Disclaimer: not mine - unlike the characters I'm borrowing, I'm not a pirate.

Author's note: Well, here I be, stepping gingerly out of the comfort zone of LOTR and Buffy (my usual fandoms) into the exciting world of Pirates. Avast! Or something. Anyway, please let me know what you think.

Thanks to Erin for help in working out what sort of ship the Black Pearl probably is (if she isn't a bark, then she's probably a frigate, and if not either of them, my guess is a brig.) For pretty pictures of a bark, have a look at the BarkEndeavour.au site - that ship is a beautiful replica of Captain Cook's ship. Also, I pinched the name (only the name) of my captain from Arthur Ransome's
Swallows and Amazons, a series of books which were favourites when I was a lot younger than I am now.

Now, on with the show, me hearties! (This pirate jargon's awfully good fun!)


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Jack woke with a bump, and found himself sprawled on a damp wooden floor that seemed to be moving. He sat up, rubbing the side of his head, and blinked in the darkness.

It took him a moment to remember where he was and what he was doing there, but when he did he groaned, and not just from the pain in his head. Whatever had possessed him to beg work on a ship as a cabin boy? More to the point, whatever had possessed him to choose this particular ship?

It had anchored out in Portsmouth harbour a week since, a weatherbeaten bark with ragged sails. Its crew, when they rowed ashore, were dubious characters at best, and gossip said that though they claimed to be merchants, they were more likely to be pirates. Maybe it had been that element of mystery and excitement that had made Jack go and ask the captain (a bearded fellow in a filthy hat) if he could join the crew.

The captain had looked at him from over a tankard of ale, critically.

"How old are you?"

"Ten," Jack said, drawing himself up to his full height.

"And are ye not apprenticed already?"

"To my father - he's a carpenter," Jack explained.

Putting his tankard down, the captain reached out and pinched Jack's right bicep. "Skinny lad, aren't you? Why leave your dad?"

"He doesn't care about me," Jack said. "He'd rather I weren't there, anyway. I know a bit about ships, sir - I've always wanted to go to sea."

"You need to know more'n a bit to sail under me, lad," the captain said. "But you seem bright enough, and I could do with another hand on deck. All right. You're hired. Board and lodging, what there is of both, and some of whatever ... profit ... we make. Meet me and the lads at six tomorrow to go aboard. We're sailing on the evening tide."

Jack had grinned at the captain before hurrying away to pack his few belongings together. All the next day he worked harder than ever before for his father, and bade him a cheerful good evening when the carpenter downed tools to go to the tavern. Jack ran upstairs to his little room to fetch his bundle, left a badly-written note on a scrap of paper to explain where he was, and hurried out.

The captain and some of his men were waiting by a boat as Jack ran up, gasping apologies for his tardiness. Just then a clock in the town sounded six o'clock, and the captain laughed.

"You're not late, lad. We're early, is all. Hop aboard and we'll be off - there's that tide to catch."

Jack followed the men into the skiff, and perched in the bow whilst the crew took up their sweeps and started pulling for the ship out in the harbour. The captain gave soft, firm orders about direction: "Pull harder to starboard. Even. Stroke hard on port. Gentle now." As they came up to the ship, he whistled sharply. "Easy oars."

The crew lifted their sweeps from the rowlocks and the boat glided in to come to rest by the side of the larger ship. A rope ladder was flung down, and one by one they climbed up. Jack watched as the skiff was hauled on deck after the men, clutching his bundle.

Moving quickly to the helm, the captain began giving orders briskly, and with wide eyes Jack saw the sails raised. Softly the ship slipped out towards open sea, the water gurgling under her hull.

The captain left a man at the helm, and came to find his newest crew member.

"Well, lad, welcome aboard the Black Pearl. Now, I didn't catch your name."

"Jack Sparrow," said Jack, waiting for the inevitable guffaw that came whenever he told anyone his surname.

Nodding, the captain clapped him on the shoulder. "A good name, young Jack. I'm Captain Flint. I won't ask you to work this evening, but tomorrow you can start to learn the ropes." He turned, and called in the direction of some of the crew. "Bootstrap!" A slim figure detached itself from the group and came quickly to them. "This is our new cabin boy - find him a hammock, will you?"

"Aye, sir." The man named Bootstrap nodded in a friendly way at Jack.

Captain Flint smiled a mouthful of golden teeth. "Ye'll do well, if you listen, lad. Go and rest. You'll need it."

"Aye, captain," Jack said, and felt like a proper seaman. The captain laughed, and went off towards the helm.

Bootstrap headed towards a hatch in the deck. "You've a name?"

"Jack Sparrow," Jack said again. His companion held out a hand.

"Bill Turner, though usually I'm called Bootstrap, or Bootstrap Bill."

Jack shook the hand. Bill Turner was a young, athletic man with dark hair and an easy manner. He led the boy down a ladder into the dim bowels of the ship.

"Galley's over there - we eat at eight bells."

Wondering what time eight bells was, Jack nodded sagely and followed Bootstrap further into the ship's belly.

"Here's where we sleep - here, you take this corner. Got a hammock?"

"No," Jack said.

"That's all right, we've a spare." Bill rummaged in a locker and produced what looked like a net. He proceeded to string it up between two beams. "There. Cap'n'll put you in a watch, tomorrow as like as not. You'll soon get used to it, lad."

Jack nodded, feeling a bit lost and very small. Bill Turner grinned kindly at him.

"There's some time till supper and bed. Come back up on deck when you've sorted your kit out, and you'll see Merry England slipping away from you. We've a fair wind, and the Pearl under full sail is a sight."

"Thank you," Jack said. Bootstrap nodded, and disappeared back towards the ladder. Jack turned to his bundle, and found places to hang or stow his few belongings. Then, with a dubious look at the hammock, he felt his way back on deck.

The wind was blowing fresh and strong, and the Black Pearl's sails were filled. Jack settled himself in a quiet spot towards the port bow, and watched as the coast of his home disappeared on the horizon. Briefly, he wondered what his father would think when he returned home to find Jack gone, but the thought was soon out of his mind as the canvas above his head snapped in the breeze and the water under the Pearl's hull rushed past. Jack tipped his head back and closed his eyes, a smile on his lips.