Many thanks to fried_flamingo for the title and the tip about the ending, which I half followed ;)!
The pitch and roll of the ship was more pronounced in the brig, or so it seemed to Will Turner. Without a horizon to watch, or the wind in his hair, he felt a little queasy. But nonetheless he trooped below decks everyday, to ensure that Jack was well – in body, if not in soul; it would take a greater man than he to minister to Captain Jack Sparrow’s soul, if it were even possible. Nevertheless, he felt an obligation to the man; more so, since his own deeds had been pardoned by Governor Swann. Bad enough that a good man like Jack Sparrow should swing, but Will would not allow him to face the long voyage to Port Royal – and the gallows – alone.
Not that Jack was always in the mood for company. Today, for example, he sat half lost in guttering lamplight, gazing through the small porthole and apparently deep in thought. Will didn’t disturb him, just sat with his back to the bulkhead outside the cell and tried not to think of Elizabeth— Miss Swann. Mrs. Norrington as she soon would be, and probably for the best. It was lunacy to imagine that a woman like Elizabeth Swann could ever condescend to marry a man such as himself; a blacksmith’s apprentice! Impossible, whatever Jack Sparrow might say on the matter. A few days of adventure did not change a lifetime of breeding; Miss Swann had her own future to consider, and a future with Commodore Norrington would guarantee—
“A hat,” Jack said suddenly. “You want to get yourself a really big hat.”
“Women love ’em. One with feathers and the like. Ostrich feathers would suit her taste, I think. Fanciful, flirtatious, and a little—” He flashed a wicked smile. “A really big hat.”
Will shifted on the other side of the bars. “Are you joking?”
Jack’s look was half-wounded, half-mischievous. “I’m trying to give you some advice, mate. Before that long face of yours drives us both to an early grave. Get yourself a hat and woo the girl.”
“I don’t see how a hat—”
“It’s not the hat per se, it’s what it represents.” He fluttered a finger or two. “Big, ostentatious – it holds a promise of what lies beneath.”
“Beneath the hat?”
Jack rolled his eyes, bright in the gloom of the brig. “Take this,” he said, sweeping his own battered hat from the floor. “What does it tell you?”
“That you need a new hat?”
“No.” He pointed a finger, irritation evident before he masked it with a quick smile. “This hat has seen the world, son. It’s experienced, seasoned. It tells you that it knows what it’s doing, savvy?”
“How can a hat know what—?”
“Not the hat! It’s a metaphor— Bloody hell, William, did you never leave the smithy these past—?” He cast him a narrow look. “How old are you anyway?”
“Younger than you.”
“Evidently.” He waved an impatient hand. “Sixteen?”
“Ah, not quite a boy then, eh?” Jack leaned back against the hull and sank into the shadows. “But are you a man, Will Turner?”
“Man enough to do battle with cursed pirates.” He cast Jack a pointed look. “And uncursed ones too.”
“Man enough for Elizabeth, though? That’s the pertinent question, eh?”
Will scowled; there was something about the way Jack said her name that made him distinctly uncomfortable. “Don’t speak of her in such terms.”
“What?” he chuckled. “Do you imagine the fair lass doesn’t have the same urgings as your or—?”
Will was on his feet, sword pointed at Jack’s throat before he could draw breath. “Say another word about her and I’ll kill you where you sit!”
Jack’s smile was like the gleam of a slowly drawn dagger. “You really need to find yourself a girl, mate. Any girl.” Apparently unperturbed by Will’s threat, Jack twirled his hat idly on the fingers of one hand. “There are places in Port Royal where a boy can become a man, if you take my meaning. Gather a little worldly experience, eh? So as not to disappoint when the opportune moment arises.”
Will’s sword dipped toward the floor. “If you mean a…a…”
“The word is brothel. And, yes, that would be exactly what I mean.”
“I would never—”
“No, I don’t suppose you would.” He leaned closer, back into the dim lamplight. “You’re not really a eunuch are you?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Jack just shrugged. “Two days from now I’ll be on the gallows. You would have been too, if Elizabeth hadn’t—”
“It’s Miss Swann, to you.”
“And to you too, hmm?” His grin was like quicksilver; gone before it arrived. “Either way, you could be feeling the bite of the hempen collar, never having known the delights of…other bites. That would be ridiculous. Life, young William, is very long and dull if you don’t take it upon yourself to live it.”
“I’ll take my chances. I would never sully Miss Swann with— It wouldn’t be right. What I feel for her is— Well, it’s purer than anything you could understand.”
Jack smiled, little more than a glint of gold and amusement. “Maybe it is. But I’m twice your age, son, and I’ve lived twice as much again. Trust me when I say that no woman – no woman worth the name of ‘woman’ – is so pure as you seem to think. And that includes your ‘Miss Swann’.”
“I warned you,” Will growled, lifting his sword, “not to talk of her in such terms.”
Jack snorted. “Such terms? Is it a woman you’re after, Will Turner, or a statue? The Greek Isles are full of ’em, well rounded and comely, but not so yielding as a man might like. All they’re good for – all they’re really good for – is worshiping from afar.”
“In some circumstances,” Will grated, “that is all that is possible, and—”
“Says who? The Governor? Commodore Norrington? What’s possible, young William, is what you make happen. Nothing else matters.” He settled his hat low over his eyes and leaned back against the wall. “You need a big hat. A really big hat.”
Will stood staring for a good long while, but Jack didn’t move and eventually Will thought he could hear him snoring. Whether real or for effect, it was clear that the day’s conversation was over. Sheathing his sword, he turned and climbed the steps back up to the deck, glad of the fresh air. He went straight to the rail and took a couple of deep, calming breaths as he looked out across the glittering waves. And then his heart jolted; there, on the horizon, was the briefest sliver of land.
Jamaica. A return to a life spun upside down, to a society that would hold him firmly in his place. But his hand still stung where he’d drawn blood to lift the curse – pirate blood – and he knew his life could never be the same again.
On the quarterdeck, Norrington stood in conversation with Elizabeth’s father, while she herself stood – like Will – at the rail, eyes fixed on Port Royal. Anticipating her wedding, Will wondered, or dreading the return as much as he? They both owed their lives to Jack Sparrow, locked in the brig and awaiting death, and everything about this homecoming felt terribly wrong.
Suddenly Elizabeth turned around, as if she could feel his gaze upon her. Across the sunlit deck their eyes met, she smiled and his heart simultaneously soared and sank; she looked so melancholy, so trapped. He couldn’t let it end like this, after everything they had been through together – all three of them. He wouldn’t.
Elizabeth looked away, her father demanding her attention, and Will turned his gaze back to the slender strip of land on the horizon. They might be heading home, but he would not return to the life he had left behind. He could not. How he would make this right, he didn’t know, but he had the beginnings of a plan – a plan that would save him, or condemn him. Either way, his old life would be at an end.
But as he contemplated the island ahead, and the future it held, he found himself wondering… Amongst its brothels and houses of ill-repute, did Port Royal contain such a thing as a milliner’s shop? Because he felt the need for a hat.
A really big hat.
Thanks for reading! Hope it amused. :) Any and all comments very welcome!