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{fic} Never Learned to Drown 3/4 | Pirates

 

~ * ~

 

Will dreams of an endless beach. White sand stretches as far as the eye can see, piling into dunes a few yards from the tide line. His feet sink into wet sand as he slowly walks in the surf. He hesitates to step beyond the water, afraid that he won’t be allowed.

 

There is no ship waiting in the distance, only him, the beach, the sky, and the sea. He feels a little unnerved that he appears to be in the Locker, he isn’t sure why he’s here. The tide fills the imprints of his feet. When he tries walking backwards to watch his vanishing tracks, he feels like a ghost.

 

“De rules don’ apply here, William.” Tia Dalma’s heavily accented voice is strangely welcoming. He turns to see her standing on dry sand a short distance away. “Come join me.” She holds out a hand, beckoning.

 

Hesitantly Will steps away from the surf. When nothing untoward happens, he continues to approach. “Tia,” he greets as he takes her hand. “Is there a reason for your visit?”

 

She leans into him, smiling broadly with half-lidded eyes. “Is a lonely life on de sea. I don’ wan’ you slippin’ from him heart.”

 

“What?” Will chooses to ignore how Tia’s fingers caress his hand and pull him ever closer until their breaths intermingle. Her dark eyes trap him and though he doesn’t feel himself falling into the gaze, he cannot look away.

 

“Yers no’ de only heart locked away,” she confides. “I won’ see you suffer Davy Jones’ fate. An’ mebbe I known you an’ fair Jack before.”

 

Very confused, Will asks, “What’s Jack got to do with anything?”

 

Instead of answering Tia leads him into a kiss, firm and gentle. Although startled, Will doesn’t push her away. She presses his hand to her breast and with her other hand slips into his open shirt and strokes the long scar. She runs her fingertips along his ribs and traces invisible patterns over his stomach. All the while she continues to kiss him, mouth slowly working to part his lips and slip her tongue inside. He eventually moves, surprising himself when he wraps an arm around her and presses closer. She lets go of his hand and explores his body with more determination.

 

Will palms her breast, cupping the softness and gently stroking his thumb over the bare skin not covered by her dress. Tia moans softly into his mouth, encouraging. Hesitantly, he pushes her bodice down. His fingers travel the exposed flesh with a light touch. She shivers. Her hands travel to his belt and make quick work of it, allowing her easier access to his breeches. When she first strokes him through his clothes, Will gasps and breaks away from the kiss. His eyes shut tightly, suddenly frightened to see the woman doing this to him. He thinks of Elizabeth, his wife, the only woman he’s lain with. Tia seems to sense his fear and her caresses gentle. She murmurs something indistinguishable into his ear.

 

He had not been completely unfamiliar with sex when he consummated his marriage, but he had never been involved with a woman in such a way. In the strained months between the kraken and the Locker, he had discovered many of the distractions offered in port, particularly where pirates were welcome. In dark alleys and cramped backrooms he learned the relief of visceral contact between men. Most encounters included frenzied jerk-offs or pricks in mouths. A time or two he’d taken a man over a barrel and watched in fascination how his cock disappeared into another man’s body. Despite numerous offers, he never let himself be taken in that way, though a few times his partner had fingered his hole. Even while he was angry and lost in a turmoil of emotions over Elizabeth, he had not betrayed her by lying with another woman, nor had he felt much tempted by the offers he received.

 

Now Tia presses against him, bare breasts flattening against his chest. He can feel a nipple against his sternum and is acutely aware of her thigh between his legs, her hand at his ass, and the other hand brushing the skin above his breeches. He knows she is fascinated by him, although he isn’t sure why, and can feel her desire to know him in this way. He also knows that she will not force him into this or protest if he declines. Only, he isn’t sure if he wants to turn her away.

 

After some time, she removes her hand from his waist and strokes her fingers over his cheek. She coaxes him to meet her stare. When their eyes meet, she says, “You owe me not’ing, William Turner.” Her hand moves to his chest, pressing against the scar marking where his heart used to beat. “You desire devotion ‘n I be no man’s ‘only.’ Whad do you wan’?” she whispers. “Your heart no’ lost, feel id ‘n find wha’ id tell you.”

 

“Why?” he asks, suddenly exhausted.

 

“Calypso pays her debts,” she says without further explanation.

 

The last thing he sees before he wakes is her smile and eyes lit with a spark of anticipation.

 

~ * ~

 

Before the sun gets very high Will guides the Dutchman toward the quiet song he recognizes belongs to the Black Pearl. He realizes now that he’s heard her before when alone with her captain.

 

While he watches the pirate crew scramble about in surprise, Norrington climbs the stairs to join him. Will turns to face the man, knowing they have words to say before their parting.

 

“Turner...” Norrington pauses for a breath, then starts again, “Will. I’ve been granted more chances than is my due... I thank you. This one I will not waste.” He seems about to say more but closes his mouth and glances away.

 

“Best of luck.” Will inclines his head towards the Pearl from which he can now hear a handful of familiar voices. “Do you care to swim or should I call one of the crew to take you over?” Norrington’s horrified expression answers that. Will feels a tiny smile grace his lips. “Very well, you should be on your way, I’ve work to do.”

 

Norrington offers a slight bow before turning away. Will watches him until he reaches the main deck, then approaches the rail to stare across the small distance of sea separating him from the Pearl. His gaze skips over most of the crew, momentarily noting Gibbs and Cotton and Marty, Pintel and Raggetti – all portraying surprise and a little fear. For a moment he eyes Barbossa’s dispassionate face – underneath the calm exterior, Will can tell the man is busy scheming and trying to fit this new situation into his plans. He catches a glimpse of Elizabeth before she slips behind the men – her love warms him, but her heartache and a sense of growing distance stings.

 

At the Pearl’s helm there is one man who meets his gaze.

 

Will stares at the other captain and remembers how many questions he’s wanted to ask. There is much left unsaid between them, he knows, and now it will remain that way. After a while, Jack seems to gather himself together, adapting his familiar self-assured manner. The pirate swaggers to the railing and hollers, “No dead o’er here, mate!”

 

With effort Will is able to speak around the suffocating lump in his throat. “I have a delivery. There’d been a mistake.” He indicates with his chin the man swimming away from the Dutchman. “I’m trusting you not to send him immediately back to me.”

 

Despite the recognizable posture of the Pearl’s captain, there’s something strange about Jack. From this distance Will cannot see the other man’s eyes clearly, but he can feel an emotional weight in that gaze and he aches with a sudden desire to understand. He fights against the urge to go to the other ship and demand that Jack explain everything—Why let Elizabeth distract him and leave him to sink? Why not attempt retribution for that? What had it been like in the Locker? What was his history with Beckett? Why pass up his chance at immortality? What was he thinking when Jones stabbed Will?

 

Why does it hurt more to look at you than it does when I look at her? he wonders. Will sucks in his breath, startled by the thought. The Dutchman murmurs that she can help him find the answers, but he’s terrified to explore why losing Jack is more difficult to accept than leaving his wife.

 

Someone shouts Norrington’s name in surprise and Will can tear himself away from Jack’s hypnotizing stare. He looks to be sure the former commodore reaches the ship. As soon as the Pearl organizes to take the man aboard, Will turns to his crew and calls them to make ready. He’s prepared to let the Dutchman set out right away for their next call, leaving the others once again with no goodbye. Fate seems not to want it that way.

 

“Will!” Jack’s voice, not Elizabeth’s. Reluctantly Will turns his head and is captured by the intent gaze. The pirate seems as startled as everyone else to have spoken. The crew on the Pearl have their eyes on the him, even Will’s men stop and glance between the two captains.

 

Will knows he should say something, even if it’s a simple farewell. The thought of silence between them reminds him of the long months without Jack before Beckett’s arrival and after the Pearl’s sinking. If he missed the man then, he doesn’t know how he will cope during the innumerable years ahead. This would be so much easier, he thinks, if removing the heart actually meant becoming numb. His ship moans sorrowfully beneath him, her worry washing over him.

 

For a moment he’s lost in the Dutchman’s echo of remembered emotions from her previous captain. When Will’s mind clears he finds himself staring into wide, dark eyes from a startlingly close distance. Stunned, he looks over his shoulder to see his father watching him from the Dutchman.

 

“Will...” Jack’s voice is accompanied by a tentative touch. Will flinches away, knowing that physical contact will undo him. He meets the other man’s stare and sees more than he wants to know.

 

Jesus. Don’t do this to me!

 

Jack drops his hand and licks his lips. After a few failed attempts he says, “Goin’ to shove off withou’ even a wave?” The tone is falsely light, doing nothing to mask the emotions the pirate unwittingly projects.

 

Pushing through the dizzying whirl of the other man’s inner thoughts, Will manages, “Alright. This is goodbye, then.”

 

The dark eyes flash with wounded anger for a moment before a cool mask falls into place. Jack tilts his chin up and purses his lips for a moment, considering. “Hmm. See you’re already gettin’ used to the heartless thing.” His hands dance in the air, motioning briefly to where his own heart is located. “I ‘spect you’ll be off doin’ deathly guidin’, then?” Will says nothing, too busy suppressing the sting in his chest. “Righ’. Hope I won’t be seein’ you too soon, mate.” Jack’s calm expression almost breaks at that. “Oh, and you’re welcome, by the way.”

 

Will feels all the words he could and should say jam in his throat. The easiest are, “Thank you.” He murmurs the phrase and feels a combination of relief and sadness from Jack. In the back of his mind, Will can hear the souls needing guidance calling for him, but they are dim in comparison to the here and now. “I... Jack.” He shuts his eyes against deep affection and heartache pushing him like a physical blow. “Damnit,” he hisses quietly, “stop doing that!”

 

He opens his eyes to Jack’s confused expression, watches it morph into a look of surprise as he moves closer, and then Will sees nothing but is keenly aware of physical sensation. Jack’s facial hair scrapes his nose and chin as he presses his lips to Jack’s. The pirate recovers quickly and responds, mouth open and hungry. There’s a rush of desire and hope that Will can accept only for a few moments. He feels like sobbing when Jack lays his hands on Will’s body.

 

You can’t! Will jerks himself back, denying the unexpected surge of emotion. His skin burns where he’d touched moustache and beard, a small distraction when he knows he can’t stay. He stares at Jack for a moment longer, then steps away, his next footfall landing on the Dutchman’s deck.

 

Turning abruptly from the sight of the Pearl, he shouts, “Make sail!”

 

As the Dutchman reluctantly dives into the sea, he staggers against a pain that cuts deeper than Jones’ blade. “Jack...” He allows the ship to wrap him in an embrace that provides a barrier against the rest of the world.

 

~ * ~

 

For days no one bothers him. Will calls out the occasional order, but the crew has been doing their task since before he crossed the Atlantic from England, and they don’t require much direction. Mostly he converses quietly with the ship and navigates the lost souls calling for help.

 

Inevitably the peace is broken. On the way to his cabin one night, Bootstrap catches up with him. Will allows the company halfheartedly and heads to the liquor cabinet instead of his bed. They sit across from one another at a table nestled into a niche close to the organ dominating the far end of the room. Bootstrap accepts the glass of rum but doesn’t drink until Will has filled his own.

 

Will waits silently, refusing to prompt the conversation. Eventually Bootstrap relents.

 

“Was ‘e why you didn’t say goodbye?” Will snorts. His father continues, “I didn’t know. You only talked about Elizabeth.”

 

Swallowing the remaining contents of his glass, Will avoids answering for a few moments. He pours more rum with a scornful twist of his lips. “That’s because there’s only been Elizabeth.” He lifts his glass in a mock salute to his naiveté and meets his father’s gaze. “For nearly a decade I could only dream of her. She drove away the nightmares of a storm and a ship with tattered black sails. I enjoyed my work, the town was friendly enough, and I could look up the hill to the governor’s house – and there sat my dream. What more could I want?”

 

Bootstrap watches him wearily, eyes full of remorse. Will fights the urge to shout that there is nothing to mourn. He doesn’t long for those days, he feels mortified to remember how oblivious and blindly love-struck he’d been. “I understood nothing of the world before Port Royale was attacked. The governor saw that I received a few years of education before I began my full apprenticeship, but words on a page... If I read about the Dutchman, do you think I could actually believe it? I never lived,” he confesses quietly, staring into his glass. “Circumstances led me to make arrangements with pirates. I didn’t like Jack, but I didn’t not like him, either.”

 

“Slipperier than a mermaid,” Bootstrap says with a slight smile.

 

“Every time I thought he’d given me up, he’d turn around and prove me wrong. I trusted him, decided I owed him his life for saving Elizabeth’s and my own.” The burn of old anger turns his stomach. “So when we next met I trusted him when he sent me to Jones.” Will’s fingers tighten around his glass. “I ignored my instincts warning of the danger. I truly believed that if anything were to happen, he’d bring me out of it.” He chuckles weakly, using bitterness to cover the pain.

 

Bootstrap stares into his rum. “Many a desperate man lookin’ to hold off death done plenty o’ reckless things.”

 

Will takes a long drink. “Women, too.” Anger flares again, this time at someone else. “She killed him. Elizabeth bound him to the mast so he couldn’t escape. And the kraken...” He remembers all too clearly the stench of burnt tentacles and dead men surrounding him. The air had been thick with death. He closes his eyes and can see the two people he considers most important kissing. Knowing the truth, he can now imagine how Elizabeth’s hands roamed lower and her body pressed in; Jack backed up, one hand behind him for balance before they hit the mast.

 

“We changed. I began to truly see the world when I watched Jack waiting for the hangman’s noose. The events Beckett set into motion confirmed it was time to look around.”

 

“What did you find?”

 

He thinks about his desperate search for Jack after the interrupted wedding. He remembers the frustrated affection that had followed him during that time, even when he’d woken trussed up and hanging from a pole. The strange thump sound of Jones’ walk lingers in his mind, and he recalls the chill that made his spine tingle when he first heard it. His back stings with remembered pain even as his mind jumps ahead to gaining the key and watching the kraken devour a ship from beneath his feet. On an isolated strip of land he’d dueled two men in attempts of claiming a mythical heart, only to discover later that his own had been misplaced when Jones’ went missing. The memory of traveling upriver to Tia Dalma’s overwhelms him for a moment with the hundreds of candles and mournful faces. He sees a flash of Elizabeth’s pale, guilty face before Barbossa descended the stairs. He remembers the arguments and planning, the long trip to Singapore, and even more arguing—

 

“Will?” The captain pulls away from the memories with an effort. Bootstrap’s aged face is full of concern. “Lad, what’s on your mind?”

 

It’s not so much what’s in his mind that disturbs him. The source is not a thought or idea. The moment Jack touched him, Will felt it all – a turmoil of emotions with an intensity he didn’t expect. Even now the particularly strong emotions continue to haunt him. He isn’t ready to explain his discovery.

 

~ * ~


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