Author: Guede Mazaka
The muscle beneath Jack’s hand is firm and smooth, with a long thin ridge slipping up from the lower left. Then it isn’t there; Will has jerked loose and whirled about, bottom of his coat slapping away Jack’s shin. Beneath the dark tan, the color in Will’s cheeks is a pale hard white, almost like bones coming through.
Will’s pupils had been wide, but now they narrow in recognition. The rest of his eyes stay wide and open in honest welcome, but he keeps his shoulders pulled back beneath his coat. “Jack! I didn’t hear you come up.”
“Distracted, are we, Mr. Turner? Thought you would’ve learned to be more careful of that now,” Jack says, and he moves, too. Tilts in towards Will’s side and Will pivots away to take one of the ropes in hand, ostensibly ‘gainst the pitch and sway of the sea. But Will’s long since learned to brace himself against that dance.
“Well, you’re always surprising us, Jack,” Will says back. And he says it with real feeling, that kind of thankfulness and relief in his eyes that always makes Jack feel a bit odd, considering the vast majority of people Jack’s met don’t like surprises.
Jack takes another step, brings their shoulders angled to each other instead of parallel, and Will leans to glance behind himself, towards Elizabeth minding the wheel. A touch of warm happiness curls the side of William’s mouth into the striping shadow of the ropes. It’s nice and all, maybe even pointing Jack a little towards sentimental, but it’s not why Will’s still swiveling to Jack and not the sea.
Will’s not presented his back once to Jack since…well, Jack hadn’t been noting all through that last storm of troubles, what with Davy Jones and Barbossa--Jack hates, absolutely hates, to admit but that man’s edging him in terms of cat’s lives—being slightly more needing of Jack facing them at all times. But it’s been a while. And Will Turner is the kind of man who turns his back to those he shouldn’t quite trust yet, and for him to be changing that disturbs Jack just a little. The world’s been spinning a little too fast for Jack lately, and he’s begun to suspect Tia Dalma’s right on one count: can’t hurt to have a little earth lying around.
At any rate, Lizzie’s turned too crocodile for Jack to safely bet on, and the pair of them are both too young and fiery and brilliant for him to count out, so he’d better have Will inclined towards him.
“I’m having a problem with our future course,” Jack says. He watches Will’s face, and curiously, there’s no panic like Gibbs who’s suddenly gasping over there. There’s a flare of something hot, yes, but it gets tied down quick into the kind of smooth tired patience that always makes Jack’s hands itch to try scratching, just a little. “Lizzie tells me you two want to make for Port Royal, whereas I do think I owe the crew a good spot of raiding—”
“So your compass is still working?” Will hitches his hands up the ropes, over his head, and leans back between them, his coat pulling snug over his shoulders. It’s a casual way to stand, maybe too unconscious of its pull for its own good…but there’s a touch of bone-white still playing about Will’s mouth, and a few moments later he eases his hands down a bit for no apparent reason. Except maybe to lessen the strain on his back, and that’s curious too, isn’t it?
Jack pulls up an offended look. “It never wasn’t working, and never mind whatever Lizzie’s told you this time.”
Elizabeth’s laughing and gold by the wheel, like a coin flipping in the air, and Jack doesn’t have to look to know that. He just watches Will look, man’s eyes ricocheting from her to Jack with that warmth still, but reserved in a certain way. “Well, forgive me, but I find that Elizabeth’s often more trustworthy,” Will replies, teasing lightly. “Port Royal’s not that far. If you want, drop us at Tortuga and we’ll make our own way back.”
“You can’t stretch your—”
“No, Jack.” Now Will hardens. His chin lowers instead of lifts, and his shoulders draw back again. The slight clench of his jaw there is easy enough to spot, as is the pain beneath it. “Our wedding’s been put off long enough. I won’t have it being delayed by any more of your misadventures.”
“Weddings…why you two are so eager to chain yourselves up when there’s a whole world to try out first, I’ll never understand,” Jack sighs.
Will shrugs, makes no argument but doesn’t appear to be amenable to swaying, either. His eyebrows do rise a bit when Jack ventures a bit more forward, as if to make their conversation more private. And maybe that’s a part of it too, but Jack wants to see more of a red color in Will’s face, and some of that stiff-backed know-nothing lamb he remembers. A year’s not so long in a man’s life.
“Don’t you suppose…” And Jack’s turning his head and letting his hands sail a bit closer to Will, and that would be a tinge of pink rising in Will’s face. “…it’d be wise to ask Lizzie her opinion? I don’t believe she’d mind a little…side-trip…if you were to—”
Jack’s fingertips come within a hair of coming down curling over Will’s shoulder, and then Jack takes a stiff arm to the chest as Will simply shoves his way out of the corner. Then Will’s turned around, moving easy again like it’s just a minor disagreement between mates, like he hasn’t just jumped away like a scalded cat.
“I’ll thank you to keep your side-trips to yourself.” Perhaps Will’s not so composed yet, for there’s bite in that and it snaps all the way up to the wheel. “Port Royal, Jack.”
“All right, all right, if you insist on being foolish…” Jack knows when he’s beaten.
* * *
And Jack knows when beaten means taking a step back and observing. Because if he was a bit puzzled before, he’s intrigued now. It’s a bad habit and he really should disburden himself of it—always wanting what won’t or can’t be wanted—but, well, he wants to know. He’s clear and certain about that.
He’s given Will and Elizabeth one of the cabins, not so much out of the generosity of his heart as because he is a captain, dammit, and a captain knows his crew. And they all like the Turner-Swann pair, they do really, but after long hard days at sea with solace from dice and rum, and none from the soft attentions of a sweet young thing, it’s a bit unfair to ask them not to be jealous of what’s right there.
Especially when the temptation’s as reckless and loud as this, seen through the peeping knothole on Jack’s side of the wall: Elizabeth with her long white throat thrown to the room, Will’s dark head cradled against the side of it. Her hands squeezing his arms, her knee hiked up around his thighs, and while skirts spilling out around them might be more proper, Jack for one is grateful for the impropriety because somehow, in between the kisses and the long, sliding caresses, they’re slipping out of their clothes and the dim yellow candlelight washes over Elizabeth’s pale skin. Her delicate foot floats as Will reaches beneath her, lifts her by the buttocks and there’s a glimpse of damp light-brown hair between her legs. Her toes are elegant, slender, curled so tightly that they’re begging for a warm mouth to coax them into spreading out.
But she and Will have no time for that, her hands dropping his trousers around his boots, his coat already folds of leather on the floor. And his backside’s a glory unto itself, lean and perfect, no markings on the well-turned curves of his thighs and calves that Elizabeth can’t seem to get enough of handling. He’s moaning now, and as she gasps, is pushed up the wall one last handspan, her fingertips slip over the curve of his arse into the cleft and Jack digs his nails into the wood planks in sympathy.
She throws her other arm up and over, high around his neck, and Jack sluggishly drags his mind back to the less aesthetic reason he’s squatting here like some shamed pervert (he doesn’t traffic with shame, thank you; he’s got to keep some standards). But it’s several minutes before Elizabeth’s worn out enough to let her arm slide to Will’s back, several long groaning minutes of these two rutting as if tomorrow they’ll die and the world will end, as if they and they alone have rediscovered the secrets of consummated lust, the taste of sweat on a lover’s skin and the feeling of blood welling up beneath the pressure of a desperate hand.
Then she tires, slides, and Will bucks her. She rattles her head on the wall a little, and her eyes open and stare but Will, with commendable stamina and poise, has managed to slide back into the moment and Elizabeth’s tacked too far into the wind to do anything but heel to him.
Besides, she’s got a head on her. She waits till later, when they’re picking at their clothes and she can reach out to the half-seen shadows beneath his wet shirt, the distortions running over his back. “Will—”
He lets her touch for a moment before he turns away, lets her feel long enough for her to guess and react, eyes wide and mouth open.
“Will,” she breathes. “Was it when—”
“Yes.” He clips his word roughly, and pulls his shirt down over his belly. The tails hang over his arse but part every so often to allow a peek at his prick, his balls, the drops of sweat nestled into the coarse hair.
Elizabeth sits and thinks, and he lets her. He throws his coat on before coming back to kneel down beside her, and she notes that, too.
“Let me see,” she abruptly says.
“No.” He’s a bit startled by himself, but less so than she is, and once he’s over it, he settles into dead certainty. He’s sorry about it all right, and asking her apology with the way he cups her cheek, but he’s not reneging.
She lets him pet her. Her fingers, splayed on the floor, all point to him. “We’re getting married. You can’t keep your shirt on forever,” she tells him, and it’s a brave attempt, all saucy chin tilt and glinting eyes.
But the glint’s a bit too wet, and the way he glances away shows that he was—practical, grounded Will—thinking about it at some point.
“Are we getting married?” Elizabeth asks, looking at the floor.
Will stares at the wall, so hard that Jack almost thinks he’s been smoked. But then Will turns and takes Elizabeth in his arms and gives her the kind of kiss that promises the end—or beginning—of the world. But when it’s over and done, and he’s looking at her, he’s solemn as a priest. “When the priest says I can kiss my bride,” he says, “I can do that, with all my heart. But I need to know, Elizabeth—how are you going to kiss me?”
At that point Jack sits back on his heels and drops the tapestry over the peephole, because there it’s going into waters he doesn’t want charted. Not that his current charts have gotten into any right order yet. He’s got a guess now, an idea of what Will’s carrying on his back, but still no good sense of what’s going through the b—man’s head.
* * *
It’s the God’s honest truth: Jack had clean forgotten about him. Of course, now that Norrington’s prowling the Tortuga street right in front of him, cleaned up but still pared down to lean and sharp, he remembers all that. Privateer now, which is why Jack happened to get out of the habit of minding him: privateers prey on merchants, same as pirates, only they’re a little more picky. No privateer in their right mind bothers chasing a pirate; they leave that to the poor dumb Navy fellows, who’ve no choice but to hang the easy riches and go for the scruffy, hungry, desperate down-on-their-luck seamen.
Of course, Norrington’s a very special case. Special like he still can’t properly slouch or stoop, like he stopped and stared thoughtfully when one of Jack’s men happened to stumble across the road over there, like he might’ve gotten more addled by his (temporary, and Jack suspects it probably was salutary overall for him) fall from grace than commonsense could fix. So Jack’ll just be following way behind, thank you, and not risk seeing that bright mad gleam come into the mostly-still-commodore’s eye.
Somehow it’s not surprising that the end of Norrington’s glowering stalk is Will, cozied up in a corner without his dear Lizzie. Jack remembers one sword swinging away from him to Will, and while Jack likes to chalk that up a bit to Norrington finally acknowledging the captain in Captain Jack Sparrow, he has to wonder a little. Especially if Will’s going to slouch like that, done proper and then some, like he’s curling around a nasty flash of heat and just waiting to let it loose on somebody.
“He actually brought you out of it,” Norrington says.
Will appears to be manfully restraining himself from an eyeroll. “Passage back to Port Royal for two. I can pay you in advance, and I know you’re making a run back anyway in a few days, so it won’t interfere with your new…occupation.” He really tries, he does, but Will can’t completely restrain himself. “How’s that working out, by the way?”
“Better than your attempts to get married.” Norrington signals for a drink. “I don’t suppose you’ve given one thought to how you’ll support her, now that Swann is out?”
It almost looks as if Will might give way to his temper there, and then Jack could step out now and go on his way with a sure foot, but no, Will resettles himself. The shadows hide his flinch—maybe. It’s hard to say with Norrington’s back to Jack, but Norrington’s by no means blind. Even if he’s ordering, as it happens, the drink the locals fondly refer to as the “Eye-screw.”
“Rum?” Will asks.
“I can’t drink wine anymore,” Norrington says back, snapping to cover his defenses. “Though you should know, it’s most certainly not the rum that’s responsible for him.”
Will laughs, and pulls himself up to sit with his feet flat on the floor. “I figured that out for myself. Rum’s too easy.”
He’s winced again, and this time the way Norrington’s dropped his shoulders and raised his head tells anyone watching that he’s seen Will do that. The shadows soften the shutters slamming tight in Will’s eyes.
“Two people, just to Port Royal, and a good solid payment, too,” Will finally says. He turns a bit more pointed as he goes on. “You could use it. I saw the ship Beckett gave you.”
“If you disappeared in Tortuga, I doubt you’d be missed in any important quarters,” Norrington replies, thoughtful and slow. Too thoughtful—if he’d really meant it, he would’ve acted on it by now.
Will knows this too. His hand doesn’t even move from its place on the table, and his hip stays leaning on his sword. In point of fact, he’s been growing calmer and calmer, and now seems almost amused, conspiratorial. Familiar. “Why can’t you drink wine?”
“Because I burned my tongue out on the awful liquor that’s all a disgrace can afford, and now wine tastes horrible to me.” Norrington takes a long drink right after speaking, and it’s not because he’s punctuating his point and it’s not because he needs to drown his words. He puts down his mug with a solid thump and nods to himself. “I’ll take you if you tell me properly, without leaving out anything or favoring Sparrow, what happened. What those things were. How to keep clear of them.”
“The last time, we were worried you’d tell the Navy, and the Navy would want something with the gold,” Will says.
“My letter of marque charges me with pursuing the enemies of England, not chasing fairytales.” This from Norrington with a twist of the mouth and a snort half-buried in rum. He cocks his head, apparently watching Will over the mug-rim. “Did you want to move somewhere where you’re not protecting your back? I’ll give you the grace of promising only to assault you from the front.”
Will blinks. So does Jack. Then Will does drop his hand to his sword-hilt, but it’s resting easily around the top. “Which one was supposed to be the proposal?”
“And I thought you learned something out there,” Norrington mutters. He throws down a few coins while draining the rest of his drink.
By the time he’s done, Will’s used his hand to push his sword out of the way and has gotten up and is halfway around the table. He pauses there to let Norrington go ahead of him, which Norrington does with a restless, mocking, seething swing to his stride. His shoulders move insolently beneath his coat, the wedges of the blades flattening again and again towards his spine in a taunt to bury a dagger there.
Will, either in newly-gained infinite wisdom or a dying echo of his former tactlessness, buys a bottle of rum on the way out and passes it to Norrington by way of using the bottle to tap right between those shoulders. He barely avoids having it broken by Norrington’s instinctive backstrike, then calmly presses it into Norrington’s hand.
“You ended up about as respectful as she is. A good match then, I suppose,” Norrington says. He doesn’t open the bottle, but he doesn’t give it back or throw it away, either.
In reply, Will manages to tell him about Davy Jones and the kraken and everything else in collected, comprehensible terms, and he manages to do it in such a way that when he’s done, they’re down in the relative isolation of the docks. Then he stands back, leaning one hip against a pile of crates, and eyes Norrington as the other man circles warily back.
Then Norrington stops. He knocks the cork out of the bottle against one of the crates. “Take off your coat and shirt.”
“That’s too high,” Will snaps, and for a second both Norrington and Jack are thinking well, that’s nothing new. But Will has hooked his thumbs into his waistband and is still standing there, watching Norrington, not running or flushing, and Jack understands Will actually meant in terms of spatial direction, not finances.
Norrington actually manages some real passion in his offense, and not just the veneer of bitterness. “Good God, Turner. My price was you telling me about Davy Jones, not—well, you’ve changed.”
“I’ve seen things.” Will shrugs, glances over the water at the slightly respectable end of Tortuga, where the inns are. “Elizabeth wants to go home and see her father, no matter what comes next.”
“And yet you’re still doing what she wants…well, I’ve seen things too. And I want to see one last thing. I want to see that you were on the Dutchman,” Norrington says, coolly and relentlessly. He waits, and when Will doesn’t make a response, he hangs his weight on his trailing heel to take a long drink of the bottle.
Jack makes a bet with himself on whether Norrington’s as raw and splintered as he seems, and if he’s got it in himself to go that last measure. It matters, because this will decide whether the Caribbean’ll have a new demon stalking its waters in a few years, if the man’s rage will rise to finish consuming what humanity he has left.
“I could ask Elizabeth, but I understand she was mostly clear of Jones’ horrors. And I could ask Sparrow, but he’s largely incapable of taking in the full impact of reality, so that’d be useless.” Norrington wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, then crosses his arms.
Will looks a long time at him, and finally Will starts to turn, lowering his head. The coat comes off easily. The vest less so, and then the shirt-sleeves slowly suck up Will’s arms, the tails crawl up his skin and finally over his head so the moonlight can bare the scars. He keeps the shirt bunched up on his arms, and his head lifts to level his chin after it’s free of the fabric.
For a while Norrington gazes with no discernible expression. Then he extends his foot, and takes the two steps so he can watch his hand float a bare inch away, frowning at it. “You had a compassionate flogger.”
“That’s what my father said afterward, once he’d finished,” Will tonelessly says over his shoulder. His eyes flick downwards. “That was the deepest one. It keeps opening back up.”
It is, indeed, a raw vicious pink sore in the middle of the paler lines that mar Will’s back. Norrington’s eyes fix on it, and for the first time he loses a little color. Then his mouth tightens and he pours a bit of rum into the hollow of his cupped hand. He doesn’t warn Will before he slaps it onto the sore, hard enough for the sound to ring. Jack can almost hear the flesh sizzling, the burn rising fast and hard in Will’s body.
Will winces and hisses through his teeth, but doesn’t quite move away, and Norrington does move, leaning so his head is well over Will’s shoulder and his eyes are closed, skin around them pulling into tight, flat wrinkles. His head slowly bows and then he draws a long breath.
“Does it make you feel better?” Will softly says. “Knowing that you’re not the only one who’s been the worse for helping Jack?”
Norrington flinches. His eyes open. “Where is he? The Pearl’s not in the harbor, but you just arrived. He can’t be far.”
“I wouldn’t know.” The words fall like stones. Will pulls back, has his shirt over his head and one arm through his vest before Norrington’s even finished rocking back on his heels. He slides sideways and away when Norrington reaches for him, same as he’s been doing to Jack and even Elizabeth. “If you’re not willing to give us passage, then say so already so I can go find another—”
“I’ll give you passage.” These words grind out of Norrington’s grimace as he collects himself, stepping back. Then he suddenly twists and flings the bottle away, not flinching when it shatters as Jack does. “I’ll give you passage, for all the good it’ll do you,” he grates out. “Since you’re still willing to pay.”
The man spins on his heel and walks away, and Jack’s just thinking about rising when he hears approaching footsteps. And he knows it’s her, even before he hears Will gasp and peeks over to see Turner clutching at his coat like a ravished girl.
“You never told me that happened,” Elizabeth says. She’s pale but steady, holding where it’d never be expected of her. Such a girl, she is.
“He died, and then we were off to bring him back. It didn’t seem like a good time,” Will wryly replies. He sits down on a crate, pulling his coat over his shoulders but not putting his arms through, and stares hopelessly as she comes over to his side. “All that I did—I’d do it again because it was for you. And in the end it doesn’t matter to me what you did, or why—or why you did it. But if it does to you…if you’ve any fault in what I—”
Lizzie breaks there and grabs for Will’s shoulder, burying her face in it. “Of course not! If anything, you should—you’d rightfully—”
“But I don’t. Not any of it. Not even—” Will sounds as if his tongue’s threatening to gag him, and Jack’s willing it along “—Jack. I thought you and he—”
“No, no.” She clings tighter, only relaxing when his arm drops around her. And then she snorts a bit. “My compass never broke. And oh, God, Will, as if I needed any more proof that he is a scoundrel and a pirate…I know what he is, and what you are, and I want you.”
‘Most,’ Jack mouths, but it’s a half-hearted effort. The marriage is still on then. Somehow this seems more of a barrier to him than it usually would’ve.
* * *
Will is finally surprised when Jack lopes up next to him—Elizabeth sent on back to the inn, Will’s got errands still to run—but not for nearly as long as Jack would like. Instead the man just sighs. “Don’t tell me Barbossa’s around, too.”
Jack raises an eyebrow. “Why, did you want to see him? Pardon, but I think we’ve got to have words about your taste in company…”
And Jack reaches out and puts his hand on Will’s shoulder, and Will lets him. But when Jack starts to move his hand down and back, something flashes through Will’s eyes. An iron grip snaps around his wrist, though Will’s still looking relatively friendly.
“I wouldn’t, Jack,” Will says, low and warning.
“Why not? What’s wrong with poor old Jack?”
Will stands and holds Jack’s wrist for a while. Then he finally pulls Jack’s hand off. “You’re a fairytale, Jack. A legend. You make the world brighter. What’s on my back is a nightmare.”
“I’m flattered, very, but I’m not made of china either,” Jack snorts.
“Neither am I.” Suddenly Will’s hand is a fist around his sword and he’s going white with rage, swaying on his feet and barely in check. He jerks forward, then back, and then breathes out as if he’s dragging the rage from himself with iron hooks. “I want to be friends with you, or at least—” touch of Norrington’s bitter nostalgia in that smile “—friendly to you, Jack. But don’t make me think that you really knew what you were doing, when you sent me over to the Dutchman. Don’t touch me like you—don’t turn into another one of them.”
And…Jack does understand, wholly and completely, from shallows to dark deeps. But only for a moment. Only for a moment’s all he can allow himself, all he knows he can survive before he is in real trouble and all the weight of the world as it must be, has to be, will be comes crushing the life out of him.
The moment’s over. He grins, and flicks his hand free of Will’s hold. “All right, all right. You’re too serious, Will. How you’ll ever survive marriage…but then, you can always run away to sea, I s’pose.”
Will smiles like it hurts him.
It doesn’t hurt Jack. He doesn’t even really remember, after a few moments, what even should be hurting. Except he’s got a thought that Davy Jones really was a silly old man, after all, what with that heart-in-the-box idea. Best just to learn how to do it and keep the heart where it is, instead of running the risk of having someone take off with it.
“I think this is farewell then,” Will says.
“Bye.” Jack waves, and Will walks away, and if nothing’s been gained, then nothing’s been lost either. And that’s good for Jack. It is.