Pairing/Characters: Jack/Will, mention of Jack/Liz and Liz/Will
Word Count: 2500
Genre: Gen/character development/a hint at romance perhaps
Summary: From Challenge # 7 - Jack loses his hat, blames Will, and while the two men aren't speaking, they come up with interesting revelations about each other.
Disclaimer: I own nothing or profit from it except for sheer, unadulterated (and occasionally very adult) delight.
Spoilers: DMC, of course.
Warnings: Um, it has pirates? ;)
Notes: For some reason I got the deadline for this challenge mixed up in my head, and although I finished this fic off almost a week in advance, I didn't realize I'd screwed the submission date up until the morning after. So whether or not this should still count for voting is entirely up to you guys, but I'm just glad that it's posted and you can read it, because I really enjoyed writing it! And cursed myself with more words than a pirate knows when I thought I'd messed it all up...
Thanks: to estelendur for her wonderful beta skills and elvensorceress and/or skyndsam for still posting this for me despite deadline confusion and whatnot!
Will squinted back at Jack, puzzled. "Am I the keeper of your hat, Jack?" He smirked slightly, trying not to laugh at the pirate’s ill-hidden distress. Jack’s fingers had moved from his mustache to his mouth; he bit at them anxiously.
"A captain’s nothing without his hat, love," replied Jack. "And yes, now that you mention it, me dear William," he said, focusing in on Will with a decidedly serious look on his face, belied only by the exaggerated manner in which he slurred his speech and threw about his hands, "I was just thinking about adding that to your list of duties." It was hard to know when to take Jack seriously, if ever at all. Will was more than a trifle sensitive, however, and a little easy to be taken in too, and so his bearings were knocked about a bit at what Jack said next. "After all," he grinned, "you’ve got to do something on this ship to earn your keep. Besides sharpening and polishing the occasional sword, I’m not sure what else you’re good for. Maybe I should have taken Lizzie aboard instead of you." Seeing Will bristle a bit at this, Jack went on tauntingly. "Christ, Willie m’boy, I think it’s been three days this week now that I’ve seen you get smacked in the back of the head with the mast!"
"That’s only because a certain ‘captain’ doesn’t know how to rig the mast!" Will retorted. His eyes grew smaller and darker, and his lips stretched thin, setting his jaw tightly.
"Oh?" said Jack, cocking his head, his own kohl-lined eyes widening. "Is that how it’s going to be, mate? Questioning the competency of Captain Jack Sparrow?" He sneered slightly and tossed his head with what Will decided was a rather obnoxious jingling of beads. "Go find me hat, William. See what ‘appens if you don’t."
Will gave Jack one last hard stare and stalked off, muttering to himself. Jack turned back to the wheel as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and before long he was singing under his breath, off-key and delightedly, staring out at the sea
Will knew exactly where Jack’s hat was: it was in Will’s cabin. The hat had seen better days, having gone through many a voyage and battle; it had even been swallowed by a kraken and thrown back up again, only to be digested once more when the beast devoured Jack. Really, it’d been through everything that the captain had, traveling essentially from hell and back, and still the man insisted on plopping the torn up, stinking mess of a cap on his head. Will had taken it upon himself to mend it a bit, using his limited knowledge of sewing to patch up just a spot here and there - He couldn’t give it back entirely nice and new because that just wouldn’t be Jack; Will was merely trying to make sure that one of Jack’s most prized possessions didn’t fall apart or get lost to the wind due to the tattered and flimsy state it was in. He had just been waiting for the "opportune moment," as Jack would’ve called it, to present it to the pirate. Now Will wasn’t so sure he even wanted to.
Jack Sparrow could be truly difficult at times. The little spat they’d just had wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was not the first and, more importantly, if Will hadn’t begun to worry that there was some truth in Jack’s jibes. He knew that Jack was just trying to get under his skin - it was a game to him, he didn’t really mean anything by it - but the pirate had chosen to pick away at the one subject Will had of late been quite sore over: Maybe Jack didn’t need him. Maybe Jack should have left Will and taken Elizabeth. She was much more of a pirate than Will, and the young man was still amazed that Jack had chosen their friendship over a relationship with Elizabeth. Hell, sometimes Will was amazed that he had made such a decision himself. But that’s what it had come down to, and Will had decided to let Elizabeth be with Jack; he couldn’t be with her knowing that her heart might want to be elsewhere.
As it turned out, however, neither Jack nor Elizabeth really wanted to be together; they repulsed each other as much as they were attracted to one another, and they had decided it would be best to part ways. Will could’ve went back to Port Royal with Elizabeth, but he was simply unable to imagine returning to that life, trying to restore it to what it once was, knowing that was impossible, that nothing would ever be the same again. And for a reason he couldn’t quite explain, he just couldn’t leave Jack. So he said goodbye to his fiancé - tears were shed and pledges to never forget the other made - but ultimately she left, and he stayed, and most days Will thought that he’d made the right decision. Most days. Today he wondered what Jack thought about the choices they all had made. Did he regret his own? What was Elizabeth doing? Was she happy? Was Will himself happy? Clutching Jack’s hat tightly in his hands, Will wasn’t sure.
Back on the deck, Jack gazed out at the stretch of sea before him, the sun glittering upon it like the rings on his fingers. He stared at them a while too, thinking. He was trying to remember a time when he hadn’t been drawn to shiny things, when things hadn’t mattered more to him than people, when desire had been more than just possessing. What the hell was a hat, anyway? The pirate bit at his lip anxiously. This was stupid, and Jack knew it. He hadn’t been fair to the lad; Will had lost more than anyone, quite a lot of it at Jack’s own hands, and here he was blasting away at him over a dirty piece of cloth that the boy had nothing to do with. Try as he might to push it all out of his mind, however, Jack couldn’t help but come back to brooding over the hat. It might’ve been a dirty piece of cloth, but it was his dirty piece of cloth, damn it, and the pirate clung as tightly as he could to anything that wandered into his life; he had come from so little, and if nothing else, Tia Dalma’s compass would always show him that was one place he never wanted to go back to.
Jack could hardly remember, life before the Pearl was a blur, but he knew what it was to have nothing, no one, and he had come to know the pleasant swell of filling that hole in him with just about anything he could get his hands on. Rum, gold, women, ships, adventures, more rum...For the most part, they did the trick. He grinned absently at a stray memory or two of other holes he’d filled in his day, but the grin didn’t quite reach his eyes; he closed them tightly in frustration, gripping the wheel until his knuckles went white. Even after all of this time, all that he’d been through, he still didn’t know what he wanted.
Certainly Jack was glad to be alive - the Kraken had given him that (and his hat) - but what was he doing with it? They had no heading; the Pearl and its crew were just sailing aimlessly. They’d probably make port in Tortuga, and it’d be more of the same. It wasn’t that Jack didn’t want those things, but they just didn’t look quite as appetizing or satisfying as they once had. He wanted his bloody hat. Jack needed to feel that he was in control, that he could have what he wanted when he wanted it, and that no one could ever take anything away from him ever again. The hat reminded him of that. The hat made him captain, and being Captain Jack Sparrow gave him purpose. Without that he was just a man with too many scars that hid too many painful stories. He was just a man with too much rum in his belly and not enough in his heart to keep him going. Without his hat, Jack was just a silly pirate. Without a hat. He took out his compass, flipped it open angrily, and waited impatiently for the arrow to stop spinning. It didn’t. He wished more than anything right now that he could give this broken little trinket back to the swamp witch in exchange for the undead monkey. Right now more than ever, Jack wanted to shoot something.
Will decided, after much pacing back and forth in his cramped little cabin (and a fair amount of cursing when he kept stumbling into things), that he would give Jack his hat and be done with it. This was pointless. He wasn’t sure what he had hoped to accomplish with taking on this task, but at the moment Will was certain that all he had done was anger Jack and confuse himself, and neither man dealt well with that. It would be in everyone’s best interest for the captain to be reunited with his precious captain’s cap, Will thought with an irritable smirk, and then they would all drink in celebration, and Will could forget about all that plagued him. He and Jack would laugh again, perhaps they would go to Tortuga, and life would go on, and that would have to be good enough. He would not address these fears again, not to himself or Jack. Will gripped the mangy hat with conviction, gathered himself together, attempted to think of a plausible story to tell Jack, and marched out the door.
Jack had been heading toward Will’s cabin in order to apologize to the lad - well, perhaps not apologize, but he planned on muttering something vaguely inoffensive - and as Will stepped out the door, the two man ran smack into each other, falling in unison with painful-sounding thumps. Jack shook his head as if to settle his brain back into place, and his beads rattled loudly, drawing an even more strained look from Will’s face where a hand already lay, clutching at his head in discomfort. The two men regarded each other uneasily, unsure if this sudden run-in should be grounds for further fighting or roars of hearty laughter. It was as Jack considered this that he noticed the hat lying on Will’s lap.
"What’s this, then?" the pirate crowed, his eyes lighting up. He snatched his cap from the lad, and held it in front of him, amazed. Within moments, however, he turned his gaze to Will suspiciously. "How’d you come about this, eh?"
"Found it," Will said with a shrug, not quite meeting Jack’s eyes. "You really ought to be more careful with how you treat your possessions, Jack." He smiled at the pirate with a hint of teasing. "If you so prize them," Will added, an eye brow raised slyly.
"That I should, mate," said Jack with a nod of his head, a grin playing upon his lips. "That I should." He ran his fingers over the hat lovingly, then regarded Will with mischief in his eyes. "How’d me hat get so..." the pirate paused, cocking his head to the side, pursing his tongue between his lips, "shiny? It’s practically brand new," he marveled, running his hand across one of the patched up places.
Will studied the floor shyly. "Don’t know, Captain. It would seem that one of the crew thought it needed a bit sprucing up, after all it’s been through." He looked up with a grin. "Even dirty old things deserve something good now and again."
Jack’s face softened, eyes and lips slackening slightly. "Perhaps," he murmured. Then the familiar glitter lit up his countenance again, and Jack shoved at Will playfully. "C’mon, lad. We both know you fixed up me hat, you little eunuch. Wish I would’ve known you had a woman’s way with the needle; could’ve put you to work with that a long time ago!" He threw back his head and laughed, sending his braids and beads flying. Their jingling made Will smile.
"I was just getting sick of looking at it, that’s all," countered Will. "It’s even more of an eye sore than the Pearl."
Jack feigned a look of horror. "Are my ears deceiving me, or did you or did you not just insult me ship? Because surely it would make no sense for you to have taken such care to restore one of my most prized affects to its former glory if you were only going to condemn yourself to certain maiming or possible death by blaspheming the immaculate love of my life?" The pirate continued to stare at Will so convincingly that the young man almost began to wonder if an altercation would arise again, but at the same time they both suddenly burst into laughter. The two men clasped hands and struggled to their feet, basking in this mend of their friendship, the unspoken bond between them restored. Jack placed the hat on his head, patting it this way and that until he was satisfied, then he clapped his arm around Will’s back and turned his head to look the young man in the eye.
"How’s about we celebrate the rebirth and return of Captain Jack’s hat?" Jack asked, his lips tilting up toward his mustache.
"This wouldn’t happen to involve any rum now, would it?" Will returned with mock concern. "If I’m not mistaken," he said quite seriously, "it was most likely on many of such occasions that your captain’s hat received so much damage. I’m not sure that the rum’s good for it."
Jack drew his face even closer to Will’s and whispered into his ear with a purr, "Perhaps, lad, but you only go around once, right? Better to live while you can and mend what you can and forget the rest." He pulled away slightly and regarded Will with a grin. "What else can you do? Nothing’s promised, nothing’s certain, so you might as well just live!" he crowed and kissed his companion abruptly on the cheek with a loud smack.
Will squinted at the pirate, wiping at his face absently. "What was that for?"
"For finding me hat, William," said Jack. "And because I can," he taunted before sauntering off in the direction of his own cabin, gesturing for Will to follow behind him. "Now help me find some rum, lad!"