- I am sorry for the lack of updates, but office work got in the way... And who invented term papers, anyway? ;-) This is the last chapter, I hope you'll enjoy it.
- Very special thanks to Lisa for her kind words!
"This is the worst hangover I've ever had! BLEAH!!"
Captain Jack Sparrow was feeling as shaky as if he had sailed ten days through a hurricane in a row, even if the sun was high in the cloudless sky and the turquoise-colored Caribbean Sea was tranquil. His mouth was as dry as Lord Beckett's heart; his face was maculated with his kohl makeup; he had a tremendous headache, feeling like his brains wanted to vacate the premises of his skull; his breath was stinking like the Kraken's corpse decaying on the beach and, worst of it all, there wasn't a single flagon of rum left aboard the dinghy!
"Oooooh!" moaned Jack, scrunching his eyes against the blinding morning sunlight, "I won't touch another bottle anyway, not for the next ten years… no, ten days… no, three days! There, I've promised! Please, can someone stop the guy who's bashing me over the head with his sword, just for my sake?"
Jack plunged his hands into the sea and splashed salted water on his face, dreadlocks and neck, trying to clear his mind. He had abused the rum last night, which was much obvious, but for the life of him he couldn't understand why his body was so rebellious after another bout of self-indulgence. Jack was used to drink too much since he had done this during most of his adult life, but he had always shrugged off the aftereffects of alcohol, feeling young and bouncy while his drinking comrades dragged their hangover state all day – another exploit building the legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, the pirate captain who couldn't be vanquished by tempests, the law, or rum!
But this time, it was different: Jack was feeling miserable in both body and mind, and he would sell his soul to the Devil in exchange of some wood betony for his headache. He had even cursed his trademark cockiness when realizing he hadn't packed fresh fruits or edible food for his journey, wrongly thinking he would survive by fishing and drinking rum alone. Well, the rum was gone (as usual) and he wasn't in shape to fish. Besides, Jack remembered making quite a noise last night when fending off imaginary demons and foes, so the fishes were probably halfway round the world by now, scared off their wits!
Gosh, was he thirsty! Jack considered briefly trying to drink some of the ocean water, but he quickly dismissed the idea. Besides tasting horrible, the salt would make his mouth even dryer and it wouldn't help his dehydration at all!
And that damn metallic sound was increasing his headache, on top of everything! Jack has heard it since he had managed to open his eyes this morning, but he had been too busy with his hangover symptoms to investigate the origins of this noise. It sounded like a shackle banging against something, but Jack couldn't take care of it for the moment. Onslaughts of memories about the night before and the horrid dreams he had about Davy Jones, Beckett, the moon, the Black Pearl were making his head pounding like a drum!
Another splash of ocean water on his face and Jack shook his head violently, trying to clear his mind from the headache. Feeling lousy after a night of carouse was a new thing to him, and he sure didn't like it at all. His stomach was screaming for food and, even if Jack Sparrow preferred rum over anything else, he couldn't afford to be picky while in the middle of the ocean and being sick!
He turned around to reach the dinghy's small bench closet, getting ready for a poor breakfast of peanuts, but his feet got entangled with the discarded blanket lying in the small boat's floor: Jack fell down and found himself on his hands and knees once again, nearly hitting his head against a keg sitting innocently nearby the mast.
"O-U-C-H. I am getting tired of falling all over myself all the time!" growled the pirate captain while straightening his hat on his head. "I mean, this is not a dignified attitude for the great Captain Jack Sparrow, so I hereby declare: no clumsiness on my ship, or it's the brig for ye!"
Alternatively grumbling and cursing, Jack freed his feet from the blanket, which got thrown against the small barrel. Puzzled, Jack considered its wooden staves and iron hoops: where did that item came from? He could have sworn he had brought only flagons of rum aboard his ship, and not a whole keg! But with his parchment-like mouth, the pirate captain didn't care about such a detail. After all, loosing memories were part of a hangover's common symptom!
Panting, Jack tried to unseal the bung but his alcoholic motion sickness was making his fingers shaky. Well, desperate times called for desperate measures. With a growl, Jack opened the door of the dinghy's closet and found a hatchet inside it. A swift swing from his arm and the top of the barrel got smashed in a hundred of wooden shards, making a hole large enough to reach the liquid. Another hasty rummage inside the closet produced a dusty terra-cotta mug and Jack grabbed it just before plunging his hand inside the barrel. He drank in long, greedy gulps from his cup, inwardly complimenting himself to have packed a keg of rum for his journey.
His obsidian-colored eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets and his stomach slammed against his throat after realizing that the god-sent liquid was not rum but…
"WATER?!!" coughed Jack out of surprise, nearly getting strangled from the shock, "This is… WATER? But how did I manage to mistake a barrel of water for a keg of rum?"
Stunned, the former Captain of the Black Pearl stared at the keg, seriously considering he had lost his mind as well as his memories. Never, in his entire life, would he have made such a goof, not even completely drunk off his head! He pondered at that phenomenon while his stomach was struggling, as if it was unsure to recognize a liquid that it hadn't met in years.
"Am I getting old, then?" asked Jack out loud. "Already loosing my marbles? Nah! That was done years ago. Sunstroke, then? Nay, I still have my hat on. Maybe I have a problem with my eyes? I'll have to wear glasses? Captain Jack Sparrow doesn't need glasses! He has the eyes of a sparrow-hawk, the heart of a lion, he's swift like the wind and he's as artful as a box of monkeys – ahem – so he doesn't need glasses on his natural-born handsome face to trick his enemies!"
Still, the mysterious presence of a keg aboard his small boat was unnerving. Even if the water had done wonders to calm his thirst and, considering the cylindrical container's size, it was holding enough liquid to drink until the pirate captain reached his next destination, Jack was furiously racking his brains – as much as his headache would allow him – to find an explanation. Not that he was unfamiliar with the supernatural, but still! Whoever heard of a haunted dinghy?
That metallic sound was tinting again! Jack turned around as he wrongly thought one of the small closet's doors was making this noise every time it turned on its hinges. But another quick exam dissolved his suspicions: the sound didn't come from here. However, another thing caught his eyes: tucked inside the closet was a cloth-covered bundle which Jack hadn't noticed in his half-mad frenzy to find a hatchet and a mug to open the barrel and quench his thirst. Puzzled, he got the bundle out and opened it…
By all the treasures of the Caribbean! FRESH FOOD!
Three gobbled eggs, one piece of bacon and four cheese-covered biscuits later, Jack was feeling anew. This impromptu breakfast had hit the spot and his headache was receding a little. Another long drink washed down the food – Jack was even surprised at his rediscovery that plain water didn't taste bad, after all – and it was quickly followed by a hearty burp ("Scuse me!"), the sound of a stuffed and happy stomach!
In his joy to eat these newfound edibles, Jack had completely forgotten his questions about the apparition of food and drinkable water aboard his dinghy. He leaned against the mast, closed his eyes and started to relax under the morning sun, feeling amazed by his own cleverness: it seems to take initiatives that even he was unaware of!
Aw, no, not that damned sound again! Jack groaned and tried to ignore it, but the jingling just wouldn't stop. Knowing that he couldn't have a peaceful nap with this annoying disturbance, the pirate captain sighed, opened his eyes and got on his feet to investigate its source. Whatever it may be, a shackle, a hook or even a coat button, it was going to pay a visit to Davy Jones in the depths of the ocean!
Jack got on his feet and his clearer-brains registered the sound coming from the mast, as if something metallic was banging against it. But as he got closer, he realized that it wasn't a loose shackle or a gooseneck. No, it was some items hanging from the boom by a leather cord and randomly hitting each other from the boat's rolling movement. Getting more and more intrigued, Jack reached out and retrieved the items off the boom, thus interrupting the clinking sound.
He looked at the objects lying in the palm of his hand and they appeared to be silver trinkets. One of the charms had a coral pearl set in the precious metal; another was round-shaped with a piece of ivory shaped like a shell; the last one was a flat medallion with interlaced designs that reminded the pirate captain of Celtic knots.
"Where in the world these baubles are coming from?" wondered Jack out loud. "I prefer beads to adorn my magnificent hair and goatee, or precious rings for my dexterous fingers, but I don't remember any of these and I've never worn anything that I haven't won or stolen – I mean, borrowed!"
Could it be a farewell present from Scarlett and Giselle? Nay, they had departed in less-than-friendly terms the day the pirate captain had left Tortuga. Or maybe it was a gift from Tia Dalma / Calypso, but Jack also dismissed that idea: as if the unpredictable Whirlpool Lady would be in any shape to remember one of her former lovers!
Jack intertwined the leather cord between his fingers before letting the silver trinkets drop from his hand. Their fall was stopped by the cord so the charms banged each other and made their jiggling sound again, shining under the sun. The former captain of the Black Pearl realized that the cord was rather long and the baubles even looked familiar, as if he had seen them before…
Jack suddenly stopped breathing.
Oh, holy God, he remembered he had seen those trinkets…
… HANGING FROM WILL'S NECK.
Will's necklace; He was holding Will's necklace in his hand!
That was impossible, simply impossible! For a moment, Jack thought for sure he was hallucinating again.
And yet, his unbelieving eyes couldn't detach themselves from the trinkets. The souvenir of Will on the deck of the Black Pearl, sailing under a raging storm in search of the Flying Dutchman after their visit to Tia Dalma's shack, came back with a vengeance in Jack's mind. In spite of the thunder and rain, Will had explained about buying this necklace at the Port Royal's market while on his way to officially ask Elizabeth to be his wife. It turned out to be a good-luck charm because Elizabeth had agreed and her father had raised no objections, and Will had worn this necklace ever since! But Jack, too concerned by his own safety at the time, had barely listened to the youngster's romantic explanations.
Much later, during their multiple adventures at sea and their fights against Beckett and Jones, Jack had noticed Will's appearance was getting more and more pirate-like: darker clothes, wine-colored shirt, a knife with a black-and-white handle strapped at his belt, a pierced left ear sporting a small gold ring… Yep, Bootstrap Bill's blood was revealing itself in his son. But even if Will had used more or less crafty means to free his father (probably from passing too much time with Jack Sparrow), the trinkets had remained faithfully attached around the kid's neck, even when his relationship with his fiancée was momentarily strained.
But Will had to sail aboard the Flying Dutchman for ten years now, in company of his father and Davy Jones' former crew, dutifully ferrying lost souls to the Other Side. So how could it be possible his necklace was in the possession of a very puzzled Captain Sparrow?
Jack closed his fist on the leather cord and he grunted as realization slapped him in the face. The food, the keg of water, the silver charms… Gosh, had his legendary sharp wits melted under the abuse of rum?
Will had paid him a visit last night, while Jack was sleeping off his booze!
Jack sprang on his feet so quickly he almost capsized his boat. Clutching the necklace in his fist, he yelled at the top of his lungs: "WILL! WHERE ARE YA, MATE?"
Even if a tiny sane part of his brains told Jack that he was crazy to yell in the emptiness of the open ocean, the pirate captain's eyes searched frantically around, scrutinizing every little wave in the hopes to find the Flying Dutchman sailing on it. He roared even louder:
"WILL!!! WHERE ARE YA? Answer me, dammit! WILL!"
A strange mist was gathering inside Jack's eyes and he blinked furiously to clear them. For the first time of his life, he rued his rum self-indulgence which had made him miss a meeting with the young Turner. Whatever possessed him to get drunk while alone on a dinghy, anyway?
"WILL! Will?" called out Jack again, but his voice was decreasing in volume. It was hopeless and he knew it. Will had sailed away hours ago, leaving edibles testimonies of his generous nature along with a memento, and Jack sighed deeply.
He had a wonderful, loyalty-based friendship with Will Turner, and he had almost blown it away. And Will was a real true friend, the kind of person children instinctively turned to for protection, the knight in shining armor present in every maiden's dreams. If not for Will, Captain Sparrow's tar-covered body would be displayed for the eyes of passerbys, swaying at the end of a hangman's rope with a wooden sign reading "Pirates, ye be warned"! But Jack's cavalier attitude towards the kid had gravely compromised their blooming friendship, culminating when he had sold Will's freedom to Davy Jones out of fear of the Kraken.
Jack sat down heavily, considering the silver trinkets in his hand.
"Aw, Will… Baby bro, why did you give me this?" muttered Jack to himself. "I should be the last person in God's green Earth who should receive this; I know damn well how much that necklace means to ye!"
But the young Turner had indeed left this present to the pirate captain. Now, what was he going to do with it?
Jack's eyes flashed in anger while remembering pure-hearted William forced to sail away from his beloved Elizabeth after the maelstrom battle, to perform duties he had never signed up for. Will, the only untainted soul the Black Pearl had ever welcomed aboard, so badly rewarded for his unselfishness and his determination to save his estranged father! The souvenir of this injustice was making Jack's blood boil, and for a moment he considered calling for Calypso to ask for Davy Jones' body so he could kill him a second time.
"Nah, that's plain futility" grumbled Jack. "Dead the beast, dead its venom, I won't waste another moment of my precious attention with that jellyfish-lookalike slimy git. Concentrate on the present time, Jacky. What do I want most? The Fountain of Youth, that's for sure. Another treasure worth of Captain Jack Sparrow! But what do I also want? Will and Elizabeth happy together even if I cannot do anything to break that absurd 10-year long curse, I doubt Tia Dalma would listen to me… Heck, I don't even know where to find her, now she got her oceanic body back!"
The pirate closed his fist on Will's necklace and pondered in silence for a few moments, looking moodily at the waves as if he was disappointed that Tia Dalma's face wouldn't appear in them. Then an idea popped in his mind! With a huge smile making his gold and silver teeth flash wildly under the sun, he got up on his feet and yelled like a moon-mad dog.
"YEEESSSS!!!" shouted Jack. "I'M A GENIUS! The most brilliant mind of the Caribbean! Captain Jack Sparrow, you're a legend, a walking brain, the eighth wonder of the world! Oh, I am so clever, intelligent, bright, smart, take your pick ladies and gentlemen! Bow at the power of my intellect, all ye crawling and swimming creatures of the sea! I am the best pirate who had ever sailed on the Seven Seas! WHOOOO-HOOOOO!"
Out of joy, he did a somersault and nearly landed in the water, smacking his bottom on the boat's bench and making the dinghy's keel rolling dangerously. The boom had brushed his head but Jack couldn't possibly care about the danger of being knocked down, too happy he was with his idea. He looked at the horizon, grinning from ear to ear like a cat that just had eaten a whole bowl of cream behind his mistress' back.
"Will, mate, one thing ye have to learn about Captain Jack Sparrow, he isn't petty," said Jack. "Nossir, not at all. What kind of man would I be if I didn't give my little brother and his bonnie lass a wedding present? It will be a bit belated, fer sure, but you'll love it. Ya gave me a keg of drinking water, mate, and for the first time o' my life I will pay this debt in full with my extraordinary wedding present, my mind-blowing gift to ye, my incredible offering… a barrel of water from the Fountain of Youth!"
Oh, the look on the Turners' faces when Jack will give them his present! The water from the Fountain of Youth will erase their awful separation, giving Will and Lizzie a chance to live ten more years in replacement of those sacrificed by Jones' actions and his ill-fated love for Calypso. The Turners would make up for lost times and live happily after ever, thank to Captain Jack Sparrow, the insanely intelligent pirate captain! Jack could already picture in his mind Elizabeth giving him a big kiss on the cheek for his troubles, Will's grateful eyes, and even Bootstrap Bill smiling at him. At long last, Jack would be freed of the guilt he had been feeling for months towards Will. Yes, Captain Sparrow repaid his debts tenfold to the extremely rare people who actually cared for him, true to his worldwide-spread legend!
Jack snatched his compass from his belt and opened the lid covered by a lapis-lazuli dome: as on cue, the disk turned like crazy for an instant, just before the fleur-de-lis needle abruptly stopped, pointing in the direction of the north-east.
That was the direction mentioned on Sao Feng's navigational charts to reach the Fountain of Youth.
Jack looked at Will's present clutched in his hand. A pirate never had a lot of worldly goods to his name – that was part of the profession – and the former Captain of the Black Pearl was no exception to this rule. Over the years, only his weapons, the clothes on his back, his magical compass, his hat and the trinkets in his hair could be called his own, especially since he had lost his beloved ship for the second time! But now, after a visit from his little brother, Jack had another possession of sentimental value that he could hold dear.
He hanged the leather cord over his own neck and smiled at the silver trinkets displayed on his chest, half-hidden beneath his puffy torn white shirt.
"I'll give it back to ye with my wedding present, I swear to ye, mate!"
Jack sat back on the dinghy's bench and grabbed the rudder. His thirst was drenched, his belly was full, his spirits were high like a soaring eagle, it was time to continue his search for the Fountain of Youth and find it with all the panache of the notorious Captain Sparrow!
A dolphin suddenly jumped out the waves, on the starboard side of the dinghy, and dove into the salty water after making a graceful arc in the air.
Jack smiled at this display of animal elegance and agility.
"Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!"
THE END! ;-)