Author: Guede Mazaka
Will Turner got to the damned island aboard the backs of two sea-turtles, so it stands to reason that James can get off it and back to Port Royal without the help of a few damned pirates. And damned Jack Sparrow surely is now, and no matter what he was when he was standing on that parapet and James’ chest was swelling up, ribs near to bursting from wrapping round a failure on all counts but goodness and honor.
What James should have done, he thinks, was take his pistol and blow out Jack damned Sparrow’s brains the moment he’d first seen him.
Yes, James has made his choices and his bed, and no, he won’t abrogate his share of responsibility for the consequences, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a saint. He won’t take any more than his fair share of the blame, and perhaps his fair share of the blame was enough to let Jack slip out of yet another fight, but it’s not enough to make him forgive the man. If Jack were dead—if he’d never existed, then certainly James wouldn’t know what it’s like to drink out of a pig trough and be grateful. Certainly he wouldn’t know what it’s like to have hemp ropes rip his hands to shreds day after day after day, and then have to smile and beg and bend—
--“Not there,” James snapped.
“Have something ‘gainst tables? I always was partial to one myself. ‘ve had many a fond memory…”
“Good for you. I’ll take the wall.”
--for a place to sleep on the crowded deck, for safety against those as would cut throats in the night for a copper coin. James was born privileged and though he has had pity for those less fortunate, he’s not interested in expiating his relative good luck by sinking to their level. He’s certainly, certainly not interested in having to compromise himself…no, it wasn’t even compromise, it was worse…any more than he absolutely has to, as dictated by the needs of survival. Not ever again.
Jack Sparrow, a good man. Good enough for her; even Will Turner was good enough for her, but James wasn’t. He wonders now, since Elizabeth’s seen him, scraped the mud off of him, stood grimacing by while he vomited his last meal and his dignity all over the bloody place, if he’s good enough for her.
He did love her, he’s sure of that. But yes, that can partly be laid at his doorstep as well because obviously he didn’t love her enough to go after her through fire and storm. He didn’t love her enough to cling to the thought of her while clawing through the surf, mouth full of sand and eyes full of a wrecked ship. He didn’t love her enough to mutter her name like a talisman, an obsession, a curse beneath his breath when he was killing men for a hunk of bread, when he was crouched in a filthy hole, bleeding all over himself while his would-be murderers scoured the town around him.
“Interesting…scars, mate. They hurt still?”
The wood hurt. The strain of holding himself up against it hurt. The places where the ornaments and baubles of Jack’s hair dug into his arm because he had them wrapped round Jack and he couldn’t let go in the middle of this hurt. “No, Jack. Come on. Get on with it. Captain.”
Jack frowned, smoothed his fingers over the rough ridges and James almost sighed more because it felt good than because he was boiling up with bile inside. “Now, mutual pleasure’s more my style. I do try to be fair.”
And fine. Fine. James could do that. He could do better than pretend; he could sink into it and lose his mind in the moment, forget he was even here except for the press of hands and mouths and the slow teasing slide of Jack’s prick up the inside of his thighs. Jack was rum, and rum was forgetfulness.
It felt good this time, so good. It filled up the gnawing hollows and plugged the gaping holes and he could honestly clutch at Jack’s shoulders, head thrown back to stare at the ceiling, and think he was enjoying this. He was.
Elizabeth’s still beautiful to him. She has that something that he knows now will always dig beneath his skin for his attention, because in this miserable world the gold is so rare and she is gold. She’s another treasure that he lost and will never regain, just as he’ll never regain that moment when he faced a famous pirate and he lost and he felt lifted by the loss. He felt like a good man.
He’s not, of course. And she’s not any better, no matter how gold she is. Gold bleeds, winks and spins just out of sight to lure on men to their deaths better than any so-called mermaid. It’s a wonder Jack’s not learned that yet, or maybe he has and he just doesn’t want to listen.
James has learned it, and has had to listen, and now when he has a chance to watch, he does. Elizabeth’s good at who she is and what she does because of it. She has more of James’ respect than Jack does now, knowing as James does how fragile one’s notions of one’s self can be. She isn’t likely to break beneath herself any time soon, whereas anyone with half a brain can see that Jack’s lost—truly lost now, like a babe in the woods. A babe at sea, and oh, the waves sing no sweet lullaby, but in truth they only know the sounds of the dirge that swells before death’s vicious approach.
“I’d like to go ashore with you to dig up the chest,” James said.
Jack looked slightly askance at him, but James’ hand was moving up Jack’s thigh and the pupils of Jack’s eyes shrank, unfocused themselves. “Thought you didn’t believe in it, mate.”
“Thought I’d watch you lot fail and then sit down for a laugh. I haven’t laughed in a while.” Which was the utter truth, and rolled off James’ tongue like it. He bent down to lick along the line of Jack’s hip and Jack hummed, threaded his hands through James’ hair.
“Now that is a true shame, love. Life’s not much without a good laugh at it,” and Jack almost sounded genuinely kindly. He was eeling himself downwards, body sliding by and against James with purposeful pressure, and James was already concentrating on the rum in Jack’s skin, in his mouth. “Ah, well, someone’s got to carry the shovel. That ain’t beneath you, is it?”
“Not as far as you are.” That was a truth, too, because James had pushed himself up to straddle the rum-hazed figure under him, and he said that with a smile.
Jack didn’t listen correctly, of course. He just reached up and stroked the side of James’ face, nice and loving and tender. “Lovely smile. S’pose I’ll have to bring it out more often.”
James is asleep, he knows. He sleeps in the garrison at Port Royal, and if it’s not his old quarters it’s still close enough to tempt him with the old familiarity, long since enshrined in golden longing in his memory. His bed is soft, and his belly is full, and he knows he’s alone in the room because he braced the door after he locked it. He’ll have to grow to trust Beckett on some level as they’ll be working together, but he’s past the time when he did so on instinct, or on sight.
“Oh, I’m real enough, mate,” Jack says. He sits crosslegged on James’ thighs, low down enough so that James can move to sit up, but the weight of him is persuasive. He looks like always, no signs of violence on the v-shaped patch of smooth bare chest, the length of throat, the slender wrists folded in his lap. “You don’t have to trust in that.”
After a moment, James nods and smiles, and he can see in Jack’s face that this time, yes, Jack’s listening and learning because Jack flinches. James smiles, and smiles, and smiles. “No, I know, don’t I? You’re a dead man.”
“Unfortunately.” Jack makes an elegant shrug and leans close, his hands fluttering towards James’ chest. They’re cold, but bearable compared to what James has had to suffer before. “And—”
“And I’m a dead man, which is how I know. But I’m going to be alive again soon, Jack.” James feels his mouth twist against the words, around them. He leans forward himself, pressing Jack’s chill, and Jack retreats. “You won’t take my life from me this time, so go.”
He doesn’t really expect to touch anything when he seizes at the other man’s shoulders, but to his surprise, they’re solid. This doesn’t change his intentions, though, and he continues to press his mouth hard against Jack’s, forcing it till Jack parts his lips and meets James’ tongue with his own. It’s so cold and James is freezing now, an arrow of ice shooting down his throat before blazoning outward into the rest of his body, but he forces himself to stand it as long as he can. And when he pulls back, his lips are numb and so are his hands, but somehow he knows he still smiles.
Jack’s eyes are wide, but then they narrow. He cocks his head, looking long and deep, and finally he lifts one arm to trail a finger down the side of James’ mouth. “It was such a lovely smile. It was the one for living on with, but it’s been stolen away,” he murmurs. “Pirate.”
“Get out!” James shouts, and then he wakes up. The room still carries a chill, and he’s knotted up in the middle of the bed, shaking and clutching his knees to his chest. Eventually he lifts his hand to his face, and no, his mouth is in no curve.