Driftwood

It had taken him a long time to realise that he had not forgiven Will for reminding him of his father, even though the reminding had made regaining the Pearl possible.

It had taken the unassailable evidence, the admission of betrayal, that mutiny, on the Pearl to realise that the he blamed the lad for the likeness, an awareness made all the more bitter by the fact that William the younger was handing him back to the same man that William the elder had saved him from.

But it was much longer still before he could forgive William for stripping away the mercy of time and leaving him to the reliving of it all in that moment. That, and for not being the man his father had been.

XXX

He didn't remember them getting him away.

Odd recollections of shouts and shots and flickering shadows would sometimes surface but he didn't recall the hands gripping him nor the feel of a broad shoulder beneath his ribs or the strength in the arms that steadied his legs.

He could recall the stinking straw, the suffocating overheated darkness and the scrape of chain against an beaten dirt floor well enough, just as he could remember the leers and taunts, the threats and innuendo, with a the clarity of a new morn. But he didn't recall the grunt as a guard died or scrape of the door opening at all. He didn't even remember the sound of the machete severing the shackles.

He did remember the iron, the smell of his own hair and flesh burning and Beckett's voice promising further retribution before the rope, and the feeling of hard hands dragging him from his pinioned place against the wall and throwing him to the floor. But he didn't remember much after that, only darkness and pain and a fear that made all other fears that came afterward but a shadow of the thing.

No he remembered the dying but didn't remember them getting him away.

XXX

He'd woken at some point to the chill of night air, a cool that told him he was no longer in the town, let alone in a cell, and the steady movement of a beast beneath him. But the track that he had been following was steep and rutted and the movement of the flank beneath his shoulders had clamped another hot iron to his skin and he had slipped into darkness again with no other thought but gratitude for it.

How many days it was until his next awakening he didn't know and never asked.

Thought next plagued him when the sun was high and the drone of insects all but drowned out the sound of the nearby surf. There was no movement this time, no wiry pelt chafing his skin, just the feel of a rough calico blanket beneath his nakedness and the flickering light of the sun through a badly woven thatch. Light that flickered across a broad and familiar face.

'William Turner.' The thought must have spoken aloud for the other man's eyes were quickly raised from the bark he was whittling and a smile lifted the edges of the wide and narrow lips.
"Aye Captain, William Turner." The words were soft with relief.
He had struggled with the idea for a moment, then, despite a parched throat and a throbbing head, he asked the most pressing question, for where did not matter,
"How?"

The man shrugged and looked back to where his knife worried at the driftwood, the shape changing gradually beneath the blade.
"A couple of us came, it didn't take that much for you were lightly guarded. A firecracker or two, an overturned cart, some scattered chickens and a borrowed coat and it were done."
He paused for a moment, the knife faltering in its' work before resuming the steady rhythm of the carving as he spoke again, calm as if he were reporting fair weather.
" I heard the talk and saw the smoke as the Wench burned and knew that it had not gone well. Knew too that the Wench would not be the only loss if things were not done."

He had nearly cried then, recalling the loss of his ship, her murder for a crime of which she was innocent. Until the moment the torch was put to her sails he had not realised the depths of Beckett's malice nor the lengths that his one time friend would go to cover his own pampered arse. While he couldn't bring himself to regret the action that brought about his destruction he could regret the naiveté, and faith in the rightness of it, that had brought him back to confess. If he had understood the man better, given more credence to the evidence of the selfish depravity at his core, then the Wench would still be afloat and he would be alive. But he had not, instead he had trusted to friendship and the conscience and morality of a respectable man, and in doing so had killed his ship and himself.

In that moment, as he watched William Turner shape his flotsam, he vowed never to make such a mistake again.

XXX

He didn't ask the next question until many fevered days later.

They were sitting on the shore then, the fishing boats returning as the sun sank below the meeting of sea and sky. Yet for him there was no day and the coming night was no darker or deeper than his despair, for everything he had, everything he had hoped to be was gone and his life had no more purpose or future than the ash from the cooking fires. They knew it and kept a sharp eye, never leaving him alone or unwatched.

"Why did you come William? Could have been far away by now, could found a safe berth long before they stretched my neck."

His companion was whittling again, the piece of driftwood now a fair way to being reshaped beneath the steel, though the end product was not yet clear, and he did not look away from his task.
"You were fair to me when other would not have been. Good captain you were and you've saved my hide moren once."
Pale eyes flitted up then to meet his own,
"Your'e a good man captain, you risked a lot for what you thought were right when most would have just pocked the profit and enjoyed the pickings on the way."
The man looked back down to his wood,
"Never heard you raise your voice when it wasn't needed, never seen you treat any man as lesser because he lacked your skill or quickness nor seen you give any man or woman more or less than their due. Can't say that of many. Did what you saw as right and didn't ask anyone to suffer the burden of it with you."

There had been silence for a moment and he had looked out to the darkening sea as the man beside him waited patiently,

"But I damned me ship and you all for all of that."
The knife faltered for a moment then the his companion shrugged,

"Man makes his own choices, takes his own path otherwise what is he? Children they need parents to keep them walkin' straight and tell them where to step but a grown man, well he chooses the path he follows."
He had refused to be consoled,
"That so is it? Men have lost everything because of me. I've put others outside the law for what I thought was right and they will hang if they are caught. Wives and children may never see them again, may starve because I did what I thought were right."

The other man looked up, his eyes sharp and his face fixed,
"Would you doing what you thought wrong have changed that? No Jack, would have just shifted who sufferred, and the ones who did would have no more say than the children. The men you sailed with made their choices long ago, as did their womenfolk when they took their vows, and they did not have to sail with you. Were their choices that brought them to where they were and not yours; has to be that way for if not then we are nothing more than slaves ourselves. Free men they were, sailors, freer than most, and you gave them choices most would not have thought of. Didn't ask any to sail into port with you, didn't ask them to face Beckett with you did you? Don't take on burdens you need not bear for if they had wanted to they could have put you overboard and none the wiser, but they did not. No, it were their choice to follow your path, not yours. You granted them that dignity then, don't take it from them now."
"Dignity! To be a pirate?" the pain of conscience and of failure had been in his voice.
William Turner put down his wood and turned towards him, he spoke quietly as always but with an intensity rarely heard from him,
"Aye dignity. Better an honest pirate than a whoremongering vassal of the law like Beckett and his kind. Could any pirate maim and kill more than he does? Could the cruellest of the Brethren deliver more torture than he does for all he had the blessing of church and law? He won't hang for it its true but one day he'll answer for it anyways, for God'll not care for the laws of man when the sin is against heaven."

He'd remembered another man's words then and had smiled sadly, but the first smile in weeks,
"In those same prayers do we see salvation? Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, Mr Turner, and to God that which is Gods." He sighed and rubbed the wheal on his wrist, "I hope you are right William for if ever I get the chance to send him to hell then I'll not pass on it."
The other man smiled slightly,
"God would not ask you to, for God'll know what you have been asked to bear. Though He might not deliver him there, however you despatch him."
He'd looked at the stolid sailor beside him,
"Something of a philosopher are you not Mr Turner?"
The man had smiled as he watched his blade,

"Seen a fair bit of life captain and committed more than my share of sins. Can only pray the good lord understands." He looked up again, "For if he does not then we are all lost."
The knife began its worrying of the driftwood again and his eyes settled back on the blade.
"You'll see captain, it hurts now but in time you'll see. 'Tis part of the plan and though you and I can't see why there is no doubt a reason."
He had stared at the seas, now purple beneath a near black sky.
"No plan for me Mr Turner for I am already dead."

XXX

The days had passed, the pain eased and poppy syrup was replaced by rum. It did not bring the languorous lack of thought but it did ease the tensions inside him and give him enough peace to sleep, at least for a while. But despair was never far away and still they watched him.

It was early morning when the moment came, and the smell of cooking bread drifted across the small community. The songs of the women and the squeals of the children were carried on the breeze but lost in the sound of the surf as it inched its way up the sands. The night had been a bad one, the sense of loss, and being lost, taking possession of him during the darkest time and refusing to release him even as the heat of the sun drove away the morning chill. He had taken his usual place on the flat stones beside the sands, the scar red in the bright early light but his mood as black as the pebbles in the shallows.

William Turner came and stood beside him and though he stared out to sea he could feel the pale eyes on him.
"Captain?" came the hesitant voice.
"Not captain anymore William." He looked down at the rand on his wrist, "No one anymore."
"That so? Will you let Beckett make that so?"
His anger had boiled over then, though he was still to weak to do much with it, he raised his wrist pushing back a tattered sleeve,
"No choice in it man. I'm outside the law and cannot be otherwise, not with this. Men who would once have risked themselves to protect me and my ship will hang me without a question! All I had hoped for, striven for is gone and there is no recovering it."
The other man leaned forward and put something in his lap, straightening he dropped a warm hand on his shoulder.
"Then strive and hope for something else captain." Then the hand and its' owner were gone.

He had looked down at the thing left behind with little interest. It was a carving, small but beautiful, of ship unlike any he had ever seen. Picking it up and running his finger over the grain he recognised it for what it was, the driftwood that William Turner had been carving all these weeks. He turned it in his hand, noting the perfection of it with admiration, recalling with some disbelief what it had once been. Somewhere deep inside him hope stirred again. Looking back toward the sea he raised the little ship, rubbing the warm wood against his cheek as he watched the water flow, the sea shifting and changing as the tide turned.

Things could be reshaped, reborn even.

In that moment the man he had been was finally been laid to rest.

Pirate they had made him and pirate he would be. But on his terms not theirs. The mistakes of the past would not be repeated for he would learn their lessons quickly and well, and if this new life was to be a short as the one had chosen had been then he would take from it all he could while he could. If the law would have none if him then he would have none of the law, but nor would he be shaped by the nature of piracy. He looked down at the little ship again, he would be what he chose to be; just like driftwood beneath the knife he would shape his life as he chose, his quick mind and imagination the blade that would pare away the shape of the past.

Jack Sparrow was born with a smile and not a cry.

XXX

But Beckett lost him once again willing him the legacy of another terrible choice.

He remembered the feel of that that driftwood ship as he held a beating heart in his hand, and though he did, as always, what he saw as right, he never did forgive Will Turner for not being the good man his father had once been.