Buffy braced herself against the slimy rail edging The Flying Dutchman's tilted deck and scowled at the inky fluid clinging to the Scythe. Magical heart-removal, no matter what preservative effects it might have, wasn't proof against a good beheading; even so, chopping Davy Jones into pieces small enough to keep them from reassembling had been an icky, tedious task, made even worse by the ichor splattered around from the other Slayer's battle with his fishy-looking, mutated henchmen.
The deck shuddered under her feet, and she looked up, scanning the barnacle-encrusted architecture of the ship for her witchy friend. "Wills?" she called, urgently. Whatever'd kept the thing from sinking over the last several centuries wasn't going to hold much longer now that its cursed Captain was dead.
"On it!" Willow called from the deck above, raising her hands to the sky as a light breeze filtered through her magic-bleached hair. She spoke a few unfamiliar words, then lowered her hands again; the deck went level under their feet and a deep groaning noise vibrated up through its timbers.
Movement from the passageway that led below-decks caught the Slayer's attention as the world finished shifting around her. She pivoted swiftly to face it, stumbling a little as her more-fashionable-than-functional boots slipped on the wet wood. Faith caught her elbow, yanking her upright before she could hit the planks. She gave her sister Slayer a grateful glance, then fell into a ready stance at her side. That Kraken thing Giles had been worried about hadn't put in an appearance yet, and there could still be a few crewmembers hidden out of sight.
The whatever-it-was in the passage moved again, shuffling slowly forward, and Buffy got a better look at it. It was man-shaped, and didn't have that undead extrasensory feel that had clung to old Squid-face; it did have a lobster-y looking arm and seaweed mixed liberally in amongst dark strands of hair, to mention just a couple of the weirdnesses she could see, but those were fading away even as she watched. She couldn't help but glance down at the deck as the implications of that sank in, but the dead sailors seemed to be stuck in their curse-shapes even with the magic gone.
The deformed figure paused a few steps out into the bright Caribbean sunshine, blinking up at the sky, then eyed the two Slayers with what looked like curiosity and relief. Dark, soulful eyes had emerged as the mutations began melting away, and the barnacles dropping from his face had uncovered a scrap of beard edging a strong, male chin. He opened his mouth a few times, seawater trickling from the corners as he cleared his throat, then spoke, his voice corroded and rough from unknown ages of disuse.
"Is this World's End?" he asked.
Buffy exchanged a glance with Faith, then turned back to the stranger and shook her head. "That might have been what your Captain had in mind, but it's kind of our job to throw a monkey wrench in the bad guys' plans."
He blinked back at them a moment, wrinkling his newly cleared brow, then glanced down at his hands. The left one still looked a little misshapen, but the claw was already gone; he spread broad palms out in front of him, flexing them slowly, then sighed and looked up again. "It must be, though," he said, wonderingly. "She said it was my destiny-- that we would free him, that I would go to World's End, and that everything would work out as it was meant to. The freeing part already happened, a long time ago; I was starting to believe that the rest would never come true."
"Free who?" Faith asked.
"Jack," the man said. "Captain Jack Sparrow. The Kraken took him, and Tia Dalma said if we'd sail with Barbossa..." He shook his head, and several small wormy things fell from his hair to the deck with a wet plop. "It all happened so quickly. I freed my father, even after Barbossa betrayed us, and helped the others get away, but I..." He swallowed. "I fell behind."
He didn't elaborate any further, but Buffy thought it was pretty clear what he meant. She'd "fallen behind" a couple of times herself.
Faith didn't seem impressed, though. "And that got you here, how?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. "I thought, from what we were told about this ship, the only way people got stuck here is if they wanted it."
The sailor lifted his chin indignantly. "It was my life for theirs," he said, firmly. "There was no question of whether I'd agree-- and I'd make the same choice again, if needs be."
He was nearly completely free of the curse now, and Buffy could see he wasn't very much older than they were. He had wide shoulders, washboard abs, and strongly muscled arms and legs only partially hidden by the shreds of cloth that hung on him in vague approximations of shirt and trousers. But the fabric they'd been made from, and the sword hanging at his hip, were like nothing she'd seen outside of historical movies or Errol Flynn swashbucklers. Whenever he'd made that choice of his, it had been a very long time ago-- on the hundreds of years scale.
"You realize it's been kind of a while since that happened, right?" she asked, cautiously.
He looked away, out toward the horizon, and nodded jerkily. "It-- seemed likely. There aren't any calendars at the bottom of the ocean, but the Dutchman made port a couple of dozen times since I joined the crew, and that only happens once every ten years."
Buffy bit her lip, trying to distract herself from the heartstring-tugging going on, but she had a feeling it was already a lost cause. He was pushing all the noble-hero buttons that she was such a sucker for; it was a good thing he was all with the pulse-having, because that would just be too cliché for words.
But she was getting ahead of herself. "Anyone else down below?" she asked. "Or are you the only one left?"
He shook his head. "The others were all up here. I was--" His hand dropped to his side, and a quickly-shuttered triumphant light flared in his eyes. "I had some personal business to take care of."
Buffy thought about that a minute, then decided not to press. It wasn't like they wouldn't have time to ask him more later, on the transport back home. She lowered the Scythe and held out a hand-- then pulled it back and wiped it quickly on her grimy pants leg before holding it out again. Her palm was still stained pretty black, but at least she'd gotten the worst of the gunk off. "I'm Buffy," she said.
He looked at her palm quizzically for a moment; then a smile broke over his face, like a sun emerging from behind a cloud. "Will Turner," he replied.
"And I'm Faith," her sister Slayer added, holding a hand out as well.
He shook them both, still smiling brightly. "World's End or not, I'm very grateful to you both for the rescue."
Buffy couldn't help but smile back.