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Perception

by Dove

 

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There was, James was certain, a Perfectly Logical Explanation for Everything. None of it seemed to make sense at the moment, and he couldn’t remember a word of Jack’s argument, but he did remember that it was, well, logical. Perfectly. Which was good, because there were a great many things about the situation that seemed to defy rational explanation. Knowing that such an explanation existed was comforting, even if he couldn’t quite remember the particulars of it.

Take, for example, the matter of his wig. It was perched, with an alarmingly haphazard air, atop Jack’s own haphazard hair. Normally, James was sure, this would be quite an alarming position for a Naval wig to find itself in. But Jack had explained… something about the weather… and the moon… and a gypsy? No, the gypsy wasn’t for the wig. The gypsy, maybe, was for Jack’s hair.

James needed to clear his thoughts; they were strangely soft around the edges, blurred like one of Jack’s sketches left in the rain. He tilted the bottle of rum, and spilled a bit as he drank deeply. The trails slipping down his neck were cool mirrors of the swath burned inside his throat. Rum. Yes, rum… and the wig. The two thoughts swirled around each other in his brain like the rum swirled in his belly, and then made a tenuous connection.

Rum, and the wig. He’d swiped the bottle from Jack… and Jack had snatched the wig in retribution. “Only fair,” he’d admonished, black eyes snapping with laughter. “If you are to sport a pirate Captain’s rum, then someone must play the role of Commodore tonight… and I can hardly do that with me own lovely hair, now can I?"

It wasn’t the sort of thing he was naturally inclined to agree with, James reflected, but Jack had a disturbing ability to make anything sound like a good idea. Especially when James had been drinking. Or when he wanted to be convinced. And that, he realized, was exactly the problem now. It was hard to persuade Jack that it would be wrong to take advantage of the Turner lad when he wanted to, nearly as badly as Jack wanted it.

For his part, Will wasn’t helping much. The boy was so straight-laced, so entrenched in his ascetic lifestyle, James suspected he’d never even indulged in the occasional drink before meeting Jack Sparrow. Drinking was not a hobby one should pick up after meeting Jack, James thought, grinning ruefully. Clearly, the man had perfected the art form, and mere amateurs could never hope to hold their own.

Will, sprawled across the bed, one arm outstretched and the other tracing lazy, inviting circles over his chest, illustrated this point perfectly. James, at least, had the good sense not to try to keep up with Jack’s drinking. Will would learn.

Jack’s habitual grin stretched impossibly wide as he pointed at his drunken disciple. “He did, James, say both of us.”

“Jack. The boy can’t even stand. He can’t possibly know what he’s saying. Surely he didn’t mean…” James’s voice trailed off. One thing to contemplate it, but to say it out loud would only encourage Jack, he was sure of it. Might even be taken as acquiescence—Jack would do nothing without James’s consent, but he was not particular about what he would accept as a token of permission.

Jack slung an arm over James’s shoulders, looking into his eyes with keen interest. “Didn’t mean what, love?”

James frowned and brought the bottle to his mouth again, tipping it only to discover, to his consternation, that there was, in fact, no bottle in his hand. Jack pulled the rum away from his lips and handed it back to James. “Didn’t mean what you’re suggesting,” James answered weakly, as his own arm snaked around Jack, holding the slight frame closer to him than was strictly necessary.

“He said, James, ‘I’ve taken you each apart… I could take you both together.’ It seems rather unambiguous to me.” Jack’s hand slipped higher, companionably squeezing James’s neck. “Look at ‘im, Jamie. That is the very picture of a man offering himself to you, if ever I saw one. And I’ve seen several, mate. Are you made of steel, James? He’s asked you for it…”

“He was talking about swordplay, Jack.” James’s voice was cracked, and he could hear the desperate longing bleeding through. He wanted it to be true, but Jack had never let him be anything less than honest.

“Nonsense, James. You know full well that whelp never bested me at swordplay.”

James did know this, and it left only one possible interpretation of Will’s confident declaration. Still he hesitated, not sure, and the rum was trickling out of his mind, leaving him cold and uncertain.

Will opened his eyes. “James?” he asked quietly. He looked around and his eyes landed on James. “Waiting on you, James,” he murmured, and crooked his outstretched hand.

The next day, James would claim that Jack had pushed him. Jack, equal parts indignant rage and shameless glee, would claim that James had leapt on the boy, and pulled Jack helplessly with him. But that argument was for the morning, and for the moment, it was tossed aside with the wig and the rum, inconsequential in the heated tangle of limbs and lips.
 

 

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