Summary: The rum runners drop Jack off in Tortuga after rescuing him. Well...what does a pirate do on shore? PG-13, mild smut, half-naked pirates and a pinch (ooo!) of angst.

Author's Note:

Set before the movie, and shortly after my first fic, Three Days. Jack has escaped the island, and been dropped off in Tortuga by those convenient rum runners. He is now shipless, with only what he's got on his back, and that one damned pistol. Like any sailor fresh into town he meets a whore - or she meets him. And guess what? She isn't someone's long-lost daughter, she isn't an inexplicable time traveller from the modern day, she doesn't have magical powers or a cursed medallion, and they don't fall in love and raise pirate children who also fall in love. In fact, she does not even have a name.

I have a tendency, when not paying attention, to omit proper names in interactive scenes, writing them as though they were acted out by archetypal "he" and "she" characters. In the interest of experimentation I decided to see where in life that kind of thing would get me. Clearly not far.

I do believe, or at least sincerely hope, that I have created an original character which cannot possibly be a Mary-Sue. If you detect any Mary-Sue molecules in this little fic, please inform me and I will have it chemically treated.

Disclaimer: He isn't mine. She is, but I'm not sure what I'd do with her. Please, I make no money from this, they just dance briefly through my head and out the other side, and I promise he's none the worse for wear when I'm done with him....:)


Pearl

Tortuga's shores were bathed in the light of a warm and soothing sunset, the waves rippling gently along the sand, lingering like a lover's caress. Ocean birds wheeled and danced in the slowly waning glow, their calls echoing between the crumbling, ramshackle buildings and out across the sea.

The crews of the boats in port chattered and laughed as their ships bumped gently against the piers. Ropes were thrown and made fast, and incoming ships settled into their berths like elderly ladies into favourite armchairs. Excited men made the short jump to shore, wandering off in garrulous groups, daring each other to speak to the ladies who waited surreptitiously just out of sight of the docks.

Several boats had come in that day, their weary population desperate for shore leave after weeks or even months at sea. The ships were made ready for a brief hiatus, possessions and cargo locked down and sails furled tight, and each crew dissipated as soon as its captain gave the signal. Some groups went off together, to drink and build courage for the next voyage. Some split up, with whispered (or shouted) promises to the shy but sensual women in the shadows. Some men simply went off with their intended conquests, calling to their comrades not to wait up. Boasts were made, bets were laid, and the air was thick with lingua franca.

It was late in that picturesque evening that the nondescript trader Tailwind slipped unobtrusively into port. Her crew tugged the lines tight and the little ship snugged her fenders against the dock; moments later someone gave a sharp order and the crew scattered as leaves before the wind, leaving only a lone guard on watch. A young hand who had clearly drawn the short straw somewhere, he shivered and listened jealously to the distant sounds of merriment and breaking glass coming from the establishments further into town.

The sound of shattering glass was abruptly echoed from inside the Tailwind. It was joined by a loud and angry shout, and then followed by the pounding of fleeing and chasing footsteps.

"No! A thousand times, no!"

Another bottle broke as a man came quickly out from below deck, briefly silhouetted in a square of light and then vanishing into the dark masses of cargo, ropes and tie-downs on the deck. The silhouette was succeeded by another silhouette, this one flinging bottles. The young man on guard sensibly took refuge behind a barrel.

"Just trying to offer you a deal, mate -" the first silhouette protested, half-hidden in the shadows on the deck. What could be seen of it wobbled uncertainly, but on board the gently rocking deck of the ship it had perfect balance.

"Yeah, and you know where you can put that deal," the second silhouette, whom the lamplight from inside the ship was reluctantly revealing as a burly, bearded sailor with a cockeyed black hat, responded. "We rescued you, you little tramp - show some gratitude!" He turned his head and spat. "I've had enough of your shady 'suggestions'. Off my ship. Go!"

"I really don't think - " The first silhouette dithered briefly on the deck, as though unsure of which way to move. The bearded sailor drew and aimed a pistol in one smooth motion.

"I said fuck off, and take your fairy-tales with you. I don't believe in no Black Pearl."

"I'll be leaving, then," said the first silhouette, beginning to make its way toward the side of the ship nearest the dock. "But you and me, mate, we could have been -"

The voice was interrupted as the pistol fired, a brilliant flash which threw objects on the deck of the Tailwind into sharp relief against the night. There was a splash, and then a faint protest from over the side: "There was no need to get violent!"

"Aye, there were. I like getting violent. Cleanses the blood. Now get, or I'll finish the job!" The sailor stomped back down below deck, slamming the hatch behind him.

A few moments later, the guard cautiously peeked from behind the barrel. Seeing no-one, he straightened up and began to brush himself down, preparing for a long night on duty.

"Psssst!"

A strange expression came over the young man's face - halfway between a concerned frown and an amused smile. With an air of having done this before - perhaps several times - he leaned over the side of the boat and looked down.

"Yes, Captain?" The tone of his voice suggested a lack of complete belief in the appropriateness of the title.

There was a gentle splashing from below. "Help me up, lad?" the voice of the first silhouette called hopefully.

The guard, amusement coming to the forefront of his expression now, looked around and, seeing the coast was clear, cautiously lowered a rope over the side. He hauled on it and, with some effort, dragged the silhouette back on board again. The silhouette patted itself, shook droplets of water out of long hair, and wrung seawater out of its clothes.

"Thank you, lad."

"Anytime, Captain."

"How about you?" There was the suggestion of eyes glittering in the shadow. "You heard the deal, lad - are you the sort of fellow I'm looking for?" There was a glint of gold somewhere, in the shadowed outline of a smile.

"No, Captain. Sorry," the boy said, with what seemed genuine regret. He glanced meaningfully toward the pier. "You'll have things to attend to, I expect? Ashore, I mean?" "Well, I -"

"Don't make me tell Captain Garrett that I fished you out again," the boy said with an air of camaraderie. "Go on." He gestured toward shore again, this time with his hand, with a distinct suggestion that the silhouette, whatever its other plans might be, should perhaps make it a priority to move in that direction.

"I was already taking my leave," said the silhouette gravely, "when the good captain felt it necessary to ... emphasize so strongly his feelings on the matter. I see no reason to waste my time further." The silhouette flounced with great dignity down to the dock, where it stood with aplomb in a spreading puddle of water.

The silhouette began to stalk off, and then suddenly pulled up short, as though an idea had occurred to it. It turned, and gave the guard, who was watching with the air of someone watching a child playing make-believe, a little wave.

"Lad!"

"Yes, Captain?"

"See that you have somewhere to be - ashore - by dawn!"

The guard blinked. He seemed unsurprised by the suggestion - a little disappointed, perhaps. Aloud, he only sighed. "That's not nice, Captain."

"I'm not nice."

"Sleep well, Captain."

"Never."

With that farewell, the shadow wandered away from the Tailwind and became an anonymous, if damp, pedestrian along the dock. The man paused a moment, out of reach of the ship, and inhaled deeply. He stifled a cough with a faint smile. Ah, Tortuga. Hard to forget that smell. His smile faded through a brief grimace of distaste and he shook his head and walked on, lost in thought.

Behind him, the rum runners' ship settled a little lower in the water.

******

She had been a prostitute for so long that she had forgotten her real name. During brief moments of intimacy she took on a number of names - "Baby", "Darling", "Doll", and a host of others - and in between she was beneath notice, unworthy of an appellation. She answered to "Missy", "Dame", and "Lass" when she felt like it, and dispensed hearty kicks when she didn't.

Tonight she stood in the shadows and fumed.

She had gotten to the docks late tonight, and the men from the incoming ships had passed her by. Little matter to them that she had had her hands full, dodging an angry wife seeking vengeance for her husband's infidelity - sailors were notoriously unappreciative of such subtler facts of life and they had understandably gone with those who were there and waiting.

Sailors had a tendency to be brief, affectionate, and (often extremely temporarily) rich - a prime target for an enterprising young woman seeking fast and easy payment. Sometimes they simply passed out from drink, allowing one to wander off with their entire purse, and of course the following day they'd all be gone, their ship sailing on to another port, another woman. No commitment, no inconvenient proposals, just the sex and then the money.

It was better work than being a tavern wench or a serving maid - she kept telling herself this - and a young lady who happened not to have been conveniently born into a family loaded with money and connections had to take what she could get by way of "employment".

Tonight's incoming sailors were clearly long gone. She could look forward to another depressing night courting the local scum, it seemed, prying their hands off her breasts and their coins from their pockets. She sighed, resigning herself to another evening with Mr. Benrathe and his wandering fingers, or perhaps Mr. Goldthwait and his boil, and began to turn back towards the town.

A shadow wandered past her, swaying unsteadily.

"Evening, sir," she acknowledged absently, before realising what had just happened. Her head snapped up, and she could just identify the shape of a man, stopping with just a little too much force, as though he'd been walking much faster than he was. He wheeled around to face her, and her eyebrows rose just a bit at the sight of him. She'd seen some disreputable flesh in her time, but this one was a story unto himself.

He was a small and apparently drunken man, thoroughly soaked. He was wearing torn and ragged pants, what was clearly (from its ill fit) a borrowed (or stolen) shirt, and no shoes, and had a single pistol slung over his shoulder on a black satin ribbon. His wild black hair, variously dreadlocked, braided, and strung with beads and trinkets, was partially tamed by a dirty red bandanna.

His movements were difficult to describe, putting the casual observer in mind of someone trying to balance on a rubber ball. His hands, one of which was wrapped bizarrely with a strip of dirty fabric - danced lazy circles at the end of his arms, as though he were boxing butterflies. Even standing still, he moved perceptibly, swaying gently back and forth to the buck and jump of a deck which was no longer under his feet.

The man's own eyebrow rose as well, somewhere beneath the tangled mass of sodden hair and the bandanna. "Evening," he replied, as though merely agreeing that it was, in fact, that time of day. His voice was a rich, hoarse feline purr; there was gold in his mouth. She shivered under a gaze which forcibly undressed her - and then the moment was gone, and she stared into wide eyes which were waiting for her to make her next move. "Friend or foe?" said the look. "Will I make passionate love to you, or kill you where you stand?"

She found that she was gaping at him, and forcibly pulled herself together. This was business. She flounced a little, drawing up one side of her knee-length black skirt to display her wares - her "assets" when she was tipsy. "You look lonely," she began, and was startled to realise that he did seem lonely. "Want some company?"

A look of mingled lust and longing crossed his face, but she felt strongly that it was not meant entirely for her. It faded a little, into what she wasn't quite certain. "Aye, lass, I'm missing someone," he confided, and seemed inclined to leave it at that for a moment. But his eyes stayed on her, as though burning her into his memory. They were large eyes, dark eyes, and he had chosen for some reason to ring them with kohl, giving him a strange, crazy edge to his stare.

"I can make you forget her," she promised easily.

The corner of his mouth quirked. "Can you, now?" He moved a little closer, his body taut under the filthy and sopping sailor's clothes. "She was a fine lass," he mused, lifting a hand to feather over her cheek. The fingers, twined in bits of cloth, moved like the twitching legs of a spider, barely touching her flesh, dancing across it. "She was mine, all mine, and I was hers. And now she's gone." His face fell. "Except she's still here." He pointed at his head, holding a finger to his temple. It trembled as though, in some other universe, he were pulling a trigger.

"I mean to get her back, too," he promised, to her or to himself she could not say. He moved like an animal, like a cat, but his predatory expression was tinged with heartache. She was not sure what he saw when he looked at her.

"She was a grand old lady," he whispered. His gaze turned for some reason to the ships in the harbour, bobbing grandly on the somnolent swells of the sea. "A beautiful lady."

"I'm sure she was." Some of the sailors had "ladies in waiting" - some of those ladies were actually waiting, and some were ... well, busily getting on with things. What kind of lady might be waiting for this man she had no notion. Sliding smoothly up against him, she cuddled softly against his flank, which was hard, muscled, and - she remembered too late - wet. She sighed resignedly and leaned until body heat leaked through the cold cloth. "Where is she now?"

His arm, hand still drawing invisible circles, slid around her waist and pulled her close. His eyes remained fixed on the slim faraway spires of the ships' masts, pointing imperiously at the stars. "Gone," he murmured wistfully. Then, with a harder edge to his voice: "Someone took her from me."

"If she loves you - she'll come back." Smooth sapphire promises, from someone who would never have to keep them.

He turned to her then, away from the ships, his eyes hard and unusually glittery. Rivulets of water were dripping from his saturated hair and down his cheeks. They looked remarkably like tears.

"Make me forget her?"

"I'll try."

******

She led him away from the dock, further into the shadows, into the maze of streets and alleys that hid the guts of Tortuga's red-light district. Wan lamps and guttering candles lit windows with tiny and seductive displays; men slunk furtively from doorway to doorway, or charged boldly down the middle of the street, shouting and laughing and slapping each other. Between the more subtle establishments, the open doorways of taverns - and things which just looked like taverns - allowed the sounds of merrymaking and brawling to echo off the surrounding buildings.

The strange man followed her without protest and apparently without interest; though she felt his eyes on her several times, and his arm slid possessively (protectively?) about her waist, she did not feel as though she had his full attention.

They passed down an alley and into a section of town on the other side of the docks; between the buildings one could just make out the barest outline of the sea. On the sea, the specks of ships were barely discernible, lamps burning merrily and warmly on their decks.

Again, the man paused, and stared at the ships with a peculiar expression. When they moved off again, he looked only at the ground, following behind her like a man being led to the gallows.

She stopped at a small and partially concealed door, hidden in a darkened alcove off a dimly lamplit alleyway. A nagging thought occurred to her and she pressed up against him for a moment. She felt the reassuring weight of a full coin purse and relaxed, then turned when she felt his body stiffen against hers.

His black-eyed gaze was already on her. "I know, love," he reassured her. "It's yours, when you want it."

She hurriedly unlocked the little door and stepped inside. The dwelling was small, but she had tried to make it habitable - she had to live in it, after all. A small bed with a straw mattress, a single oil lamp, which she quickly lit, and a window, heavily curtained, were all that greeted them. Another curtain hid another room, and a door led out to a yard with the outhouse, but there wasn't much else to the place - no pictures, no ornaments. She had no memories, nothing to make the little house a home.

He stood on the threshold, his dark-rimmed eyes on something far away - half distracted and half waiting politely for an invitation. She pulled him inside, locked the door behind him, and then arranged herself in front of him, making sure he could see down the front of her dress. He was taller than he'd looked at first, but not by much. She was almost eye-to-eye with him.

At the sight of her artfully displayed cleavage, he gave a barely visible shake, and the corner of his mouth curled up in a brief but roguish grin. With a soft but deeply rumbling growl, the man pulled her to him with powerful arms. She leaned back just in time for the kiss - not the starved, passionate tonguing most of the sailors provided but a single, swift peck before his stubbled cheek pushed past hers and he gently nuzzled the hollow above her collarbone.

"You smell like the sea," he murmured thoughtfully. His lips on her shoulder tickled gently. His hair, which had a personality all its own, itched damply against her cheek and throat as his arms held her in a strong but comfortable embrace. He had seen hard work in his life. Most of them had.

"It happens." She found herself shrugging. "Stay by the dock long enough and -"

"I know," he agreed, his posture changing slightly. "It gets in your bones. In your soul." His arms still encircled her, but he was gone again, in whatever sad and lonely world was behind those eyes.

"I was going to say, and some fool's going to tip you over the side," she said, half amused, and half perturbed by his inattention. To her surprise, and possibly his as well, he actually laughed. His eyes cleared.

"You look like a woman to whom the water is no trouble." His gaze, which managed to be at once flattering and totally inappropriate, roamed her again and she blushed.

"The water was no trouble. Swimming under the docks in crinoline and petticoats - that was trouble." She shook herself again. Back to business. "But you don't want to hear about that." She reached out, and gently took a fold of his wet shirt in her fingertips, easing a button out of its hole.

He looked as if the idea actually tickled his interest. "Maybe I do."

Her fingers stopped, twisted around a button. She glanced up at him with a half-smile, half-smirk, contemplating him. "If I didn't know better," she teased, "I'd say you had done that kind of thing yourself."

He returned the smirk. "Petticoats, yes. Crinoline, no."

She allowed the remark to sink in, considered it, shrugged, and smiled. "Enough trade secrets," she cut him short, bringing another half-smile to his lips. She opened another button, and the shirt swung free, its tails framing his lean hips. A brief wriggle of his shoulders sent the garment to the ground in a cascade of dirty linen.

He had a heavily tanned, muscular chest, crisscrossed with scars and tattoos. There was quite a selection, including a strange little inking on his right forearm - a sparrow silhouetted against an ocean sunrise (or sunset). She was not terribly surprised to see the branded "P". A pirate, then. Some serious history lived in the deep-drawn lines - both the intentional and the unintentional. She allowed a little admiration to creep into her voice, masking the fact that she actually was impressed. "You've got some stories in there, don't you?"

He caught her gaze and swept it aside with his own. "Life's told me a few tall tales," he allowed noncommittally. "Always looking for a few more."

"I'd be glad to oblige."

He gave a little swish, like a girl preening under the attentions of a suitor, and one dancing hand reached out and twirled a teasing little kiss curl in her hair. It was affectionate but somehow halfhearted. "You have a name, love?"

"You're paying. You pick."

His eyebrows drew together in a most engaging way - his expression danced for a moment on the mad thin line between sadness and longing. "Would you mind," he asked, in the tone of a gentleman enquiring about a dance, "if I was to call you Pearl?"

For some reason she felt flattered, as though he had paid her a high honour. She fought it down - business - and nodded briskly. "And what shall I call you?"

He kissed her - and this time it was hard, savage and strong and full of wanting. "Call me Captain."

******

"Captain," she murmured, when she had breath again. She was familiar, at least vaguely, with the lingo, but usually sailors preferred a higher rank, such as "Commodore" or "General", or gave her a first name to play with, sometimes their own. Ah well. "Captain" seemed to suit the poor boy well enough, and when she whispered the name she felt him shiver, and his fingers splayed against her back.

Without releasing her, with one hand he lifted the gun by its sodden sash and let it drop. She carefully nudged the weapon away from them with her foot.

She tilted her head up slightly to nibble on his ear. Usually she wouldn't do such a thing - sailors tasted uniformly of salt - but he tasted only of man and she felt his body shudder as he sank against her. Dreadlocks and beads bounced against her face as she spoke. "What are your orders, Captain?"

"All hands on deck," he muttered huskily.

She allowed the syllables "Aye aye" to tickle the edge of his ear, and made sure that he was fully aware of the position of "all hands".

With a lusty moan he ran his hands over her, stroking her possessively, and she had a moment's confused impression that he wanted to turn her hard to the right along a central axis. She blinked away the image.

"Ready for action, Captain," she whispered, exhausting her paltry store of theoretically nautical phrases, and sliding one of her legs up along his flank. He slipped his hand under her knee and lifted her up against him, gasping softly, his body hot and hard against hers. She moved supplely in his grasp, giving him her best view and not incidentally sliding his coin purse onto the floor.

"Weigh anchor," he murmured into her collarbone. When he moved his head the ornaments in his hair clicked and fussed against one another. He smelled vaguely of wet animal. He growled again, a rumbling bass tone that shivered through her body where it touched his. The clothes pressed against her were still damp, but heat radiated through them.

"Full speed ahead."

She drew him backwards, towards the bed. With easy motions she undid ribbons on her dress, stays swinging loose like rigging on a ship. He was following her, untying laces on his pants with trembling fingers. His sailor's body was toned and strong, and she could not pretend she did not enjoy the view as the trousers opened and slid down. But this was business.

"Pearl." His voice burned a trail down her back, and his eyes were locked on hers, but he was not speaking to her. He was looking at something else, though she was the only thing in the room with him. His voice was hoarse with lust ... or loss, or longing. She couldn't tell. "I'm still missing someone, Pearl."

She kept her gaze on him, velvet and linen falling away like petals from a flower, like sails unfurling from a mast. "She's not here," she said evenly. "I am." She lay back on the bed, opening her arms to him, and he slid over her, pressing her down with his weight.

He inched her further onto the bed, lifting her with one corded, tattooed arm as he kissed her again, needful and desperate. "You'll do," he growled into her hair, and she heard the ripping of cloth. "For now." His bare skin rubbed against her, and something else did too, and she closed her eyes, and got down to business.

******

In the morning, of course, he was gone, and her purse too - he couldn't help it. But in its place was a single golden doubloon, catching the shaft of sunlight coming from the window he had opened to escape. More than twice the worth of what he had stolen. Thrice. Ten times.

She held the coin to her mouth, bit it. Solid gold. She cupped it in her hands, and caught a whiff of him in the air: he smelled like the sea, of course. And wet dog. She wished him luck, and then thought of her purse - he wouldn't be needing luck, not him. Kind of man like that, good fortune would be seeking him out even now.

She heard later that a trader's ship had sunk in the harbour overnight, leaving a poor young man who had been its lone occupant no choice but to wade to shore.

The young man in question spent the following night in her comforting arms. While they moved against one another he tried to tell her about a mad pirate captain, whom they had rescued off a desert island. It was he whom the boy believed had sunk the ship. The man had worn beads in his dreadlocked hair, and his dark and exotic eyes were ringed with kohl. He had babbled about a lost ship, his ship: the Black Pearl.

She silenced the boy with a kiss: enough fairy tales for one day.