He turned. Love,
Love of things, duty, he said,
And made his way back to the shelter
No longer sheltering him, the house
Where everything was turning to words,
Where he would think on the white wave,
Folded back, that rides in place on the obscure
Pouring of this life to the sea -
And seal the broken lips
Of darkness with the mot juste.
When James awoke, it was still dark outside his window, but the stars were
dimming, and the moon had nearly set. Long past time for the pirate who was
sleeping beside him to be gone.
Jack stirred a little in his sleep and threw a tattooed arm around James,
pulling him in closer to Jack's compact body. It was tempting to relax into
that warm embrace and sleep until the sun woke them, then greet the day with
a reprise of the previous night's activities, but James knew that was too
risky by far. Reluctantly, he shook Jack's shoulder. "Jack, wake up."
"Mmfphm." Jack burrowed under the bedclothes and nestled closer to James.
James threw back the sheets. "Jack, wake up, it's almost daylight. If you're
to make it back to the Pearl before dawn, you must be gone."
Jack peered at James out of one eye. "Done with me so soon?" He gave the
window a skeptical look. "Looks dark enough to me. I'll warrant it's not
much past midnight." The other eye opened as one hand slithered down James'
back. "Plenty of time yet for another round-"
James shoved him away, laughing at his insistence. "Enough of your nonsense.
You know as well as I that the sun will be up soon. Unless you've discovered
a way to wish yourself back to your ship, you'd best shake a leg."
Jack rolled out of the bed and onto his feet with a sort of boneless grace,
naked as the day he was born. "'Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund
day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops'? I don't fancy myself for
James sat up and looked askance at Jack, surprised by this flash of
erudition. "I daresay you make a better Romeo than I do Juliet."
From behind his tangled locks, Jack smirked.
"Nevertheless, you 'must be gone and live or stay and die,'" James added
Jack rolled his eyes at this, but began collecting the clothes they had
strewn around the room in their haste. He dressed himself with as much time
and finesse as any dandy, all the while grumbling about persnickety
commodores who kicked a man out of bed at the very arse crack of dawn.
Finally dressed, he came to the bed and stood between James' legs. He hauled
James up close to him, worn clothes rubbing teasingly against bare skin.
"One last kiss, love?"
Before James could answer, Jack's mouth was on his, stealing his breath
away, driving out all memory of the risk they were taking, and filling him
with that aching need that could never be completely satisfied. When the
kiss ended, they were breathing hard and their bodies were pressed so close
together that James could feel Jack's heart beating through the fabric of
his shirt and waistcoat.
There was another line from Shakespeare that was applicable here, but damned
if James could recall it now. Ignoring the grey light that was beginning to
brighten the sky, James pulled Jack back into the bed with him and scrabbled
frantically at the buttons on his breeches.
When they again became aware of the time, they were both panting, sweaty,
and sticky. The sun shone brightly, reflecting off the water, and hoof beats
and voices could be heard through the cracked window.
"Damn! What will you do now?" James asked in dismay.
Jack tied his sash and grinned, then pulled his hat down low. "Never fear, I
know every back street and alley in this town. I'll be back at the Pearl
before you're finished with your tea and toast." Poised on the window frame,
he looked back at James, real emotion showing through his jovial mask. "A
fortnight 'til the full moon. The usual place?"
James' chest felt tight. Not trusting himself to speak, he nodded.
Jack blew him a kiss, then turned and jumped out the window, disappearing
into the shadows like a stray cat.
At the full moon, Jack failed to keep their regular rendezvous. James was
not much concerned. In the past, they'd both missed a month here or there.
They were busy men, each in his own way, and inevitably, some months one or
the other of them failed to appear. On the off chance that Jack might arrive
late, James sat through the night and the spitting rain. Rain trickled in
between his shirt collar and neck, dripping down his back, and his muscles
grew stiff. When morning came, he returned to Port Royal, and to his duties,
a little heavyhearted.
The next month, Jack was not there again. James sat on the empty beach all
night, feeling foolish and a little worried, watching the moon kiss the dark
water, illuminating the white foam. The surf rolled in and folded back on
itself with a dull roar. Sand gritted between his fingers and worked its way
into his breeches and boots. He remembered previous encounters, the words
they'd never said, the touches and looks that had made them unnecessary. In
the two years they'd been meeting, they'd never gone this long without
seeing one another. Dawn was cold and bitter, and tasted of secrets kept too
close and falsehoods too long repeated.
James waited and wondered and kept his usual routine. He signed orders and
made requisitions, met with the Governor and dined once a week with the
Turners, as had become his custom. Originally, he'd intended to show Port
Royal that he held no grudge, that he considered Elizabeth a respectable
woman. To his surprise, he enjoyed their company and their cozy house had
become a haven from the strains of command.
At dinner with Will and Elizabeth, he could see that they too were nervous.
A mention of the Black Pearl caused a chord to twang between the two
"Oh, is there news of the Pearl?" Elizabeth's tone was casual, but
her eyes met Will's with a flicker of concern.
"Not a word." James hesitated. "I thought you might have heard something."
Anger flared in Will's face. "How dare you come to our house and enjoy our
hospitality and then ask us to betray Jack's whereabouts? Even if we knew,
we would never tell you!"
Elizabeth put a calming hand on Will's arm, but her face was as hard and
unforgiving as his. "For shame, James, to abuse our hospitality so!"
James could no longer contain the frustration - to lose Jack and never know
how or where, to have Jack's friends close rank around that mystery, and
treat James as a stranger, as one who had no right to that knowledge - it
wasn't to be born. Slamming his wine glass down harder than he'd intended,
he stood and made to go. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to intrude." It was only
when he felt the blood dripping down his hand that he realized his glass had
shattered and cut deeply into his hand. The bitter laugh that escaped his
lips came perilously close to a sob.
Elizabeth pulled her eyes away from the blood dripping onto the white damask
tablecloth, and looked James square in the eye. Her face transformed and she
made a soft choking sound. They were all frozen as Will too made the mental
leap. He cleared his throat and Elizabeth, as if freed from the spell that
had been laid on her, ran to James' side. She dipped a napkin into his water
glass and began cleaning his hand. As she worked she was murmuring something
under her breath, but the words washed over James senselessly.
Will came behind him and firmly guided him into his chair. He kept his hand
on James' shoulder, solid and reassuring. "We didn't know, James. I'm
The next day, Gillette came into James' office carrying a dispatch. "Good
news, sir. According to this, the Spanish captured the Black Pearl
two months ago."
James gripped the top of his desk and willed himself not to react. He kept
his voice calm and even. "And her crew?"
Gillette's smile was full of smug satisfaction. "I expect by this time
they've been tried, convicted, and hanged. That's the last we'll hear of
Captain Jack Sparrow."
Before James' mind could make sense of it all, his body was already
reacting, heart pounding, a sudden chill raising goose bumps on his flesh.
It felt like ice water was flowing in his veins, as if someone had cut his
heart out and replaced it with a chunk of ice. Barely aware of what he was
saying, he made some excuse to Gillette, and rushed out the door.
The morning had been hot and humid, the air pregnant with rain. Now, it was
cooler and a stiff wind was blowing. As James turned blindly towards his
lodgings, a few fat raindrops began to fall.
There was nothing left. Nothing for him but duty for the rest of his days.
Suddenly he couldn't bear the thought of being in his rooms, where every
stick of furniture held some memory of Jack, where those memories were
nothing but stories that could not be told, nothing but words disconnected
and scattered like a broken strand of pearls.
Turning back the way he came, James made for the Turner's house as the rain
began to fall in earnest. As he walked, nearly oblivious to the storm,
treetops swayed and bowed, and the rain, blowing nearly parallel to the
ground, pelted him in the face. Water pooled in the streets and the wind
blew great sheets of it back and forth, slopping it over James' boots and
carrying off bits of rubbish.
The rain slacked off just as he reached the Turner's doorstep. Leaning
against the door, he rapped at it overly loudly, the sound echoing in the
quiet street. The maid opened the door, a shocked look on her face, but
before she could say a word, Elizabeth was there, waving her away and taking
"You're as pale as a sheet, James. Are you unwell? Come in and sit down."
She led him into the parlor and sat him in his customary chair by the fire,
but the heat did not reach him, could not thaw the ice that encased him.
Elizabeth returned with a glass of brandy. "Here, drink this." She watched
him drain the glass, and there were tears in her voice when she said, "He's.
. .gone, isn't he?"
Elizabeth swallowed hard and did not speak for a while. When she did her
voice was gentle and low. "James, you're soaked through. Let me have those
damp things and I'll get you a towel."
Several glasses of brandy later, James found himself on the settee, with
Elizabeth curled up beside him, recounting the history of his friendship
with Jack. The strong drink fortified him, and he was able to laugh as he
described Jack's antics. It was an unanticipated pleasure to be able to talk
of Jack at last, and for an instant, James forgot that he was dead. When the
knowledge struck him again, the pain it brought was redoubled. He leaned
back his head and closed his eyes tightly. Elizabeth held his hand in hers
and drew a choking breath. The sound cut through his reserve and a few tears
streamed silently down his face.
Abandoning all decorum, Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him and held him
tightly. Her tears wet his hair, and the heat of her body was the first
warmth he'd known in months.
Will opened the parlor door and his greeting died on his lips. He stared at
the pair before him and then sat silently on the other side of James,
bringing with him the hot, singed smell of the forge. Their friendship could
not banish the chill, but for a while it kept it at bay, and for that, James
was profoundly grateful.
James' rooms were lonely, but his bed felt crowded with memories. He spent
more and more time with the Turners, playing with young William, reading to
Elizabeth as she sewed, sparring with Will. What little sleep he got came in
short bursts at the Turners' house: sitting in their parlor, legs stretched
out before the fire; lying on the settee, listening to Will and Elizabeth's
murmuring voices discussing the day's business at the forge; once in the
chair in the nursery after carrying William to his bed.
One night, as the three of them sat in the parlor, James was awakened by a
creaking sound at the window behind him. He sat up with a start, dropping
the volume of Shakespeare's sonnets he'd had clasped in his hand. Will was
standing, staring at the window with a stunned expression. Elizabeth's face
was equally surprised and spilt ink ran freely over the desk where she'd
Turning, James saw something he'd never expected to see again - Jack Sparrow
landing on the parlor rug with a soft thud, looking as if he might finish
off his grand entrance with a flamboyant bow like a street acrobat or a
James must have been shocked out of his wits, for the first words out of his
mouth were, "Don't you ever use the door?" And if it came out a little
petulantly, he did not mean for it to. He hardly knew what he was saying, he
was so busy drinking in the sight of Jack, healthy and whole.
A good-natured laugh. "Can't be too careful, mate. You never know who's
looking for Captain Jack Sparrow. I'd rather not go from the frying pan into
the fire, if you take my meaning."
Not quite healthy and whole. Jack was bedraggled and tired looking, and far
too thin. When he swung his arm out in a wide gesture, James could see the
bones in his wrist, sharp and pronounced, and his eyes, free of kohl, were
nonetheless circled with dark smudges. James felt a surge of anger, at Jack
for worrying him, at whoever had mistreated Jack (for clearly he had been
ill-used), at himself for allowing the pirate to affect him so strongly.
"No, Jack, I don't take your meaning, because I don't know where you've
Will cut him off hastily, speaking in a conciliatory tone. "We thought you
dead, Jack. We heard that the Spanish had captured the Pearl."
Jack snagged the abandoned plate of toast from the table, and wolfed down
the crusts. Between bites he said, "Oh, they captured us alright. Turns out
the Governor's a greedy bugger and he'd heard stories of the treasure of
Isla de Muerta-" He scooped up a bit of butter from the edge of the plate
and sucked it off his finger greedily.
Coming to his senses, James put his hand on Jack's arm, stopping him before
he could launch into the story. "Wait, Jack. We all want to hear your tale,
but let Elizabeth make you a plate first-"
"Of course! Jack, wait just a moment. There are sausages left over from
dinner." Elizabeth gave her husband a significant look. "Will, the rum?"
The Turners were barely out the door before James had Jack in a fierce
embrace. When he would have spoken, Jack sealed his lips with a kiss that
was full of desperation and longing, and James' words turned to a long groan
muffled against Jack's mouth. When they finally pulled apart, James merely
said. "Are you truly well, Jack?"
Jack closed his eyes and nuzzled James' neck, inhaling deeply. "Aye. I am