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Proprietary Rights

by Dove


Fandom: PoTC    Rating: PG-13    Pairing: Jack/Will    Full Header   Proprietary Rights - 2


At first, he thought it was Will's youth that made him clumsy. Really, even at the tender age of twenty-five, Jack never would've been caught out by that (rather clever, he thought) move with the boom. But then, Jack was just as exceptional as a lad, and not everyone could live up to the legend of Jack Sparrow. Truth be told, even Jack himself fell short of it at times. Still, twenty-five was old enough to be able to walk across a deck without causing oneself bodily harm. Or it ought to be.

Later, he considered that it might be Will's years of being confined to the land. The sea was in Will's blood, and he'd been borne to Port Royal on her, but he'd stayed away for too many years. Maybe he just needed time to find her rhythm again. Jack had been aboard the Pearl for so many years, he no longer even felt her pitch and yaw with the ocean's every breath. On land, he rocked unsteadily, unconsciously recreating her soothing motion in a drunken weave and bob. Jack on land brought frank literalism to the phrase, "out of his element," and he considered that Will at sea was no different. Once Will got his sea legs, he'd stop falling over every time the Pearl twitched a bit. Only, he didn't.

When Will fell from the mainsail and got tangled in the rigging, Jack thought that maybe he wasn't used to this kind of work. To be sure, the boy was plenty strong, but smithing was a brutal trade, calling for nothing but brawn and sinew. Sailing was much more subtle; you couldn't hammer a sail into place. You didn't need to balance on a bellows, only force it open and closed. Surely, given time, Will would develop new callouses in the right places, and his muscle memory would shift from the swing and drop of his hammer to the tug and pull of the ropes. Surely his fingers could learn to keep their grip even in the slick of an unexpected rain. In the meantime... The boy was lucky he hadn't broken his neck, and Jack grounded him until further notice.

When the answer came to him, it was so starkly obvious that Jack knew he hadn't seen it only because he hadn't wanted to. "Your Pearl doesn't care much for our new friend William," Gibbs had declared, staring thoughtfully at Will's flailing form in the water. Jack might have dismissed it as more of the man's superstitious nonsense, had he not just seen the Pearl's decks cant sharply in water smooth as glass, and Will fly over the side. He said nothing, but his black eyes grew darker and his customary puzzled expression took on a more pensive aspect.

Later, in the dark of night, Jack slipped from his cabin to relieve the sailor at the helm. "I'll take this watch, lad."

"Aye, Cap'n."

No questions. He liked that. "Wake Turner; send him up."

A pause. He liked that less. "Aye, Captain."

As he waited, Jack crooned quietly to the Pearl. He murmured of days gone by--the first time he'd boarded her, and the first time he'd taken her helm. He reminded her of the first time his blood had stained her decks, and what he'd had to do to possess her. He whispered, a rough, ragged edge to his voice, about the mutiny and the hell he'd been through to get back to his Pearl. He spoke of the crew they'd be keeping--Gibbs and Anamaria and Cotton--and those they would be leaving at the next port. In hushed tones, Jack promised her grand adventures and glory in the future, exotic locales and epic battles, and after it all, an end befitting the terror of the Caribbean. He swore to her that they would go down together, that no man would ever part them again, even in death.

Will approached cautiously, looking around as though he wasn't sure whether the attack would be coming from Jack or the Pearl herself. "Couldn't help but notice you left my name off both lists."

Jack looked the boy over appraisingly. He looked tired, but not as though he'd been asleep. Not surprising, that; Will was oddly well-attuned to Jack's moods and had no doubt suspected he'd be having this conversation tonight. "Do ye want to be dropped at Port Royal? You could tell 'em all we kidnapped ye, but you were simply too honest to be turned pirate."

Will shook his head "no," and, as though he was completely unaware of the gesture of refusal, he said, "If you want... Port Royal's as good as any place, I suppose."

Jack rolled his eyes. Ah, the drama of youth. "Any place besides the Pearl, you mean. William, I didn't bring you on board on the off chance it might work out. You're a pirate, as fine a one as your da, and I mean to keep you on. Do you want to leave?" He emphasized each word in the question carefully, trying to convince Will of the honesty of the question.

Will grimaced. "You've always said my father was a horrible pirate, too honest by far and loyal to a fault."

Grinning, Jack replied simply, "Aye. That he was."

Will sighed. "Jack, it's as though she hates me. You've seen it--Gibbs said it first, and I thought it was just..." Jack nods, and he continues, "But you've seen it. Today--it came out of nowhere. The sea was calm as can be and no storm due for days yet, and she pitched me over the side."

Jack shook his head. It hadn't come out of nowhere, though the boy had no way to know that. He'd been watching Will work, and hadn't been doing enough to mask his thoughts from the Pearl. He'd felt it coming just a moment before it happened, not soon enough for a warning. "'S my fault, lad. The Pearl... she's possessive. Proprietary. She's a jealous bitch, William, and she doesn't care to share me with anyone, even such a one as yourself."

"She doesn't mind the rest of the crew," Will protested, completely failing to summon the strength to argue with Jack about the possibility of the Black Pearl having a personality and free will.

"It's different with the rest of the crew, Will. It's a difference in me, and she feels it. The rest... they're sailors, good men one and all, but they're only sailors. You're the only one I'm bound to in any way besides through the Pearl. She hates that, and she doesn't trust me to keep my promises when I'm bound to you as well as her."

"Your promise to die with her." Will's voice fell flat in the night air, and his eyes were unreadable, but the rigid stance of his body spoke volumes to Jack.

Jack's nod was determined, without hesitation. "When the time comes. She'll burn with me when I die, it's only fair for me to make the same promise to her. We've been too much separated in life; I'm not interested in doing without her again, knowing I can never get her back."

Jack knew Will's eyes were brown, knew the color like he knew the feel of the helm under his palms, but in the starlight, they seemed to shift to black, like his own. Foolishness. But...

"And if I make the same promise? If I bind my life to hers, to yours, what then?" Will's voice was tempered steel, and Jack knew from the too-familiar set of his jaw protest was useless. Still, he had to try.

"William, you're young. A great deal younger than I am. You'll have many years left in you after we're through; you could captain your own ship or sit in Tortuga and tell stories of the great Captain Jack Sparrow. The young are prone to making grand promises rashly--this isn't one you'll be able to rescind."

Will shook his head sharply. "Loyal to a fault, remember. You're not interested in going on without your Pearl. What would life hold for me with you gone?"

Jack smiled, and on another man, it might've been mistaken for fond indulgence. "Right then. Hold out your hand." He drew the knife sharply across Will's palm, the hiss of blade through flesh echoed by Will's sharp intake of breath through his teeth. Plying the blade against his own hand, Jack did not flinch. He clasped his hand to Will's, their blood mixing together and flowing down their arms. The boards of the deck below drank the spill hungrily. "My life to yours, now and forever, 'til we end together," Jack intoned.

Will responded fiercely, "My life to yours, 'til we end together." Jack grinned and pulled the boy to him for a deep, searing kiss that felt nearly as binding as the blood between them. When he pulled away, Will gasped. "The Pearl... I felt--heard--"

Jack grinned. "Aye. I told ye, she's a jealous bitch. Take the helm, lad."

Making no move to bind his hand, Will grasped the great wheel firmly. Under Jack's watchful eye, he steered her through the night, lost in whispered conversation with the great ship.


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