The day wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when the afternoon found Jack Sparrow working on an upended longboat, carefully smearing hot pitch over the wood, sealing every crack and seam for a watertight, and more importantly, safe result.
“Hmm?“ Jack turned in his crouching position, eyes narrowed against the brightness of the sun, an instinctual reaction to the familiar voice calling with the familiar tone, nothing more, facing the 12-year-old, tousle-haired boy he’d grown affectionate about - the very captain of the fine vessel Jack was working on.
“Father wants you. Dinner’s served.”
“Alright. I’ll be right over.” Jack chucked the brush into the pot of pitch and got up, dusting off his hands to his sash.
It wasn’t until then when the boy’s chosen word started to echo, leaving Jack standing on his feet, a deep, puzzled frown wrinkling his forehead.
The three of them sat around the table. An unconventional family, yet a family nonetheless, spooning at their stews like so many times before.
Today, a difference hung around them, and Jack grabbed it along with a piece of bread from a basket. “Liam,” he started, a flutter in the pit of his stomach.
The boy looked up, expectant, chewing his food hastily to be able to answer.
Jack leaned back in his chair, attempting on nonchalant air. “What did you call me, before?”
Liam took a swig of his watered ale before speaking.
Will snorted, feigned a cough and muttered apologies, eyes crinkled with amusement over his mug, keen on finding what came next.
After shooting a glance and a grin at Will, Jack softly ventured further; “Why?”
“No reason.” Liam shrugged, shovelling another batch of stew in his mouth, gaining time to ponder the question. “I guess, in this family, normal means two fathers.”
The midday sun, glaring blindingly down from the clear skies, made Will have to cover his eyes to find where his companions had wandered while he’d been at the baker’s. Locating Jack and Liam in the shadow of the hatter’s awning, Will stopped to watch them peer in through the window with their hands on their thighs, heads together, both pointing at something or the other, Liam’s laughter coursing through the air like a refreshing gust of wind.
The jingle of the tiny bells attached to the baker’s door and the surprised voice of Mrs. Bennett startled Will to make room and apologize hastily with a bow, “Pardon me, Mrs. Bennett, I must’ve--”
“Well aren’t they just a darling sight,” Mrs. Bennett chirped in a sing-song voice, ignoring Will’s words while squinting at the scene across the road. Folding her arms to her breast, the baker‘s wife tilted her head and sighed mournfully, “Such a crying shame that the poor child has to cope without his mother’s care.”
The pride and warmth stemming from the words uttered about his loved ones that had been spreading in Will’s chest, rapidly turned into a darkening cloud of offence, sending Will to fumble in search of the proper thing to say.
Before Will could actually get a word in, the woman, oblivious to Will’s confusion, went about sharing her thoughts without restraints. “Must be terrible for the both of you to live without a woman’s touch around the house,” she nodded to Will conspiratorially and patted his arm, continuing with a wink, “though I figure the loss weighs heavier on him, what wiv you always having the chance to steer nature’s course wiv a few pence in yer pocket.”
“I, uh..” Squeezing the handle of his basket harder, instead of pulling it over his head to keep from hearing more, Will found himself at a loss of sounds outside of the small whimper of frustration that escaped him.
Fortunately, Mrs. Bennett didn‘t seem to expect an answer. “How long does your uncle plan on staying? Isn’t he a merchant captain?”
Baffled enough to merely drop his jaw in bewilderment, Will blinked at Mrs. Bennett blankly a few times before managing to form words. “Excuse me?”
“Your uncle, hasn’t he been ashore for quite a while now?” Casting a suspicious glance at Will, Mrs. Bennett frowned at Will’s puzzlement. “Are you alright Mr. Turner?”
“Captain. Captain Turner, Mrs. Bennett.” An edge crept into Will’s voice unintended, which seemed to wound the woman’s pride sufficiently enough for being decidedly unwitting. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think Captain Sparrow, that is, no relation whatsoever, has stayed ashore nearly long enough, and I don’t appreciate-”
Will got no further as his words were cut off by Liam skipping towards them, his excitement plastered all over his face in a boy’s smile. “Father, father! Dad says I need a proper hat!”
Coming to a screeching halt, Liam brushed his hand on his breeches and offered it to Mrs. Bennett in a courtly greeting.
At the same time, Jack strolled along with the very same smile, a smile, which froze into an apprehensive grimace at the sight of Mrs. Bennett regarding Liam like he’d crawled out of Hell to her menace.
“Good day, Mrs. Bennett.” Jack stood behind Liam and placed a protective hand on his shoulder. “It’d be common courtesy of you to shake the boy’s hand there.”
“Well I never… Dad? Father?” Shocked, Mrs. Bennett turned from Jack to Will, then back, her features the epitome of incredulousness. “What in the name of the child’s innocence have you godless creatures been teaching him?”
“Manners, for one,” Liam growled under his breath, and checking back to his father, who apparently strained to keep his face in order, the young Master Turner straightened his back and locked Mrs. Bennett’s gaze with his own. “To sail, that’s another, how to tie a knot that’ll never slip, how to stoke a fire that’ll never douse, Mrs. Bennett, and that it’s better to leave with a kiss than a smack with a rag across the mouth,” Liam pushed on, undisturbed by Mrs. Bennett flinching visibly and raising her hands to her lips in sheer horror. “They’ve taught me to read and write, something-” he stifled any interruptions with the inarguable sovereignty of a raised hand, “-you will find, if you should care to see, that your Maggie has also learned.” Liam lift his chin defiantly, determinate, as if to acknowledge that Jack stepped back and next to Will, and no longer stood behind him, that he was on his own, free to speak his mind, his mooring untied like his tongue.
Short of smirking madly in his exhilaration of his new-found freedom, Liam usurped the trust nigh tangibly coming from his parents, and spoke with the confidence of a man. “I’ve been taught to think, to learn to judge wrong from right only after I think, and to let the likes of you go on thinking that you’ve had the last word, that I’ve even listened, since that’s how there’s more in it for me.” Schooling his voice masterfully, no doubt due to the prime examples he’d observed half his life, Liam narrowed his eyes briefly and bent to bow with all respect he could muster. “There is, no doubt, still room for perfecting that.”
Swallowing, looking slightly lost, Liam followed as Mrs. Bennett slowly folded her hands into her apron, her cheeks a few shades paler from the scientintical flush she’d first portrayed when Liam had opened his gob, and her mouth opening futilely like a fish out of water.
“Now,” Liam shot sharply, not very keen on hearing what the lady had to say since it was unlikely anything very nice, and tipped an invisible hat in goodbye. “If you’ll excuse us, we have errands to run. It’s my dad’s turn to cook us supper.”
Not turning to see the effect of his words, nor to find if Jack and Will were moving along, Liam walked on ahead down the street, only the remnants of the mind-scuppering insult he’d felt still lingering around his heart. As if his family consisted of bloody ignoramuses.
Mrs. Bennett, uselessly wringing her hands around the cloth of her apron, took a glance at the distancing boy, then the two men who stood side by side, both expressing humble, breathless awe with their eyes wide and brows raised, the beginnings of wide grins playing in the corners of their mouths.
The sound of the bells announcing Mrs. Bennett’s leave snapped Jack out of his stunned predicament.
“Well spoke!” Jack managed to clap only twice into his thunderous applause before Will, chuckling, grabbed his arm to a halt and tugged him along. “Yes, I wonder where he gets that from.”
“That must’ve left a lasting impression,” Jack threw his arm over Will’s shoulder - a gesture which Mrs. Bennett would never see as companionable ever again.
“We may have to flee the town,” Will twisted to look behind them, the figure of Mrs. Bennett clear in the window as she probably cursed the men as vehemently as she dared. “Again.”
“Aye,” Jack replied amusedly, “but not without a hat. Don’t you reckon he’ll make a wonderful captain yet?”
“You mean a wonderful blacksmith.”
“No, I mean a captain of a ship. A magnificent one, much like the Pearl. What are we still missing?” Jack reached mid-step to peek into the basket Will was carrying.
Holding the basket up for a better view, Will followed Liam‘s retreating back bemusedly. “Eggs and milk. And beetroots. A blacksmith. Haply something specific, like…locks.”
“It’s a fine trade, to be sure, but considering the lack of water, and the amount of dry land it entails, I say he’ll be much better off at sea. Ergo, captain.”
“Blacksmith. Less drowning and more certainty of wages.”
“Liam! Beetroots! How about both, would you settle for that, eh?”
“Maybe we should let him decide. He might want to be a thespian for all we know.”
“Oh, so you do mean ‘captain’ but you just want to argue out of principle.”
“No, Jack, I mean ‘blacksmith’.”
“We really have taught him all that, haven‘t we? Amazing. I think we should be proud of ourselves.”
“And to think he’s caught on even with you around. It is amazing. Not that we need you to be any more proud if we wish to share lodgings. We'll have to find a bigger house.”
“What d’you reckon we should strive to pound into his head next? Hard work that it is, with you as his sire.”
“Oh yes. Indeed.”
“Not that you’d be able to lead an example.”
With his parents in tow, Liam navigated the way and grinned to himself listening the two men bicker, silently promising to tell them that he aimed to become a scholar in science, right after they’d once again agreed to agree to disagree no matter how disagreeable such an accord was. He would. Promise... Or perhaps after the next time. Maybe.