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What Dreams May Come

by Dove

 

Fandom: PoTC    Rating: PG    Pairing: none    Full Header

 


"I have been having the same dream," James said gravely, "for seven months now."

I didn't want to interrupt, now that he was finally talking about it, but I couldn't help myself. "Seven--seven months?"

James paused, and just when I was afraid he would not continue, he spoke again. "Seven months. It sounds like such a long time, doesn’t it?”

"And the dream? Is this what has been troubling you?"

James smiled that sad, aching smile that reveals far more about him than he would ever care to know. "Yes, I suppose it is. Would you like me to tell you about it, Theodore?" he asked, then nodded to himself before I could reply. "Yes, they say it helps and maybe by talking about it, I can--can ward off these evil dreams." He paused again, visibly reforming his Commodore mask, and took a deep breath before continuing. "Every night, I dream of Jack Sparrow."

He stopped, looking to me for a reaction.

"Am I to be surprised, James? A good portion of your life has been spent chasing the man. Small wonder he should invade your thoughts at night."

That smile again. "Would that it were so simple. I do not dream of the chase, nor of--" his voice caught on the words--"his capture. Every night, Theodore, I dream of his death. Without variation--always the same dream.

"I see him, standing at the gallows, hands tied before him, noose around his neck, but head unbowed. Even on the gibbet he is as proud and fine as he ever was at the helm of his beloved Pearl. He is...” There was a strained pause as he reached for the words to explain. “Do you remember the day, when we were only young, when the tigress Lord Hasufel had ordered arrived from India?”

I smiled. "And we snuck out of the Academy to get a look? Oh, old Jackson was angry with us!"

James shook his head dismissively, and his face drew even more tightly closed. He was not in the mood for reminiscing on our youthful indiscretions. "She was caged, pacing, beautiful, and utterly helpless behind the bars. But she was so obviously dangerous, even then."

"I remember. I knew she would kill me if she could, but I couldn't help--I wanted to touch her, stroke her fur."

James nodded, absently. "Yes, and that is Jack, as he appears to me. I see the pride in the lift of his head, can see the danger behind the buffoonery, and I want to hope, but I know it's not enough. I know that all the cunning and dumb luck in the world will not get him off that scaffold in one piece."

He looked down at his desk and traced the lines of his reflection with a calloused fingertip. His fist clenched, then, and a look of--anguish? guilt?--twisted his face.

"And I, do I protest? Act? Move? No. I stand in the crowd, looking into those damned black eyes, and I watch. And when the drums stop, right before the floor drops out from under him, he smiles at me. And he whispers, 'I forgive ye, James.' And then--then he falls."

James sat for a moment, and his breath, loud as thunder in the stale air of the afternoon, made me wonder if the storm would break this afternoon, or if we would have to suffer through another day of this suffocation.

"That's when I wake up." His voice is soft, now, though more pained than before. "I wake up, sweating and gasping for breath, and then I think, 'Just a dream...' and the relief, Theodore! The relief, like this band around my heart has been loosened, and it can beat again."

Looking back, I think that moment was when my heart broke for him. I had not realized the magnitude of his suffering before he made that particular confession.

"It's the cruelest part, you see. Because always, the relief comes before the remembering. If only once I could wake up and remember first, it wouldn't be so bad--" He tried to continue, but his mouth worked inneffectively, producing nothing but a small, strangled sound.

I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't sound trite, absurd, pointless. "James, it wasn't your fault. There wasn't anything you could've done."

“’Nothing I’d lament being rid of.’” His face and voice were both filled with self-loathing. “How wrong I was. I wonder, if I had known just how much I would come to lament his death, would I have done more to stop it?” I knew I wouldn't be able to talk him out of this misplaced culpability, but I had to try.

“You didn’t have a choice, James. The law—“

"Yes, the law. But I did have a choice, didn't I? And even if there was nothing I could've done, I could've done something." Jaw tight, he stared at his reflection in the desk as though he meant to punish it for his wrongs.

"James..."

He refused to look at me, turned instead to stare out the window at the empty sea.
 

 

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