The Gods play chess 2

It was the final week of his service and the Dutchman was making the last crossing before she turned towards Elizabeth and home. He had spent weeks of waiting, searching the face of every soul they ferried, looking for the one he sought and not finding it. As the horizon had danced in front of him the anxiety had grown that somehow Calypso had played him false, that his release was a lie, that she would snatch away his waiting life just as he saw it standing on the shore.

The last of the dead had disembarked into the next stages of their existence and the Flying Dutchman had turned back under the star way and towards the world of the living and still he had no answer.
"Sail ahead." The lookout shouted.
They all turned towards the horizon with disbelief, 'only the Dutchman sails these waters,' Will thought 'no other ship has ever survived it' .
"Not so, William Turner," a familiar voice whispered in his ear, "one other did. Now she is returned as she had ta be."
He knew what he would see even as he set the glass to his eye.

The Black Pearl sat serenely at anchor on the edge of the two worlds. Her sails furled and flags flying. It was a 'come aboard' signal.

Will nodded to his helmsman,
"Take her along side Mr Turner."
"Aye Captain," there was relief in his father's voice.

He boarded the Peal alone, she was eerily silent, the only sound to be heard the faint creak of flexing timbers . She appeared to be deserted but Will was sure that she wasn't. He tore down the deck, flung open the cabin doors and strode in; the bed was made, lamps were burning and the tabled lined with charts all neatly rolled. A familiar coat was draped across a stand but there was no one there. He stepped back out onto the deck, turning to scan the shadowed cabin once more before shutting the doors.

"Well, well. If it isn't young master Turner."
The familiar voice came from above him. He smiled before he turned, he should have known that Jack would make an entrance rather than simply be found. When he did turn it was to see the pirate lounging at ease, almost draped around the wheel. His gilded smile flashed across the distance between them,
"And how is your dearly beloved, not murdered any one recently I hope? It would be unfortunate if your return home should coincide with her hanging."
The words suggested that he hadn't forgiven Elizabeth and yet there was no malice in the tone, and when Will stood before him he could see only ease and humour in the other man's smile.

"Jack." It was both welcome and protest.
The smile widened,
"In the flesh mate. But somehow you don't look surprised to see me." The dark eyes widened in mock shock, "Tia Dalma being whispering into your ear has she? What will dear Elizabeth make of that I wonder?"
"Jack." He protested again, "What are you doing here?"
The smile became reflective, and slightly sad,
"Seems that I belong here, mate. Jones's beastie did a better job of it than we thought."
Will gave a heavy sigh,
"I'm sorry Jack." Though he wasn't sure what for.

Jack seemed to know that,
"Are you now? You do surprise me. Seems to me that you hated me more than a little. Why then should you worry about what happens to me when you depart to your bonny lass."
"I didn't hate you," Will protested.
Jack's eyes widened again, the disbelief unhidden. It caused Will to think about his words for a moment, then he smiled slightly,
"Well not for long. You were right, there comes a time when you must take responsibility for your mistakes."
He met the dark eyes staring at him across the wheel, and took a deep breath, there was no reason that Jack should make this easy for him but it had to be said,
"I wasn't very fair to you Jack. For that I am sorry. You may have meant it all for the best, and maybe you knew what you were doing, I don't know and don't want to now. But when it mattered you did the best for me that you could, despite the cost. You gave me what you wanted most, that wiped out whatever debt you may have owed me, or Elizabeth." He felt a sudden and unexpected pang of shame, " Pirate or not, you are a good man after all, I'm not so sure I would have done half as much for you."

Jack eased himself upright and waved a languid hand,
"It seems I lost nothing mate, so maybe you shouldn't be so quick to declare me noble."
Will stared at him with narrowed eyes
"Did you know that, at the time?"
Jack looked uncomfortable,
"Well no, but…."
Will didn't allow him to finish the sentence,
"Then the act was done with honour Jack," he smiled as he saw the pirate squirm at the word, "but maybe that was not so unusual as you would have us all believe."
Jack's forehead wrinkled into a frown beneath his red bandana and one elegant and heavily ringed finger was raised in protest,
"Now William, I don't see that there is any call to insult me. If I had been given the time to think about it I might have done differently, but between Elizabeth wailing and Jones gloating a man couldn't call his thoughts his own."
Some fleeting worry flitted across his face and then was melted by the brilliance of his smile,
"The effects of the locker no doubt. I hear that Barbossa went mad. Serves the bugger right for stealing my ship." The waving hand came to rest on the wheel,
" he won't do that again."
A satisfaction crept into the humour, and Jack looked around the ship with a calm Will had never seen in him before,
"The Pearl is safe now. Safe where she belongs," his hand stroked the timber gently before he looked back at Will, "Wiv me."

Will drew a deep breath,
"What of the Dutchman Jack? Tia Dalma wants you for her captain. What do you want?"
Jack met his eyes squarely and the look there caused Will to frown, for there was depth and straightness to the look that had not been there before. Or that he had not seen before. Whether something was gone or something was added he would wonder for the rest of his life, but all he was sure of in that moment was that something about Jack Sparrow had been resolved. For the first time Will felt the force of the mind behind the dancing eyes and fluttering hands, knew the pull of the man that was the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow. There was a strength, a warmth and yet a coldness in the look too that spoke of how Jones must once have been; but there was also a terrible sanity that frightened Will to see, no living man's eyes should ever look so. Whatever lessons Calypso had arranged for 'witty Jack' they had done their work.

"When you come right down to it just when, exactly, has it mattered what I wanted Will?" Jack's voice was gentle but there was no smile and his face was hard and set,
"Teague, Beckett, Gibbs, Barbossa, Giselle, Elizabeth, you; the list is endless. All of you deciding what I was, what I should be. All of you wanting, but never giving."
The smile returned,
" but I survived you all. Calypso is no different mate."
Will felt his future slipping away and reached out to grab the pirate's arm across the Pearl's wheel, fingers biting onto muscle hard as iron,
"And what of the duties, the souls who need to be ferried? What of them Jack? They need care, not the disinterest of a man with a grudge against the world." The anger was undisguised. "Immortality carries a price Jack, can you pay it?"
Jack shook off his hand with no noticeable effort, his eyes narrowed and his smile twisted and became cold.
"I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Who knows it better than I do master Turner."
The words carried the bite of the north wind. Then just as suddenly the cold melted and the hard dark eyes became soft and pensive; the arm that Will had grasped reached out, a hand catching him by the wrist. Now the smile was gentle,
"It is clear to me that you know little of anything Will. Go back to your fierce damsel, she'll have found something to be distressed about by now, and learn a little more of living, immortality took you too soon."

"And you," Will looked around him," and the Pearl?"
Jack tilted his head as if listening to something or someone,
"I will board the Flying Dutchman and fulfil my allotted destiny as the immortal Captain Jack Sparrow. The Pearl will wait for me here, safe until another legend comes to take my place, as it will."
"And the duty?"
Jack sighed,
"You never did know me very well did you? Though I recall you once said I was a good man, but then you always were a fool."
The hand slid down to curl around his in a strong and comforting grip,
"They did what's right by them, you can't expect more than that," he quoted words from what seemed to be several lifetimes ago. Then he smiled again and Will looked into eyes that seemed to have no bottom to them. The grin widened in a flash of gold,
"I'll be a better ferry man than you would ever be Will Turner."

***

On the cliff tops Elizabeth waited, outwardly calm for their son's sake but inwardly quaking. In her dreams she had lived though every eventuality, from Will being trapped in the world of the dead on this most important of days, to him telling her that he that no longer loved her, or that they had found no other captain and he must serve another ten years. Behind her was the home and future she had built for the three of them but she knew that another delay would kill it, ten more years and Will would be bound to the Dutchman for ever.

With hidden trepidation she waited for the last rays of the sun to fail as it sunk behind the horizon, almost afraid to breathe. The world stopped as she fixed her eyes on the sea, praying that her patience would be rewarded.

The sudden flash of green was so bright that it lit the sea and sky for miles. She took a deep breath and smiled as her life began again.

***

On the ship that headed towards the shore a young man stood at the rail, re-discovering the strange sensation of blood coursing though his veins. Behind him a pirate stood at the wheel, hair blowing in the wind, a smile on his lips and in his eyes. Will didn't need to look to see the satisfaction there, Jack had the sea, his crew and his legend and Will had his wife and son, for the moment there was nothing else to be wanted.

***

In the seas and the winds and the spray a goddess watched and laughed, and began to set the pieces for the next game.