Disclaimer: These characters belong to The Walt Disney Company, not me.
Notes: Set after the first film, doesn't take sequels into account.


FALSE BEARINGS

by Rex Luscus

Jack shut the compass, rattled it violently, then snapped it open again. He looked at the dial, looked up, and looked back at the dial.

Nah. That was just daft.

Sitting crosslegged on the grass like a Hindu swami, he balanced the compass on one knee. "Gibbs," he barked.

A snore interrupted itself, and Gibbs sat up. "Captain?"

"Supposing one day I was to tell you I was of a mind to do something a bit daft. Like, for example, capturing the Dauntless. What would ye say to that?"

Gibbs laughed. "I'd say you were mad as old George." Then he paled as the other shoe dropped. "Twice as mad. Three times."

"That's exactly what I thought," Jack frowned, and gave the compass another good shake.

They stared at the formidable bulk of the Dauntless, roosting like a monstrous hen at her mooring a quarter mile out from the bay above which they were sitting. Gibbs shook his head. "She's got no cargo, 'cept fer a few hundred marines lookin' to put more feathers in their caps. We couldn't sail her, sell her, or plunder her…what'd be the point?"

"Yer right, man. Yer absolutely, inescapably right." Jack nodded vigorously. "The very voice o' reason, you are. So right you're wrong, almost. 'Cept you're right. Dunno what I'd do without you, Gibbsy."

There was a long silence. Gibbs's eyes narrowed. "Jack. I'm warnin' ya. We been through a fine lot together, but if you get a notion to—"

"Forget it!" Jack hung the offending compass back onto his belt and twisted it around so the blasted thing was out of reach. "Forget I said a thing."

Gibbs nodded without relaxing.

"Except…"

"Jack!"

"…maybe I could just pop over for a look-see."

"What in God's name would ye be lookin' for, 'cept a second go at the noose?"

"Maybe I'll know it when I see it."

"Remember, that compass o' yourn ain't exactly reliable. Get this outta yer head before I have to knock it out."

"I could just slip on an' off. Quarter of an hour, tops. Most of the crew's ashore, I can handle the dog watch easy…"

"And how will you manage that, Captain Sparrow?"

"That's to be part of the story when I return. First, I must stop by the lagoon."

There were a number of things that distinguished Captain Jack Sparrow from ordinary men, and one of these was the ability to swim a quarter of a mile in the dark with a large fowl under each arm. It wasn't so hard, really; they acted as floats, and the only real trick was holding their beaks shut so they wouldn't squawk. At least prematurely.

He glided around to the portside bow and gently disengaged the geese, then slipped toward the stern. Behind him, he heard their indignant clamor—uncannily like in sound to human voices. The watch would be occupied for ages trying to figure that one out. He let himself up the Dauntless's handsome backside and crept down her deck, invisible in the shadows.

Crouching next to a coil, he opened the compass, which spun to midships. It was a shame compasses couldn't point in three dimensions, or at least it was a shame this one couldn't. It had to be indicating something in the hold. He slinked down below deck, holding his breath as he tiptoed past a few men lolling in their hammocks, until he was in with the stores.

He reached the spot on which the compass's needle spun helplessly. This would be it, then. There was nothing there, not even an empty crate or a cask. There was a bit of frayed rope, which Jack pocketed forlornly.

That meant whatever it was had to be up. Straight up. That would be…the great cabin.

Oh, bugger.

Well, that was why he was Captain Jack Sparrow, wasn't it? If anybody could, he could. On his way up, he helped himself to one of the sleeping marines' pistols, and crept toward the sanctum sanctorum.

The geese had gone off smashingly. A knot of marines and sailors were still gathered around the rail, arguing over the identities and exact coordinates of the phantom intruders. Jack put his eye to the window of the great cabin and surveyed it as best he could. It was unoccupied. He let himself in.

He'd barely got the compass back out when he was forced to revise his assessment. "Lieutentant?" a voice called, and with his heart leaping into his mouth, he stuffed himself behind a cabinet as a familiar figure came into view. Commodore Norrington glanced around the cabin, brows drawn together, before shrugging and unbuckling his sword.

This was madness. Jack was one sneeze away from certain death. On the other hand, this was brilliant. The scourge of Caribbean piracy was divesting himself obliviously just a few feet away from his own good, armed self. One tiny tip of the scales could turn triumph into disaster or vice versa. Gibbs would skin him alive. On the other hand, Gibbs would happily embellish the story to high heaven and beyond once it was safely over.

The Commodore took off his hat and placed it aside as tidy as you please, then removed his wig and promptly dropped fifteen years in age. Jack stared. It was that stuffy rat's nest that had made him take the Commodore for a contemporary—that, and the military bluster he'd no doubt been trained to since the cradle. That produced a picture in Jack's head of a tiny Commodore in wig and bonnet, chubby hand brandishing a spy glass, shouting orders from a bassinette. Try as he might, Jack was unable to suppress a snort of laughter.

He froze, sure the game was up—but the Commodore didn't appear to have heard. He'd moved on to unbuttoning coat and waistcoat now, which looked like they weighed as much as armor. But Jack was unable to appreciate the strip show, stuck still on baby Commodore saluting with his rattle, and another, louder snort of laughter issued forth without his consent.

The Commodore looked up.

Jack held his breath, ballooning out his cheeks. He willed his heart to stop beating for as long as was feasible. Still the laugh would not relent. Veins stood out on his forehead; tears ran down his face.

When it finally burst free, Jack was almost relieved. His whole body shook as he laughed, face splitting nearly in two, howling and shrieking like a monkey. The sight of the Commodore nearly leaping out of his skin only made it worse. Luckily, his mam had raised him well, and he could have a chuckle and point a gun at the same time. "Up with 'em," he snapped, brandishing his pistol, and continued to giggle as the startled Commodore lifted his hands helplessly.

"How the devil did you get past my crew?" asked the Commodore, aghast.

Jack took a breath, then thought better of a lengthy explanation. "Waterfowl," he replied.

Norrington squinted at him.

"Long story. Anyway, you'd best sit down for this. Should only take a moment. And not a word, or it's your pretty brains splattered on the deck." He winced at his unfortunate catachresis. Oh well, not every turn of phrase could be a winner. Compass in one hand and pistol in the other, he studied the dial. It pointed stubbornly at Norrington. Jack groaned. "Right. Only one way to do this. Commodore? Coat aside, if you please."

The Commodore's face grew thunderous, but Jack thrust the pistol at him impatiently. Norrington blinked and slipped the rest of the way out of the coat.

"On the bunk, there." To his outraged look, Jack said, "The coat, Commodore." He rolled his eyes. "Honestly."

The Commodore threw the coat onto the hanging bunk. The compass needle didn't move.

Jack sighed. "Well, keep going then."

"Keep—what?"

"I know you've had an easy time of it, but I assume you at least know how to undress yerself without help. Shoes and waistcoat, please! All on the bunk, if you don't mind."

The Commodore's eyes stayed on Jack as he slowly complied. Jack watched the removed items' progress, but compass needle never budged. Down to shirt and breeches, the Commodore hesitated with a pleading look. Torn between amusement and irritation, Jack nodded meaningfully. The Commodore's skin pinkened as the shirt went on the bunk.

They stared at each other across the compass. "There is nothing of value hiding in my smallclothes," Norrington muttered, then cleared his throat and turned red.

Jack laughed. "It must all come off, I'm afraid, good Commodore."

"This is completely unnecess—"

"Do you have a pistol stashed somewhere? No? Then hop to it, sailor!"

Norrington's eyes, glittering with bloody thoughts, never left Jack's as he stepped out of his breeches and tossed them onto the bunk.

The needle trembled a bit, as if in pleasure, then moved no more. Jack barely glanced at it, staring at the Commodore instead. Well, that was something he could contribute to the Norrington legend. He hoped his dear enemy would appreciate the effort.

He could almost hear Norrington's back teeth grinding together. "What. Now. Sparrow."

Jack snickered—he'd forgotten to tell Norrington to take off his stockings. If there was one sight in the world sillier than a naked Englishman, it was a naked Englishman who still had his socks and garters on. "Sit down, mate, you look knackered." Norrington dropped quickly into the chair, snatched up his hat and dropped it on his lap. Once he was settled, Jack sprang over and bound his hands to the chair with the bit of rope in his pocket.

"You will pay for this," Norrington muttered once Jack was finished.

"I usually do," Jack nodded, thinking back to the last person who'd taken off their clothes for him. "But as I'm the one with the gun, I'll keep me silver this time."

He stood back and inspected his little tableau with an artist's pride. He had never seen skin that had never been touched by direct sunlight, and it was an interesting spectacle. The pale face and hands looked positively swarthy next to the rest of the man. And there was barely a mark on him. Nothing like natural human flesh at all. Norrington looked like a freshly minted coin that had not yet been traded.

Undeniably pretty, though.

If you ignored the socks.

"Sparrow," Norrington snarled unhappily, "are you going to tell me what the point of this is?"

"Hm?" Jack looked back up at Norrington's face, which was still pink. "Right. Bit hard to explain, actually."

"And why do you keep looking at that compass?"

"Tryin' to find out what I want, you see."

"What you want? Are you going to ask me for a map to find your own arse with next?"

Jack ignored him, frowning at the compass's unmoving dial. It had spoken: unless he had an unacknowledged passion for gartered socks, it was the Commodore's person he wanted. But for what? Ransom? Target practice? A bit of pickle-me-tickle-me? There were only so many things you could do with a Commodore, all of them short-lived and dangerous.

Jack gave the compass a final half-hearted rattle and sighed.

"Sparrow!" Norrington was still shouting. "I demand that you explain yourself!"

"It's supposed to point to what you want most," shrugged Jack. "But I can't fathom any earthly thing I'd want you for, so it must be busted." Why bother keeping it secret if the damn thing no longer worked?

Norrington looked offended. "Why, I should think you'd want revenge, at least," he sniffed.

"Nah," said Jack, dejected. "Not especially."

"Really? You have no desire to see me suffer, after what I nearly did to you?"

"Trust me, as bad days go," said Jack, "that wasn't even in me top ten."

"Oh." The Commodore sounded deflated. "Well, then, perhaps it's lechery you have in mind. I'm told you pirates have unnatural appetites."

"Could be," said Jack contemplatively, "but there are much easier ways to satisfy them. You're not so fair that I'd risk my neck for you, sorry to say. I'm no Will Turner!"

Norrington looked a bit sad at this.

"Cheer up," said Jack, remembering that Norrington was probably still recovering from his romantic disappointment. "You're quite a welcome sight, there's no denying it—why, we can't all have Will Turners risking their necks for a chance to—"

"Oh, please do shut up," said Norrington sourly. "Just get on with robbing me or slitting my throat or whatever it is you plan to do and find somebody else to humiliate."

Jack suppressed another laugh. Norrington really did look quite ridiculous, not to mention pathetic, and being rejected by Jack was evidently one insult too many for him today. His anger and indignation appeared to have been replaced by a kind of limp despair.

Against his will, Jack felt a stab of pity. Norrington had not made out at all well in this recent affair, and he was ever so badly equipped to handle it—just witness his ineptitude with fair Elizabeth. When it came to matters of the heart, the seasoned and redoubtable Commodore clearly had the sophistication of a schoolboy. He wasn't an unfeeling man, obviously—in fact, he was a bit too feeling for his own limited means.

"Oh, very well," said Jack. If it would bring the old boy's spirits up to be molested by a randy pirate, well, Jack was capable of the occasional charitable deed. And it wouldn't exactly be a hardship. He grabbed a surprised Commodore by the ears and gave him a long, sloppy, searching kiss. For good measure, he rummaged under the hat and squeezed a bit, which made the Commodore leap like a hooked fish. The chair's legs squealed across the floor.

Jack pulled back and licked his lips appraisingly. "Not bad," he said. "Thanks for obligin'. And, uh, sorry to have to leave you for your steward to find, but you'll understand if I don't untie you. Toodle-oo!" Shoving his pistol in his belt, he dashed from the cabin and leaped over the rail, the Commodore's furious shouts following him down into the water.

Jack and the Black Pearl were halfway to Bermuda before it finally dawned on him.

Gibbs was at the wheel when he heard a muffled "Whoohoo!" from the ship's great cabin. Moments later, Jack appeared, dancing about with his compass held up before his face. "It's not broken after all!" he cried, and kissed it with a loud smack.

Gibbs was used to this sort of thing, and so he asked patiently, "What's that, now?"

"I figured out what I wanted!" Jack rushed over to the wheel. "Quick, we've got to turn around!"

Gibbs stood his ground. "Oh no—no way."

"You don't even know what—"

"I reckon you'll say you've got to go back and seduce the Commodore," sighed Gibbs, "an' I want nothing to do with it."

"Hey, how did you know?"

"Because you're the only man I've ever met who needs a compass to tell him what he wants," muttered Gibbs.

"Yes, well." Jack glared at him, clutching his compass to his chest. "We're still turning around."

Gibbs sighed again, glanced over his shoulder, and started violently. "Looks like we won't need to bother," he exclaimed.

Jack broke into a wolfish smile. Norrington didn't have the benefit of a magic compass to elucidate his true desires, but once Jack had him tied to his chair again, he'd be easy enough to persuade. "Run up the colors," Jack shouted, and tucked his compass safely away.

END