I don't own anything about Pirates of the Caribbean, although I went on the ride at Disneyland the first time when I was six. This must qualify as some kind of expertise…
The town was quieting down for the night – or for the day, rather. Tortuga was a night kind of town. As dawn puddled a yellowing gray on the eastern horizon, Captain Jack Sparrow set down his last cup of rum and stood. He rose smoothly, although veered a bit past vertical, righting himself like a ship's mast finding the heavens again after a high swell. As he passed another table, its occupant face down in a pool of sticky brownish liquid, he inconspicuously scooped several coins with a thief's grace, and turning a moment later tossed the largest of them to the serving girl. She caught it with a yawn.
"Will you be in port long, Jack?"
"No longer than it takes to fix the Pearl's rigging, love. I may be back tomorrow. Save me your best." He leaned toward her, tapping the keg she leaned on as his dark eyes traveled down her chest. "If you have any left."
"Ha. Always, for Captain Jack Sparrow."
Jack leered at her and walked out into the relatively fresh air. Something about his bearing straightened a bit once he was alone and away from prying eyes, and instinctively his feet wandered toward the port where the Pearl was moored a short distance out from shore. Even if he wasn't expected back tonight, he'd get one more look at her before finding someplace to sleep. He stopped dead when a dark figure stepped out from behind a stand of trees.
Automatically teetering a bit as his hand casually strayed toward his sword, the pirate peered into the darkness. It was not yet light enough to make out features, but he could tell that it was a thin man, close to his size, although probably several years older. If he had to, Jack could surprise most men with his fighting abilities. His speech was slurred as he addressed the figure that still stood silently. "And what can I do for you?"
"Good evening, Captain."
Jack stared for a moment, tilted his head as if listening to the man's words again. "Do I know you?"
"Come now, Captain. No games."
The pirate stood quietly. Then he straightened up, nodding. "Right you are. No games." The dim light of dawn caught glints of gold as he smiled. "I thought I might find you here. Or rather, you'd find me. I waited in the tavern."
"I know. I didn't think it was safe for me to be showing my face just yet."
Jack frowned, the dark eyes serious. "Safe enough, my friend. If you've heard the tale."
"I've heard much, but I doubt I've heard all."
Nodding, Sparrow stepped closer. "Truer words were ne'er spoken. You wouldn't believe it all. Where are you staying?"
"Off the beach."
"Not a room?"
'Like I said …"
"Right, right." The pirate frowned again, peering around as the light increased marginally. "Have you been eating? You look thin."
"Not as thin as I was. But eating's a hard habit to break."
Jack tilted his head and stared for a long time. The man seemed accustomed to this kind of behavior, because he didn't move until the captain spoke again. "Listen, I was going to make port tonight, but we can go back to the ship instead."
"I don't know how welcome I'd be there, either."
"The Pearl is mine again. Besides, there've been a lot of changes since you saw her last. Changes for the better."
"That would be welcome news… but still."
"Listen. You've got to sleep sometime, right? Well so do I. The dinghy should still be at the dock. Would you turn down the hospitality of your old captain?"
The figure looked toward the slowly awakening town, and back to Jack. The light showed hints of an expression now – a scruffy beard, sad eyes, long curls that hung free and sparkled silver at his temples. A bit more world-weary, more gaunt than the captain remembered, but still undeniably familiar. It was the expression in those eyes that made Jack shake his head and smile again, thinking of someone quite a bit younger.
The man looked out to the sea, and shrugged to smile with him. They turned to walk side by side toward the shore. "I'm surprised you were looking for me. How did you know I'd be here?"
"Come now. You and I had our own code. The broken crew meets at Tortuga. You taught me that one early on." They chuckled quietly together. "You were the only one I really trusted back then. The rest I could have done without, although I thought I at least had their respect. I didn't think…" He grew silent, and there was a sadness in his quiet. Along with some anger.
The man stopped, and Jack stopped to face him. "I'm sorry, Jack. I should have-"
Jack waved him off, began walking again. "You did more than anyone else."
"Besides, you took care of me when I was still too young to know I couldn't take care of myself. There's a lot to be said for keeping an eye on fools and children." The pirate grinned wryly to himself. "I may have paid off a bit of that." He was striding forward when the man grabbed his arm, swinging the younger man to face him with unexpected strength.
"Captain." The man's voice failed him, and he shook his head.
Jack slowly smiled. There was more than a casual resemblance between this man and his son. They shared an uncanny nobility. "Come, William. You've suffered your penance. Don't expect me to be adding any." He reached over and ruffled the man's hair as if he were the younger, wayward child. "Savvy?"
The man looked into his face for a long time, then laughed. "Savvy, Jack."
They walked in comfortable silence to the boat, casting off with easy familiarity. It wasn't until they had rowed halfway to the Pearl that William spoke again. "Tell me, Captain. Is it true Barbossa's dead."
"That he is. Dispatched the lying bastard m'self."
The older man watched his captain's face as he rowed for a few minutes. "There's more to that story."
"True enough. But let's save it for when I've had a bit more sleep." He paused to check their distance, and stretched. "Where have you been keeping all this time?"
William shrugged at the gray shrouded sun, putting off his answer. "I don't like the look of that sky." Jack followed his glance and nodded.
"There's weather in those clouds. But the Pearl is sound, if they've finished the mainmast rigging. At least she is now."
He began rowing again, pausing as they neared the ship. "So?"
William sighed, looking even older. "Don't know the name of the island I last ended up on. It was quiet. They didn't speak English."
"Indeed. They were kind enough, although after a few months of me not eating, they thought I was some kind of demon. Which I suppose I was."
The water lapped the sides of the dinghy like mercury in the sludgy light. Jack stared thoughtfully at its translucent surface. "How bad was it, William?"
The older man laughed without humor. "Bad enough to forget, Jack. Bad enough." He looked into the depths of the harbor and shuddered. "It was hard to walk away."
"Walk? From an island?"
William shot him a look. "Come on, Captain. You must know."
Jack nodded, realizing. "That's how you got away the first time."
"Once I got those cursed boots off, I walked the ocean bottom for… well. I don't know how long. Time has a way of going away when you wish you were dead."
High above them, on the deck of the Pearl, Jack heard Gibbs call out for a ladder to bring the Captain up. He waved his hand absently, still watching his old friend.
"I made for England, first thing, to find Beatrice. But she was gone."
"I'm sorry, William. I heard." The pirate shook his head. "Is there anything I can do?"
William's eyes flared. "I'm bound for Port Royal, if you're heading that way."
"Port Royal? Because of-"
"There's a debt to be paid."
Jack's eyebrows lifted quietly over dark eyes. "A debt?"
"My family is gone because of the governor there." He spat the word. "I'll see him dead before I rest."