Dear god in heaven, it was worse when Jack stopped screaming. I stood shivering in the brig, clenching the bars, aching to run up to the deck, and yet held fast by Mr. Gibbs' warning. Jack stumbled down the stairs, his mouth open but not a sound could I hear, his eyes wide with grief. He scrambled into my cell, falling into my arms. I crushed him to me and he stilled. He lay in my arms as if dead. I shoved a hand under his shirt and sighed with relief to feel a faint heartbeat. "Shush, shush," I murmured over and over again, even though he was as silent as Mr. Cotton.
I could hear the faint sound of Mr. Gibbs barking orders at Anamarie to gather up the crew. "All on deck," he was bellowing. I wondered, "What for?" and found I didn't much care. Then so slowly, as if every movement pained him, Jack eased himself out of my arms. "Jack?" I queried. He didn't respond, but brought a single finger to my lips to stall more questions.
I turned at the rapid thump of feet racing down the stairs to the brig, Mr. Gibbs as nimble as if he were twenty. By the time he'd reached the door to the brig, Jack had already removed his hat, brushing off imaginary or not so imaginary dust. "Jack, the ship…" Gibbs panted in desperation, but Jack ignored him and began removing his coat.
"Jack, for the love of god, please stop. Stop," I begged over the clenched fist in my mouth, not understanding what was happening, but knowing that whatever it was, it was horrible .
Jack didn't acknowledge either me or Mr. Gibbs. He'd already removed his knives and was now methodically removed his pistol from his belt, giving it a small caress before putting it on the ground next to his coat, the belt itself, and finally his hat. Mr. Gibbs looked at Jack, then me; dear holy mother of god, Jack was removing all his accoutrements of his captaincy. Stripping himself of his rank.
"William," Mr. Gibbs hissed and jerked his head in Jack's direction. Bringing his brows together in a fierce frown he gestured to me—something—I had no idea what he was trying to say.
"Jack Sparrow, you and Mr. Turner are wanted on deck. She wants to have a word with the two of ye."
"Mr. Gibbs, it is Captain Sparrow," I said in my frostiest, King's English. I'd have given the Commodore a run for his money in that instance.
With a menacing glare and a forefinger mimicking a cut throat, Mr. Gibbs silenced me. "There are protocols, Mr. Turner. Which sometimes are a fucking bitch, but tis one of those times. Now. When Mr. Sparrow is ready, we'll join the rest of the crew up on deck."
Most people, not his crew, mind you, but others, thought Jack a buffoon; a jester, his insistence on being called "captain" a joke. But nothing was ever more a lie. They never saw Jack at the helm, that fine mind finagling, plotting, and scheming on the best ways to get the swag, with no harm done. To anyone. How he'd sail five hundred miles without a thought to get a man home because a letter had reached port that a mother was ill. How he knew how to best angle the ship so her sails kissed every bit of wind, every little wisp. How to… oh christ.
I'd witnessed devastating events since I'd come to the Caribbean. Acts against all that was holy. My nightmares were a testament to that. But this, oh, at this my heart broke. To see him divested of all he held dear. The evidence of his sacrifice and blood he'd shed. For her. For ten years never giving up hope, all for the honor of being called "Captain Sparrow of the Black Pearl ."
Clad only in his boots, his shirt, and pantaloons, he looked very young; he stared at his effects, lying in a pile at his feet.
"Mr. Sparrow…" Mr. Gibbs coughed.
At that, Jack shoulders caved in slightly at the weight of that "mister."
I picked up Jack's things. "Captain Sparrow, after you."
Jack shook his head a little, the baubles making the tiniest jingle, and then he began to shuffle across the room to the stairs, broken and beaten.
"No," I shouted, and with three long steps I was across the room. I grabbed his arm with my free hand to stop him. "I will not let you do this. You are captain of the Black Pearl , and I for one have no intention of forgetting it. You spent ten years searching for her. You braved Barbossa, a more evil bastard never born, and that cursed crew of his; Commodore Norrington, knowing that if you were caught you'd be hung, yet another dead pirate for the Royal Navy to crow over. I will not let you do this," I repeated.
I dressed him. He did not fight me, but stood there, shielding his face from me. He let me tuck away the five knives in their hidden plackets; let me lift his arms to wrap his red silk scarf around his waist and pull it taut. I cinched his belt and secured his pistol in it. Then finally. Finally, I placed his hat on his head at a jaunty angle. I shot Mr. Gibbs a menacing glare and stepped back.
"If you stop Captain Sparrow, I shall slit your throat." I meant every word.
At that Jack drew himself up and flashed Mr. Gibbs a smile; a pale imitation of his saucy smile to be sure, but it was a smile nonetheless.
"My lad's become a pirate at last, Mr. Gibbs. What say you to that?"
Mr. Gibbs is slightly too fond of the drink for my liking, but he's loyal to Jack and that mitigates a number of sins in my book. I knew my position on the ship the first few weeks was a trial. What in god's teeth was he to do with a lad who'd barely put his toe in the water, never mind sailing a ship? But I worked hard to prove my worth, and he and I became friends of a sort. His first loyalty was always to Jack, but I didn't mind. He was my first loyalty, too.
"Aye, I say you're right," he agreed, giving me a calculated grin, but then sobered up. "But we've business above. You and your 'pirate' have some explainin' to do."
Jack had gained a measure of himself by the time we'd reached the deck. Only someone who knew him well would have known he was only at half-mast. Of course, the entire crew knew him well. He wasn't fooling anyone, but then he wasn't trying to.
We all stood there not saying a word. I knew not would come next. Neither did anyone else. We all watched Jack move his bare feet along the cold deck. Trail a hand along the wheel. Rub his cheek against a dead sail. Every fruitless act an attempt to talk to her, to reach her. As the silence continued, the unrelenting cold of the deck sending a shiver up my spine, his face tightened, tightened, tightened, until I thought he'd just implode. I had to do something,
"Mr. Gibbs," I said, trying to keep the lurking hysteria out of my voice. "If you please."
God knows what I meant. I didn't know what Mr. Gibbs was going to do, but he needed to do something .
"Aye, Mr. Turner. Captain Sparrow," called Mr. Gibbs in a loud voice. That stopped Jack from running his hand against the main mast; he looked up. I motioned to Jack to stand beside me. He gave the mast a slow lingering touch and then stood next to me. I moved my hand so that our fingers lay against each other.
"Mr. Gibbs," Jack said in a subdued voice. I'd never seen Jack subdued. Not even when they put the noose around his neck. I hated it. All the starch he'd gained when I'd reinvested him with his rank had vanished in the wake of her silence.
"Now," Mr. Gibbs began and then coughed. Most likely to gain time, because I doubted he had a clue what was supposed to happen next. But then he thrust his chin up and began to speak.
"She's mutinied, Captain. She's mutinied, and I think all of us knowed why."
I moved forward toward him; I had this wild notion of clapping a hand over his mouth, to stop any further mention of that horrible word. Jack grabbed my hand and held me back.
"Stand, Mr. Turner," Mr. Gibbs warned. "Going to have my say. I speak for the crew. Wouldn't presume to speak for her, but the crew's behind me. Aye?" That met with a faint chorus of ayes. "What happens between you and Jack is your business. What happens between Captain Sparrow and William Turner is our business. Now you can fuck in that cabin day and night, and by god, you do seem to fuck in that cabin day and night."
"That's your right. But jesus, mary, and joseph to hell, you've brought it out here. You brought your fucking out here when you threw the knife. Jack should've keelhauled you for that, and when he didn't, he brought your fucking out here as well. Don't belong out here."
Mr. Gibbs mopped his head and licked his lips. A sure sign he needed a drink.
"Am I right?" he asked and turned to the crew. They all nodded. "Now, it's up to her and us to decide who's right and who's wrong. Because it's clear that you two fucking idiots can't."
Jack nor I said any a word.
"Well," demanded Mr. Gibbs. "Are we all going to stand here and die o' thirst and starvation—or drowned by the storm that's brewing out there, there's that. We can all smell it, can't we?—while you two decide who's going to tell us why in bleeding hell you're throwing knives at each other or drinking yerselves to death?
"Jack," I murmured against his ear. I can't say it, I can't. Don't make me, Jack. Don't make me say it.
"No, Will. Tis your hook, lad. Trust you."
He turned his head away from me, obviously refusing to say anything more. He knew; he knew that I was, and probably always will be, the man who blushes at a peck on the cheek in front of others, but who will hold his hands up in supplication and moan with anticipation as Jack wraps a silk scarf around my wrists and secures my arms to the bedstead. The man who stares daggers at Jack when he tells salacious jokes, but who won't even take the ten seconds to remove my pantaloons, but shoves them down to my knees and then thrusts my arse in the air, begging loudly for Jack's cock to take me. It took me forever to understand that this dichotomy delighted Jack. The prudish blacksmith for everyone else, the absolute wanton for him. But this wanton lived only behind our cabin door.
We'd brought it out on deck with our fight.
He knew how hard it would be for me to say this. To display to the world the man in the cabin. He loved me enough to believe I'd do right, no matter how great the fight against my prudish self.
With his calloused thumb, he rubbed a circle into my equally calloused palm.
I didn't address this to the crew. I couldn't. I addressed it to her. To the Black Pearl . I faced the mast and the slack sails. The wind had picked up, and I could smell the storm. If we didn't placate her, stop the mutiny, we would be at her mercy. I cleared my throat to speak above the roar of the wind.
"First, I need to apologize to Captain Sparrow for my unconscionable behavior." I said this to her, but then I turned to him. "I have no excuses other than... I… I was frightened. I don't understand why you're asking this of me, but that shouldn't have… I shouldn't have. I will not be insubordinate again, and I ask for your mercy. Captain Sparrow."
Jack roused himself out of his malaise. Brought his shoulders up. "Mr. Turner. Your apology is accepted. You will sand the ship's deck from stem to stern. And then you will varnish it. By yourself."
This would take me... I wouldn't put a hand to my anvil for months. Jack knew how much that would pain me. I rubbed my most recent burn. I nodded in agreement and hoped it would be enough. That she would accept that. But the deck remained cold. She was not mollified. Nor fooled.
My stomach clenched in anticipation of what I had to say next. I turned again, away from Jack and the crew, and spoke to the deck.
"Jack was my first… l-l-l-lover." I stumbled over the word, as if I were still a virgin. "He has asked that because I was innocent…," his hand squeezed mine, "…innocent before I came to his bed that I… that I… a woman. That I know of her."
I left it at that and hoped that the not-so-faint Biblical reference would suffice.
"I do not," at that I raised my head. "I do not," I said more forcefully, "think that is necessary. I only want you," I said to him. "Not some whore in a Singapore brothel. I've had enough…" I struggled to find a word that would not compromise Elizabeth, "experience with Miss Swan that my choice to lie with you was not without…"
Without what? I just stopped. There wasn't anything more I could say. I had no intention of lying with some whore because Jack thought I would, at some point, become curious and leave him. I admit I was curious, but that was where it stopped. I'd been curious about bedding a man. But that didn't mean I was sporting myself in whorehouses like Jack. I could have if I wanted to. I had chosen not to.
The wind whipped our hair, but the sails stayed slack.
"You kissed her. Mebbe felt a tit…"
"Jack," I warned.
"That was it."
"There are many men who want only women. There are some men who like only men. And Will, there are some men who like whatever and wherever they can put their cock. Fall into that category meself. Before I laid eyes on you, wasn't too particular."
Considering the number of whores he'd bedded, men and women, he wasn't going to get a disagreement from me on that score.
"Now, listen," he said, his voice hard. "I've seen forty-two summers and by god my cock knows what it wants. You need to know what yours want. I bedded you when you were a virgin, and you haven't had a chance to know what sort of man you are. It's time you knew. I think mebbe you might be one of those who only beds men, but I don't honestly know, and there's no way for me to know. Don't consider your fumblings with that Swan strumpet worth a tinker's damn. There's no way for you to know short of fucking a woman."
We'd had this argument a hundred times. It was verbatim what he'd already said to me, but this was different. Bloody scoundrel. He was trying to get her on his side. And the crew. They didn't look horrified, but were nodding with him in agreement. Was it my imagination or did the deck warm up one degree?
"But Elizabeth…" I protested.
"Fucking christ on a raft, Will. You were a twenty-year-old virgin. Imagine you were so desperate that I bet you even considered humping that damn donkey."
"I never considered the donkey!" I protested.
This was more like us, the back and forth, and was completely underhanded. Bloody pirate. The crew were snickering. He had them in the palm of his hand. Oh, had them right there.
But she wasn't fooled by Jack either. The deck was still cold.
"Will, I can see you leaving me because I'm a scoundrel, a thief, a liar, a scallywag of the highest order. I am all those things. S'truth. I would even understand if you left me because I was a pirate. No, you listen," he ordered at my protest. "I won't have you leave me because you don't know what a women's cunt around your cock feels like. You need to know which way you sail. Your true north. Tis time to choose me, William. I need to know."
He was shouting by the end of this. Then he stopped. We were left with the rustle of the wind as it tore through the silent rigging.
"Shiver me timbers," croaked Mr. Cotton's parrot. It opened its beak to say something else, but Jack glared it and its beak snapped shut.
Dear god, he could now talk to the parrot!
"I… I… You're my true north."
"Mebbe. Hope so, because you're mine, by god. Will, I need to know," he repeated.
"Ten minutes…" I mumbled and without waiting for a response, I made my way over to the mast and climbed up the rigging to the crow's nest. It was well known as my sanctuary. When I first joined the crew, I spent all my free time there, endeavoring to sort out my confusion over abandoning Elizabeth. I burned with guilt at leaving her, and yet knew I couldn't stay in Port Royal. Because she'd cajole and tease and get me to agree to some impossible situation where I was essentially kept, like her lap dog.
There was no greater truth when I told Jack I wanted to be in a place where it didn't matter where you were born or what your parents had done before you. My lot in life was determined for me before my first breath. The local sot of a blacksmith needed an apprentice and that was where I was put when we landed in Port Royal, the stench of burning wood still clinging to our clothes.
Perhaps I would have been happy with my lot had Elizabeth, so determined and, of course, by her birthright, in the position to damn well do as she pleased, not insisted I be educated. Which put me in neither world. I was too educated for my station, I was too low born to be of Elizabeth's. The lads of the village thought me arrogant because of the way I pronounced my a's; the privileged boys scorned me for the soot blackening my nails.
You would think the governor's acceptance of my suit for Elizabeth would have freed me. It didn't. I did love her, but the few events I attended, with her on my arm, left me no doubt that I'd be Mr. Swan our entire lives.
That ship couldn't reach Tortuga fast enough.
That was the first epiphany. I never looked back. As much as it hurt Elizabeth, I knew this was the right course.
The second epiphany was the mystery of the twins. If it weren't for them, I wonder if Jack and I would have… They were the same age, a white man, the son of a slave owner, the other, his former slave. It was several weeks before I had the courage to ask Jack why they were called the twins, when they were obviously not brothers. It was late; we'd just finished dinner. Jack was bent over a chart, doing four things at once: plotting a course, petting one of the cats—which black cat I'll never know since he named both of them Black—reading a book, and talking to me.
"Why are they called the twins?"
"Light that other candle, will ye? And hand me that sextant. Joined at the hip, aren't they?"
This was true. You never saw one without the other.
"The scars on their backs?" Jack has a cross-hatch of similar scars, courtesy of the East India Company, but his back paled in comparison to the viscous scarring of theirs. Jack put the sextant down.
"Know they're lovers?"
I blushed and reminded him, "I've been on middle watch for two weeks." I left it at that.
Jack's "Oh. Aye," confirmed that he knew that I'd seen and heard.
My personal exile left me with no peers, and my innocence on matters carnal was extreme. The first night I couldn't believe my eyes nor eyes. Two men! Engaged in what was sin upon sin. I had only Mr. Brown's slurred, vague murmurings about acts carnal to go by, but there was no mistaking what was happening below me. I was painfully naïve, but I wasn't stupid. Nor a eunuch, contrary to Jack's not so sly innuendos.
The first night I saw them they'd come on deck when the rest of the crew was asleep. The moonlight trapped them in their initially languid coupling, white hands encircling a nearly invisible dark waist, black hands cupping the cheeks of a white face. Quickly, I realized this was sin. I would not look. I'd never seen sin, but I knew it thus. I stared out at the water, doing my duty. But I couldn't cover my ears. I was trapped in the crow's nest, forced to listen to this sin, while pulpit references to Sodom and Gomorrah were still fresh in my ears. I was too embarrassed and horrified to say anything to Jack or to them.
I blushed non-stop for days. They didn't come out every night, but nearly. They chose the most quiet, discrete spot on deck to sate their lust, but in the crow's nest, there was no hidden corner anywhere. I could see and hear all. At first, I was disgusted. I couldn't imagine myself making those noises with Elizabeth. They were animals. This disgust didn't stop me from palming myself through my pantaloons, unable to stop, but unable to touch myself properly for my shame. Eventually I heard words. They'd croon to each other in nothing more than a whisper, but the wind and the clear night lifted up their voices. They spoke in French, calling each other's name; they made declarations of love. And then the French would stop and the panting and grunting would start. Then I'd hear the sound of sweat-slick bodies moving against each other, and their final moans of completion. Which was followed by the most muted repetition of those Je t'aimes.
Finally, I could not ignore the beauty of those words. I began to watch them. To try to understand how something so sinful could elicit the most profound of declarations. Mon Garçon would move in time to the waves, poised over the back of Garçon. No one watching them, so careful, so loving, would call this a sin. At least I could no longer call it a sin.
"Garcon's father owns a big plantation outside New Orleans. Mon Garçon was a present to him on Garcon's fifth birthday. Imagine receiving a little boy as a present. Like it twas something to give. Anyways, the boys grew up together, and when they reached a certain age, they started buggering each other. Found them in the filthiest New Orleans brothel I've ever set foot in just before we landed in Tortuga and found you. Selling their bodies to eat."
Jack collected the crew no one wanted. Look at me.
"But the scars?"
"Oh, yeah. Them scars." Jack frowned, the quill having stopped its scritch-scratch across the map. "Had them whipped for their sins. Garçon's father found them buggering each other. Didn't mind the idea of Garçon buggering Mon Garçon; seems like they don't mind young men raping males slaves, but that Garçon liked his arse filled by Mon Garçon's cock wasn't the same. He'd turned both of them out."
I looked out the porthole to the endless sea, trying to imagine such a father. Then I tried to imagine not giving someone a real name, to call someone "My Boy," a testament to ownership. And then I tried to imagine loving someone enough to deny your first name and call yourself Boy, in deference to your lover.
"Will, does it bother you that they fuck?"
I shook my head no. Jack held up the candle to make sure he could well see my face.
Whatever he saw, made him smile. A very avaricious smile. I narrowed my eyes. I'd been on the ship long enough to know that this was the sort of smile he gets when he spies swag.
"What are you up to, you scoundrel?"
He quickly wiped the smile off of his face and feigned innocence. "Jest seeing which way the wind might blow."
I had come full circle. I was back in the crow's nest, the ghost of Elizabeth Swan hovering over my shoulder. I had desired her once, or so I thought, but it was such a pale want compared to the hot, nearly frantic need I felt for Jack. Having said that, I could not refute Jack's contention that I knew not how I felt about women in general. I couldn't conceive of another lover more exciting and wonderful than Jack. Anything more stimulating and I would have to be incarcerated in Bedlam because surely I'd go mad. I honestly didn't know whether I desired him so thoroughly because he was Jack or because he was Jack and a male. I didn't care, truth be told. And frankly, there was something rather androgynous about Jack. Not female, but definitely feline. It was a toss up whether those black cats or Jack was more elegant. I often thought the three of them were in a contest of sorts, to see who could cross the deck with more grace.
I was sure I wanted Jack and Jack only. But I'd never touched a woman, other than the most cursory of affectionate kisses and caresses of Elizabeth. Which through a corset is a fairly futile exercise. Our courtship was relatively chaste. A gentlemen of any stripe does not press his advantage before their wedding. A fact that caused endless arguments between us. Again, Elizabeth wanting to do as she damned well pleased because she'd rarely been told no , while her blacksmith fiancé would have been held as an utter blackguard for taking liberties.
The crew stood on deck waiting for my decision. I relived all our arguments of the past three weeks. I still couldn't fathom why this was so important to Jack, but that it was I couldn't deny. He braved the Pearl's wrath for me. Neither could I deny that tortured, "I need to know." I don't remember him saying it in our previous arguments. Perhaps he did and I didn't hear it. I've a tendency to dig my heels over things. Jack has uttered enough oaths on the "stubbornness of all that is Turner." This is well-matched by the tenacity of all that is Sparrow.
For Jack, I would do this. I lay my head against the wood of the crow's nest and whispered, "All right." The rigging near my head rattled just the slightest and then was silent, as if to say, 'You've said it to me. You need to say it to him."
I shimmied down the rigging and landed at Jack's feet. "Yes, I'll do it." I said to him.
The sails began to flap, the rigging banged against mast, and the deck warmed our feet.
"Set course for Singapore, Mr. Gibbs. There's a she devil of a storm on our arses. We need to beat her!" roared Jack.
The crew raced around us, hauling on ropes, letting out a cheer when the sails filled and the Pearl jerked forward into the wind.
Jack didn't look pleased at his gained point. There was none of his usual smirking when he thought he'd won. He brought a shaking hand up to my cheek. "Help me steer her, Mr. Turner."
We walked over to the wheel. I stood behind him as he grasped it. Once he'd fitted her into the wind, I snaked up behind him and put my hands over his. He leaned back into me, thoroughly exhausted.
We'd stood at the wheel for over six hours, guiding the ship toward the east, leaving the storm far behind in our wake. After Anamaria came to relieve us, we staggered back to the cabin exhausted. We shoved I know not into our mouths to ease our hunger, and then fell into bed, not even bothering to lose our boots.
I thought surely that we'd touch and fill each other when we woke up. I loved being fucked by Jack in the glow of the early morning light; our cocks hard and frisky from our dreams. But Jack's side of the bed was empty when I woke, my cock weeping for nothing. He bade me a hearty good morning when I entered the mess, poured my tea, and didn't let me out of his sight the entire day, but at night when I returned to the cabin, I saw my old hammock hanging from its hooks, with Jack in it feigning sleep. It was like that for three nights.
The Pearl flew through the water as if possessed. We made Singapore in less than three days, well ahead of the storm. We docked just before dusk. Jack gave everyone shore leave for the night. He and I would guard the ship. Tomorrow we would go to a brothel of Jack's choice, I cared not where.
We had not touched each other carnally for over three weeks.
"We will go to Madame Chang's. Cleanest girls in the Orient."
We'd been sitting on deck on watch, waiting for the crew to come back. Jack had polished off one bottle of rum and working on his second. I nursed a cup of ale. He would be slurring any second now. I consider myself something of an unfortunate expert on Jack and drink. Fifteen minutes after the first bottle is finished, the slurring commences.
"Need to talk wish her. By meshelf. To apoligizsh."
I nodded. I didn't think he could see me because he was fairly close to being blind drunk. I helped him to his feet and planted him next to the wheel. He entangled his arms in a haphazard fashion through the spokes of the wheel and whispered to her for hours, only taking a break to upend the bottle for another swig. I propped my back up against our cabin door and waited for him. I couldn't hear what he was whispering, but at some point late in the night, he began crying quietly. I was torn. Do I leave him to his demons, certain that I was the reason for these particular tears, or would I make it worst if I tried to comfort him? I waited until I heard the ballyhoos of the crew returning from shore leave. I absolutely could not let them see him like this.
I didn't wait for an answer or a protest. I untangled his arms, patted his adorned tresses in the manner in which I used to way back when, and hoisted him over my arm. He had stopped crying by the time we reached the cabin. I folded him into bed. Despite his near insensate state, he refused to let go of my shirt; his hands clutched me tight enough to tear the fabric. I fell in after him, brushing the hair away from his face. He wove a finger through my curls and mouthed my name against my collarbone, as he did every night.
"Afraid, Will. So afraid," he mumbled before falling asleep. I did not sleep that night, but listened to his breathing and wondering what in the hell he was so afraid about.
I have had many dreadful experiences at Jack's behest, but the two hours I spent at Madame Chang's even rivaled the evening of Jack masquerading as the Marquis de Chenonceux (despite speaking French with a decidedly southern English accent), with me as his blushing bride (with no dissembling on my side because being trussed up like a woman was certainly a most humiliating experience). He'd heard there was going to be fantastic swag at the Governor's ball in Savannah one New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, his information was all too accurate. He managed to liberate jewels in one form or another from nearly every woman he danced with—Told you so, Mr. Doubting Thomas nee William Turner—while I was able to take only small satisfaction from my previous assertions that, yes, corsets are, too, bloody uncomfortable, and never expect me to don one ever again.
Over the seven oceans, Madame Chang's was Jack's favorite brothel bar none. I'd exacted a promise from him when we first lay together that he would cease his former licentious habits, and he was true to his word. We still visited his favorite brothels in every port because Jack said that he felt more at home in a brothel than he did anywhere else save the Pearl , a statement that raised my eyebrows, but as long as their liquor was sweet and he didn't waltz off with the whores to a waiting bed, I did not care. Jack would drink wherever he was. Brothels often had good musicians, and listening to music while sipping an ale was a pleasant way to spend an evening. The brothel owners were just as happy to see him, as Jack was just as generous with his coin.
A woman who never aged to my eye, Madame Chang's usual effusive smiles greeted us on our arrival. "Captain Sparrow. It has been a while. Welcome back to Singapore. Your favorite table near the pianist, a rum for you, and an ale for Mr. Turner?"
Jack shook her head and her eyes gleamed a little. "My favorite table near the pianist, a rum for me, and a young whore for my lad. A woman whore, like," he amended.
This was met with a bow and a sharp look in my direction. When would I stop blushing?
"The young mister wishes a woman?" This was said with another pointed look, but in the direction of my crotch and then in the direction of Jack's. I suspect nothing got by this woman. "I do not understand, Captain Sparrow. You wish to share?"
"No, no," Jack protested so vehemently that I knew the idea of watching me with anyone was anathema. I remembered his violent reaction to my charade in the brothel in London, when I pretended to be shopping for a whore. Jack, as generous as a man I ever met, did not share well.
Jack leaned over and whispered something in her ear. She said something in Chinese. He continued to whisper and a sly curve to her lips said she finally understood. "Very well, Captain Sparrow," She gave me an appraising once over. "I see," she said in a tone that said coin was coin, and Jack's coin was always good. She clapped her hands in some complicated rhythm and a host of women filed in.
They were all beautiful in that exaggerated way of women who worked in brothels, much paint topped with overwhelming perfume and low-cut gowns to display their ample bosoms. I looked at Jack in a panic. I couldn't… Not with any of them. I shook my head at him, ready to bolt the room.
Another series of complicated claps and the room cleared out except for three young women. They were just out of girlhood, really. A little younger than myself. They stood there demurely, their gowns buttoned up to just under their necks.
"Her," Jack ordered and jerked his head.
"More to Captain Sparrow's taste," Madame Chang murmured. She paused. "My Marie would be most suitable, Mr. Turner."
At that one of the three stepped forward. Not Asian, she was Spanish or French, her cheonongsam hugged her slender, almost boyish figure; she had little bosom or hips. She was tall, with large expressive brown eyes and a generous bottom lip. But for her long jet black hair, she could have been Elizabeth's sister. Oh, Jack, I might never forgive you.
I looked at Jack to plead with him. No. Anyone else. He paid me no attention, but stared at this young woman with such loathing, a hatred of another person I'd only seen on his face once before.
"I won't then," I protested, thinking that it wasn't the first time that the reality of a situation had clashed with Jack's fantasy. I wouldn't have to do this. My shoulders sagged in relief. We could go back to the ship, and I could touch him and kiss him all over, my tongue doing all manner of wicked and delightful things…
I was roused by the thud of a bag of coins landing at the feet of the young whore.
Madame Chang beckoned her, who picked up the bag and handed it to her mistress. Much whispering and nodding took place. With a "Oui," the girl came and stood before me.
At that Jack turned away headed for the bar, without so much as a backward glance in my direction.
"Monsieur, s'il vous plait?"
A small hand threaded through mine. Numb, I let her lead me through the curtains to the back rooms. Where the whores serviced their customers.
The room was lit by a single candle She led me to a low-lying bed, and with a graceful wave of one hand, she bade me sit. She blew out the candle, thank god. Nevertheless, I closed my eyes. I could still hear the rustle of her clothing at the soft rasp of buttons being opened, silk swishing against itself as she stepped out of her gown. I sat there rigid, mute. The bed creaked as she sat next to me.
"Monsieur?" She guided my hand to her breast, maneuvering it so that I cupped it in the palm of my hand. It was small; her breast tightened up from the chill of the room, the motion of my hand as she manipulated it across her nipple.
I had done this with Elizabeth in a secluded corner of her garden; had rubbed a shy thumb over the gentle mound of her breast. At that I had been excited and had kissed her with what I thought was passion. What did I know then of passion? That was then. I shook my head, no, this wasn't right. Jack's chest was flat, his nipples flat and broad. They liked to be licked and bitten…
She abruptly dropped my hand and with a deft hand, unbuckled my belt; she pushed warm hands under my linen shirt and began playing with my nipples. This was better. I could pretend these were Jack's hands. Jack has rather small hands for a man, and they certainly knew how to twist and tease my nipples; much like this young whore. They tightened under her ministrations.
"Bon," she whispered and continued to twist and pinch. She snaked her other hand into the folds of my pantaloons. My cock, which had begun to twitch, shrank back into itself, terrified at touch of a foreign hand.
"Ah, Monsieur," she clucked. "Show me. Votre capitaine. Me montrer. Comment."
With reluctance, I eased my hand into my pantaloons and fondled my soft cock. She placed a gentle hand over mine. "Me montrer, Monsieur," she repeated.
I moved my hand to show her.
"Le feindre est il," she whispered.
Pretend it's him. Yes. Right. Jack would start out slow, flicking a lazy thumb over the crown. A couple of easy strokes later, he'd ease his thumb under my foreskin and round and round he'd caress until I was moaning. Then scented oil would miraculously appear and then disappear and his slick hand would glide up and down. He'd ask, "Is that good, William? Do you like that?" I would answer back, "Oh yes, Jack. Oh yes." He would laugh a little and then ask, 'Faster?" "Yes," I'd pant. And the devil would slow down and ease up on the pressure so that I'd be straining against his oil-slick palm for any friction, anything for some relief. He'd keep me on the edge like this for so long, forever it seemed like, then he would…
She came closer to me; I smelled the heavy scent of her perfume and stiffened.
"Non, non, Monsieur. Le feindre est il," she reminded me.
He would then speed up just a little but not enough to do anything but bring my release closer, but not close enough. By now I would be begging and pleading. "For the love of god, Jack. Make me come, please, you pirate bastard…"
At that he would chuckle and press an oiled knuckle in the spot behind my balls. Fuck me, yes. It would bring me closer, but still not close enough. "Bastard," I'd cry and his hand would begin to move faster. "Yes, that's it," I'd weep, because I was nearly there, nearly there…
And then she did something unforgivable. So engrossed was I in imagining that this was Jack, I hadn't even realized that she'd let go of my hand. Without warning she straddled my lap and guided my cock into her. She bore down and squeezed. I came, pulsing into her on the memory of Jack's hand. It was hot and wet and entirely wrong. I have never felt so empty and defiled in my entire life.
She pulled off of me the minute my body stilled.
"Je suis désolé, Monsieur," she said as she dressed.
"Leave, please," I begged and turned my head away, never wanting to see her again.
I heard the scratch of a match hitting a flint. She had lit the candle. "Ici. Il y a l'eau pour se nettoyer." And with that she left the room.
A basin of water sat on a small dresser, with a small square of linen with which to wash. I scrubbed her scent off of me as best I could. I must have a bath. A scalding bath that would obliterate any trace of her.
I couldn't leave that room fast enough. I raced to the bar. Jack was pacing up and down the length of the room, his drink untouched.
Madame Chang stepped in front of me.
"You are satisfied, Mr. Turner."
"I believe I now know the answers to Captain Sparrow's question," I said somewhat cryptically. "Madame," I bowed to her in a farewell.
Jack stood there, clutching the handle of his pistol.
"Jack, please. The baths. Now," I begged, not wanting to say anything further.
We made our way to the baths in silence. He made to bump my shoulder, but I moved away. I couldn't bear to have him touch me with her scent all over me. Perhaps he understood, perhaps he thought I was angry with him. We said nothing to each other, but our pace was little short of a run as we made our way down the street to the bath house. He requested a private bath, his Mandarin much more up to the task than mine.
I will burn these clothes when we get back to the ship. I cannot bear to wear them again.
I stepped into the large tub and spread my legs wide.
"Wash me," I pleaded. "Scrub every bit of her off of me."
The stiff, unhappy cast to his face melted at that. Jack said not a word, but moved the washcloth over every inch of my body as gently as he would a child. For my genitals, he soaped his hands so that it was flesh to flesh, to both wash and replace the memory of her hands with his. When I finally felt clean enough, I held up my hand for him to stop and sank into the water. It was only then he spoke.
"Will? You with me lad?"
Thank christ that I had never married Elizabeth. It would have been a disastrous marriage. Me not understanding why her form never slaked my desire, her eventually hating me because her form never would never, ever please me. I think the first few years would have been good, but once the innocence and initial blush were gone, what would I have done?
I pulled him to me and cupped his chin so that we were looking at each other, so close that our breath warmed each other's faces.
"Yes, I am with you. I am one of those men who only wants men, Jack. More importantly, I am one of those men who only wants Jack. Never, ever ask me to do that again," I said firmly. "It was horrible."
"You did it, though?" he demanded.
I nodded and shivered at the memory. "But only by thinking of you. She… Look, I can't and won't talk about it. We now know. You know." I pulled him even closer. I licked from his shoulder blade to the curve of his neck, almost crying with relief that he tasted the same. That nothing had changed. "You were right and I was right. I now know that I would only bed men given half a chance, which is never bloody likely because I only want to bed you. I'm telling you now, Jack. You hint, even thin that I should bed another man so that I know what it's like to bed another man, and I swear I will throttle you with my bare hands." I pulled him even closer to bring our cocks together. "You're my true north. Always will be. Want to fuck you, Jack." I rolled our bodies together, our cocks sliding together. "I want you spread beneath me, my fingers in your arse, listening to you moan my name." I rolled us together again. "I want you to call out my name, tell me how much you love me, how you want my cock pounding deep in your beautiful arse…" He came with a hoarse cry. I kissed away the tears on his face.
"Jack, let's go back to the ship. Now."
A week later, we were on our way to Lisbon. I'd just come off middle watch and was debating whether or not to wake Jack up. The twins were up to their usual nocturnal activities, fucking each other senseless, and my cock was poking a hole in my pantaloons.
Blasted pirate. He was awake, lounging in bed, stark bollocks naked, a hand already fondling his cock.
"The twins?" he smirked, looking pointedly at my cock, full and hard beneath my pantaloons. I shed my clothes in record time.
"If I didn't know any better," I grabbed his arse and pulled him to me. Oh sweet jesus, I'd never get tired of feeling this arse in my hands, "I'd swear that you pay them to fuck in front of me."
"Have serious questions about you being a pirate, Will, when you, oh fuck, Will, do that again, when you say things like that."
"Oh why, pray tell?" I queried, as I traced a thumb over the underside of his cock.
"Will, love you, love you so much, don't stop. For christ's sake, don't stop…"
Much later, sated and not just a little sticky, I yawned into his shoulder. 'You've been bribing Mr. Gibbs to put me on middle watch from the very beginning, haven't you?"