Title: Gentlemen of Fortune
Chapter 2: In a Leaky Boat
Disclaimer: Pirates isn't mine, which I'm sure comes as a big surprise to many of you. Alas, it belongs to Disney. But only until Ashfae steals it, as she inevitably will. Oh wait, commandeer, I meant commandeer of course…
Summary: An innocuous request leads to a look at Captain Jack Sparrow's past, complete with encounters with the East India Trading Company, slave traders, corrupt officials, treasure, trips to Singapore, and the truth behind the kohl and hat.
A/N: Thanks to Volinde, Kingleby, Cunien, Civeta, Maeve, JeanieBeanie33, Fyrie, Indigo Intrigue, Ashfae, Magpie Poet, ErinRua, Ozma, Laureril, Cole, Pirate Rhi, The Badgers and Sida for your reviews:) Much thanks as always to my beta, Ashfae. I told you all it would be a long time between chapters, and I was right, but the good news is that each chapter appears to be getting longer and longer so at least you get some length for your wait:) It's a very good idea to read my historical notes…
Historical notes: Slush was whatever fat remains off of the sailor's food that was used to waterproof parts of the ship. The capstan was that round wheel you often see on ships used for bringing up the anchor. "Going leeward" means going to the bathroom, usually off the side of the ship. "Serving the lines" means waterproofing the ships ropes by wrapping/sewing other rope around them, along with leather/cloth guards and pitch.
"So, you captured the Thrush at the age of thirteen and took her to go sailing to the East Indies," said Marty.
Jack was offended by the doubt in his crewman's tone. "Course I did!" He flung his hand wide and nearly spilled his newly filled bottle of rum in the process. "Though I did have a bit of trouble wi' the first mate…"
"Hello, lad. Glad to see you awake. Welcome on board the Thrush."
Jack glanced pointedly at his tied wrists. "I'm not feeling very welcomed," he said. He struggled, but stopped abruptly as it occurred to him that Charter was enjoying his struggles far too much judging by the leer. "I don't suppose you'd let me go?"
Charter chuckled, and put a possessive hand on top of Jack's head. "Not yet, Mr. Hatter. Wait until we're out at open sea – and even then your freedom depends on you."
Trying to shrink out from under the man's hand, Jack resorted to a trick he had learnt well from his mother, and one that he tended to employ in only the direst of situations – he started babbling madly.
"Ooo, the sea. I love the sea! Where will we be going then? The Caribbean maybe? Will we hunt for pirates or treasure, or is this really just a fishing boat?" He made a show of looking about excitedly, and got a slap to the face for his trouble. No wonder Charter and his father had gotten along so well. He scowled, but Charter only laughed.
"You've got a lovely pout, lad. And it's a ship." He hunkered down so he was level with Jack's face. "No, the Thrush is on her way 'round the Cape. Being a good vessel of the East India Company, we're bringing a shipment of supplies to its agents. You are now our cabin boy. I be the first mate, and you'll see Captain Marks later." He leant in closer and Jack instinctively moved as far back as the support behind him would allow. "You answer to me for everything. I take care of you, and you take care of me." He looked Jack up and down. "Understand?"
Jack knew what was meant. He was as educated as any boy his age who roamed the streets of London. Men's tastes varied widely and some were more twisted than others. Jack didn't judge – in fact he hardly gave the matter much thought – but he did know his tastes didn't lie with older men, especially ones that tied him to beams.
"No, sir," he lied, trying to play innocent, but knowing that his acting skills needed improvement.
Charter gave him a disbelieving look then grabbed his hair roughly, jerking his head forward. His tongue was in Jack's mouth, exploring all over for one frozen second, smashing Jack's lips before pulling away.
There were two voices in Jack's head. One telling him to play along, get the man to trust him then break free. The other told him to rip the bastard to shreds using the only weapon he had.
"You know," said Jack casually. "I prefer blonds."
The smack this time was enough to send his head crashing against the beam behind him, sending him into blackness once again.
When Jack awakened nothing much had changed except his head hurt even more than before. Charter didn't appear, for which he was glad, but neither did a friendly crewman with a wholesome meal – something Jack would happily have traded a simple kiss for. He waited impatiently for someone to let him free, letting his mind drift from one thought to another and trying to move his head as little as possible. Try as he might, he couldn't think of a way free of his situation short of leaping overboard, which probably wasn't a good idea considering he couldn't swim. To keep the cold feeling of fear out of his stomach he switched to telling himself stories – stories that always ended badly when he dozed off into nightmares, or when he thought with a grimace of Charter's possessive kiss. It was a long wait.
Finally, after Jack had dozed again and light had come and gone in the darkened hold, a crewman came down. The man had blond hair and looked to be a few years older than Jack. His features were so delicate Jack had to restrain himself from calling the man 'pretty boy' on first sight. Instead, he bit his tongue and hoped the man had come to free him, and not to make another offer for his body. He still wasn't sure what he was going to do about the first one.
The blond man cut his ropes without a word, then handed him a flask. Jack gulped it down eagerly, ignoring the alcoholic tinge to the water. His throat had been so dry he wasn't sure he could have managed to talk without it. "M' Jack Hatter," he muttered when he had finished the entire bottle.
"Michael Davis," said the man shortly. "Mr. Charter says I'm to take you up deck and show you the ship." He looked annoyed at the assignment. "Come on." He headed towards the ladder leading up to the main deck.
Jack tried to follow but being tied to the mast for over a day coupled with the fact that it was his first time on a ship meant that the floor swelled up suddenly and Jack missed his footing and fell flat on his face. With a grimace he pushed himself up again, this time taking into account the rise and fall of the deck beneath him and took staggering steps to the ladder where Davis had already disappeared.
On deck, he took in the rolling sway of the ship from one side to another. It was so pronounced you could see the horizon disappear as one side of the ship rose up to obscure it, with the process being repeated on the other side. Jack watched it queasily.
"Sea's a bit rough today," said Davis casually. "But the Captain's not good at telling the difference betwixt a little stomach trouble and the plague. He'll throw you overboard at the first sign of illness. I'd only get sick once if I was you."
Jack nodded his understanding, though already his stomach was quieting. It helped if you didn't look at the sea. "Thanks."
Davis smiled sardonically. "If you really want to thank me you'll go quietly to our first mate's cabin when the day is over, so that I don't have to listen to him whining about how insolent you are. He'll break you if you don't."
Jack stared at him incredulously. He had caught the tone in the man's voice –Davis was jealous of him.
"He won't break me. Jack Hatter doesn't break," he said more confidently then he felt.
"Yes, that was what I said too," said Davis. There was a cynical look in his blue eyes. "He'll treat you better than most would, you know, and this journey will be a hell of a lot easier on you, but it's your choice." It was hard to tell if Davis was pleased or annoyed by Jack's defiance. "Let me show you the ropes."
Jack had harbored some hope that Captain Marks might have a complaint about his first mate's behavior, but it turned out that Captain Marks hardly had a say in the running of the ship for all his title. Captain Marks spent the majority of his time in his cabin with a bottle of brandy, wine, rum or whatever else he could get his hands on for company. He occasionally came out to criticize the crew and order a man flogged or thrown overboard. Those orders were never carried out, except for the flogging of a sailor who had coincidently been informing everyone who would listen that hell lay ahead for those engaged in unnatural acts – like sodomy. That sailor was still lying below in a fever and was likely to expire soon. In everything but name, First Mate William Charter was in charge of the ship.
Not that the Thrush was an exemplary example of a fine sailing vessel, Jack learnt quickly. Overheard conversations revealed that signing out on the Thrush was the last resort of a desperate sailor. The pay was dismal, the work exhausting when they bothered to work, and you had to sail under both Marks and Charter. It was hard to tell who the crew hated more.
But there was plenty of alcohol to be had on the journey, and so long as the ship was sailing neither Marks or Charter seemed to care that the men spent their days in consuming it. Many a day the men abandoned their tasks half way through as soon as they knew the drinks were available. This meant most of the simple tasks of maintenance which are inconsequential in the short run but vital in the long run to a ship's well-being fell to the young cabin boy.
If Jack had had a choice he would have been drinking with the men even if they did think he was Charter's boy despite his sleeping down below with them every night. But where Charter was lackadaisical with everyone else's time, he took a special and malicious pleasure in assigning Jack all the tasks that were left undone on top of the ones Jack had to do as part of his normal duties.
Jack scrubbed the deck at all hours, trying to meet impossible deadlines; when he failed, he was punished with either blows or lack of food. He mended rope and sail, watching with a weary fascination as his hands blistered, bled, blistered then finally callused over. It was always him being sent to repair a leak, or to retrieve a flying piece of rigging, never mind that the ship was tilting near horizontal in the rough water. He stood day long watches with no food and no water. He helped the cook and worked over the guns to keep them fire worthy. He shifted cargo or ballast for no other reason then Charter wanting him to, and what did it matter that he had no sleep, his body was beginning to fail, and he was slowly starving to death?
This is what Davis had meant by breaking him, and he had been right. Jack, who rarely found himself without a word or comment to say, slowly fell silent.
He tried not to. He really did, but the crew wouldn't talk to him. Oh, they had at first even if they were wary of him and thought him Charter's. Any man will talk if you just find the right thing they're willing to talk about, and with nothing to do other than work, Jack took advantage of any of his downtime not spent sleeping to find out what the crew liked to talk about.
Except Charter had noticed and threatened them all if they said a word to him again. "You'll save that sweet tongue for me, lad," he had said, then walked off; no doubt sure Jack was close to breaking. The Captain was locked in his cabin with his drink most of the time – not that Jack was allowed in there – and he would rather swab the decks three times a day then make pleasant talk with Charter. Which left Davis to talk to since the man was exempt from every rule of the crew due to his relationship with the first mate. Not that it seemed to bring him any pleasure.
Davis had a prettier face than many a lady, but the effect was marred by the way he wandered around the ship frowning or smiling cynically. He was attentive, almost embarrassingly so when Charter was around, but he treated Jack as an annoyance at best and as a rival at worst despite Jack's assuring him to the contrary.
But still, he did talk to Jack on occasion and it was a single conversation with Davis that reminded Jack that there was something beyond the ship and his continual slavery.
They had sailed through the Channel and around Spain and Portugal without incident. Supplies were refilled at the Cape Verde islands, though Jack was tied below deck for the duration of that visit. Now they were sailing along the Ivory Coast, always keeping it in sight as they attempted to catch the most favorable local winds. They had been sailing for four months now, and despite the lack of effort on the crew's part, Jack had been assured by a proud Charter that the Thrush was making good time.
Jack was repairing sails in the shelter of the foredeck, enjoying the salt spray that blew up from the bow, though not the wind that rippled through his hair. Without his mum to attend to it, his hair was getting too long to stay out of his eyes, but wasn't long enough to tie back. He was also trying to squint against the increasingly hot sun as he drew a thick needle through the canvas. In short, he needed a hat. It was a pity that his bastard of a father hadn't arranged to have him shanghaied with one.
He tried sewing for a bit longer, but gave up after stabbing himself for the second time. Sucking on the finger, he looked around surreptitiously to see if Charter was on deck. If the first mate wasn't around, he could change to another task for awhile without recrimination. A few sailors were lazing about deck, taking afternoon naps judging by the snoring, with the only one awake being the man at the helm: Davis.
Jack embedded the needle deep into his pile of sail canvas and made his way across the deck. He had picked up on the peculiar way the other sailors walked to stay upright, and hadn't fallen on deck for months now. He liked to think he could stay standing no matter what the conditions topside, but had yet to test his theory in anything other than a light squall.
The bucket of slush was where he had left it earlier near the capstan. He dropped the slimy rag he had been using before into it with a plop and brought the pail up to the area around the helm. Davis' face was fixed in a grimace as he held tightly onto the spokes of the wheel, so Jack started rubbing the slush into the railings and waited for the man to become used to his presence before starting a conversation.
"Stop staring at me, Jack. I can't help you," said Davis after a little while.
"‛Course you can help me, mate. You don't want to. You got a good place on this ship, though I imagine you do a lot of work at night…"
For once, Davis didn't take offense. "Charter's getting impatient. He's been enjoying watching you work and suffer, but yelling your name into the night isn't going to comfort him much longer."
Any composure Jack had been maintaining was shattered by that statement. "You mean he really…?"
Jack scrubbed hard at the railing, appalled by the extra information. Charter wanted him willing and submissive, and was willing to wait for Jack to reach that state. But if the first mate gave up on the willing part, Jack was in a lot of trouble. "Maybe you should dye your hair black, mate."
"Maybe you should throw yourself overboard. No wonder Charter's forbidden you from talking," said Davis.
"Charter didn't buy me for my talking," Jack reminded him. He hated the fact that no one was allowed to talk to him though. He was acutely aware that this was his first real conversation with someone since Davis had been on deck three days ago. "I can still talk to myself," he declared, though he hadn't been. At some point life had narrowed down to going from one hard task to another, with talking a luxury only normal people were allowed.
"Until Captain Marks throws you overboard for being delirious, or the crew decide they'd rather not have a madman on board and do the same." That sardonic smile was back on Davis' face.
"Anyone ever tell you you're obsessed with throwing me overboard?"
"Shut up!" And that was that. No more conversation until the next time 'Lord' Davis deigned to speak to the peasant Jack Hatter. Jack resolved that he would get back in the habit of conversation, even if he did have to start talking to himself. Mum had done it all the time after all, and it hadn't harmed her. Well, other than the mad part.
And on that thought, he did start up a conversation with himself that involved him trying to name every sail and rope on the ship.
"Take the wheel, Jack," said Davis into his thoughts.
"What?" As far as Jack knew, he wasn't allowed near the wheel unless to waterproof it.
"I need to go leeward," Davis elaborated impatiently. "Just hold the wheel where it is and don't go spinning it about."
After a self-conscious glance around for Charter, Jack took the wheel. He immediately had to brace himself as it was nearly pulled from his hand. The helmsmen made it seem almost effortless to keep the wheel in one place and the ship on course. But holding onto the wooden spokes, Jack could almost feel the steering column going down through the boat and touching the sea, a sea that was trying its damndest to force the ship off course. He replanted his feet wide, bracing himself against the deck and using both hands to hold the wheel with all of his thirteen-year-old strength.
Gradually, he got the hang of it. You had to give as much strength to the ocean as it was giving to you and let the ship ride out your fight. The sea would destroy a sailor, but with a ship and a helm to steer her, a sailor was free to ride the waves. He wondered why no one had ever described this experience for him before. If he had known, he might have signed on the Thrush and paid whatever price to helm her.
The wind whipped against his face and for one long moment, Jack was sure he could fly. He knew with an absolute certainty that this was where he wanted to be – at the helm of a willing ship, sailing free.
He nearly lost the wheel when a large hand grabbed the back of his head along with his hair and pulled. With his head bent back, he could just make out Charter's angry brown eyes behind him.
"What're you doing on the wheel?" snarled the first mate. "Are you drunk?"
Jack wondered what he meant, then realized his face was still stretched in an unconscious smile at the joy of the sea. He felt the smile broaden. "Aye, sir. Drunk as a man can be. As for the wheel, I thought it was in need of a polishin'."
Charter pushed him away in disgust, and caught the wheel before it spun round.
"I asked him to hold the wheel for me," called Davis as he joined them on the poop deck. "While I took a piss, sir." His hands were still fumbling with the buttons on his trousers in what looked like an obvious attempt at distraction, though whether it was to help Jack's or Davis' was beyond Jack's ken. Right at that moment, he decided to give up trying to understand the bitter, blond man, though he would thank Davis to his dying day for the opportunity he had given him.
Charter stared at Davis, his eyes on the man's fumbling hands and dryly ordered one of the lounging sailors to take the helm while motioning for Davis to follow him to his cabin.
"Join us, lad," ordered Charter, but Jack picked up his rag and went back to work, pretending not to hear him. Charter waited for an answer, but Jack kept his head down until the first mate moved onwards. When he did look up, it was to check the helm and to wonder when next he could get his hands on it.
The helm remained out of reach for a very long time, nigh on two months to be exact, but its solid presence was a comfort to Jack in his misery. And misery it was. Charter, as if sensing his renewed spirit and determination, gave tasks to Jack that even the hardened sailors threw lots to avoid. He was given the job of coating the rigging with tar, dangling from the masts or a line with only a pot of hot tar and a brush. He lost all sense of smell, and all hope that the watery salt beef stew they ate near all the time would taste of anything but tar. With only Jack working on it the task took a long time, and when it was finished he was set to caulking, deep in the heart of the ship, and then hanging by a rope of the side of the ship to caulk the hull. Another task that the men avoided at all costs.
It was strange, but in many ways Jack didn't notice. His thoughts were on the helm of the ship, the ocean and sailing. He imagined what he could do if the ship was his, sailing off into the horizon. He would find treasure or new lands if there were any new lands left in the world, and maybe fight a sea serpent or two. With a ship of his own his options were limitless.
He also began talking again. To himself at first, and never in the presence of the Captain since he wasn't quite sure if Charter would follow through if Captain Marks ordered him overboard. Then he started talking to the crew again. They weren't stupid enough to speak back, but that wasn't the point. They were listening. Nor did he care if they believed him when he said he was the son of an Indian raja (and he was dark enough from the sun at this point that it was somewhat believable). What mattered is that there was something in this world beside his grueling work and his starving body.
Early one morning, so early that the sun had yet to show itself, Jack had his chance. The sky was turning a slow blue that revealed the sails as grey shadows above. Jack had been at work through the night, forbidden from sleeping or eating until he finished serving the line. Between nodding off, he had been impatiently sewing ropes together, then sewing thin squares of tarpaulin around the whole lot. He had also been watching their current helmsmen, Dale, become more and more inebriated as the night passed. Dale appeared to have found a bottomless bottle of whatever spirit he was imbibing, since the man had been taking swigs for hours and still hadn't run out. Unfortunately, Dale's ability to remain upright and awake had suffered, and he was practically draped across the wheel.
Although Jack had half been expecting it, he was still startled when Dale slumped sideways and hit the deck with a muffled thump. The wheel spun lazily, unattended. Jack was up in a second, racing across the short span of deck that separated him and the helm. He couldn't help the grin that spread across his face as his hands touched the thick spokes, but it was quickly replaced with a frown as he wrestled with the wheel. It wasn't that he wasn't happy to be sailing the ship again, but he was unsure of their course now that the wheel had spun round. How far into the wind was he supposed to steer?
A glance at the slumped form of Dale revealed no answer. Jack nudged the man with his foot, and when that got no response, delivered a sharp kick, but Dale only groaned and pressed himself against the deck. Jack shrugged, and followed his instincts.
He spun the wheel half a turn to where he thought it should be and held it there, his grin returning as he felt the ocean pushing against the rudder.
This was what sailing was all about.
A part of Jack knew that this couldn't last, and that if anyone but Dale discovered him at the helm, he was in big trouble. But there was no point in being reasonable if he couldn't have fun at the same time. He was acutely aware that he held the entire ship in his hands and that if he wanted he could spin the wheel and throw the Thrush to the mercy of the wind. For a moment he contemplated doing just that, but decided he was too fond of the ship, if not her crew, to do such a cruel thing.
He stood for well over an hour, turning the wheel slightly when the wind changed direction, ruffling his hair. Off to starboard, the sun rose, sending brilliant rays in a red gold path across the ocean to kiss the hull and sails of the Thrush. Jack's smile faltered. His mum would love this.
Shaking his head to drive away the thought, he turned his attention back to the horizon. If he could get away from Charter…
A muffled curse sounded behind him, and he turned, one hand still on the wheel, to see Captain Marks stumble blinkingly out onto the deck. Jack held his breath. The Captain ran a hand through his short brown hair, and attempted to fix his shirt which was hopelessly misbuttoned. Mumbling to himself, he gave up and stumbled over to the side where he was sick over the railing. Wiping his mouth, he turned and headed back to his cabin and Jack almost thought he would get away with it. But then the Captain noticed him.
For a moment they stared at each other.
"What is our cabin boy doing at the wheel?!" bellowed Captain Marks, then winced as the loud noise aggravated the effects of a night's drinking on his head. "Where is our helmsman?" he asked in a softer voice. "Charter!"
A series of thumps and clatters preceded the first mate stumbling out on deck, minus his shirt. He had managed a pair of breeches at least, and was just pulling on his left boot. "Yes, Captain?"
Captain Marks glared about wildly, and those men who had come on deck after hearing the commotion, shrunk back. His glare focused on the first mate. "Is this boy our helmsman?"
"No, Captain. Dale is supposed to be on duty." Charter looked around and spotted Dale lying halfway down the steps leading to the upper deck, still sleeping. He glanced at Jack, and Jack winced at the cruel look he saw in the man's eyes. "Well, Mr. Hatter, tell us what happened."
"Well, I was serving the lines near the foredeck, and I was very focused on my work like I always am, see? But then I heard this cry. It sounded like all the woe of the world was in that cry." Jack actually thought that last sentence was a bit much, but since no one challenged him, he continued. "I ran up here to see what it was and found Mr. Dale collapsed and lost to the world, and the wheel spinning helter-skelter. I had no choice but to take it." He put on hand to his heart and gave them his most innocent expression.
Captain Marks gave a snort of disbelief. "Wake the bo'sun and fetch the cat, Mr. Charter. I leave the rest to you." He pressed a hand to his head, a pained expression on his face, then stumbled back into his cabin.
Charter looked like a man who had come into an unexpected inheritance.
"I didn't know we had a cat on board," said Jack nervously. Should he run?
"Oh, yes, Mr. Hatter. We have a black cat on board, and its claws are sharp." The look of glee was replaced with one of lust. "You needn't meet it. Come back to bed with me."
Jack couldn't keep the fear off his face as he shook his head no.
Davis appeared behind Charter.
"Fetch Bo'sun, Michael, and have him bring the cat o'nine," said Charter. Davis looked smug.
Jack turned and ran.
They found him eventually. He had wedged himself up under the second deck, bracing himself against the support beams. A man had stood beneath him searching and Jack had choked on the candle smoke. He was dragged out on deck, arms pinioned by two burly sailors who ignored his frantic babbling, and brought in front of Charter.
The first mate looked amused, rather than angry, which Jack would have counted a good thing if his eyes hadn't been inescapably drawn to the coiled whip held in Bo'sun's hand. The Thrush's bo'sun was a small hairy man from Portsmouth, but he also doubled as the ship's carpenter and had the arms to prove it.
"It's five extra lashes for running, Jack," said Charter.
"S'not fair, mate. I weren't even hidden for long. I think that warrants only a lash more." Jack was amazed at how well he could negotiate even when he was scared to death.
"Done. Twelve lashes, Bo'sun!"
"Hold him over tha' barrel," said Bo'sun. The sailors holding Jack turned him in a tight circle then pinned him over a nearby barrel, pressing his arms so hard against the sides of it that he began to lose circulation. Another order from the bo'sun, and his shirt was stripped off to the accompaniment of a low whistle from Davis that had Jack turning red in embarrassment. To think he had ever felt some sympathy for the man.
A low skittering sound came from behind him as the many tails of the whip hit the deck. Jack tensed. He had meant to protest his treatment another time, but at the sound his mind went blank. As far as he was concerned, his world consisted of his back and the cat o'nine tails that was going to be hitting it any second now.
There. His body convulsed and one of the men holding him chuckled.
Again. This time he gave a gasp of pain.
Third time. First blood. He could feel a slow drop of it winding its way down his back.
The blows came faster then, no longer separate but each unique in its own tormenting way. Red and stinging welts rose across his back, blood flowed, and Jack cried out at the pain. He cried out again when it was over and they let him slump. A litany ran through his mind, trying to reassure him through the haze of pain.
'That wasn't so bad. Twelve lashes is nothing. They gave ol'Barley twenty five and now he's in ole Davy Jones. But you're strong and twelve can be dealt with. The Bo'sun even spaced them out so that they're all across your back instead of deep in one place.' He chuckled then, but it came out sounding like a groan. 'They'll let you go below now. Charter won't let you die and you can sleep. You don't have to serve the lines. And…' His mind paused for dramatic consistency. 'you got to man the helm.' Jack grinned, unaware of the odd looks the other sailors were giving him. He refused to open his eyes.
"Get him below, and see that Doc gets a look at him," ordered Charter from very far away. Jack groaned as they lifted him, and decided oblivion was the best option.
The Thrush didn't have an official doctor. She had left port without one since they were in short supply; but one of the men, Folley, had some experience as an assistant and so became the doctor by default. He did the best he could for Jack, washing out the welts, then pouring cheap wine down his throat until Jack couldn't feel his back anymore, or incidentally, the hammock he'd been laid in. Folley also told Charter quietly when he came to visit that Jack should have some time to heal. It didn't occur to Jack to thank him for that until much later.
Nigh on a month he spent below decks as the flesh on his back knitted itself into a mass of scars. A rough night at sea sent him careening into a wall and opened them up again, but Jack didn't mind since it gave him more time below; talking to Folley if he was there or indulging in the cheap wine. It was good to be drunk when all you could think of was the pain in your back or what was going to happen when you were healed.
Eventually, he hit on a plan to stay away from Charter the entire voyage. Folley scratched his grey hair quizzically when Jack told him it, but didn't say a word to dissuade him. He brought Jack every spare blanket on the ship, made Jack drink until his face was flushed and his head was dizzy, then went and told Charter that Jack had caught a fever.
Davis was sent down to check, and Jack pulled off one of the finer performances of his life if he did say so. He heard Davis warn Folley not to mention this to the captain, and hoped his crow of delight sounded more like a moan of pain. Captain Marks' proclivity of throwing ill men overboard had been his only worry, but Charter valued Jack's life so all would be well. He had heard of men who spent months wasted in fever, and by then they would reach the Indies.
That was the plan at least.
Shouting and the sounds of the sails being unfurled woke Jack up from a mid-afternoon nap. A glance around revealed the Doctor's cabin was empty and the door shut. Jack slid out from under his stifling blankets, padded carefully to the hull, and laid his ear against it. A few weeks ago, he had accidentally discovered that the sounds from the main deck echoed down perfectly once he had tuned out the familiar crash of the ocean. Straining, he could make out the voices of the men above, calling for haste. Then curses, then…
"I don't see a black flag, Charter," said the voice of Captain Marks.
"Yes, sir, but we are near Madagascar, and that is certainly no merchant ship." There was a pause. "And she has the wind on her side. I expect she'll catch us." There was silence, until Jack thought they had moved out of his hearing, but then Marks spoke again.
"I'm going to have a drink." His footsteps moved off.
"Bloody pirates!" cursed Charter and yelled more orders, his voice fading as he moved away.
Jack rocked back on his heels, staring unseeing at the ships hull. Pirates. That was interesting.