dawned clear and unseasonably cool, which Will knew, because he'd been
unable to sleep all night. It was too cold for sleep in the belly of the
Pearl; he missed the solid warm heat of the forge, and the combined
rustling and twitchings of dozens of men made his teeth itch.
He was slow, and stumbled through his duties in the morning, fouling lines,
dropping shot, and generally making enough of an ass of himself to call down
Jack's ire. "For christ's sake, boy," Jack shouted, "I should've left you
behind and taken the girl. At least she could row!" It stung, and the
mention of Elizabeth caused guilt to flare hot and fresh in his chest.
For the first couple of days, nobody would speak to him. When they began to
talk, he wished for silence. There were more cutting remarks at mess; jokes
at Will's expense about lead-footed blacksmiths and eunuchs and the
captain's pretty new pet. Jack did nothing to quell these rumors; when he
heard them, he laughed loudest of all, and Will blushed and turned back to
his paltry meal and tried not to wish for fresh bread and oranges and sweet
He tried to approach Jack about it, but Jack had no time for him suddenly,
and whenever Will tried to catch him alone, he got brushed off with a
strangely pitying look.
Today had been the worst, somehow. It wasn't outstanding in a series of
horrible days since he'd joined the crew--certainly, he hadn't gotten
tangled in the rigging today, but then, neither had he been able to loosen
the knots on the staysail, his hands too slick with blood from the climb.
The high point was definitely the fight with Cotton's parrot. Which he lost.
"Pfft," spat Marty. "Serves ya right," and he'd snatched the shirt from
Will's hand and tucked it carefully into the bird's nesting box.
By the time the sun went down, he'd decided to quit; he could go home, go
back to his old life, and never live through today again.
Will slipped out of his bunk and made his way to the captain's cabin,
determined once more to tender his resignation to Jack. He'd tried every
night so far, but Jack could be persuasive, and had managed, each time, to
convince Will to stay for just one more day. Vowing not to be swayed this
time, Will knocked on the half-open door, and Jack looked up from his
writing, not in the least startled to see him there.
"William," he said thoughtfully, then stood and walked to the door. "Come
Will stepped into the room and found himself slammed up against the door
even as it was swinging closed. "Ja--Captain, what--"
"Shh, Will, hey," Jack pressed Will's face between his hands. "Tomorrow, eh?
Tomorrow will be better." He leaned in for a kiss, light, gentle, then
hungrier, pulling Will against him while pressing him against the door.
"Tomorrow," Will found himself promising, his lips brushing against Jack's,