Charms of the Sea

*Freedom has a thousand charms to show, that slaves, howe'er contented, never know.*

Disclaimer: I don't own Pirates of the Caribbean, or Captain Jack Sparrow. I'm just borrowing him. So don't sue me, savvy? This is my first PotC fic. Please R+R.

Chapter One

It was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

The sun was just rising, rays of light hitting the water just so, turning the sea into a pool of liquid turquoise. There was nothing else around them, nothing for miles, just that gleaming water. And out of it rose the Pearl.

Jack Reade sighed and leaned against the railing. In all of his sixteen years, he's never seen anything like it.

The Black Pearl was the most beautiful ship in the world. Jack was sure of it, and it wasn't just his part in the making of it that made him so sure. What ship could hope to compete with the glory of the black-sailed Pearl? It had dwarfed all other ships in the harbor back in England- it even dwarfed the huge sea, mast thrusting proudly into the lightening sky.

And it belonged here, in the jewel-like waters of the Caribbean.

He smiled. It belonged, just like he did.

There were footsteps beside him; Jack looked up to see the captain, Henry Mitchell, smiling at him from his enormous height. "Cap'n," Jack said, and smiled back.

"We should reach Port Royal tomorrow. It's been a good voyage, don't you think, Jack?"

"Oh, yes. The Pearl… She's a marvelous ship."

"That she is. Worthy to have been your father's last endeavor."

Jack bowed his head and swallowed hard. "Yes. He would have been proud to see her completed," he replied, struggling to keep his voice even. A moment passed in silence; Jack knew the captain was thinking of his father, the elder Reade, designer of the fastest and strongest ships in all of Europe.

Jack didn't want to think about him.

"Captain, did you give any thought to my request?"

Mitchell cocked his head and stared down at him. "Your request to join my crew here on the Pearl?"

"Yes, sir," Jack replied patiently, even though he had made but the one request.

Mitchell sighed, and Jack knew the answer. "Jack, you're a fine lad. But you're not cut out to be a sailor. You hadn't set foot on a ship until we left England, you know nothing of the life…"

"I helped design this ship, Captain, this one and a dozen others. Give me a chance at least, I beg of you. There's nothing left for me in London, and there's nothing waiting for me in Port Royal."

"I'm sorry, Jack-"

"It's all I have left of my father." It was a last ditch effort, the very last card he had to play.

Mitchell shook his head and opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, a shout came down from the crow's nest. "Pirates!"

The captain didn't give Jack a second glance, just rushed to the helm. Jack leaned over the rail and stared out at the sea, searching for these pirates.

He found them a second later, far out to sea, but rapidly getting closer. Jack pushed away from the rail and ran toward the helm, where Mitchell was conferring with his lieutenant. "Are we even their target?" Mitchell was asking, staring at the approaching pirates.

"We are, sir… With the cargo we hold…" Jack gave the man a sharp look. He wasn't aware of any especially valuable cargo. He didn't reply however, and the lieutenant went on. "The question is can we outrun them?"

To that Jack had to reply. "Of course we can. This ship is the fastest ever put out of England."

"No one asked for your opinion, Mr. Reade. I suggest you retire to your quarters until this situation has been rectified."

Mitchell nodded. "Go on, Jack."

Jack nodded and turned away. They immediately went back to their conversation, and Jack slipped away, but not to his quarters.

The sailors clambered all over the deck, readying cannons, readying guns and swords. He watched from a distance, staring at the men scurrying across the ship, in unison hauling and loading as they prepared for the attack.

The ship was growing closer, the figures on the pirate ship's deck taking shape. The too were readying cannons, getting ready to attack the Pearl. Jack felt a surge of anger. His ship. They were attacking his ship. He'd slaved countless nights at his father's sickbed, drawing the plans for this ship by candlelight. He'd overseen the building of it in his father's name. And bloody pirates were about to attack it.

A hand grabbed his arm suddenly, breaking him out of his angry reverie. "It is not safe for an untrained boy such as you to be on deck during a battle." Lieutenant Marshall steered him toward the stairs that lead down to the cabins. "I will not have you disobeying an order on board this ship, boy."

"Lieutenant-"

"I won't have an argument." He pushed Jack to the stairs. "If you ever hope to be on the crew of this ship- or any- you need to know how to follow orders, and you don't. I agree with the captain. You're not cut out for this, Jack." At that he turned away.

Jack slipped down the stairs, anger slipping into sadness and confusion. He made his way to his cabin, then sat on the bed and reached for the roll of parchment beside it and the pen and ink wrapped in a piece of soft leather beside it.

He'd just began to scratch out a rough outline on the parchment- a drawing of the Pearl, of course; he'd been obsessed with the boat for too long to draw anything else- when the first cannon shot was fired.

The blast rang through the air. He couldn't tell who had fired it at first, just hoped it would blast into the other ship's hull, and not damage the Pearl. A moment later, he heard the sickening thud and crack of a cannonball plunging through wood, but breathed a sigh of relief. That had come from far away- the Pearl was intact.

The battled raged outside for he didn't know how long. He wished he could see it, wished he could do something. But no. He was stuck in his cabin, left only to clutch the parchment and count the holes the blasted pirates were making his ship. However, he could likewise count the holes the crew of the Pearl was making in the pirate ship… He found bitter satisfaction that the pirate ship was suffering more than his Pearl.

He heard the splintering of wood, a cracking, and fell back onto the floor just in time, arms flying up around his head for protection. Sure enough, a cannon ball sailed right over his head and into the door, smashing through it and into the hall. He looked to where the ball had blasted through once the dust settled- and saw a chunk of blue water.

A hole. They'd blown a hole the size of his head in the Pearl.

"Stop blowing holes in my ship!" he screamed at the pirate ship across from him, at the top of his lungs even though he knew no one could hear.

Suddenly a racket came from above… along with the silencing of the cannons. There were cheers all around. Apparently, they'd won.

The pirate ship was twisted sideways at an awkward angle. It was going down. "Huzzah," Jack whispered, black eyes staring vacantly.

He had no warning when the boot came flying at him; he barely jumped back in time to escape its sole in his face. The boot was attached to a leg, the leg to a pirate. It was only then that he looked around through the small opening, noticed the other pirates swinging or climbing on board, more than just a boarding party. Jack stood frozen for a moment, staring at them board the ship, then reached for the sword belted to his side. It was mostly for decoration- he'd never had to use it. But he knew how.

Hopefully.

He rushed to the door and ran up the stairs, brandishing his sword. The deck was a mass of people, swinging, shooting. For an instant he questioned his action, then threw himself into the throng. Before he could do much good- or do much of anything at all- the hilt of a sword hit his head hard. He fell back onto the ground, not getting so much of a glimpse of his attacker before fading into unconsciousness.