1) The smoke from the fire in Tia Dalma’s hut was sweet and hung heavy in the rafters. The others, worn out from the day’s exertions and sorrows, had all fallen into so deep a sleep it made Will wonder if the rum she had given them was laced with something stronger. Will had not partaken of enough to be anything more than vaguely hollow.
The brutalized muscles across his back were stiff and sore, having received, instead of time to heal, 48 hours of swimming, sword fighting, sand and salt and sweat, not to mention searing heat. Will barely felt them. All he felt was the emptiness somewhere behind his ribcage, the product of a moment he was not meant to see.
“One pain drive out de other,” Tia Dalma’s words echoed his thoughts uncannily and Will turned slightly as she rustled closer, sinking to sit beside him on the long bench. He gave her a little half-smile—all he could manage, but she deserved some recognition and if nothing else, she was trying to be nice, he supposed. He turned away again when she seemed disinclined to say anything else, and went back to turning his father’s knife over in his hands.
Abruptly, there was a sharp pain in his earlobe, and a steadying hand on his cheek when he tried to jerk his head away. He could see Tia Dalma’s blackened teeth smiling at him from the corner of his eye, and in a few minutes she slowly drew her hands away from his face to fish a scrap of mirror from somewhere in the folds of her garment.
In the flash of silver, a gleam of gold, and Will’s eyes squinted and then widened to see the hoop which now dangled from one bloodied ear.
“One pain drive out de other,” Tia Dalma repeated, and Will reached up to touch his throbbing earlobe gingerly.
“Will it help?” he asked wryly, fingers sliding along the thin warm metal.
Her grin widened. “Does it hurt?”
Will took a deep breath and found his shoulders straightening. “Less,” he agreed, eyes meeting hers in unspoken understanding.
She leaned closer to whisper in his other ear, her breath warm as a caress. “Den it helps.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2) “You mean you’re goin’ to set sail without a scrap o’gold on your person, Will? Can’t do that—‘sbad luck!”
Will looked patiently at Gibbs and tried not to think about the small circle of gold sewn into a pocket inside the calf of his boot, which he carried on behalf of someone else who seemed reluctant to claim it. He sighed.
“What do you suggest, Mr. Gibbs?”
The old sailor frowned a moment, and then his eyes lit up. He fumbled for a long second in the pouch at his belt until his calloused fingers came up with a golden hoop. “Won this off a poor soul what had had too much rum to see the dice. Was savin’ it for a pot meself, but you need it more than I.”
Bemused by Gibbs’ sudden and unexpected generosity, Will stared at the hoop in Gibbs’ grasp. “For me?”
“Can’t have you sailin’ to the end of the world without a fare for the boatman,” Gibbs insisted, and though Will doubted sincerely that an earring would buy off the likes of Davy Jones, he didn’t have the heart to refuse.
He nodded, and then just as decisively shook off the rum which Gibbs offered. He might be taking one more step away from respectability, but he would do it with a clear head.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
3) Barbossa had gone to employ his wits in aggressive negotiations to win them passage aboard a ship bound from Tortuga around the southern tip of South America. Meanwhile, Elizabeth had appointed herself to accompany Gibbs and Marty to make sure that the provisions procured for the voyage were not entirely of the liquid variety. Which left Will sitting outside a tavern in the company of a bald fool, a half blind fool, and a mute who might or might not be a fool, but was certainly madder than his parrot. As a suggestion of what the others might think of him, this did not sit very well with Will.
He had grown no fonder of Tortuga, either, for all that it had become more familiar, and the combined noises and smells were conspiring to give him an enormous headache. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, trying to block out everything, including his companion’s voices.
He succeeded for all of about two and a half minutes.
“You’re doin’ it all wrong,” Pintel’s voice insisted through the remnants of Will’s internal peace. “You’re tryin’ too hard to be charmin.’”
“Well, you’re not charmin’ enough!” Ragetti retorted.
“We’re pirates! We en’t supposed to be charmin’!” Pintel scoffed. “En’t that right, Cotton?”
“Awk! Five fathoms deep!” The parrot replied.
Amused despite himself, Will cracked open an eyelid to see Pintel and Ragetti staring at each other in befuddlement. A tavern wench stood between them, hands on her hips, and her earings flashed in the torchlight as she looked from one to the other of them in annoyance. So that was it.
“Huh?” Pintel finally said, and Will opened his eyes fully.
“Cotton thinks you’re in over your head,” he translated, uncurling from the bench with liquid grace. “And so do I.”
The memory of a heated kiss burned in the back of his throat and lent a certain darkness to his piercing gaze, which seemed to say ‘this is how it’s done.’ The others stepped back a pace and Will brought his eyes to bear on her face, round and still bearing a hint of sweetness despite her occupation.
He bowed with a touch of flourish. “Please forgive my associates, miss,” he said with a hint of a conspiratorial smile. “While clearly even a pair of half-blind fools may be struck by your beauty, they lack imagination.”
Will held out his hand, and repressed a sigh of relief when she put her fingers in his grasp instead of slapping him. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, his eyes never leaving her face.
“Aren’t you the courtly one,” she said approvingly, “wot’s your name, then, love?”
“Turner,” Will replied, running his thumb over her knuckles, “and yours?”
“Mabel,” she said, a little breathlessly as Will took a small step closer. She moved as if to take her hand away but stilled when he squeezed her fingers.
“And what did these clowns want of you, Mabel?” His voice was low and he was relatively certain, even by torchlight, that she blushed.
“A…a kiss, and a free mug of ale, sir.”
Will shook his head reprovingly. “Like I said,” he replied, surprised to find himself enjoying the hint of a leer which had crept into his smile, “they lack imagination.”
“And wot would you ask for, then?”
Something in her face stopped him short for an instant while his anger evaporated. Kissing her would not undo whatever had happened between Elizabeth and Jack, and Will could not convince himself it would. He altered course.
He slid his fingers up her throat to graze her cheek, and then deftly worked the small gold hoop from one ear. He held it up to sparkle in the light.
“Perhaps a souvenir of the prettiest lady on Tortuga?” It was the sort of thing Jack might ask, after all.
She was definitely blushing now, and smiling widely. “You can have that and more, sir,” she said, and proceeded to kiss him enthusiastically, to the sound of the others’ impressed hoots and whistles.
When Elizabeth returned with the rest of the ragtag bunch an hour later, Will was contentedly working through the basic sword forms with Ragetti, a single gold hoop flashing among the fall of his hair as he lunged.
“An earring, Will?” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “What for?”
Will hadn’t quite decided how to explain—but he didn’t really think he ought to have to, either. He smiled.
“Will?” she repeated, but Ragetti was the one to answer.
“That’s a reward,” he said emphatically, and when she arched those merciless eyebrows a second time, he elaborated, “for demonstration of proper piratical behavior, that is.”
She glanced at Will as the others snickered, and he shrugged.
“Pirate,” he said.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4) They made it as far as the north African coast on the strength of Barbossa’s cunning and their pooled resources. Frankly, Will was a little surprised that these two things had gotten them even that far, and wondered a little if Tia Dalma’s mumbled incantations mightn’t also have had something to do with it. It now seemed, however, that they were stuck for a new source of income.
After a group conference, they somewhat dubiously agreed to let Gibbs and Marty try their hands at some gambling, under Barbossa’s watchful gaze, and also decided that, light-fingered as she was, it was still not worth Elizabeth learning to pick pockets at the risk of losing a hand. Will would not be at all surprised if she ended up trying it anyway, but on the off chance that she hadn’t thought of it, he decided it was better not to say anything.
Which left it up to Will to improve their fortunes.
Fortunately for Will, who had been having visions of giving sword fighting lessons to pirates who would just as soon shoot you or hack at you with a fishing spear, the port at which they had landed had a reputation for an almost carnival-air year round, with any number of opportunities to participate in contests of strength and skill. He won a bag of silver pieces in a knife-and-axe-throwing contest, and annoyed not a few people who had bet against the slender foreigner with the deceptively innocent face. Pintel, who had bet for him, was overjoyed, and that buoyed their finances as well.
They didn’t really run into any trouble until that day Will challenged—and beat—the local sword champion, a giant swarthy man with not a lot of teeth but more than enough scars. Will left a thin red line across the other’s cheek and danced away unharmed, heart lifted not a little by the look of intense relief on Elizabeth’s face below her hat brim. When the judge pronounced him the winner and handed him his motley collection of winnings, Will allowed Gibbs to sort through the bag of assorted jewelry and coin and thrust upon him the earring which was his due, for braving the wrath of a man half a head taller and a several stone heavier than he.
The weight of it felt good in his ear all the way down the dock and out to sea, leaving the humiliated giant to swear at their departing backs over the sound of the rising wind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
5) “Ye know you’re starin’ again, Mr. Turner.”
Will glared at Barbossa, more angry with himself for allowing his guard to drop than at the pirate for successfully sneaking up behind him. “Staring, Captain?”
“At yer fine lass yonder. The one ye’ve scarce spoken to since we sailed. Ye’ve been followin’ her with yer eyes like ye are afraid she’ll fall overboard one minute, and afraid she’ll push ye over the next.”
I trust Elizabeth. The words flew to his lips and stuck there unsaid. Will growled instead and turned away from both Elizabeth at the bow and Barbossa beside him, staring out over the rail at the gulls swooping raucously over the water.
“Problem in paradise, Mr. Turner?” The acid humor in Barbossa’s words broke through Will’s reverie and Will’s eyes swept inevitably back to where Elizabeth was laughing at something Gibbs had said.
“I’m losing her,” Will said, desperate for a willing ear even as he knew Barbossa was not to be trusted. “And it’s not that I’d hold her to a life she doesn’t want—all I want is for her to be happy.” He ran a hand distractedly through his windblown hair. “But I rather it if she could be happy with me.”
“And ye think the life o’ piracy is takin’ her away? Or is it somethin’—or someone else?”
Will’s lips thinned, but he said nothing.
“Ye think Jack’s got hold of your bonny lass, even from beyond the grave? Promisin’ adventure and freedom and just waitin’ to be freed so he can spirit her away, is that it?”
Will couldn’t take the mockery in Barbossa’s tone any longer and he whirled to face the captain, sword leaping out of its sheath to match the steel in Will’s voice. “I love her,” he said, but the look in his eyes held the answer he wouldn’t speak.
Barbossa smiled and put a thin loop of gold over the point of the sword aimed at his gut. “Then by the gods, Mister Turner, ye take her back.”