Title: What Freedom Truly Is

Author: Saiko

A/N: Okay, I've had another idea. (heaven help poor Jack with my story ideas...) I do think I might be able to touch on a very early meeting of Ana Maria as per JackFan2's request. Oh... I don't own anything!

A/N2: This takes place a few months after "A Week from Hell". I'm planning on this being shorter... might be, might not be, dunno. We'll see, eh?

Chapter One: Still Recovering

"Perhaps 'm simply not fit for bein' yer first mate, Jack."

Captain Jack Sparrow sat back on his bed in his quarters, turning Bootstraps Bill's words over in his mind. William was his most trusted friend, and yet he thought perhaps he was "not fit" - as he had put it – for being Jack's first mate.

"So who exactly am I to make first mate?" Jack had asked, annoyance clear in his young voice.

"There's this man I've 'eard of," William had said slowly. "Hector Barbossa. 'e's in Tortuga and free of a ship at the moment. Good pirate. Gets the job done."

Jack had agreed. He nearly always agreed with William, but something was bothering him about this. He had to admit that while he enjoyed being around the men in his crew, none of them were candidates for first mate, and therefore they'd have to go elsewhere to look. He was half sorry he'd seen Oliver Jameston leave with his portion of treasure just before the East India incident four months prior. The pirate captain groaned at the reminder of that hellish experience.

The knock on the door made him jump. "S'open," he hollered.

William Turner poked his head in. "We're nearing Tortuga," he announced as he stepped the full way in and closed the door being him. "Ye don' look like ye feel well, Jack."

"I 'aven't felt well in months, William," Jack pointed out.

"Nightmares still keeping ye up?"

"You 'ave no idea."

William came and sat next to him in silence. Finally he took a deep breath. "'m sorry, lad, tha' I couldn' do more than I did."

"You did more 'n' you were 'spose to."

William shook his head. "I didn' live up to me position, Cap'n."

"Tha's why yer steppin' down?" Jack asked as he finally made eye contact with his friend. "Tha's no reason."

William had to force himself to breathe when his eyes met Jack's kohl lined eyes. Those were not the eyes of a barely-nineteen teenager. Those were haunted eyes of one who'd seen far too much as it was. Those were eyes that showed the lack of sleep he'd gotten lately as his sleep was interrupted with nightmares where he'd wake up screaming or fall into a fever for several days. Those were not a young man's eyes.

"It's my reason," William said at last. "It's the only reason I've got and my good reason."

Jack nodded. "Yer call, o' course."

"I'm not leaving you, Jack," William stated firmly. "I'll still be around, lad. I just... don' wanna be in yer way."

"The East India Company incident was not your fault!" Jack hissed as he leaned forward, closing most of the gap between his friend and he. "If ye understand tha' an' yer still wanting to step down, I'm not stoppin' ye, but understand tha', William. I don' blame ye. You saved my life there."

"To what point and purpose, that you die afterwards from fevers that are still coming back and dreams that are slowly driving you mad?"

Jack gave his friend a wide, feral grin. "'m all ready mad, 'member?"

William tried to keep a strait face, but was forced to smile at the young captain's careless attitude. He knew he was suffering from the after effects of his run in with the East India Trading Company, but he'd never ask for help. He'd never want help. Jack Sparrow looked after himself.

"We'll reach Tortuga in less'n an 'our," the elder man said as he reached forward.

Jack pulled away. "I don' 'ave another fever," he answered the unasked question. "William, I'm no lad any longer, stop treatin' me as one."

"Sorry, Cap'n."

Jack grinned. "So let's get on deck so we can see jus' 'ow close we are."

William nodded, leaving the room to head up to the deck. Jack slowly stood, a bit unsteady on his feet, and gently pulled back the sleeve to his right arm. He shuddered slightly as he ran his left hand's fingers over the "P" on his arm. He shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts. It was over and he would move on. Simple as that, right? Right. He started up towards the deck.

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A/N: I'm a review addict! (small hint there, mates)