“We?” Jack asked, suddenly having the sinking feeling that Gibbs had told the crew far more of the plan than he’d wanted.
“The crew, Captain. We’re all watchin’ him. Oh, don’t worry, we’re stayin’ out of sight jus’ like you wanted, but we’re all hopin’ he’ll choose to come back.” His tone switching from hopeful to concerned, Henry added, “Captain Sparrow, are you sure you don’ want a hand with that, being it’s yer right hand an all?”
Jack, realizing that it would indeed be difficult to remove all the glass left-handed, agreed. He took a seat at the table while Henry scurried off for bandages.
‘So,’ he thought, ‘the crew wants Will back as well. Seems he makes an impression even when not as his best.’
“Henry,” Jack started when the young man sat down. “Why is it the crew wants t’ see young Will return?”
“They all think well of him, Captain. He’s well liked, even if he’s more’n a touch on the moody side at times.”
Jack nodded and winced as a large chunk of glass was gently extracted from the base of his thumb. “So, they like him then? They want him aboard?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, we’re all real fond of him,” Henry confirmed. He grabbed the new rum bottle just before Jack could drink from it and poured some over the Captain’s hand. He worried for a moment when Jack hissed as the alcohol entered the cuts but reminded himself again that Captain Sparrow wasn’t an unreasonable man. He wouldn’t find himself on the receiving end of a beating just because he caused the Captain a bit of pain. “And we see that yer very fond of him as well,” he added. Henry felt the wounded hand he held stiffen slightly. “You should know that we’re rootin’ for the both of ye, sir,” Henry said, with a small, shy smile.
Jack stared at the young man. He was rarely at a loss for words but this was one of those few times. He wondered why neither Gibbs nor Anamaria had mentioned that the crew was coming to certain conclusions that, while not entirely false, were likely not completely true yet either.
“I understand why ye did it though,” Henry said. Since the Captain hadn’t told him to be quiet and mind his own business yet, he decided to charge on. “I mean, if the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow had just walked up to me an’ offered me a job the moment I set foot in the tavern, it would have thrown me. Still does to be honest.”
“Mmm hmm,” Jack said, not really getting quite what Henry was getting at.
“You see, I spent all day talkin’ to Captains an’ not a one was willin’ to give me a chance. But then you come along an’ offer me a place up just like that. I bumped inta you an everythin’. What I’m sayin’ is, I felt like even though I screwed up, ye still gave me a chance, and I’d been tryin’ so hard that in a way it was almost like I’d earned it, although I guess I certainly didn’ do enough t’ earn a place on so good a ship.”
“Aye, lad. Ye do see why I did what I did t’ Will,” Jack agreed, watching the blood well up in one of the cuts on his palm as another glass bit was removed.
Will’s arms and legs burned with the strain. He’d been swimming for he didn’t know how long. It seemed like the faster he tried to swim the further his destination was. Despite how tired he felt, Will didn’t even consider turning around and changing his mind. He’d die before he’d do that. His mind was set, and there was only one place that was worth swimming for, only one destination he was willing to keep moving towards. He’d earn it, he’d earn his place because nobody was going to sweep him up and save him this time.
When Will was finally close enough a rope was tossed down into the water for him. Too tired to hang on as they pulled him up, Will tied the rope around himself. Feeling like a drowned rat, he looked up only to find the entire crew of the Pearl gathered along the side. When he was finally hauled over the side and his feet again had blessedly solid ground (or ship as it were) under them, a loud cheer went up amongst the crew. Will had long since learned that pirates were especially vocal about their victories and triumphs. It would appear his return was good news indeed. Many hands clapped him on the shoulders. He found himself pulled into several (he thought) rather-unpirate like hugs and was congratulated by what seemed like every member of the crew. Everyone, that was, except the captain…
Will watched as the sea of pirates parted for Jack. The captain swaggered up to Will and stopped. He looked at him, head tilted slightly, as though he was assessing him. The crew had finally fallen silent.
“So, young Mr. Turner, you’ve made your decision then?”
“I have,” Will said, noticing the confident sound to his voice that had long been absent.
“ I trust we’ll be able to hold most of your attention from now on?”
“Good,” Jack said simply. He paused just long enough to make Will get that puzzled look on his face before he quickly lurched forward and pulled the soaking young man into his arms. “Welcome to the Black Pearl, Luv,” he said softly into Will’s ear.
The crew again shouted and cheered in support, which Will had decided must be their unique way of clapping. For a brief moment, he considered if this was perhaps what it would have been like when he married Elizabeth. He wondered if the guests in the church would have applauded, would have shouted and cheered when they kissed. When Jack pulled him tighter Will forgot the church, the guests who weren’t his family, the girl who ran away from him. Jack didn’t run. Jack pulled him closer.
That evening Will laid in Jack’s bed, watching as the pirate captain fussed with things in the cabin. Will’s body had been so tired that he’d needed to lean increasingly on Jack while the crew continued to wish him well.
Jack had stripped him down and put him to bed soon after. He’d been too tired to protest, feeling like his muscles had turned to stiff, unmoving chunks of wood. Waterlogged and horribly stiff and sore, Will had allowed Jack to pull off his soaked clothes and burry him under far more blankets than were necessary.
He watched silently across the room as Jack huffed and finally rolled up an expensive looking oriental rug. It wasn’t an easy task one handed, and though it took him several tries, Jack finally succeeded in bundling up the rug and taking it outside.
When Jack opened the cabin door, telling Will that he was going to get rid of the rug, the sound of drunken, and singing pirates drifted into the room. Though Jack didn’t mention to Will that they would use just about any excuse to drink and make merry (particularly when things were as dull as they had been for the crew lately), he was very pleased that his crew so obviously cared about Will.
Jack chucked the bloodstained rug over the side of the ship into the choppy black waters below.
When he returned to his cabin, Jack found Will still awake in bed, seemingly awaiting his return. He’d hoped the obviously exhausted young man would have fallen asleep by now. Will had returned to him, to the Pearl, but Jack wasn’t entirely sure where they now stood on some things, mainly the issue of sleeping arrangements. Jack looked around for something else to fiddle with until Will fell asleep, hoping to postpone certain conversations.
“Jack?” Will asked. “Aren’t you coming to bed yet?”
“Sure yer alright with that, mate?” Jack asked. “With what ye were sayin’ earlier an’ all, I thought maybe…”
Will laughed lightly at Jack’s hesitation. It was so unlike him, but the look of uncertainty on his face was nothing short of adorable.
‘Surely you didn’t just call Jack adorable? That’s the same man who tossed you into the ocean today!’ Will thought.
“I am sorry about what I said earlier,” Will said, turning more serious. “I was angry, I didn’t mean it.” Considering who’s bed it was he was currently occupying Will added, “Maybe I should leave, it is your bed after all, your cabin.”
Will tried to sit up but found that his exhausted arms didn’t want to support his weight. Before he knew it Will felt Jack gently pushing him back onto the mass of pillows. Jack sat on the side of the bed, turning to face him.
“Don’t be goin’ anywhere. All that effort to get where ye belong an’ yer already tryin’ to leave?” Jack asked with a grin.
“Jack, I know I belong here, on the Pearl. I know that now. It’s just …” Will paused, searching Jack’s eyes. “I don’t know that I belong HERE,” he finished quietly, patting the bed.
“Do ye feel like ye belong ‘ere?” Jack asked.
“I just told you, Jack. I’m not sure if I belo-“
“Tha’s not what I said,” Jack interrupted Will. “Do you FEEL like you belong be ‘ere? Do you WANT t’ be here?”
“Yes,” Will said, looking Jack right in the eyes and seeing only acceptance and relief in his expression.
“Then this is where ye belong.”
Jack carefully crawled his way over Will and onto the other side of the bed. He laid back on the pillows, his shoulder against Will’s.
“Jack, I don’t really know how to go about …” Will trailed off.
“Things ‘ill take care of themselves in time,” Jack said, purposely keeping his answer vague. “We’re in no rush, eh?”
“Mmm,” Will agreed.
After a moment Jack added, “Unless o’course there’s somewhere else ye need t’ be?”
Remembering his swim, what it felt like to push his way against the waves and away from Port Royal and all that it represented, Will said, “Absolutely not. But Jack, I can’t just forget everything. I can’t just pretend that Elizabeth never existed, that I never … that I wasn’t ready to marry her.”
“An I’m not askin’ ye to, Savvy?”
“Good. I don’t think I love her anymore, but I can’t just … let it go.”
“It’ll take care of itself in time,” Jack said again. “So long as ye let it.”
“I suppose,” Will said sounding not totally convinced. With a muffled grunt, he shifted position only to find himself less comfortable than before. “Did you really need to throw me in the ocean?”
“I did,” Jack confirmed.
“Whatever gave you such an idea?” Will asked honestly.
Jack considered the question before answering. How could he possibly explain it to Will? He settled on an easy answer, “Pirate.”
Will sniffed, somewhere between amused and irritated by the answer. He shifted again, wiggling some more, though he seemed unable to find any position that made his tired, aching muscles feel any better.
“Come ‘ere,” Jack said as he pulled Will onto his side, against him. He felt Will cuddle up to him, and rest his head on his chest.
Will wasn’t sure why, but his body knew just how to curl up against Jack without any conscious effort on his part. He thought he should find it unnerving, but instead, all he could feel was save and comfortable. He wondered how many times he’d laid like this with Jack in his sleep, without even realizing it. The only time he had memories of being curled up in Jack’s arms before was on Tortuga. He’d thought that nothing could possibly make him feel better, but then Jack had pulled him against his warm body and rocked him. Will had thought about that night many times over the past couple weeks. He thought he should feel shame, but the memory had only brought up feelings of calm and relief.
Unconsciously, Will nuzzled against Jack’s chest, grinning sleepily, pulling his arm tighter around Jack. He felt Jack’s hand come up to stroke his hair, only to feel the bandages catch lightly in his tangled curls.
“How DID you hurt your hand?” Will asked, his voice muffled slightly as his face was pressed against Jack’s chest.
“These one word answers, Jack, they’re rather irritating. ‘Pirate,’ ‘rum’ that doesn’t tell me very much, now does it?”
Chuckling lightly Jack had to agree, “Ah, but maybe tha’s the point then, whelp, eh?”
Will snorted lightly. The warmth of Jack’s body combined with his exhaustion was making him drowsy. He forgot what he’d been trying to ask Jack.
Soon the soothing rocking of the ship threatened to lull him completely to sleep. “Tha’ rocking,” Will said, his words slurring slightly as he struggled to stay awake, “why’s it always so relaxing?”
Jack thought back to when he’d first held Will in his arms. He’d known that despite any additional pain the movement might have caused the injured young man, the rocking motion would comfort him.
“It’s the pirate’s blood in yer veins, Will. Jus’ wait, soon enough you’ll have trouble sleepin’ on solid ground, without the waves rockin’ ye to sleep.”
Will thought it wasn’t motion of the waves he’d have trouble sleeping without. He’d have trouble sleeping without Jack under him, but before he could say it Will drifted off to sleep.