PotC fic: Rubicon and Styx (Bill, Jack, Barbossa, PG, 1/1) Title: Rubicon and Styx Author:shyaway Rating: PG Characters: Bill, Jack, Barbossa Disclaimer: Pirates of the Caribbean and its characters are owned by Disney. Summary: The captain, first mate, and quartermaster of the Black Pearl were a charmed brotherhood. It couldn't last...
The captain, first mate, and quartermaster of the Black Pearl were a charmed brotherhood. They sailed together (fastest ship in the Caribbean), adventured together (deeds of derring-do), drank together (like Bacchus, all of them). They wenched, too, and shore leave brought them to the Faithful Bride where the drink flowed and the gaming tables were busy and the female company was cheap.
"I'm having that one," Barbossa said, pointing to a plump blonde. "Is there any chance you'll give up your obsession with your wife and take the redhead, Bill?"
"None," he said sleepily, made drowsy by a surfeit of liquor and the glow and snap of the fire.
"Faithful Bride," Jack slurred, taking in the tavern with a flutter of his arm, "faithful groom, more like. I don't know how you can. You've not seen her for - how long is it now?"
"Seventeen months. It's true, my heart's firmly in England. You will understand one day, when you're in love and missing someone."
"I don't think so." Jack stood up, staggered a few steps, and grabbed Barbossa's arm for support. They both laughed, confident of him and themselves and the future.
Jack's plans were rash, audacious, outlandish. At first his extraordinary luck brought him through, but there came a time when fortune was not quite so kind.
"That was unfortunate," he said brightly on their return to the Pearl after being chased from their intended prize ship.
"Unfortunate?" Barbossa snarled, his sword rasping as he sheathed it. "It was not chance we lost her. While you were charming the ladies -" Jack laughed to himself "- the officers were organising the crew to fight us off. Why did ye not kill them at once?"
"Peace," Jack said, holding up his hands. "It's just one ship. No harm done."
Schemes continued to go awry. Bill saw Barbossa's impatience, and worried.
"It'll be easy," Jack said. "We've heard about the state of morale on that ship - shot rolling, they say. The crew will side with us and hand over the cargo."
"Shot rolling?" Ragetti queried.
"Crew rolling cannonballs at the officers to knock 'em down. Means they don't like 'em and want to mutiny."
"Aye, Mr Pintel, that's just about it," said Jack. "Now if there's no more questions," he rolled up the map on the great cabin's table, "we can be off."
Barbossa's frown deepened. "Wait, Captain. This needs more thought. Your plan is based on hearsay. Have ye considered what to do if it be wrong?"
"It won't be," Jack said, laughing, sparkling.
It was. Again the crew of the Black Pearl missed their quarry. Barbossa glowered and seethed, but held his rage in check when he saw that Bill watched him.
"Aztec gold... We are not children to be frighted with such stories."
"I'm glad to hear that," Jack said, acid-tongued. "So there'll be no objection to going in search of this island."
Bill looked to Barbossa across the table of the Faithful Bride, hoping he would dissent. The obeah woman had told Jack a tale of gold and vengeful gods and it had bewitched him, Bill could see that, the thought of the lost dead island and its hundreds of gold coins, had laid hold of him and ensorcelled him. But the same idea made Bill cold.
He'd tried to reason Jack out of it, but he wouldn't listen. He had hoped that Barbossa would argue against the venture. Instead the story seemed to casting the same spell on the first mate as on the captain. An odd gleam came into Barbossa's jaundiced eyes, of intrigue and something else, something unidentifiable.
"Aye. Why not."
Jack grinned joyously and clapped him on the shoulder while Bill's heart sank. He had been counting on crossing the ocean to see his wife and little Will soon, perhaps even in a few weeks. He sensed that Jack would need him on this mad undertaking. It would bind his interest here in the Caribbean for some time yet. Perhaps a long time yet.
"Well," Jack declared as he stood up, giddy with anticipation, "I'm for Mother Whybourn's and her lovely ladies before we leave."
"Will you join us, Bill?" Barbossa asked. The candlelight flickered gilt in his eyes.
"I will," he said.
Hours later they launched the longboats to return to the Pearl out in the bay. Bill waded in and pushed the boat off. When he got into it the water sucked at his legs, unwilling to let him go.
Three days and two nights passed, and all was well. Bill wondered if he might return home that summer after all.
The next night, the third night, was clear and the wind quiet. The full moon shone like a white pearl. There was a curious heaviness to the air. Fanciful notion though it was, Bill could have sworn that the ship was holding her breath.
Jack stood at the wheel, rocking it from time to time. Barbossa was at his shoulder.
"Sir..." It was the bo'sun. He was flanked by Pintel and Ragetti. "Sir, I think our powder stores are getting wet. It may be there's a leak. Will you come and look?"
"We've just inspected the hull. It was perfectly sound," Bill objected.
"Water's getting in somehow. Won't you come and look?"
The bo'sun was insistent. Bill took a last look at the moon's cold glitter on the sea and went with them.
They reached the powder magazine. It was dark as pitch. The others remaining outside with the lantern, Bill went in to survey the damage, and found that the kegs were intact and the powder dry as ashes.
"What do you think you're playing at?" he demanded, retreating outside. "What -" He saw the slyness on Ragetti's face, the glee on Pintel's, and understood.
He tried to get past them, he did try, he tried to get back to Jack, but they seized hold of him and he couldn't throw them off.
The bo'sun smiled, slow, wide, a death's-head grimace.
Far above him, Bill heard the distinct thudding knell of someone dropping a cannonball.