Warning: There be Spoilers Here! AWE Spoilers!!
Dead man tell no tales, but lives ones certainly do. The world may be a different place, but the careless stories of dead friends reach across the years to imperil Will, Elizabeth and Jack.
A Friend Like Mine
In everything and for everything there is a natural order, an underlying inherent course that must be followed. Deviations from this course are either impossible or disastrous in the attempt. Seasons follow the last, the sun sets and rises, the moon waxes and wanes and the stars drift overhead in fixed courses. For everything a place, a rhyme, a reason.
It was this fixed order that drew Hugo Adams to the sea. If you learnt the rules, about stars and charts and weather signs and maps, you could plot your entire life out and never deviate a jot nor tittle. Hugo knew the vagaries of human kind, its tendency towards irrational behaviour and rule breaking but he thought that on a ship, a naval ship, under strict discipline and command, his compulsion for order would be met, even by the human crew.
It was on his first voyage that he learned of his error, his miscalculation. No matter how meticulous, careful or determined you were in planning and obeying the rules, the sea itself disobeyed. As a young ensign, he had clung to a battered door frame, soaked to the skin, terrified out of his mind as a storm churned up the ocean and did its level best to destroy the ship. In that moment, Adams had sworn to never again leave dry land if he lived to see it again. That oath, sworn in terror and fear, was the only one he would ever break.
Hours after the storm had passed, and he had a moment's respite from the work of righting the ship and repairing damage, Adams found himself transfixed on the deck, looking out at the horizon. As crew and officers hurried around him, shouted orders filling the air, Adams watched the sun rise over an ocean as smooth as glass. Hungry eyes devoured the sight of a freshly washed red orb pulling itself out of a mirror of water and Adams fell in love.
His moment of ardor may have been interrupted by a shout in his ear from a lieutenant and he may have nearly lost his life to gangrene on that same trip, but when Hugo Adams reached Bristol docks 5 months later, his parting look to the ocean was one of longing and promise. Longing to return and a promise to do so.
Hugo Adams never married. His career in the Navy was typical of many men in his day, of promotions as a result of superiors dying and naval battles with an array of enemies, including the odd pirate ship. Adams forgot his love of rules and order and instead found a love of wildness and unpredictability. The ocean, for all of its rules, was never the same, and each horizon offered a different perspective. Hugo Adams fully intended to die at sea.
And so it was, one evening as Captain Adams walked the deck with his Bosun verifying the log details and supplies, that death came a' knocking.
Adams looked up from his list, and said quietly to the Bosun, "See that you find some fresh produce at the next port." The Bosun nodded and Captain Adams turned to see Dick, his cabin boy waiting a tad impatiently.
The boy straightened as his Captain addressed him and said, "Sir, Captain, its Mr Gibbs, sir. The Doctor says you should come."
With a nod, Captain Adams dismissed the Bosun and indicated for Dick to lead the way. The boy hurried below decks, dodging a few sailors who were making their way to their quarters, and who stopped to let the Captain go past them. A few lanterns broke the darkness below deck and Dick's slight figure passed through patches of light and shadow, while Adams' larger frame filled the narrow passage casting its own shadow.
Dick paused outside the Non-commissioned Officers quarters, before knocking briefly and jarring the door open with a sudden 'pop'! Following his young cabin boy inside, the Captain nodded at the Ship's Doctor who was silently packing away his instruments. His patient, the only man abed, began cough, a deep lung-wrenching hack and proved more than his wane looks that he was still amongst the living.
A tired, red-faced man, prone to sample his surgical alcohol, diluted of course, Doctor Kingsley shrugged and said, "Whatever he's waiting for, he's still with us."
Dick had slipped past the Doctor and was standing near the foot of bed, one of the few 'real' beds aboard. The young lad's face, though sun browned and weathered, looked almost as pale as the patient's. Captain Adams dragged a stool towards him with his foot and sat down near the bed, studying Mr Gibbs.
Gibbs was as about as old a sea-dog as Captain Adams had ever met. In his youth he would have been a man of broadchest and girth, and while age had not reduced him in size, his frailty was apparent in deep lines, watery eyes and a trembling he could no longer hide. A sailor all his life, both in the navy and not, this had been Mr Gibbs first and seemingly last voyage with Captain Adams.
Adams had almost refused the man, his rheumy eyes and hands of palsy hardly qualifying him for active duty aboard a naval vessel. But after a bout of illness and subsequent death among his crew, Adams had found himself short on officers and half way around the world in a strange port. Word of the need for sailors got around the port faster than the illness had spread on his ship and whatever his reservations about Gibbs' health, Captain Adams had yet to regret accepting the man aboard.
With a bellow like a bull, and the presence of a far more impressive man than he was in fact, Gibbs fell in amongst the crew as if he had always been there. Adams had made it clear that once they reached Bristol, Gibbs would be discharged but the old man had simply shrugged, as if he knew he would not live to see port. Understanding the old man's desire to die at sea, Adams had watched as the old sailor's health failed. And now, it seemed, he would soon be consigning Mr Gibbs' body to the sea.
Pale eyes, though watery, opened to stare frankly at him and Captains Adams smiled, "It seems, Mr Gibbs, that you are about to desert my ship and leave me short-handed. Again."
A chuff of air, almost a huff was followed by a deep cough, but Gibbs recovered enough to wheeze, "Sorry about that, sir, but frankly, I don't care."
The sudden arrival of two of his Ensigns, drew Adams' gaze and he saw his youngest Officers hesitate at the doorway, before moving in at his wave. Mr Gibbs was a firm favourite of the young men aboard, who he held in rapt attention with his stories of the sea, pirates and strange beasts. Half of the tales were a mixture of legend and fact, the others pure fabrication. But whatever the source, fact or fiction, the lads loved them and Gibbs. Although he'd only been with them for a handful of months, Gibbs and his stories were part of the crew. Tale though the tales may have been, the grain of truth caught even the most hardened sailor's attention. That grain was even enough for Adams to suspect that Gibbs had himself been a pirate, at some point.
Whatever his past, Gibbs with them now and his 'friends', the youngest of the crew had gathered to bid him farewell. Noticing that Dick had been joined by two more, Gibbs winked at the trio and hissed at the Captain, "They've come to see if I'm a liar."
"Really? How so?" Captain Adams asked, noting the young men flinch a little at his query.
"See, Captain, sir, these three, they know I speak true, seen it for themselves, they have. But this tale, this one, not even they can believe."
Eyebrows raised, Adams pursed his lips in mock-wonder and said sadly, "That's a shame indeed, Mr Gibbs, for three so fine a lads to be so full of doubt at such a young age."
"Aye, it is Captain, a right shame. I…" Gibbs's remaining words were swallowed by a bout of coughing and the Captain shared a brief look with the Doctor, who was leaning against the cabin wall. Doc Kingsley's eyes were dark and shadowed and he made no move to help, and Gibbs' coughs soon subsided.
"Mr Gibbs, perhaps you'd best let yourself rest, you're not…"
An old wrinkled hand with far more strength than seemed possible, gripped the Captain's hand as Adam patted Gibbs on the shoulder. Bright eyes, burning with determination enforced the softly spoken words, as failing lungs failed to provide the necessary force.
"No, Captain Adams, what I have to say is for your ears too."
Gibbs only relaxed his grip at the Captain's nod and even then did not release the Captain's hand, as if ensuring that he would anchor himself to life long enough to tell his tale.
"One last tale, Mr Gibbs?"
"Aye, Captain, one last. Only this ain't no tall tale – 'tis as true as the sun." Gibbs' voice lost a little of the breathlessness that had characterized his speech of late and he sounded more like the bullhorn of old.
"Alright," and Captain Adams settled himself a little to hear the tale. Gibbs, perhaps out of habit, or perhaps seeking a familiar audience, seemed to speak more the boys, now seated and gathered as close as they dared to the Captain.
"You've heard part of this tale before, bits and bobs of nonsense from folk in every port and even some from me. But what I tell you now, I tell you true, 'cos I was there and I saw it with my own eyes."
The boys attention was caught, even the Doctor seemed inclined to listen and as the bell for the start of the last watch ran out, Gibbs smiled softly and whispered, "For many years, I have kept the secret, though no one asked us to, we did. All of us. Every man jack who was there, on the Pearl at least, has never breathed a word. Save now. Why, you may ask? And you'd be right to ask and I can only say, 'cos here at the last, I must tell someone."
The clear tones of the ship's bell were fading but Gibbs seemed to be gaining strength as he spoke, a hue of colour rising in his cheeks and he looked almost alive, rather than half-dead as he said, "This is the tale of a journey to World's End, of the Flying Dutchman and of how Davey Jones died."
Slowly but with growing momentum, Gibbs began his tale of pirates, adventure and love and spoke throughout almost all of the last watch and the horizon was lightening with dawn's approach as he finished.
"And so, they both wait for one day every ten years, forever entwined and separated by duty and death."
His voice, after such a lengthy tale with a surprisingly small number of interruptions, finally broke and Gibbs' gave into the coughing fit that had waited so patiently. The spell broken, his audience found themselves back in reality, on a far more mundane ship than the Pearl or the Dutchman. Doc Kingsley moved to help Gibbs sit a little straighter while Adams wiped a weary hand over his face. Entertaining though the story had been, he could hardly give its fantastical, almost mythical claims any credence, but before he could say anything, young Dick spoke.
"So, will the Dutchman come for you, Mr Gibbs? Will its new Captain come fetch you, as you say… 'cos you're his friend?" Disbelief coloured his question, his body almost shaking as he stared intently at Gibbs, his hopeful shining eyes contradicting his tone.
Gibbs smiled around his coughing and nodded, "Sure enough, Dick. Sure enough, he'll come."
The trio of lads shared a look, almost unreadable to Adams, save he thought he might have a similar one on his. Common, practical sense said Gibbs was lying, or crazy, but that small part of him, the part that as a child let him believe in fairies and magic, wanted to believe again, wanted the world to be that sort of place. His young officers seemed to feel the same.
Kingsley's soothing words were the only sounds now, as Gibbs' coughs subsided and his breathing grew shallow.
"It won't be much longer now."
Silence fell over the group, and the ship's bell began to ring out the change of watch, its tones singing clearly through the dawn air. Thinking it both appropriate and ominous that a bell should be ringing as a man's spirit was about to depart, Captain Adams was about to turn and order the boys out, when a shout came from the deck above, "Ship off the port bow!"
Adams took a single step towards the door, but Gibbs' halting "Captain?" stopped him mid-stride. The title had been spoken with such respect and awe that he knew it was not directed at him, for it was only in that moment that Adams' could compare that honorific and the way Gibbs usually spoke to him and note the lack or absence of respect.
In truth Gibbs was not even looking at him, and as Captain Adams turned, he felt as if he were in dream, or one of Gibbs' stories. The dying tones of the ship's bell ringing in his eyes, Adams slowly reached for the sword at his hip as the tall man, dressed in black and red, stepped towards Gibbs. For a heartbeat, Adams wondered if they had been boarded, if they were under attack and all that stayed his hand was the knowledge that he was between the room and the door and that no man had passed by him. Yet, where as there had been 6 in the room, there were now 7.
"You came, lad!"
The stranger's face crinkled into a smile, "Of course, I did. You ready?"
Gibbs' face had a matching smile as he stared up at the man. The stranger looked as out of place in the small room as a pig in a dress at a party. His long dark hair was caught in ponytail at the nape of neck, his head covered with a scarf and his red shirt open at the neck. Adams first thought was 'pirate', for he looked the part standing amidst their uniforms. Gibbs however was struggling to stand. No one, not even the stranger made a move to help him. Doc Kingsley's face was fixed on the stranger, as were the boys.
"Am I the first?"
Gibbs was on his feet, looking a little stronger and less frail.
"No. The Pearl went down a few years ago, lost a few of the crew. Mr Cotton and such."
"Jack?" If Gibbs voice had been respectful towards the stranger, it was nigh devoted in awe to that name.
The stranger smiled again, making him seem young, as young as the boys in the room and he laughed, "Never. Tried to bargain for the ship though."
Gibbs was standing straighter and taller than he had ever had, his face looking hale and hearty in the dim light of the cabin's lantern. Adams vaguely wondered why they were all just standing there, watching, but his thought seems to slow to a standstill as he watched the growing pool of water under the stranger's black boots.
"Aye, Captain Turner, I'm ready."
Gibbs strode towards the strange man with ease, his face brightened by a huge grin. Captain Turner took his outstretched hand and together they turned to leave. Caught between a breath and a heartbeat, Adams caught the gaze of 'Captain Turner' and found a pair of eyes as black and as bottomless as the ocean staring back. A cold wave seemed to wash over him and he heard the distant crash of breakers on the shore before 'Captain Turner' and Gibbs disappeared, walking right through the cabin wall.
Stunned, Adams stared at the wall and heard Dick's gasp as the boy pointed at the bed. Turning to look, Captain Adams found that he was not surprised to see Gibbs' body still lying on the bed. The remaining five men stood in silence staring at Gibbs, until the Lieutenant's desperate shout of, "Captain, Ship off the port bow!"
Shaking his head, Adams raced up the stairs to the deck and pushed his way to the railing where his Lieutenant stood.
Lieutenant Hammond's shaking hand directing his line of sight was unnecessary. A huge galleon was slowly sailing away, its tattered sails filled with a wind that none of them felt. Adams felt Dick and his friends push past him as they too crowded that rail. It may have been his imagination but Adams thought he saw a distant figure on the ship's deck wave back at them, before the ship itself seemed to grow transparent and disappeared.
No one on deck spoke, all eyes still fixed on a ship that was no longer there.
Feeling a little light-headed and still strangely cold, Captain Adams cleared his throat and said loudly, "Alright, that's enough. Everyone – back to work." It took a few moments, and a few more shouts from the Bosun and the Lieutenant but soon only Captain Adams and the three boys stood at the rail.
Noting their gaze was still fixed on the horizon, Adams said quietly, "Well, lads. It seems Mr Gibbs was telling the truth afterall."
Dick was hanging over the rail, his small frame leaning as far as he could as if he could somehow still spot the Dutchman. His face was shining with delight, blue eyes dancing with happiness.
"Yes, sir, yes it does."
"Back to work, lads."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Chapter 1 –
-'Can you see her?'-
-'Yes, sir, she is in sight.'-
-'Good. Make sure you don't lose her.'-
She was beautiful. Not gorgeous or ravishing or even stunning. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful. A little too thin for his taste, a tad-under-endowed for a self-confessed boob man but her smile more than made up for any deficiency. It was no wonder that men fought over her and it was most certainly clear as to why her husband remained so faithful. With a woman like that waiting for him, he'd be an idiot to abandon her.
Linus shifted on his barstool and leant onto the 'authentic' bar wary of splinters, nodding at the barman. The tall barman strolled over, the picture of ease and hospitality and smiled warmly.
"Get you another drink, sir?"
Returning the smile, Linus shook his head and said quietly, "Nah, mate but I'd like to send that pretty little lady at the end of the bar another of whatever fruity thing it is she's drinking."
"Right you are, sir. Shall I say who it is from?"
Linus' look of 'what do you think?' had the barman chuckling, even more so as Linus palmed him a generous tip.
Feigning disinterest, Linus watched the whole process in the mirror behind the bar. The recipient of his attention was sitting at the other end of the long bar, her gaze fixed on the horizon. The hotel bar, usually a hub of activity and socializing was surprisingly quiet with the majority of folk on the beach or in the ocean. He had the bar and the lady to himself. She, it seemed, had the ocean view of soft sandy white beaches foremost in her thoughts.
Those distant thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of her new drink and at her surprised look, the barman indicated to Linus who gave her his most charming smile.
Her look of appraisal was reserved, wary even, but as she studied him, his bare-chest in particular, she seemed to like that she saw. At her own smile, half-invitation, half-amusement, Linus picked up his own fruity concoction and sauntered down the bar.
"This seat taken?"
Her smile returned and she shrugged, "Not especially, but I do believe it may be reserved for pleasant company."
Turning a little as he hopped onto the barstool, ensuring to give her a good look at his abdominals, Linus winked as he said, "Good thing that I'm a pleasant chap, then."
She took a sip of her drink, the old one, as his 'gift' remained untouched on the bar behind her. Her attention returned to the horizon, but she shot him an occasional look of interest, obviously waiting to see what he would do.
Turning up the wattage on his 'charm' smile, Linus said jovially, "So, pretty lady, this is where I could insert any number of cheesy pick up or dead-pan one liners, or even ask you 'what's a pretty little thing like you doing in a joint like this?' but somehow, I don't think that's going to get me very far."
Still looking out at the beach, she nodded and said, "You'd be right."
"Excellent, because that means I get to bring out my 'A' game, which a woman of your beauty surely deserves…"
She remained silent, but a small smile curved her lips around the green straw as she took another sip.
Leaning in, Linus said coquettishly, "Have you ever wanted to be a pirate?"
For a heartbeat her eyes widened and she glanced at him in shock before she recovered with confusion. "What?"
"Pirates! Swords, adventure on the high seas, walking the plank, Davey Jones, Jolly Roger, … rum! Pirates!"
"Rum?" She was now staring at him with open suspicion, studying his face intently, as if searching for something familiar, someone she should know. Alas, his Nordic blonde features and bright blues failed to trigger anything and she frowned at him. "I seem to recall that pirates were a foul, loathsome bunch of murderers and thieves. Hardly a life to aspire to, …"
"Linus, Linus Schaeffer."
She stared at his extended hand, before taking it hesitantly and saying, "Elizabeth Turner."
Linus beamed at her, his delight for once genuine. It was her. Really her. "Elizabeth, I cannot believe that you haven't at some point fantasized about sailing off with a handsome pirate, leading a life of adventure and excitement. I mean… "
Again, Elizabeth looked at him sharply, again searching for something in his face, a clue. Her eyes hard with suspicion, she withdrew a little, settling herself back in her seat and said stiffly, "I may have such silly dreams as a child, all girls do a little I imagine, but reality, as is always the case, is often far different from romantic notions."
She was about to continue, to do doubt pose her own questions, but Linus 'pffed' in derision and said quickly, "Ah, come on… whether 'reality'," and he 'air-quoted' with his free hand, "matches our dreams is beside the point. The magic, the mystery lies in the idea, the dream and since pirates and their questionable ways are a thing of the past, all I offer or … ah … propose is a reenactment of those childhood games. Nothing more … ah … realistic."
Relaxing a little, Elizabeth used the excuse of taking a sip of her drink to study Linus a little longer before saying, "Pirates are hardly history, Mr Schaeffer. They are a present reality – still murderers and thieves to the core. And I think I'm a little too old to indulge in childish games."
No longer amused by him, and only feigning polite interest, Elizabeth returned to her study of the horizon.
'Hmmm, maybe mentioning pirates wasn't such a good idea. I was sure…maybe 'too' close.. ah right, time to make with the puppy eyes.'
Linus pasted a look of distress on his face and squirmed a little in his seat. Elizabeth noticed, but continued to sip on her now-empty drink, ignoring 'his' drink.
"Gosh, Elizabeth, I … I was just … ah… I have a boat… and wanted to take you sailing… sorry if…"
The dejected look and helpless stammering worked and Linus allowed her scrutinize him again, knowing that all she would get was 'disappointed suitor' from him. "Sure, not a problem. I should probably .. ah.."
She had extended left hand to him, flashing her wedding band just in case he hadn't seen it. He had, of course, but pretended to flush in embarrassment and a little anger. "Oh," he spluttered, "I … you accepted the drink… I …"
His smirk of satisfaction as she put down her drink and patted him awkwardly on the shoulder didn't show on his face at all. Elizabeth smiled and seemed to banish her suspicion of him as she said lightly, "I was flattered and maybe wanted a little conversation … you just surprised me with … the pirate thing. Ok?"
Regaining his equilibrium and faking a relieved smile, although in reality his smile was more a pleased Cheshire Cat, Linus laughed, "Oh, well don't worry – it was a stupid line anyway. Usually works too, just fyi."
Elizabeth smile and shrugged, "First time for everything, I guess."
Signaling the barman for another drink, Linus sighed and said dramatically, "So, I guess its just mutual holiday-maker talk then? No more flirtation? How sad."
Appearing to be distracted with his approaching drink, Linus asked nonchalantly, "So, you here with your husband?" Because he was watching for it, primed for it, he saw a look of longing, of love wash over her, her eyes dart to horizon just beyond the island's edge.
Her voice echoed that same love, even though she schooled her face a little to reply, "Ah, yes, well.. he's joining me. Tomorrow."
If Linus had been a different man, he would have jumped up and danced for joy. But he was who he was and so he stayed seated and smiled instead, Elizabeth marking his excitement as opportunity to flirt with her and not its true nature.
"Really, well, then at least we have tonight." He bobbed his eyebrows dramatically, making her laugh.
Elizabeth's smile was breathtaking. "Yeah, just one night."
Reviews? Naturally, please!!