his knees and leaned forward, eyes half-closed so he had more than a slight resemblance to a cat about to demand an ear-rubbing. “An’ what? Are y’worryin’ I wouldn’ be capable any more?”

Snorting, Will flicked a glance between Jack’s legs. “Not a chance in hell. You’ll be fine till the tides stop rolling in. At least, you’d better be. Lizzie’s not all that great around lecherous old men, and so far, my encounters haven’t been much better.”

Equally amused, Jack abruptly fell forward, but twisted before a surprised Will could catch him and grabbed Will instead so they both ended up lying on the floor, Will neatly tucked over Jack. Then Jack thumbed Will’s nose and ran fingers inside Will’s collar.

“You—didn’t actually have to prove that point,” Will said, struggling to get up. The knee slowly rubbing its way up the inside of his leg was very, very distracting. “I believe you.”

For some reason, that clouded over the other man’s face, and Jack suddenly ceased all groping, much to the dismay of Will’s prick. “Nice to hear someone does.”

* * *


Tom rounded the corner right into Theodore’s arms. “Oof!”

“Sorry. Make it up to you?” Theodore’s hands lost no time in wandering up under Tom’s shirt, which had come untucked sometime earlier—when he was dodging Harper with the snow machine, he believed.

His lover’s palms were warm and strong, fingers long and dextrous, but the situation was dire. With an effort, Tom smoothed Theodore’s hands back out. “Not now—”

“Oh, God!”

“—and why is the closet shouting with Bush’s voice?” Not that Tom truly needed someone to tell him the reason for that, but saying the words gave his mouth something to do besides zero in on that wet red stain on Theodore’s lips. Someone had been imbibing the sangria with a vengeance. “Never mind. We’ve got a problem. Horatio and Elizabeth locked them up without rum.”

The sobering effect that immediately had on Theodore was amazing to watch. He seemed to swell upwards a few inches, his flushed cheeks went as red as Scarlet’s nails, and his eyes as wild as Giselle’s hair after an all-nighter. “What! Those idiots! I knew we should’ve talked James into taking an active part!”

“Talked him into doing what?” The closet door swung open and Alexander’s inquisitive face popped out. Behind him, a shadowy, slumped figure was panting and struggling with loose trousers.

“Being the one to get Sparrow into the brig. Norrington and Hornblower are the only people Jack wouldn’t suspect trickery from, for obvious reasons. But Norrington said we were responsible for actual implementation, and Hornblower somehow managed to separate Sparrow from his rum. You cannot possibly imagine how disastrous this is,” Theodore answered, jaw clenching on the middle of each word. He rarely looked more upset during firefights.

Alexander’s eyebrow went up, but otherwise he didn’t seem to be comprehending the magnitude of the error. “So can’t someone just pass a bottle through the bars?”

Of course, he hadn’t worked very often with Sparrow—Norrington mentioned something about piracy and privateering and never mixing the two if the world was to survive—but nevertheless, he should’ve learned better than that by now. If only by proxy.

Theodore didn’t deign to answer that, but merely whirled about and stalked out, dragging Tom with him. Which brought to Tom’s attention that Theodore was probably quite drunk; usually he exhibited a reflexive respect for Alexander’s title.

Or he was fucking pissed off, as Anamaria would say. Tom prayed very hard that Jack Sparrow wasn’t having a similar reaction.

* * *


“And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?” Will asked, tone doubtlessly meant to be delicate. He’d do better to leave that kind of sarcasm to Elizabeth, Jack mused.

“Don’ take offense so easy, Turner—it’s not you.” Jack feathered his fingers through Will’s hair, doing his best not to catch any of the strands on his rings. Didn’t quite make it, so he settled down to pick them free. It gave him a way to work down the itch trying to scratch out of his skin, anyway. “Bloody Jaime. He’s worried we aren’t relatin’ well t’each other. Never thought he’d go for this as a solution, though.”

Will snickered and nuzzled at Jack’s throat. “Is more your style.”

The other man was suddenly nice and loose on top of Jack, in great contrast to earlier where Will had been spikier than a porcupine. For such a steady, reliable man, Will could show just as broad a band of moods as the sea.

And Jack liked that about him, just as Jack liked that about the sea. It kept life interesting. But he supposed that James might have a point, if the point the whole bit with the brig was intended to make involved not letting the storm swing too far into the sails. Or something like that.

Hell, he was getting old when he couldn’t remember his own damn sayings. “Damn it.”

“’m just curious, so you don’t have to answer,” Will was mumbling. Seemed that he was rapidly succumbing to Jack’s…inadvertent petting. “What’s it like, having a living father around?”

Jack stiffened. He didn’t want to for many reasons, among them being he didn’t want to disturb Will and he damned well didn’t want that kind of reaction to that word, but he did nevertheless.

“M’father’s not a prime example,” Jack stalled. “Maybe y’should ask…well…ah…”

Will lifted his head to throw a sardonic look at Jack. “If you say James, I’ll hit you. Michael Norrington’s a bastard. And interestingly enough, the number of intelligence operatives with living parents is very low.”

“Not surprising, though. If they weren’t fortuitously dead, I’d bet th’offspring wouldn’t waste time ‘bout fixin’ that.”

As soon as Jack said that, he regretted it because Will’s interest instantly sparked. The other man tugged himself free of Jack’s hand and propped himself up on Jack’s chest, firmly enough so that Jack wouldn’t be able to wriggle free. “And what do you mean by that?”

* * *


Sometimes James had to wonder whether staying in the Navy would’ve been a better choice, at least where his sanity was concerned. He was certain that military service would’ve resulted in far less chaos in his life. “Horatio…”

“I’m sorry! I—” the man tried to bow his head, stepped on a clump of snow and slid right into Archie’s lap. “I mucked up, sir, and I’m most apologetic for it. If you think necessary—”

James parted the fingers covering his face just enough to make eye contact with Archie. “If he’s had more than two glasses…”

Kennedy nodded and solemnly bent to the task of shutting Horatio up. Or sobering him to the point where his normal keen intelligence would start working again. Either way, the two men were dangerously straining their chair.

Rustling clothes and a whiff of citrus perched on the table, beside James’ elbow. When he looked up, Elizabeth had her arms folded across her chest and appeared to be swallowing a boulder. “I think,” she slowly said, “We need to tell Anamaria before we do anything else. She’ll want to know why Jack’s revenge streak is acting up. Will be acting up. And why Will won’t be gracing our beds any time soon.”

“No need. Groves was kind enough t’mention it,” snapped a new voice. Anamaria stabbed in, her stiletto heels crackling through the little heaps of snow that coated the threshold of the cabin. It was possible that James had seen less happy people, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember when. “Y’damn fools did what?”

Bush slipped in behind her and quietly eased Horatio and Archie out, the lucky bastards.

Frowning, James shook his head and adjusted his mental language. Swearing wasn’t going to help, and not only because his linguistic abilities deteriorated with alcohol consumption, while Jack’s only seemed to grow even more impressive. “We attempted to resolve an internal, personal conflict using direct-intervention methods before the situation began to adversely affect working relations.”

Elizabeth let out a nervous laugh. “See, this is why you’re commander.”

“Because his bullshit’s golden? Merde! Fils de putains!” Arms waving, Anamaria stomped around the table to the wet bar, where she dug around with much clinking and clattering. It was briefly amusing to watch Elizabeth’s eyes detour appreciatively to how Anamaria’s minishirt pulled taut against her buttocks.

When Anamaria straightened up again, she was holding two things: the keys to the brig, and a full bottle of rum. “Goddamn it, I’m not havin’ a bad New Year’s. Y’sit there an’ don’ move so y’don’ do anything else. I’m goin’ t’handle Jack.”

Then she stalked right back out, while in her wake James and Elizabeth shrugged at each other. Elizabeth cocked her head. “Aren’t you usually more active than this?”

“When I’m not so drunk that I can keep people from freezing my feet to the floor.” Come to think of that…no, a quick test showed that they were still stuck. And, to judge from the odd lightheaded feeling James was having, that the sangria had been considerably stronger than he’d assumed. His mind continued to insist that if he attempted to stand, the sheer quantity of liquid in him would somehow commune with the sea and sweep him off his feet anyway.

Possibly he’d been listening to Jack too much. “Morning is not going to be pleasant, is it?”

Before she answered, Elizabeth downed half a glass of punch. Then she rose and kicked shut the door, then returned to climb purposefully onto James’ lap. “Considering that the only sober people on this ship’ll be Will, Jack and Anamaria? Hell, no. Your fly isn’t frozen as well, right?”

* * *


Jack was speculatively eying the ceiling. “Gotten quiet. Peculiar. Very peculiar.”

“You stalling isn’t anything peculiar, but I’m not going to put up with it, either.” For good measure, Will humped himself further onto Jack. Worked a hand between them and felt out the possibilities. “Come on. You never really say things by accident; if you didn’t want me to know, you would’ve been more careful.”

The possibilities were rising quickly into the realm of reality, Will was pleased to feel. Plus the squirming Jack did was helping Will’s mood along as well. “Brat. Y’should have more respect for y’r elders.”

There wasn’t an answer to that that Will could deliver with a straight face, so he just kept his mouth shut and his fingers busy. Jack started to look a bit desperate, and his hands sneaked onto Will’s hips. “Y’know I was a pirate?”

“Hmmm.” Will fiddled his fingers around and through and past till Jack’s clothes were out of the way. That got him a nice low groan, though Jack spoiled his triumph a second later by twisting to bite at Will’s neck. “Fuck.”

“Well, ‘s a bit of a family tradition. Sorta. Given I didn’t know what m’father did till I’d already gotten m’own name.” Every word was another nibble at Will’s throat, and when Will tried to retaliate by massaging harder, Jack merely sucked hard at the point of Will’s jaw. His grin was easy to feel. “He’s still in it a bit.”

Will pressed his tongue hard against the roof of his mouth to hold back his whimper. But if Jack kept licking like that…“Guess you don’t need to worry about slowing down, then. If you take after him—”

“I’d better not.” The fingers on Will’s hips clenched, making Will lose his balance. There was a moment where they were both lost in sudden hot pressure, and then Jack recovered himself. Went back to laving Will’s jawline. “M’father’s a pirate like they don’t make any more. Beholden to nothing and no one.” Strangely enough, Jack sounded condemning. “He can’t understand why I haven’t cut and run yet.”

And Jack’s diction was getting clearer. Less slurry, while Will’s brain seemed determined to melt. Nevertheless, Will made an effort to think. “Cut and run…”

“I don’t—actually like working for the CIA. ‘m proud of what I do, of everyone, but I’d just as much do it on my lonesome as do it because they’ve got their damned claws in me. And they do.” Jack’s caresses slowed, but grew harder, like he was trying to memorize texture. “If I wanted to get out, I’d have to pitch everything to do it. Pearl, people…”

Will turned his head to kiss Jack’s fingertips, but kept his eyes squarely on the other man. “And your father would do that.”

Jack nodded, face tilting back into a shadow. Then he rolled out and flipped Will over, suddenly ravenous in the crook of Will’s throat, beneath Will’s shirt, between Will’s legs. It was like holding onto a storm, and trying worked just about as well as if Will were standing in the Pearl’s bow, flinging out his arms like some idiot movie. So he stopped trying. Just rested his hands on Jack’s back, let them float on the twist and bend of muscle till cotton changed to silk skin and sweat rubbing beneath his fingertips.

And it was worth it, because then he could just concentrate on the rasp of Jack’s beard over fresh bites, the graze of lips on his chest and throat, hands cradling his hips so their pricks were riding it out together, pressed alongside to each other too close for air. Will’s head filled with white, doused to black, and then faded back in to rich dark color.

Anamaria looked amused. “Guess they weren’t too stupid, after all.”

“Hmm? Y’weren’t in on it?” Jack dabbled a hand through the mess on his and Will’s bellies, then tasted it. Thoughtfully rolled his tongue around his mouth while Anamaria made faces.

“I ain’t stupid,” she snorted. Click, click, and then she pulled open the door. Set what looked like a full bottle of rum by it just before pivoting to go. “An’ I ain’t helpin’ with body disposal on New Year’s Day, so play nice.”

Will grabbed at Jack, and surprisingly enough, given the proximity of rum, Jack stayed. “I’m glad,” Will said.

He meant to say more, maybe apologize as well, but somehow his mouth wouldn’t work. Jack kissed him anyway. “Happy New Year’s, Will, an’ may we all be ‘round for the next one. But…”

“Right. Rum and revenge.” Grinning, Will smacked one on Jack again before letting go. “Come on, my revered elder. I’ve got ideas.”