Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Pirates of the Caribbean
Character/Pairing: Jack/Will, mentioned Will/Elizabeth, Gibbs
Challenge/Prompt: tamingthemuse #554: Lackadaisical and beattheblackdog #56: Lost
Word Count: 1,546
Date Written: 7 March 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
He's never really felt lost at sea before. He's been in ships tossed every which way and even completely destroyed by storms. He's survived hurricanes, mermaids, and a hundred other things that most sailors think are only imaginary. He's even fought the dead and damned survived and been stranded on an island with only turtles for help, and still, he's never felt truly lost at sea. Until today.
He tries to keep his moistened eyes on the horizon. He murmurs his normal line, telling the Pearl to bring him the horizon, meaning that the day will be theirs, but the horizon actually holds very little interest for him. All he really wants to do right now is to turn around and go back the way from whence they're sailing. All he wants to do is get back on that port behind them, fight his way to Will, gather the boy in his arms, declare his love for him, and kiss him with such passionate until the former Pirate hater has no choice but to declare his love for him in return.
But that's not going to happen. The boy doesn't love him. He's marrying the lass of his dreams right now. He never had any further interest in Jack except for how the Pirate Captain could help him get back his lady love. He wasn't like his father; he didn't need him. He was going to be just fine on land without him. He's going to live the rest of his days happily with Elizabeth and probably even have little Wills, little Bootstraps, and little Elizabeths running around his feet and hers before too long. He's not missing Jack, and he won't, just like he doesn't love him.
The truth hurts, tightening an unseen rope around Jack's heart that's fastened to an anchor weighing his thoughts back to that miserable piece of land, back to that handsome, young man who was too damn charming for his own good. Jack's chest tightens until his breathing becomes labored. He can't smell the salt of the sea, can't even smell old Gibbs sneaking up behind him until the older Pirate, to whom he's always secretly looking as a bit of a father figure, speaks out from just behind his right, startling Jack out of his sorrowful reverie.
"Ye all right, lad?" Gibbs asks softly, clasping his shoulder from behind.
"'Course." Jack's voice doesn't sound convincing even to his own ears. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"No reason." He hears the soft rustle of leather and cotton as Gibbs rises his shoulders in a shrug. He won't call him on the emotions Jack knows he's displayed. He tried to show Will he loved him, tried to make him think he was mad about him just so that he would ask, but he hadn't asked. He wasn't going to ask, because he didn't care if Jack loved him. If he didn't, that was fine by him. He wanted nothing more to do with him now that he had his Liz back, and if he had noticed, it probably wouldn't have set well with the boy, being that he only had eyes for the girl.
"I can take 'er a while if ye like," Gibbs offers, knowing Jack is hurting but not having the words to console him.
Jack nods without any hesitation and releases the wheel, stepping away and letting Gibbs take his place. It's rare indeed that he's so quick and ready to let go of the Pearl's wheel when he doesn't have other things to do, but he does have others thing to do: He has a love to mourn of which can not be spoken but which also can not be simply denied. He tried that for the first several days he was alone with Will; he was no more able to cease his love for the lad than he was able to hang up his Captain's hat. With or without a crew, he was still the Pearl's Captain, even if he didn't have her in his possession at the moment; likewise, with or without Will loving him back, he was still going to love the boy. There was nothing he could do about it.
Jack blinks, suddenly realizing that Gibbs is staring close into his eyes. The sudden movement from his body that had grown so still almost makes the older man jump. "Bejeezus, Jack," Gibbs mutters, and then he peers at him again. "Are ye goin' be okay?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Jack forces himself to flash a wide, gold-flashing smile that he hopes is more convincing than his words.
Gibbs starts to say something but then just shakes his head and steadies the wheel. "If ye need t' talk -- " he starts to say but Jack is already shaking his head now so rapidly that his beads rattle.
"I din't need tae talk, Gibbs. I knae exactly what I need, an' where I'm meant tae be. I've got 'er back now," he says and manages a truthful, broad smile at that acknowledgement, "an' there's no stoppin' us. We can go wherever we like now an' take whoever we want!"
Gibbs almost asks him why he doesn't just turn around, if that's the case, and take the boy. He almost spins the wheel and turns the ship around his own self. But he doesn't do anything of the sort in the end for he knows just as Jack does that Will's now married to another. They may be Pirates and not normally stopped by that sort of thing, but Will had his chance. He had ample opportunity to make his own self known, turn from the gel, and advance toward Jack, but he never did. And now he's married, tied down to a landlubber who only likes to play at being a Pirate when it's convenient for her for the rest of his life.
"Jack?" Gibbs calls as his Captain starts to saunter away, one hand already reaching underneath his jacket for his flask.
"Aye?" Jack pauses but doesn't turn back. He doesn't think he can stand to see the pity in his old friend's eyes again.
"Fer what it's worth, mate," Gibbs speaks softly, "I'm sorry. There's a reason why we Pirates are married t' th' sea." And that's because, he thinks silently, hoping Jack will pick up on his unspoken meaning, a Pirate's love never works out in the end. Every man on this ship has loved and lost, and only Pintel and Ragetti seem to have made new loves for themselves that are actually working out. That's largely, he thinks, because they're both Pirates, and the boy was never a Pirate. He also never failed to let them remember that fact. His father was a Hell of a Pirate, but Will's been determined to be a landlubber for as long as they've known him -- which isn't actually all that long although it seems like forever.
"Aye, I know. Drink up, me luv," Jack says, pouring a little rum on the deck before taking another swig himself. "'Tis a Pirate's life fer us. Yo ho."
Never before has Gibbs heard his boy say those words in such a complete and utter lackadaisical manner. His heart breaks a little at Jack's tone. Again, he almost turns the ship around, but he reminds himself that no good can come of going back. The boy's not going to love him even though he'll never find a love better, more matching for him, more passionate, or sweeter than his Jack's. Jack could have, and would have if given the chance, fulfilled the boy's every unspoken desire, but the simple fact was that Will had never had the stones to reach for what he really wanted most in life. Turning back now would only find the boy married and still such an utter fool.
Gibbs shakes his head and runs a hand down his grizzled beard. He's old and tired, feeling older by the day, but he's never seen a bigger fool. He saw the way the boy looked at Jack when he thought no one else was watching. Deep down inside, he knows the lad loves him, but he'll never admit the truth -- not to Jack, not to Gibbs, not to Elizabeth, and especially not to his own foolish self. And, in so doing, he's damned them both.
Gibbs shakes his head. "'m sorry, me boyo," he murmurs and keeps her gliding straight while he watches Jack grab a rope and swing up into the rigging. Walking those tight ropes have brought him comfort since he was a boy, but Gibbs knows he'll find no comfort there today, tonight, or even in the coming weeks. He left a piece of him back in Port Royal, and that piece is never going to be whole again. Only one man could make it whole again, and he's a boy who will never grow up and say the things that only a man can say, admit the mistakes and the love that only an adult can feel. Gibbs keeps shaking his head as they sail further and further away from Port Royal and the only boy he knows who could have given his Jack true and complete happiness if only he'd manned up.