Disclaimer: not mine!

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Twice-cursed

William Turner has long ago lost track of how long he has been on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. It may have been weeks, or months; it has probably been years. He has grown tired of watching fish swim by him, swim up to him. The casual swatting motion that scares them away has become an automatic reflex. The ropes that bound his hands have long since rotted away, but the leather straps attaching his boots to the cannon have proved tougher and more resistant to the salt water. He has tried to undo them, but his efforts made no apparent difference to the bonds.

His mind has become an endless whirl of memories and dreams and hopes. He has played out the mutiny in his head a million times - rewriting it, getting himself marooned alongside Jack, getting himself killed in resisting Barbossa, keeping the coin and somehow finding a way to end the curse. But in the end he returns always to the harsh reality of what did happen, what he did do, and what he did not do. He wonders if Jack, before he died of starvation or before he put the pistol to his head, had found it in his wild heart to forgive his friend.

So it is that the first time the ship sails past him, there on the seabed, he scarcely recognises it for what it is, or realises the significance of a ship under the surface. But when she has turned, and is coming back to sail past him again, Turner comes to his senses, and begins to wave at her.

Slowly she comes to a halt, and Turner watches as two men - no, beings would be a better word - spring over her side and come toward him. They draw knives and slice through the straps, and then seize his arms and tow him back towards their ship. She is a large, powerful vessel, heavily-armed, but her rigging and sails are strewn with weed.

His captors, one with crab claws where there ought to be hands and one with an oversized cowrie shell sheltering his face, tug him into the Great Cabin. And there, seated at an incongruous organ, is the ship's captain.

William Turner stands as tall as he can as the captain turns and stomps across to him, and tries not to show the revulsion he feels at that writhing mass of tentacles that act as a beard. The captain examines him, first out of one eye and then the other, before signalling to his crew with a curt nod of the head.

And the ship rises. Turner flings out a hand and holds on to the nearby bulkhead as she sharply points her bows towards the surface. The light in the cabin changes, from dull blue to bright, and he blinks.

"Bring him on deck," says the captain.

Outside Turner finds he can barely see. His eyes have grown used to the bottom of the sea; the tropical sunshine is too bright, too glaring. He wishes he could feel the warmth of the sun on his waterlogged skin.

"Well now," the captain says, and Turner's attention is abruptly torn back to the here and the now and the what. "How did ye come to be sitting on the bottom of the sea?"

Turner opens his mouth to speak, and coughs. No words come out, but water does - pints of it, until he is retching the salt taste. He straightens, and meets the captain's eyes.

"There was a mutiny," he says, his voice sounding hoarse and strange.

"And were you the captain of this ship, to be thrown from her?" asks the captain.

"No." Turner shakes his head. "No, I took my part in the mutiny. The captain … he was marooned." He thinks, briefly, of Jack and pushes the thought to the back of his mind. "My punishment came later."

"Why were you punished?"

"I would not join in their violence," Turner says.

"Strange, for a mutineer," the captain observes. "But how came ye to be alive, and underwater; and for how long were ye there?"

Turner shrugs. "Don't know how long I was there. As for the how: there was a curse, on treasure we took. I am not living, sir, but neither am I dead."

"I know something of this," says the captain. "Ye have not named your ship, nor yourself."

"William Turner," he replies. "Known as Bootstrap Bill."

"And the ship?"

Turner finds himself smiling a half-smile. "The Black Pearl, sir."

The captain throws back his head and laughs, though Turner cannot fathom why.

"So your captain, he that was marooned - that would be Jack Sparrow, aye?"

"Aye, sir." Turner feels again that twinge of sorrow and guilt. "He was marooned on an island, with no hope of survival."

"Oh, he survived," says the captain. "Survives yet, I hear, and I am told is seeking his precious Pearl yet. 'T'will take more than a marooning to kill Jack Sparrow, Mr Turner."

Turner can scarce believe his ears, though he knows that such survival is typical of Jack. "And the Pearl?" he asks.

"She troubles me not," the captain says. "She preys upon the living; I upon the dead. Your tale explains why she is so feared. As for Captain Jack Sparrow, he owes me a debt, and his end will not come until the debt is paid." The captain's blue eyes fixed on Turner. "You also owe me a debt, Mr Turner, for I have pulled you from the depths. If ye will, sail with me. Join the crew of the Flying Dutchman. I cannot offer you life, nor an end to your curse, but instead one hundred years before the mast, and such adventure as we have."

"And if I choose not to join you, cap'n?" asks Turner.

"There be the depths," says the captain, indicating the vast expanse of ocean with one tentacled arm. "Ye can always go back."

Turner looks at the blue of the sea, and then up at the weed-encrusted rigging.

"If the curse comes to an end?" he queries.

"Ye'll still be tied to the Dutchman," her captain says.

He considers the offer. In truth, he has little choice. And if Jack Sparrow is alive, and shares a debt, then their paths may cross again in the future.

Turner makes his decision.

"Aye, cap'n, I'll join you," he says.

"Then, Mr Turner, I welcome ye aboard the Flying Dutchman," says Davy Jones.