Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: Many thanks to linaelyn for the skinny on the parrot. Thanks fabu, hija_paloma, the wonderful firesignwriter (I blatantly stolen a wonderful plot idea from her superb Moonverse series), and gryphons_lair for her beta on the last chapter. heartofslash deserves special thanks. She's my one-stop kink store and dear friend.

The fight had been going on for two solid weeks and Mr. Gibbs was getting mighty worried.

The pair of them had had some dust-ups, that was true. Jack had a temper, and Will Turner was a stubborn cus. With that combination it was inevitable that the two of them would spar now and then. Usually three days of arguing. No more. No less. Three days of slammed doors; obscene oaths yelled from behind said cabin door; Jack shouting himself hoarse from yelling epithets along the lines of "Shite, give me patience," or "Jaysus Christ, save me from the fucking propriety of blacksmiths"; Will holed up in the hull of the ship pounding out perfect sword after perfect sword; Jack drowning himself in so much rum that it'd take three crew members to haul his liquor-soaked body to the cabin; and Will not eating.

But it never lasted more than three days.

To be honest, each man could, at times, be more irritating than a rash on a muggy day.

Although considered the finest captain any of them had ever sailed under, none of the crew could, with any certainty, vouch for Jack's sanity on any given day. For instance: the time he insisted that the crew shave off all their eyebrows in sympathy because Will had worked the furnace a might too hot and appeared on deck without a hair on his face, singed off every bleeding one; Jack didn't want Will to feel awkward like so he ordered razors all around. The Pearl sailed around in circles for two months until everyone's eyebrows grew back in. Will had laughed himself nearly sick when he saw the crew shorn of their eyebrows. Then he'd hugged Jack in front of the whole crew (unusual that, Will Turner wasn't much for displaying his affection in public, unlike Jack who'd soon as fuck Will as look at him), and whispered something in Jack's ear. They didn't see hide nor hair of them for three days and the noises coming out of their cabin were, well, positively unholy.

And William Turner? Well, he was acknowledged to be something of a prig at the best of times. Picked the most inopportune times to be moral. For instance: Will insisted that no wedding rings be part of the swag, which infuriated Jack no end because wedding rings could be melted down. Jack had a way of sucking in one cheek when his teeth were bothering him, and Mr. Gibbs suspected that Jack had another bad tooth and didn't see a wedding band so much as another crown. "It's just a circle of gold!" Jack yelled. Will countered, "Oh, like just a sword or a headboard?" To Mr. Gibbs's everlasting amazement, Jack shut his lips real tight. The wedding rings stayed on the fingers of their brides.

The crew was always split down the middle on whose fault it was. Each had their supporters:

Anamaria always sided with Will because she'd never forgiven and had no intention of forgiving Jack (Dammit, Joshamee, she has enough swag to buy her own boat, the bloody woman won't give me any peace) for stealing her boat once upon a time. Cotton also sided with Will because Will had crafted a perch for the parrot that was well out of the reach of the cats Jack had brought on board to chase mice (and eat the parrot). Marty sided with Jack. Always. Loyal man, truth be told. Although he more than anyone looked far the worse for wear without his eyebrows. The twins sided with Jack, too, the Russian with Will, the Japanese bloke named Aki with Jack, and so on.

The crew never knew what the arguments were about. Oh, they speculated. Took bets, tried to determine what the matter was from Jack's oaths. But they never knew, and Mr. Gibbs never felt like contributing to the rumor mill, even though he was often in put in the horrible position of mediating between the two of them. He always refused to take sides. Figured as First Mate it was best if he remained neutral. Anyways, half the time it was Jack's fault, he'd get some crazy notion and you'd never knowed where he was going to run with it. When the crew was near mutiny over having their eyebrows shaved clean off, Jack pointed out that Will hadn't sliced off one of his balls and wasn't that fortunate—no one was really sure if he was kidding or not. The other half of the time Will Turner would get a bee up his arse about something inconsequential. Dig his heels in, and it'd take three days for him to realize that he was being a damn fool. Like the time he insisted that they return the commodore's books. Nearly broke Jack's heart that.

And the truth was that most of the time what they really argued about, ignoring what they said they were arguing about, was really two things: randy sods wanting to fuck the bejaysus out of Will or Jack's propensity to guzzle anything that contained a smidgen of alcohol.

Jack was notoriously jealous. Not that Will ever paid attention to the looks that others, men and women, gave him. He was oblivious to the sneaky sidelong glances of appreciation or, in most cases, out and out leers. Unfortunately, Jack wasn't. Not that Will Turner would ever catch Mr. Gibbs's fancy (he preferred women with meat on 'em, nice plump tits and a broad ass he could span his hands over), but no one in their right mind could deny the lad was a sight. And unless the crew happened to enter a tavern at the end of the night when most of the patrons were blind drunk, inevitably some idiot with balls for brains would grab for Will's arse or suggest a quick swive in the alleyway and throw a crown on the table. The crown would no sooner clatter against the wood than the point of Jack's sword'd be pushing a mite too hard into the gut of the fool who three seconds before envisioned his cock pounding William Turner's arse; now he'd be damn lucky to leave the building with his goods intact.

The crew hated it when both of them went ashore together, because inevitably Gibbs would have to assign two crew members whose sole job was to whisper warnings in the ears of anyone silly enough to openly lust after William Turner: "Captain Jack Sparrow will cut off yer balls and feed them to you fer breakfast if you don't take yer eyes off of his boy." Occasionally, Anamaria had to nick a rib or two to make it known they were dead serious.

Jack and Mr. Gibbs went back a fair number of years, and he'd knowed Jack to be possessive only about one thing. The Black Pearl. Jack's eyes only truly sparked for his ship. When he'd return from shore in the longboat and he'd get the first glimpse of her though a fog, his breath would hitch and he'd hold it until he could caress a plank with the flat of his hand. That remained the case until roughly two years ago, when Jack and Will first bedded each other. Now Jack's eyes held that same shine when they fell on William Turner. Jack'd see Will on deck or across the table and his breath'd hitch that same tight way, like someone'd bit him, and Jack'd sprint across the deck and trace one finger in a line from one of Will's shoulder blade to the next or he'd lean across the table in the mess to tug on one of the boy's curls. Scared Mr. Gibbs how much Jack loved that boy.

Will Turner hated the fact that Jack drank. Now, Mr. Gibbs was most sympathetic to Jack on this score, seeing how he liked a few nips every hour on the hour himself, but Jack with his belly full of rum was unpredictable; even Mr. Gibbs didn't know half the time what Jack's fey mind would conjure up. For example: the time Jack drank a near gallon of some nasty swill in that New Orleans tavern and decided that Cotton's parrot could tell the future. Will tried to reason with Jack (a hopeless task when Jack was sober, yet even when Jack was ten sheets to the wind, Will insisted on being logical; yet another example of the Turner obstinance coming to the fore). And when the parrot continued to squawk out the four sentences that had always comprised his entire lexicon, "Wind in your sails!", "Shiver me timbers!", "Dead men tell no tales!", and "Merry Christmas!", Jack was convinced that the parrot was holding out on him. Taunting him. That the prediction was dire and Jack had less than four hours to live. The moanings and groanings and tears that accompanied the next four hours were not to be believed. The entire crew had to say their goodbyes: Jack eulogized each one in turn, not quite understanding that they should be eulogizing him. When the four hours were up and Jack was still alive (and a hell of a lot more sober), he shrugged his shoulders and said, "What can you expect from a bloody parrot."

Will didn't speak to him for three days.

That was the normal turn of events.

Not this time. This time the crew was truly confused. And frightened.

Because the oaths that were coming from behind the door were being uttered by William Turner, who never swore, and the passed out body on the deck that reeked of rum night after night wasn't Jack's, and the person haunting the smithy was none other than Jack Sparrow.

Mr. Gibbs knew, with every bit of his superstitious soul, that things came in threes. You could say what you will, never fails. the curse of three. The first thing when happened nearly slipped by Mr. Gibbs, didn't quite realize it was the beginning of the curse. Seemed just another dangerous current of this nasty fight that threatened to have Will jump ship at the first port they happened in to. Not that they were sailing anywheres. Sailing in circles they were, with water and food stuffs getting low.

The whole crew sat in the mess at their usual places; Jack at the head of the table, Will to his right. The wind had shifted. And not for the better. Hurricane brewing. They all knew it. Jack hadn't eaten a thing, nor had Will. The lad, slender as a sail at the best of times, was near transparent; the veins in his arms stood out in salute, like. The stew lay in congealed cold piles on both their plates as Jack's eyes darted back and forth between the uneaten food on Will's plate and Will. Mr. Gibbs could see Jack eyeing how sharp his collarbones had become, how Will's knuckles were nearly raw as his hand gripped his mug. The lean, too lean cut of the boy's jaw. Will looked at no one and nothing. Just stared at some spot on the table. Then Jack's left eye began to twitch. Shite. Mr. Gibb's mumbled a silent prayer to the Pearl. Don't let him do anything stupid.

"Your food doesn't seem to pass muster with our Mr. Turner, Cook. Never knew the lad to be so fussy before. Liked your cooking before. Mebbe you added too much salt, eh? Or mebbe you overcooked the turnips."

Christ on a raft, trust Jack to play dirty. Bloody pirate. Will'd never standby silent with cook taking verbal blows meant for him. Sure enough, Will slammed down his tankard.

"The stew was fine. It's the company I find repugnant." Will glared at Jack. The twitch got worse.

Mr. Gibbs knew how much Jack loved his crew and would do anything for them. And he also knew that Will loved how Jack would do anything for his crew. If they could remember this…

"Now, now, Jack, Will," he admonished as he uncurled himself from the bench and stood between the two of them. Throwing an arm around each one, he begged, "Patch this up. The crew don't like it. This fighting. S'gone on long enough. Bad luck."

Mr. Gibbs thought it'd worked. The twitch stopped. Jack's dark eyes took in each and every pirate. All pirates gazed back at him as if saying, Aye, Captain, it needs to be over and done.

Jack's face relaxed bit by bit as he took in the crew, then he got to Will. Who looked like he'd been in the brig for two weeks with only bread and water for rations. Sometimes Jack can't help himself, God love him. Jack cocked his head and while ostensibly addressing the crew, really spoke to Will Turner and Will Turner only, that was clear.

"Mr. Turner and I are having a difference of opinion, like. Am making a simple request and he doesn't seem to want to acquiesce to my request. Perhaps he'll acquiesce to this one. Mr. Turner, eat your dinner."

Mebbe if he'd said please, but Mr. Gibbs doubted it.

Knew from how Will narrowed his eyes Jack'd gone too far.

Will stood up and slid out from behind the table. Jack in a fit often looks like he's having a temper tantrum (which he often is), but Will always looks dignified when angry. Something about the set of his shoulders. But the quiet ones when they blow…

"Acquiesce! Fuck you, you bastard," Will hissed at Jack. Jack stiffened, his jaw had that slight tilt he only wore when he was about to rip someone's liver out with his sword. "You make it sound like you want me to hoist a sail. How dare you bring something like this…something just between you and me… Hear me, Jack. It's an abomination and I won't do it!" he shouted. Then he threw the tankard of ale in Jack's face, slid out from the bench, and marched out of the room.

Mr. Gibbs sighed. Right. That tore it.

Jack sat not moving, not saying a word, the twitch getting worse and worse. Little droplets of ale pooled on the ends of his hair and beard braids. The crew just waited. Will had crossed a line by humiliating Jack like that. In front of the crew. And Jack couldn't let it stand. Not as Captain.

After a couple of minutes, Jack held out his hand. "Mr. Gibbs, your napkin if you please. Seem to have lost mine."

Mr. Gibbs leaned over the table to reach for his napkin, turned it to the find the cleanest side, turned it over again, blast, and then handed it to Jack. Jack slowly and meticulously wiped away the ale from his face, beard, and hair, patted his front to mop up the rest as best he could, and then turned to Mr. Gibbs.

"Mr. Gibbs, time to have a little parley with Mr. Turner."

Mr. Gibbs didn't even have a chance to nod before Jack had scrambled up the ladder that led to the deck.

The second part of the curse followed on the heels of the first. Damn it to hell.

Christ, the second one was so much worse.

Mr. Gibbs could hear the thump, thump, thump of feet behind him as the crew followed him up the ladder to the deck. Jack stood at the base of the crow's nest, where Will escaped to when upset or angry. Based on that scene down in the mess, Mr. Gibbs thought Will was fair ate up with both.

This at least had some semblance of being normal like. With the small dust-ups, Will'd scramble up the rigging to escape Jack, Jack would give him an hour, then follow up to coo nonsense and jokes and sailor shanties and silly promises into Will's ear. Within two hours there'd be laughing and joking and then the both of them would race down the rigging, Jack moving so fast his hands barely touching the ropes as they made their way to their cabin. Shortly thereafter, the cauterwauling'd start as they fucked the stuffing out of each other.

Mr. Gibbs had a sneaking suspicion that on occasion Jack actually enraged Will on purpose, because the noises coming from their cabin once they'd kissed and made up were not to be believed.

There was that time when they were berthed in Nassau. Jack began concocting elaborate plans with the cats on how to finally enact the parrot's demise. Mr. Gibbs had a good chortle over that one. Jack stroking the sleek backs of those coal-black cats of his, them winking and swishing their tails at his nibs as Jack would whisper nonsense like, "Now, you have to make sure Cotton's below deck, savvy? Then one of you comes at that sorry excuse for a bird from the front, and the other from behind…"

Will caught the tail end of these nefarious plans and didn't think it was one bit funny. He told Jack in no uncertain terms that he and his bloody cats better keep their paws away from that parrot or there would be cat stew on the menu or his name wasn't William James Turner. Will was halfway up the rigging before Mr. Gibbs yelled at him that it was only in jest, Jack was teasing the lad. "Jest, my arse!" Will snorted. "The man can talk to dolphins. Cats should be child's play to him. He's half cat as it is!" and then continued to scuttle up the ropes. Mr. Gibbs had to admit Will had a point.

But Jack let Will have his pout and then swayed across the deck, his hips rolling with the waves. Then up the rigging he went and not an hour later Mr. Gibbs was hard pressed to know who made it to the deck first, Jack or Will.

A penitent Jack was always a randy Jack. A mollified Will was always a lusty Will. The crew tried to ignore the grunts and moans and if it got too loud, stuck cotton in their ears and went about the business of sailing the ship. The pair of them'd emerge for dinner, Will's curls twisted a hundred different ways to Sunday, a permanent blush on his cheeks; Jack not blushing in the least but grinning like the cat with a pawful of cream. At dinner, Will would sit on Jack's right as usual, his hand on the table casual like, but he'd move his hand close enough to Jack's so that he could rest his pinky on Jack's, like Jack was his compass. Funny that, William Turner so shy about Jack that even touching Jack's hand was considered a bold move, and yet not two hours earlier the crew had winced and pushed at the cotton a mite firmer to drown out Will's moaning at the top of his lungs, "Fuck me, Jack. Oh, just like that. Just like that."

But t'were different this time. Jack wasn't scrambling up the rigging, he stood stiff and proud. No coy smiles, no sea shanties.

"Mr. Turner. Come down this instant. You and I need to parley about yer disrespect and lack of manners. I'll not be asking you again. Now, Mister."

The tone in Jack's voice caused all of the crew to flinch. Was like what the eye of a hurricane might sound like. Calm, but one knew all hell was going to break loose any minute.

"Fuck off," was the reply.

Oh Jaysus, thought Mr. Gibb. Will probably couldn't see from where he was but Jack wasn't Jack, he was Captain Sparrow. His hat was on straight, his left hand alight on his sword, his boots firmly planted on the deck. Will clearly didn't realize that this had spilled out of their cabin and onto the decks of the Pearl. It wasn't a matter of them fightin' no more. Twas Jack being made to look like a fool in front of his crew. Twice.

"William," Jack said it once, but no one knew what else he was going to say because no sooner did the "m" leave his lips than a blade come hurtling through the air, landing with a sharp thwack in the finger's-width space between Jack's feet, hilt perfectly straight up. If it'd been half an inch to the left or right, t'would have speared Jack's foot.

Later, the none of the crew were sure whether the wail that split the air was from Jack or the Pearl herself. So fierce that it rattled the sails, tore at the ropes, strained the lapboards of the Pearl's sides like a wave. The scream nightmares are made of.

And Will knew. He knew that whether it was Jack or the Pearl that he'd done something terrible. Something wrong. The sort of wrong that may be impossible to forgive. He made his way slowly down the rigging. Mr. Gibbs watched as Will's hands followed one over the other with none of his usual confidence or speed.

All eyes watched him except Jack. Jack only stared at the knife between his boots, wedged in the deck of the Pearl. He didn't glance up when Will stood in front of him, trembling like a leaf the boy was, his hands clutched into fists.

"Jack, I'm sor—"

Jack didn't even let him finish.

"Take him to the brig, Mr. Gibbs. A week with bread and water for rations. Closest port is Singapore. Set course."

Jack didn't look at Will when he spoke, didn't look at the crew, didn't move a bloody muscle, just kept his eyes at that fucking knife. His eyes held that same fear, same dread when a blade pierces a man's skin and he can't yet feel the pain but he knows that it might be fatal, knows it went in deep. And all one wonders in those few seconds before the god-almighty pain begins is how deep? How deep?

Mr. Gibbs brought William Turner his bread and water first thing in the morning. So furious he refused to address the lad or even acknowledge him for the first two days, Mr. Gibbs would open the door to the cell, place 'rations just inside the bars, and return to deck. No point in locking the cell. They both knew he wouldn't leave it. Will didn't eat, just sat there slumped in a corner, not bothering to look up. Didn't make a sound for two whole days. The water was drunk, the piss pot used, but the bread lay untouched, chunks nibbled out of it by the rats.

On the third day, Mr. Gibbs swung open the cell door, threw a loaf of bread at Will's head, and then hurled the jug containing his water on the floor. The boy barely reacted to the bread hitting him squarely in the forehead, or the water splattering all over the cell. Raising his head just enough so that his eyes met Mr. Gibbs', the morning light inching through a lone porthole showed the boy looking more skeletal than human. Fucking christ on the cross. If Will'd been a ghost of himself three days earlier, now he was mere shadow.

"How's Jack?" he asked.

"Been completely stinking drunk for two solid days," Mr. Gibbs snapped back at him. "Three minutes after we threw you in here, he carted up two cases o' rum from the hold, lashed hisself to the wheel, and hasn't uttered a word since. Won't let anyone come near him. He's worked his way through eight bottles. We're all betting he'll kill himself with the drink by day four, Mr. Turner. Marty's given him until day five, but he's got more faith in Jack than the drink."

Will clutched his knees with both hands, tight. "Oh, it's 'Mr. Turner' now is it?" he said softly.

"Became Mr. Turner when you made Jack choose between yerself and his crew. Yerself and his ship." Mr. Gibbs stepped back through the door of the cell and slammed it shut with a clang. "Any other captain'd have keelhauled you. When you humiliated him before his crew, not once, but twice, lad, he didn't have no choice. In all the time I've know'd Jack Sparrow, he's loved two things. His ship and you. Whatever turmoil you two are having in the cabin, it's between you and Jack. On deck, it's Mr. Turner and Captain Sparrow."

"I didn't mean to throw the knife," he protested, the lad so young he couldn't hide the tears threatening. "He provoked me, Mr. Gibbs, he wants me—"

"Don't care what he wants, Will. He's our captain first and foremost, your lover second." Will, bless his soul, blushed at that. "And don't think that any of the crew feels any different. What happens between you and Jack is no one's business but yer own. You two want to fuck the bejaysus out of each other or throw knives at each other, do it in the privacy of yer cabin. Admit he can be handful—"

"A handful?" snorted Will. "Do I need to remind you about the time he thought he was dying because the parrot hadn't told him he was dying? The fact that the parrot can only say four things somehow immaterial. Or the eyebrows?" At that, the faintest smile tickled the edge of his mouth. Then Will remembered he was supposed to be that angry at Jack, and the frown and outrage returned. "I'm amazed I've kept my sani—"

"That's not here nor there, Mr. Turner," Mr. Gibbs brought him up short. "And I'd like to remind you of that fine set of books Jack stole for you knowing you're a book learning man. How the legendary sailor Jack Sparrow took onto his ship a lad who barely knew a line from a sail, when that kind of ignorance can be fatal to a crew. Or how he let you set up a forge in the hold of a wooden ship because he trusted you not to set fire to the Pearl. Now I suggest you eat those rations and not let the rats get fat. The crew donated their share to you. Don't throw that in their faces."

Will turned the loaf of bread over and over in his hands. "Thank them for me, Mr. Gibbs, if you will."

Mr. Gibbs grunted an "aye" and was halfway up the steps when Will called him back and mumbled to the floor of his cell, "Please tell Ja— I mean Captain Sparrow that I would like to apologize to him.

Lord save him, Mr. Gibbs was tired. He stifled a groan as he turned around. "Can't do that, Will."

Will shot to his feet, swayed, and grabbed the bars of the cell to stop from falling over. "Please," he begged. "I want to see him."

"Said you can't. For one thing, he's passed out drunk. For another," Mr. Gibbs scratched his beard, "don't want to get shot."

"For God's sake, Mr. Gibbs," Will pleaded again and shook the bars in frustration. "He can't be both passed out and able to shoot a pistol—"

Mr. Gibbs fixed his right eye on Will.

"Oh, this is Jack," he mumbled. "He, uh, once…he can, uh, do some amazing things when…" Will's voice trailed off with a blush.

"Right. Normal don't exactly apply here. Being Jack, not sure how he's doing it, since he's passed out at the wheel, but anyone who gets within ten feet of him gets a pistol cocked in their face. Seems to be able to aim that damn thing, too, even though his eyes are closed. Saw it with me own eyes. Put a nice hole through Marty's shirt. Didn't touch him though. Course, can't see Jack shooting an unarmed man. T'was more of a warning, like. Cotton thinks that cats are in on it. Helping him aim. Must be helping him to steer the ship, too. He slouches to the left or right depending on the wind. We're right on course for Singapore. Reckon we'll be there in four days if this wind holds up."

"He'll have drunk himself to death by then," Will muttered and pushed open his cell door.

"Do not leave that cell, Mr. Turner!" Mr. Gibbs bellowed and slammed the door shut, forcing Will to stumble backward against the wall of the cell. "Have you heard a single bloody word I've said? By God, you keep your fucking arse in that cell. Don't be humiliating him again."

Bleak, only word for it. The boy's face was bleak. Then he fell to his knees, his chin resting against his chest.

"Eat your bread, Will," Mr. Gibbs reminded him. "Oh," he added, "and I'll bring you some more water." He felt old. He didn't like it.

The third curse was the worst of all.

She mutinied.

Mr. Gibbs suspected something was wrong when he lost his taste for drink. Had happened once before. Only once. Time he had a fever so fierce he couldn't even lift his hand to grab a bottle. Come to think of it, wasn't like he lost his taste for drink, he was just too weak to grab the bottle. But this. Just didn't want it. First time he'd actually drank water in…well…couldn't remember the last time he drank water.

Then Marty pinched Anamaria's arse and didn't lose his balls for his insolence. Fact is she pinched his arse back and no one sawed hide or hair of them for three hours after.

Then Mr. Cotton was seen petting the cats.

Then, oh Christ, then…

First the deck went cold. Not know'd to those who don't sail her, but the Pearl's deck's always warm, no matter what the weather. To those she wants to sail under her flag.

Back when they fished Jack out of the water, they made straight for the Isle de Muerta. The first order of business had been to drag Barbossa's stinking carcasse to the far edge of the cave. Second order of business called for loading the swag. When they were down to the last couple of wheelbarrows full, Jack and Mr. Gibbs shared a well-deserved drink by the fire. To the shouts and tired exclamations of the crew toting out the last of it, Mr. Gibbs asked Jack why she never knew Barbossa's stripes.

"We were both wrong about him," Jack spoke into the fire, and Mr. Gibbs had to strain to hear him. "Cost us ten years. Then they were cursed, and she had no choice but to sail under him. Going to make it up to her, I am. We'll set course for England tomorrow and have her refitted. Re-varnish every inch of her. New sails. Black, o'course." Mr. Gibbs got the trademark Sparrow grin, the gold teeth flashing in the firelight. "Hate the old sod," and here Jack and Gibbs hunched their shoulders in unison, because they both knew that the entire time they were in England they'd be shivering under their clothes. "But won't trust her to anyone but English shipbuilders. You remember her in her glory, don't you, Mr. Gibbs?" Jack closed his eyes and smiled. His hands fluttered in the air and then one palm cut across his front in one wide arc, as if he were stroking the side of the ship. His eyes snapped open. "Most beautiful ship ever hammered and nailed, and she will be again." Jack took a pull on the bottle of rum in front of them. "And while she's being fitted up, we'll give the accommodating commodore a nice break from our irritating presence. Did you feel her, Mr. Gibbs? Her deck all warm?"

Usually takes a while, but once she learns the cut of someone's jib. Knew Will Turner on day one. Had barely weighed anchor, Tortuga still visible, when Will marched up to Jack and demanded to know why the deck was warm when the weather so foul. Jack ballyhooed to the crew, "Mr. Turner says the deck's warm." The stone-faced stares of the crew were immediately replaced by grins and shy nods ('cepting Anamaria, o'course. Her face shifted from looking like she was itching to put a knife in him to she didn't want to kill him yet). One by one the crew came up and shook Will's hand and welcomed him aboard. Will, always polite, shook everyone's hand even though it was clear from his wrinkled brow he didn't have a notion in hell of what was going on. When all was said and done, Jack flung an arm around his shoulder and cooed in his ear, "My girl likes you, Mr. Turner. Ever hear tell about how your da saved me from marrying a mermaid? No? Well, t'was a day like this, spitting out of the heavens…"

When the deck went cold, the crew first looked down at their feet, and then turned to Mr. Gibbs, their faces stiff with horror.

"Mr. Gibbs?" Anamaria barely got the words out of her mouth when the ship stopped.

She just stopped. The wood groaned and creaked but she wouldn't move. Wind was blowing. Could feel it on their faces, raised the goose bumps on their arms, but the sails were slack.

And when the deck went cold and the sails went slack, Jack opened his mouth, and what came out was the most unholy scream Mr. Gibbs had ever heard in his entire life.

Dear God in heaven, it was worse when Jack stopped screaming. I stood shivering in the brig, clenching the bars, aching to run up to the deck, and yet held fast by Mr. Gibbs' warning. Jack stumbled down the stairs, his mouth open but not a sound could I hear, his eyes wide with grief. He scrambled into my cell, falling into my arms. I crushed him to me and he stilled. He lay in my arms as if dead. I shoved a hand under his shirt and sighed with relief to feel a faint heartbeat. "Shush, shush," I murmured over and over again, even though he was as silent as Mr. Cotton.

I could hear the faint sound of Mr. Gibbs barking orders at Anamaria to gather up the crew. "All on deck," he was bellowing. I wondered, "What for?" and found I didn't much care. Then so slowly, as if every movement pained him, Jack eased himself out of my arms. "Jack?" I queried. He didn't respond, but brought a single finger to my lips to stall more questions.

I turned at the rapid thump of feet racing down the stairs to the brig, Mr. Gibbs as nimble as if he were twenty. By the time he'd reached the door to the brig, Jack had already removed his hat, brushing off imaginary or not so imaginary dust. "Jack, the ship…" Gibbs panted in desperation, but Jack ignored him and began removing his coat.

"Jack, for the love of God, please stop. Stop," I begged over the clenched fist in my mouth, not understanding what was happening, but knowing that whatever it was, it was horrible.

Jack didn't acknowledge either me or Mr. Gibbs. He'd already removed his knives and was now methodically removing his pistol from his belt, giving it a small caress before putting it on the ground next to his coat, the belt itself, and finally his hat. Mr. Gibbs looked at Jack, then me; dear holy mother of god, Jack was removing all his accoutrements of his captaincy. Stripping himself of his rank.

"William," Mr. Gibbs hissed and jerked his head in Jack's direction. Bringing his brows together in a fierce frown he gestured to me—something—I had no idea what he was trying to say.

"Jack Sparrow, you and Mr. Turner are wanted on deck. She wants to have a word with the two of ye."

"Mr. Gibbs, it is Captain Sparrow," I said in my frostiest, King's English. I'd have given the commodore a run for his money in that instance.

With a menacing glare and a forefinger mimicking a cut throat, Mr. Gibbs silenced me. "There are protocols, Mr. Turner. Which sometimes are a fucking bitch, but tis one of those times. Now. When Mr. Sparrow is ready, we'll join the rest of the crew up on deck."

Most people, not his crew, mind you, but others, thought Jack a buffoon; a jester, his insistence on being called "captain" a joke. But nothing was ever more a lie. They never saw Jack at the helm, that fine mind finagling, plotting, and scheming on the best ways to get the swag, with no harm done. To anyone. How he'd sail five hundred miles without a thought to get a man home because a letter had reached port that a mother was ill. How he knew how to best angle the ship so her sails kissed every bit of wind, every little wisp. How to… Oh, Christ.

I'd witnessed devastating events since I'd come to the Caribbean. Acts against all that was holy. My nightmares were a testament to that. But this, oh, at this my heart broke. To see him divested of all he held dear. The evidence of his sacrifice and blood he'd shed. For her. For ten years never giving up hope, all for the honor of being called "Captain Sparrow of the Black Pearl."

Clad only in his boots, his shirt, and pantaloons, he looked very young; he stared at his effects, lying in a pile at his feet.

"Mr. Sparrow…" Mr. Gibbs coughed.

At that, Jack shoulders caved in slightly at the weight of that "mister."

I picked up Jack's things. "Captain Sparrow, after you."

Jack shook his head a little, the baubles making the tiniest jingle, and then he began to shuffle across the room to the stairs, broken and beaten.

"No," I shouted, and with three long steps I was across the room. I grabbed his arm with my free hand to stop him. "I will not let you do this. You are captain of the Black Pearl, and I for one have no intention of forgetting it. You spent ten years searching for her. You braved Barbossa, a more evil bastard never born, and that cursed crew of his; Commodore Norrington, knowing that if you were caught you'd be hung, yet another dead pirate for the Royal Navy to crow over. I will not let you do this," I repeated.

I dressed him. He did not fight me, but stood there, shielding his face from me. He let me tuck away the five knives in their hidden plackets; let me lift his arms to wrap his red silk scarf around his waist and pull it taut. I cinched his belt and secured his pistol in it. Then finally. Finally, I placed his hat on his head at a jaunty angle. I shot Mr. Gibbs a menacing glare and stepped back.

"If you stop Captain Sparrow, I shall slit your throat." I meant every word.

At that Jack drew himself up and flashed Mr. Gibbs a smile; a pale imitation of his saucy smile to be sure, but it was a smile nonetheless.

"My lad's become a pirate at last, Mr. Gibbs. What say you to that?"

Mr. Gibbs is slightly too fond of the drink for my liking, but he's loyal to Jack and that mitigates a number of sins in my book. I knew my position on the ship the first few weeks was a trial. What in God's teeth was he to do with a lad who'd barely put his toe in the water, never mind sailing a ship? But I worked hard to prove my worth, and he and I became friends of a sort. His first loyalty was always to Jack, but I didn't mind. He was my first loyalty, too.

"Aye, I say you're right," he agreed, giving me a calculated grin, but then sobered up. "But we've business above. You and your 'pirate' have some explainin' to do."

Jack had gained a measure of himself by the time we'd reached the deck. Only someone who knew him well would have known he was only at half-mast. Of course, the entire crew knew him well. He wasn't fooling anyone, but then he wasn't trying to.

We all stood there not saying a word. I knew not would come next. Neither did anyone else. We all watched Jack move his bare feet along the cold deck. Trail a hand along the wheel. Rub his cheek against a dead sail. Every fruitless act an attempt to talk to her, to reach her. As the silence continued, the unrelenting cold of the deck sending a shiver up my spine, his face tightened, tightened, tightened, until I thought he'd just implode. I had to do something,

"Mr. Gibbs," I said, trying to keep the lurking hysteria out of my voice. "If you please."

God knows what I meant. I didn't know what Mr. Gibbs was going to do, but he needed to do something.

"Aye, Mr. Turner. Captain Sparrow," called Mr. Gibbs in a loud voice. That stopped Jack from running his hand against the main mast; he looked up. I motioned to Jack to stand beside me. He gave the mast a slow lingering touch and then stood next to me. I moved my hand so that our fingers lay against each other.

"Mr. Gibbs," Jack said in a subdued voice. I'd never seen Jack subdued. Not even when they put the noose around his neck. I hated it. All the starch he'd gained when I'd reinvested him with his rank had vanished in the wake of her silence.

"Now," Mr. Gibbs began and then coughed. Most likely to gain time, because I doubted he had a clue what was supposed to happen next. But then he thrust his chin up and began to speak.

"She's mutinied, Captain. She's mutinied, and I think all of us knowed why."

I moved forward toward him; I had this wild notion of clapping a hand over his mouth, to stop any further mention of that horrible word. Jack grabbed my hand and held me back.

"Stand, Mr. Turner," Mr. Gibbs warned. "Going to have my say. I speak for the crew. Wouldn't presume to speak for her, but the crew's behind me. Aye?" That met with a faint chorus of ayes. "What happens between you and Jack is your business. What happens between Captain Sparrow and William Turner is our business. Now you can fuck in that cabin day and night, and by God, you do seem to fuck in that cabin day and night."

I blushed.

"That's your right. But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to hell, you've brought it out here. You brought your fucking out here when you threw the knife. Jack should've keelhauled you for that, and when he didn't, he brought your fucking out here as well. Don't belong out here."

Mr. Gibbs mopped his head and licked his lips. A sure sign he needed a drink.

"Am I right?" he asked and turned to the crew. They all nodded. "Now, it's up to her and us to decide who's right and who's wrong. Because it's clear that you two fucking idiots can't."

Jack nor I said any a word.

"Well," demanded Mr. Gibbs. "Are we all going to stand here and die o' thirst and starvation—or drowned by the storm that's brewing out there, there's that; we can all smell it—while you two decide who's going to tell us why in bleeding hell you're throwing knives at each other or drinking yerselves to death?

"Jack," I murmured against his ear. I can't say it, I can't. Don't make me, Jack. Don't make me say it.

"No, Will. Tis your hook, lad. Trust you."

He turned his head away from me, obviously refusing to say anything more. He knew; he knew that I was, and probably always will be, the man who blushes at a peck on the cheek in front of others, but who will hold his hands up in supplication and moan with anticipation as Jack wraps a silk scarf around my wrists and secures my arms to the bedstead. The man who stares daggers at Jack when he tells salacious jokes, but who won't even take the ten seconds to remove my pantaloons, but shoves them down to my knees and then thrusts my arse in the air, begging loudly for Jack's cock to take me. It took me forever to understand that this dichotomy delighted Jack. The prudish blacksmith for everyone else, the absolute wanton for him. But this wanton lived only behind our cabin door.

We'd brought it out on deck with our fight.

He knew how hard it would be for me to say this. To display to the world the man in the cabin. He loved me enough to believe I'd do right, no matter how great the fight against my prudish self.

With his calloused thumb, he rubbed a circle into my equally calloused palm.

I didn't address this to the crew. I couldn't. I addressed it to her. To the Pearl. I faced the mast and the slack sails. The wind had picked up, and I could smell the storm. If we didn't placate her, stop the mutiny, we would be at her mercy. I cleared my throat to speak above the roar of the wind.

"First, I need to apologize to Captain Sparrow for my unconscionable behavior." I said this to her, but then I turned to him. "I have no excuses other than… I… I was frightened. I don't understand why you're asking this of me, but that shouldn't have… I shouldn't have. I will not be insubordinate again, and I ask for your mercy. Captain Sparrow."

Jack roused himself out of his malaise. Brought his shoulders up. "Mr. Turner. Your apology is accepted. You will sand the ship's deck from stem to stern. And then you will varnish it. By yourself."

This would take me… I wouldn't put a hand to my anvil for months. Jack knew how much that would pain me. I rubbed my most recent burn. I nodded in agreement and hoped it would be enough. That she would accept that. But the deck remained cold. She was not mollified. Nor fooled.

My stomach clenched in anticipation of what I had to say next. I turned again, away from Jack and the crew, and spoke to the deck.

"Jack was my first…l-l-l-lover." I stumbled over the word, as if I were still a virgin. "He has asked that because I was innocent…," his hand squeezed mine, "innocent before I came to his bed that I… That I… A woman. That I know of her."

I left it at that and hoped that the not-so-faint Biblical reference would suffice.

"I do not," at that I raised my head. "I do not," I said more forcefully, "think that is necessary. I only want you," I said to him. "Not some whore in a Singapore brothel. I've had enough…" I struggled to find a word that would not compromise Elizabeth, "experience with Miss Swan that my choice to lie with you was not without…"

Without what? I just stopped. There wasn't anything more I could say. I had no intention of lying with some whore because Jack thought I would, at some point, become curious and leave him. I admit I was curious, but that was where it stopped. I'd been curious about bedding a man. But that didn't mean I was sporting myself in whorehouses like Jack. I could have if I wanted to. I had chosen not to.

The wind whipped our hair, but the sails stayed slack.

"You kissed her. Mebbe felt a tit—"

"Jack," I warned.

"That was it."

I nodded.

"There are many men who want only women. There are some men who like only men. And Will, there are some men who like whatever and wherever they can put their cock. Fall into that category meself. Before I laid eyes on you, wasn't too particular."

Considering the number of whores he'd bedded, men and women, he wasn't going to get a disagreement from me on that score.

"Now, listen," he said, his voice hard. "I've seen forty-two summers and by God my cock knows what it wants. You need to know what yours want. I bedded you when you were a virgin, and you haven't had a chance to know what sort of man you are. It's time you knew. I think mebbe you might be one of those who only beds men, but I don't honestly know, and there's no way for me to know. Don't consider your fumblings with that Swann strumpet worth a tinker's damn. There's no way for you to know short of fucking a woman."

We'd had this argument a hundred times. It was verbatim what he'd already said to me, but this was different. Bloody scoundrel. He was trying to get her on his side. And the crew. They didn't look horrified, but were nodding with him in agreement. Was it my imagination or did the deck warm up one degree?

"But Elizabeth—" I protested.

"Fucking christ on a raft, Will. You were a twenty-year-old virgin. Imagine you were so desperate that I bet you even considered humping that damn donkey."

"I never considered the donkey!" I protested.

This was more like us, the back and forth, and was completely underhanded. Bloody pirate. The crew were snickering. He had them in the palm of his hand. Oh, had them right there.

But she wasn't fooled by Jack either. The deck was still cold.

"Will, I can see you leaving me because I'm a scoundrel, a thief, a liar, a scallywag of the highest order. I am all those things. S'truth. I would even understand if you left me because I was a pirate. No, you listen," he ordered at my protest. "I won't have you leave me because you don't know what a women's cunt around your cock feels like. You need to know which way you sail. Your true north. Tis time to choose me, William. I need to know."

He was shouting by the end of this. Then he stopped. We were left with the rustle of the wind as it tore through the silent rigging.

"Shiver me timbers," croaked Mr. Cotton's parrot. It opened its beak to say something else, but Jack glared it and its beak snapped shut.

Dear God, he could now talk to the parrot!

"I… I… You're my true north."

"Mebbe. Hope so, because you're mine, by God. Will, I need to know," he repeated.

"Ten minutes…" I mumbled and without waiting for a response, I made my way over to the mast and climbed up the rigging to the crow's nest. It was well known as my sanctuary. When I first joined the crew, I spent all my free time there, endeavoring to sort out my confusion over abandoning Elizabeth. I burned with guilt at leaving her, and yet knew I couldn't stay in Port Royal. Because she'd cajole and tease and get me to agree to some impossible situation where I was essentially kept, like her lap dog.

There was no greater truth when I told Jack I wanted to be in a place where it didn't matter where you were born or what your parents had done before you. My lot in life was determined for me before my first breath. The local sot of a blacksmith needed an apprentice and that was where I was put when we landed in Port Royal, the stench of burning wood still clinging to our clothes.

Perhaps I would have been happy with my lot had Elizabeth, so determined and, of course, by her birthright, in the position to damn well do as she pleased, not insisted I be educated. Which put me in neither world. I was too educated for my station, I was too low born to be of Elizabeth's. The lads of the village thought me arrogant because of the way I pronounced my a's; the privileged boys scorned me for the soot blackening my nails.

You would think the governor's acceptance of my suit for Elizabeth would have freed me. It didn't. I did love her, but the few events I attended, with her on my arm, left me no doubt that I'd be Mr. Swann our entire lives.

That ship couldn't reach Tortuga fast enough.

That was the first epiphany. I never looked back. As much as it hurt Elizabeth, I knew this was the right course.

The second epiphany was the mystery of the twins. If it weren't for them, I wonder if Jack and I would have… They were the same age, a white man, the son of a slave owner, the other, his former slave. It was several weeks before I had the courage to ask Jack why they were called the twins, when they were obviously not brothers. It was late; we'd just finished dinner. Jack was bent over a chart, doing four things at once: plotting a course, petting one of the cats—which black cat I'll never know since he named both of them Black—reading a book, and talking to me.

"Why are they called the twins?"

"Light that other candle, will ye? And hand me that sextant. Joined at the hip, aren't they?"

This was true. You never saw one without the other.

"The scars on their backs?" Jack has a cross-hatch of similar scars, courtesy of the East India Company, but his back paled in comparison to the viscous scarring of theirs. Jack put the sextant down.

"Know they're lovers?"

I blushed and reminded him, "I've been on middle watch for two weeks." I left it at that.

Jack's "Oh. Aye," confirmed that he knew that I'd seen and heard.

My personal exile left me with no peers, and my innocence on matters carnal was extreme. The first night I couldn't believe my eyes nor eyes. Two men! Engaged in what was sin upon sin. I had only Mr. Brown's slurred, vague murmurings about acts carnal to go by, but there was no mistaking what was happening below me. I was painfully naove, but I wasn't stupid. Nor a eunuch, contrary to Jack's not-so-sly innuendos.

The first night I saw them they'd come on deck when the rest of the crew was asleep. The moonlight trapped them in their initially languid coupling, white hands encircling a nearly invisible dark waist, black hands cupping the cheeks of a white face. Quickly, I realized this was sin. I would not look. I'd never seen sin, but I knew it thus. I stared out at the water, doing my duty. But I couldn't cover my ears. I was trapped in the crow's nest, forced to listen to this sin, while pulpit references to Sodom and Gomorrah were still fresh in my ears. I was too embarrassed and horrified to say anything to Jack or to them.

I blushed non-stop for days. They didn't come out every night, but nearly. They chose the most quiet, discrete spot on deck to sate their lust, but in the crow's nest, there was no hidden corner anywhere. I could see and hear all. At first, I was disgusted. I couldn't imagine myself making those noises with Elizabeth. They were animals. This disgust didn't stop me from palming myself through my pantaloons, unable to stop, but unable to touch myself properly for my shame. Eventually I heard words. They'd croon to each other in nothing more than a whisper, but the wind and the clear night lifted up their voices. They spoke in French, calling each other's name; they made declarations of love. And then the French would stop and the panting and grunting would start. Then I'd hear the sound of sweat-slick bodies moving against each other, and their final moans of completion. Which was followed by the most muted repetition of those Je t'aimes.

Finally, I could not ignore the beauty of those words. I began to watch them. To try to understand how something so sinful could elicit the most profound of declarations. Mon Garcon would move in time to the waves, poised over the back of Garcon. No one watching them, so careful, so loving, would call this a sin. At leastI could no longer call it a sin.

"Garcon's father owns a big plantation outside New Orleans. Mon Garcon was a present to him on Garcon's fifth birthday. Imagine receiving a little boy as a present. Like it twas something to give. Anyways, the boys grew up together, and when they reached a certain age, they started buggering each other. Found them in the filthiest New Orleans brothel I've ever set foot in just before we landed in Tortuga and found you. Selling their bodies to eat."

Jack collected the crew no one wanted. Look at me.

"But the scars?"

"Oh, aye. Them scars." Jack frowned, the quill having stopped its scritch-scratch across the map. "Had them whipped for their sins. Garcon's father found them buggering each other. Didn't mind the idea of Garcon buggering Mon Garcon; seems like they don't mind young men raping males slaves, but that Garcon liked his arse filled by Mon Garcon's cock wasn't the same. He'd turned both of them out."

I looked out the porthole to the endless sea, trying to imagine such a father. Then I tried to imagine not giving someone a real name, to call someone "My Boy," a testament to ownership. And then I tried to imagine loving someone enough to deny your first name and call yourself Boy, in deference to your lover.

"Will, does it bother you that they fuck?"

I shook my head no. Jack held up the candle to make sure he could well see my face.

Whatever he saw made him smile. A very avaricious smile. I narrowed my eyes. I'd been on the ship long enough to know that this was the sort of smile he gets when he spies swag.

"What are you up to, you scoundrel?"

He quickly wiped the smile off of his face and feigned innocence. "Jest seeing which way the wind might blow."

I had come full circle. I was back in the crow's nest, the ghost of Elizabeth Swann hovering over my shoulder. I had desired her once, or so I thought, but it was such a pale want compared to the hot, nearly frantic need I felt for Jack. Having said that, I could not refute Jack's contention that I knew not how I felt about women in general. I couldn't conceive of another lover more exciting and wonderful than Jack. Anything more stimulating and I would have to be incarcerated in Bedlam because surely I'd go mad. I honestly didn't know whether I desired him so thoroughly because he was Jack or because he was Jack and a male. I didn't care, truth be told. And frankly, there was something rather androgynous about Jack. Not female, but definitely feline. It was a toss up whether those black cats or Jack was more elegant. I often thought the three of them were in a contest of sorts, to see who could cross the deck with more grace.

I was sure I wanted Jack and Jack only. But I'd never touched a woman, other than the most cursory of affectionate kisses and caresses of Elizabeth. Which through a corset is a fairly futile exercise. Our courtship was relatively chaste. A gentleman of any stripe does not press his advantage before their wedding. A fact that caused endless arguments between us. Again, Elizabeth wanting to do as she damned well pleased because she'd rarely been told no, while her blacksmith fiance would have been held as an utter blackguard for taking liberties.

The crew stood on deck waiting for my decision. I relived all our arguments of the past three weeks. I still couldn't fathom why this was so important to Jack, but that it was I couldn't deny. He braved the Pearl's wrath for me. Neither could I deny that tortured, "I need to know." I don't remember him saying it in our previous arguments. Perhaps he did and I didn't hear it. I've a tendency to dig my heels over things. Jack has uttered enough oaths on the "stubbornness of all that is Turner." This is well-matched by the tenacity of all that is Sparrow.

For Jack I would do this. I lay my head against the wood of the crow's nest and whispered, "All right." The rigging near my head rattled just the slightest and then was silent, as if to say, "You've said it to me. You need to say it to him."

I shimmied down the rigging and landed at Jack's feet. "Yes, I'll do it."

The sails began to flap, the rigging banged against mast, and the deck warmed our feet.

"Set course for Singapore, Mr. Gibbs. There's a she devil of a storm on our arses. We need to beat her!" roared Jack.

The crew raced around us, hauling on ropes, letting out a cheer when the sails filled and the Pearl jerked forward into the wind.

Jack didn't look pleased at his gained point. There was none of his usual smirking when he thought he'd won. He brought a shaking hand up to my cheek. "Help me steer her, Mr. Turner."

"Aye, Captain."

We walked over to the wheel. I stood behind him as he grasped it. Once he'd fitted her into the wind, I snaked up behind him and put my hands over his. He leaned back into me, thoroughly exhausted.

We'd stood at the wheel for over six hours, guiding the ship toward the east, leaving the storm far behind in our wake. After Anamaria came to relieve us, we staggered back to the cabin exhausted. We shoved I know not into our mouths to ease our hunger, and then fell into bed, not even bothering to loosen our boots.

I thought surely that we'd touch and fill each other when we woke up. I loved being fucked by Jack in the glow of the early morning light; our cocks hard and frisky from our dreams. But Jack's side of the bed was empty when I woke, my cock weeping for nothing. He bade me a hearty good morning when I entered the mess, poured my tea, and didn't let me out of his sight the entire day, but at night when I returned to the cabin, I saw my old hammock hanging from its hooks, with Jack in it feigning sleep. It was like that for three nights.

The Pearl flew through the water as if possessed. We made Singapore in less than three days, well ahead of the storm. We docked just before dusk. Jack gave everyone shore leave for the night. He and I would guard the ship. Tomorrow we would go to a brothel of Jack's choice, I cared not where.

We had not touched each other carnally for over three weeks.

"We will go to Madame Chang's. Cleanest girls in the Orient."

I nodded.

We'd been sitting on deck on watch, waiting for the crew to come back. Jack had polished off one bottle of rum and working on his second. I nursed a cup of ale. He would be slurring any second now. I consider myself something of an unfortunate expert on Jack and drink. Fifteen minutes after the first bottle is finished, the slurring commences.




"Yes, Jack."

"Need to talk wish her. By meshelf. To apoligizsh."

I nodded. I didn't think he could see me because he was fairly close to being blind drunk. I helped him to his feet and planted him next to the wheel. He entangled his arms in a haphazard fashion through the spokes of the wheel and whispered to her for hours, only taking a break to upend the bottle for another swig. I propped my back up against our cabin door and waited for him. I couldn't hear what he was whispering, but at some point late in the night, he began crying quietly. I was torn. Do I leave him to his demons, certain that I was the reason for these particular tears, or would I make it worst if I tried to comfort him? I waited until I heard the ballyhoos of the crew returning from shore leave. I absolutely could not let them see him like this.

"Jack. Bedtime."

I didn't wait for an answer or a protest. I untangled his arms, patted his adorned tresses in the manner in which I used to way back when, and hoisted him over my arm. He had stopped crying by the time we reached the cabin. I folded him into bed. Despite his near insensate state, he refused to let go of my shirt; his hands clutched me tight enough to tear the fabric. I fell in after him, brushing the hair away from his face. He wove a finger through my curls and mouthed my name against my collarbone, as he did every night.

"Afraid, Will. So afraid," he mumbled before falling asleep. I did not sleep that night, but listened to his breathing and wondering what in the hell he was so afraid about.

I have had many dreadful experiences at Jack's behest, but the two hours I spent at Madame Chang's even rivaled the evening of Jack masquerading as the Marquis de Chenonceux (despite speaking French with a decidedly southern English accent), with me as his blushing bride (with no dissembling on my side because being trussed up like a woman was certainly a most humiliating experience). He'd heard there was going to be fantastic swag at the governor's ball in Savannah one New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, his information was all too accurate. He managed to liberate jewels in one form or another from nearly every woman he danced with—Told you so, Mr. Doubting Thomas nee William Turner—while I was able to take only small satisfaction from my previous assertions that, yes, corsets are, too, bloody uncomfortable, and never expect me to don one ever again.

Over the seven oceans, Madame Chang's was Jack's favorite brothel bar none. I'd exacted a promise from him when we first lay together that he would cease his former licentious habits, and he was true to his word. We still visited his favorite brothels in every port because Jack said that he felt more at home in a brothel than he did anywhere else save the Pearl, a statement that raised my eyebrows, but as long as their liquor was sweet and he didn't waltz off with the whores to a waiting bed, I did not care. Jack would drink wherever he was. Brothels often had good musicians, and listening to music while sipping an ale was a pleasant way to spend an evening. The brothel owners were just as happy to see him, as Jack was just as generous with his coin.

A woman who never aged to my eye, Madame Chang's usual effusive smiles greeted us on our arrival. "Captain Sparrow. It has been a while. Welcome back to Singapore. Your favorite table near the pianist, a rum for you, and an ale for Mr. Turner?"

Jack shook her head and her eyes gleamed a little. "My favorite table near the pianist, a rum for me, and a young whore for my lad. A woman whore, like," he amended.

This was met with a bow and a sharp look in my direction. When would I stop blushing?

"The young mister wishes a woman?" This was said with another pointed look, but in the direction of my crotch and then in the direction of Jack's. I suspect nothing got by this woman. "I do not understand, Captain Sparrow. You wish to share?"

"No, no," Jack protested so vehemently that I knew the idea of watching me with anyone was anathema. I remembered his violent reaction to my charade in the brothel in London, when I pretended to be shopping for a whore. Jack, as generous as a man I ever met, did not share well.

Jack leaned over and whispered something in her ear. She said something in Chinese. He continued to whisper and a sly curve to her lips said she finally understood. "Very well, Captain Sparrow," She gave me an appraising once over. "I see," she said in a tone that said coin was coin, and Jack's coin was always good. She clapped her hands in some complicated rhythm and a host of women filed in.

They were all beautiful in that exaggerated way of women who worked in brothels, much paint topped with overwhelming perfume and low-cut gowns to display their ample bosoms. I looked at Jack in a panic. I couldn't… Not with any of them. I shook my head at him, ready to bolt the room.

Another series of complicated claps and the room cleared out except for three young women. They were just out of girlhood, really. A little younger than myself. They stood there demurely, their gowns buttoned up to just under their necks.

"Her," Jack ordered and jerked his head.

"More to Captain Sparrow's taste," Madame Chang murmured. She paused. "My Marie would be most suitable, Mr. Turner."

At that one of the three stepped forward. Not Asian, she was Spanish or French, her cheongsam hugged her slender, almost boyish figure; she had little bosom or hips. She was tall, with large expressive brown eyes and a generous bottom lip. But for her long jet black hair, she could have been Elizabeth's sister. Oh, Jack, I might never forgive you.

I looked at Jack to plead with him. No. Anyone else. He paid me no attention, but stared at this young woman with such loathing, a hatred of another person I'd only seen on his face once before.

"I won't then," I protested, thinking that it wasn't the first time that the reality of a situation had clashed with Jack's fantasy. I wouldn't have to do this. My shoulders sagged in relief. We could go back to the ship, and I could touch him and kiss him all over, my tongue doing all manner of wicked and delightful things…

I was roused by the thud of a bag of coins landing at the feet of the young whore.

Madame Chang beckoned her, who picked up the bag and handed it to her mistress. Much whispering and nodding took place. With a "Oui," the girl came and stood before me.

At that Jack turned away and headed for the bar, without so much as a backward glance in my direction.

"Monsieur, s'il vous plait?"

A small hand threaded through mine. Numb, I let her lead me through the curtains to the back rooms. Where the whores serviced their customers.

The room was lit by a single candle She led me to a low-lying bed, and with a graceful wave of one hand, she bade me sit. She blew out the candle, thank god. Nevertheless, I closed my eyes. I could still hear the rustle of her clothing at the soft rasp of buttons being opened, silk swishing against itself as she stepped out of her gown. I sat there rigid, mute. The bed creaked as she sat next to me.

"Monsieur?" She guided my hand to her breast, maneuvering it so that I cupped it in the palm of my hand. It was small; her breast tightened up from the chill of the room, the motion of my hand as she manipulated it across her nipple.

I had done this with Elizabeth in a secluded corner of her garden; had rubbed a shy thumb over the gentle mound of her breast. At that I had been excited and had kissed her with what I thought was passion. What did I know then of passion? That was then. I shook my head, no, this wasn't right. Jack's chest was flat, his nipples flat and broad. They liked to be licked and bitten…

She abruptly dropped my hand and with a deft hand, unbuckled my belt; she pushed warm hands under my linen shirt and began playing with my nipples. This was better. I could pretend these were Jack's hands. Jack has rather small hands for a man, and they certainly knew how to twist and tease my nipples; much like this young whore. They tightened under her ministrations.

"Bon," she whispered and continued to twist and pinch. She snaked her other hand into the folds of my pantaloons. My cock, which had begun to twitch, shrank back into itself, terrified at touch of a foreign hand.

"Ah, Monsieur," she clucked. "Show me. Votre capitaine. Me montrer. Comment."

With reluctance, I eased my hand into my pantaloons and fondled my soft cock. She placed a gentle hand over mine. "Me montrer, Monsieur," she repeated.

I moved my hand to show her.

"Le feindre est il," she whispered.

Pretend it's him. Yes. Right. Jack would start out slow, flicking a lazy thumb over the crown. A couple of easy strokes later, he'd ease his thumb under my foreskin and round and round he'd caress until I was moaning. Then scented oil would miraculously appear and then disappear and his slick hand would glide up and down. He'd ask, "Is that good, William? Do you like that?" I would answer back, "Oh yes, Jack. Oh yes." He would laugh a little and then ask, Faster?" "Yes," I'd pant. And the devil would slow down and ease up on the pressure so that I'd be straining against his oil-slick palm for any friction, anything for some relief. He'd keep me on the edge like this for so long, forever it seemed like, then he would…

She came closer to me; I smelled the heavy scent of her perfume and stiffened.

"Non, non, Monsieur. Le feindre est il," she reminded me.

He would then speed up just a little but not enough to do anything but bring my release closer, but not close enough. By now I would be begging and pleading, "For the love of God, Jack. Make me come, please, you pirate bastard…"

At that he would chuckle and press an oiled knuckle in the spot behind my balls. Fuck me, yes. It would bring me closer, but still not close enough. "Bastard," I'd cry and his hand would begin to move faster. "Yes, that's it," I'd weep, because I was nearly there, nearly there…

And then she did something unforgivable. So engrossed was I in imagining that this was Jack, I hadn't even realized that she'd let go of my hand. Without warning she straddled my lap and guided my cock into her. She bore down and squeezed. I came, pulsing into her on the memory of Jack's hand. It was hot and wet and entirely wrong. I have never felt so empty and defiled in my entire life.

She pulled off of me the minute my body stilled.

"Je suis desole, Monsieur," she said as she dressed.

"Leave, please," I begged and turned my head away, never wanting to see her again.

I heard the scratch of a match hitting a flint. She had lit the candle. "Ici. Il y a l'eau pour se nettoyer." And with that she left the room.

A basin of water sat on a small dresser, with a small square of linen with which to wash. I scrubbed her scent off of me as best I could. I must have a bath. A scalding bath that would obliterate any trace of her.

I couldn't leave that room fast enough. I raced to the bar. Jack was pacing up and down the length of the room, his drink untouched.

Madame Chang stepped in front of me.

"You are satisfied, Mr. Turner."

"I believe I now know the answers to Captain Sparrow's question," I said somewhat cryptically. "Madame," I bowed to her in a farewell.

Jack stood there, clutching the handle of his pistol.

"Jack, please. The baths. Now," I begged, not wanting to say anything further.

We made our way to the baths in silence. He made to bump my shoulder, but I moved away. I couldn't bear to have him touch me with her scent all over me. Perhaps he understood, perhaps he thought I was angry with him. We said nothing to each other, but our pace was little short of a run as we made our way down the street to the bath house. He requested a private bath, his Mandarin much more up to the task than mine.

I will burn these clothes when we get back to the ship. I cannot bear to wear them again.

I stepped into the large tub and spread my legs wide.

"Wash me," I pleaded. "Scrub every bit of her off of me."

The stiff, unhappy cast to his face melted at that. Jack said not a word, but moved the washcloth over every inch of my body as gently as he would a child. For my genitals, he soaped his hands so that it was flesh to flesh, to both wash and replace the memory of her hands with his. When I finally felt clean enough, I held up my hand for him to stop and sank into the water. It was only then he spoke.

"Will? You with me lad?"

Thank Christ that I had never married Elizabeth. It would have been a disastrous marriage. Me not understanding why her form never slaked my desire, her eventually hating me because she would never, ever please me. I think the first few years would have been good, but once the innocence and initial blush were gone, what would I have done?

I pulled him to me and cupped his chin so that we were looking at each other, so close that our breath warmed each other's faces.

"Yes, I am with you. I am one of those men who only wants men, Jack. More importantly, I am one of those men who only wants you. Never, ever ask me to do that again," I said firmly. "It was horrible."

"You did it, though?" he demanded.

I nodded and shivered at the memory. "But only by thinking of you. She… Look, I can't and won't talk about it. We now know. You know." I pulled him even closer. I licked from his shoulder blade to the curve of his neck, almost crying with relief that he tasted the same. That nothing had changed. "You were right and I was right. I now know that I would only bed men given half a chance, which is never bloody likely because I only want to bed you. I'm telling you now, Jack. You hint, even think that I should bed another man so that I know what it's like to fuck another man, and I swear I will throttle you with my bare hands." I pulled him even closer to bring our cocks together. "You're my true north. Always will be. Want to fuck you, Jack." I rolled our bodies together, our cocks sliding together. "I want you spread beneath me, my fingers in your arse, listening to you moan my name." I rolled us together again. "I want you to call out my name, tell me how much you love me, how you want my cock pounding deep in your beautiful arse…" He came with a hoarse cry. I kissed away the tears on his face.

"Jack, let's go back to the ship. Now."

He nodded.

A week later, we were on our way to Lisbon. I'd just come off middle watch and was debating whether or not to wake Jack up. The twins were up to their usual nocturnal activities, fucking each other senseless, and my cock was poking a hole in my pantaloons.

Blasted pirate. He was awake, lounging in bed, stark bollocks naked, a hand already fondling his cock.

"The twins?" he smirked, looking pointedly at my cock, full and hard beneath my pantaloons. I shed my clothes in record time.

"If I didn't know any better," I grabbed his arse and pulled him to me. Oh sweet jesus, I'd never get tired of feeling this arse in my hands, "I'd swear that you pay them to fuck in front of me."

"Have serious questions about you being a pirate, Will, when you, oh fuck, Will, do that again, when you say things like that."

"Oh why, pray tell?" I queried, as I traced a thumb over the underside of his cock.

"Will, love you, love you so much, don't stop. For Christ's sake, don't stop…"

Much later, sated and not just a little sticky, I yawned into his shoulder. "You've been bribing Mr. Gibbs to put me on middle watch from the very beginning, haven't you?"


Before they left Singapore, Will made Jack write out and sign a declaration that whatever personal epiphanies still to be had by William S. Turner, they would be had at Jack's hands, and Jack's hands only. After a week in port, Jack's hands were fairly exhausted, and it was time to hoist anchor. Plus, Jack had earned the wrath of some local Chinese overlord by winning an impossible number of rounds of Ma Tiae. It was a given that Jack was cheating, but no one, not even Will, could figure out how. No matter. Their welcome was wearing as thin as the overlord's purse. The recent letter from Missus Commodore nee Swann made it emphatically clear that the Commodore was still "quite miffed" (or as Jack said, got his smalls in a right twist) over the nicked books, so they decided to give the Caribbean a wide berth for the near future.

They sailed the globe twice, survived a particularly brutal trip about the tip of Africa, nearly lost Mr. Gibbs off the coast of Gibraltar to a bad case of ague, and somewhere, somehow, Mr. Cotton had acquired another parrot. Which enraged Jack—Will heard about it no less than four times a week at a minimum—but with Black and Black, he really didn't have a leg to stand on. And now two parrots would dive for a nip at the trinkets when the sun hit Jack's head at the right angle.

They still fought, although less, they still fucked, just as much, and Will was blissfully happy—Jack's tirades about the parrots not withstanding. Which is why the thought of not sharing that horizon with Jack unthinkable. Because two years after they left Singapore—now called by Jack and the crew as That-Place-Where-Mister-Turner-Truly-Lost-His-Virginity—William was convinced that Jack Sparrow was dying.

The idea first began after that disastrous trip to the New World and the subsequent trip to New Orleans. After being chased out of some Portuguese port by an angry mob brandishing pitchforks and axes with deadly intent, they'd decided that enough time had passed and it was time to go home. Not even the stuffy, stick-up-his-arse commodore could harbor a grudge for that long—Jack's opinion. Over the course of their travels, Will had painstakingly replaced all of the Commodore's books that Jack had stolen, so now they could in good grace return to Port Royal with stolen books in hand—Will's opinion. They crossed the Atlantic, and, running low on food, water, and ale, they'd tied up at some half rotted-out dock on the edge of an English settlement along the coast of the Carolinas.

For starters, the one alehouse only had ale to drink, which Jack considered to be basically water, except made out of hops. And second, it was cold, and under all those effects, Jack had a fine, delicate structure. Never happier than when naked, in the water, with the sun bearing down on his shoulders, a cold Jack was a grumpy Jack, an uncharacteristically out-of-sorts Jack. He even refused to man the wheel, handing it over to Anamaria, and retreated to the smithy where he curled up in a corner near the fire, glaring at Will, as if the snow were his fault. Will was all for putting it down as total churlishness, because it was as hot as hell in the smithy, but then Jack said out of the blue, "This place reminds me of home." What little Jack had said about his life in England had painted a picture of a life so bleak that Will forgot the scolding on his lips. Instead, he buttoned the top button of Jack's great coat and said, "Let's go south. Tomorrow with the tide."

Jack was often heard to say, "If you can't get drunk in Tortuga, God help you; but then there's New Orleans! God love us all." So Will wasn't surprised to learn that Jack set course for New Orleans, but even given the plethora of bawdy houses and dank inns, with enough liquor to quench the thirst of the entire population of England, Will was surprised that they'd dropped anchor and Jack acted like they'd be there for a long bit. The push for Port Royal seemed to have been forgotten.

They had only been in port three days when Will got the first inkling that something was drastically wrong.

When Will had first come onboard, it was an unusual week when Jack didn't get thoroughly in his cups and then sneak off for a heart to heart with the Pearl. He'd lean against the main mast, one cheek against wood, and talk to her. Will couldn't help but hear snatches of his conversation, as Will always sat fairly close by to give Jack a hand and a steady arm when it was time to call it a night. Often he'd sing her sea shanties in his low, husky baritone, sometimes Will could hear him crying softly (Jack was something of a weepy drunk), about how he was so sorry for all those years when she was under Barbossa's command. Sometimes he'd talk about England and how cold it was and how he had hated it and how everyone had hated him and how different it all would have been had his mother not died bringing him into the world.

As the years went by, the weeping had gradually stopped. Jack talked mostly about Will and their travels, and how that whorehouse in Italy had a red wine that made your cock turn purple when you drank too much of it, and how next time he suggested setting course for Portugal, would she remind him of those irate wankers with the pitchforks.

Will had long ago acceded that if you were in Jack Sparrow's presence for any length of time, then you had better leave any preconceived notions of heaven and earth behind you on the dock. It took several years, but Will finally realized that the Pearl was answering Jack just as surely as if Will had been the one Jack had been talking to. A sail would ruffle when she was pleased. When she was being saucy, the rigging would rattle against the masts. Angry, the ship would roll, and Will would have to put out a hand to steady himself.

A couple of days after they'd arrived in New Orleans, Will woke up as the ship heaved against the dock. A sleepy "Jack" left his mouth, but his hand felt nothing but an empty spot next to him. Jack had been up some time obviously; his half of the bed was cold. Not bothering to put on his boots, he eased his way out of their cabin, not sure if the Pearl was issuing a warning to him or that it had been nothing more than the wake from a large ship passing by.

Then he heard Jack's baritone. He had his arms wrapped around the wheel, hatless for once, his silhouette stark and defined from the light of the moon, the perfect picture of a pirate and his ship. There was that roll again. Despite all his years at sea, Will had to throw out a hand and grab a rope to stay upright.

"'M not a coward," Jack said with some asperity, and all the consonants were audible so he wasn't drunk.

That got a creak.

"I'll tell him, promise. Just trying to get my sea legs."

Five years ago, if anyone had said that a ship could laugh, he would have thought them decidedly mad. The rigging rippled and Will would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that it was the Pearl issuing a throaty haw.

"Easy for you," Jack pouted.

The rigging snapped.

"Sorry, love. Sorry. You're my best girl and he's my best boy, and I'll do it. Promise."

Jack, continuing to cradle the wheel between his two arms, began to sing her lullabies. On careful, silent feet, Will made his way back to their cabin and feigned sleep when Jack slipped in an hour later.

Then there was the business with the crew.

Once docked, one of the first orders of the day was to stock up on smithing supplies. That last run in with the French had depleted their stock of bullets. He'd nipped out shortly after breakfast to make his rounds, only later realizing that Jack had more or less shooed him off the ship. The latest skirmishes with the Spanish had left the French with bugger all in terms of raw minerals, and he'd concluded his business in half the time. Worried about the state of their readiness should they meet hostile ships, he sprinted back to the ship to discuss with Jack about pulling anchor and sailing somewhere so they could stock up on what they needed.

His first clue should have been that the cats were on watch. Black and Black greeted him with identical hisses and raced off.

Sprinting up the gangplank, Will could see that Jack was holding court in front of all the crew. Dear god! Jack was blushing, most definitely blushing. A slight red tinged his tan cheeks. Will had never seen Jack blush in their entire five years together.

"Black, would you…? Black, my boot is not a fish head. Although it probably smells like a fishhead. What is wrong with you two? Go…kill parrots or something. Sorry, Cotton, just sort of slipped out. Now, we're all agreed. We say nothing to Will"

At that, one of the cats jumped on Will's back and clawed his shoulder. Will yowled in pain and he jumped off, giving Will that sneer that cats have perfected over the centuries.

"Will, my lad. What brings you back so soon?"

Jack, the master trickster, had recovered his equilibrium, but now the crew, down to a man (with the exception of Anamaria, who had bigger balls than all of them put together) were blushing.

He waited for a couple of days and then decided enough was enough. He would ask Mr. Gibbs. When he and Jack put their heads together, there was something of the "partners in crime" aspect to the plotting, but aside from himself and the Pearl, there was no one Will trusted more with Jack's life.

To say he was completely unprepared for Mr. Gibbs' unceremonious refusal to discuss the issue was putting it mildly.


"No, Mr. Turner. This is another one of those instances when it is between you and Jack. Remember what happened last time the crew got in the middle of your doings? And—"

"I don't know what is between me and Jack," Will protested with some indignation. "And last time is only relevant if I know what in the hell is going on. Since I don't know—"

"Jesus, I need a drink," he cried up into the air. "What in God's name did I do to deserve these two," and he walked away muttering about insanity, blacksmiths, pirate captains, and purgatory on Earth.

As much as Will was not the superstitious sort, he couldn't help but subscribe to Mr. Gibbs' dictum of three, because the final straw was when Jack wouldn't let him touch him.

Jack tended to play his cards close to his vest. Will acknowledged that this was a tried and true survival technique. Because a great majority of the scrapes and near-death experiences that seemed to dog Jack like sweat on a warm day were his own damn fault, there were times when Will actually appreciated being kept in the dark. On the odd occasion when Jack would put a finger up to his lips in response to a question, Will more often than not considered it a blessing. Truly, sometimes he didn't want to know. Like the time Jack showed up wearing a monk's robe, with the hood pulled up over the baubles and braids, and threw an extra robe at Will with the plea to put it on posthaste. Then Jack dragged him into the nearest church, threw him down on a pew, and ordered him to bow his head. The prayers Will uttered were not manufactured, as he heard the thump on wood of at least ten booted men, who ignored them, while screaming, "Encuentre del pirata y matarlo, encuentre el pirata y matarlo," at the top of their lungs.

So when Jack announced he had business in town and put a finger up to his lips, Will was mildly concerned, but not overly alarmed. At least he'd save his alarm for when the situation truly warranted it, which probably was about two hours hence. Jack appeared four hours later, a strained smile on his lips.

When in port, Jack gave shore leave to Cook, always wanting to savor the local fare, yet tonight, he waved a tired hand and said that he just wanted to turn in early. Will turned to the other crew members in alarm. Jack never turned in before the moon was up and certainly had never passed by an opportunity to revel in the debauched air that characterized New Orleans. This was evidence that something was radically wrong, but his mute pleas were met with flat stares by every single one of the crew, and Jack slipped into their cabin without a word.

In Jack's absence, Mr. Gibbs set up the watch and Will was on first. It was a couple of hours before Will could check on Jack in the cabin. Sure enough, he was asleep, the smell of stale rum assaulted Will's nose the second he stepped across the threshold. Why was Jack drinking himself to sleep? And why was he still dressed?

Will stripped down to his smalls, curled up next to Jack, and began running a hand over his waist. Jack woke immediate and flinched. "Not tonight, Will. Not tonight."

It was a night for "nevers," because Jack had never refused Will, had never balked at his touch.

So it was for three days and three more nights. Trips to town, the pained expression on Jack's face that never abated, the silence of the crew, Jack drinking himself to sleep, and the continued refusal to let Will touch him or be touched.

On the fourth night, Will could stand no more.

No sooner did Jack gather the crew to mete out watch and shore leave, than Will barked out a "Captain."

If Will hadn't been on the verge of hysterics, he might have appreciated the startled look Jack gave over his shoulder, looking for someone else, and then realizing it was Jack Will was addressing, gave everyone a pleased smirk that it was him being addressed as "Captain."

"Mr. Turner, if you please." Jack turned and preened in front of all the crew. It was so normal and so, well, Jack that Will almost smiled.


Will ignored the gasps of surprise from the crew and the "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," mumbled by Mr. Gibbs.

"Mr. Turner."

This must be said. He would no longer be kept in the dark. Lying there night after night, listening to Jack moan in his sleep as he turned over, the rank odor of rum off his breath. They would face this together.

"Why haven't you told me you were dying? Everyone else, everyone else, but me knows. Why? Do you mean to spare me the pain? Nothing could be worse than thisthis…" He flailed a hand.

Jack's eyes swept the crew.

"I'm dying? Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.

The entire crew rolled their eyes.

"You're not dying, Jack. Will is…" Mr. Gibbs paused, scrunched his eyebrows together, "confused about, well, matters. You know. Your matter."

Jack remained confused until Mr. Gibbs' wriggled his eyebrows a few more times and directed several pointed looks between him and Jack.

"Yes, yes, yes. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. See," Jack said brightly. "I'm not dying. I was dying before, back when…" Jack narrowed his eyes and sought out the parrots. Mr. Cotton hunched his shoulders forward in a protective curl. The parrots squawked out a, "Shiver me timbers," in unison.

Everyone said en masse, "No, you weren't!"

"Was too," he insisted. He pointed at the cats. "Black and Black think so."

Everyone turned to look at the cats glaring at the parrots. A collective sigh was heard.

Will really didn't want to relive that entire afternoon where Jack was convinced that old parrot (the crew had designed the parrots "old parrot" and "new parrot," Jack called them "dead parrot" and "deader parrot") had foretold his doom, when it was really just a bad bottle of rum poisoning his liver. Now that there were two parrots, the possibility for histrionics and hysterics was double. Jack never missed an opportunity to malign the parrots, and Will wasn't going to let Jack turn the afternoon into a parrot-baiting session.

"I know, Jack. I heard you talking to the Pearl, and the crew, and, well, the other. You won't let me… You know." Will blushed.

"The Pearl? The crew? What in the blue blazes are you Oh. That." Jack's mouth shut tight and then his face softened, and brought a hand up to Will's head, bringing him close. "Silly William," he cooed into Will's ear. "'M not dying, you daft bugger." With a chaste kiss to the cheek, he stepped back to address the crew.

"Well, lads," at a growl from Anamaria Jack amended it to, "people, pirates, crew, men, women, cats, and I'm not including the bloody parrots, though they'll stick their nosy beaks in anyway." At that the main mast creaked, which Will was absolutely convinced was the Pearl rolling her metaphorical eyes. "The jig is up. Sooner than we thought, but the best laid plans."

Then Jack turned to him, grabbed Will's hands and said in a quiet voice. "Mr. Turner, will you marry me?"

They lay side by side, trickles of sweat running down the length of their chests. Even though the cabin was hot and sticky, they opted to keep the windows closed. The music was loud and the voices raucous. Put a fiddle in Marty's hands and he'd play until dawn.

"Silly Jack," Will cooed into Jack's ear. Jack eased into his touch with a hiss. "It's beautiful. How long will it take to heal?"

"Tis done now, so no more than a week."

Will placed a gentle hand just about the small of Jack's back, thinking very dirty thoughts of running the tip of his tongue over the elaborate serif of the intertwined "J" and "W" before running the tip of the tongue elsewhere.

"Why did you have to ask the crew?"

Will didn't bother asking why Jack had had to ask the Pearl.

"They're my family, Will," Jack said in some surprise. "Yours too, my lad."

Will let the "my lad" part go. He wasn't a lad any longer, hadn't been for many moons and several hundred ports, but he suspected that Jack got as much pleasure out of laying claim to him and he got in being claimed.

"Aye, they are. Why are we waiting again?"

In among all the hullabaloo after Will shouted a yes (the cats began to chase Cotton, the parrots began flying in and around everyone's heads, Mr. Gibbs unearthed a flask from a pile of ropes and down the whole thing in one gulp, and Marty grabbed his fiddle and the crew started dancing and singing), he never quite heard why they couldn't get married right there and then.

"Need a captain, Will. Finally, am going to get that blasted nag, I mean, I'm finally honoring my debt to Anamaria and have bought her the sweetest sloop. Arrives from Nassau in a couple of days, wind willing. Hand over the ship, do a bunch of nonsense to make her Captain, and then she can marry us."

"Two captains?" Will kissed the inside of Jack's neck and tasted salt and rum. Jack lifted his head for more kisses.

"Just one."

Will stopped to look at him.

He grinned. Despite the dull, meager light of the candle, the gold teeth gleamed.

"Commodore Jack Sparrow."