Title: Bittersweet Freedom
Characters/Pairings: Jack/Will, Gibbs, brief mention of Bootstrap
Warnings: M/M, nudity, brief language, depression...
Summary: Some hurts run too deep.
A/N: This is based off of an amazing artist's' (justawench) astounding "Longing" series manips that can be found on LJ. This also plays heavily on the fact that Will's lost everything (in my mind), so it's set after DMC.
"I don't understand what this is supposed to do. And I don't appreciate that you made this decision without first consulting me."
Jack Sparrow listened with a deaf ear to the ramblings of his enraged company as he treaded toward the expanse of vegetation on the decent sized island. He had willingly given up his ship to the care of Gibbs and took Will Turner with him to the deserted spit of land. The Black Pearl would not be returning for another month as Jack had ordered. It made Will completely unhappy that he was forced to be put ashore with the captain.
"This," Jack replied in a tone he struggled to keep calm, "is supposed to help ya."
"Help me with what?"
"You know; I don't."
Jack had seen the same melancholy that had plagued Will for the past weeks in the young man's father at one point when he sailed with him years ago. He had implemented his idea of isolation in order to alleviate the despondence, and Will was now receiving the same treatment as Bootstrap Bill had gone through. It worked well for Turner senior; why should it not be the same with his son?
A month on an unsettled island with no sort of distractions, nothing else to focus on – there was no doubt in Jack's mind that Will would feel wholly rejuvenated by the end of their stay.
Jack sat down on a log and gazed up at Will, who remained standing.
"Aren't you goin' to join me?" the pirate inquired harmlessly.
"I'd rather not. I'm going to take a walk."
"Suit yourself. You know there's no one else here, aye?"
"That's a shame. I'd rather see the most hideous native than your face," Will said bitterly. "Anything is better than being here with you right now."
The seething male retreated to the beach and started his trek around the island. Jack waved his hands in the air as if surrendering and muttered, "If this doesn't work, I'll kill myself."
It was late in the afternoon before Will returned to the spot where he had left the pirate. From a far distance, he could make out Jack's shirtless form treading through the hot sand as he hauled their supplies toward the jungle.
When Jack reemerged from the forestry, Will had reached the crates and lifted one.
"I don't need your help," Will snapped.
"It wasn't my intention to offer."
"Then what were you going to ask?"
"Don't cut me off next time."
"Would you just ask?"
Jack's expression was tense and somewhat threatening, but he succeeded at maintaining a tranquil tone. "Do you know where to put that?"
"Is there a special place?"
"As a matter of fact, there is. Follow me."
Jack picked up the last container and headed for the grassy inland. Will trailed him and was led to a small, open area. The provisions had been set to one side, and opposite of them there was a lean-to built out of the large fronds of the trees surrounding them.
Jack noticed Will scrutinizing it and questioned, "Nice, ay?"
"Just wonderful," the young man replied unenthusiastically.
Jack rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Can't you at least value what will be your home for the next thirty days? A little gratitude would be highly appreciated."
Will showed no signs of praising the pirate's work.
Jack gritted his teeth before saying, "I'm goin' for a swim." He removed his trousers as he added, "You are welcome to join me, if you'd like."
"Again, I'll decline."
"Then start a fire or somethin'," the captain stated shortly.
He strolled away casually, leaving Will to study his new surroundings in hopes to begin enjoying them.
The sight that met Jack's tired eyes upon returning made him thoroughly stunned.
A healthy fire was burning in the center of their secluded space with Will tending to it.
Jack dressed himself and went to stand beside the former blacksmith.
"Looks good," he said with a grin.
"Thanks." Will's tone had softened substantially, making the buccaneer stare at him interestedly. "I'm sorry, Jack. I had no reason to-"
"It's alright, love. No worries."
"I know there's always a method to your madness, so this shouldn't be any different."
"You're absolutely right."
There was a pause before Will prodded, "Are you going to tell me?"
Jack shook his head and smiled. "No. You should figure it out yourself."
A week and a half had gone by since the two had taken up residence on the island. Will was still unstable; it worried Jack more than he wished to admit or show. The lad could be his usual self one moment, then change drastically to such a gloomy and dismal mood that caused Jack to constantly question, "What's wrong?" There were no answers that were ever provided, making Jack intensely frustrated.
He believed his plan had become an ultimate waste of time.
The morning dawned to the eleventh day of their stay, and the pirate awoke alone within the protection of their primitive hut. It was no surprise. He knew where to find Will.
He sauntered to the white sand on the shores of the sea to discover Will sitting near the water's edge gazing at the horizon. The sun was rising, surrounded by shades of orange and yellow, casting a peaceful light across the young man's frame. Jack shuffled along and sat beside him.
"It's amazing, nature's beauty," Will uttered quietly.
"Aye; it's a wonder."
"Do you think…..Do you believe that the end has been planned out for us?"
"What? Like fate?"
"Fate of death or somethin' of the like?"
"Yes; our deaths."
"No. I don't believe in that sort of thing. You're given too much credit to something that doesn't exist."
Will looked down to his fiddling fingers and became silent. Jack observed him with concern.
"What is this about, William?"
Will shook his head. "It's nothing. I've just been thinking."
"A myriad of things."
"Care to share?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"Try me, mate."
"You wouldn't care."
"You wouldn't be able to give me what I want."
"What do you want, love?"
Will bit his lip and after a time answered, "I don't know."
The fire had been dead for quite awhile by the wretched sheet of rain that poured incessantly. It plunged them into darkness, save for the sliver of moonlight that had the ability to cut its way through the droplets.
Will and Jack were dry for the most part; the shelter did provide them a safe haven from being incredibly soaked. They lied on their backs and listened to the storm raging about them.
Jack turned his head to find Will shivering. As he moved closer, he asked, "Are you cold, mate?"
"Maybe a little."
"Let me see if I can warm you up a bit, ay?"
Will shifted to rest on his side as Jack put an arm around him. The captain pressed his body tightly against Will's and let his lips ghost over the lad's ear.
"Tell me what's wrong," he whispered, then kissed the cool skin gently.
Thunder erupted through the clouds, and Will all at once shattered into tears.
"Talk to me, love. What's wrong?"
The crewman wiped the droplets of water from his face furiously. "You don't get it, Jack."
"I can't if you don't tell me. I'm here for you and no one else, savvy?"
"No you're not!" Will shouted heatedly and ripped away from Jack's embrace. A vein of lightening tore the sky, illuminating the dejected and angry features of the blacksmith. "You're always there for someone else! Whether it's a whore or some drinking competitor in a tavern, you're not there! Elizabeth isn't there for me either! She didn't want me after having kissed you! My father was never there! He was there for you and the Pearl! Don't lie to me, Jack! You took everything away from me! I have nothing left!"
Jack watched the outburst with pained and defeated eyes. He was entirely speechless for several minutes as Will attempted to collect himself. At last he dared to speak.
"What can I….." He swallowed to clear his throat before starting once more. "What can I give you then?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing, Jack. There's nothing anybody can give me. I want someone to care, to listen……to love me in return."
There was a brief period of stillness as the two men stared at each other intensely. Suddenly, Will's eyes widened as if realizing he had revealed too much, and he bounded out of the shelter with great speed. Less than a second passed before Jack ran after him.
"Is that what you want from me?" the pirate yelled to be heard over the roaring weather and because the young man was several feet ahead of him. "You want me to love you? William! Stop!"
Will struggled to stay on his feet as he began to sprint on the wet sand. He was progressively slowing, and within minutes Jack had caught up. The captain grabbed a hold of his arm and wrestled him to the ground. Jack wrapped his arms strongly around the lad from behind to keep him from dashing away.
"Is that what you want, Will?"
"I can love you, Will."
"No! Even if you could, I wouldn't want it!"
Jack whirled Will around to face him and then hugged the blacksmith to him securely. Will buried his face in the crook of Jack's shoulder and clung to him desperately. He wept freely, distantly hearing comforting words that the older man spoke softly.
The storm cleared within the hour and shortly after Will gained control of his rampant emotions.
The last he remembered of the night was the feel of slender fingers stroking his hair and the unreal sensation of smooth lips against his own before he fell asleep in Jack's arms.
The next morning when Will opened his eyes to meet the early rays of light, he learned that he was by himself. Leisurely, he stood and let the foot imprints in the sand lead him to Jack. The captain was sitting where the grass met the beach, looking emptily at the ocean. Will took a seat near him and stared at him somewhat shyly. Before he could say a word, Jack started to speak in a hushed tone.
"What you said last night-"
"Let me talk, savvy?"
"What you said…..I understand why you would be upset, but I don't understand why you're hurting so much. And I swear to you, I didn't mean for it all to hurt you."
"Jack, what was the most precious, most beloved thing you've ever lost?"
"The Pearl, of course."
"What did it feel like when you lost her?"
Jack sighed. "It felt like an aching void you just can't fill no matter how hard you try. It's difficult to describe. It's like a wound you keep bleedin' from, but will never die from."
"That's how I feel now," Will whispered.
The older man allowed a short period of silence to pass between them before he got to his feet and offered a hand to Will. He pulled the blacksmith up and started to shed his attire.
"Let's take a swim, darlin'," he voiced charmingly.
Will was hesitant at first, but proceeded to strip and joined Jack in the crystal waters.
After much time spent lounging about lazily in the sea, Jack drew Will against him and caressed his cheek. Will closed his eyes briefly and leaned into the touch. When he opened them, his gaze went to look upon the vast ocean in the distance.
Jack's hand traveled to the back of Will's neck and he moved his face close to the young man's.
"I wasn't lyin' when I told ya I could love you," he said quietly.
"Jack…..You're not what I want."
"Just because I'm not female doesn't mean I can't listen like one. I love better than any I know."
"No, you fuck better than anyone. You never love the people you sleep with. It's like you're incapable of such a thing."
Jack flinched from the words. They were like a knife that slashed him harshly; however, he succeeded in not revealing how they affected him. "Believe this one then," he replied smoothly, "I wouldn't be lyin' if I told ya I hate seein' you this way; so miserable."
Jack's free hand reached for Will's beneath the water, and he held it as he brushed his lips against the blacksmith's for a tender kiss.
As the days progressed, Will became accustomed to seeking solitude for a number of hours while Jack concocted ways to occupy himself. The seclusion appeared to be effective; the pirate took note of Will's increasing positive attitude.
It was mid-day when Will returned from one of his private sessions. He walked across the beach until he arrived beside Jack's nude body basking comfortably in the warm rays of the sun. Without a word, Will divested himself of clothing and took a spot next to the pirate. Jack opened his eyes, sat up, and moved behind the young man. Will did not protest Jack's legs stretching out on either side of him, or when the other male's arms snaked around his torso. He continued to stare longingly at the ocean even as his own hand ventured to grasp Jack's calf.
Jack sighed and asked lightly, "How are you feelin' today, love?"
"I'm alright. I'm fine."
"I'm relieved to hear that."
Will's fingertips began to trace various patterns on the man's leg as he questioned, "Jack?"
"We could escape together."
Jack's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean, William?"
"You and I; we could have freedom together. You can come with me."
Jack smiled contently. "Sounds perfect, darlin'. Of course I'll come with ya."
"It'll be soon, then."
Jack placed a kiss on Will's shoulder and rested his head on the spot. "It will be soon. About a week left, I think."
The following night Jack lay alone in the shelter, drifting between reality and the dreamy world of sleep. A rustle of leaves indicated his company was approaching, and he propped himself up on his elbows to see Will enter. The lad's expression was filled with cheerfulness and a hint of seduction. He even wore a broad grin; it was the happiest Jack had seen of him for what seemed like ages.
"Will," Jack whispered, but was quieted by a delicate finger to his lips.
Will crawled atop the captain's slim frame and started to undo the man's trousers.
"Will, what-" He was silenced by Will's mouth this time.
The young male kissed Jack passionately as his hand slipped behind the barrier of clothing. He muffled the pleasurable moan Jack produced when his fingers stroked the pirate's sensitive member.
Neither of them objected as they dared to rid one another of their wardrobe, and Jack submitted himself completely to Will's domination.
Heavy breathing mingled with the tranquil sounds of night; and though the temperature was not a high degree, the two beings lying alongside each other were trembling, sweating, and panting as if it were hotter than ever.
Jack cradled Will and let his mouth linger over the lad's burning skin. He licked and nibbled softly, arousing the faintest of noises to come from Will. They remained in a sort of daze – suspended in the afterglow – for a period until at last Jack spoke.
"What would you say if I told you I loved you?"
Will exhaled a breath and answered, "I'd say it back."
There was a pause before Jack voiced in an almost inaudible tone, "I love you, Will."
All was still about him when Jack opened his eyes wearily. He glanced around as he sat up and sighed disappointedly.
Will was nowhere.
He put on his shirt and pants and was about to tread off, but a piece of parchment caught his attention. It was by their supplies, and the manuscript was poor as if rushed. He took it in his hand and read the short note.
I could have said it if I tried.
Perhaps I can if you join me now.
Escape with me. Please, Jack.
Jack was unable to breathe for a moment. It was evident to him that something was horribly wrong.
He tossed the paper aside as he raced to the beach. He sprinted through the sand, shouting Will's name repeatedly as he traveled quickly about the island. There was no response to any of his calls, and in a number of minutes, he was back to the place where he had started.
He looked around wildly, expecting a sign, a trace, anything that would present itself to make him aware of what happened.
And then he saw it.
The cool water glided over his feet before receding once again as he sat near the edge of the ocean. He had long since lost every amount of hope in reviving the limp form he clutched to his chest. The lungs had rejected the air he had attempted to breathe into them. They had clogged with saltwater, suffocating the lifeless being he now embraced affectionately. Perhaps it would have been best if he had merely left the body to be whisked away by the sea instead of rescuing the deceased.
Jack was numb. He felt nothing, not even the tears that streaked his face ceaselessly. Vacantly, he stared toward the horizon, unable to steal a glimpse downward.
The water began to reach farther up the beach as if demanding Will be returned. With trembling legs, Jack stood and carried the lad as he slowly waded into the ocean. He swam out a good distance and reluctantly offered the young man back to nature, but not before he kissed Will tenderly in a bittersweet farewell.
When he returned to shore, he watched the sea accept and sweep the body off in whatever direction it cared to. Soon, he could not distinguish where Will had gone; the blacksmith had been pulled beneath the surface.
The foamy sea glittered in the fading sunlight, and as he sat near the tide, he discerned the familiar three-masted ship coming to take him. Jack turned his head from side to side, absentmindedly looking for his garments, but found he could not remember if he had taken them off on the beach or if he had left them at the shelter.
He stayed where he was even after part of his crew came ashore. The men headed inland to locate the supplies to take to the ship, leaving Gibbs to tread across the sand to his captain.
The pirate was utterly immobile and did not speak.
"Jack, what is it?"
The name was like a horrendous sting that made Jack wince visibly. "I couldn't save him," he spoke faintly.
Gibbs knelt beside the sorrowful man and questioned warily, "What do you mean?"
"I couldn't help him. I…..I killed him."
The crewman's eyes widened and his mouth fell open in shock. "You what?"
"Why didn't I see it before? Why did nobody see it? Why didn't I listen? If I had it wouldn't have ended like this. He wouldn't have ended his life."
Gibbs was speechless as Jack continued.
"I thought he was doin' better. He seemed well enough. The old Will Turner was startin' to show again. I thought for sure after we…..after we shared the night together before he….."
It suddenly became too painful; Jack began to cry. Gibbs enveloped him comfortingly as the tears showered his cheeks.
"How long ago did it happen?" the shipmate inquired.
Jack shook his head. His throat felt utterly constricted, making him incapable of speaking.
"Never mind that. If he was that far gone to want to kill himself, you couldn't have saved him anyway. You were a good man to have tried."
A brief period elapsed before Jack abruptly broke away and bounded for the ocean. He leapt out several feet, then fell into the deepening water. Gibbs immediately brought him to the surface and kept a firm grip on the man's arm as Jack attempted to go farther in order to submerge himself forever. The captain struggled madly against his crewman as Gibbs hauled him toward the island. He finally succumbed and ceased his vain efforts. Grief consumed him entirely once more, and he collapsed to his knees when they reached the shore.
The burden of loss weighed unbearably within Jack years after Will had departed. Never did he mention the blacksmith's name to anyone, nor spoke of what occurred during their stay together.
It had taken an enormous amount of time before he had gained the courage to visit the island to "make amends, as it were."
He walked every inch of the area in solitude and at last stopped to observe with abject, amber orbs the undulating waters.
"I wasn't lyin' that night either, Will," he said weakly. "…..I'm truly sorry, love."
He picked up a handful of sand and threw it into the sea.
"I'll share the same freedom with you one day. Do me the honor of waitin'; I'll be there for you only, darlin'."