Author's Notes: As always, much thanks to Beth for the fabulous beta and to Haleth for once again letting me steal her "Jack Sparrow" for my fics.
Warning: Implied slash and rude language. If you don't like men doing men, please read no further.
The fight had been going on for two solid weeks and Mr. Gibbs was getting mighty worried.
The pair of them had had some dust-ups, that was true. Jack had a temper, and Will Turner was a stubborn cuss. With that combination it was inevitable that the two of them would spar now and then. Usually three days of arguing. No more. No less. Three days of slammed doors; obscene oaths yelled from behind said cabin door; Jack shouting himself hoarse from yelling epithets along the lines of "Shite, give me patience," or "Jaysus Christ, save me from the fucking propriety of blacksmiths"; Will holed up in the hull of the ship pounding out perfect sword after perfect sword; Jack drowning himself in so much rum that it'd take three crew members to haul his liquor-soaked body to the cabin; and Will not eating.
But it never lasted more than three days.
To be honest, each man could, at times, be more irritating than a rash on a muggy day.
Although they considered him the finest captain any of them had ever sailed under, none of the crew could, with any certainty, vouch for Jack's sanity on any given day. For instance: the time he insisted that the crew shave off all their eyebrows in sympathy because Will had worked the furnace a mite too hot and appeared on deck without a hair on his face, singed off every bleeding one; Jack didn't want Will to feel awkward like so he ordered razors all around. The Pearl sailed around in circles for two months until everyone's eyebrows grew back in. Will had laughed himself nearly sick when he saw the crew shorn of their eyebrows. Then he'd hugged Jack in front of the whole crew (unusual that, Will Turner wasn't much for displaying his affection in public, unlike Jack who'd soon as fuck Will as look at him), and whispered something in Jack's ear. They didn't see hide nor hair of them for three days and the noises coming out of their cabin were, well, positively unholy.
And William Turner? Well, he was acknowledged to be something of a prig at the best of times. Picked the most inopportune times to be moral. For instance: Will insisted that no wedding rings be part of the swag, which infuriated Jack no end because wedding rings could be melted down. Jack had a way of sucking in one cheek when his teeth were bothering him, and Mr. Gibbs suspected that Jack had another bad tooth and didn't see a wedding band so much as another crown. "It's just a circle of gold!" Jack yelled. Will countered, "Oh, like just a sword or a headboard?" To Mr. Gibbs's everlasting amazement, Jack shut his lips real tight. The wedding rings stayed on the fingers of their brides.
The crew was always split down the middle on whose fault it was. Each had their supporters:
Anamaria always sided with Will because she'd never forgiven and had no intention of forgiving Jack (dammit, Joshamee, she has enough swag to buy her own boat, the bloody woman won't give me any peace) for stealing her boat once upon a time. Cotton also sided with Will because Will had crafted a perch for the parrot that was well out of the reach of the cats Jack'd brought on board to chase mice (and eat the parrot). Marty sided with Jack. Always. Loyal man, truth be told. Although he more than anyone looked far the worse for wear without his eyebrows. The twins sided with Jack, too, the Russian with Will, the Japanese bloke named Aki with Jack, and so on.
The crew never knew what the arguments were about. Oh, they speculated. Took bets, tried to determine what the matter was from Jack's oaths. But they never knew, and Mr. Gibbs never felt like contributing to the rumor mill, even though he was often put in the horrible position of mediating between the two of them. He always refused to take sides. Figured as First Mate it was best if he remained neutral. Anyways, half the time it was Jack's fault, he'd get some crazy notion and you'd never knowed where he was going to run with it. When the crew was near mutiny over having their eyebrows shaved clean off, Jack pointed out that Will hadn't sliced off one of his balls and wasn't that fortunate—no one was really sure if he was kidding or not. The other half of the time Will Turner would get a bee up his arse about something inconsequential. Dig his heels in, and it'd take three days for him to realize that he was being a damn fool. Like the time he insisted that they return the Commodore's books. Nearly broke Jack's heart that.
And the truth was that most of the time what they really argued about, ignoring what they said they were arguing about, was really two things: randy sods wanting to fuck the bejaysus out of Will or Jack's propensity to guzzle anything that contained a smidgen of alcohol.
Jack was notoriously jealous. Not that Will ever paid attention to the looks that others, men and women, gave him. He was oblivious to the sneaky sidelong glances of appreciation or, in most cases, out-and-out leers. Unfortunately, Jack wasn't. Not that Will Turner would ever catch Mr. Gibbs's fancy (he preferred women with meat on 'em, nice plump tits and a broad ass he could span his hands over), but no-one in their right mind could deny the lad was a sight. And unless the crew happened to enter a tavern at the end of the night when most of the patrons were blind drunk, inevitably some idiot with balls for brains would grab for Will's arse or suggest a quick swive in the alleyway and throw a crown on the table. The crown would no sooner clatter against the wood than the point of Jack's sword'd be pushing a mite too hard into the gut of the fool who three seconds before envisioned his cock pounding William Turner's arse; now he'd be damn lucky to leave the building with his goods intact.
The crew hated it when both of them went ashore together, because inevitably Gibbs would have to assign two crew members whose sole job was to whisper warnings in the ears of anyone silly enough to openly lust after William Turner: "Captain Jack Sparrow will cut off yer balls and feed them to you fer breakfast if you don't take yer eyes off his boy." Occasionally, Anamaria had to nick a rib or two to make it known they were dead serious.
Jack and Mr. Gibbs went back a fair number of years, and he'd knowed Jack to be possessive only about one thing. The Black Pearl. Jack's eyes only truly sparked for his ship. When he'd return from shore in the longboat and he'd get the first glimpse of her through a fog, his breath would hitch and he'd hold it until he could caress a plank with the flat of his hand. That remained the case until roughly two years ago, when Jack and Will first bedded each other. Now Jack's eyes held that same shine when they fell on William Turner. Jack'd see Will on deck or across the table and his breath'd hitch that same tight way, like someone'd bit him, and Jack'd sprint across the deck and trace one finger in a line from one of Will's shoulder blades to the next or he'd lean across the table in the mess to tug on one of the boy's curls. Scared Mr. Gibbs how much Jack loved that boy.
Will Turner hated the fact that Jack drank. Now, Mr. Gibbs was most sympathetic to Jack on this score, seeing how he liked a few nips every hour on the hour himself, but Jack with his belly full of rum was unpredictable; even Mr. Gibbs didn't know half the time what Jack's fey mind would conjure up. For example: the time Jack drank a near gallon of some nasty swill in that New Orleans tavern and decided that Cotton's parrot could tell the future. Will tried to reason with Jack (a hopeless task when Jack was sober, yet even when Jack was ten sheets to the wind, Will insisted on being logical; yet another example of the Turner obstinacy coming to the fore). And when the parrot continued to squawk out the four sentences that had always comprised his entire lexicon, "Wind in your sails!", "Shiver me timbers!", "Dead men tell no tales!", and "Merry Christmas!", Jack was convinced that the parrot was holding out on him. Taunting him. That the prediction was dire and Jack had less than four hours to live. The moanings and groanings and tears that accompanied the next four hours were not to be believed. The entire crew had to say their "goodbyes": Jack eulogized each one in turn, not quite understanding that they should be eulogizing him. When the four hours were up and Jack was still alive (and a hell of a lot more sober), he shrugged his shoulders and said, "What can you expect from a bloody parrot."
Will didn't speak to him for three days.
That was the normal turn of events.
Not this time. This time the crew was truly confused. And frightened.
Because the oaths that were coming from behind the door were being uttered by William Turner, who never swore, and the passed-out body on the deck that reeked of rum night after night wasn't Jack's, and the person haunting the smithy was none other than Jack Sparrow.
Mr. Gibbs knew, with every bit of his superstitious soul, that things came in threes. You could say what you will, never fails, the curse of three. The first thing which happened nearly slipped by Mr. Gibbs, didn't quite realize it was the beginning of the curse. Seemed just another dangerous current of this nasty fight that threatened to have Will jump ship at the first port they happened in to. Not that they were sailing anywheres. Sailing in circles they were, with water and foodstuffs getting low.
The whole crew sat in the mess at their usual places; Jack at the head of the table, Will to his right. The wind had shifted. And not for the better. Hurricane brewing. They all knew it. Jack hadn't eaten a thing, nor had Will. The lad, slender as a sail at the best of times, was near transparent; the veins in his arms stood out in salute, like. The stew lay in cold congealed piles on both their plates as Jack's eyes darted back and forth between the uneaten food on Will's plate and Will. Mr. Gibbs could see Jack eyeing how sharp his collarbones had become, how Will's knuckles were nearly raw as his hand gripped his mug. The lean, too lean, cut of the boy's jaw. Will looked at no one and nothing. Just stared at some spot on the table. Then Jack's left eye began to twitch. Shite. Mr. Gibbs mumbled a silent prayer to the Pearl. Don't let him do anything stupid.
"Your food doesn't seem to pass muster with our Mr. Turner, Cook. Never knew the lad to be so fussy before. Liked your cooking before. Mebbe you added too much salt, eh? Or mebbe you overcooked the turnips."
Christ on a raft, trust Jack to play dirty. Bloody pirate. Will'd never standby silent with cook taking verbal blows meant for him. Sure enough, Will slammed down his tankard.
"The stew was fine. It's the company I find repugnant." Will glared at Jack. The twitch got worse.
Mr. Gibbs knew how much Jack loved his crew and would do anything for them. And he also knew that Will loved how Jack would do anything for his crew. If they could remember this... "Now, now, Jack, Will," he admonished as he uncurled himself from the bench and stood between the two of them. Throwing an arm around each one, he begged, "Patch this up. The crew don't like it. This fighting. S'gone on long enough. Bad luck."
Mr. Gibbs thought it'd worked. The twitch stopped. Jack's dark eyes took in each and every pirate. All pirates gazed back at him as if sayin', Aye, Captain, it needs to be over and done.
Jack's face relaxed bit by bit as he took in the crew, then he got to Will. Who looked like he'd been in the brig for two weeks with only bread and water for rations. Sometimes Jack can't help himself, god love him.
Jack cocked his head and while ostensibly addressing the crew, really spoke to Will Turner and Will Turner only, that was clear. "Mr. Turner and I are having a difference of opinion, like. Am making a simple request and he doesn't seem to want to acquiesce to my request. Perhaps he'll acquiesce to this one. Mr. Turner, eat your dinner."
Mebbe if he'd said please, but Mr. Gibbs doubted it.
Knew from how Will narrowed his eyes Jack'd gone too far.
Will stood up and slid out from behind the table. Jack in a fit often looks like he's having a temper tantrum (which he often is), but Will always looks dignified when angry. Something about the set of his shoulders. But the quiet ones, when they blow...
"Acquiesce! Fuck you, you bastard," Will hissed at Jack. Jack stiffened, his jaw had that slight tilt he only wore when he was about to rip someone's liver out with his sword. "You make it sound like you want me to hoist a sail. How dare you bring something like this...something just between you and me... Hear me, Jack. It's an abomination and I won't do it!" he shouted. Then he threw the tankard of ale in Jack's face, slid out from the bench, and marched out of the room.
Mr. Gibbs sighed. Right. That tore it.
Jack sat not moving, not saying a word, the twitch getting worse and worse. Little droplets of ale pooled on the ends of his hair and beard braids. The crew just waited. Will had crossed a line by humiliating Jack like that. In front of the crew. And Jack couldn't let it stand. Not as Captain.
After a couple of minutes, Jack held out his hand. "Mr. Gibbs, your napkin if you please. Seem to have lost mine."
Mr. Gibbs leaned over the table to reach for his napkin, turned it to the find the cleanest side, turned it over again, blast, and then handed it to Jack. Jack slowly and meticulously wiped away the ale from his face, beard, and hair, patted his front to mop up the rest as best he could, and then turned to Mr. Gibbs.
"Mr. Gibbs, time to have a little parley with Mr. Turner."
Mr. Gibbs didn't even have a chance to nod before Jack had scrambled up the ladder that led to the deck.
The second part of the curse followed on the heels of the first. Damn it to hell.
Christ, the second one was so much worse.
Mr. Gibbs could hear the thump, thump, thump of feet behind him as the crew followed him up the ladder to the deck. Jack stood at the base of the mainmast crow's nest, where Will escaped to when upset or angry. Based on that scene down in the mess, Mr. Gibbs thought Will was fair ate up with both.
This at least had some semblance of being normal-like. With the small dust-ups, Will'd scramble up the rigging to escape Jack, Jack would give him an hour, then follow up to coo nonsense and jokes and sailor shanties and silly promises into Will's ear. Within two hours there'd be laughing and joking and then the both of them would race down the rigging, Jack moving so fast his hands barely touched the ropes as they made their way to their cabin. Shortly thereafter, the caterwauling'd start as they fucked the stuffing out of each other.
Mr. Gibbs had a sneaking suspicion that Jack actually enraged Will on purpose, because the noises coming from their cabin once they'd kissed and made up were not to be believed.
Take that time when they were berthed in Nassau. Jack began concocting elaborate plans with the cats on how to finally enact the parrot's demise. Mr. Gibbs had a good chortle over that one. Jack stroking the sleek backs of those coal-black cats of his, them winking and swishing their tails at His Nibs as Jack would whisper nonsense like, "Now, you have to make sure Cotton's below deck, savvy? Then one of you comes at that sorry excuse for a bird from the front, and the other from behind..."
Will caught the tail end of these nefarious plans and didn't think it was one bit funny. He told Jack in no uncertain terms that if he and his bloody cats didn't keep their paws away from that parrot, (did this to avoid two phrases beginning with 'or') there would be cat stew on the menu or his name wasn't William James Turner. Will was halfway up the rigging before Mr. Gibbs yelled at him that it was only in jest, Jack was teasing the lad. "Jest, my arse!" Will snorted. "The man can talk to dolphins. Cats should be child's play to him. He's half cat as it is!" and then continued to scuttle up the ropes. Mr. Gibbs had to admit Will had a point.
But Jack let Will have his pout and then swayed across the deck, his hips rolling with the waves. Then up the rigging he went and not an hour later Mr. Gibbs was hard pressed to know who made it to the deck first, Jack or Will.
A penitent Jack was always a randy Jack. A mollified Will was always a lusty Will. The crew tried to ignore the grunts and moans and if it got too loud, stuck cotton in their ears and went about the business of sailing the ship. The pair of them'd emerge for dinner, Will's curls twisted a hundred different ways to Sunday, a permanent blush on his cheeks; Jack not blushing in the least but grinning like the cat with a pawful of cream. At dinner, Will would sit on Jack's right as usual, his hand on the table casual like, but he'd move his hand close enough to Jack's so that he could rest his pinky on Jack's, like Jack was his compass. Funny that, William Turner so shy about Jack that even touching Jack's hand was considered a bold move, and yet not two hours earlier the crew had winced and pushed at the cotton a mite firmer to drown out Will's moaning at the top of his lungs, "Fuck me, Jack. Oh, just like that. Just like that."
But t'were different this time. Jack wasn't scrambling up the rigging, he stood stiff and proud. No coy smiles, no sea shanties.
"Mr. Turner. Come down this instant. You and I need to parley about yer disrespect and lack of manners. I'll not be asking you again. Now, Mister."
The tone in Jack's voice caused all of the crew to flinch. Was like what the eye of a hurricane might sound like. Calm, but one knew all hell was going to break loose any minute.
"Fuck off," was the reply.
Oh Jaysus, thought Mr. Gibbs. Will probably couldn't see it from where he was, but Jack wasn't Jack, he was Captain Sparrow. His hat was on straight, his left hand alight on his sword, his boots firmly planted on the deck. Will clearly didn't realize that this had spilled out of their cabin and onto the decks of the Pearl. It wasn't a matter of them fightin' no more. 'Twas Jack being made to look like a fool in front of his crew. Twice.
"William," Jack said it once, but no one knew what else he was going to say because no sooner did the "m" leave his lips than a blade come hurtling through the air, landing with a sharp thwack in the finger's-width space between Jack's feet, hilt perfectly straight up. If it'd been half an inch to the left or right, t'would have speared Jack's foot.
Later, the none of the crew were sure whether the wail that split the air was from Jack or the Pearl herself. So fierce that it rattled the sails, tore at the ropes, strained the lapboards of the Pearl's sides like a wave. The scream nightmares are made of.
And Will knew. He knew that whether it was Jack or the Pearl that he'd done something terrible. Something wrong. The sort of wrong that may be impossible to forgive. He made his way slowly down the rigging. Mr. Gibbs watched as Will's hands followed one over the other with none of his usual confidence or speed.
All eyes watched him except Jack. Jack only stared at the knife between his boots, wedged in the deck of the Pearl. He didn't glance up when Will stood in front of him, trembling like a leaf the boy was, his hands clutched into fists.
"Jack, I'm sor.."
Jack didn't even let him finish.
"Take him to the brig, Mr. Gibbs. A week with bread and water for rations. Closest port is Singapore. Set course."
Jack didn't look at Will when he spoke, didn't look at the crew, didn't move a bloody muscle, just kept his eyes on that fucking knife. His eyes held that same fear, same dread when a blade pierces a man's skin and he can't yet feel the pain but he knows that it might be fatal, knows it went in deep. And all one wonders in those few seconds before the god-almighty pain begins is how deep? How deep?