Summary: Jack has no religion--he has only beliefs and mysticism. But what a man believes is a powerful thing.
Rating: PG
Pairing: None, explicitly, but it could be construed as Jack/Will (or even Jack/Bill, if ye've the mind)
Disclaimer: Disney owns these characters and the setting in which they live.
Notes: A kind soul named Helen deigned to challenge me via e-mail, and asked for a fic in which Jack paints a treasure-map on Will's chest and the word "mordacious" (which means "caustic" and is generally used in the context of acids) is used. I just don't think she expected this fic.


By gileonnen

Jack had never really been a Christian. He'd cheerfully filched their curses and rifled through their dogma, and had even done a brief stint at priesting to extort tithes from the faithful, but he'd never really bought into the religion. Just as well worship a hanged pirate as a crucified rabble-rouser.

And, though his mother was an Indian, she'd never raised him in her faith--he'd learned the Hindu gods by hearing Indian merchant crews plead with them for mercy. Jack Sparrow had managed to grow up blissfully free of any sort of religion.

But he had beliefs. Over time, every man got to have beliefs. It wasn't his intention, but simple human nature always got the best of him, and he'd learned a core of beliefs that had turned into its own kind of mysticism.

He dipped a brush in a thick mixture of kohl and water and ran his kohl-rimmed eyes across his human canvas. Still soaked in sweat, and the sweat gleamed in the lantern-light.

He'd cleaned away the blood . . . and there had been a lot of blood. Some of it not even Will's. But now the boy's eyes were closed and he lay silent on the bed. Jack had no god, but he had his beliefs, and the first was in greed. A gold doubloon lay heavy on Will's heart.

"Not all treasure is silver and gold," Jack muttered, humming grimly to himself as he painted a ragged circle around the coin and specked the flesh around that circle. Water around the island.

The doubloon fogged with the pirate's breath as his beads brushed Will's ribs. He bit his lip as he painted the wound into an island.

His second belief was in a man's dislike for conflict.

He painted a breaching sea-monster across Will's right nipple and blew to dry the wet kohl. The young man did not move. For good measure, he painted high waves in a line from collarbone to lowest rib. "Three paces . . . a good league from there . . .."

His third belief was that a man was never home on any ship but his own.

Jack dipped his brush again. Across Will's fever-hot, damp forehead, he painted a ship. It was a slim, dark vessel with square white sails and a bowsprit like a sword; it was lavished with detail and rendered as perfectly as Jack knew how to do.

"Come after your treasure, lad," he whispered, wending a broken line down Will's nose and around his lips, down his neck, across his left shoulder, and down his arm into the palm of his hand.

Jack painted an X across the slick doubloon, and Will's eyes shot open as he clapped his hand to his chest.

That hand came away with an irregular burn that could have been made by some mordacious acid, but for the X that stained it as surely as a tattoo.

Will would wear that X for the rest of his life.

Jack held the man down until he stopped thrashing and gave him a cup of rum. He'd heard that a man had to use water, but if water was good then rum must be sovereign (another cherished belief).

The doubloon lay innocuously on the floor.

As cognizance came running after consciousness, Will noticed the designs across his body and sprayed his rum across his chest. The still-wet kohl ran in thin, black drips to his stomach as he jerked to sitting.

"How long have I been asleep?" he asked suddenly. Jack took a swig from the rum bottle and leaned back into a chair.

"A few hours, lad." It had been two days. Jack also believed that there was no evil in lying where it did more good than harm.

"A few hours? There was a . . . a tavern brawl in . . . I remember being . . .."

"Only four hours ago."

Will looked at the island painted on his shoulder; he was well and truly out of sorts. "Didn't a man stab me?"

The wound was gone. Defeated, Will lay back. "How did I burn my hand?"

The pirate regarded the hand with interest, studying it from all angles. "You didn't let anyone tattoo you, did you?" he asked at last.

Will could only shake his head. "I will never drink rum again. I don't remember anything correctly." This made Captain Jack Sparrow laugh.

"Part of being a pirate is wand'ring the seven seas too inebriated to remember what occurred the night before, and you're coming to be as fine a pirate as your father."

"Did you paint strange marks across my father?" Will demanded, as contrariness followed on the heels of cognizance and consciousness.

For a moment, Jack was silent, and then he pulled up his sleeve. The sparrow danced over the waves . . . and he pulled it up farther, revealing a black X surrounded by a fading scar. "No, lad; your father painted strange marks across me."

Jack had one more belief, and it was that every lost thing would be regained, and every owed debt would be repaid.

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