The Gods play chess

It first occurred to him at the start of the second year. Standing on deck with his young son in his arms watching the sun start its tumble towards the horizon, with the hot yellow light picking red sparks from the still sparse hair nestled in his palm, and remembering his father words. The Dutchman must have a Captain and so, if he was to end his service after ten years, then who would take his place?

He didn't know the answer. All he was certain of was that in nine years time Elizabeth would have built a home for them and that she would be waiting for him, certain that he would go to her with his duty complete. The wondering caused him a moment of concern but nine years is a long time for a human, and Will still thought as a human, and so he kissed his son, put the idea aside and didn't think about it again.

Until the end of the third year.

The thought came to him again as a father handed his two small daughters to the Captain of the Dutchman with a grateful smile and this time it was not so easily put aside. After several days of wondering and worrying he sought out his own father looking for answers, even though he knew that, probably, there were none to be had, at least not aboard the Dutchman.

He had been right in that supposition, for his father had just shrugged sadly
"I don't know Will. Jones had been Captain since Calypso first set the duty. I know that you can be released at the end of ten years but I don't know who will take your place, or how."
Will stared out to the sunlit sea his eyes darkening with uncomfortable thoughts, not wanting to see the the longing and the fear in his father's face,
"But if there is no one else to be Captain then can I still leave?" he asked.
Bootstrap sighed,
"That is the terms of the Captaincy Will, if Elizabeth is waiting for you, if she has been true, then you will be released. What happens then only Calypso knows."
He reached out and caught at Will's arm,
"You would not leave Elizabeth longer for that would you son? She will have earned your return as much as you will have."
Will could hear the pain, the regret and guilt, in the now familiar voice,
"Don't follow in my footsteps Will, please, don't leave her to face a life alone while you pursue some purpose she cannot share or understand."
Will smiled at his father and gripped his hand in acknowledgment of what they both knew wasn't being said,
"I won't."

But it the matter lingered in the back of his mind, and, as he did the duties that destiny, and the sea goddess had allotted to him, he also vowed that he would not leave the Dutchman without a captain.

***

It was at the end of the fifth year that Elizabeth first asked him who would take his place. Though he reassured her, he thought he saw fear in her eyes as she turned away. Fear and desperation. Matters needed to be resolved.

So he had approached his father again and asked if he would take the captaincy when the time came. But his father shook his head sadly,
"I would do it for you with gratitude if I could Will, but I cannot. No crewman could. The Dutchman must have a living, beating, heart and it is some time since my heart could beat. No, it must be someone still in the world of the living who takes over from you."
"Not even one the newly dead then?" he said another, hope fading.
His father had shook his head again,
"No. Only someone both living and dead, only they can steer the ship across the divide."
His father had tilted his head and looked at Will with narrowed eyes,
"But Calypso knows this. She will provide Will, trust her."
Will stifled his sudden sense of desperation and nodded,
"Of course."
But he knew that he didn't.

***

At the end of the seventh year he called to Calypso and asked to meet her, but it took a long year of journeying before she came, a long year of knowing that he could not leave the Dutchman without a captain.

"Whaat be it that worrit you so Captain Turner?" She was Tia Delma again, skirts brushing the deck, jewels flashing darkly in the light of the stars.
"Have I not comt to your aid when you needed me? Whaat is it that you needt ta doubt me now?"
There had been a frown in her eyes, and he felt the prow of the ship lift as the swell of the waves grew, their caps breaking out into spurts of foaming anger. Risking her wrath was not a comfortable notion and yet he had to ask.
"I do not doubt you, but I need to know. I cannot leave the Dutchman without a captain. I am not Davy Jones, you placed them in my care and I will not abandon them. "
She smirked at that, painted teeth shadowed in the silver light,
"No. You be a fine captain, William Turner."

He turned towards her, desperation shining in his eyes.
"But I cannot stay. I have other loyalties, other duties. You know that. I cannot forget those, do not want to, but I need to be sure that I can leave the ship and the duty in good hands."
Her smirk became a pout,
"A touch of Destiny," she breathed as she looked at him with narrowed eyes. Eyes suddenly too old for any human.
He caught his breath at the look and was glad to feel his father suddenly behind him. Will steadied himself, kept his fear and anger from his voice,
"So you said. But how far does this destiny reach Calypso? The terms are ten years before the mast and then, if Elizabeth stays true, I am freed to mortal life again. Or is there something that you haven't told me?"

Calypso was silent for a moment, watching him closely in the hard, cold, light of the
far away stars, a light that reminded him of how unreal this would all have seemed not so long ago. Reminded him daily of the differences between this destiny and the life he had wanted. Fear gripped him again as he met those old eyes, saw the amusement and satisfaction there. Then suddenly she turned away flipping an imperious hand at him as she did so,
"As I sayt so shall it be. A touch of Destiny William Turner, but just a touch." She shot him a sly look over a narrow shoulder, "nor did I sayt only you be so touched. Did I?"
Will looked at her with sudden suspicion
"You have someone already in mind then?" He sighed as a thought came to him, "perhaps you always have had. Or maybe only since I told you about Jones betrayal."

She turned back towards him her finger raised in warning, a frown on her brow. The wind whipped the foaming wave caps and stretched the Dutchman's sails.
"It be not for you to question me William Turner. Captain or no. It not be given to you to know me intentions. It be enough that I tell you there will be a captain to replace you. Now go and do your duty."

Before he could reply she had stepped through the rail and melted into the sea.

***

The ninth year was hard.

It began with a vicious storm and the floundering of a rumrunner off the coast of Jamaica; amongst those pulled to the Dutchman from the sea was a painfully familiar face,
"Mr Gibbs!"

The man advanced with outstretched hand,
"Captain Turner! It be good to see a friendly face," he cast a sad look at the other weary souls on the deck, " and one who speaks a civilised tongue."
He stared around the ship in quiet despair,
"This be it then? I'm dead?" He cast Will a worried look, "Headed for the locker am I?"
Will smiled and shook his head,
"The locker belonged to Davy Jones and it passed into legend with him. I certainly have never taken anyone there, I wouldn't know the way."
"But the ship might." Gibbs seemed unwilling to be reassured.
Will clasped his shoulder,
"Then stay and serve her, at least while I remain as Captain."
Gibbs smile had been all the answer that was needed.

***

In June the hurricanes arrived and more than one captain didn't make safe harbour in time. Amongst them was a British privateer lost off the coast of the Americas, all hands abandoned her but none made it to shore. Cowering amongst the soaking flotsam they hauled onto the Dutchman's deck was someone else from Will's past.
"Marty? What are you doing here? Why aren't you with the Pearl?" he asked in surprise. He got no answer just a frightened look and a shrinking away.

It took Gibbs three days to wring the story out of the other man,
"Barbossa left Jack behind as I told you. But it seems that he was not the man he had been. Maybe coming back from the dead does things to a man's mind for Marty says Jack was ne'er so strange as Barbossa became once they had left Tortuga."
Gibbs settled himself on a coil of rope, obviously pleased at having a new tale to tell.
"They set sail to find this Fountain of Youth, as marked on the ancient charts that we took from Sao Feng you recall, but on the voyage out the crew demanded that he gave up the bearings."
Gibbs caught Will's startled look,
"Aye, just as once he had done to Jack. Now Will, in those days Barbossa would have cursed them back to their stations and backed it up with his pistol and the threat of his sword or the lash, but not this time. Marty is not sure why, but maybe Barbossa felt some guilt at leaving Jack behind, or maybe that having been to the land beyond with him they had shared enough to make them more than just crew. Maybe it was just the madness come upon him. Anyway's he agreed to show them, but in the end he couldn't oblige because Jack had taken the important part of the chart ashore with him."
He nodded at Will's smile,
"Jack might not have learned all the lessons the locker had to teach him but he had learned enough." He looked suddenly sad, "though he didn't seem a happier man for the learning."

Will thought about that in silence for a moment, finding that the thought of Jack trusting once more and once again betrayed brought him no pleasure.
"And Marty?" he prompted.
Gibbs shrugged,
"They followed what Barbossa thought he recalled to be the course, but they ended up lost. Though the captain wouldn't admit it to be the case, and he wasn't yet so mad that anyone would challenge it. After a month or more sailing with nothing to show for it, and with the water running low, they anchored off some unnamed island. Seemed he was convinced that this Fountain of Youth was there. Barbossa went ashore with Marty and Cotton and a few others to find it. The last they saw of the Pearl was as she disappeared over the horizon."

"And the Fountain?"
Gibbs smiled wryly,
"Well if it was there they didn't find it."
"So what happened to them?"
"They were picked up by a merchant also in search of water. Marty and Cotton skipped ship at Port Royale and he doesn't know what happened to the others." Gibbs sighed, "Marty thinks that maybe Pintel and Raggetti took the Pearl, but he doesn't know it to be the case. If that was the way of it then it's bad news for if that were so then her fate can't have been good, unless Jack took her back. "
He looked down at his hands,
"But Jack never showed up again in Tortuga, and if he had retaken the Pearl then he would have come back. Jack Sparrow never could stay out of sight for long."

Gibbs looked warily at Will for a long moment, then asked the question that hung unasked and unanswered between them since he first came aboard,
"You've not seen Jack I suppose?"
Will smiled slightly but a coldness entered his voice, though he couldn't have said what for,
"I would have told you if I had."
Gibbs looked away,
"Yes, yes, of course you would."

***

Will found he was not surprised when, as September drew to a close, a parrot came to sit on the rail and he was extending his hand to another man who had journeyed with him into Tia Dalma's hiding place a decade before.
"Mr Cotton, welcome aboard," was all he had said.
But he somehow knew that Cotton would be staying with the Dutchman just as Gibbs and Marty had.

Now Will thought he saw the shape of Calypso's mind and he smiled, though it stirred his anxiety yet again, for if this last act of their shared drama was leading where he thought it was he feared for the duty and the souls lost at sea. How could he leave them if that was the case?

Yet each day brought Elizabeth and their son closer to him and he found that he longed to be back with her again and yearned for the life they might once have had. He didn't fear death, only countless ages of 'might have been's'. He could give her a hundred years on the Dutchman but no more, then she would have to leave him, would want to leave him, to rejoin those who had passed before, her father, her mother and her children. Yet how could he leave the souls to come to the uncertain mercies of a wayward 'care not' captain?

The dilemma got no easier as time passed, not least because he feared that only an even more wayward spirit could resolve it.

***

It was the new year, the final year, when Calypso came to the Dutchman again, standing beside him at the helm in the night watches, her amusement shining like the stars in her eyes.
"William Turner thinkt he know Calypso's mind, and it trouble him," she purred. "Him time be coming to an end but him afeared to leave the Dutchman to one who will not care for the souls in his charge. One who will not do the duty."
She turned towards him, her hand trailing up his arm caressingly, her smile sly and appraising in the half light,
" A fine captain you have been tis true. But would you give up your woman and chile to do my work William Turner? Will you embrace immortality, forgo your reunion and a human life for the duty? That be your choice, and only yours for I will not hold you here unless you ask it."

Will walked away from her, waving his father to wheel and ignoring the trouble he could see in that now familiar face he went to stand at the rail. She followed him in silence, waiting with uncharacteristic patience while he stared at the dark water beneath them. Stayed so even when he challenged her.
"Gibbs, Marty and Cotton. All here. Pintel and Raggetti no longer sail or are dead ashore. " He caught the look passing across her face and knew it to be true. "So all who came with me to the swamp, that survived the Kraken, are here. All bar one. The one who took us there, the one who had known you, the one your lover hated so very much. "
He turned towards her,
"Too much, now that I come to think of it. Why should Jones have hated Jack so much? Because he tried to cheat him? I doubt that he was the first. It was much more personal than that wasn't it? Did he know what was in your mind Calypso? Did he know that once you were free you would replace him, and replace him with Jack Sparrow. Was that your plan?"
She remained silent but her smile widened, in the half light it seemed approving.

Will sighed as he thought back to that strange meeting,
"What was it you said then, when he said that he thought he knew you? 'not as well as I had hoped'. It was Jack you had intended to free you, wasn't it, and free your supposed lover Jones too? But he suspected something didn't he?Maybe he realised that you were more than you seemed and he did what he always does when he doesn't see a way out, he ran away. So you made a deal with Barbossa instead."
She watched him carefully but still said nothing.
Will smiled at her,
" You knew that Jack was going to die, that matters were becoming urgent, why else did you need Barbossa? Jack had been about you too long or too often and Jones was jealous. He wanted Jack in the locker, and you couldn't see how you were going to get him safe aboard the Dutchman could you? Not until you saw me? "
"A touch of destiny," she murmured, her voice like velvet and her smile widening even further.
Will caught her wrist and frowned,
"But whose? Tia Dalma. In the end whose destiny is it? Mine, Jones, yours or Jack's?"

She blinked slowly at him for a moment, her head tilted to the side as if considering her response, then she pulled her wrist away from his hand and turned towards the dark horizon.
"Jack Sparrow him heart belong to me," her voice was low and as gentle as he had ever heard it. "Him has always loved me, for everything that I can be. Too much of him is given to me for there to be anyone else for him to love. Him love me as you love your Elizabeth, regardless of what I am."
Will thought he began to understand,
"As Jones loved you, once."
She nodded and he could feel her tears even though he couldn't see them.
"But you don't love Jack, not as you loved Jones?"

She shook her head slowly,
"No, will never love a man like that again."
She looked back towards him then her chin tilting up, her voice was no longer soft,
"But I am a goddess, to be loved is what I need. It is air and water and meat and drink to me, without it I die William Turner. Jack Sparrow could not love Tia Delma because he love Calypso."
"I see." He said softly, he thought that he did but he wished that he didn't.

They stood in silence for a while, but there were things that had to be said while there was time, he caught at her wrist again,
"That may be true but he will not make a good captain for the Dutchman, Calypso. Loving you is not enough. He must care for the duty you charge him with, and Jack doesn't care for anyone very much. Immortality, yes he wants that, but not the duty that goes with it. There is a price that must be paid for what you desire, you told me that, will Jack be willing to pay it? Or will others pay it for him?"

"As you wanted it?" her voice was sly, all sorrow forgotten.
Will stepped back in surprise, there was nothing he could say to that, not knowing what his choice would have been had Jones allowed him one. Calypso saw his confusion and took rare pity on him.
"William Turner him take me for a fool?" she was smiling again. "Witty Jack have lessons to learn, but him learn well, and quickly. Trust Calypso to make sure of it."
She flicked an impatient wrist,
"Besides him has the necessary qualifications."
"Those being?" Will frowned.
Calypso smiled and leaned in towards him, her eyes danced and her voice dropped to the gentle hiss of surf on a beach,
"None come back from the dead by mortal hand William Turner."
He smiled back,
"As I recall we managed very well, and without your help."
She gave a long low laugh and it echoed around the ship like the boom of breakers on the rocks. Her hand came up to caress his forearm and she leaned closer still, her mouth close to his ear as she crooned,
"Witty Jack, him find the way."

Will stood frozen as the implications written in her eyes sank in,
"So he came back, but not mortal," he whispered.
He stared at her hand resting on his arm for a while, remembering some very odd events in the weeks that followed that return, perhaps not so odd if that were the case,
"But the green flash?"
She laughed again,
"Was not for Witty Jack. Not for any person at all, but a soul returning yes."
Will stared at her, remembering again that visit to the swamp,
"An undead monkey," he whispered.
Tia Dalma smiled a secret smile.

"Does Jack know?"
She shrugged,
"Him will suspect now, though he may not know."
"But others must suspect too?"
She turned dark and suddenly cold eyes towards him,
"Barbossa him suspect. Others?" she shrugged, "who will live to tell the tales."
Will decided he didn't want to think about her meaning.
"Barbossa suspected? Was that why he left Jack at Tortuga?"
She shrugged again,
"Barbossa be master of his own fate now. That was our agreement."

Will watched her with narrowed eyes for a moment recalling Gibbs and Marty's tales, finally he smiled, a humorless smile but the best he could manage,
"But Jack took the charts….."
She smiled in return and purred at him,
"Witty Jack."
Then she turned away.
"Barbossa was given what he wanted…." she said,
"and he didn't have to take the Pearl, he chose to." Will finished for her.
She casts a flirtatious look back over her shoulder,
"The gods play chess William Turner, not dice."
Then she was gone.

***

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