A/N: Encouraged by the kind reviews for my slash story, 'Ever Thankful', I was cheered into posting this (which I've had the outline of written in my hard-drive since seeing the film the first time).

It's not slash, but hopefully those of you who liked my last PotC will like this, too, ditto to those of you who aren't great slash-fans. It's a story of the time in between Jack, Will and Elizabeth rowing out of the cave near the end of the film where Elizabeth doesn't seem to be speaking to Will, and Jack's crew have gone off with the Pearl, and when Jack is standing in front of the hangman's noose. It's the journey home.

Hope you like it, and PLEASE review at the end! Cheers and enjoy...

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Jack had thankfully been granted free access to roam about the Commodor's ship on her journey home, to 'stretch his legs' until they got to Port Royale, where he would be promptly hanged. And so roam he did, enjoying his last hours of freedom...

The jaded pirate leaned on the railings of the ship's portside, his deep brown eyes trained on the bright horizon. He sniffed, fingers tapping a tune out on the glossy wood absently. If he had felt more inclined to do so - and had he not been so full of the complimentary rum of this ship - he would have felt utterly betrayed by Gibbs and Ana-Maria for taking off with his Pearl the way they had, and would be dreading the dawn of his short stop... but in all honesty, he could not be arsed. His kohl-lined eyes squinted as he pondered this thought vaguely. Maybe this was *meant* to be the end for Captain Jack Sparrow? Who knew? Either way, as long as he wasn't locked in the brig as the ship traveled, and could taste the salt air and watch the sea, he was pretty content for the moment.

And the pirate couldn't say this little expedition they'd just had hadn't been entirely worth it nor enjoyable - he'd fired his pistol, and that was what had mattered to him the most for the past ten years, even more so than getting the Pearl back - and, though he hadn't had his way with the damsel in distress this time around, he sort of liked Elizabeth Swann... not just as a thing of pleasure or company. She had a fiery, unquenchable spirit that he could get on with... just as long as she didn't burn any more rum. Just as long as she was kept seperate from his love, she'd do no harm - or at least, not that much.

And the whelp, too - he liked Will Turner as much as he had his father before him. It was, to Jack, almost as if they were the same person; for the young, dark-haired blacksmith had grown up to be exactly as his William had been. A noble spirit, in all respects, even if his position in life wasn't exactly desirable. And if Jack had had anything to call a true friend since he'd been parted most unwantedly from Bootstrap, young Will would be who he named.

For a suspected-eunuch and all, he wasn't so bad.

Speaking of which, where was that boy? Jack lifted his arms from the railings and looked behind each in turn, but the young blacksmith was not to be found standing behind him. His dark eyes scanned the decks of the ship, pointedly ignoring the suspicious looks that the pale fella of Norrington's was giving him - the weasely first mate had taken it upon himself to follow Jack everywhere as he roamed about the ship, and the pirate couldn't say he was enjoying the man's presence all that much.

He finally spotted Will sitting quietly upon the pile of rigging ropes all the way up at the other end of the decks. Jack's brow creased; the boy looked sad, and the pirate, at that exact moment, couldn't fathom why. He couldn't quite put his finger on what was wrong - the rum he had recently consumed helped clear his vision a little and sharpen his mind, but he still couldn't quite grasp it...

So he shifted himself, pushing off the railings and making his way diagonally towards the young blacksmith, who was sat with his chin in one hand, looking at the floor his buckled-boots rested upon. "Alright, matey?" asked Sparrow causally, golden teeth shining in the sun as he smiled in a lighthearted - if not a little lightheaded - manner.

Will started and glanced up at him for a second, squinting at the silhouetted figure, then groaned slightly as he knew who it was. "Ah, bugger off, Jack," he muttered, and his deep-brown eyes found their way back to the polished wood-decking.

"Well, now," Jack grumbled as he sat down heartily and a bit unstabily beside his friend, "That's no way to speak to a Cap'n, is it?" He didn't remind the whelp that it was '*Captain*' Jack, because he could not be arsed, and it seemed to be the least of the lad's worries at the moment. "Now, are you going to be a-telling me what's wrong, boy? Or will I be beating it out of ye?"

A small smile crossed Will's face for a second, always amused by Jack, but then disappeared almost immediately. He sighed, and shrugged his narrow shoulders, "Nothing's wrong, Jack... but nothing's right, either - everything is exactly... is exactly the same."

Jack took a moment of his time and thought about this, and could suddenly see the reason the whelp was saddened. As much as he had protested, Will *had* thought this adventure of his would change a lot of things in his life: Jack's teasings aside, he *had* thought that he'd prove himself worthy to the lovely Elizabeth Swann, and that he would be worthy enough for her to love him back.

Now, to Jack's eyes - and any bugger else watching with half a working mind - she did, desperately and with all her heart. To him, there was no question about the love the two young 'uns shared, and Jack *knew* that was the only reason Elizabeth had promised to marry Commodor Norrington at all, to save her love's life... but he also knew now that the young blacksmith must be terribly confused, and that Will thought the young wench was marrying Norrington for his money and decent love. Will Turner was, after all, a pirate's son, and no self-respecting governor's daughter marries a pirate...

"But, then again, old Lizzie *isn't* all that self-respecting," mumbled Jack to himself, and a toothy smile spread across his tanned face as his mind wandered over small fantasies it shouldn't have.

"You what?" Will glanced at him, only half-catching the words, mid-way yawning.

Jack shook his dark, dreadlocked head as if awaking from a trance. "Nevermind," he stated, and moved his mind on swiftly. "What were you saying, lad?"

Will shrugged again, dark eyes downturned to the floor once more as he mumbled, "It's just... nothing worked out the way it was meant to: the whole thing with Elizabeth... and I've spent all my life thinking that my father was a good man who just disappeared one day, and I find out now that he was a pirate all along- "

"Your father *was* a good man, whelp," Jack turned serious, feeling the sudden need to insist upon that and to get the young blacksmith to understand it, too.

"Well, I'll never know that, will I?!" Will looked across at him, his suddenly distressed voice cracking slightly and his eyes misted with unexpected tears as they slipped away from Jack's searching ones. "I'll never know because I *killed* him - I killed my own father, Jack."

Jack's tanned face crumpled unexpectedly as he suddenly understood fully the reason to Will's crushing sadness - he believed that he'd killed his dad by releasing the blood curse to save Jack. It all made perfect sense to a mind that was hell-bent on blaming itself: it was highly probable that Bootstrap was still tied to that cannon at the bottom of the seas, that he had been when the curse was lifted. Jack reached out a twitching hand and grasped his young friend's thin, shaking shoulder with a gentleness that none would expect from such a jaded sea-captain such as himself. "You didn't kill him, lad - don't even be thinking about it... old William could well have untied himself from cannon of his a while back, and can now suddenly taste apples. Eh? You not think that?"

Will just shrugged once more and shook his dark head, indicating that he didn't want to even think about it anymore. But Jack knew he'd have to have it out with the boy at some later date about this. He momentarily ignored the fact that he was due to be hung at some point.

So Jack took another evaluating look at young William, and something twinged inside him as he took in the boy's appearance. Aside from the despondent, bleak look of sadness that seemed to hang about him, Will was also showing signs of the strain of the past weeks, and it was clear to Jack that he had fair-nearly reached the limit of his endurance - as well he might. Dark purple smudges had appeared beneath the whelp's black lower lashes, and his deep eyes drooped at half-mast. Mahogany-curls were being teased by the sea-wind, having broken free of the leather tie that usually kept them back. Harsh bruises and cuts decorated the bits of Will's face and body that Jack could see, friendly reminders of all the encounters he'd had with the less-than-gentle crew of the late Barbossa's over the past few days. The pirate knew Will hadn't slept barely a wink in the whole time he'd known him - Jack, at least, had slept, but the boy had been too nervous and full of child-like excitement, so desperate to get to his Elizabeth, and so wary of those around him, that he had not rested.

Jack knew why the young man's haggard demeanor and appearance affected him so, made him feel badly: this was Bootstrap's son, and his best friend would be damned to - and then spit back out of - Hell if he'd see the young lad die from exhaustion. And so, Jack decided to take action, "Up, whelp," he suddenly ordered, gesturing with both hands to try and encourage the boy as he himself stood.

Will just looked at him. "You what?" he asked again, now-clear dark eyes squinting up at Jack's outline, too bleary to really see the pirate's expression against the bright sunlight.

"You heard, Will - come with me, your uncle, Cap'n Jack," he dipped his head away, to the stairs that lead below deck, turned and began to leave.

The young blacksmith was too exhausted by his sudden outburst to fully comprehend whatever it was Jack was saying to him - the words reaching his ears sluggish and almost indesiferable, as though spoken underwater - and so just got to his feet, wavering slightly as he stood, and obediently followed the pirate who had become his friend to wherever it was Jack was taking him. It turned out, the pirate was on a course for the cabin that had been assigned to the scoundrel reluctantly by the Commodor, almost as though Norrington were trying to ease the guilt of having Jack hung by providing him with a pleasant cabin on his last journey. Jack would have spat at the gesture, had he not been so knackered when they had met with this ship yesterday morning and promptly fallen asleep in the said cabin's large bed.

Will looked to Jack in confusion, completely bemused by the pirate's actions and unable to link together what Jack wanted him there for. The captain rolled his dark eyes as he saw the blacksmith was not following his line of thinking, and, taking his narrow shoulders with both hands, sat the boy on the bed. He then went about unbuckling Will's boots, and then laying him down flat on the soft, welcoming piece of furniture without question. A look of slow understanding crossed the tired features of the whelp as the penny dropped, and no sooner had he weakly smiled his gratitude at the pirate, he fell into a dead slumber.

Jack grinned fondly, eyes rolling again in amusement, and carried on: untying the scarf from Will's neck, unbuckling his belt and releasing the top buttons of the open shirt. He chuckled crudely as a thought came to him - anybody who walked in would think he was about to have his wicked way with the boy, and he'd probably be keelhauled without delay, even though that sort of thing really didn't float his boat. Not that anyone else aboard the ship seemed to care about Will's well-being other than him... hold up, where had that come from?

Jack snatched his hand away from the boy, and looked at his peacefully sleeping form with suspicion, as if Will had planted the seed of that idea in his mind. He knew in his heart of hearts that the boy hadn't, and that the feeling of protectiveness he was feeling over the young streak-of-piss were a cross-over from the way Bootstrap Bill, the lad's father, had looked out for him when Jack had tagged along with him. William had been his big brother, his only family for so many years, almost as though by blood, and now it was time to return the favour. As he had thought before, no bugger else gave a rat's arse about the boy - *he* had no choice in the matter.

It was unfair that this lad had had to grow up so damn quickly - Jack was perceptive enough to know that the whelp had been passed about from pillar to post as a young 'un, his father having left and his mother dying swiftly after, and that even now he was not appreciated where he was in Port Royal... except, perhaps, by Elizabeth. He looked sadly at the lad, who was sleeping so still with a frown marring his brows - aside from that, he slept like the dead.

A noise alerted Jack and he staggered to his feet, reaching for his sword only to curse when he remembered that it had been taken from him by Norrington's men earlier, in case he made a dashing escape... he was Captain Jack Sparrow, after all - one could not be too careful with the likes of him. So his dark eyes latched onto the door, which was slowly sliding open. He was fully prepared to lunge at whoever might wake up Will.

It was a shock to him when Elizabeth Swann peeped her pretty head round the door. She spotted Jack, and smiled ever so slightly, no longer uneasy when in his intimidating presence, then her huge dark eyes drifted down to the still form lying on the bed, and her expression melted immediately, head tilting to one side.

"Lord, save us," Jack rolled his eyes again and turned away, hands on hips, "He's not a puppy, lass."

"I know that," Elizabeth said softly, her eyes not moving from the blacksmith's sleeping face - he smiled slightly even in his slumber when her sweet voice reached his ears. A thought suddenly occurred to her and she looked up at the pirate, anxious beyond reason, "He's all right, isn't he, Jack? He's not injuried or anything?"

"*Captain* Jack, and naw, he's not injured, girl," Jack paused for a moment, collecting what he wanted to say in his mind before letting it fall out of his mouth - he couldn't balls this up. "Except, maybe, in his heart."

The young girl's head snapped up, the curls which had fallen out whipping round, "Pardon?"

"Can't you not see it, lass?" Jack continued, fully aware his voice was rising, and that Elizabeth's eyes were growing steadily larger and larger. "He loves you... you love him - now could you get your bloody acts together and declare it with flutes, roses and banjoes or something!" He was irritated beyond belief at the actions of the two lovebirds, dancing about the inevitable... and if that dancing hurt Will, he'd rather it stopped.

"*Flutes, roses and banjoes...?" Elizabeth mouthed before shaking her head as if to clear it - "It doesn't matter... how d-dare you, you... you bloody *pirate*!" And with that, she turned and flounced out of the room, red tails of the coat she was wearing waving behind her.

Jack just chuckled at her indignance, "Aye, she sees it, all right, whelp." Here he looked back to Will as if expecting him to be awake and alert, staring up at him, but when he saw the lad was still asleep, his expression softened. He reached down and brushed a dark curl away from the lad's face tenderly, smiled again and sat himself down heavily on the chair beside the bed, and decided that there he would stay until the lad woke up.

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(About an hour later)

Commodor Norrington opened the door to the pirate's room, about to get Jack up and ready for his impending fate. He stopped in the doorway.

The young Will Turner was stretched out quietly on the pirate's bed, soundly sleeping, and sitting over him, bearded and beaded chin resting upon chest, huge, impressive hat held lightly in both hands, was Jack Sparrow. Sleeping in such a position could only mean one thing, the pirate had been watching over Turner.

Norrington shook his head and looked to his feet, mind thinking fleetingly about whether or not he was doing the right thing by having the scoundrel hung. But he shook that notion away immediately: he had no choice.

He did choose, however, to quietly shut the door on the way out and leave the two friends alone until they actually neared Port Royal, instructing all his men to do the same, much to their confusion.

End.

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There we go - review and let me now the damage report!