Fever Dreams and Secrets

Part One

by Saahira 09-10-03

************************************ Part One COMPLETE. This vignette takes place between Jack and Will, in which Jack in his delirium reveals more to Will about his relationship with Bootstrap Bill than he ever would have normally. NOT Slash, but it is full of angst. Rated PG-13 for references to past adult situations.

All reviews are appreciated and eagerly awaited. Enjoy!


"I don't understand," Will Turner frowned. He faced the two people, the man and the woman, trying to read their expressions. Not an easy task ... in the dark light of a waning moon, their faces were mostly in shadow.

"What's there to understand, boy?" Joshamee Gibbs answered crossly. He turned away, his hands grasping the *Black Pearl's* railing as he stared out at the night-blackened sea. "I told ye already; Jack needs ye. What else d'ye need to know?"

Will's jaw clenched, torn between anger and sheer frustration. "What *more* do I need to know? You send Cotton to fetch me in the middle of the night, you have me rowed to this godforsaken cove, you tell me its because Jack needs me ... and then you don't tell me *why?!"*

"There was no time," AnaMaria said quietly.

The young blacksmith stated with cool precision, "There would have been plenty of time had you sent someone who could *speak."*

"That's the point." AnaMaria looked up into his eyes, and Will was struck by the strain on her face, the worry. He had never seen the pirate look so frightened; not even months before when poor *Interceptor* had been murdered beneath them. She explained simply, "Cotton was the only man we could trust not to tell the rest of the crew."

"But tell them *what?"*

AnaMaria looked down. She studied her hands, her fidgeting fingers. When she looked up, her eyes were glistening sadly. "Jack is sick, Will."

Anger slipped away, replaced by a deep, bone-chilling dread. What the woman said didn't seem to make sense. Will knew that Jack could never be sick. Insane, perhaps. Daft, certainly. But he did not succumb to the weaknesses that plagued other men, *normal* men. He was invincible. He was ... he was *Captain Jack Sparrow,* damn it, and immune to such ... to such ...

Will stammered, "Sick? Sick with what? I mean ..."

"We don't know," Gibbs said, turning back. He wouldn't meet Will's eyes. He sounded weary, defeated. "He mentioned it once. Said it was some kind of illness he picked up in the Orient years ago. Said it comes back to haunt him sometimes, ye know?"

"It comes back?"

"Aye, sometimes. 'Cept he made it sound like it weren't nothing to fret over. But its ... not. Its not 'nothing,' I mean."

AnaMaria added, "When he started asking to see old Bill Turner, we didn't know what else to do." She shrugged, a helpless gesture. "We weren't that far from Port Royal. We didn't know what else to do but come here and fetch you back for him."

Will frowned. "And the rest of the crew doesn't know?"

"They suspect something's amiss," Gibbs admitted, glancing toward the closed door to the crew's quarters below deck. They were all asleep down there, all but these two. "But they don't *know.* They think he's on a drinkin' binge. We'd just as soon keep it that way."

Will glanced toward the rear of the ship, toward the distant captain's cabin. "He's in there?"

"He locked himself in when it started getting bad," AnaMaria confirmed, following his gaze. "He said he didn't want the men to see him this way."

"How long ago was that?"

"Four days," Gibbs supplied unhappily. "But he was suffering with it for a week afore that, trying to pretend weren't nothing wrong. Damn stubborn fool!" He kicked at a coil of heavy rope.

Will looked askance at the two pirates. "Four days? But you've been nursing him, haven't you? Bringing him food and water?"

"Trying to," AnaMaria replied. She shrugged. "He's out of his head most of the time, Will. Tending him ain't been easy." She looked up at the young man. "You'll see it for yourself. You'll see how he is."

The whole thing seemed like a bad dream, a nightmare. Will swallowed hard and asked, "So one of you has a key to his cabin then?"

"I do." AnaMaria wore a heavy gold chain around her neck. She pulled its length out of her oversized shirt; instead of a pendant, it dangled a key. Seeing it, Gibbs quirked an eyebrow and chuckled. AnaMaria scowled at the man, then looked pointedly away.

If he hadn't been so shaken, Will might have laughed and teased her. Instead, he said grimly, "Well. Let's go in then, shall we?"

"I'll take the watch," Gibbs offered helpfully and with flask in hand, he made a hasty escape.

Will and AnaMaria stared at one another for a long moment. Then the pirate turned and started walking, her boots sounding loud on the empty deck. The blacksmith hesitated briefly, then followed.

There were sounds inside the cabin. Crashes. Stomping feet. The sound of voices raised in argument. But it would be only one voice, would it not? Arguing against ... itself?

"Told ye it was bad," AnaMaria murmured vaguely. And swung open the door.

There was a lantern lit in one corner of the cabin, and candles on the table. In their dim yellow light, Jack Sparrow looked like a ghost, a specter. A thing not real.

Jack stopped his frenzied pacing when Will entered. He froze, swaying gently, his breathing loud in the cabin's stillness. He stared into the young blacksmith's face while Will quickly assessed his friend's condition.

The pirate captain's white shirt was soiled and stained, and was ripped on one shoulder. It was pulled out of his breeches to hang loosely around his narrow hips; the sleeves were unbound at the wrists to swing freely past his hands. No boots or socks, revealing bare feet and strong calves. Even the red scarf was gone from his head, leaving his black hair more disheveled even than usual, its tangled mass sweeping down his back and shoulders, the matted braids and dreadlocks hopelessly twisted amid the beads, baubles and coins.

Worse, Sparrow was noticeably pale beneath his weathered tan. The kohl was gone from around his eyes, making him appear younger somehow, more vulnerable; dark circles like bruises had taken the kohl's place. There was a sheen of perspiration on his face and chest. His hair looked damp, and his shirt clung to his lean body as if soaked from swimming.

"I didn't think you'd come," Jack said softly, still staring.

"Of course I came, Jack," Will told him. "As soon as I heard you were ill, I came."

"I'm not ill."

Will glanced briefly at AnaMaria, but her eyes were turned carefully away.

With surprising speed, Jack was standing in front of him, frowning intently up into the younger man's face. Swaying, he whispered hazily, "They told me you was dead, Bill. I thought you were dead."

Bill? Will's heart sank as he realized that Jack imagined him to be Bill Turner; Bootstrap Bill. Jack Sparrow's best friend and Will's own father, lost long ago to Davy Jones' locker.

The cabin door clicked quietly shut as AnaMaria slipped away, leaving the two men alone.

Will forced a smile. "I'm not dead, Jack. I'm right here. With you." He put a hand on the pirate's arm, a comforting gesture. He drew it back in shock. "My God, Jack! You're on fire!"

"Its not me," Jack said. He spun away and resumed his restless, uneven pacing. "Its this damned infernal island. 'Lizbeth burned up all the shade and the food. And the rum." He walked back to lean against Will's chest, their faces intimately close. Even through shirt and vest, Jack's hands seared hot against the young man's flesh; heat radiated from his fevered body. His dark eyes were glassy bright. "Did ye bring any rum, Bill?"

"Uh, no. But here," Will said, spotting an untouched glass of water on the bed stand. He went to it, pulling the pirate with him. "This will be better for you. Sit down." He pushed Sparrow down on the bed's edge, then raised the glass to the man's parched lips. Jack lifted his hands to circle Will's. They were shaking badly.

"Ugh! Bloody hell!" Face scrunching in distaste, Sparrow pushed the glass away. "What, are you tryin' to kill me then?"

"Its just water, Jack. Here, drink some more." At the blacksmith's gentle insistence, Sparrow drank a little more before pushing it away again.

"No." The pirate reeled sickly on the bed, one hand going to his stomach. "No more of that rotgut. Unless ye want me spewin' all over your bootstraps." He grinned crookedly at his own joke.

"No, we wouldn't want that," Will agreed quizzically. "But you'll have to drink some more later."

"Its always later with you, innit, Bill? Always later and later. Well, its too late now, innit? Ye finally got your own bloody spurt of a son to raise. You don't need old Jack no more, eh?"

Will frowned. "What are you talking about, Jack?"

"Cried for three days, she did. That's what they told me." Face twisting, he grabbed suddenly at his head. "Oh *God,* it hurts! Why does my head hurt so bad?"

"You're sick," Will soothed him. "It will get better, I promise." He sat down on the bed, studying the man beside him. "Who cried for three days, Jack?"

From beneath the hands, the arms, Sparrow muttered, "Nellie. Took one look at me and started ballin' her eyes out. Said I come out too dark to do her any good; had to be some damned Spaniard's whelp. Too dark to fool young Mr. Turner." He staggered to his feet and started pacing again.

Will rose with him. Stood watching him. Listening to the pirate rant, he began feeling a little sick himself. "And this ... Nellie. She was ...?"

"She couldn't deny it though. A woman never can. A whelp comes out and there it is for the world to see. Not like a man. A man don't have to claim his get unless he wants to."

Will swallowed hard. "Are you saying that my fa- ... I mean ... that Bill Turner knew your mother?"

Sparrow whirled, beads and braids flying, arms out-raised. Smiling madly, he proclaimed, "Nellie Brown, the finest whore on Tortuga! *Everybody* knew her, mate. But you was always her favorite." The arms dropped. He started pacing again, his movements uncertain. His breathing grew heavier. "Tamiko and Sophie and the other girls, they was good to me though. Sophie named me Jack, but the girls, they named me Sparrow. Free as a bird, they said. Only freedom they could offer the whelp of a bloody fliptail on Tortuga." Sweat runneled and dripped. He paused, wobbling, and frowned at Will as though not really seeing him. He sounded perplexed as he murmured, "An you always gave 'em extra money to make sure I was cared for proper. Didn't have to. Too dark to be your get, but you done it anyway. I never understood that."

Will Turner's thoughts were chaotic. If Jack Sparrow were raised in a brothel by ladies of ill-repute ... well, it explained so much about certain aspects of the pirate's eccentricities and bizarre mannerisms. But that Will's own father had been involved with Jack's mother, that he may have believed Jack to be his own child before ...

Without warning, Jack stumbled to his knees. Will rushed to his side, dropped down beside him; he kept Jack from toppling to the floor. The pirate was trembling.

"Its bloody freezing in here," he muttered starkly.

"It's the fever, Jack. We need to break it."

The older man's face had gone waxy. His breathing was fast and labored, and the black of his pupils had swallowed up all the brown. His skin was scalding hot to touch. He gazed blindly at nothing. Said softly, "But Barbosa killed you, Bill. You can't be here. Barbosa killed you after he killed me."

"You're not dead, Jack. But you won't get well until we've rid you of this fever. Here, let's get you to the bed. Come on." He positioned one of the pirate's limp arms around his shoulders and heaved himself and Jack up together. He half carried his friend across the small cabin and carefully lowered him to the rumpled bedding. "Now stay there. Do *not* move." He went to the door and pushed it open. Only distantly did he notice the midnight breeze, a cool caress against his face.

"AnaMaria!" He called softly. When the woman appeared, Will told her, "You and Gibbs. Bring water for Jack's bathing cask. *Tepid* water, not hot. We'll soak him to break the fever before it burns him alive."

She did not bother acknowledging his command. She simply turned, hissed Gibbs' name, and rushed to do as Will had bidden.

Will turned back into the room. He approached the bed, watching the pirate captain watching him through bright, fevered eyes. The younger man's mind was reeling, reeling; spinning through improbable scenes and scenarios. He sat down on the edge of the bed.

The frenzied animation had gone, leaving Jack looking boneless, as though he couldn't have moved had his life depended on it. He smiled weakly. "I never did thank you before Barbosa killed ye."

"Thank me for what, Jack?" Will's voice was a harsh whisper.

Jack's eyes closed wearily. "For getting me off that bloody rock after Nellie threw me out. Not fair, that. Its not like the girls didn't have enough to give some away."

"And how ... how old were you, Jack? When Nellie threw you out?"

Sparrow's sweat-slicked brow furrowed. "Fourteen ... I think. Round the time ye said your whelp was born, weren't it?" He sighed. "Easy to pick pockets. Drunk sailors never notice a cutpurse." The frown deepened and he winced, shifting restlessly against the mattress. "The other was worse. Didn't like it."

"What ... what was worse, Jack?"

Jack smiled desolately. "Nellie was right though. All sorts of ways for a pretty young lad to earn extra coins on Tortuga. Hated it, but filling a hungry belly's what counts, eh?" He chuckled humorlessly. "Lost me first tooth when some smelly brute decided to play too rough with old Jack. Damn, but I was glad when you turned up that night, Bill."

Will's jaw tightened, envisioning what Jack must have endured.

The pirate's eyes slit open and his smile widened, and Will saw a glint of real pleasure there. Jack raised a limp hand, let it fall atop Will's on the mattress. "We never looked back, did we? Got on our *Pearl* that night and never looked back again."

"The *Black Pearl?"* Will frowned. No wonder Jack was so attached to the ship; she had saved him from a virtual hell on earth. Behind him, he heard AnaMaria and Gibbs pouring water, bucket after bucket, into the bathing cask.

"Bill?" Jack's burning fingers curled around Will's. Will squeezed back, gently.

"Yes?" was all he could manage.

Jack's throat moved; his eyes glistened. His voice was barely audible. "My fault, innit? If I'da stood up to Barbosa sooner, it wouldn't have happened. If I'd been stronger ... a better captain. I would've saved ye, Bill, if I hadn't been so goddamned young and stupid. I would've saved ye for dear William and his mum. I'm sorry ..."

"Shhhh." Will patted the pirate's hand. He was almost too choked to speak. "Its alright. It wasn't your fault, Jack. I swear it wasn't." He placed his other hand on the pirate's brow, brushing back the dark, damp hair, caressing. "Close your eyes for bit. Rest."

"Its done." AnaMaria stood suddenly by his side. Her worried eyes held fast to Sparrow's pale face. Gibbs, with a murmured excuse, quickly left them.

"Help me get him in the water," Will said, rising.

"What about his clothes?" AnaMaria, always practical, asked.

Will shrugged. "They're already soaked. We'll worry about them later." Together they lifted Sparrow, one on each side. His head rolled, either sleeping or unconscious.

But at the first touch of the tepid water, his eyes shot open and he shivered convulsively. "Bloody hell!" he cried.

"Shhhh, its alright," AnaMaria said soothingly. "Be still."

Glassy eyes slewed to her face, and he murmured, "Ana?"

"He knows you," Will commented softly. Part of him felt jealousy. Mostly he felt relief that at least some part of the pirate's always questionable sanity was left.

"You're very sick, Jack." AnaMaria stroked her captain's face, carefully sponging cool water over fevered flesh. "Be easy now. Let me take care of you." Under her ministrations, Sparrow relaxed, laid his head back against the cask's rim and sighed. His breathing deepened as sleep at last claimed him.

His friends were quiet for a long while as they concentrated on bathing the man, on coaxing the heat from his embattled body. Will was the one to finally break that silence.

"What are you to Jack? Exactly?" The question came out harsher than he had intended. He realized his mistake when the woman's angry eyes raked his face.

"What business is it of yours?" she shot back.

"I'm sorry." Will shook his head slightly, annoyed with himself. He could only blame his gruffness on nerves, and fear for Jack's safety. And on the shock of revelations he had never imagined. "Jack is ..." He faltered, sighing heavily. Tried again. "My father was Jack's friend, AnaMaria; his best friend. And now I am, I think." He frowned thoughtfully. "I think Jack's probably the closest thing I'll ever have to a ... to a brother." He looked up and met the woman's eyes. With his he begged her to understand. "I don't think he's as tough as he pretends. I don't ... I don't want to see him hurt, is all."

Her antagonism melted. When she looked at Jack, at her hand touching his face, her expression softened. "Fair enough," AnaMaria said quietly. She shrugged one shoulder, a small gesture of discomfort at her coming admission. "He's my captain, Will. *And* my friend, though he makes it no secret that he wants more than friendship between us. But he's good about it, never tries to force it on me like other men might." She smiled wryly. "He did give me that damned key though. Said I was free to use it whenever I finally came to my senses." She glanced up to the blacksmith's curious face. "He's a good man, Will."

"Yes," Will Turner agreed, staring down into the pirate's face. "He's a very good man."


After Sparrow's fever had broken, Will and AnaMaria had stripped the pirate of his wet clothing; they had dried him and carried him to bed, placing him beneath piles of warm blankets. Dismissing the woman, Will had pulled the big overstuffed chair up beside the bed and had settled there where he could easily monitor Sparrow's condition. But once settled, despite his firmest resolve, he had promptly fallen asleep. When he woke, late afternoon sunshine was already streaming through the cabin's windows, cutting light and dark slashes across the room. And Jack Sparrow was watching him through tired, though blessedly rational, eyes.

"What are you doing here, whelp?" Jack's voice was low, weary.

"Taking care of you." Will straightened in the chair. He smiled only slightly, casually, unwilling to show how very relieved he was that the pirate was 'back' again.

"Mmmm." Jack moved experimentally, wincing. "Why do I feel like a bloody whale chewed me up and spat me back out?"

"You've been sick, Jack. Don't you remember?"

Sparrow considered this information for a long moment. "Oh," he said at last. "Yes. Fever, wasn't it?"

"Something you caught years ago in the Orient. Or so you told Gibbs."

Jack nodded thoughtfully against his pillow. "Was I very sick then?"

"Very sick," Will confirmed. "You've been out of your mind for days now."

"Uh *Huh."* Jack's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Talk much, did I?"


This the pirate also mulled over. "Crazy stuff, I suppose. Fever's always like that, innit?"

"Jack," Will began, carefully not answering the question, "can we talk about my father sometime? When you're feeling better, I mean," he was quick to add.

Sparrow studied the young blacksmith's face. "What brought this on?"

"Nothing really. Its just ..." Will searched for an answer that wouldn't turn the pirate away, "... I've had a lot of time to sit here and think about things. And it occurred to me that you knew my father far longer than I did. And much better than I ever did. I just," he shrugged guilelessly, "I want to find out where I come from. Who I come from. I want more from my father than just a name, Jack." *And maybe I'll learn more about Jack Sparrow in the process.* But Will didn't say that aloud.

Those expressive dark eyes narrowed defensively. "Then why weren't you asking months ago when you and I commandeered the *Interceptor?* Plenty of time for chitchat on our way to Tortuga. Why wait till now?"

"I ... I didn't know you back then, Jack."

"You mean ye didn't trust me."

"That too." Will smiled, hoping to dispel the pirate's suspicions.

Even sick, Jack wasn't so easily fooled. He said, "If its because of something ye heard me say here, then forget it. You can't trust what a man says in fever dreams, son."

"Its not that at all," Will replied. "You ... talked about the *Black Pearl,* and Barbosa's mutiny." He grinned widely. "And you complained about Elizabeth burning all the rum."

"That right?" Sparrow asked without interest.

"You also mentioned some women's names. I think they were prostitutes that you've, um ..." He glanced away, pretending embarrassment. He had managed to tell Jack the truth. Just not all of it.

It seemed enough to satisfy the pirate. Or else he was just too sick still to care.

"That's good, lad. That's good ..." Sparrow's voice faded and his eyes closed as he drifted once again toward a well-deserved, healing slumber.

Will Turner watched his friend sleep. He watched the gentle rise and fall of Jack's chest, studied the lines and angles of his face. Jack's expression was relaxed, peaceful. Gone was the mask he wore so well, the infamous and flamboyant pirate captain of legend. Lying slack-limbed on the bed, his tangled black hair spilled across the pillow, his face seemed too young, too innocent to belong to that scourge of the Caribbean. Here at least, he was simply Jack Sparrow, a young boy who had suffered in the dank and dirty alleyways of Tortuga before being rescued by a kind man, a pirate with a good enough heart to care.

Brotherhood was more than just shared blood, wasn't it?

"Sleep well, Jack," Will murmured.