Author: Thrift Store Junkie
Summary: Even when the adventure ends, there are still decisions to be made.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: Implied AU ending. Not really big enough to deserve a note, but I'd hate for anyone to have their fic experience spoiled by being confused and going "eh?"
The first time they kiss, Jack wears a crown and knows gold is not better than this.
Will had flung himself over to the pirate, clinging to his arms, pressing their lips together in a flurry of madness and need. Jack could taste desperation in the air since Will uttered the word "fiancé" and now it seemed all of it was pouring into him, as if the blacksmith (was he even a blacksmith anymore, seemed like a mighty fine pirate) thought he could be rid of it in the ache of teeth against teeth, skin against skin.
Jack is the first to pull away, flashing gold with his grin. "Very nice way to assure me that the curse was lifted, lad."
Will's eyes are wide and he breathes heavily through an open mouth, but Jack decides not to be bothered waiting for him to regain his tongue. They are alone in the caves together, with the Dauntless floating some miles away, but the piles around them take a life of their own and croon to him, and for a few minutes, the only noises are the clanks of discarded treasure.
"We should return to the ship." Will still sounds breathless. "They will come looking for us if we don't make haste."
"We?" Jack repeats. "Your plans are all your own, but my Pearl is waiting for its captain."
The air has a definite damp feel to it, as well as being chilly, but his face is still flushed. "Am I correct in assuming that you wish me to board the Pearl, as well?" Will asks quietly.
Jack does not turn around, but cheerfully calls back, "Ah, what use have I of someone that avoids all familiarity with pirates? Tough to avoid, they are, when you're on a ship commanded by one." He throws a string of beads behind his shoulder.
Will catches them. "I'm satisfied with the course my life is headed."
"Aye, anyone would be. Girl's run off and got herself engaged and you've an appointment with the gallows."
"I - "
A pause. Jack casts a glance his way and sees Will angrily staring at the ground, hands working fists in the front of his shirt, staining wet fingerprints into the fabric. His sword lays forgotten in a puddle, casts a gleam onto his neck, and Jack swallows as pale skin streaked with dirt gleams silver. Twist, release, repeat. "I want to help Elizabeth find happiness," Will finally says, against grit teeth. "I can't do it while sailing with a pirate."
"I understand completely," Jack shows his palms, voice a bit dry. "Here. Hold this, would you?"
Will looks up, tongue at the corner at his mouth, creases in his forehead. "I need to be there. With her, at Port Royal."
Jack sighs impatiently. "If you think the future Mrs. Commodore would rather see you dead above all else, then god forsake me to try and stop you from going back to your lovely little ship." He waves a hand at the cave exits, hollow and dark. "I've seen many turn away from the sea, and only a handful use the good sense given to them and come back. You're not the first man who pretends to be bound to the land," he says lowly, with what could almost be mistaken for a growl, "and you won't be the last."
When he gazes like that - detached, tired - there is no doubt that he is Bootstrap's son. "Elizabeth is most important," he says, almost wearily, and then walks away, leaving Jack alone in darkness and frowning, surrounded by gold that somehow seems less bright than it did before.
I'd die for her, Will had said, up to his calves in frozen water and features smoothed black by the shadows of the sea.
And Barbossa is glaring with cold, empty eyes as Jack thinks: you already are, mate.
"So the saying is true, then."
Will closes the window of the Dauntless quietly, shutting away the spray of the sea. "The saying?" he repeats.
Jack crosses the room, from where he had been making faces at a navy man's back, to sit on the bed. "Vouching for a pirate, no doubt managing to slip past three balcony guards on your way here, and now conferring with said - what was the term they used? - 'dangerous fugitive'. Where there be a Will, ye'll find a way."
He takes a moment to make sure the man rigidly guarding Jack's door is still turned away from them, and then gently pulls a chair to the bed, almost to the point that their knees are touching and he breathes deep and smells fire. Lingers like half-formed flames from a pistol. Exotic. "I feel as though I should apologize," Will says, but he's not quite sure whether it's for feeling this alive when he stares at skin charred gold, or that a noose waits in Jack's near future and somehow, the blame falls on his way.
"Are you the commodore?"
Will blinks, nonplused. "Eh?" he says eloquently.
"Are you the commodore? Were you the one to sentence me to a hanging?"
"Of course not."
"Then you've nothing to be sorry for," Jack replies, thumping his fingers on the table. "If you'd squared with your blood and joined me on the Pearl, we would be miles away, that's true enough. And yes, had you not knocked me over the head with something very bloody painful, Barbossa might have been killed a bit sooner and things would have been different. But look at it from my angle, savvy? If you had decided not to chase after Miss Swann, I would have sat in my cell for many-a dusty day and now my body would be limp and displayed on a block of wood in front of all your townspeople."
Will brings a finger to his chin. "So had I not fallen in love with Elizabeth, you would have been dead days ago."
"It's all in the way you look at it," Jack agrees.
The devil grabs hold of his tongue for precious seconds. When he speaks again, he is looking fixedly at the window in the door, watching the guard impassively. "If you were to allow me to join your crew, would it only be because of my father?"
Jack cocks his head to the side. Surveys him through dark-lidded eyes. "No secret that I owe your father a favor or two," he says, and from his lighthearted tone Will can tell he owes his father more than that, "But me captain duties come first. No one steps on my ship that can't carry his weight."
"And I?" Unmoving, staring at the pistol at the man's side.
"Unfair evaluation," Jack says smoothly, "because in a few hour's time I will, in fact, be too dead to captain."
"No," Will objects hoarsely. "I still insist this is no one's fault but my own. I have to be the one to correct my mistake." His arm twitches, crossed over where his sword usually claims place. "You will not hang tomorrow, Jack."
Jack offers an elegant roll of his shoulder, carefully watching from the corner of his eye. "'s not your place to decide when I die."
"Nor is it Norrington's!"
To which Jack has nothing to say. They sit quietly for a moment, and he can suddenly almost feel the smooth sting of the rope around his neck under a cloudless sky, imagines looking out at the sea and feeling the breeze on his chest that carries naught but a whisper, wonders if he can pretend that he's floating instead of gazing into an empty crowd with empty faces while slowing emptying out himself.
A hand is hovering in the air, but when he looks up, Will puts it back down. "You frowned," he tries to give an unfazed smile, "I thought maybe - "
"Thumpin' bastards, if I thought you were going to turn caretaker, I would have never considered allowing you on my ship. Unless," he adds, with a smirk, "you fancy yourself as a cabin boy."
"I? Cabin boy?" And the boy looks almost playful. "Surely my talents would stretch beyond that. If you doubt my credentials, go 'round and rouse the guards on the balcony, they can tell you of my skills in battle ... "
That playful mouth is, without warning, put to good use, and Jack feels something stirring in the pit of his stomach. This kiss has no boundaries, no ache behind it to rush the slow rhythm of tongues; it is long, smooth, and he rolls his neck and pink lips follow, chapped from the wind and coated in salt and heated like embers. His fingers dance over the nape of Will's neck, covered in a sheen of sweat; the candle flickers over his skin and it yields tan.
"I understand Jack," comes Elizabeth's voice from outside their window, and Will jerks as if to move away, but Jack captures his face between warm hands, "but Will - my father said he'd grant him clemency once we arrived on shore - "
"No." The scrubbed wood floor aides in giving what Norrington obviously thinks are impressive clicks as he paces. "Turner has already demonstrated his capabilities of lending a hand in the escape of a dangerous pirate. He will not be left unattended."
Jack laughs against Will's mouth, winds his hand through hair browned with mud and dust, and uses dirty fingernails to scratch over a lightly sunburned cheek. Outside, the dawn spills over the waters and reflects the sun while the horizon beckons them forward with a hand of red.
"Governor," Will says, and nods his head in respect.
"Commodore," Will says, and in Norrington's eyes he sees a reflection of the noose.
"Elizabeth," Will says, and his words are twined with sadness, his tone softened, and he has taken on the desperate look of a man with everything to gain. "I should have told you every day from the moment I met you."
"I love you," Will says, and it is a goodbye.