Disclaimer:  If I owned them, they'd all be much the worse for wear than they are.

AN:  First time writing or posting, though I've been reading fan fic for about two and a half years now, so please be kind.  Constructive criticism welcomed, suggestions welcomed (especially when concerning a better title), flames will be forwarded to Barbosa in that deepest circle of hell that Jack talked about unless they can be put to better use . . .

A Taste of Misery

Part 1

Jack stumbled and nearly fell, calling on the innate stubbornness that he had always had to keep him upright as rough hands pushed him away.  His shoulders ached as he struggled to keep his numb hands bent upward at an awkward angle behind his back to keep the noose around his neck from tightening.  It really was a good trick, that, tying someone's hands behind their back and then tying that rope to a noose . . .yes, he would have to remember it in the future . . .Jack stumbled backwards as a second set of hands intersected with his trembling body, and his hands instinctively dropped, causing the rope to tighten again.  Between the noose and the gag, it was getting rather difficult to breath, and small flashes of light were dancing in front of his eyes despite the blindfold that had expertly been placed there.

A third set of hands reached out from the darkness, and Jack straightened as well as he could, knowing that this time it was pain, not humiliation, that was intended.  The man was good, Jack had to give him that, he knew exactly where and how to apply pressure to cause pain but not permanent injury, damage but not bleeding.  It was the other two roughs who gave him the bloody nose; it was this man, this pro, that could cause him to scream his throat raw into the gag, while the others laughed at how easily the great pirate was brought low.

Now the pro jabbed his hand into Jack's shoulder, to all appearances merely turning him around to redirect his stumbling journey from man to man, while Jack swayed at the agony as his collar bone inched away from its normal position, allowed to snap back an instant before Jack was certain that it would shatter into a million pieces.  A cuff to the side of the neck and a rough hand in his back sent him sprawling to the ground, unable to breath, his right side numb while his kidneys and other internal organs screamed in agony.

"Quickly!  The Commodore is coming!"  The warning was no sooner heard than Jack felt the sting of a blade nicking his wrist and his hands were free, though he could no more have moved them than he could have danced on the ceiling at the moment.  The gag was peeled out of his mouth, and he coughed, spitting blood out onto the floor.  Blood trickling onto his chest told him that they had cut the noose from around his neck, but that side of his neck was still numb from the last blow he had received.  Someone dragged him to his feet and tossed him down the stairs, a faint snap and a slow throb warning Jack that he had finally broken something in his wrist.  A clattering on the stairs told him that the four men were following him down.

One grabbed his hair and pulled him into a semi-seated position and removed the blindfold with a flick of his wrist, the sudden light lancing through his skull and turning the low throb to a burning ache.  A young man with blond hair and sky-blue eyes knelt in front of him and gently but quickly wiped the blood off his body before grabbing his dirty shirt and coat, which had been set aside so that no blood would be obvious on them, and pulling them onto the unresisting pirate.

Jack supposed that if he wanted to resist, it should be now, but his right hand and foot still tingled dangerously, warning that the nerves still weren't functional, and if he fought the young man, one of the other two would take over, and he really didn't think he could handle that at the moment.  Blinking against the haze in front of his vision, Jack locked eyes as best as he could with the younger man, willing a change to have occurred . . .but none had.

The blue eyes stared back at him, troubled, but not troubled enough.  The lad didn't have the heart to participate in the beat-the-pirate game, but he wore his red coat proudly, and to keep from being called a coward, he kept watch for the Commodore.  The lad wouldn't really have been all that bad if he hadn't been so idealistic, so certain that as a pirate, Jack deserved anything that might be done to him . . .he actually reminded Jack a bit of Will Turner, nearly three years ago, caught between his lifelong beliefs and the bitter truth that his father could be a pirate and still a good man.  Will had crossed that bridge and survived, intact, a better man . . .Jack wondered if the loss of Brian Lanebridge's idealism would also be precipitated by him, though if it was, it would probably be when the man saw him hanging from the gallows for a crime he honestly hadn't committed, standing so proudly next to the Commodore in his blue coat and powdered wig . . .

The Commodore . . .Jack had never believed he would be glad to see Norrington, but his opinion had changed drastically over the past seven days.  At least when Norrington was present, he was assured of food, and because the Commodore was wont to drop by unexpectedly during the day, the little torture-sessions were usually kept short.

Still, it wasn't quite the homecoming he had imagined it would be.

A hand tightened around his broken wrist, and Jack staggered to his feet, biting back a whimper with what remained of his strength as he was hurled into his cell again.  For a moment Jack merely lay on the floor, winded and in agony, his head pounding so hard that it hurt to think.  His eyes instinctively swept the small, familiar cells and corridor, taking in the three red coats, two watching him with malicious delight, and Brian with his almost comic expression of mixed loathing and pity.  Jack felt a grin start to form, and closed his eyes, willing the darkness back down where he had always kept it.  Opening his eyes again, they locked hazily on the tall man standing in the corner.  Stephan Silverfirth, the man who had brought him to this . . .the man with the well-trained hands . . .it always surprised Jack how tall he was, as he seemed to be much shorter during the pass-the-pirate game, but that was probably just his own perceptions skewed by one too many knocks on the head . . .and neck . . .and stomach . . .and chest . . .and arms . . .and legs . . .

Jack felt his mouth turn upward into a feral snarl as he stared into the gray eyes, hard and cruel beneath his jet-black hair.  He couldn't help the small release as he stared at the author of his misery . . .a man he had never laid eyes on until a week ago.

Footsteps sounded on the steps, and Jack attempted to struggle into a seated position, falling to the side with a low moan as the broken bones in his wrist gritted against one another.  He closed his eyes again to ride out the wave of nausea that the movement generated . . .and opened them again in surprise and . . .hope?  No, hope would be too dangerous, but the emotion was there nonetheless . . .as a voice called his name.

"Jack."  A true smiled quirked at the corners of his mouth as he watched William and Elizabeth Turner step up beside the commodore.  "Jack . . .how could you?"

The hope turned to ashes in his mouth, and Jack fought grimly against the darkness that rose again, perilously close to the surface, gazing in resignation at the accusation and betrayal in William Turner's dark eyes.  There would be no help this time . . .no help, and no hope.

He would swing from the gallows for a crime he really, truly, honestly never committed.