Title: The Call
Author: Sparrowhawk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pairing: Jack/Will, Jack/Bill implied
Summary: Will remembers his father and the call of the sea.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.
Feedback?: Always welcome.
For most of your life you were your mother's son, quiet, respectful, obedient. A thoughtful child, giving to daydreaming, your mother kept you close by her side, convinced you might someday float away altogether. Like your father, her husband. He drifted into and then out of your lives like the tide rising and falling, though far less predictably. Summers, you remember, you saw him more often, when his ship sailed the cooler seas between your home and the distant colonies. Summers, you would sneak down to the forbidden docks and gape openmouthed at the flurry of activity, the tall ships with their expansive sails and unfamiliar names, the rough, loud, carefree men that crewed them. Your father was one of their kind, but he was a good man--everyone said so. Summers, you would wait for him to return, and listen to the bewitching song of the waves, and dream of the sea.
Almost always it was dark when he came home, while you slept in your narrow cot under the eaves of a modest little house not far from the water's edge. You awakened to his cheerful voice, a lively counterpoint to your mother's, as they talked the night away. Each time he seemed a stranger to you, but a familiar one. Each time, as you grew older, you remembered more of him. Tall he was, but slender, chestnut-brown hair pulled back in a tail and eyes the color of polished mahogany. Those eyes you recall more than anything else, bright under serious, level brows that belied the laughter in his voice. Eyes to turn a girl's head, your mother would say with a sigh. Eyes that had seen the wide ocean far beyond the little harbor where his ship would slip in unlooked-for, sleek and dark and faster than anything else on the water.
It wasn't his ship, actually, and you knew that, but as a child you would pretend it was. He would take you aboard, guide your eager steps across the gangplank and up to the helm, allow you to put your hands on the wide polished wheel that so intrigued you. You'd imagine a distant horizon and exotic lands, and you'd watch the ship's captain out of the corner of your eye. Watch him pace, talking with his hands, his black-rimmed eyes bold and mesmerizing. Sometimes he would ruffle your hair kindly in passing, though he paid little heed to children. He would lounge at the rail and chat with Father, leaning in close so their heads nearly touched, their voices sharing a similar lilt, rising in shared laughter. You wished you understood their joking so you could laugh too, and even though Father was there you felt alone somehow.
When Father was home you were his son, rather than Mother's, curious, enthusiastic, alive. Trailing after him as he went about his business ashore, puffed up with pride as he showed you off to all and sundry. "Boy's the spittin' image of you, Bill!" you'd hear, and share a conspirator's grin. Mother's smile grew tight-lipped at those times and you knew she didn't like Father's friends, didn't like their boisterous laughter and crude manners. But you did, and Father knew it, and he'd wink at you behind Mother's back and let you stay up late to listen to their tales. When he left again, as he always did, you'd lie awake and listen in the darkness for the soothing unending melody of the waves, knowing that somewhere far away your father heard it too.
By the time death released your mother's firm hold on you, it was already too late to follow your father to the sea; you knew he was lost, though not when or how. Then for a while you convinced yourself you could no longer hear the ocean's siren song. But in your dreams you never stopped listening for the sizzling hush of breaking waves, never stopped listening for soft footfalls late at night. Finally it was the ocean herself that brought the memories flooding back, her seductive call singing strongly through your blood as you lay wakeful in a sailor's bunk on a stolen ship. A ship stolen by you and a madman, or so you thought at the time. A madman whom, you soon learned, had not only known your father but sailed at his side for many years. A man, not as mad as he led others to believe, full of quirks and contradictions and unexpected revelations, unpredictable as a storm at sea.
You can remember this man, after a fashion, from your childhood, having pieced together vague recollections of a black ship and your father's long-ago captain. It was a short journey to find the good man beneath his pirate trappings and a shorter journey yet to his bed, seduced by eyes dark as a moonless night, canny, glittering, unfathomable. And now it's you beside him, in your father's place, and you wonder about many things. You wonder how your life would be different if your father were alive, and which of you would sleep in the captain's bed. You wonder if your father would be proud of you for living as a free man bound by no rules but the ones you choose to accept, the same path he followed. And you wonder what your mother would think of your life and your choices, and with a wry chuckle decide that you already know.
In darkness lit only by distant stars, cradled and rocked by the ever-changing sea, you listen to the lullaby of water against the wooden hull and the contented breathing of the man who is everything to you: lover, friend, family, captain. Though you are alone in the world, you belong to him and to the sea, and that is enough.
(31st of August, 2003)