Archive: Yes, help yourself.
Disclaimer: The Mouse/Bruckheimer Productions owns them, except for Jack Sparrow who belongs to J.Depp. ;-)
Warning: Angst, canonical plot, violent graphic description, but still major slash.
Author's Note: Thanks to Firesignwriter (KJ, dearling, thanks- for as always, you provide plenty of ZenGoo and perfervious inspiration!) Many special thanks to Thalia Seawood for her invaluable research and character studies on Jack Sparrow and Commodore Norrington. Also, particular thanks to the members of the SparrowandNorrington yahoogroup list, for the inspiration and discussion of finer points of the J/N dynamic.
Summary: Norrington catches up with Jack Sparrow. But what is he to do with him, once he's caught him?
Part 2 - Decadence
The deep blue-gray expanse of the white-crested ocean turned to liquid silver at the edge of the horizon, meeting the sky beyond. It didn't come as much of a surprise to Jack that he was immediately hustled under guard straight off the Dauntless to the Fort's prison upon their arrival. It was admittedly with some irony that he noticed he was placed in what appeared to be the same cell he'd been held in the last two times he'd been kept there.
But the surprise of finding the dog crouched by the bars of his cell a few hours later begging for scraps was less than amusing, for the dog didn't have the ring of keys in his mouth this time. With little else to do, Jack sat down by the door and scratched the dog behind the ears.
The rest of the cells were notably empty. Distastefully, he reflected upon the zeal of the Commodore with regards to hanging pirates. His left shoulder was aching and raw, making an agony of every movement of his left arm.
But it was nothing compared to the fatalism he found in knowing that if he'd only left the Isle de Muerte alone, he'd not have lost his Pearl again. The Commodore hadn't exactly rubbed his nose in that one, and that had surprised him actually. Norrington had seemed sincerely puzzled that he'd not left well enough alone. But he'd spent ten years waiting for his luck to change and with the mountain of treasure sitting unused back in that island cave, it seemed silly to just let it go to waste. It was a fortune worthy of a king; one could start an empire with it all.
Couldn't be helped now, however. Besides, he knew the Pearl would slip back with or without him and continue hauling off shiploads, now that the rest of the crew knew the way. It was up to him to try to find some way to be rescued; he'd already forbade them to attempt anything as suicidal as trying to rush the Fort in the event anything should happen to him.
But he found he was regretting it as the hours passed and the sun set, the evening gathered and night closed in at last. He dozed, wondering when they'd feed him.
He was only able to sleep fitfully, despite being only moderately inconvenienced. He was used to sleeping anywhere, after all. But on a ship - not on dry land. The rocking, swaying lullaby of motion was nowhere to be had and the lack of it was making it difficult for him to really get comfortable, especially with the added complication of his injured shoulder.
It was a very, very long night.
Jack spent it puzzling over why the Commodore would be feeling any sort of regard for his welfare in the first place. The man was obviously suffering an attack of conscience; firstly, for letting him go, and secondly, for acting on the decision to come after him.
He was beginning to consider Norrington a very confused person indeed. Most likely the loss of his love, Miss Elizabeth Swann-soon-to-be-Mrs.-Turner was to blame, sending the fellow into some sort of agitated, broken-hearted frenzy of refined and proper proportions, as would befit an officer and a gentleman.
Norrington had even sounded remorseful about having to keep him prisoner, which was completely at odds with the startling revelation that he actually wanted to, against the immediate alternative of hanging him. Jack was hardly going to refuse the opportunity to remain alive, for as long as he was so, there was hope.
He sighed. It was true that the Isle de Muerte had so far brought him nothing but bad luck. But it was also true that when away from the Isle, his luck had always held steady and true as one of Will Turner's blades. Or Will's heart. He wished the lad luck in his marriage - that lass was a spitfire and would undoubtedly end up either the ruination of both of them or running off to sea on some mad whimsy. He in fact fully expected Will to seek him out at some point to ask his aide in rushing to rescue Elizabeth from some future entanglement.
He wondered if Norrington had any real intention of simply leaving him here permanently. He really couldn't see how the Commodore could get away with it though; his own men would wonder at it, and word would begin to circulate, as rumors do.
It was really quite interesting, how Norrington had seemed positively unsettled by him. With every question as to why he'd want to keep Jack here, the Commodore had become more and more agitated, to the point of actually behaving as though he considered Jack far more formidable a threat behind bars than he'd been with a sword in hand, facing him in combat.
It was the moral dilemma, undoubtedly. Ah, yes. One can keep a man in chains, even hang him, but if one enjoys it…that leaves a bad taste in the mouth and can lead to nastier things. Things like enjoying oneself in other ways, exploring new territory. Woe betide the Commodore who dared to discover he might actually be a flesh and blood man, as opposed to a toy soldier in a fancy uniform with a big hat, a wig, and a pretty Turner sword.
He watched the light of the waning moon slowly creep along the wall and the floor for hours, keeping apace with his thoughts. The dog slept nearby, keeping him company. No doubt the poor mutt was lonely down here most of the time. He sighed, knowing he was in exactly the same predicament.
So the Commodore couldn't let him go, but he couldn't kill him either. Very interesting, indeed.
It was heartening, despite the inherent danger that the man could snap at some point and possibly haul him off to the gallows anyway, should his conscience and moral compass suddenly decide to point in that direction. Maybe he could exert a little sway towards the other, however, and influence Norrington's opinion to be oriented a little more kindly. If Norrington had a predisposition to not want to see him dead, he was hardly going to do anything except encourage him. He just had to work out what the reasoning was, and it wouldn't do any good to ask him because so far, the Commodore appeared to understand it even less than he did.
No, Jack knew he was alone on this one. He was going to have to figure it out by himself, and then enlighten Norrington when the suspense finally grew too difficult to stand and he came down to talk to him again.
It might take a while before Norrington broke, but it was best to be prepared, in any event.
So. Norrington was threatened by the fact that he was a pirate, and a good man. It seemed to undermine every stone laid in the Commodore's foundation, and go against the belief that all pirates are terribly wicked, evil and murdering rogues. To be sure, most of them were. But some weren't as bad as all that. Most British pirates were deserters of Norrington's own dear Navy, which was as harsh an institution as one could find, apart from the Spanish. Like Gibbs, for instance, who'd even served aboard the same ship as the Swanns and Norrington himself on the crossing from England.
He knew too that the good Commodore couldn't abide anything that challenged his belief in the righteousness of his beloved Laws.
Norrington wasn't threatened by his nature as a pirate - but was threatened by his virtue. Which Jack found rather humorous, considering virtue wasn't something he'd really identified with since he'd been naught but a lad.
He was a good man, and therefore impossible to kill, without irreparable damage to the man's sense of right and wrong. Which meant that something personal was seething below the surface of the oh-so-self-righteously uptight Commodore.
Jack tapped his lip with his finger. Now, the loss of the future Mrs. Commodore. And a broken heart. That had to be part of it. Norrington had been rather obvious, and it had been even painful to witness the poor man's vulnerability in the face of the young woman's exploiting of his feelings for her and subsequent rejection.
Lord knew, Jack himself hadn't felt very happy when she'd decided he failed to meet her strangely high standards of what she expected from a pirate. Apparently she believed that real pirates were supposed to be like young Will, there: impossibly gallant, naïve and impetuous to a fault. Not to mention willing to give up both ship and the ocean in order to settle down into some land-bound, stifling enslavement to earning enough daily bread to feed whatever wee ones appeared, and try to keep some social standing in the town until one died with gray hair and a pocketful of unrealized dreams.
Strange, too, that a man in Norrington's position should continue to harbor such unrealistically idealistic notions about true love. Obviously the world hadn't yet kicked such fantasies out of him yet. He could only hope that Norrington's recently broken heart wouldn't be the avenue of Jack's own downfall, should the Commodore decide to actually take it out on him. That was all too likely, still, at this point.
Norrington couldn't let him go, didn't want to let him leave. For some reason, Norrington wanted to keep him here. It went beyond pride, or wanting to have caught him as a trophy, some sort of feather in his hat. And it wasn't that the Commodore was bent; the man was so repressed and tightly wound up, it was a miracle he hadn't broken years ago. He probably hadn't had a proper lay in years. In fact, that was probably it.
Jack sighed. It usually was, come to think of it. The more proper the gentleman, the more it was assumed that to indulge in a little fun was akin to the most heinous sin against womankind. Which didn't say much for the ladies who offered their services towards that end, nor the young maids who ended up married to such inexperienced, untried fellows.
Although, considering the way Norrington had regarded Miss Elizabeth, the Commodore was more likely to be of a higher quality than all that.
And if the man was so tightly wound that he couldn't even enjoy himself with the lasses, it was extremely unlikely he'd ever allow himself to indulge in the lads.
No, it was something else. Something more personal. It wasn't just because of the loss of Elizabeth to Turner's boy…it was specific to Jack, himself.
Ah, yes. Having captured his nemesis, an infamous pirate who represented something beyond Norrington's rigid idea of what a pirate is, *who* pirates are…Norrington was unable to reconcile it, much as Elizabeth had been unable to when faced first with himself and then Barbossa and his mutinous crew.
Jack grimaced, realizing that Norrington most likely was intrigued in spite of himself, and that was the only reason for keeping him here. To study him from a distance, merely by having him there, captive. As soon as the Commodore reached some solid conclusion, he'd be an inconvenience, nothing more. It was what he represented, and as long as Jack was a mystery to him, an enigma to be puzzled over, he was safe.
There was nothing for it but that he would have to somehow prove to Norrington that this behavior was inherently flawed and ignoble, in keeping him here. That was the only weakness he'd be able to exploit. If he prodded too deeply at the Commodore's freshly-broken heart, he ran the risk of perhaps pushing Norrington too far in the opposite direction, towards blind anger and pained resentment.
After all, it was clear that Norrington had no idea what to actually do with Jack now that he had caught him. Jack was under no illusions on that score.
Then there was the rather arrogant and sarcastic attitude Norrington had adopted with him upon their very first acquaintance. The Commodore appeared to take great pleasure from looking down his nose at him every time they met. And not just because he was an annoyance - Norrington had actually mocked him, more than once. And almost always in circumstances where Norrington had him cornered, or he was unable to defend himself on an equal footing. But what if they were to meet on the same level?
Not as a pirate and a commodore of the Navy…but as men?
Jack grinned to himself, watching the silent moonlight bathe the stones of the wall.
All he needed to do was prove to Norrington that he was just like him; a man, with the same needs, the same principles, however different their objectives in life might be. The same dreams, the same basic and essential ideals, beyond immediate survival. He needed to sympathize with Norrington to the point of making Norrington sympathize with him…and be unable to help himself from doing so. Then the man would be unable to keep him imprisoned as just a curiosity. He needed to prove to Norrington that he had value, as an individual, rather than just a pirate who didn't fit Norrington's view of pirates.
He needed to befriend him.
Well. Jack was very good at befriending people, especially those he needed to befriend at all cost.
Now if he could just get the Commodore down here to visit him in this bloody cell.
James Norrington spent the entirety of the first day back in Port Royal overseeing the cataloguing and dispensation of the treasure, all the while attempting to push the knowledge of Jack Sparrow's presence in the prison below out of his mind. He found to his frustration that all efforts to remember to forget something merely compound the very thoughts of the subject one is trying to forget.
The side-benefit it had, of conveniently distracting him from the pain he still felt at the loss of Elizabeth Swann and her public rejection of him - for an inexperienced blacksmith, yet - was as much a source of guilt as comfort. He couldn't rest with the idea that he was using the gamble of Sparrow's life as a means of avoiding the personal grief he felt at Elizabeth's refusal.
He spent the evening at his home, finding nothing of ample distraction from the knowledge that Jack Sparrow was in the Fort, in a prison cell at his leisure, awaiting his decision of the pirate's fate. And the fact that he wanted to enjoy the power of it while being still quite unable to confront the man again, as it was too soon, well…it ate at him. It gnawed on him throughout the night and he again suffered very little sleep.
Had he become the very same cold, unfeeling monster he'd feared Elizabeth had seen in him, to secretly enjoy having such power for personal satisfaction as opposed to seeing justice done? He'd slept soundly for the most part, through years' worth of hanging pirates and seeing criminals brought to justice. This was different.
No, he didn't enjoy it. Even if he'd wanted to, he couldn't. The part of him that wanted to was merely that empty, restless side of himself that needed something, anything, to make him feel as though he were achieving something, had something human to hold onto. Something real enough that meant more than serving cold justice to condemned prisoners, or holding a strong Naval presence in a specified and designated stretch of open sea.
To be honest, the thing that haunted him most, causing him to find sleep very elusive indeed, was the plaintive expression in Jack's face before he'd left him in the brig the day before. Those dark eyes had said far more than his words had hinted, or even the covered note in which he'd spoken them.
To leave a wounded, deserted and despairing man in captivity, with no assurance as to his motives for why, having countered even the reason of execution, and only a vague threat of possibly interminable confinement…And after having already let him fly free, once, and then to suffer the loss of his ship -
James tossed and turned in his bed, finding the softness of the mattress unbearable. The deep cut on his neck burned and itched and he couldn't help but consider it to some extent a welcome distraction from the burn of the accusatory images in his mind.
In the morning when he arose, despite the beauty of the day, he found his mood was very dark, indeed. Morose, even. It was weighing on his conscience more heavily than he'd imagined it might.
The one time he tried to do something for himself. And it ended up the worst decision he could have possibly made. He'd cornered himself in the same trap he'd set for Sparrow. And now, whatever fate the pirate served, a part of him would share it with the man.
If he had Sparrow hung, a part of him would die with him, but if he let him go, he ran the risk of ending up paying for it with his own career, even his reputation - if not his own life.
He'd also made a serious mistake in likening Sparrow to an animal. He was far from it; he was a man, and James knew he could not afford to imagine him anything less than one without losing what humanity he still had himself.
There didn't seem to be any way out of his predicament. The legality of the situation was reaching catastrophic proportions for him personally. The longer he might delay, the more it looked as though he was suffering either indecision or from a failure to recognize his duty.
He almost succumbed to the idea of speaking with Governor Swann about it, but found himself regarding it with extreme distaste and guilt as he realized what the entire situation said about him. He had a horrible suspicion that somehow, Jack Sparrow was the only person he was going to be able to talk to about this, on any level. Which was depressingly ironic, considering his lack of friends in his peerage. Well, his lack of friends, period, if he was honest with himself.
It had never bothered him before, being an independent fellow, solitary and ambitious, content with a military life and the love of the sea. The Caribbean, for all its politics and dangers, was akin to a paradise. But now he realized he'd always cultivated a certain distance around himself, keeping his social life at a careful arm's length. Not that he ignored propriety, or the life of a gentleman of standing, both as an officer and a member of the town. But personally. That inner, intimate circle he'd reserved for Elizabeth Swann, whom he'd hoped to make his wife. Now, he had nothing and no one.
He tried to focus upon the demands of the day.
A second trip back to the Isle would be necessary, and he ordered the preparations and stocking of supplies aboard the Dauntless, while continuing to oversee the redistribution and compensation of wealth to the citizens of Port Royal.
It was surprising how far the treasure extended, once it was divided out, as it went hardly as far as one might think. More treasure, gold, silver coins and trinkets would definitely be required. Just the damage to the Fort itself, for example, in the Black Pearl's night raid had been extensive, and the repairs cost a great deal, both in terms of labor and materials.
That evening, however, the thought of spending yet another night in his home, in a pathetic enactment of contentment while Jack Sparrow languished in the prison because he wanted him there, finally reached an intolerable limit.
He found himself taking a light supper and barely able to really taste the food, and decided that his appetite had been severely affected.
It was with a fearful thrill that he recognized he was actually glad to make his way back to the Fort after night fell, with every intention of confronting Sparrow at last. In fact, he felt alive again, as if he were doing the right thing. Furthest from his mind was the idea of confiding in the pirate; it was more the principle of it, visiting the man in his cell to attempt to comprehend what decision he might be able to come to, regarding Sparrow's fate.
It was easy to make his way to his office and leave off the hat and wig, keeping only his coat and his weapons. He was going down, after all, as himself, not just as a commander.
And it was all too easy to find his way to the sentry on duty above the cells and obtain the keys to let himself down into the dungeon.
He sighed to himself though as he made his way carefully down the barely-illuminated stone steps, knowing Jack Sparrow was most probably going to be less than pleased to see him at this point and the man's already wickedly sharp tongue would be more honed than usual.
In a way, perhaps it was penitence then, James thought. In a form that he deserved. Certainly his mood couldn't get any darker. Maybe it would help somewhat, to clear his conscience and see things from the pirate's perspective.
Ironic, too, that he would be speaking to a near-literal representative of the Devil's advocate. He, the voice of moral justice, and Sparrow, the voice of liberated decadence.
As he neared Sparrow's cell, he steeled himself, straightening, wondering at the combined trepidation and excitement he felt.
The pirate was sitting with his back to the wall on the right side of the cell, with his knees up. He was watching James approach with an alert expression, however.
James abruptly had to swallow the absurd urge to apologize for the conditions down in the prison. He stopped and stood by the door.
Slowly, Sparrow asked, "Why do I get the feeling that you're the one in the cage, an' not me?"
James flicked a glance at the window. "I suppose you're right, in a way."
Sparrow gave him a brief smile. "Well, you do have the look of a man looking out rather than in." He cast a scrutinizing gaze over James, adding, "Although, without the accessories, you look more like yourself, mate."
James raised his brows at this. "I'm not sure the same could be applied to you, Mr. Sparrow."
"Jack," came the correction, with a glint of a smile. "Since you've decided to be less formal this night, 'ey?"
James looked down at the straw-strewn floor. And tried to comprehend why he was feeling as nervous as he had when attempting to propose to Elizabeth. It had been one of the most awkward and self-conscious moments of his life. Of course, he'd been proposing to her, for her hand in marriage… But this was ludicrous; why should he find it such a parallel, to simply try to find a reasonable solution here by engaging Sparr- Jack - in conversation?
He cleared his throat. "Frankly, I'm at a loss. I can't have you killed, but neither can I just let you go."
"All the king's horses, and all the king's men," sang Jack in a slightly off-key and low voice, "couldn't put Norrington together again."
James smiled tightly and nodded. "As you've put it, yes."
Jack gave him a quizzical look. "Are you asking me to help you?"
James let out a breath, wondering why this was turning out to be easier than he'd feared. "How is your shoulder?"
Jack grinned at this. "How's your neck?"
James leaned against the bars of the prison cell. "We have to work something out. Something that will be mutually beneficial and yet won't compromise my position."
Dryly, Jack replied, "Let me out, and I'll disappear." He pinned James with a stare. "On my honor. Or yours; whichever one you like."
"There's that small matter of trust," James answered, in a reproving reminder.
"Oh, right. You can't trust the word of a pirate. Sorry, it slipped me mind."
But Jack's casual reply made James frown. Jack was being entirely too easy to talk to; it seemed quite removed from his usual devious banter. Perhaps his incarceration had dulled him, though. But Jack's eyes didn't seem any less perceptive. In fact, if anything, he had the feeling he was somehow on stage, or being tested. Probably the pirate was unconvinced that he was capable of authentically caring what became of him.
James swallowed. "If I let you go again, and you simply return to your ship and commence your usual ways in these waters, I will be the one on the gallows wearing the noose, after facing trial in London."
Jack's eyes flickered. "We're well past that one, love. If you let me out, I'm going straight back for that treasure and we both know it, 'ey? No harm done." He held up a hand. "And I swear, on pain of death, I'll only take the Pearl round once more, and then leave for good. You'll never see my face again. You have my word of honor."
It sounded too good to be true, and James knew that Jack was in fact being entirely sincere. "Very well," he agreed. He felt the slight rise of panic inside though, and was hard-pressed to know why.
"Once you're through with me here, that is," Jack added, a bit of his customary edge returning to his voice along with the sly grin.
James was suddenly glad for the dim light, for his face burned with the sting to his pride, knowing it was very true. He didn't know what he wanted from Jack, but he knew that it was something akin to…acceptance. If not open friendship - which was an impossibility, he sharply reminded himself. He looked down with a frown.
But Jack leaned his head back against the wall and suggested, "I fail to see why you think I'm so dangerous. I may have taken a ship or two in my time, and there is the whole smuggling business which, quite frankly, wasn't really as profitable as all that. And there was the time with the bishop and the three donkeys in the parlor, but that wasn't my fault at all." He perked up. "That fire in the Lord Dewhurst's townhouse. But it weren't just me, I must say. Hardly merits the label of arson, if you ask me."
James glanced at Jack's shoulder. "Until you're recovered, then. Once your shoulder's healed."
Jack gave him a smile of genuine warmth this time. "Commodore, you don't have to go to the trouble."
James frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Why not come to the point, which is: what do you *really* want from me?" Jack made an encouraging gesture.
"I don't - … there isn't-" he started to say.
But Jack cut in, "Reckon you've not seen Miss Elizabeth since, 'ey?"
James replied in a hard tone, "This is not about Miss Swann."
Jack grinned at him. Then he said, helpfully, "Go on."
"She has nothing to do with this." James let out an exasperated breath.
Jack waited, and as James said nothing more, he shook his head slowly. "Commodore, if that's the limit of your conversation skills, it's no wonder the lass wandered elsewhere."
"I'm not here to benefit from your no-doubt astonishing repertoire of seduction techniques," James managed coldly.
Jack's eyes twinkled at this. "Your loss, to be sure."
James gave him a withering look. "They hardly helped you in Miss Swann's case, did they?"
Jack made a face. "Now, now. We both know she was already Will's, from the very start. Besides, you had - what, eight years? I had one evening. And she burned all the rum," he muttered in an aside.
But he really wished Jack hadn't brought up Elizabeth. The pain was still too much, and the hurt was to his ego, his pride, as well as to his heart. He looked away, glowering.
"The real question here," stated Jack, "is why you can't allow yourself to speak with someone such as meself without holding me in a cell." Jack paused. "That is, *keeping* me in a cell." At James's blink at his correction, Jack explained, "You'd have to be in here too, if you were holding me, now wouldn't you?"
But James hadn't missed that rather barbed little suggestion. "I highly doubt that your attempts would work on anyone in one evening, if that's as subtle a manner as you're capable of."
Jack's eyes narrowed and he said, "If I wanted to, love, you'd not stand a chance. You're quite safe, I assure you." He raised his brows. "As was Lizabeth."
James doubted this greatly. But he was hardly going to argue the case. Besides, he had the distressing pang from somewhere in the region of his afore-mentioned broken heart that he'd just been rejected again - by Jack, no less. Not that he wanted Jack's attentions. But still. "As I said, Miss Swann is not the issue, here."
"That does beg the question, love," Jack smiled.
James was starting to get the feeling he was being humored. "You'll say anything to get me to let you out. That's what this is about."
Jack gave him a wary look. "Thought we already agreed you were going to. We're just working on the specifics."
At this, James was reminded of the fact that Jack Sparrow had a devil's tongue, and was probably most capable of talking the moon down from the sky if the idea took him. "True enough, but not until your shoulder is healed."
"My shoulder would heal quite nicely aboard me own ship, so I can only assume you want me to be here longer than necessary," Jack said, sharply. "After all, the surroundings down here are hardly conducive to healthy recuperation."
Dryly, James replied, "Much as I'd like to oblige you, Jack, the moment I offer anything less confining, you'll vanish in less time than it takes for me say 'Isle de Muerte'."
"Well, we can't have that, can we?" Jack asked, brightly. "We've already established that you need me. Although for what purpose, I'm still not quite clear."
James decided to swallow his pride on this occasion. Just this once. And looked down. "Friendship," he said, trying to ignore the way his stomach dropped after admitting it.
"Aye, that's the one," Jack said slowly, shrewdly. "Now we're getting somewhere." He let both knees down, stiffly, and cradled his left elbow with a wince.
Seeing this, James wondered how much pain Jack was really in. In a clipped tone, James said, "You were the one who suggested a duel."
"You're the one suggesting we become friends," Jack replied, seriously. "I'd be happy to oblige you, Commodore; honestly. But I can't, not with this cell here with its little bars separating us, savvy?"
Angrily, James returned, "You are the one who's necessitated this. If you weren't a pirate-"
"If I weren't a pirate," Jack interrupted, "We'd not be having this conversation. If I were one of your men, or a butler, or an innkeeper? You wouldn't give me the time of day."
James rolled his eyes upwards briefly. "Jack, I don't converse with pirates."
"Apparently you do, now," Jack corrected him, in a drier tone. "Apparently, you even put them in the dungeon so's to ensure you can converse with 'em."
James stopped. "Alright, I'll concede that one."
"Aye," Jack grinned. "I must say, Commodore, you're getting better at this with each passing minute."
"Thank you, Jack," he replied, sarcastically. "I'm glad I can prove myself a quick study."
Jack looked away, up to the window. "I'll make another deal with you," he suggested, in a quieter voice. "If you let me out, I'll give you my word I won't leave Port Royal until my shoulder's healed. That is," he added, quickly glancing back at him, catching his eye, "when you decide my shoulder's healed, and I'm fit enough to travel."
James shifted his weight from one foot to the other. His neck hurt and he was becoming stiff from standing in one place for so long. "Where will you stay?"
"Anywhere but here," Jack muttered, meaningfully.
James was uncomfortable with this. "It - will not be a good idea for you to be seen around town."
Jack chuckled. "Aye, as if I'll be wandering up and down the streets announcing me presence all hours of the night. That's a good one, Commodore Norrington."
"It's been known to happen," James informed him, wryly. "Rum does strange things to one's senses."
"As do pirates, apparently," Jack murmured, swiftly adding, "but you needn't worry on my account. A simple bed would do."
James was beginning to feel uncomfortable. There was not only a sense of pressure at needing to come to a resolution at the moment, but he was assailed with doubt that Jack would do anything but run the moment he was let out. He sighed. He was no fool, and he couldn't afford to be one now. He looked back over at Jack, who met his eye now with a more serious expression once again.
"That issue of trust, 'ey?" he enquired, softly. "You ask Will or Elizabeth if I can be trusted, Commodore, then come back and let me know if I'll be sleeping elsewhere tonight." Jack drew his knees back up and leaned his arms on them, cradling his left elbow again.
It wasn't that he didn't want to trust Jack. He did. He couldn't look at the man in such obvious pain and not feel anything. But the stakes…the risk. James bit his lip.
"Why is it so important for you to keep me in here?" Jack asked, pointedly. "I find it very unlikely that you're that desperate to make a friend, that you have to pick them from amongst your enemies and incarcerate them first."
James closed his eyes and sighed aloud. "It's not that you're my enemy. And it's not because you're a pirate. It's because of who you are."
Jack grinned happily at this. "Of course. I am, after all, Captain Jack Sparrow. It's much more advisable to be my friend than my enemy. Just ask Barbossa. Now, Commodore, you know what your problem is? You can't trust anyone. Least of all yourself. Fortunately, I can help."
James's brow wrinkled. "How?"
"What's your first name?" Jack asked him.
James frowned deeper. "I fail to see what that has to do with anything."
"It has *everything* to do with trust," Jack explained. "If you can't even trust me enough to tell me your first name, what does that say about you?"
"It's James," he stated, lowly, with an inkling that he would probably end up regretting it.
"Was that really so difficult?" Jack asked. "Let's try another one. How old were you when you had your first lass?"
"Really," James disagreed, reproachfully. "That's hardly relevant."
"Fifteen," Jack said, in exasperation. "Now you."
James regarded him distastefully. "Eighteen." He was disconcerted to find himself suddenly imagining Jack Sparrow at fifteen years old, with a girl…Or with Elizabeth, on that island, as he was now. He looked away, at the window, where the moon was beginning to peek through.
Jack followed the direction he was looking, catching the light of the moon on his face. James noticed to his further discomfiture that it made the dark around Jack's eyes stand out against his skin, and his wild, long dark hair contrasted more also. Jack looked back at him, and James blinked, quickly looking away again and wondering why on earth he felt as if he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't.
Looking back at the window and the slice of moon that was visible, he murmured, "It may already be too late, at this point."
Jack watched him, waiting. Giving him the time to elaborate.
James looked back up the steps, to where the torches guttered, before turning back once more. He met Jack's eyes again. "I won't see you dead. Therefore, I have no alternative but to let you go. I have already let you go once; it wouldn't matter how many times I repeat it now. The outcome is the same."
"Then you really are going to have to trust me, aren't you, Commodore James?" Jack asked of him quietly, watching him still with that careful expression.
"I am," James answered, with more surety. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at the ring of keys he held. "Very well, Jack. I'll let you out. But I trust you'll also remember that as I held your life in my hands, in the cave, and even before, and spared you…You now hold mine. Try to contain yourself, at least until you depart the Caribbean?" He gave Jack a meaningful stare.
Jack solemnly returned it. "You have my word on it."
Feeling as though he was partly trapped in some strange dream, James put one of the keys in the door. It didn't fit. He tried another. This time the lock opened and the door swung open. Seeing Jack's attempts to get to his feet, he went into the cell and offered his hand, in an echo of his previous gesture in the cave.
Jack took it, and with an indrawn hiss, allowed James to pull him to stand.
James waited for him to collect his sword, his pistol, his coat and hat, and then pulled the key out of the door, following Jack out of the cell and up the steps.
As they passed the sentry, who stood in the corridor, the sentry stood straight and cleared his throat. He saluted James, who handed him the keys, and tried to not look at Jack as the pirate walked past him blithely.
In the corridor above the dungeon, Jack leaned closer to him. "I'd say it's about time I had a proper escort out of here. The number of times I come and go from this fine fort of yours, one would think I have a room below."
James had to bite back a caustic remark at this. He didn't want to be baiting Jack now, certainly not until they'd left the Fort. First, they went back to his office to retrieve his hat and his wig and a few other possessions.
Outside however, he turned to Jack. "Do you need a doctor to see to your injury?"
"Eventually. Where are we off to?"
James thought about it for a moment or two. "An inn would probably be the best choice."
He saw Jack craning his head almost wistfully in the direction of the dock. "Then again, I suppose you'd be happier on a ship."
"I would, at that," Jack admitted.
James was quiet for a bit. "This is, perhaps, the most ironic day of my life. I'd let you go aboard the Dauntless, but you'd probably steal her from me, on principle."
Jack gave him a wide grin. "Gave me word I'd wait until you declared my shoulder's fit for me to travel. And so I shall. There's that matter of trust, and all."
James looked down at the road upon which they'd stopped. "To be honest," he said, slowly, "We're taking the Dauntless out again tomorrow."
Jack's eyes narrowed at him. "Which explains your little visit a while ago."
At this point, James was beginning to wonder why he'd bothered with chasing Jack Sparrow at all. Why he bothered worrying about trust, when if it came down to it, it was the pirate's word against a commodore's of the fleet…And really, the only superiors he was answerable to right now were in London, and they had very little to do with the actual day-to-day life in the Caribbean - let alone Jamaica. Very little; confined mostly to taxes and worrying about sugar production. He sighed. "I suppose I owe you a trip back to that blasted island."
Jack shot him a look. "We'd all be going back and forth at any rate. It's a lot of treasure, mate." He brightened. "Think of it this way: at least I'm not taking it from ships and ports - simply collecting it from where it's already sitting."
"One last trip," James reminded him. "And even there, I'm sure that this is wholly illegal. It's all stolen goods."
"Gold," Jack corrected. "Stolen gold. Mostly."
"I will be lucky if I reach retirement with my good name and my commission," James muttered gloomily.
"I'll give you a very good reason to believe why I won't be stealing your Dauntless," Jack declared, unaccountably. "She's not very fetching, a bit too slow and wide. She's not as pretty as my Pearl, and I suppose I do owe you for the Interceptor," Jack added, amusedly.
James considered him. "Am I supposed to thank you for not stealing my ship?"
"Only thinking you'd sleep sounder knowing it, is all."
"I'll be grateful for the favor then," James murmured, turning in the road to begin making his way back down to the dock.
Jack caught up with him. "Do you *ever* allow yourself to enjoy anything?"
"Do you ever take anything seriously?"
"Only serious things. Like ships. Storms, mutiny…those kinds of things. And what do you enjoy, besides fulfilling the letter of the law?"
"I do believe it is dawning on me, how very different we are," James commented.
"It's occurring to *me* that you haven't enjoyed yourself in far too long. Probably since you were eighteen," Jack muttered.
"And you haven't stopped indulging yourself since you were fifteen," returned James, wondering why he was beginning to enjoy his exchanges with Jack far too much.
"If you aren't happy, no one else is going to do it for you," Jack said, helpfully. "You have to do it yourself."
"At which you are the expert, I'm sure," James answered.
"Ah, but at least I'm not doing it at the expense of others' happiness," Jack pointed out.
James suddenly realized that was exactly what he'd been doing…the one time he allowed himself the latitude to do something for himself, serving his own personal whim, it had been at Jack's expense. How could he have fallen so low as to lose all sense of virtuous behavior or charity? He sighed.
Jack's hand on his arm stopped him, abruptly. "Where," Jack asked, cautiously, "exactly are we going, aboard your Dauntless?"
James rolled his eyes. "Jack, I'm hardly going to put you back in the brig. In fact, the only place you're likely to be able to stay where it will make some kind of sense - and I'll be able to keep an eye on you - is in my cabin."
"That's alright, then," Jack said, with a half-shrug, continuing on once more.
They were nearing the dock. "Let me do the talking," James warned him.
Jack was uncharacteristically quiet all the way back to the Dauntless, even going aboard. And it was clear that he was beginning to flag, also. By the time James had seen to it that an extra hammock was found for Jack, and a trip down to the galley had yielded a bottle of rum from the stores, he could see that Jack Sparrow was nearing the end of his night.
In the cabin, James said, "Perhaps we should have had a doctor see to your arm, first."
Jack shook his head. "It's alright. Just needs time to heal, is all, and not be moving it about."
James was taken aback at how much he really was enjoying himself at this point. It felt strangely interesting to be sharing the company of a notorious pirate, even after all they'd been through, and to suddenly be exploring a little more leeway than he usually allowed himself. It no longer felt like going through the motions of performing a duty or a service…but actually allowing himself to experience something as an adventure. But it was probably due to Jack's presence that he was beginning to associate this particular voyage with that adventurous spirit.
Pirates, he thought glumly to himself.
They stowed their belongings and got the spare hammock strung from the other set of iron hammock rings. James considered the empty lamp. He'd brought in another one, refilled, but this one remained empty. They really needed a bit more light, so he decided to light the candles instead.
Jack had already taken his place in the hammock and unstopped the rum, swigging from it. He looked more relaxed, in spite of his injured shoulder.
James went to his table and considered the missives he had there. Shuffling through his papers, he began sorting and putting them away.
"There you go again, mate," Jack commented, not looking at him.
James regarded him carefully. "I have my obligations, you have your rum."
Jack lifted his head, the silver jingles hanging from the left lock of his long hair tinkling in the silent confines of the cabin. "To be sure. And you have your ship, and I have mine. So everyone's happy."
"Where is your ship? Where will they have taken her?" James asked, curious.
Jack considered this. "I'd tell you, but I highly doubt it would be wise, considering you're a commodore of the Royal Navy, 'ey?"
"Of course," James agreed, amiably, selecting the appropriate charts and unrolling them. "I was, in point of fact, going to offer you the option of dropping you off at another port somewhere, but if you'd rather accompany us all the way to the Isle, it would be easier for us."
Jack settled back into the hammock with a bit of a grin. "Well, we may have to loiter around the area for a bit, until the Pearl shows up again."
James looked down at his table, considering the charts spread out before him. "I'm sorry about your shoulder." He glanced up at Jack.
But Jack only gave a little grimace and said, "You gave as good as you got, mate. We don't need to say more than that." He took another drink. "Exactly how are you going to explain me presence aboard?" He grinned at him.
James gave a tight-lipped smile. "We've struck a deal. I'm escorting you back to your ship. I'm sure something will come to me along the way."
"I've got one," Jack declared, studying his bottle intently. He raised it against one of the lit candle flames, to peer at the light through the glass. "Suppose I offer my Pearl's services in helping you take all that treasure off the Isle de Muerte back to Port Royal. We'd accomplish it in twice the time, working together. We'd probably take less than ten voyages, all told."
James regarded him. "That would be ironic indeed, considering it was your Black Pearl that brought it all there in the first place, over the past decade."
Jack chuckled. "There is that, isn't there? We could say that, as she's come under new and rightful captaincy, she's working off the debt by helping to collect and redistribute the treasure, as well as reclaiming her good name. No longer a ghost ship of the damned, as it were."
James nodded slowly. "A temporary commission from the Navy, awarded by myself, along with clemency for the duration of the mission; however long it takes us to transport it all. It would be fair. Seeing as you also helped to undo the curse and remove the undead crew from the Caribbean."
"And when we're finished, I sail away and keep my end of our agreement, never to return. So long as the Pearl gets to keep a percentage of each shipload of the treasure on each trip back." He met James's eyes, obviously taking this as seriously as anything. "Are we agreed?" he asked.
"Agreed." James was slightly uncomfortable with the knowledge that really, this was all he should have accomplished in the beginning, rather than attempting to apprehend Jack in the first place.
"You don't look very happy," Jack observed.
"On the contrary, it makes the most sense from a practical view," James said. "I just wish I had thought of it before now," he admitted, a little shamefaced.
Jack smiled wolfishly at him. "You can pay me for the inconvenience. Forty-five percent."
James was rather shocked. "That's…outrageous. You can't possibly-"
"Alright, forty. But that's my final offer," Jack said, testily.
"Forty percent of what lies in the cave?" James said, taken aback at just how much that would be. Why…it was…indecent.
"Agreed," Jack said, taking another drink of the rum, looking back at James with an expression that looked far too pleased. "There is one other thing," he said, slowly.
"Why am I not surprised," James muttered.
"Hold on, you'll agree with me on this one," Jack said, earnestly. "Neither your crew nor mine are likely to be very happy about it, so we'll have to make sure that while one of us is in Port Royal, the other is on the island. We can cross paths along the way, and take turns collecting it up, one after the other. That way the Dauntless and the Pearl don't have to occupy the same place for long, and possibly end up like they did before, back there."
"Hm. Good point," James agreed, hollowly. "Just so long as you do keep to your end of the agreement and actually arrive with it all in Port Royal to offload it properly."
"Trust me, Commodore," Jack grinned, managing to look entirely untrustworthy in doing so.
James gave him a sardonic look.
Jack set the bottle down on the floor and settled back into the hammock. The slight sway of the ship appeared to have improved Jack's spirits, indeed.
Probably not having to be in the prison anymore also had much to do with it, however, James added wryly to himself. He looked down at the chart without seeing it.
"All's well as ends well, then," Jack said, his voice roughened with a need for sleep.
James looked up and saw Jack watching him with eyes that were brighter and clearer than he would have expected, considering Jack's state. Unaccountably, he felt unable to hold the man's gaze, and looked down with a frown at the chart once more. The Isle de Muerte, again. And Jack Sparrow. And his ship, the Black Pearl. Why did everything keep coming back to this? And here he was, about to enter a series of voyages of doing nothing but going back and forth precisely like this. It was almost dizzying.
With an empty sense of loss, he realized that, once he allowed Jack to disembark to rejoin his Black Pearl, it was unlikely he'd see him again, for their ships wouldn't be meeting up at any time, nor would they meet at either end of each trip.
He glanced back up at Jack and saw he'd closed his eyes.
James got up and turned out the lamp, leaving the few candles burning. He took off his shoes and climbed into his own hammock, wondering why it should make a difference to him whether he saw Jack Sparrow again, or not. For the entire duration of his having known the pirate, he'd had to reassess his opinion of him several times over, as well as of himself.
Absently, he regarded Jack, who appeared to be falling asleep. It wasn't that he would miss him, really. It was more that he now realized he was already missing the possibility that they actually could have been friends. He had only the duration of the trip to the Isle to spend in the pirate's company, and that was hardly enough time to get to know anyone well, if at all. He couldn't afford to dwell on it, not when it had already been so unpleasant and was destined to end up with him not able to spend any further time with him in any case.
One of the candles was flickering a little more desperately than the others, casting leaping shadows rather than a steady glow. He watched it for a while and wondered if he was the one behaving like that particular flame, instead of allowing life to simply…be, come what may.
He glanced back over at Jack, who looked for all purposes as though he had finally fallen asleep now.
James found himself struck by how at peace he looked like that, and how much younger; guileless, even. He wondered idly how Jack would look if he were tidied up, those barbaric…things, removed from his hair, the wildness tamed a bit. Trimmed, or shaved, even. He supposed Jack must affect such an appearance to keep his reputation intact, else his fine bone structure and elegant features would appear too refined or even pretty to take as seriously. He wondered too where Jack hailed from, originally. His accent was English, but almost a mix of softened foreign and cockney, although there was a trace of good old London-town as well.
He found himself feeling a distinct amount of shame at having judged the man as harshly as he had. All based on his own opinion of pirates in the Main, without ever really seeing him. To the point of compromising his own integrity, in an attempt to soothe his conscience - and to be honest, his pride. However much Jack remained a pirate, James had to admit that he did owe him now, for having treated him somewhat unfairly. In fact, a bit unfairly all the way along. Since he'd made Jack's acquaintance. And now he had no way of really making it up to him personally, nor taking the time to get to know him.
It dawned on him that he most likely wouldn't have seen Jack Sparrow again, though, if he hadn't attempted to catch up with him at the Isle de Muerte in the first place, after letting him go, so in fact he'd managed to get more time to know him than he would have, even at the cost of forty percent of the treasure that remained, and having inconvenienced Jack considerably. And got them both sliced up in that absurdly unnecessary duel.
He turned his head a little, to have a better angle to see Jack's face, wondering yet again at the reason for the blackening around his eyes. It was done so carefully, and it had the slightly disturbing effect of an effeminate about it, but with the pirate's style and mannerisms, it was hardly enough to render him less masculine for all the effect it had.
James felt an unwelcome heat rise to his face as he realized that Jack was, actually, attractive. As far as attractiveness went, that is.
He forced his eyes away, not wanting to fuel such thoughts. He concentrated on the candle flames, especially the flickering one.
But he couldn't help finding his gaze drawn back to Jack's sleeping countenance.
Well, surely there wasn't any harm in it. To watch someone else sleeping. He'd never had the opportunity before. There was nothing lascivious in his intent. Surely.
It was comforting, in fact, to see the gentle rise and fall as Jack breathed, across the floor from him in the other hammock. He'd always had this cabin to himself, each time he'd taken the Dauntless out. It was actually a novelty to, as captain of this ship, share this cabin with anyone else. He found he liked it. It was less lonely, less empty.
And he closed his own eyes at the bright spark of pain at this.
To have lost Elizabeth, and then to have this whole debacle with Jack Sparrow…and to never even really have the man's friendship or regard…To lose a beloved without ever having kissed her. And to lose a friend without ever having had the chance to know him.
Sometimes, he regretted never having taken the time to cultivate any other relations with women, or men, or anyone. Regardless of the specific label or social circle that one frequented. Perhaps that was the point. He hadn't been Elizabeth's friend, not really. He would have liked to have been. He wondered if Jack had any close friends. A sobering thought on the heels of that one; did Jack have any close lovers? Was there anyone special to him?
It was uncomfortable to have to accept that pirates frequently flaunted same-sex relations in spite of the anti-sodomy laws and the view of such relations as an immoral sin. It was unnatural, after all, against the laws of Man and most especially considered a most unspiritual act, to know another man carnally. For some reason though, however much he had never himself felt the urge towards another man (thank the Lord), he could find only a measure of jealousy that others might consider Jack a fair prospect. The pirate's affectations and mannerisms did seem to encourage such thoughts. He wondered how much of it was for show, and how much was intentional.
And he shook himself as he caught himself wondering what it would be like…to kiss those lips…Would they be as soft as a woman's? How strange would it be, to press his mouth to the other man's, encountering beard…Jack's skin couldn't possibly be as soft as the skin of the few women he'd known.
He swallowed against the sudden throb of heat and interest between his legs at this. But he remembered the feel of Jack's hand in his own, both times this very night, when he'd helped Jack to his feet.
No. NO - he couldn't afford to think of this. Of such things. It was wrong. And besides, if *he* was wrong, to think it of Jack, and Jack himself didn't lean that way, it was completely inadvisable and dangerous to even consider it.
But now that the thoughts had already arisen, he could hardly pretend he hadn't contemplated them. Maybe there was something of a latent sodomite in him, something that had instinctively turned Elizabeth from him? No, because he'd been with women previously and there had not been this concern, this issue. It hadn't been there all through his duration of his acquaintance with Miss Swann. No, this stemmed specifically from his meeting Jack Sparrow.
In fact, in direct consequence of it. Shameful really, to consider that perhaps the reason he'd so avidly pursued Jack thus far was because of some unnatural desire…Horrendous. He was horrified at himself. How could he have allowed himself to behave the way he had…unless he had been unwilling to look at where it was stemming from in the first place?
Oh dear God. This was worse than discovering that he might actually enjoy watching evil men get their just desserts. That was at least understandable, especially considering what he was required to do, as a captain, a commander and a military man.
This was - all too clear and logical an explanation, as to why he'd felt drawn to Jack, even while he'd found the man's presence an irritant and something that inevitably got under his skin.
He wanted to feel sick, but he didn't even have that luxury. He opened his eyes again, to test this. Well, regarding Jack's sleeping form didn't exactly encourage actively physical revulsion. Unfortunately. If anything, he realized he felt rather fond of him now. Which was fairly terrifying in and of itself.
His eyes widened in shock and sudden recognition. He couldn't have. Surely not. He had *fallen* for Jack Sparrow.
James felt as though his entire world had shifted beneath him and then resettled in some unknown, unfamiliar pattern, disorienting and causing breathlessness and loss of composure. Well, this was a nice nightmare. Somewhat more terrifying and yet less threatening than facing undead skeletal pirates. Instead, he was facing a living, sleeping pirate, and actually contemplating the insanity of having fallen for the man. It was madness.
Maybe he just needed sleep. The day had taken its toll. That had to be it. It had to be.
It wasn't that Jack was a man, or a pirate, or attractive, or even that he himself was lonely. It was some strange combination of all of it, all wrapped up together.
Maybe it was just what Jack Sparrow represented, the freedom he enjoyed from everything that defined his own life, the structure that he'd counted on for so long to stop him from becoming exactly what he considered Jack to be: lawless, depraved and entirely immoral.
He swallowed against the uncomfortable recognition that he had painted himself into a corner. He couldn't afford to believe that he'd fallen in love with a pirate. It wasn't love. It had nothing to do with the warmth, the purity and the heart-felt sweetness he'd experienced where Elizabeth Swann was concerned.
She had a sense of humor, a bright and lively wit, and possessed a lithe and bonny beauty that seemed lent to her by something beyond even her social standing and upbringing, or her good name. She was a dear girl, and always had been. He'd been startled to find that the little girl who'd romanticized pirates even back then on their crossing from England had grown to be such a lovely young woman, a swan indeed. To lose her was -
He shook himself. He couldn't afford to keep dwelling on her. Why was he - oh yes. The comparison. Well, it was absurd, frankly. Jack Sparrow's wit, humor, and attractiveness was only there because he was a pirate. It was his nature, as a pirate, and nothing more. He frowned as he acknowledged the point now; if Jack had been a manservant or a shopkeeper, a blacksmith…he'd not possess such flair and style, or be such a consistent source of fascination.
His eyes flicked back to Jack's sleeping face once more. No, considering the slumbering pirate, James couldn't say that he really was 'in love' with the man. It was what the pirate represented, only that. In fact, the issue of his being a man was still somewhat worrying.
Empirically, Jack was attractive. He had an undeniably winsome, flattering beauty, with those high cheekbones and the long, dark hair. However scruffy, the overall effect was one of a flirtatious creature that enjoyed flaunting itself before the constraints of ordinary society. Like a jackdaw, stealing peacock feathers and mockingly parading itself before the Swanns and commodores of the world. James smiled dryly to himself.
In point of fact, he could well reason that he was 'in love' with Jack rather than actually loving him. It was only natural to feel sorry for the man, seeing him in pain, or in such obvious distress at being captured and losing his ship again.
James had to shut his eyes as he drew in a sharp breath at the excitement that arose at this. He'd enjoyed it too much, even while allowing himself the recognition of his sympathy for the pirate. The simple pleasure of keeping the man locked up, awaiting his decision…as much as it had chafed his conscience, eating at him, it had been undeniable. To want him. To own him, and keep him and make him…his own.
And now, he'd made his own hell, for by his own logic he'd determined that Jack had to leave. It was probably for the best, he thought, hardening himself against feeling that loss too keenly now. For if he were to accept he'd been sublimating his feelings towards Jack in his own actions thus far, he was in greater danger of compromising his reputation, his career, everything, all for the intrigue of a pirate. A man. A very pretty one.
Damn it all, he thought in exasperation. And he resolutely turned to face the wall, shifting in his hammock. Modesty had forbidden that he undress, and it was far too warm for the blanket. And now he was in the unfortunate circumstance of sharing his cabin with a man who was most distressingly interesting, even while asleep. And he was experiencing the most unwanted arousal at the thought.
His breath was coming a little labored, and sleep seemed far away. He couldn't afford to be in love right now, he really could not. He'd only just lost Miss Swann, and his heart was far too fragile to- His eyes widened. Of course! It wasn't love at all; he was merely struggling to find something to fill the ache and the void that losing Miss Swann had caused.
But then the memories of the first few times he'd met Jack filtered through his consciousness and he realized he could not afford to lie to himself. No, there had been a heated interest even then. Now that he recognized he'd been sublimating it. Damn, damn! Just… damn. To be in love. Again. Most undesirably so. There didn't seem to be any other explanation.
It wasn't primarily a sexual response, because Jack's obvious physical, sensual nature was partly what the man used to charm his way through life, with others. And James already knew that Jack preferred women, as he himself did. It wasn't simply an emotional response on his part, because he already found Jack's wit, humor, and sharp intellect far too intriguing.
James sighed and twisted in place, turning to face upwards, staring at the shadows playing on the ceiling.
There was an unwanted nervous and tight tension running through his body. He had the uncomfortable feeling that simply seeking mere physical release at this point wasn't going to alleviate his situation at all, and besides, the presence of the pirate here completely forbade any such attempt to find relief. Not to mention the absolute shame he would feel if the only way he could resolve his discomfited state of mind and body and heart was through self-pleasuring…on the pirate's account. Horrendous. The entire affair was unbearable. Quite distressing.
It almost felt like a silent game he was playing with himself, even now; attempting to not took at Jack. He wouldn't look at him. He would not turn his face that barest fraction in the man's direction; it would merely compound the problem. But in the absence of looking at him, he realized he was wasting the one chance he would ever have, to be able to satisfy his curiosity without fear of ridicule or being observed.
A ripple of heat ran over him at this, shamefully free of pain or disgust.
He'd be deprived of seeing Jack ever again, after they arrived at the island this time. His breath caught painfully in his throat at it. Very distressing indeed, that he should have to suffer this now. Why? After all that he'd struggled to achieve in his life, all his attempts to live a good and noble life, to have to come to this? Why did he deserve this? Where had he gone wrong?
It felt so unfair, to have to carry this weight. And he took some comfort from knowing that he'd seized the only opportunity he'd been able to see, in capturing Jack on that island after letting him go. The man would have been hung, dead, gone and lost to everyone forever, if he'd not allowed him to escape back to his ship that day, so his conscience was clear on that point. And if he hadn't attempted to capture him, he'd never have seen him again.
And now with their new agreement, this deal he'd struck with Jack to see the treasure in the cave transported and deposited in Port Royal, he had the opportunity of actually working with the man, instead of having to chase him down or fight with him. So really, he was doing the only thing he could, and had actually being doing it all along.
So why did it feel like such a punishment?
To know that he could enjoy even a day's worth of friendship with Jack, that he otherwise wouldn't have had. It hurt. He wouldn't be able to enjoy it, because it was now completely scuppered, destroyed, keelhauled… It was awful. Because he was in love with him.
A hot dart of panic choked him inside, and he closed his eyes, feeling the shame creep onto his face, knowing he felt no shame at all in actually 'feeling'. It was wilder and more terrifying than his love for Elizabeth. That had been filled with longing and hope and sweetness. This was danger, and pain, and entirely wrong. Even if he had been in the unlikely position of being able to tell Jack, he would still be facing the man's rejection, because there was no way to forget what Jack had said to him back in that prison cell.
Jack had casually informed him that if he'd wanted to seduce him, James wouldn't stand a chance. And then told him that he was 'quite safe'. Despite the embarrassment and pain at being rejected so obviously, he suddenly noticed something else.
Jack was only playing along with him because he had no choice. He hadn't given Jack any alternative but to cooperate with him. Which meant the pirate was still manipulating him, still playing the little game he always adopted with him, every time they met. Pretending. He could hardly fault Jack for doing so; what would he himself do in Jack's position?
Sorrowfully, he had to admit that this careful, uneasy little truce he'd allowed himself to have with Jack, even so far as to let Jack stay here aboard the Dauntless in his own cabin, was the only thing he could enjoy.
He doubted that if he were to somehow tell Jack about his newly discovered feelings that Jack would do anything but exploit them. And he couldn't see Jack having any real interest in him - not physically or emotionally.
James realized he had nothing but what the present opportunity offered, to simply watch Jack sleeping there. To be able to look at him without fear of discovery. And he only had the next day when they set sail, to enjoy the man's company. He could afford to take nothing else.
And so he would. He turned his head, ignoring the stiff, lancing pain in his neck in doing so, to let his eyes rest upon Jack.
The near shock of simply and innocuously looking at him again was strange, in that there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary to see at all. It was casual and offered nothing more than what looking at him before now had given him. It was still just Jack.
It gave him a measure of comfort and relief now too, to realize that he didn't need any more than this. Just to look at him. And to know he had done the right thing, somehow. In giving himself this one chance.
He would never be able to forget this one night, this one moment, where he'd shared a room for the duration of several hours with Jack Sparrow, in safety. To let the man sleep safely with him and even enjoy the somewhat muted satisfaction of watching over him, to be there for him.
He wondered idly if this was what a parent might feel, actually; to enjoy knowing one's own was sleeping and sound, hale and whole.
There was the matter of that shoulder injury, but then, he grinned to himself, his own neck was no better.
Now if he could just find some way of making this cursedly aroused member of his relax, and cease reminding him of its presence. It was worse than having an itch one couldn't reach; it was in fact almost maddening in the fact that it felt so good.
And Jack's closed eyes were still too dark, those lashes too long. And the curve of the man's full lips was still too alluring. He loved seeing Jack's smile. Even when it was curling in that irritating smirk.
The slight build and the supple strength made Jack very feline, and James abruptly found himself reliving that moment after their duel when he'd managed to overpower Jack, taking him down, bearing him beneath his weight to the gold and using his superior strength to keep him there long enough to disarm him. It had only lasted a few moments, but now, reliving it in his mind, he couldn't stop himself from doing it over and over again.
To hold him down.
James swallowed thickly, wondering why he kept torturing himself like this. It certainly wasn't helping to abate his arousal. It was fanning it to keenly sweet heights. At this rate, he'd probably have to find some way of finding release, simply to get some sleep.
In fact, the shame and disgust he might feel at having to go off and do so out of sight of the pirate's knowing gaze would be far preferable to doing it here, or continuing to writhe in intolerable misery all night long.
The more he contemplated the sense in this, the more he had to admit it was for the best, considering he'd already admitted to something far more disturbing, really. Having fallen for the man. God, it was too much.
Why was his life such a hell? Had he really come this far only to have to see that he was nothing but *this*? This- this debasement and mockery of his former proud state?!
Angrily, and as quietly as possible, he stirred, climbed out of the hammock, and put his shoes back on. Pulling on his coat, he opened the door of the cabin, musing on the intelligence of leaving Jack Sparrow alone in his own cabin aboard the Dauntless, unwatched, and finally left the room, shutting the door behind him silently. If Jack was going to get up to anything in his cabin, it was probably less heinous than what he was about to do, if he were to compare the magnitude of their respective sins.
The ship was quiet, and below decks there was nothing but the empty berths, the dark and silent interior of the Dauntless about him.
On a sudden whim, he climbed down to the ladder and made his way carefully all the way down to the brig, to the cell where Jack had been held before. Too many times before.
In the dark, he grasped onto the bars of the cell, wondering why the simple act of moving Jack out of this cell and above into his cabin didn't appear to have changed a single thing. Whether here, or above, or in the Fort's dungeon, it was all the same. He was still keeping him, attempting to hold onto him.
His heart was pounding, and he had to close his eyes at the vertigo he felt crawling over him, at imagining Jack still within the cell…opening the door to join him there within. Ah, God - what had Jack said before -? *"You'd have to be in here too, if you were holding me, now wouldn't you?"*
Holding him…James licked his lips, wondering why the flush of heat that was washing over his body had nothing to do with sin or shame now, but just desire. Pure desire. Need. Not even an ache, but somehow in this close, stifling darkness, a steady current of unseen fire in his blood.
Every time he'd indulged in this act before, unlacing his breeches and holding his stiff and eager cock in his hand, feeling the pleasure race over him at the touch, even if it was only himself touching it, he'd had to imagine a girl, some woman he'd met previously or seen during the day, in order to achieve release. He'd never been able to imagine Elizabeth, not really; not without a measure of self-disgust and frustration, knowing it wasn't worth attempting to presume what it would be like to have her small, delicate lady's fingers upon him.
But Jack, oh what would that be like? To have the pirate's hand upon his organ, grasping him surely, knowing full well what it was like, seeing as they were both men…And even to touch Jack the same way during the act? He imagined the cock he held wasn't his own, but Jack's, and gasped at the sensation. Imagined Jack's hand was the one who held him, in turn.
He was shaking as he trailed his fingers softly over his own length, imagining Jack's slender hand on him. For he knew what Jack's hands looked like. Elegant fingers, smaller than his own. Jack's hot, dark eyes staring into his during it, that mouth…
James gasped, and grabbed his cock more firmly, allowing himself to pull it harder, faster, not caring how long or how quickly it took to find that height.
To have Jack up against him, to be pushing him to the ground again, lying upon him and crushing his mouth to that devil-smile, hands upon each other urging them to surrender to the pleasure. Or to hold him in the cell here, in the dark, on the floor, to feel that slighter body yielding to him -
His balls drew up tight, and he bit his lower lip against the moan that threatened to emerge.
It was paramount in that moment, to know what Jack would sound like, at the moment of release. Would he groan? Pant? Beg? Curse? To have Jack writhing beneath him, desperately, not knowing whether to fight him, or cleave to him, to have Jack helplessly giving it up to him right there on the floor - it would be the ultimate fantasy. Beyond any simple romantic dreamy wish he'd ever had of having Elizabeth warm and soft in his bed.
Turning around, he leaned back against the bars of the cell, imagining what it would be like, lying full-length on Jack, stripping the clothing from the pirate and shamelessly kissing and licking that dark, tanned skin.
Oh, sweet Jesus, the hot and gripping sensation of it, rubbing himself to completion on that body, against all of Jack. His face was flaming, and sweat was running down from beneath his arms. Maddened, he wanted to tear off his coat but didn't want to risk dirtying it down here. Ah, but to imagine taking it off and laying it down there, in the cell, and ordering Jack to his knees…
He bit his lip against the additional surge of pleasure that throbbed and pulsed in him at this. To urge Jack to take his cock into his mouth, with a hand on that dark hair…To feel those full, pretty and wicked lips against his prick - that tongue, sliding against him, wet and hot and slippery…taking him and surrounding him in Jack's mouth…
James moaned in spite of himself, the sound pathetically resonant in his own ears as that of a wounded animal, and came, his climax overtaking him suddenly and without warning, leaving him helpless in its wake. His fluid dripped over his fingers onto the floor and he could smell the scent of it surrounding him, cloying but familiar in the dark, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the bars.
He was lightheaded and breathless, and it was the sweetest, most intense orgasm he could ever remember having in his life. The safety of it, knowing that Jack would never know, and neither would anyone else, ensuring that he could have this, at least this, whenever he wanted, was enough to make up for the fact that it was no more than an image. A fleeting wish. It didn't have to be anything else. It was far safer than the real thing. In fact, it was preferable to the real thing, for he couldn't imagine Jack ever actually wanting it, ever letting him do such a thing with him.
The painful echo of his thoughts upstairs, in recalling that Jack wasn't to be his, reminded him that he was in reality standing down in the brig having just brought himself off while thinking about the wounded pirate in his cabin. It was a reminder that he really should go back up and make sure that Jack was still asleep and not -
His eyes snapped open in the dark. What if Jack had heard him leave, seen him depart the cabin…and was currently pleasuring himself in the same manner? Should he even go back upstairs yet, or wait a discreet few moments more, just in case?
He brought a hand to his mouth and tasted the traces of his liquid there, wondering if Jack's was anything like it. A painful little wounding arrow chased this thought, with the sad realization that he'd never know.
It seemed that no matter what he did, the net about him tightened further, pulling him deeper and deeper into a web of self-deception and self-discovery, each vying for control.
If he tried to run from his body's responses, he'd only drive himself mad with the craving for release. If he tried to ignore his heart's unwitting and blind adoration, this fascination and fondness for Jack, he'd turn himself into the very cold monster he'd feared Elizabeth had thought him to be. Which he now knew he wasn't. And if he tried to push thoughts of Jack from his mind altogether, he'd be simply reverting to the same state of sublimated denial he'd occupied before he'd embarked on the course for the rendezvous with the Black Pearl at the Isle that second time.
And the state of his soul - he didn't even want to contemplate that one. Far too disturbing, how much sin and darkness had already seized hold of him. He had created his own living hell.
And there was still Jack, above, and they were going to return to that damned Isle together. He absently licked at the cooling traces of himself upon his hand. Was this anything like what it would be to taste Jack, to lave his tongue upon Jack's hand, or even to have Jack's tongue upon his fingers afterwards, cleaning him -
His already-sated cock stirred at this thought, and he hastily cleared his mind. He had to get back up above deck; he couldn't just stand down here all night, dreaming.
Well, at least now he'd be able to get some sleep. As he left the brig, he glumly thought that with his luck, he'd probably end up dreaming about Jack, at this point. He hoped not. Although that was preferable to the nightmares about those bloody skeletons.
As he walked on deck, he saw the lights of the town across the water, and realized it had always been home to him. But there was a part of him that could well understand how Jack would be more at home here on this ship that in any fine building on land.
The night air helped to cool him somewhat, and restore his troubled senses to a level of settled dignity.
But there was no need to work himself into a state about what he'd just done. He needed sleep, in any case, having not slept well at all for the past few nights.
As he opened the door of his cabin, he cautiously examined Jack, who appeared to remain quite asleep and not to have moved.
Quietly, he took off his shoes and went to the basin of cool water that sat on the side table just beyond the cabinet. Taking a cloth, he wiped his hand clean, and glanced at Jack. Those eyes were still closed and the slow, even measure of the man's breath spoke of a deeper sleep. Probably the rum had something to do with it, not to mention the addition of the shoulder wound.
He undid the bandage around his neck and applied cool water to his neck, careful to avoid agitating his neck-wound, before redoing the bandage.
One of the candles had gone out, the wildly flickering one. He couldn't help but see the parallel: in extinguishing his lust for the moment, he'd given himself some space and calm inside. And certainly he did feel now as though he might be able to sleep, if he tried to.
Curling back up in the hammock, he settled himself comfortably, eyeing Jack's sleeping form once more. Well, this was better, he had to admit. He was no longer the slave of the ebb and flow of that maddening tide of heat. And his thoughts were clearer.
In fact, he could even admit to a measure of acceptance, both of himself and of Jack. What would be, would be. And he didn't need to fight it. He still had his dignity, and he still retained some amount of self-control. He'd done the right thing in allowing the pirate to go in the very first, and even in now allowing Jack to accompany them back to the Isle to reunite with his beloved ship.
As the weary accumulation of his day finally took its toll, his eyelids growing heavy, he breathed a silent sigh of relief. Maybe, in a way, he was playing this out the only way he could. Whatever guilt or sin he carried along the way could be explained as accepting responsibilities for his own actions rather than dire errors that could not be fixed. He really didn't see how he could have done anything differently, at this juncture.
When James slipped into darkness and dreams, there were no reappearance of the frightening undead, living skulls, merely the drift and pull of the waves, and the soft rocking of the ship beneath him.
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