Author's Note: As FanfictionDotNet does not accept NC17 content, this story has been heavily edited at parts, and rather obviously so (in fact, some chapters will be missing, or seem incredibly short). The full story is archived at sparringtonDotIgotfreeDotCom
Washed up, an' nowhere t'go
Freedom, Jack mused, was not only symbolized by his bonnie black ship, after all. It wasn't doing what he felt like at any given time, to Hell with the consequences. It was daring to do what felt, for lack of a given word, right… right to his soul… right for the moment. 'Course, being Captain Jack Sparrow, the word 'right' and 'freedom' were also synonymous with a certain degree of pirating (heavy on the pillaging, light on the raping), but that was beside the point.
He had bared teeth in a smile, when chained to the mast, unable to give voice to the strings of convoluted sentences for which he was known for. Unable to thank her. Fear had managed to cage him longer than the Navy ever had, since he'd realized that, for all intents and purposes, despite looking like a grotesque display of assorted seafood Davy Jones was a scrupulous bookkeeper of debts. By forcing him to do what felt right. Because Jack wasn't sure that, with the choice again to save his own skin, he wouldn't have taken it up.
"Pirate." That had been both gratitude and apology. To tell her he understood. But she had taken it as an accusation – it had broken something within her – the last straw, it seemed. Innocence.
Besides, if he'd run again, he would have royally pissed off his Pearl forever. His mad brain found that quite hard to bear, even if he were to die, and the black ship pulled back down to the depths. Now she hummed beneath his feet even as the Kraken curled mottled, massive tentacles over dark mahogany, careful now that there were no tiny hairless monkeys shooting at it. Repossessing property.
Jack bared his teeth again, and drew his sword. "'ello, beastie."
With its answering roar, the blast of foul air threatening to blow his newly returned tricorn off his head, the world seemed to freeze, the moment crystallized into perfection – the sea spray a scatter of diamond over his Pearl, the sword heavy in sweat-slicked hands. Curved teeth in perfect overlapping circles. A dark maw that Jack fancied led to Hell itself. There was no fear – bled of fear, he was left only with the clear, fierce sense of freedom.
Damn it all, mebbe I am a good man. The thought amused him as he stepped forward, arm outstretched for balance as he took a swing…
The Black Pearl shook abruptly under his feet and shifted, causing him to loose his footing and tumble over blood drenched wood, the Kraken letting out a hiss that could only sound slightly puzzled. Cursing at his lady for robbing him of what would have been a properly heroic way to go, he managed to scramble to his feet as the beast recovered from its surprise, bringing up his sword to meet the onrushing tentacle that reached for him.
Jack yelped as something solid connected with his shoulder, and he overbalanced off the deck. Wide, kohl-rimmed eyes saw the pulley swinging back toward the mast on its downward curve. There was no possible way it could have somehow been compelled by the wind or the beastie's breath in that angle, to knock him off the ship.
Then he smiled as he hit the ice-cold sea, bitterly. No natural way. T'aint right. A captain's s'posed to go down wi' his ship, an' here ye go savin' me. T'aint right, love.
"Well now, Sparrow. What has the world done to you?" Cultured voice. Clipped. Something missing. Bad headache. Dreadfully sober. Earful of sand. Jack's brain assailed him with a barrage of conflicting reports as he sat up and blinked.
His vision cleared to show the white beach of the island where the chest had been buried, damn that thing. Furrows in the otherwise pristine beach, and footprints, told him that he'd been dragged up from the shoreline and, apparently, left under the shade of a palm. His hand went to his belt – pistol gone. Sword too. Jack looked up wearily at his unwanted savior. "Captain Sparrow, I'd thank ye to remember. An' if yer thinkin' of killin' me, now's th'time, Norrington."
Norrington arched an eyebrow at him from where he stood, a wary distance away, Jack's pistol tucked in his belt. Drenched. Nut-brown hair clung to a fine-boned cheeks, pale skin browning to the sun. So he hadn't exactly been washed up on the beach, then. The dip hadn't improved the colour of Norrington's shirt, but the coat had been left to dry on some unsuspecting shrubbery. "If I'd wanted to kill you, Sparrow, I'd have left you floating in the sea."
"An' why didn't ye?" Jack leaned back against the curved trunk, and closed his eyes. His Pearl was gone again. Pulled into the sea. Frowning briefly, he blinked, and then looked at his palms. No spot. Somehow, he didn't feel the exhilaration that he should have.
Green eyes bored into him. "Should I have?"
Jack lurched to his feet, hands pinwheeling a little, and then he shrugged. "I don't know, mate. I've lost me ship again, p'haps fer good, I'm stuck on an island – again, and the company's beginnin' t'worsen – I'm sober, me hat's gone, I'm hungry…" he paused for breath, then pointed a finger accusingly at Norrington, "And… and… you stole the thump-thump."
Norrington blinked slowly, like a large cat, then wordlessly strolled to the shrubbery-coat dryer. He picked up something, and tossed it to Jack. The hat only seemed slightly battered, and at least the slime had washed off. Jack scowled as he replaced it on his head. "Ye could'a gotten us all killed. 'Lizabeth included."
It was Jack's turn to blink as Norrington's expression seemed to shut down. The other man picked up his coat, roughly pulled it on, then stalked off down the beach.
"Hey…! Hey!" Jack hastily started off after him. "She's alive. They were a fair bit away when th'Kraken came. Mebbe they're still on this island somewhere."
Norrington ignored him.
Jack darted in front of him, slightly out of breath. His shoulder and arm still hurt from the blow that had saved him, and his body ached dully all over. "… Hey."
"What, Sparrow." It wasn't a question. Green eyes met his for a moment, then darted away, looking out to sea.
"Why'd ye save me?"
The ex-Commodore let out an exasperated sound. "Shouldn't it be good enough for you that I did? I saw you floating out in the water, Sparrow. I didn't think."
Jack grinned. "Yer a good man, Norrington."
"No. Not anymore." Norrington couldn't meet his eyes. "You're right. I left all of you to die. I was thinking… I wasn't thinking. Since the hurricane – since I lost Gillette and Groves… and, and everybody else. Resigning, coming to Tortuga out of some madcap idea to look for you and make it all right again. By taking you back to Port Royal. Then I thought of taking the heart to Beckett and somehow getting my rank back. My old life." He took a deep breath. "But a good man wouldn't have done that. No more than he would have sailed through a hurricane when he could have given up chase and saved his men."
The smile faded a little, but refused to leave at the sight of broad shoulders shuddering under suppressed emotion, proud head bowed, hands fisted, drying tresses escaping from an increasingly tattered black ribbon, freed from all the prim trappings of a British Naval Officer. The wet shirt helped. Beautiful, Jack thought. If I wasn't so caught up wi' all that souls thing 'aving this man as part of me crew could have been very interesting. He re-evaluated his conclusion about the company having worsened.
Norrington seemed to pull himself together abruptly, green eyes that only just been clouded with grief and regret clearing back to ice. "And I suppose you just find this all very funny."
"Very dramatic, mebbe," Jack said, waggling a finger. "Very funny, no." He glanced out briefly at the calm stretch of sea. "Ye loved yer Dauntless, too, didn't ya."
"Yes." Norrington followed his eyes, and then sighed, some of the ice creeping out. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry, Sparrow. About the Pearl, that is. I may have loved the Dauntless but you… I guess you went down with your ship. It was selfless. Mr. Turner and Eliza… Miss Swan… they were right about you, after all."
Jack ignored that, deciding not to explain how he had been tricked, focusing instead on the mention of his beloved ship. "Both of us did, but don't look like we were meant to. 'Sides, I wanted to, but she didn't, savvy?"
"The Pearl, mate."
Norrington frowned. "Sparrow. For an imaginary friend, you have very odd…"
"Not imaginary, man!" Jack shook his hands, agitated, hoping the Pearl, down in the depths, didn't hear that. "She's every bit as real as you an' me. Sometimes a wee bit too real, if I do somethin' she don't fancy. Ye were on board fer so long, an' ye didn't notice anythin' different 'bout her?"
"All right." Jack pouted. Obviously, Norrington had decided to humor him for the sake of some peace. The damned man was smirking as he pushed past him and continued walking, towards the jungle.
The pirate captain followed behind, muttering all the while to himself about ex-Commodores who wouldn't leave well alone an' wouldn't know the truth even if it hit them in the face. The silence of the other man only got unnerving when they reached the trees. Continued shade, broken only briefly by shafts of sunlight, made the day somewhat more bearable. Birds screeched in the distance, and the sea air was tampered by the rich scent of the undergrowth.
Finally, Jack couldn't stand it anymore, and he burst out, "Where're we going?"
"It's too hot to be walking around the beach looking for the others," Norrington said reasonably, as if talking to a purposefully obtuse child. "We should search under the cover of shade. Besides, if they had indeed landed on this place, they are likely to have gone for shelter as well."
"It's a big island," Jack pointed out.
"If you'd rather walk along the beach and cook in the sun, you're welcome to," Norrington replied a little sharply. "Maybe it'd improve your grasp of reality."
"I didn't say it was a bad idea," Jack injected a bit of hurt into his voice.
It worked. Norrington sighed. "Sorry. That was undeserved."
"So, can I have me pistol back?"
The ex-Commodore paused in his long stride, half-turned to glance at him, then, to Jack's surprise, began to chuckle. It was a throaty, rich sound, and Jack found himself grinning again. Like chocolate an' honey, his mind supplied him with a suitably odd (and seductive) analogy. "Jack Sparrow, you are incorrigible."
"I try me best." Jack waggled his eyebrows. "Now, I'm starvin' here. Does yer plan t'find me crew without us dyin' of exposure include getting us a meal?"
"I'm sure you're better equipped than I am regarding finding food out in the wilds far from civilization."
A further walk revealed some trees with coconuts that seemed ripe enough, and that assuaged Jack's mood for the time being, though Norrington's sword seemed to have suffered from the ill use. Besides, watching the man eat was highly amusing. Norrington may have drunk with the practiced ease of a sailor, but he still ate with the accustomed, almost dainty concern of a society man. He had snorted when he noticed Jack watching him, but continued anyway.
Where could the heart be? Jack was an accomplished pickpocket, but Norrington always kept a safe distance between them, perhaps wary of this fact. Probably somewhere in an inner pocket of that bedraggled coat. The fabric would be stiff enough to hide the contractions. Perhaps at night he could take a closer look. The heart may not be able to solve Norrington's problems, but it could definitely solve Jack's current ones. No longer being on his Pearl? Check. Marooned on yet another island? Check. Grouchy, cold but very attractive ex-Commodore? Maybe not. But then, it would be far more fun to solve that problem himself. After the previous priorities.
"You're being very quiet," Norrington drawled, after they crossed yet another stretch of vegetation, occasionally startling small animals and birds in their path.
"Just thinkin'." Jack offered. "What're ye going t'say when ye meet th'others? Ye did take the thump-thump. Took a few years off me' life, ye did."
"The heart," Norrington corrected. A long pause, but he didn't reach into his coat as Jack had hoped, to give some indication of where he had left it. "I'd deny that I took it."
"Then I'd insist we search ye. Thoroughly." Jack leered. Norrington saw, and rolled his eyes.
"And you owe me your life."
"So you can keep your silence." Norrington replied dryly. "Of course, I know that's too much to expect."
"And that's why we're very obviously walkin' in th'opposite direction o' where they could'a landed?" Jack retorted.
Another slow blink, then a faint smirk. "You noticed."
"I'm not stupid, mate. An' I can see th'shape o' the shore as good on land as on th'sea."
"And you didn't object?"
Jack remembered Elizabeth's soft lips and her desperation, how she so obviously wanted to cry but held it back, so she wouldn't back down. How if he showed up now she would likely blurt it out, poor girl that she was, and young Will may never forgive that – nor his crew – and it could be bloody. And by now, Davy Jones had probably found the chest empty, the Black Pearl sunk without her captain. Perhaps he was thought dead – hence the lack of the spot on his palm – but he would endanger all of them again if he didn't sort out the business of not having a ship and having an angry mythical character after him before having a reunion.
Being Jack Sparrow, however, he merely leered again. "Anybody tell ye that ye look great in a wet shirt?"
Norrington stared at him for a long moment, then his cheeks flushed, his eyes sparkled with sudden ire, and he growled, turning on his heel and stalking away, inland this time, ending the charade. Jack shivered at the sound, and had to stop himself from purring in response, grinning wickedly, his walk jauntier as he followed.
Night found them in the remains of what seemed to have been a farmhouse. The island had once been inhabited – the church being a fairly obvious statement to that fact. Norrington was again in a poor mood, and had ignored all of Jack's attempts at conversation, so Jack had to content himself to whistling, and trying to remember phrases from the pirate song that Elizabeth had taught him.
"Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me… we pillage, we plunder… uhh…" Jack fell into mutterings, then tried the line again. And again. And again.
"We rifle and loot. Drink up, me hearties, yo-ho." Norrington enunciated over his shoulder, coldly. "Now shut up."
"I'd never thought a respectable man like yerself would'a known that," Jack said delightedly, clapping a callused hand on Norrington's shoulder. Which was quickly shrugged off.
"I spent some time on Tortuga, remember?" Norrington replied in the same glacial voice. "Even incapacitated, I am afraid most of those so-called pirate songs have been permanently ingrained into my memory."
"Oh good! Ye can teach old Jack."
"No." Norrington finished circling the ruin in inspection, and pushed open the door. It fell off rusted hinges, the wood all but crumbling to pieces. Inside, the cottage had been stripped of most of its furniture, but at least retained most of its roof, and it seemed barely habitable. A nest of birds in the rafters chirped anxiously for a moment, then seemed to calm when neither of them seemed inclined to threaten them.
"Why not?" Jack whined.
Satisfied with the condition of the house, Norrington finally looked back at him. "I can think of better things to do than teaching you silly tunes, Sparrow."
"Really." The taller man seemed taken aback when Jack abruptly smiled, dark eyes smoldering as he sidled closer to invade Norrington's personal space, his voice now a purr. "And what would those better things be?"
Norrington leaned closer, almost involuntarily, until Jack could feel his hot breath ghosting across his cheek. He parted his lips invitingly, just as he slid his hands under Norrington's coat – or tried to, as his wrists were abruptly caught in an iron grip. The ex-Commodore smirked. "Very predictable, Sparrow. Try harder." He shoved Jack against one of the mossy stone walls, and then delicately wiped his palms off on his coat. To make a point. Insufferable! It was Jack's turn to growl, but this only worsened the smirk. "When you come up with better plans to relieve me of the heart, do let me know. In the meantime, I'd be trying to find some dinner."
Jack stared daggers at the broad, retreating back until it disappeared, then sat down cross-legged, counting off his problems from be-ringed fingers. " 'e's stronger than me, 'e has me gun, 'e 'ates me, an' I'm still sober." He wondered if the Pearl would have saved him if she had known he would suffer so, afterwards. She probably still would have. And was probably laughing now, down in the depths. At him. The thought immediately seemed correct, and it made him feel slightly better. Still a part o'me, me bonny lass. Wait fer me again. I'd get ye back, an' we'd try an' catch that horizon again, the two o' us.
His stomach growled, and he got the definite sense of silent laughter again.
"We'd see who's laughin' when I get ye back, missy!" he hissed, good nature taking the snarl from his words.
"Imaginary friends." His sharp ears picked up the words muttered somewhere outside. "Mad pirate." The voice grew fainter as Norrington moved away for some reason, though Jack fancied he heard a 'why me?'.
Beads clacked together as he stood up and swaggered out of the cottage, looking around the overgrown remnants of what had been an organized cultivation effort. He spotted Norrington rather inefficiently attempting to pluck what looked like wild fowl (that had likely turned feral after this island's community had fled, or died out, or whatever). Chuckling, he sauntered over and took over, the other man ceding his catch with relief. "Didn't yer mother teach ye anythin' useful?"
"Titled ladies do not teach their offspring how to dress fowl, I'm afraid," Norrington said mildly, backing away to sit on the weathered remains of a squat well.
"Don't suppose ye know how to clean it, either."
"So, do I at least get a knife?"
A long pause. "No."
"T'aint work fer th' offspring o' titled ladies, m'fraid."
"Fine. Then we don't clean the chicken."
"Tha's sick, tha' is. C'mon. I'd give ye back th' knife. Word o' honor."
"Forgive me if I am disinclined to take it."
Jack grumbled to himself under his breath. Feathers plucked, he sighed and took the compass from his belt. That, at least, Norrington hadn't taken when he was unconscious – probably because the man still felt it didn't work. "'ere. Ye can take this as 'ostage."
"I'm not sure you can hold an inanimate object hostage," Norrington said dryly. "And knives can be 'returned' by throwing them, I believe."
"I'd swear on me Pearl, okay? No funny business. She gets real upset if I break those promises."
Norrington looked like he would object, but at the look in Jack's eye, sighed, and took the dagger from his boot, handing it over hilt first, taking the compass in return. He seemed to be playing with it as Jack went to work, turning it this way and that. "Doesn't point north."
"Magic compass, savvy?" Jack was very tired of that point.
"Magic compasses and magic ships," Norrington mused, as if to himself. "The things you'd trade your soul for."
"Didn't trade me soul for th'compass."
"Favors. Fer a lady."
Norrington arched his eyebrows, but, gentleman that he still was under that battered exterior, refrained from further comment on that. "The ship, then."
"Aye. And wasn't she worth it."
"The fastest ship in the Caribbean. And only for thirteen years. Isn't that selling your soul a little short?"
"Was drunk, mate,
an' I thought 'e was some sort'a dream.
"Whatever. An' thirteen is me favorite number."
"And then you crew it with a group of thoroughly untrustworthy men."
Jack chuckled. "Think ye can find a crew o' good men to crew a pirate ship?"
A pause. "Gibbs and… the others… didn't seem too bad."
"Aye, an' ye should'a seen the rest tha' didn't get away from th' cannibals."
Norrington blinked, then shuddered. "You lead an interesting life, at least."
"T'aint 'alf of it."
Dinner was as restrained as lunch. Somehow they had managed to spit and roast the chicken, and although it wasn't the best that Jack had eaten, it was tender and fragrant. Norrington ate in silence. Jack had already returned the cleaned dagger, but the other man hadn't surrendered the compass.
"It's true that this points to what you want most, then?" Norrington said mildly, at last. "I do believe that's what you said to Miss Swann."
"That's why it didn't work for you. It pointed to the Pearl."
"But if you managed to get the chest, and the key, then you should have been able to save the Pearl. Just as how Miss Swann managed to find the chest that way."
"She's young, mate. An' ye need a conscious, powerful want t'work th'compass. Or it'd keep pointin' to all th'things yer heart wants."
"And since you already had your Pearl…"
"Aye. The drivin' want was gone."
"I see." Norrington turned the compass around again, then snapped it shut and tossed it back to Jack, his expression unreadable.
"Seein' as you've saved me life, don't I get t'know yer first name?" Jack asked nonchalantly, so as to make it seem that he wasn't all that interested.
Norrington seemed to consider this for a moment, then his broad shoulders slouched a little, as if he decided it wasn't that big a thing to give up. "Just so as to prevent you from whining at me about it all night, it's James."
"Jamie. Fine name, that. I knew a Jamie."
"James." Norrington stressed the word carefully. "And I am not interested in knowing how I compare to your piratical acquaintances."
Jack grinned, sitting up and stretching a little before the fire they had built. "An' fine words, that. One'd think ye a Commodore again, 'ow ye'd been goin' on, even tho' just some days ago ye were scrubbin' th'deck of me Pearl."
Unfortunately, that failed to get the hoped-for spark of anger that he had seen earlier at the tree line. Norrington merely smiled, mockingly. "Perhaps a Commodore again soon. Who knows."
"Not a good man, then?"
Norrington shrugged, and tossed the bones of his share out into the darkness, swiping his fingers on the grass. "I know Lord Beckett. He is in love with power, though he tries to give the impression that it is money. What would you call a man who employs the Caribbean's best assassin as his secretary?"
"An' people say I'm mad," Jack thought about this for a moment. Somehow, 'assassin' failed to seem as frightening as 'undead pirate', or 'walking assorted seafood persons'. "So yer going back t'free th' folks o' Port Royal from his oppressioning?"
"Yes." Norrington smiled wryly. "Or rather, I am going to see what he has done to Port Royal. After all, I appear to have forgotten who I should serve."