Author’s Note: I’ve had this story and it’s companion piece sitting around for ages. I’ve always imagined it would be part of a larger story, but that never panned out. I’ve also wanted to polish it up, but haven’t really had the energy to do it. Sometimes I write in a flurry of motivation, and once the story’s out of my system, I just can’t get back into it to add on or edit. I hate leaving it all rough around the edges, but I hate leaving it all lonely and dusty on my harddrive more. So, for the sake of it seeing the light of day, here it is. It’s not really based on the same POTC universe as my other stories, just a stand-alone episode happening nearly 10 years after the events of AWE.

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YOUNG WILLIAM TURNER, THE MERRY MAIDEN

William stood in the midst of the chaos, his arms hanging limply at his sides, feeling utterly helpless. Men rushed to bail water out of bilges and toss anything heavy overboard so as to lighten the ship’s load and raise her wounds above the water line. Others attended to the gaping holes with boards and nails and buckets of pitch. At the aft, William averted his eyes from the pile of lifeless bodies, which were being wrapped in canvas shrouds by grim-faced crew members. He also knew that, down below, other men were fighting for their lives under the skilled hands of the ship’s surgeon. Considering all the shrapnel that other ship had pummeled them with, it was inevitable that more of the wounded would be joining the shrouded figures at the aft before the day was over.

As the influx of water slowed, and the patches held, the frenzy died down and men began to retreat to the lower decks. Those with minor and moderate injuries would tend each others wounds. The unwounded would seek a bit of rest in their hammocks, and those who still had the strength would continue bailing water from the bilges and cleaning up the compartments that had been flooded. William knew he could help with the bailing and cleaning, but he also knew his contribution would be small. What he wanted was someone to talk to. William was grateful his mother hadn’t been on board, for certainly she would have been on deck when the flagless ship had approached. But now, he wished she was there, just for her calm and comforting presence.

He drifted aimlessly along the starboard railing, staring out to sea, looking at the flotsam and jetsam littering the waves from both the attacking ship and the Merry Maiden. Suddenly, the waves just beyond the wreckage began to churn, and before William could even begin to wonder what was happening, the prow of a ship emerged, followed quickly by the rest of a large and elegant vessel.

***************************************

William stood at the railing, gaping at the strange sight before him. The ship was huge, and water poured off of every deck and from every porthole and cannon bay. The gilded trim sparkled, and the warm wood seemed to glow like honey in the sunlight. He wondered if perhaps it was some sort of dream or hallucination, so he turned around to find someone to ask. When he did, he was startled to see a man appear on the deck, as if out of thin air. The man strode purposefully across the deck, as if coming to speak to William, but stopped suddenly and just stared back at him. He was of medium height and build, dressed as an ordinary sailor in breeches, boots, and a greyed linen shirt. His hair was tied down with a weathered bandana that may have once been green or blue. Strangely, he carried no sword. At first, William thought that the man could be a survivor from the attacking vessel that had swum over and climbed the side of the Merry Maiden. But why then did he have no sword to protect himself? Perhaps he had lost it in the battle? Then he ought to be on his knees begging for asylum. William thought. But the strange sailor didn’t look as if he was afraid, but neither did he look threatening.

The strange sailor continued to stare at William. Perhaps he’s surprised to see a child on board? Maybe he thinks he can overpower me and take me hostage? William was about to reach for the short cutlass in his belt, when suddenly the man spoke.

“Are you alright?” he asked urgently. William was taken aback. Why would he ask that? And why should he look so concerned?

“I, uh… I’m fine.” William stammered, feeling very disoriented.

“Where’s your mother?” The man demanded, looking even more concerned than before.

“She’s not on board.” William said, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“Oh thank God.” The man looked infinitely relieved. His face softened, and William felt glad for him without understanding why. The man looked over at the ship that had risen from the sea, and seemed to shake his head at a man who stood on its deck. So he had come from that strange ship, William thought.

“The wounded are below deck?”

William nodded.

“Listen, I… I have a job to do, but I need to speak with you. As soon as I’m finished, I’ll come back here.” He gestured to the railing where William stood. “Will you wait for me?”

The man vanished. Just vanished. And William stood there in shock.

***************************************

William stared at the spot where the man had been, his thoughts whirling. He turned back toward the ship, which was rocking gently on the waves, giving no indication that it had just risen up from the depths of the sea. It had no colors flying from the mast, but William knew it could only be one ship. Only one ship was known to pop up out of the sea like that… the Flying Dutchman. William had been watching the sea his whole life, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabled ship. Other sailors were frightened of her, but William had only curiosity. According to his mother, and some of her pirate friends, his father was captain of the Flying Dutchman. The man that had spoken to him… he had clearly just appeared out of thin air when the Dutchman had surfaced. Surely he had come from the ship. William knew the Dutchman’s mythical purpose… to collect the souls of the dead and dying. That’s why it was here, now. All those that had died in battle, and those that were dying from their wounds. But surely the captain wouldn’t leave his ship just to collect souls. But the way that man had looked at William. He had been truly concerned for his well-being. And for his mother’s. It had to be him. William thought. He was really worried about my mother.

William felt his heart pounding as he thought of the man’s words. “I need to speak with you. Will you wait for me?” This man, capable of transporting himself across the water from his ship to another, the man who collected the souls of the dead and terrified every living sailor… he wanted to speak with William. And he had looked worried that perhaps William would not want to wait for him. It was mind boggling. He wants to spend time with me, William thought. He’s famous, and he wants to spend time with me. And William knew… this man had to be his father.

William wondered where the mysterious man had gone. He had asked about the wounded. Maybe he had gone below to see if there were any men near death? William hurried to the stairs and crept slowly down toward the mess cabin. The cabin was dark and crowded, men were lying on the tables, being attended by their crewmates, and William found it difficult to see where the man, his father, he reminded himself, might be.

Finally, William spotted the faded bandana in the crowd. Captain Turner was speaking to a sailor who was trying to stop up the flow of blood from his crewmate’s wounds. As he finished speaking, he moved toward another table, this one was closer to the stairs, and William pressed himself close to the bulkhead, trying to remain hidden.

The ship’s surgeon, Mr. Dawes, was attending the wounded man on the table, and William could tell from his face that the man was gravely wounded. The wounded sailor seemed to be struggling to breathe, and as William watched, Captain Turner spoke to the man, and his breathing quieted. Will felt a lump rise in his throat as he realized the man was dying, and that his own father was helping him. The wounded sailor’s breath turned to a strange gargle, and then stopped. William waited, wishing the man to breathe again, but when he didn’t, William decided he didn’t want to watch anymore. He dashed up the stairs, out into the bright clear air above deck.

He leaned against the railing trying to get his thoughts to make sense. That ship is the Flying Dutchman. He thought, staring out at the elegant vessel on the Merry Maiden’s starboard side. The Flying Dutchman! It’s real! And my father is captain. Captain William Turner, of the Flying Dutchman is my father, and he’s on this ship! William gazed at the Dutchman, trying to take in every detail, knowing that seeing this ship was a rare treat, one that he would treasure always. There were several men on the Dutchman’s deck, taking care of routine tasks. But one was not engaged in any job at the moment. He was leaning on the railing, just as William was, staring toward the Merry Maiden. William thought it looked like the same man that Captain Turner had motioned to earlier. Who was he? The first mate maybe? If he was, then that would mean he was also William’s grandfather. Can he see me? William wondered. Does he know who I am?

William wondered if he should wave, and see if the figure on the other ship waved back. It seemed a little childish, and William didn’t want anyone on his father’s ship to think him silly. But he really wanted to know if that man was his grandfather. He was trying to make up his mind when he heard boots on the deck behind him. William glanced out of the corner of his eye and saw Captain Turner approaching the rail. The man leaned on the railing a few feet from William and closed his eyes. William took the opportunity to take his first good look at his father.

He looked young, much younger than any of his friends fathers. But then, William thought, he’s not like their fathers. He’s different. So maybe he doesn’t get old. Even though he looked young, he had a grim look about him, as if he was a very serious person. He’s much more serious than Captain Jack or Mr. Gibbs, or even Captain Barbossa. William thought. Maybe that’s because his job is so much more important. And he doesn’t get to visit his friends, like the pirates and merchants do. The Dutchman is only allowed to make port once every ten years. That must make him sad. William thought. But he doesn’t look angry or scary. That had been one of William’s worries, ever since he was old enough to understand his father’s job. Davy Jones had been a terrifying figure to every sailor, and Will Turner had taken his place. Most sailors were still frightened of the Flying Dutchman, and though William had longed to see the ship and meet his father, there had always been a nagging fear that his father might be scary.

The man’s eyes opened, and William quickly turned his head, knowing that staring was impolite.

“William, I… I don’t know if you know who I am…”

William’s heart pounded as he looked up at him. “I know who you are.” He said, trying not to sound nervous Then he gestured to the Flying Dutchman, “Is that my grandfather over there?”

Captain Turner sighed, looking almost relieved. “Yes.”

“And you’re really captain of the Flying Dutchman?”

“Yes.”

“Do you… do you have to leave now?”

“Not yet. I still have some time. I’d like to spend it with you, if you’re willing.”

William nodded. “My mother will be sad she wasn’t here.”

He wanted to take the words back as soon as he said them. Captain Turner looked so sad. It was the same look he had seen on his mother’s face whenever something reminded her of her husband.

“Do you miss her?” William asked shyly.

“Yes, very much. And I miss you too.”

“But you don’t even know me.” William stated with a bit of skepticism.

“I know your name is William Joshua Turner the third. I know you are almost nine years old. I know you like to ride horses and draw. I know you’re a right good cabin boy, and I suspect this is your first voyage alone.”

“Oh.” William said, amazed that this stranger – his father – was clearly interested in William’s life.

“Is there anything else I should know?”

“Well… before mama let me come on this voyage, I’ve been helping Paul and Beto at the smithy. Mama said you used to be a blacksmith, so I want to be one too.”

“That’s right, I was a blacksmith. But, then, if you want to be a blacksmith, why are you at sea?”

“I wanted to visit my friend on Barbados, and mama decided I was old enough to go alone. This is her ship, you know. It does trade runs in the Caribbean, so I get to go to Barbados, and also a bunch of other islands. But not Tortuga. Mama said she’s not ready for me to go to Tortuga yet.”

“I should think not.”

“Have you been to Tortuga?”

“I have, and I can tell you, it’s not as much fun as some people might lead you to believe. Noisy and smelly, and most of the people there are quite rude. So really, you aren’t missing much.”

“Are you really my father? I mean, really really?”

“Yes. Really really.”

“And you’re married to my mother?”

“Of course. We married on the deck of the Black Pearl. Hasn’t she told you that?”

“Well, yes. But lots of people say all kinds of things…”

“Like what?”

“Well, they say that my father must be dead and that my mother just doesn’t want to believe it. Or that my father ran away on purpose and won’t ever come back. Or that my mother doesn’t even know who my father is. But none of that is true… is it?”

“No. You can see that I’m alive, and I promise you I didn’t leave on purpose. I promise I’ll be back to visit as soon as I can. But you do know I can’t stay, don’t you?”

“Mama said you have an important job to do and you can only come visit for one day every ten years.”

“That’s right. I wish it wasn’t so… but it is.”

“It’s because Davy Jones was really really bad, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes, that just about sums it up. I have to do the job that he refused to do.”

“Did he really stab you with a sword?”

Will looked taken aback. “Yes, he did.” He pulled his shirt open to show William the jagged scar, which still remained red and raw even after so many years.

William’s eyes grew round as he stared at the scar. When he spoke, his voice was low, almost a whisper. “Did it hurt?”

“Yes, but I’m alright now. I know it looks bad, but it doesn’t hurt very often.” William wanted to ask his father about the scar, if that was where his heart had come out, but he wasn’t sure if he should. He knew that the chest that contained his father’s heart was of the utmost secrecy. His mother had explained it to him, and answered some of his questions, but she had made it clear that it wasn’t something she wanted to discuss. He hadn’t asked about it in a long time, and mostly, he tried to forget about it. Just thinking that his father’s beating heart was locked up in that wooden box made the hairs on his arms stand up. Here was his chance to get the answers his mother had avoided. But when he looked at Captain Turner, it was clear that he felt as uncomfortable with the subject as William’s mother. William nodded and swallowed his curiosity.

“And you help dead people get to Fiddler’s Green?”

“That’s right.”

“The men who died today… they’ll go with you?”

“Yes.”

“And you take care of them… so they aren’t frightened?”

“That’s right. Death isn’t something to be afraid of, William. It’s difficult, because no one can explain what it’s like to someone else.”

William was struck again at how genuinely nice Captain Turner was. In his daydreams, William had always imagined his father to be reserved, almost aloof, like most of the captains he knew. But there was warmth in his voice, and he looked at William with such affection. William had always felt he would have to work hard to impress his father. And so he had always been nervous when he had to write him a letter. What does a little boy say to a great hero? What could he possibly write about that would matter to the famous Captain Turner? But now that he had met him, William was beginning to think that maybe impressing his father wasn’t the most important thing. Captain Turner didn’t seem to want to be impressed. He didn’t seem to demand William’s best behavior, or even hero worship for that matter.

“Captain Turner?” William asked hesitantly.

“Yes, William?”

“I’m sorry I don’t write better letters. Mama always wants me to write more. But I can’t ever think of what to write.”

“I understand. And I want you to know, that I’m pleased every time I get a letter from you, even if it’s short. I just want to know what your life is like, so I can imagine what it would be like if I was there.”

“I’ll try to write more.”

“And William?” Will laid a hand on William’s shoulder. “I know we’ve only just met but, you don’t have to call me Captain.”

William could feel himself blushing, and he felt uncomfortable. “I know.” He knew that Captain Turner was his father. If he had ever doubted it, he did not any longer. And he had always spoken about him to his mother as “father” or even “papa” sometimes. But somehow now the words felt strange. “Father” was someone he and his mother talked about, but never quite seemed real to William. Captain Turner, however, was very real. And he was so much more everything than William had been able to imagine. Somehow the word “father” just didn’t fit.

“Would you like to call me Will?”

“Mama said I’m not to call grown-ups by their first name. And anyway, Will is my name.”

“Is that what everyone calls you?”

“Mama won’t let them. She says that’s your name. But I wish they would call me Will.”

“You don’t like the name William? I think it’s a good name.”

“Well if you like it so much, maybe you should use it and I’ll be Will.”

“Ah, you’ve caught me. I think I prefer to be called Will too.”

“I don’t know why we can’t both be Will. I mean we’re never in the same place for people to get confused.”

William said it straightforwardly, with no hint of anger or sadness. But it pierced his father like a blade.

“You know, you’re right. If you’d like, when I come for my visit, I’ll tell El – your mother that you can be called Will. But don’t be surprised if she carries on calling you William. My father still calls me William.”

“But that’s his name too, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but everyone calls him Bill or Bootstrap.”

“I guess nobody wants to be William.”

“Maybe not, but it’s still a good name.”

 

 

 

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