Jack Sparrow couldn’t repress a shudder as the mist cleared momentarily to reveal the ominous, cockeyed heights of Shipwreck Cove. Black against a grey sky, it held all the foreboding of his youth and his heart beat with a sickly dread; memory, he’d learned to his cost, was a powerful thing. It could lock a man into the past and keep him there unless…
Warm arms slipped around his waist, provoking a smile. “Looks less forbidding in sunlight,” Lizzie murmured next to his ear. “And is warm and safe within.”
It came as no surprise that she knew his thoughts. Over the weeks of their voyage they’d grown so close he hardly knew where the edges lay between them; the tiny flame of life they’d created in her belly had spliced them together, body and soul. He closed his hands over hers and leaned back into her embrace. “Teague will be watching for us.”
“Because he fears for you, Jack.”
He grunted at that, refusing to call her a liar yet knowing too much to believe her to be right. “He cast me out of this place, love.”
“It was a long time ago,” she said softly. “Men change, Jack. Time changes them, if nothing else. Your father’s an old man now; he always regretted losing you.”
“Told you that, did he?”
There was a pause. “Only in his silences.”
She moved then, coming to stand next to him, and he glanced down at the burgeoning roundness of her belly with a fierce flare of joy. ’Twas a miracle to him that, in the dreamy aftermath of death, they had created this life between them. He’d cut off his own bloody hand before lifting it in anger against the child, yet his father…
“I’ve been waiting to give you this,” Lizzie said then, reaching into her coat pocket. “Waiting for the opportune moment, so to speak.” She smiled a little, and held something out to him – a dull glint of gold and blue in the grey morning light.
Jack took the trinket from her hand with a curious glance. He knew what it was of course, but wondered how it had come into her possession.
“When you cut your hair,” she said, “we found this amongst the rest. Teague told me you’d want it, when you were yourself again.”
He nodded, turning it over in his fingers. “Was my mother’s,” he said quietly. “Teague gave it to me when— A long time ago now, though it seems but yesterday.”
“Let me…” she said, and took it from his hand. His hair had grown longer again and she wove a quick braid with her nimble fingers, binding the piece of shine back into his hair. “There,” she smiled, “more as I first knew you.”
“Though you, my love, could hardly be more different to the girl I first pulled from the clutches of the briny.” He bent and kissed her lightly. “More beautiful, though, now.”
“No flattery, I swear it. When you’ve the looks of a haggard old crone, I’ll be sure to tell you so.”
She smiled, eyes and all, and smacked his chest. “By then, no doubt, you’ll be wearing your father’s face.”
“I hope they hang me first!”
Her smile faltered into a frown. “Jack…”
“In jest,” he said, pulling her close. “I’m Captain Jack Sparrow, remember?”
“As if I could forget.” Her head came to rest briefly against his. “Ah, look, I see Sanders on the dock…”
“And he would be?”
“First Mate.” She cast him a sly look. “And I’d advise you to keep your hands to yourself, he’s a most valuable crewman and I’ll not have you stealing him away.”
Jack laughed, couldn’t help himself. “Knew I shouldn’t have told you that particular story, love.”
“Oh, but it’s such a good story, Jack.” Then, cocking her head, she grew more serious. “Are you ready?”
“Swore I’d not return here,” he said, feeling a swift rise of panic. Struck by its absurdity, he added, “I’ve been marooned, shot, branded, and eaten alive by Jones’ bloody beast more times than I can count, and yet...”
“Not every father inspires dread in their son,” Lizzie took his hand and held it against her belly. “I wish you could have known mine.”
“I did,” Jack said. “He tried to hang me, if you recall…”
Lizzie smiled again. “Only because he didn’t know you as I do.” She laced her fingers through his and said, “Come then, make your peace with the Keeper of the Code.”
“Won’t vouch for peace,” Jack said as the gangplank was lowered to the side of the Pearl. “But if I’m to base myself here a while, perhaps we can come to an accord whereby I don’t kill him?”
He heard Lizzie’s soft sigh, half resignation and half affection, and squeezed her hand once to show he was at least half in jest. Then he let go, straightened his hat, and slipped on the swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Without a backward glance – no need to look when you know your back is covered – he sauntered across the deck and down the rickety gangplank, halting in front of the old seadog Lizzie had named Sanders. Jack eyed him a moment. “Flanders?” he asked. “Anders?”
“Sanders,” the man said with a dubious frown.
“Ah, yes. I knew that.”
“Where’s Captain Swann?”
From where she leaned upon the ship’s rail, Lizzie called, “Here, Sanders. All’s well?”
“Aye, Captain,” the man said, with obvious relief and a cautious glance toward Jack. “And with you?”
And those words made Jack smile more broadly that was fitting. To hide such an unmanly display he adopted a ludicrously conspiratorial tone. “I imagine my not so dear and highly un-lamentable father is lurking hereabouts? Not seen fit to pop his clogs these last months, I don’t suppose?”
“Captain Teague is well enough, aye,” Saunders said. “Sent me here to bring him word of your safe return, as it happens.”
“Did he now?” Jack cocked his head and fluttered his fingers as if in thought. “Well then, if you’d be so kind, please advise the old sod to be glad, for his son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found." He made a little shooing gesture. "And if he happens to have a fatted calf to hand, now might be an opportune moment for feasting on said calf. Savvy?"
Saunders just blinked at him.
"Tell Teague we're here," Lizzie called from the Pearl. "And tell him Captain Jack Sparrow will be paying his respects in person."
Jack threw her a sceptical glance, but said nothing. Respect was hardly the word he'd use...
Had been nigh on half a century since John Teague had seen the woman who owned his soul, yet her elfin features were still as vivid before his eyes as the day he’d first seen her dancing upon the beach. More vivid, this day, with news that their son had returned to the Cove. Like a tempest whipping the waves, it was a return that roused many a feeling from the seabed of the pirate’s old heart. And most of ’em, he thought, were best left undisturbed.
Jackie Teague – Jack Sparrow, now – had always looked at him through his mother’s eyes; challenge, rebuke, and piercing beauty all in one. Though the last time he’d seen his son there’d been little but anger and madness in those eyes – the look of a caged animal, or a collared man. Teague wondered what he would see today, and refused to allow himself to hope for something softer; forgiveness was beyond his reach now.
When the rap on the door came, it was the light, quick tap of a woman’s hand. The Pirate King, no doubt. What her business with his son might be, Teague could only imagine, though Jackie had never hesitated to use his charms to get him what he needed – ’twas a pestilent combination of his mother’s fey beauty and his father’s cold heartedness. There’d be some irony, Teague mused, if the boy had used it to gain favour with Swann and so have his loathed father thrown out of the Cove…
He rose from his chair by the fire before he answered the door, taking time to fill his long-stemmed pipe. “Come in,” he called gruffly as he puffed it alight.
Somewhat obscured by the fug of smoke about his face he saw the door open and the slight figure of Swann appear. But Teague’s eyes were fixed on the man who followed, and though he was careful not to react, the wave of relief he felt at the sight of his son was crashing. He dragged long on the pipe and blew out a stream of smoke. “You’re well then,” he said, noticing at once that Jack was calm and composed.
“Quite as mad as ever I was,” came the answer, typically contrary. “Possibly madder, since I’m contemplating a return to this rotting carcass of a city.”
Despite himself, Teague stilled. He risked a glance at Swann and saw her watching Jack with an intensity he found difficult to decipher. Not doe-eyed adoration, yet somehow deeper… When he turned his attention back to his son, Teague saw naught but ill-concealed humour in Jack’s obsidian glare.
“He thinks I’ve seduced you, Lizzie. All part of some fratricidal plot, no doubt, to put him out of the Cove and steal his title – as if I’d have any desire to spend my days pawing over the minutiae of a Code none but he follows.”
Teague narrowed his eyes, irritated that Jack had seen so much, and puffed on his pipe. “Why, then?” he asked. “When last we spoke, you had no desire to remain and every desire to leave as fast as possible.”
“I still have no desire to—” Swann put her hand on his arm, a firm look in her eye. Jack appeared to concede something. “I have a need to remain here some months,” he said, voice deprived of its edge and his attention solely on the woman. “A pressing need, as it happens.”
’Twas she who turned to Teague, and in a clear voice said, “We are to have a child.”
Teague had to let those words drift in the smoke a while, ’till their meaning took root. His son had fathered her child…? He saw, now, the gentle rounding of her belly and knew it was at least part truth. “What of your husband?” he asked at length. “I’d not have his father’s ship at our door, demanding to settle a score.”
“Will chose to stay in Puerto Rico,” Swann said, her face shifting with a pervasive guilt. “He desires the land beneath his feet…”
Jack drew her closer, a tender gesture that jarred against Teague’s estimation of his son. “Is that all you have to say on the matter, then?”
“What did you expect?” he asked, puffing again on his pipe.
Jack held his gaze a moment, ebony hard. “Only this,” he said eventually, and turned away. “I’m done with it,” he murmured to Swann. “If you wish to—”
“Jack, wait,” she held onto his arm and turned eyes fierce as a midday sun on Teague. “He’s your son, John.”
There was a weighted pause, and Teague saw Jack’s gaze shift to fix on him as if in anticipation of denial. In his mind, the dice spun like providence and ahead of him the road split asunder. He dragged on his pipe and eventually spoke on a smoky breath. “Aye,” he said, “that he is.”
Jack cocked an eyebrow in surprise and glanced at the woman holding his arm. “Then treat him so,” she said.
Teague pondered the idea a moment; he could still trace the features of the mother in the boy’s unnaturally youthful face, and there was a pain in that which, perhaps, he’d never acknowledged before. A bitterness too, directed unfairly at the son. “Leave us,” he said at last, his words aimed at the Pirate King.
She left without comment, her hand pressing once on Jack’s arm before she slipped out of the door and left them in a heavy silence.
Jack said nothing, though his eyes roved about Teague’s quarters as if in search of something worthy of theft. Teague watched him – far too young for his fifty years, though his eyes spoke of far more than a life’s worth of death. His hair was longer now, though mostly un-braided, and the beard and moustache were as effected as ever. Though his face seemed younger, in every other way, Teague thought, he wore his years.
Eventually, Teague said, “I have something of yours.” He pulled open a drawer in his table and retrieved a parcel wrapped in a faded red bandana, throwing it upon the desk.
Jack eyed it with recognition, and some wariness. With uncertain fingers he plucked at the fabric until it spilled its content of beads and trinkets, a slender bone of some animal among them. The familiar, fleeting smile touched his lips as he picked up the bone and turned it over in his hand.
“A story there, no doubt,” Teague said.
“To them all.”
“And who are we, after all, but the sum of our stories?” He puffed on his pipe and sat down, eyes fixed on his son. “One day, perhaps, you’ll tell me yours.”
“You know the start,” Jack said coolly. “’Twas here, after all, where it began – when you took my name.”
“Was never your name,” Teague said softly. “You were ever your mother’s son.”
A sour curl of Jack’s lips looked suddenly too much like the sullen boy he’d lost. “So you always thought, eh? ‘Too strange, Jackie, too comely.’ Did you not see how much I longed for the horizon, or for the feel of a ship beneath my feet?” He pushed up the sleeve of his coat to reveal a faded brand. “Did Cutler Beckett see what you could not?”
“’Twas you who rejected your birthright, Jackie.”
“No,” he said harshly. “I rejected you.”
Teague was silent a moment. “And now?”
“Now…?” He let out a slow breath. “Worse than death, is madness – and she brought me out of it.”
“And sent you to it.”
“Paid that debt,” Jack said quickly. “And more. ‘Tis but a trifle between us now, a nothing compared with—” He stopped suddenly and smiled again; a rare glimpse of happiness. “She carries my child, and much more than that. If Lizzie has a need to be here, then so do I.”
Teague blew out a long stream of smoke. “You’ve forgiven her, then? She betrayed you to your death, and yet you can forgive her?”
“She sought it,” Jack said, lifting his chin and regarding Teague with a wary look. “Made amends, if you will.”
After a pause, he said, “And if I were to seek it?”
Jack was silent, toying again with his effects upon the table. Eventually he said, “Took me a score of years and a brush with madness to forgive Lizzie. I’ll make no promise.”
“I’d ask for none,” Teague said around the stem of his pipe. “Except, perhaps, a promise that you’ll sail with me one day and tell me some of your stories, Jackie. In return, I’ll tell you somewhat of mine and maybe we’ll know each other better.”
Jack made no answer, slowly dropping the baubles and bandana into the pockets of his coat. “Probably be around and about the Cove best part of a year,” he said eventually; all the answer Teague was likely to get, but enough. Jack sketched a short bow that was only half ironic. “I’ll be on my way then.”
“Aye,” Teague said, not rising.
His son looked as if he might have said more, but apparently abandoning the idea he turned and strode to the door.
Teague stopped him at the last moment. “Fatherhood is not so easy as you might imagine, Jackie. But, at the very least, you’ll do a better job than I.”
With his hand on the door, Jack said, “Could hardly do worse.” After a pause, he added, “You have another son, and three grandchildren already born. If you’re of a mind to make amends while you can, there would be a good place to start, eh?”
And with that he was gone, disappearing into the Cove like the fey child he had once been, and leaving John Teague alone amid his smoke and regrets.
Dawn was just cresting the horizon when the Black Pearl sailed into Borikén, her midnight sails taut in the breeze and filling Enriquillo Barahona’s heart with joy. Less than a year and a half since Jack had left; he’d not expected to see him return so soon.
They waited on the beach, the children darting in and out of the waves in excitement, and the women already chattering about the night’s feast.
“Do you think she will be aboard?” his friend said quietly at his side.
Enri glanced over at Will Turner. “Do you wish her to be? Or do you wish her not to be?”
He smiled at that. “Both, perhaps.”
“A reasonable answer.”
“Though an unlikely outcome.”
As they watched, two longboats were lowered from the side of the ship and made quick progress to shore. Enri’s sharp eyes immediately spotted his brother and Captain Swann. A tawny haired child too, of perhaps twelve or thirteen years.
“Liam…” Will breathed.
“Your eldest boy?”
“She promised to bring him to me, but I’d not imagined to see him here so soon…”
When the longboats were close to shore, men jumped out to haul them the rest of the way. Jack was among them, of course, one hand on Liam’s shoulder as they waded to shore. He hesitated in the surf when he saw Will and gave the boy a little push in the other man’s direction while, behind him, Elizabeth strode through the waves – a small child clamped to her hip. She too drew to a halt at the sight of Will embracing their son. Then, sharing an uneasy glance with Jack, she walked with him up onto the sand.
“Will…” Elizabeth’s smile was hesitant, awkward.
“You look well,” Will said, his hand on his boy’s shoulder and his gaze darting to the raven-haired girl Elizabeth carried.
“Emma,” Elizabeth volunteered. “For my mother.”
“She’s very pretty.” His smile grew nervous then and he beckoned someone closer. “Tonina,” he said hesitantly, holding out his hand to the young woman and the infant she carried. “My wife – and my new son.”
Elizabeth’s eyes went wide and Enri saw Jack’s hand at her back, steadying her for a moment. “I—” And then she smiled too, broad as the horizon. “Oh, Will, I’m so glad.”
“You are?” He seemed dubious, and Enri recalled a dozen evenings around the fire anticipating this moment; Will Turner’s generous heart would always hold a place for the woman who had been his childhood love, and even now he dreaded causing her pain.
“You’re happy here,” Elizabeth said, stepping closer and looking into his eyes. “I can see it.”
“And are you?”
She glanced at Jack briefly, colouring slightly. “I am. I’m where I belong, Will.”
“Very good,” Jack said then, ridiculously exuberant in his interruption of the moment. “All’s well that ends well and all that, eh? No hard feelings, mate? No lingering animosity that might result in the throwing of punches, or pistols at dawn?”
Will just rolled his eyes and turned away. “Come and eat with us,” he said, his arm slung about the shoulders of his eldest son. “They’re planning a feast…”
“Oh, I love a feast!” Jack enthused. “But first…” He turned to Enri and slid a significant glance back towards the longboats. “You’ve a visitor, mate.”
Enri followed his gaze until his eyes widened in amazement. “Teague…”
The old man, as much the pirate as ever he had been, was wading ashore. His eyes, bright and black, peered out of his craggy face and fixed sharply on Enri as he drew close enough to speak. “Been a while, eh, boy?”
“It has, but you’re here now and welcome,” Enri smiled. “Come, father, meet my wife and your grandchildren.”
Teague cast a pointed glance toward Jack. “Some sons,” he grumbled, “seem more forgiving than others, hmm?”
“’Tis only ’cause he doesn’t know you so well as I.” Jack pressed his hands together and offered Enri an apologetic smile. “He’s all yours, mate. After six weeks at sea, ’tis a miracle I didn’t feed the old curmudgeon to the bloody sharks.”
With that he was off, taking his daughter from Elizabeth and hoisting the child onto his shoulders as they strolled together up the beach. It was, Enri realised, the first time that he’d ever seen Jack Sparrow truly happy; father, lover, and son once more – he was a man, whole at last. And if that was not the perfect beginning, then he didn’t know what was…
Thank you so much for reading all the way through, I really hope you enjoyed the story!