Title: Eye of the Beholder
Author: Carole
E-mail: kronos999@yahoo.ca
Homepage:

Pairing: Jack/Will
Rating: PG
Warnings: Beyond slashiness, none that I can think of.
Archive: List, sure. Others, just ask first. I want to
know where it is going.

Disclaimer: The mouse owns them, but I'm sure he
doesn't appreciate them as much as I would.

Summary: Will discovers that the voices in Jack's head
might be a bit more real than he thought. Will POV



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Eye of the Beholder
by Carole
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack was not beautiful. He was not like Elizabeth with
her slim delicate build, golden hair and skin as a
soft as feather's down. He was something completely
removed from beauty. No, instead he was wind whipped
braids and mats of hair, smile that flashed golden
when he laughed and words that moved from brilliant to
nonsensical in an instant, and sometimes there was no
distinguishing between the two. He did not smell of
perfume and roses, but of salt and sweat and sea.
About him, like a miasma, hung the faint hint of
alcohol even when he was sober, a hint that was no
longer faint when the occasion struck him, which was
something that happened a great deal more often than
any reputable man would have allowed. Not that such a
thing would stand in the way of Jack Sparrow, who had
been called the best (and worst) pirate in the
Caribbean. It blended into something that was uniquely
Jack, something that was all the more noticeable for
the lack of regularity he apparently had when it came
to bathing. The combination was not entirely pleasant,
in many ways, just like the man himself.

Most of the time Will wasn't sure he liked him at all.
Not only did his unsanitary habits wear on his nerves,
but Jack had a talent for simply pissing him off. Will
didn't know if it was completely deliberate, but he
had his suspicions.

He was an abrasive drunkard who could not keep his
hands where they belonged, whether flailing about in
the air or becoming too comfortable with those around
him. Tavern wenches and Anna Maria had both had Jack
become too familiar and, while the tavern wenches did
not mind, Anna Maria was liable to remove said
appendages if it happened once too often. As it was,
Jack had experienced bumps and bruises in interesting
places. Even with Will, his comradery would have been
pushing the bounds of propriety had he been anyone but
Jack Sparrow who found propriety a useless thing to be
discarded at a moments notice.

Though it was true he could be charming when he chose.
Especially since he was a consummate liar, drunk or
sober, and proudly admitted to being a dishonest man.
Usually, though, he was as much confusing as he was
dishonest making whether he told the truth or not an
irrelevant factor. His best lies were the honest ones.

And Will came to learn that there were many scorned
lovers in his past, for Jack seemed to stay true to
nothing but the sea and his ship. There was a small
part of himself, though he didn't like to admit it,
that took a bit of delight in the slap from every
offended woman as such fickleness was offensive to his
moral senses, even coming from a pirate. Except in the
cases where the women glared at him in ways that, had
he been the less brave sort, would have made him run
back to the Pearl and never set foot on land again. As
if, somehow, Will was in any way responsible for
Jack's behaviour.

Too, when he thought about it, the comments about his
manliness right from the start hadn't helped his
feelings much.

And he would like to be trusted to steer the Pearl
once, just once. Really, was that so much to ask?

Still, he was the one at Jack's back, a position no
one else attempted to take. Or perhaps they were too
smart to do so. But Will would ride the dangerous
waters of circumstance along with his captain and it
was only afterwards, after the high of adrenaline and
moments of synchrony, that he dared question it and
found it made no sense whatsoever.

Then he would be asked to go along with some other
harebrained scheme that dared all manner of ills.
Somehow, he would be drawn in yet again, no matter how
loud or logical his protests about how it wouldn't,
couldn't possibly succeed which were stilled with a
mere sentence.

The explanation of 'Because I'm Captain Jack Sparrow'
had infuriated him, until he realized how true it was.
Being around Jack was like being caught up in a never
ending tempest. He fell again and again into
impossible situations and came through unscathed,
though the average man would be dead a hundred times
over. Tendrils of his luck, not necessarily good luck
mind, extended around him, ensnaring like a spider's
web any within reach. Some were lucky and escaped,
merely brushing shoulders with the impossible, but
others were trapped beyond hope of reprieve. The
longer you spent in Jack's company, the less likely
escape seemed. Sometimes you could pass for a time in
the eyes of the storm, the false calm that was sure to
end as quickly as it began, with no warnings either
way.

There was an intensity when one was about Jack,
especially then, that prodded into witnesses of his
miraculous scrapes with death that did not even leave
the passers by unscathed. An intensity mirroring his
love for his ship and the sea. This drew the fly into
the spiders den for good.

It was his eyes, Will decided, shining in their
darkened rims, when they turned with that same
intensity on him. It was as if, at some point he
hadn't noticed, he had ceased to be that annoying
'honest lad' and he didn't know what that look meant
exactly, but it made him nervous and uncomfortable. He
stayed anyway. He couldn't bring himself to leave,
which was what annoyed him about Jack most of all.

Sometimes, in the moments when the world turned upside
down, Will had fancies that Jack was not a man at all,
but some strange mad god that had risen out of the sea
fully formed and into his life.

And when the sun fell from the heavens in a tapestry
of light with Jack standing at the helm in a gleam of
red and gold, he caught himself believing them. Of
course, this always passed quickly, for all he had to
do was remember all the other times he had spent in
the man's company and good sense would dissuade him
from such foolishness. Jack had too many baser
instincts to be anything but a man indeed.

Perhaps because or perhaps in spite of these
qualities, Will was here, stepping onto the deck of
the most infamous ship in the Caribbean. Though it was
now crewed by living men, the legend of the Black
Pearl would take time to fade.

The air was salty and sprays of water misted across
his skin. He blinked, freeing himself from the
shackles of sleep, eyes slowly focusing on the forms
of the vessel around him that was illuminated by
starlight and moonshine. He reached up with one hand
and pulled his now unruly hair back from his face in a
practiced gesture.

Behind him the other members of the Pearl's crew lay
in drunken oblivion, victims of a challenge taken too
far. Only his abstinence as judge, and the inner
knowledge that Jack should have at least one
functional crew member, had prevented him from the
same fate, though exhaustion had forced him to close
his eyes without his consent.

In spite of this, there was one other who had
strangely avoided the travesty below. Indeed, he had
not joined in at all but for a single swig before
wishing them merry and vanishing. A lone figure could
be made out at the helm of the vessel, one Jack
Sparrow in solitary company. Though one wouldn't have
known it by his actions.

He was talking to himself. This was not the most
unusual activity, per say, as Will had done it also on
occasion. That he appeared to be talking to either his
ship, the sea, or both in an animated discussion
utilizing some tongue that had never before crossed
human lips was somewhat disturbing. It became
especially more so given that he was the man
navigating. One hand moved in an almost graceful
flutter to emphasize some unknown point.

Too much drink had obviously addled his brain over the
years through his constant abuse of it.

It certainly didn't help that his words raised
gooseflesh on Will's skin, like he could almost
understand what Jack was prattling on about. The idea
that Jack had affected him that much was nearly as
terrifying as the rest of the man's peculiarities
combined.

A part of him wanted to move his feet back below deck.
There was another part that pulled him forward. It was
that part of him that liked being part of Jack's
confidence, for surely his presence was known. While
this prescience was limited, on the Black Pearl, it
seemed that Jack could sense the scurry of every rat,
let alone the presence of another human being. It
amazed him that Barbossa had managed to accomplish a
mutiny.

Or, more likely, Jack had realized that he would be
the only one able to walk with steady feet.

If it had been anyone else, the voice would have moved
onto a madness more human in it's intent. That it did
not was telling. For there were things that Jack would
say, not in secrecy precisely, but out of the range of
the crew's ears that Will was privileged to overhear.

He continued, legs accustomed to the slight rolling of
the ship with the ease of growing practice, especially
on a calm night such as this. Will made his way to
stand a few feet ahead of the steering wheel.

The nonsensical babble ceased momentarily and he
turned, hands clasped behind his back, to see Jack
remove his tattered hat. The man gave a slight bow, as
one would to a lady, and a glimmer of teeth could be
seen between shadowed lips at the mockery.

"Good morrow, Mr. Turner." The ragtag article returned
to its usual place. "And how are you this fine day?"

"It is hardly day yet, Captain."

A hand flicked up in the air in response, denying his
objection. "Soon enough there, luv."

Will didn't even blink at the endearment. When one was
around Jack Sparrow, one learned to accept some things
and endure. It also gave him unspoken permission to
drop formality.

With that comment, Jack went back to his previous
conversation. It made Will's ears itch and pressure
build slightly behind his eyes.

His control lasted five minutes, if that.

"Just what are you saying?" he asked finally when he
could stand it no longer. And as Jack opened his
mouth, he amended his statement slightly. "And don't
tell me it's Chinese." Not that Will had many dealings
with Chinamen, but there was one who had managed to
make his way into Port Royal some years ago and,
overcome by the curious youth, the man had indulged
his enthusiasm for a few brief hours. When one lived
in a port city, languages were something that you
could at least recognize.

The statement had a secondary meaning of 'Jack, I'm
not a complete idiot, in spite of what you may think.'

"Just a bit o' this and that. It's not something that
explaining would help, if'n you can't get it. Savvy?"
Something in his tone seemed regretful, sad even, and
perhaps a bit puzzled, that Will had needed to ask at
all.

"Try." Will glared at him in the grey half light.

"Well, its like this. Everything..." he trailed off
with a grandiose sweeping gesture. "Everything has a
voice, aye? And there are, let's call'm things, that
speak a bit louder than others 'round the sea. And
once a man starts listen to 'em, well, it's like..."

For once Will saw Jack at a loss for words, probably
the only time such a thing would ever happen. His head
tilted, twisting his hat askew.

"It's like you can't really stop hearing 'em. Drink
and anything else just makes 'em louder. And soon,
you don't want to stop listening. Like it'd be better
to hang than leave 'em behind."

As a whole, the entire explanation was unsatisfactory
rubbish, but Will could see Jack was at least
attempting to answer his question honestly. After all,
the man was a bit touched. Was it any wonder he heard
voices?

"This isn't the same claim I've heard sailors use as
an excuse to leave good women behind, saying that
they're already married to the sea?" he asked with
suspicion.

Jack shook his head in a negative gesture. "Nothing
like that at all, luv. Now, I've met many a man that
belonged to the sea and wouldn't leave her to marry
anyone." He was fixed with a wicked grin. "Of course,
he might give her a try or two, as a parting gift
like."

At the comment, Will seethed inwardly. His mother's
haggard face, the sacrifices she had made to support
them both until her death came back to him. Her eyes
were always sad, even when she had smiled at him. Him,
who looked just like his father.

Will's face must have shown his disapproval. Jack, no
doubt taking it for a bout of morality, chuckled. Will
twitched visibly at the sound and was about to make a
scathing reply when the other man cut him off with a
very unexpected statement.

"I think I'll have to be stepping up your education a
bit. Take her."

It took a minute for Will to realize what Jack was
talking about. He stood stunned. Him? Wasn't this the
same Jack who had said that for the sake of their
lives he shouldn't be allowed within five feet of the
rudder?

Well, why not? Will didn't think he'd do that bad a
job. After all, hadn't he done just fine during
Elizabeth's rescue?

He turned fully, crossing the short distance to Jack's
side and grasped the helm with one hand. He followed
with the other as Jack stepped back to give him room.
The wood brushed roughly against calluses gained from
many years as a smith's apprentice.

He sensed Jack before the Pearl's captain wrapped
around behind him, grabbing one hand and pressing it
further into the wood. The second came to rest on his
shoulder in a comfortable weight.

"What...?" he asked in singularly intelligent fashion.

His query was cut off as Jack leaned in close, the
hand on his shoulder curling up as the man raised a
finger to his lips.

"Shhh. You can't listen if you're talking."

A warm thumb gently soothed and caressed the back of
his hand in small circles. Will ignored it.

"What would you know about it? You never shut up."

"Well, I'm not the one who needs to be listening, am
I?" Jack's breath was hot in his ear and moved his
hair across his cheek. Rough braids scratched against
the side of Will's neck. "Close your eyes."

Will almost turned to look at him questioningly, but
then thought better of it and humoured him. Lids
slipped closed leaving him in blackness. He could feel
the smile at his easy compliance. He tensed. Why was
he doing this?

Jack could obviously feel the change under his hands.
"Don't get thinking too hard, Will. Listen."

Will breathed, attempting to empty his mind of stray
thoughts. The pair stood that way for several minutes.
Jack kept humming in his ear, a faint off key buzz and
ideas flitted back and forth, never complete, in an
inner monologue.

When Jack spoke again, he nearly jumped. "You're still
thinking too much, luv. Take your tongue and press it
to the roof of your mouth." Will complied, mystified,
and was surprised when his inner voice quieted to a
murmur. Unfortunately, that only made the presence
behind him even more distracting and couldn't Jack
stop with that blasted hum?

He was about to tell him so when he realized that Jack
was silent and that wasn't a hum he was listening to
at all. Someone was singing, a note so clear and pure
that he nearly wept for it. No, it was not someone,
but someones and that voice expanded into a hundred,
no, a thousand smaller voices and notes and whispers.

They sung together, in harmony, and it was joy and
sorrow and somehow he knew that here the water was
more shallow and there a school of fish, immense in
size was passing by. And the harmony became a jumble
of sounds and voices, not so pleasant or beautiful,
but real like the tide and wind and the scent of Jack
that surrounded him. They were not voices he heard
with his ears, but they entered through his skin and
eyes and drifted to linger in his brain and perhaps he
really had gone as mad as a hatter.

No doubt about it, Jack had finally driven him over
the edge and plunged him into an abyss so deep that
there was no way he would ever manage to crawl out.

It went on for a moment more, and Will thought that it
was like the divine hand of creation had lingered here
too long and left a bit of itself behind in the
waters. It must be like what those who had an honest
calling to the clergy felt and he suddenly understood
how a man could devote himself to such a thing so
intangible as faith.

Then he fell back slightly into Jack and his eyes flew
open with a start. For an instant he expected to see
all that he had heard, but the only difference from
when his eyes had closed was that the sky appeared to
be brightening on the eastern horizon. Everything was
silent again save for the beating of two pairs of
hearts, the rush of air moving in and out of lungs and
the sounds of a ship sailing through a calm sea.

What had jerked him out of his trance was perhaps
hearing more than a mortal man was meant to and his
mind clung as a last desperate effort to sanity or,
more likely, it was that Jack was nibbling on his
earlobe. If he had been in his right mind, Will had no
doubt he would have turned and punched him, but as it
was he just stood there, unable to even form words,
let alone move. No, no doubt at all.

"Are you alright there, luv?"

Will didn't answer, but Jack had at least removed his
teeth and tongue. The wind grew stronger, a brush of
unseen spirits that swirled about them, touching with
invisible hands.

"Your father could hear it too, sometimes. That's how
I knew you'd be back. It's in your blood and you can't
escape it. Now, I know you're going off to make your
fortune and all, but I want you to think about
something real careful like." He paused, as if
preparing himself. "Now, Miss Swann is a fiery one, no
mistaking that, and, had I met her under other
circumstances... but that was not to be. Save her life
and the girl burns up all me rum." His voice filled
with a mournful longing that would not have been out
of place at a funeral. He leaned into Will's shoulder,
as if to catch his balance, sighing to himself. After
a moment, he continued. "Anyway, could she live up to
that, day by day, when you're stuck by her side?"

Word's still wouldn't form, not even in defence of a
dream that he'd cherished for so many years. "I...
That..."

"Of course, it's even better with rum."

At the irreverent statement, he finally found his
voice. "That's your answer to everything."

"Not quite everything." It seemed that Jack managed to
get even closer to his ear and Will was very aware of
the press of Jack against him, warm breath passing
over flesh at the words. "Some things are worth the
sacrifice of sobriety. It makes certain articles work
better."

Once again, Will decided to ignore the obvious
implications of that statement. So instead of
recoiling in disgust, he asked, "Is this what the sea
is to you?"

"Not just the sea, luv. It's freedom. It's
everything."

That seemed more like a willing sort of slavery than
any freedom he'd ever heard of. "Freedom? You could
lose yourself in that. That's not freedom at all."

And no doubt Jack already had lost himself long ago.
His mind had simply wandered off and never returned.

"But I know something most men don't, eh? When the
Pearl and I go down together, we know where we'll end
up." It was as if there was no doubt that the pair
would be cradled in the same watery grave. "As long as
I die over water, or close enough to it. That's a
freedom all men dream of, knowing where they'll end up
and where they belong. I have both."

Just like Will knew where he belonged, had known for
much longer than he had ever wanted to admit it to
himself. The answer to why he found himself in the
same position again and again.

He would have to deal with that later. Later, when he
didn't hear the faint stirrings of the crew who would
no doubt appear at the worst possible time if he began
anything now.

"You're still mad," he stated with certainty,
disentangling himself from Jack's embrace with quick,
efficient motions.

Yes, mad indeed and if such insanity had not be
infectious, he wouldn't be here.

"And what does that say about you?" There was a slight
disappointment in his eyes, but Will met them
directly.

"That I am no doubt the crazier of the two of us."

Crazy enough to follow him through hell and
high-water.

Jack smiled once again, even with his eyes. He must
have read something into the words or glance that Will
wasn't even sure he had meant to say.

"Now that's the spirit." With that, Jack reached up
with one hand and straightened his hat before throwing
up his chin towards the beginnings of dawn and turning
the Pearl towards the horizon. "To freedom."

The ship ploughed through the lightly cresting waves
and the timbers creaked. For an instant, Will thought
he heard the murmuring of voices just beyond his
understanding and he blinked, shaking his head, until
they were drowned out by one much more substantial.

"Drink up me hearties, yo ho..."

The Black Pearl was not Jamaica. Here, no solid land
greeted his feet, no buildings stood in his path, no
trees filled the inner island with spires of brown and
green. The Black Pearl was planks and rope, iron and
tar and the expanse of the sea that now began to
reflect golden like the vastest treasure ever
conceived in a thousand dreams of greedy conquerors
and buccaneers. Not like Port Royal at all with its
fair haired women and dark commodores, but instead the
home to a scraggly scallywag captain. It seemed that
he would have no trouble devoting himself to something
far more corporeal than faith. Lips quirking up in a
smile, Will let his own reply slip between his teeth
in a breath of air much to low for Jack, or anything
else that might have been listening, to hear. "To
freedom."

Beauty was, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

END