Fahye (fahye_fic) wrote,
Fahye
fahye_fic

[PotC: turn your sail (never say we die)]

Title: turn your sail (never say we die)
Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 6301
Notes: I came home from seeing At World's End with this idea in my head, and haven't been able to think properly since. It turned out, uh, a bit longer than it was meant to. But who am I kidding: that is PERFECTLY NORMAL where I am concerned. Contains spoilers for AWE, a great deal of the Captains Turner, and a handful of other characters that I just kind of threw in in a grand, reckless, and totally transparent attempt to tie every single ambiguous loose end into a pretty bow.

This fic works on the assumption that the movie's ending was exactly as it appeared to be, rather than what it actually was, and the author makes no apology for this.

Title is taken, in a stunning display of unoriginality, from the full lyrics of Hoist The Colours.

All right. Onwards! Yo ho!



turn your sail (never say we die)


i

Sailing away from Elizabeth for the first time, you are half-expecting your heart to break and leak blood into the locked chest. You hold a spyglass to your eye until she is out of sight and until the new scar tissue beneath your collarbone has begun to ache.

~

Just as you discovered as soon as you awoke to find your heart missing and the ship herself lashed to your soul, the Flying Dutchman is never actually underwater; just on the water's underside. She sails between the worlds by graceful pitch, not awkward roll, and all she needs is a quick crew and her captain's will. The underworld is little different, in most aspects; you sail through waves and under skies, and the weather is still as temperamental as a whore, as most of the crew would put it.

"Not that I'd know," you tell your father, who laughs. You remember Giselle slapping you in her anger at Jack, and can't help but smile as well.

Neither is there need to wait for the sun to rise (or set), but you find yourself doing so as often as not. Somehow it's easier; it gives you something to aim for during the transition. You find that the best way to think of it is splicing the horizon like you would a rope, pulling it apart and winding it back upon itself. And then finding yourself in the overworld, letting the sea's lost souls aboard, or in the underworld, where they lower themselves into the water and fade to grateful flickers of foam. It is not so much a ferrying as a transference, but it must be done, and it is yours to do.

You begin with the most immediate carnage, which is that remaining after Calypso's maelstrom and the wreck of the Endeavour. Soul after soul, redcoats and pirates alike, and – one morning – a man bearing the grand gold trim of the British Navy and a long-suffering expression that is almost –

"Norrington?"

He looks up sharply, and the familiar expression gains an additional layer of displeased incredulity. "Turner?"

There follows a highly awkward discussion during which you manage to convince him that you did not willingly abandon Elizabeth, and your father apologises at least three times for killing the man.

"I accept," Norrington says eventually, "that you were not in your right mind at the time, Mr. Turner."

"Much obliged, Commodore –"

"It's Admiral Norrington, thank you," he says, sounding affronted.

"And which fleet do you currently command, sir?" The bosun – Johnson? – snickers, and those of the crew in earshot join him.

"That is hardly relevant," Norrington says scathingly, drawing himself upright. "I was advanced to the position, and so retain the title. If Sparrow could waltz around for years proclaiming himself a Captain in the absence of even a rowboat to call his own, then I think I am eminently justified in –"

"I see your point," you cut in. "May I just say…Elizabeth told me what you did. For her. I would like to thank you –" he smiles uncomfortably, and looks sideways, and the words continue out of your mouth almost before the idea takes conscious shape "– and offer you a place aboard the Dutchman."

His gaze snaps to meet yours once more "I beg your pardon?"

"God knows I have little experience of captaining, and I'm working with not much more than a skeleton crew." You catch his eye and the two of you share a flash of humour; humour and acknowledgement of the Aztec gold, which seems a lifetime ago now. Skeleton crew indeed. "Would you stay?"

"Serving under you?" He snorts. "Please, Turner. Don't insult me."

"I am not Davy Jones." You step down onto the main deck, giving him the advantage of height. "I am not demanding a hundred years of servitude. I am not binding you to any bargain. I am asking for your help, for as long as you care to give it, and no longer. I can release you to the underworld whenever you wish. And by the way," you add, "I believe I have something that belongs to you."

He inhales sharply when you lift the sword. It's still your finest piece of work, and you marvel at how well it has weathered…well, being stuck through your chest, for one thing. Fine as it is, you've never felt comfortable wearing it yourself; not after that.

"Consider it my thanks. A symbol of where my old talents lay." You smile as his hand closes over the hilt. "And now, as you see, I am in urgent need of some new ones."

Norrington pulls two inches worth of the blade free of the sheath and touches it lightly, then turns it to catch the sun. "I suppose," he says grudgingly, "that considering the importance of its purpose, I have a moral obligation to ensure that the Flying Dutchman is captained by someone with at least a passing familiarity with the ropes of command."

"Good man!" your father says, and claps him on the back.

Norrington twists his shoulders and gives him an unimpressed look. "Right mind or no, you, sir, killed me. You'll forgive me for not extending the hand of friendship just yet." He removes his hat and wig and tosses them overboard, and then begins to shrug his way out of his blood-stained Navy overcoat.

"Captain Turner," he says; and yes, there's sarcasm in his tone, but only a small dose. "I find myself in need of some new clothes."

~

But the single souls of the recent violence are not the only charges now under your care. Davy Jones abandoned his duties a long, long time ago, and so soon enough you swallow your trepidation and sail the Dutchman to the starry midnight edges of the overworld.

"What are we looking for?" your father asks.

"You'll know it when you see it," you reply, and calm yourself with the feel of the wood under your fingers. This is unchartered, this attempt of yours; so far you have only known the newly-dead, who for the most part will climb aboard with little fuss and slip away with even less. Facing this vast array of aimless, numb, abandoned souls will be another matter entirely.

"Kraken's teeth." You follow his wary gaze through the fog, and there they are, the tiny scattered boats with their lanterns bobbing into dim focus. "I didn't think there would be so many of them."

"Weigh anchor," you call, but there is little need for it – the wind is dying and the ship herself creaking her way to a willing halt at the very edge of the fleet. For a moment you are more frightened than you've ever been, but then it passes. You are captain of the Flying Dutchman. Your soul is bound and your heart is safe.

"Will you sail to the next world?" Your voice is weak and shimmers to nothingness in the gloom. You clear your throat, feeling self-conscious, and try again. "Souls of the sea, will you sail?"

Sea-silence; the waves lapping against the ship with quiet hungry mouths, the creak of wood, the edge of the wind as it ruffles the sails. Sea-silence and sea-darkness and all of it stretching onwards, onwards, onwards, and just when you have gathered your breath to repeat yourself, the souls turn towards you in a great mass movement and lift their hands to block the light from their lanterns.

"Will, shall we –"

"Shh." You place one hand on your father's arm but do not pull your eyes away from the tableau in front of you. Come on. Come on.

And it happens: the souls pull their hands away for a long moment in which the Dutchman rocks once, twice – and then they cover the lanterns again. A sustained flash of light. The maritime signal for I will comply.

You laugh for a moment with sheer relief before realizing that you haven't the slightest idea how to ferry these drifting souls to the underworld. They will certainly not all fit aboard. "Father?" You tilt your head and try to look captain-like while talking out of the side of your mouth. "What now?"

He smiles and claps you on the shoulder. "I think the Dutchman can handle the next part herself, my boy. Look."

It takes you a few seconds to see what he is pointing at, the scope and subtlety of it is so breathtaking. The sky seems to inhale; the fog is spun thinner, thinner, and then gone. And the unveiled stars are rearranging themselves in the water, forming delicate ropes of twinkling light stretched from one dinghy to another. Your crew watches without speaking as the pattern takes shape, and before long the dead are pulling the stars from the water, their hands gently cradling the dripping star-filaments and lashing them to their boats. It must not take more than a minute, perhaps two, before the job is complete. The nearest soul, a man with a bloody gash snaking down his entire face, throws a loop of the bright stuff to catch around one of the stylised teeth that line the Dutchman's jutting prow.

And so here you stand, Will Turner, foundling turned blacksmith turned pirate turned immortal captain of the dead, looking out over an armada of constellations spread out across the water. The idea is laughable, immense, almost blinding.

"Captain?" Hughbey calls down from the main topsail, his voice hushed with awe.

A pale slash of dawn begins to blur the horizon. You set your shoulders and, for no reason that you can really fathom, think of Jack. "Take us under."

~

No matter how much you may resent the years that keep you apart from Elizabeth, you are glad of the time given to you and your father. You exchange every possible story, filling in the gaps of the past, and grow to know each other as well as family should.

James Norrington teaches you everything you could wish to know about the command of a ship, and assumes the position of first mate with scornful good grace, a grand air of entitlement, and the condition that he is to be addressed as 'Admiral' at all times. Most of the crew have already forgotten that he had any other name.

The crew members themselves are another matter. Very few remain from those that served under Jones – without the threat of the Locker, most were glad enough to pass into the next world – but James is not the only dead soul to whom you issue an invitation of service. Some are bitter, some lost, some clinging to life and the memory of their loved ones with a crazed pathos that makes you burn with guilt and recognition. You learn to pick them out easily enough, though if pressed you would not be able to describe how the choice is made. It is the Dutchman herself who chooses them; and this, you are beginning to suspect, was her true purpose, before Jones turned her into a desperate changeling purgatory. She was made to sail on the edge between the worlds and give the most troubled souls a chance to grow accustomed to their own death. Some serve for a month before sliding gratefully into the waves – some for a year – and a few of them grow to be as much a part of the ship as though there really were barnacles and coral holding them in place.

And so time passes, no longer measurable by a heartbeat. To the sea-silence you add sea-time, which is measured by the rocking of the deck and the precise shadows of the rigging on the sails. Time and sorrow in your dead man's chest, eternity where your heart should be. In the worst moments you are so furious that you could almost set the ship herself alight, not for the unfairness of her curse but for how little it has changed you, in the end. You are immortal: surely ten years should be as nothing to you, now?

No. Cruelty is a matter of perspective. Or perhaps a matter of perspective remaining agonisingly steadfast.

Always, as ever, your world revolves around Elizabeth. You imagine your course as a cobwebbed maelstrom of those shining star-ropes, crisscrossing the worlds, weaving a thick inexorable spiral with her at their centre. The Dutchman's curse is old strong magic, but this is surer still: your soul was signed over to her from the moment you opened your eyes on the deck of her father's ship.


ii

Of all the thoughts that pass through your head in the first ten years of your life as ferryman for the dead, the prospect of having a child is not one of them. So when the faint silhouette atop the cliff resolves itself into two silhouettes, your immediate reaction is less than exemplary.

"Oh good God," you choke, and feel your knuckles clench white around the rope, suddenly aghast at the very fact that you never did consider this possibility. Why not? Why didn't you – what?

"William?" Your father is watching you. "Is everything all right, lad?"

"She – there's –" By the time you lower yourself to the deck, you've flown straight through shock and arrived at joy, though clearly not without making port at some emotion that involved tears, because you can barely speak for the thickness of your throat. Eventually you get out "A child!" and something vast and warm enters your father's eyes as he hugs you roughly.

You are still a long way from shore when you feel the ocean swallow the sun and hiccup out the flash of green light, and the Dutchman jerks in a way that is almost friendly, lending your dive some ancient speed that has you struggling through the shallows in the space of four breaths. You have barely wiped the salt from your eyes when you catch sight of Elizabeth, running across the sand, her hair tangled by the wind, and suddenly everything sweeps out of you, everything, so that by the time she reaches the water's edge and throws herself at you with a very unladylike shriek you can do nothing but close your arms around her and then stand there, drenching her with seawater, entirely unable to breathe.

"Oh, Will," she says in a voice that is rough and quiet and just as wild as you feel, "Will –" and then one of you moves and suddenly you are kissing your wife, deeply and desperately, and it is worth every second of those ten years.

It is only when she puts her head on your shoulder and holds you close again that you look past her to the boy standing upon the beach, hands behind his back, eyes curious and expectant. "Elizabeth. A son?" Again that thickening of your throat, and a spreading warmth in the place where your heart would be.

"His name is William," she says in that low voice. "I hope that's all right. Family tradition, and all that."

"Perfect," you say, and hold her even more tightly, breathing in the scent of her skin, flooded. Not every drop of water in every ocean of the world could fill you as completely this emotion.

~

"I bought you something," she says that night, all of the old mischief in her eyes as she pulls the bulky thing out from behind her back.

You can’t help but grin. "So I see."

"Every pirate captain needs a hat, Will," she says firmly. "I suspect you've earned it by now."

"Is that so?" You wrap one arm around her waist, smiling, and pull her in so that you can take the hat with the other and set it on your head. It's wide-brimmed and, thankfully, devoid of feathers.

She nods and lifts her chin, affecting a haughty air. "I, of course, have several."

"Gifts from your vassals?" You tuck back a lock of hair and brush your lips against the bare skin of her cheek thus revealed.

"I can think of one vassal whose gifts have been decidedly wanting, these past ten years." She pushes the hat's brim upwards and kisses you with purpose, her hands starting to work at the laces of your shirt, and neither of you catch the slow appearance of the stars, but neither do you sleep. Ten years traded against this one day; you will not lose any of it to useless dreams. You make love, and talk about her latest hassles brokering territory agreements between two of the more belligerent pirate lords, and make love again, and sit with Elizabeth pulled back against your chest, wrapped in blankets, waiting for the sun to rise.

"I always thought that if I had a son, I would call him after my father," she says, breaking the slow honey-like silence. "But when the day came, I couldn't inflict Weatherby upon the poor boy." She breaks into giggles, all of her body vibrating warmly within the circle of your arms, and the first rays of light creep over the horizon.

One day with your wife and son; you try to spend it indoors so that you are not tempted to watch the sun's passage, but you have spent too long under open skies not to know the hours by the angle of shadows. And so you re-learn Elizabeth by morning light, navigating by old scars and new freckles. You memorise the taste of her lips drenched in noon and wine. You watch her steadily as the afternoon slants in through the windows, building an image to store inside yourself, under the skin, filling your hollows. And when the sun brushes the horizon her eyes are glorious in the orange glow, wide and resolute. Water sweeps at your heels and then rushes forwards to cover her own feet and drench her skirts. You frown and begin to lift the hem clear of the waves, but she bats your hands away with an exasperated sigh.

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Will."

You thought the first goodbye was difficult; this is a hundred times worse. You grasp Elizabeth's hands and try to find the right words, but she gives a tiny shake of her head and kisses you. She has always been the stronger, in her own way, and you tell her so when she pulls away.

"Will…"

"Yes?"

"Nice hat," she says, and her voice cracks on the second word, but you catch only the briefest glimpse of her face collapsing into tears before she pulls you into a final fierce embrace.


iii

Ten more years. As ever, time is as fickle as the sea herself: sometimes she races as fast as the currents and the gales, and sometimes she becalms you in endless tortuous days of longing, waiting, wishing. Somewhere there are a thousand shores and ports where time is captured in clocks and passes in regular beats for the people of the dry ground. Somewhere your own heart is keeping perfect time for the woman you love, though you wonder if it speeds up when you let yourself think of her. If it ever misses a beat.

Ten more years. Sometimes you think you catch a glimpse of Calypso in the faintest whiff of Tia Dalma's cloves-and-seaweed scent on the edge of the rain, in the laughter of a gull, in the boiling sepia clouds of a storm. You never call to her. Never give chase. If her love is anything as consuming as yours, you know she would not welcome the intrusion – and besides, Barbossa was right: you have no need of her favours.

Ten more years. Ferrying the souls of the sea, working by the sweat of your brow and the strength of your back and the wet hard wood of your will set against the horizon between the worlds of the living and the dead.

~

You grow accustomed to wrangling news of the Pirate King from the ferried souls, sifting through rumour and wild hyperbole and foreign locations that are several weeks out of date, finding just enough to let you know that she is well. In the two months before your second reunion, however, the seas are maddeningly quiet, and you work yourself into a frenzy of worry. William is sick, or captured, or killed. Elizabeth has suffered some misfortune and died on dry land.

The sun mocks you with his slow descent, on the final day, and not until Elizabeth is safely within your arms again do you allow yourself to relax. For a long, long minute you hold her and say nothing at all and forget that your legs are unused to ground that holds firm and does not sway.

"Hello, Father."

It takes you a moment to realise, despite your laboriously updated expectations, that this tall young man is your son. He smiles; uncertainly, but with pride in his bearing. Elizabeth has worked a miracle. You realise that part of you was hoping for another child, but it was only one day, and in hindsight you hold yourself lucky that William was born at all.

"William." You feel somewhat of a fool, not knowing what to say.

"He can handle a sword as well as you can, Will." Elizabeth keeps one arm about your waist and her head on your shoulder. "Perhaps better, for I'll wager there isn't much call for fighting aboard the Dutchman."

You laugh. "As a matter of fact, some of the dead can be troublesome."

So you spend an evening duelling with your son, learning his character through the clash of swords and the dance of his feet, loving the pirate fearlessness in his style. It is ten times easier than conversation would be. Elizabeth watches you both with a restless joy, and when William has left for his own dwelling she slides onto your lap as you sit in front of the fire.

"You haven't aged a day," you murmur into her hair.

"Will." She sighs and melts into you, sounding fond and exasperated. "You don't expect me to believe that, do you? I am in possession of several mirrors, and my eyes are perfectly functional."

"Well." You pull back and make a great show of inspecting her again, dropping kisses across her eyelids and at the sides of her mouth. "Perhaps a few days. Perhaps as much as a week."

She laughs. "I love you, Will Turner."

"I love you, Elizabeth Turner." Kissing her again, infusing it with all the inadequate words you planned and practiced and discarded over your second decade of missing her. "You cannot imagine how much I love you."

Her eyes fall closed and her mouth opens in the unsteady breath of surprise that has always been able to ignite you. "I think," she says, "I may have an inkling."

And later that night she lies with her cheek against your chest and the light of candles drawing streaks of golden fire from her hair and she tells you that she is planning to die.

"No." After the initial moment of shock you put your hands on either side of her face, terrified. "Elizabeth, don't be absurd."

"No, Will, listen to me. Will." Her fingers cover your lips, quelling the next set of protests. "Our son is making his own life, now, and I've talked this through with him. There's no need for me to stay here, my love. We've made our indelible mark on this world."

You are struggling to cling to reason through the abrupt savage hope that rises in your chest. You think: Elizabeth dead. You think: ten more years.

"Elizabeth, you're alive. I wouldn't let you –"

"Captain Turner," she says, her mouth very close to yours, in a tone that you recognise. "Do you count yourself a pirate, sirrah?"

"Yes," you say, before you can think.

"Well, then." Her fingers trace your jaw and then your neck, curling, drifting down to splay out against the scar tissue. "Consider this a direct order from your King."

"Elizabeth –"

"Will." Her hand presses down and her eyes flick open, holding you steady. Twenty years she has held her ragged kingdom together. Twenty years of steel and authority in her gaze. "Do you think you can stop me?"

In the silence you can feel her pulse, a zephyr of rhythm through her fingertips, solitary and faint. The part of you still deluding itself that you are in charge of this decision aches with the knowledge that she should not have to be the timekeeper for you both, in this world.

You let out a long breath and lift your hand to cover hers. "Eternity is a long time," you tease her, unable to voice it in any other fashion – die then, Elizabeth, die and fall under the horizon – and loving her with an unbearable force. "Are you sure you want to put up with me for that long?"

"Eternity is a long time, Will Turner." Candlelight glitters at the edges of her eyes, the rich warmth of them shot through with these sparks of sharp delight. "I wouldn't let you face it alone." She kisses you like wax falling onto folded parchment; like sudden heat, like a bruise, like she has left her mark upon you in a form indelible. Like the sealing of a promise.

~

The storm she elects to end her life in is a wild one, and the waves beat against the hull in a steady forbidding rhythm.

"Only this wife of yours would do something this crazy, lad," your father says, and the knowing humour in his voice draws the worst of your anxiety away. "How do you expect to make her follow orders, aboard ship?"

You exhale, grateful, and manage a rueful smile. "I have no such expectations."

"Wise man," the Admiral says, giving you a wry look as he passes by. You note the unconscious, jittery tapping of his fingers against his leg, but do not comment on it. James Norrington is a man of honour with whom you have long since made your peace, and whom you would trust with both your safety and your wife.

Gannings gives a sudden shout from the crow's nest. "Two points off the port bow, Captain!"

Still the death-beat, running through you, right up until the moment that the dead soul of Elizabeth Turner takes your hand and hauls herself up onto the deck, clad in a very sensible pair of trousers and a belted leather vest over long cotton sleeves. If there was ever any doubt in your mind then it is banished in the low hum of acknowledgement that the Flying Dutchman sends you. It says: crew.

It says: absolution.

"Rum?" your father says, sounding amused, and you abruptly catch sight of the empty bottle in Elizabeth's other hand. She tosses it aside with a satisfied flick of the wrist.

"Well, Mr. Turner, I got drunk and went for a little swim. But it would appear that death is an excellent cure for hangovers."

You squeeze her hand. "Welcome aboard, your Majesty."

"Will," and her face dimples with a smile that renders her eighteen again; eighteen and vibrant and immediate. "How many times must I ask you to call me Elizabeth?"

The laughter bursts out of you. You are so happy that for a moment you are foam yourself, soaring on the tip of the storm. "Once more, Miss Swann." You kiss the back of her hand; no pulse, but the sea sings through your feet and bridges the gap. "As ever."

"Captain!" Gannings cries. "Wind is shifting southerly – shall we bring her about?"

"Aye." Your eyes fly from rope to rope, calculating, and Elizabeth laughs and follows your gaze with effortless expertise.

"I must say," she says, "eternity is a lot more violent than I was expecting."

"You get used to it," the Admiral says, abruptly, leaning down from where he is loosening the mainsheet to tap her on the shoulder.

Her eyes quite visibly follow the tanned line of his arm up past the rolled sleeves, the leather sash, and to his face. "James," she gasps, and flings her arms around the parts of him she can reach.

"It's wonderful to see you, Elizabeth," he says, moving his free hand to pat her hair awkwardly. "And I'd be delighted to continue this reunion under fairer skies, if you wouldn't mind…?"

"Oh! Do carry on." She pulls back and moves to your side. The storm is still building in strength, green-grey waves tossing and slopping across the deck, the ship's ragged sails beginning to be whipped taut.

"We sail before the wind, gentlemen!"

Aye, Captain, echoing from all around you. Elizabeth sets her feet firmly against the bucking deck and tilts her face into the rain.

"Orders, Captain?" she yells above the wind.

"Hold fast," you shout back, and spin the wheel.

~

After so many years, the Flying Dutchman has music again; it is not long at all before Elizabeth pulls the fabric from the organ that remains in the captain's quarters, feels out the pedals with her feet, and brings forth a melody from the tall pipes with startling virtuosity.

"This is lovely." You run your fingers through her hair, slowly brushing it to one side, and she tilts her head in response to your touch.

"Will," she murmurs. "I shall find myself quite distracted from the notes."

"Considering the lack of tentacles to aid the performance," you say solemnly, but with a teasing flick of your fingers against her neck, "I think your playing is remarkable."

She lifts her hands from the keys. "Twenty years, William Turner," she says, turning on the stool to arch her eyebrows at you. "I had time to become quite proficient, in the absence of any other amusements."

You reach down and tug her upwards, bring her face close enough that you could almost kiss her, but not quite. "Oh?" – your breath already rough. "And how might I amuse you, Captain Turner?"

"Do I have to give you an order?" She leans up and bites gently at your lips and you take the hint, push her away and encircle her wrists with your hands.

"Perhaps you do," you say, low, leaning forward until your forehead rests against hers. "Perhaps you should tell me what you want."

Silence, for a long moment, and you wonder if you have misjudged her mood. By the time you pull back and look her in the eye the playfulness has been replaced by a fiery, stubborn grace.

"I want to fall asleep with my husband," she whispers fiercely. "I want to fall asleep with you, and to wake up knowing that I don't have to watch you sail away from me."

You trace the thin leather that lies around her neck, now, and the delicate shape of the key where it hangs down between her breasts. Your heart is with your son, and this woman holds the key to it, and everything is exactly as it should be.

"You don’t," you tell her. "Never again."


iv

Days and weeks, months and years; time is truly and finally beginning to lose its meaning, and one dull afternoon you are sailing the overworld, picking up souls from the wreckage of a ship that looks to be Spanish, when –

"Ahoy!" a voice cries out. "Gerroff, stupid bugger – ahoy, the Dutchman! Heave to! Man overboard and at perilous risk of imminent death by pecking, et cetera!"

"Oh, Lord," the Admiral mutters.

"Is that…?" Elizabeth dashes to starboard with a coil of rope and you follow her, not quite ready to believe the sight that your eyes present to you.

"Well if it isn't my very good friends, the Captains Turner!" Jack Sparrow delivers a sound thwack to a hungry gull with one of his pistols, lifts it higher in greeting, and grins. "Parlay?"

~

On deck and with his effects rearranged, pistols tucked away and hat adjusted, Jack looks exactly the same; no older than you can remember him being, and certainly no less exuberant.

"Why aren't you dead yet, Sparrow?" the Admiral demands.

"Commodore!" Jack looks delighted, and sways over to stare at him from an obnoxious proximity.

"Admiral." You, Elizabeth and James correct him in absent unison.

"Sure, mate, sure. Well, this is practically a living portrait of the good old days, isn't it? Have you got Barbossa stowed away behind the fore topmast, then? And hang me for a ha'penny, in all the tremendous excitement I appear to have forgotten me manners." Jack turns to face Elizabeth, removes his hat and presses it to his chest. "Your Majesty the Pirate King. It appears that rumours of your death have been not at all exaggerated, and may I say that you make a particularly fine-looking corpse."

Elizabeth laughs and pushes a strand of damp hair behind her ear in a girlish gesture. "You may, Captain Sparrow."

"And I suppose, wedded bliss and all other circumstances taken under due consideration, that would make you Queen William Turner of the Flying Dutchman. Charmed, I'm sure." Jack sweeps you something that is much closer to a curtsey to a bow.

"It's just Captain Turner, these days, Jack."

"Pity," he says, straightening up and replacing his hat with a flourish. "Queen William has such a ring to it, wouldn't you say?"

"Jack, what happened?" Elizabeth asks. "That wasn't the Pearl that sank back there."

"Ah." Jack looks uncomfortable for the first time. He raises one finger and quirks a slightly desperate smile. "The fact of the matter is, I have momentarily misplaced the Black Pearl. And seeing as how the ship I was stowed away in and planning to commandeer just had the bad manners to get itself sunk, I find myself lacking a mode of transportation to assist me in locating said vessel." Jack spreads his palms, smile turning wicked. "And here you are, just in time to save me from making some scrawny bird or other a good meal, which would seem rather a step backwards in the dignified death stakes for someone who's been eaten by a Kraken. One might almost be tempted to call it fate, eh?"

You sigh. "Jack, you can't stay on this ship. No mortal can stay in the underworld for too long – you know that perfectly well."

"Ah, well, then, the circumstances really are most favourable. One might even call them fortuitous." Jack polishes his rings on his shirt and gives you the look that means he's done something which he considers to be unutterably clever. "You see, I have drunk from the Fountain of Youth, and I'm not so much what one would call mortal any more."

"You what?" Elizabeth stares at him, and Jack makes an airy gesture.

"Fountain of Youth, love. The good old aqua vitay. Myself, I don't think it quite stands up to a bottle of rum, for taste, but I suppose one can't have everything in one's elixir of immortality de choix."

"You're making it up," the Admiral says scornfully.

"Do I look my age, mate?" Jack raises his eyebrows. "Or do I, rather, look the pretty picture of perfect piratical health?"

You've come across the stories, of course – you've come across most stories, by now – and you have to admit that if anyone could track down the Fountain of Youth, it'd be Captain Jack Sparrow. You exchange a glance with Elizabeth, and the quirk of her mouth tells you that she is thinking the same thing.

Jack himself seems to take the silence for continued dissent, and wanders across to direct the full force of his argument at Elizabeth. "This seems the opportune moment to remind you that I was responsible for you being elected to the position of royalty, and that the Flying Dutchman herself could have been mine, but for my noble and generous nature which led me to save dear William here from a terrible death." He waves a hand in your direction.

You are fairly sure that if you thought back far enough you would find that Jack was responsible for your being stabbed in the first place, but it doesn't strike you as worth the effort. "All right, Jack. You're welcome aboard until we can find you news of the Pearl."

A wide white grin flashes out on Jack's face. "Much obliged, mate. And I promise to keep all captaining to a minimum, unless of course you start doing it wrong, in which case no guarantees will be tendered whatsoever."

"I'll keep that in mind." There's a chill wind building and the truly dead souls of the Spanish shipwreck are restless. "All hands to stations! Prepare for a plunge!" you command. The crew stops eyeing Jack, and rushes to obey.

"I assume we are to be using the trick of the flip...flipper…flibbertigibit. So to speak." Jack makes a complex gesture with his hands that could have several meanings, many of them obscene, but you get the point.

"I think we could manage that, yes." You turn to Elizabeth and bow. "Would you do us the honour, Captain Turner?"

"I'd be delighted, Captain Turner." She raises her voice. "Admiral, take us under, if you please! All crew hold fast!"

The deck pitches under your feet; the wind snatches James' shouts and fills the sails with them; the waves surge up to meet you with a roar like freedom and like the pounding of a heartbeat. Jack is laughing and clutching his hat. The prow dips forward and you splice the sunset, the rail of the Dutchman's forecastle firm under one hand and Elizabeth's fingers tangling themselves in the other.

"Hold fast," she whispers, and eternity opens up before you.
Tags: pirates of the caribbean
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