A/N: Ahum, yes. Pirate!Newsies has finally come to frutition. Hopefully I did it justice. Comments are love and I'll love you forever if you comment because comments are love. Get my drift? ;)
Oh, also, contains slash within. Be warned.
Once upon a time there was a boat.
A ship, really.
And this ship was called The World. And The World traveled the world, sailing the seven seas, and was known the world over. The World's crew, you see, were pirates.
But not bloodthirsty, savage pirates like those you often hear of. These were dashing, gallant ones. These pirates robbed ships on all seven seas and off countless coasts, and they did it all with brilliant witticisms, shiny shoes, and charming smiles. This ragtag bunch of pirates, known as much for their good humor as their robberies, never killed a soul. They stole, they damaged, they even inflicted some pain when necessary, but they left all survivors.
Some places, in lands where the rules were more lax, where the law could turn a blind eye to some of their shadier dealings, these pirates could come ashore and, for a time, as long as they committed no noticeable crimes while there, be welcomed into the fold. They went by their thinly veiled aliases, and under names like "Brigley Decks" and "Sullivan Peels" would be welcomed into manor houses of all types for colorful balls and lively parties. They'd toss out their stories by the minute, each more outrageous than the last—they were French traders, oui? Non, they were spies from the Spanish Armada, sent into deep cover by the Queen herself. The ladies would blush and giggle and listen raptly to the stories and the men would nod solemnly and they'd all pretend to believe. After all, their ship was called silly things like Uncle Strangler, not The World.
The pirates would leave these ports well fed and well bed, and the governors would have considerable more wealth than they had the previous week, tax-free.
Very little of their time was spent onshore, however. For the pirates, the sea was life and life was the sea, and no amount of golden and emerald shores or the pretty ladies who awaited on them could replace the splashing of the salty waves or the cry of seagulls. The World's crew had not in reality been together that long; a few years, at most, and they were young yet, but to them, it felt like an eternity. They were each other's family and the sea was their home, and it did not take them long to build up a reputation, at any rate.
For many years The World plied the seas, evading all capture. They were a skilled crew, and they left no carnage in their wake—only financial ruin. Several times various navies and privateers attempted to stop them—and several times they were defeated, or else neatly bribed.
Known though they were, Jack Kelly's band of pirates weren't the most famous in history, or even the most well known of their time. But it is around them that we center our story.
The day David Jacobs met with pirates dawned bright and clear.
He woke up feeling queasy, but then, he woke up feeling queasy most days. It had become a favorite joke among the crew—David Jacobs, city boy, who could spend over a month at sea without ever getting his sea legs—or his sea stomach, apparently.
Luckily he had stopped throwing up regularly about two-thirds of the way into the journey from England, and though he had resumed doing so in the beginning of the voyage back, it hadn't lasted as long. Now, nearly halfway back home, he kept his meals down about ninety percent of the time—and most of the other ten percent could probably be blamed either on bad weather or abysmal cooking.
His queasiness fading, David dressed in the same loose-fitting clothing he had worn almost every day on his voyage (and which were beginning to smell very strongly of both saltwater and fish) and stumbled his way abovedecks. The English trade ship was clipping along at a brisk pace, gamboling friskily with the waves, seeming to nearly fly over them. Too far north to be hindered by the Doldrums, wind was filling the sails completely, propelling them along almost faster than David would have thought possible. Various sailors swarmed the deck, performing their various tasks that helped the ship sail along so smoothly. At this rate, they'd be in London in under a fortnight. This thought cheered David considerably, and he was only moderately upset when he lost his footing and stumbled straight into the mizzenmast and began to develop what was bound to be a beauty of a bruise on his forehead.
Most of his morning, like many, was spent at the bow, working on his script. This occasionally led to his papers being anywhere from sprinkled to drenched by salty sea spray, but he generally found that staying abovedecks made him feel much less queasy and likely to lose his breakfast. He really didn't want to offend the cook any further than he already had; Feasty Charles, as he was known, seemed to take David's poor inner ear as a personal affront, no matter how often David tried to assure him to the contrary. He simply wasn't cut out for a life that wasn't spent on very firm ground—as he planned on telling his father in no uncertain terms once they reached London. This would be the last time he was roped into overseeing one of his father's many trade ships to the West Indies, of all places.
Admittedly, part of it had been David's own idea. His last play, a musical about Vikings, had received discouraging reactions at best from the various theater directors and producers he'd tried to hand it off to. David wondered if perhaps this was due to his inaccurate depiction of sea life, having never set foot on a boat himself, and he vowed to resolve this issue. When his father, ever hopeful of roping David into the family business, had come forth with a voyage to the Caribbean that needed overseeing to ensure fair play from overzealous overseas merchant traders, it had seemed like the perfect opportunity for David to explore the lifestyles of his bearded protagonists. The prospect certainly hadn't seemed too difficult: to act as passenger while the hired seamen sailed the boat westward, supervise the loading and unloading of goods, make friendly small talk with the traders for a single night, and then make the return journey. Simple enough; he had always been good with a checklist, and it would leave him plenty of time to work on his play in between.
He hadn't counted on the seasickness.
But by the time he had arrived at the conclusion that he absolutely despised the sea and all it stood for, it was too late to turn back and he was effectively stuck. That was when he decided the Viking play was rubbish, with all of its cheerful odes to the changing of the tides, and now irrevocably linked to losing his lunch besides, and he tossed it overboard. Then he started on this play, about adventurers in the Sahara (or about as far away from Vikings as one could possibly get). Of course, he'd never been to the desert either, but he knew better by now than to go gallivanting off and try that.
After a tense lunch, during which Feasty Charles eyed him suspiciously while David continually overemphasized the deliciousness of the unidentifiable leftover stew, he retired again to his place at the bow and looked out over the choppy blue water. To him, the sea was nothing but a vast, empty nothingness—which was useful as he imagined it its place the vast, empty nothingness of the desert. The air, shimmering from the very heat raising off the dunes…the sand itself, molded into hills and valleys as though by some giant invisible hand…the taste of dry air and sweat… His eyes distant and unfocused, staring at a vision only he could see, David began to write.
The very same sun that hung menacingly above his desert scene was descending quickly towards the sea from its zenith when David finally looked up again. The midday ocean looked no different than it had at noon; like a great blank canvas, all background, but then—he saw something to disrupt the nothingness. A something. A speck. David squinted. No, not a speck, a ship. It was a speck of a ship on the horizon, and it was becoming rapidly less speck-like as it approached.
David looked around at the lookout to see, rather unsurprisingly, that he was sound asleep in the crow's nest. Most of the sailors, he knew, had retreated to the captain's cabin to play at cards, leaving only the lookout and David on deck. And much good either of them would be should the approaching ship prove unfriendly.
With a sigh, David gathered up his partial script, leaving his hero mid-hallucination, and went to alert the crew of an approaching ship from the—blast, what was it? East? North? One of those—In any case, he figured the captain should at least be made aware.
Captain Hearst was rather cross when he stomped out of his cabin after David, although that was probably more due to the large amount of money he'd just lost to the Second Officer than to the interruption. The crew trouped out behind him, most unadmittedly glad for the opportunity to stop betting what little wages they received. Somebody went to awaken the lookout with a harsh yell while the captain strode to portside, taking out his spyglass to better see the approaching vessel.
"What's she called, Captain?" the First Officer asked at the captain's left shoulder. David, curious despite himself, approached the captain's right side and squinted, as though that would work as well as Hearst's spyglass (it didn't).
"I can't tell," Hearst said, still staring through his miniature telescope, "The name seems to be obscured."
"Obscured how?" the First Officer asked, leaning over the rail as he stared in vain.
"Paint? Some strange…substance. I can't tell. Perhaps it's seaweed." The captain sounded doubtful of his own theory, but not as though he cared much—the matter was of little importance. "Wait, they're running up colors. Ah, there we go."
Hearst pocketed his spyglass; the ship was now close enough that you could see the British flag it flew, as well as other, smaller flags that David didn't understand the meaning of. Apparently the captain did, however.
"All right, lads, let's do what hey ask. Turn ship nor'east!" Hearts cried out, and, most confusingly, the crew began to steer Greyhound—the name of their own ship, of course—towards the newcomer.
"What's going on?" David asked, gripping the railing of the ship as the deck pitched and rolled neatly beneath him. "Where are we going?"
The captain patted him kindly on the shoulder. His earlier bad mood seemed to be forgotten. "See those colors they ran up, m'lad? The blue and yellow one with the stripeys and the green with the key?"
"What do they mean?"
"Well, roughly translated, it's something like: 'Hi. Welcome. We're friendly. Come hither. Let's talk.'"
Daivd stared at the small flags in various colors with symbols he couldn't make head nor tails of. "Oh. You get all that from those?"
"Well, more or less."
They were getting near enough now that David could begin to see men on the deck of the other ship, but not yet close enough that he could make out faces.
"Why would they want to talk?" David asked blankly. He couldn't think of a single reason to delay their journey even further and couldn't help feeling impatient to get back to England, even though he knew arrival was yet a fortnight away.
"Oh, y'know," the captain said confidently. "They'll be lonely and wanting a talk, if they've been at sea long enough, or else hoping to trade some goods, maybe lighten their hull. Asking for news of the Doldrums, or warnings of pirates hereabout—could be anything, really. A bit of friendly sailors' talk. Nothing to worry about, laddie."
"Huh," David said. He realized he was still holding his slightly damp, rolled-up script and tucked it in his pocket.
"Lookit," the First Officer said, coming up to the captain's other shoulder again, now that the masts were properly adjusted. "They're taking down the flags."
"To raise up new colors," the captain said knowledgably. "They have something else to say before we meet." He smiled beneficially at David, pleased to be sharing the ways of the sea with one so young and untrained.
"Should they be taking the English flag down too?" David asked. The captain frowned.
In the next moment, all confusion was quickly and shockingly erased as a new flag replaced those of the British crown and the friendly communicative handkerchiefs—one every sailor on board was all too familiar with. A black flag.
The First Officer's naturally wide eyes went unnaturally wider.
"Pirates," the captain said in one drawn-out hiss, and then: "Pirates! It's the Jolly Roger, boys! Hard to starboard!" There was general commotion and outcry as those on board who had not yet taken not taken notice of the cheerfully smiling white skull and crossed bones on the black ground reacted and rushed back to their stations. The ship pitched hard to starboard, rolling under David's feet and nearly sending him flying overboard.
But alas, it was too late to escape the pirate's clever trap, and the enemy ship—The World, as they could all now see it was called; whatever gunk had been obscuring the name now erased completely by the ocean—bore quickly down upon them. "Lord have mercy," the captain muttered upon seeing the name; David, having no knowledge of pirates, famed or otherwise, suddenly felt the knot that had developed in his stomach get even tighter at the captain's fear.
A dastardly trick, really, to get them to come so close—
Desperately, Greyhound tried to run, or at least pivot to a position where her guns would be of use, but The World was a step or two ahead, and deployed exactly one well-aimed cannonball. The leaping dog figurehead exploded into smithereens, and the ship rocked from the blow, bumping right into the hull of The World. The next thing any of the panicked sailors knew, grappling hooks had them tethered to the pirate ship, and about a dozen men—pirates—had seized ropes and swung across the narrow gap of sea to land, catlike, on Greyhound's deck, guns and cutlasses bristling. In one more instant, The World encountered a pushy wave and pitched forward, leaning over Greyhound and casting its long shadow, and a thing—a person—jumped neatly from the top of its foremast, way up in the sky, and landed, more gracefully than any of them, right at David's startled feet.
"Stand and deliver!" he said cheerfully, pressing the nose of his pistol to David's mouth.
Things were going marvelously well.
Things had been going well ever since that morning, when Specs caught sight of the positively loaded English ship tripping clumsily along on the horizon. A Dutch ship by making, those fluyts could carry nearly twice the load of most merchant ships—and it was coming from the West Indies to boot. A delicious prize for The World to take and, as it turned out, an easy one. The trader ship was easily taken in by The World's fake flags, and by the time she ran up her true colors, Greyhound had been had. The other ship was so close that her cannons hadn't even gotten opportunity to speak. And now that they were on deck, the resistance was so pitiful it could hardly even be classified as such.
The gentleman who was kissing Jack's pistol was pale and practically shaking—no revolt needed be feared from him, leaving Jack free to look about and see how his fellows were faring. Race was sitting on the chest of a felled opponent, had taken out his harmonica, and was now blowing a merry tune for the pirates to plunder to. The captain's quickly drawn knife was dropped with a clatter when his neck became intimately acquainted with the edge of Kid Blink's sword, and Snitch and Skittery turned as one and banged together the heads of two sailors who had been creeping up on them from behind. One final attempt at struggle was made, one that Jack quickly ended by firing with his second pistol, shooting the lookout's own gun right out of his hand as he surreptitiously descended the rigging. The lookout, weaponless, dropped to the deck with a loud thud.
In a few moments all resistance was quelled, leaving quivering (and in some cases, sobbing) seamen plastered across Greyhound's deck, and about a dozen cheerfully threatening pirates scattered amongst them. Not exactly a top-notch crew, this one.
"Stop your sniveling, or I'll blow your ear off," Skittery warned, not unkindly, to a weeping sailor, toeing him with a well-polished boot.
"Let's blow all their ears off!" Specs bellowed theatrically. The other pirates growled and whooped their approval. Jack smirked. In accordance, he slid the nose of his pistol across his hostage's cheek and rested it, unsettlingly, on his ear.
"Not a bad idea, mates," Jack said to his fellows. "But first, let's get what we came for."
Almost before he had finished talking, Snoddy, Swifty and Skittery had descended loudly belowdecks, escorted by four unwilling crewmen, to gather their newly won goods and to disable Greyhound's cannon with practiced efficiency, so no revenge could be attempted as the pirates sailed away.
The captain, still held in place by Blink's sword, glanced nervously towards his cabin, which, of course, caused it to be quickly ransacked by Itey and Jake. In hopes of squeezing every modicum of gold they could from their most recent catch, pirates slashed sailors' pockets and gathered what fell with delighted cries. For the first time, Jack turned his attention back to his captive. He was a young man, not far from Jack's own age, and from the looks of it, not so much a sailor as a gentleman.
"Jack Kelly, pirate," the very same said, bowing elaborately. He always liked his victims to know who he was—or else how would they refer to him in the history books?
"Turn your pockets out, if you please sir," he said genially, plucking the young man's three-cornered hat off his head and placing it on his own. The man looked was still pale, but shaking less, his face a strange mixture of fear, apprehension and righteous anger at being robbed. Slowly, he reached down and inside his waistcoat pocket. He withdrew a fistful of papers. Jack snatched them away, grinning.
"And what's this?" he asked. "Love letters to the sweetie?" He looked down and smoothed them out.
But Sarah, I long for adventure!
Marty, don't you know it can never be? You have responsibilities here, to your family, your home!
I'm sorry, Sarah. It's something I have to do.
Be careful, Marty. I love you.
And I you, dearest.
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Did you write this?" The young man in front of him gave a stiff, almost imperceptible nod. "God, it's awful." Jack pressed the papers back into the man's hand. He looked up, surprised. "Keep it, with my compliments. Other pocket, sir."
A solid-gold watch. Jack appraised this, holding it up to the light, before pocketing it himself. And lastly—another piece of paper. Old parchment, yellowed, worn. The young man himself looked at it blankly in his hand before Jack took it, as though he didn't remember seeing it before. Jack unfolded it.
It was a map. Of an island, almost circular in shape—a small island, according to the scale drawn on the bottom. It was elaborately drawn, nothing around it but flouncy blue waves, populated by large and imaginary whales and sea serpents. The island itself was crisscrossed with lines, lines that led nowhere and sometimes didn't even intersect. As though they had been meant to confuse. All along the edge of the map were words in some strange language Jack didn't recognize—French? Spanish?
There was a small skull and crossbones insignia burned into the lower right-hand corner. Jack blinked. He looked up at the young man again with renewed interest. The man looked uncomfortable and unsure, among other things (none of them pleasant).
"What's your name?" Jack asked, somewhat suspiciously.
"Where did you get this?"
Jack waved the map in his face. "What does this say? The title. Can you read it?"
"I—Well, maybe if you stopped moving it," David snapped, finally showing an emotion other than discomfort and fear. He did look a little green.
"What language is that? Can you read it?" Jack demanded. The other pirates on deck, previously occupied with the sniveling sailors, were beginning to take note of the unfolding proceedings. Itey and Jake exited the captain's cabin, pockets bulging, carrying between them a large trunk. The captain, still in Blink's arms, whimpered.
"French—yes, Island of the Pirates; Pirates' Island." David said once Jack had steadied the map somewhat.
Jack looked again at the map, his eyebrows knitting. Pirates' Island—where had—no, it couldn't be—could it? He looked over at Racetrack, who had stopped playing the harmonica and was now frozen silent, staring wide-eyed at the map in Jack's hands.
Pirates' Island—famed, fabled, possibly mythical Pirates' Island. It was said that a hundred or more years ago, the greatest, most feared and successful pirate who had ever plied the seven seas, Louie LeMarque, had feared his death. An aging man, with the navies of at least seven governments out for his head, he had found himself with an accumulated wealth worth more than all the royalty in Europe, and no one he trusted to pass it all on to. So, the fable went, alone, he had buried his greatest treasure on some remote island none knew where, so that one day another great pirate in his image might emerge, and claim it for his own. LeMarque died soon after he was said to have done this, and next to nothing was known of where this treasure could have been buried, whether it really existed, what it contained, or just how a great pirate of the future was to ever find it. None even knew if a map had been made.
Could this be it, then?
Jack turned to his fellows and yelled out, "Anybody here read French?" Nobody answered.
Racetrack shrugged. "Jack, half of us can't even read English."
"What're you on about, anyway?" Snitch asked. While Race, Jack and some others had recognized the significance of the island's name, many had not. Some weren't even paying attention to their captain's discovery.
Jack looked back at David, who now looked totally bewildered, and much less frightened—almost like he had forgotten he was supposed to be. Swifty, Skitts and Snoddy had returned with trunks full of riches and valuables. Those left back on board The World—Mush, Crutchy and Dutchy among them—were overseeing the transfer of goods. The merchant captain whimpered again; no one paid him any mind. Some of the pirates had begun to swing back over to their own ship. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Mush go crashing to the deck after Blink swung clumsily into him; Blink offered a hand to help him up and kissed his cheek in apology.
Jack made his decision in a split second. Sheathing his pistol, the map in one hand, he grabbed a rope, wrapped an arm around David's waist before the latter knew what was happening, and flew across open sea and through open air.