He hears her whispers most clearly at night, when the
Caribbean sky is deepest indigo and the ever-changing
sea as black as her hull. She is a creature of the
dark, he thinks, like a stingray or shark, beautiful
but deadly, and he loves her for her lethal grace
though she is fickle and he knows it. He is most often
alone with her then, sharing the stillness of the
midnight watch under distant glittering stars. His
crew says he favors the darkness because his brains
have been fried by the sun, and he laughs because they
may be right.
It's her beguiling voice that beckons him out of his
empty cabin and onto her cool deserted deck, to stand
at the helm and pleasure her with gentle fingers
skimming lightly over her well-worn wheel. The sigh of
the sails in the shifting breeze says she's happy with
him this night, and he smiles. He hears sweet
endearments in the slap of rope on canvas, the creak
of mast and boom. The weathered planking under his
bare feet is familiar and comforting, her caress. But
although she holds his heart, his body aches for the
touch of a loving hand.
If the Black Pearl were a lass, he imagines, she'd
have sable curls and deep blue eyes like the ocean at
twilight. Her face would be fair and smooth as freshly
polished brightwork, her limbs lithe and supple as new
rope. She would be known far and wide for her beauty,
her high spirits, and her faithless ways, for no one
truly owned her and she would do as she pleased. Any
man strong enough to tame her could hold her -- for a
while. When the time came she would move on to the
next port, the next sailor.
Cheating wench, he thinks wryly, and when the sails
snap in a sudden gust he wonders if he spoke aloud.
His fingers stroke a graceful ebony rail, satiny as a
lover's skin, and she calms and whispers to him
invitingly once more. Aye, she knows what he needs
tonight. If he could, he'd kiss her languidly like the
waves lapping at her sides, caress her like the rising
wind, ride her hard like the pitching of heavy seas.
When her hull shudders, throwing him off-balance into
the wheel, he grins. If she had hands, they would be
all over him.
Any other evening it might have been enough, stroking
himself to completion by her swaying rhythm, but his
mind, changeable as hers, drifts to his other love,
one of warm flesh rather than windswept wood. A young
man, hardly more than a boy, the only real competition
the Pearl has ever had for his affections. A boy--no,
*man*, he reminds himself--left behind in a
good-intentioned moment of bad judgment. 'Twas foolish
to let such treasure slip away, he thinks. One word
and the lad would have followed him. No one since has
warmed his bed, nor his heart.
Vivid memories rush him, sudden and forceful as a
summer squall. Kisses as fiery sweet as the best aged
rum, gentle hands, trusting eyes he sees even now in
restless dreams. He misses the boy as keenly as he
missed the Black Pearl in those long years apart,
maybe more so. He hopes she will forgive him for it,
hopes she will understand. But for all her fickleness,
the Pearl is not a jealous mistress and so she does
not complain or even seem surprised when he changes
course with a determined spin of her wheel, bound for
* * *
The first time he set foot on her decks again, she
quickened, though his long absence had nearly silenced
her forever. Pining for him had dulled her, but
thankful she was for that small mercy, given the
indignities she'd suffered after he left. Neglect.
Ugliness. Filth. Worst of all, those hateful creatures
devoid of kindness or respect. They couldn't hear her
whispers and wouldn't have cared if they had. Not like
him. In all her years no one had loved her like he
did, listened like he did, and she'd thought him lost
beyond hope. How she had missed him!
She is awake now, and they are together at last.
Beneath the golden sun he belongs to others of his
kind, who scurry about her decks tending her under his
watchful eye. But by the enchanted light of moon and
stars he belongs to her and she to him. He listens for
her voice, but words are unneeded between them. His
graceful hands make love to her; there is music in his
steps, in his laughter. She rocks him gently, high
above the waves, singing to him with canvas, rope and
wood. Her whispers and songs soothe his restless
There will be no one else for her. Never again. She is
his and only his, now that he has returned. She will
send him to the depths before she allows him to leave,
and join him there before she allows another to own
her. But though he loves her well, she knows he
desires more warmth than sun-baked wood can offer. She
doesn't begrudge him that; he is only a man, after
all. His flesh needs release, his heart needs a
companion. She feels it strongly in him, yearning that
runs deep as the ocean, relentless as the tide.
Regret is mingled with the longing she senses from
him. He is craving someone he lost. She reaches out to
him, questioning, and he shows her a tall young man
with chestnut hair and dark amber eyes. She remembers
that one, though she knew him only briefly. The evil
ones had locked him in her brig, though of all those
aboard he had deserved it the least. She'd been angry
with them for that, and for their many other vile
deeds. Bloody pirates! If ever she crossed their wake
again, her cannons would blast them to hell where they
He strokes her wheel absently, his thoughts far away.
She nudges him, just enough to get his attention. What
is he waiting for? She knows what he wants, but it is
unlike him to hesitate. Does *he* know what he wants?
She nudges him again, harder, feels him smile in the
darkness. Aye, he hears her more plainly now, and she
whispers to him of love and longing. Suddenly he
changes heading, pointing her bow to the west, and she
begins whispering softly to the boy, wherever he may
be, so he will be ready when they come for him.
* * *
He hears the whispers most strongly at night, after
the ringing of hammered steel has faded from his ears.
It tickles at the back of his mind like seaweed adrift
on the waves. He laughs at himself for his overactive
imagination, born of restless nights and
half-remembered dreams. In his mind's eye he sees
them, the mad pirate captain and his ship dark as
midnight. He's pleased they're together again, though
with a pang of regret he realizes he wishes... no,
don't think of it. Don't think of him. But it's an
easier thing to tell the tides to still.
He misses him, and at last he can admit it to himself.
Misses his wicked eyes, his cocky smirk, his
irrepressible spirit. He misses lying cradled in his
arms, rocked upon the starlit sea. The few nights they
shared--steeped in rum, slicked with sweat, feverish
with want--still haunt him, memories that awaken him
and leave him aching, bereft. He lost his chance to
follow the pirate, a chance he should have taken and
didn't, a misguided choice he will forever regret. And
now he wishes he too was aboard that sleek black ship,
sailing for a distant horizon.
The whispering reminds him of who he lost and what he
longs for. It has grown louder, these past few days,
and he realizes that it's her, the Black Pearl.
Although it sounds mad, he accepts it as truth because
he's seen and heard far stranger things. He doesn't
quite understand why she's whispering to *him*,
though. He doesn't know her like Jack does, barely
knows her at all. Must be because of Jack then, he
tells himself. He indulges a fancy; perhaps Jack has
told her about him. That would mean Jack still thinks
of him. He hopes so.
Tonight the whispers draw him out of his lonely bed
and down to the harbor. Standing barefoot in the
shallows he can hear the Pearl more clearly, can think
more clearly. Now there is nothing holding him back.
Elizabeth, forced by her father to honor her promise,
had married Norrington and departed on their honeymoon
weeks ago. Will no longer cares. His heart did not
truly lie with her, though he'd hoped it did, even
wished it did. Better a governor's daughter than a
roguish pirate captain, he'd told himself at the time.
Now he knows differently. Now he waits.
At this hour the harbor is quiet, the docks deserted.
The dank scent of fish and seaweed rises around him as
the tide begins to roll in and the sea, warm as
bathwater, inches higher. A quickening breeze stirs
his hair. Gentle currents tug at his knees, beckoning
him out into open water. He holds his breath and sways
with the pull of the waves as the whispering floods
his mind again, stronger than before. "Wait for me,"
she tells him. "We are coming for you." When a dark
ship crowned by dark sails glides silently into view,
* * *
Moonlight illumines two bodies lying blissfully
entwined in the captain's bunk. The cabin smells of
rum and sweat and home. Drowsily the captain tangles
one hand in damp chestnut curls and rests the other
against the polished paneling of the cabin wall. He
holds them both in that moment, so close, so dear. The
ship sways serenely under his touch, whispering of
love and contentment, and the man next to him murmurs
softly and snuggles closer. Onward through the night
the Black Pearl sails, watching over them as they fall
into slumber and reach for each other in their dreams.
24 September 2003