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That's Why They Call Him Jack

by Linaelyn


Fandom: PoTC    Rating: PG    Pairing: Genfic with implied bits of Het and Slash    Full Header


He falls bonelessly, tired, onto the bench seat opposite me, and slides me the larger of the two mugs of ale. Good. He's not forgotten then; he may be of use. Still, my knifeblade's loose in its sheath, in case I need to be...persuasive.

"What news, Anamaria?" he asks, but I know he intends 'What's wrong?' His fingers twitch as he asks it, and his eyes have that hunger. The smell of smoke on him, and his hands looking as though he didn't even pause to rinse them. He must have come straight, as soon as the boy found him. His hair's tied back, but mussed and sweaty. I suppose even his line of work's not a clean one, at times.

I swig the ale, and nod thanks. And then I begin the tale. Why I've come looking for him. Why I think he can help us regain our captain.

Jack's been like this for too many days. I've seen him have bouts of melancholy before, once in a while. Happens to us all. S'not a life that lends itself to cheer, that's for certain. But this...

Gibbs has tried to rouse him. I've tried myself. But Jack is sail-torn and adrift, lost his bearings under cloudy skies. We need to show him his position on the map, guide him back to familiar waters.

"I need the whole tale," he says. "I have the time. I sent the lad on with news I'd be absent for supper." He's used to making up his mind quickly, I suppose; did so even before he heard my whys and wherefores.

It all began back in Hell, I tell him. No, really, that's the name of the town, out on the biggest of the Caymans. We chanced upon an old mate of Jack's, a fellow he's known longer than Gibbs, even, I reckon. They spent some time bending the elbow and chewing the fat, while the Pearl lay at anchor out beyond the shoals. This fellow had the lung-rot, fair croupy he was, so I stayed some distant during their converse. But he and Jack palavered their way through news of some crews they'd both been on, back around the aughts. I didn't catch it all, but it sounded as if he and Jack might be the only remaining dogs of those vessels' complements. Each of them had some tale of woeful demise to pass on, for every one of the miscreants and wags. By the time they were fully in their cups, dour aspect clouded them both.

After too much talk in this morose vein, the fellow stands, and toasts the company 'round. "To Captain Jack Sparrow, Lone Survivor of the Golden Age! Long may he enjoy his luck and his lonely berth on this mortal orb!" And then the bastard up and coughs his last, and dies on the trestle before Jack. Bloody sputum and pocky skin aside, Jack clutched at the man's rank corpse, and I swear there were tears in his eyes when we tore him away.

We made for the ship, and washed the Captain clean in the sea on the way, hoping to leave the curse behind in those infernal waters. But when we returned to the Black Pearl, the Captain took to his cot like a barnacle and no amount of scraping has removed him.

I grab the barkeep as he passes. "Two more ales." Tale-telling is thirsty work, and I find myself unused to the effort. Sail between Sparrow and Gibbs, and it's unlikely you'll ever lack for a story in your ear. I've fallen out of the habit of speaking so much.

"And two rums as well," he adds. So. He does apprehend, and is somewhat affected by our discussion. Perhaps Gibbs is right about Jack's connection to this man, however unlikely I think it. Gibbs listens to Jack in the taverns more than I have patience for. "I take it that you have done more than merely sail here to Port Royal, in your attempts to rouse your Captain?"

So I explain our efforts. Dousing Jack in seawater when he failed to leave his cot to relieve himself. Force feeding when he stopped taking meals. Gibbs and that thrice-damned mescal of his, which served only to give us a catatonic and vomitous commander. Me even attempting to play the doxie for him, and practically crawling into his breeches! At least that momentarily amused the captain, before he fell back to sullen disinterest. (I still say we should have tried the same with young Bryson, he's twice as pretty as me, but Gibbs would have none of it with the lad unwilling.)

At any rate, we finally reached our limits. I brought Jack the crew's declaration of mutiny if'n he failed to stand as Captain at the helm. That was the sole thing that brought him to animation. Jack left his berth for the first time in a fortnight, strode on deck, put his pistol to his own head, and bellowed, "Who wants command of the Pearl???" All were silent at that, so he tramped back into his cabin to lie in his cot some more. But he kept his pistol in the blankets with him, after.

He's never feared to die, not Jack. But now, he's forgotten why to live, I tell my drinking companion. The Captain is lost in the knowledge that the grim reaper comes for us all, eventually. I've tried to remind him that life does go on, that there is some reason for it, that...that...

It's hard to put hope into words.

"So why have you come to me?" he asks. "What do you think I can do with him, in this state?"

"I don't know if you can do anything with him," I say. "I only thought you might care to try." I search for the words that may move this man of action to act on Jack's behalf. "He can't sleep. He won't eat. Before long, if nothing changes..."

I watch him as he thinks on it. Mulls it over, like wine with spice and a hot poker from the fire. And I see when he puts it together, the puzzle pieces that Gibbs and I found three days ago, when we turned the Pearl's course, and sailed for this place.

"She's only a few days out of bed," he says, finally. "I'm not sure anyone can convince her to come. Although if it's for Jack..."

"I thought you might see it that way," I reply, "but if anyone can convince her, it's you."

"Me?" He truly seems bewildered by this. I'm amused. Men never understand how women think.

So I explain it to him. "You speaking up on Jack's behalf would be far less of a threat to her, to her future happiness. She can't have that sort of thing from him. Not when she's never been truly certain, if he wouldn't rather have left."

He sits back, and his green eyes burning bright over that one. "Wouldn't we all rather have joined him over the parapet that day..." The words were barely audible. Hunh. Gibbs wins that wager, then.

Two ales and two rums are finally delivered with a clank on the board between us. Service always was slow in this place. "Who's payin'?" inquires our host, and the Commodore passes coin his way. The fellow arches an eyebrow at the company being kept, now that he recognizes the patrons. But custom is custom, and he returns to his rag and his cups without further comment.

Once the barman is out of earshot, James snorts, and takes my hand briefly. "Shall we make them wonder?" Even smoky from the gunpowder of the canons, he smells nice. Better than many I've been downwind of, anyways. Better fed, too.

I trace the strong jawline with my finger, and "Aye. Let's make them wonder. Middle watch tomorrow night, the Black Pearl is second cove east, halfway to Port Morant, if you can manage it." I hate giving up our position, hate it hate it hate it. But it seems worth the gamble for two nights, as heavily armed as we are at the moment. And it may be our last shot at saving Jack. I drain the rum off quick, and chase with a swig of the ale, for good measure. Then I stand briskly, knocking my seat over and screaming, "You Whoreson! God damn you!" I deliver a stinging slap to his face and storm out of the tavern.

Matelot and Tearlach join me before I reach the quay. "He's with us, then?"

"Aye," I chuckle, "and I'll have to thank Gibbs for the suggestion. Always wanted to strike a Commodore of the Royal Navy. Even if it couldn't be a roundhouse left!"

"Naw, ye couldn't do with that as a signal all'us fair keen, then, could ye?" Tearlach's brogue always gives me shivers. "Too much like what ye'd do in any likely situation!"

Dark of the moon, second watch this night. But plenty of starlight to see by, and my night sight's always been sharp, not like some of these jollyboys with the pale cloudy eyes. Still, they're easier to hear than see, splash of oar and clank of oarlock. Looks like three in the little vessel. I'm hoping I'm just not seeing the fourth.

Time to set the crew hopping. "Rouse the quartermaster and fix a rig from the fo'ard yard. We'll be conveying a passenger aboard."

In a moment, Gibbs is at my elbow. "Do you think they brought it?" he asks.

"Why else would she come? She wouldn't leave it at home, not for a journey of this length, not this soon. I cross my arms across my chest, willing myself to forget the ache there of the one I left ashore so many lifetimes ago. No regrets, no, but a few what-ifs and I-wonders.

"I'll go make sure the Captain's decent, then," Gibbs says, making me bark a sharp laugh. That man hasn't been 'decent' a day in his life.

I hear the mutters of the crew. They're quiet tonight, fearing and hoping. Some have understood the unspoken plan, it seems:

"Why can't the passenger just climb aboard? Is he sick?"
"Nay, she's carrying something, can't use her arms."
"Well then why not just pass it on up and then climb?
"Too precious a thing. She'll never let it go."

Soon they're all three on the deck, and Jack as well, supported by Gibbs and as wooden as ever I've seen him. He's not recognized our guests. Turner approaches him, and the other two hang back.

"Jack. Jack, it's Will." Gibbs encourages the Captain. "You remember your old friend, Will Turner..."

Will's hand goes to Jack's shoulder, and he looks into the dulled eyes sadly. His own fill and light reflects from the moisture there. "I've brought you a gift, Jack."

Jack's not so far gone that the promise of a bit of treasure isn't enticing. "What sort of gift?" A tiny sparkle? Or is it my wishful thinking?

"The thing most precious to me. I've brought it to you."

"I see your lovely bride there behind ye, son. I'm not that dim, yet."

"You once told me I was totally obsessed with treasure, Jack."

"Aye, and if you recall, I also said not all treasure is silver and gold, mate."

Elizabeth steps forward with the bundle in her arms, and passes it to Jack. "Here is our treasure, Jack."

"What in the seven hells is...this?" Jack's bewilderment at the unexpectedly heavy and awkward package is clear. Small noises emanate from it.

"Our son is ten days old, now, Captain Sparrow. Will you please honor us by naming and christening him?" Elizabeth is formal in her request.

Jack pokes a finger into the cloth, and finds it grasped in a tiny fist. Eyes of deep charcoal blue meet the kohl-rimmed ones. The second oldest magic in the world, and it weaves its way around Jack's hardened heart.

Moments pass without any answer, but we're all glad to stand silent, and wait for the babe to let Jack know the answer. Every new babe knows the answer, why to live.

"Seawater!" Jack calls, loud enough to startle even the crew, though the child still lies quiet in his arms. And someone tosses a bucket over the side and hauls it up, hands it to the Captain.

Jack unwraps blankets, unswaddles the child fully, and lays him on the boards of the deck, face down. Crouching beside the tiny boy Jack whispers to him, "This is the Black Pearl, lad. Listen to her. She's always talking, if you've an ear to listen. Feel her sway you, like a mother's love. Feel her hold you up, like a father's strength." The little head lifts and bobs and then rests again. Elizabeth's breath intake tells me that this is one of those moments a mother notices, the first time her infant can lift and look at his world.

Jack seats himself on the deck, legs crisscross, and lifts the babe again, cradles him in a now-resolute forearm. Pulling the bucket closer, he dips his littlest finger in the briny liquid, then places it between the puckered lips. Suckling sounds and then a grimace and a complaint. "Nay, don't reject Her, boy. This is the Sea. She carries the Pearl and surrounds us all with life and love. She feeds us and She takes us on our adventures. Learn to love Her, and she'll come to love you. But She's a harsh mistress, so you best start learning to love Her now." He dips the finger again, and this time the lad suckles willingly.

"Now, let's see about a name to call you then." He looks, questing, at the parents, but they merely gaze in fond stupor at the sight of their child in his arms. "Suggestions?" Jack prompts them further.

"We truly wish for you to choose his name, Jack." Will's grin widens. "Try not to make his life too difficult, though. I don't think 'Beatrice' would really suit him."

Jack's evil glower gives me more hope for his heart's recovery than anything I've seen yet this night. There's the Jack I know and have missed.

"Well, then," Jack stares with a powerful intensity into those slate eyes. "You must have a piece of your father, and of your father's father as well. Your first christian name must needs be William. Your second christian name should be James, a strong name from your godfather there, who guards you and guides you and tries to show you the path in the right and the good."

The blacksmith and the Commodore lock gazes. Apparently this godfather business is news to them both. I'll warrant things have been a bit strained between all three of them, since Elizabeth had to choose. I see both veiled hostility and startlement warring within them. Worthy adversaries, now forced into partnership unwilling, with the application of only two words. "James" appended to the babe, and "godfather" stuck to the Naval Officer. But a naming has power that way.

Jack knows what he's done to them both, to all four of them, hell, to all the rest of us as well. I see it in the fey light that glows in his eyes. Could be, could be...dare I let this spark of hope loose?

But Jack is moving again.

He dips his hand in the bucket, and pulls out a helping of the ocean. Paying no mind to the damp on his clothing, he places his hand on the tiny ribcage. "Your name may be your father's; your heart is your mother's. You have the strength and the grace of the Swan, from her side. Fierce in battle and swift to take umbrage, but also swift to forgive and forget."

Jack fills his hand again, and washes the child's skull in it. "You have the wisdom to see the paths ahead, child. This was given to you by the gods, and it is one of the rarest of all the gifts. The way ahead will be apparent to you, but it will not always be easy to choose, even so. Use your gift carefully, and you will bring great joy to the world. Use it unwisely, and you will bring great pain."

Jack inhales deeply, and closes his eyes and rests. The assembled company is unnaturally quiet. No sound but the sweet soft slapping of the sea on the cheeks of the Pearl. Suddenly, his eyes fly open again and he is once more intense and focused on the nude little body in his lap. "Finally, my gift to you," Jack seems to fair vibrate as he sits there, "is what I call a blessing, but which your ma may have cause to curse me for, before long.

"I give you what I was given, when I was the bairn in the lap.

"I give you NO FEAR."

I swear the very air trembled, just now.

"And that's why they'll always call ye Jack."


So there's the tale of how we came to get our Captain back. Who's buying the next round?


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