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now that's interesting
pirate_jack wrote in milliways_bar
Despite what's going on inside the bar, it's a beautiful late-summer evening outside. It's surprisingly still; without wind to stir them, the afternoon's few clouds are scattered across the slowly-darkening sky, and the remaining beams of sunlight slant over the lake and the grass, touching everything with gold. The only sounds are the calling of birds and the occasional whinny of a horse, and the steady lapping of waves on these strange and impossible shores. Everything is quiet here at worlds' end-- even peaceful.

And then, of course, it isn't.

The surface of the lake explodes suddenly, water rushing upward and outward with stunning force. At first, nothing can be seen beyond the violent cascade of the unexpected, wildly fountaining geyser.

But soon, the lake is no longer empty. A ship rests at the center of the now-settling waves-- a black ship, with black sails, rumored in stories to once have been crewed by the dead and the damned.

Standing at the port rail, his hand wrapped tightly in one of the Black Pearl's lanyards, Captain Jack Sparrow looks out over the lake toward Milliways.

"... that's very interesting."

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In the sudden quiet between them, the snap of the compass closing is very clear. Jack lets it fall back to his side and leans against the wall once more.

"Especially not him," he says grimly. "There's no end to the dark side of that man's ambition. He'd control the sea, if he could. 'S what he wants, I've no doubt."

For a long moment, there is silence.

It is not a pleasant silence.

When Merriman finally speaks, his voice is a low and dangerous rumble, like the growl of his namesake.

'From what I know of Beckett, he is not, shall we say, the most imaginative of men. Not inclined to heed the tales that sailors tell, the old stories of the sea. The old ways, as they were and are. Someone must have persuaded him that such a story had truth behind it. And that kind of persuasion....'

His eyes are a cold glitter in the semi-darkness of the wrecked cabin.

'That kind of persuasion interests me greatly.'

"Not particularly imaginative," Jack agrees flatly, "but very persistent-- and willing to use whatever tool comes to hand, savvy?"

Almost absently, he puts one hand over the brand on his arm.

Merriman gets to his feet. There is too much on his mind to allow him to continue sitting; he has to pace, even a few steps back and forth amidst the debris.

'The Company has more than a few concerns of its own, at the moment. First and foremost of which being that the money is going out faster than it comes in. Not even the trading monopolies and the various port controls are keeping pace with rising costs -- and what holds true for the waters I know doubtless holds true for the Caribbean. There is only so long that the East India lobby in Parliament will be able to hold out before a deal is made and the Company and its regime in India end up under the control of the Crown. But all that will change if the Company has the means to tip the balance.'

He stops in mid-stride, and looks over at Jack.

'Take the compass, and one can find the chest. But the chest is little more than a bargaining ploy without the means to open it.'

"The key."

This is said with mordant humor.

"I'm afraid that's no longer a concern, mate."

The look has just been upgraded to a Look.

'That was not meant to be a reassurance, I take it.'

Jack sighs.

"See, the finding of the chest finds one incapacitorially locating a thing what could be useful, aye, but if you can't open whatever is found and/or located, then there's no purpose in finding it in the first place without having found the key what unlocks it, savvy?"

'Because by finding the chest before finding the key, one stands less chance of tipping one's hand at an early stage of the game and thereby warning the chest's owner of one's undoubtedly nefarious scheme for acquiring said chest, which consequently increases one's chances of subsequently acquiring said key after said chest has been found, in order to have both chest and key in one's possession with a projected minimum of risk to one's life, limb and property.'

Beat.

'Or so I should think.'

He reasons his way through that and then gives Merriman a decidedly flat glance.

"Ah," Jack informs him, "but I didn't know Jones kept the key with him."

Not at first, at any rate; and afterwards, he'd had other reasons for sending young Will Turner to the Flying Dutchman.

Merriman does not consider that to be a particularly sound justification. But one time through that kind of logic is enough for him.

'Be that as it may -- oh, never mind.' He shakes his head. 'You have said that the key is no longer a concern. Does that mean that it is no longer useful...or no longer needed?'

He shrugs elaborately.

"Still unlocks the chest, aye? 'S just that it doesn't matter if the chest is locked if the treasure what's supposed to be inside it is already gone."

'I see. That does make a difference.'

A pause, as he regards Jack -- and then he clasps his hands behind his back.

'So in that case, Captain Sparrow, I would be most interested to know why you yourself were after the key, chest and treasure within in the first place.'

His eyes narrow slightly.

'Was it something I might have said?'

A long, long pause, and black eyes gleam with sudden wariness.

"'Unfinished business,'" Jack says, after some time. "Thought you'd already figured it out, mate-- or do you just spout pretty words and not know what it is that they mean, then?"

Merriman's scowl does not have the full force of his displeasure behind it.

'Words, pretty or otherwise, do not always hold the same meaning to both the speaker and the listener,' he counters crisply. 'You spoke of what happened then as a "fit" -- well, that was near enough for both our purposes, at the time. It is difficult enough to describe even to those who understand its implications. But there are many kinds of business, and many ways to leave one's business unfinished.'

If there had been any hint of amusement or mockery in his tone, it is long since faded. The same deathly seriousness that had possessed him during the prophecy has control of him once more.

'And we are dealing with matters that are far too important for me to be making assumptions.'

"'Battles and scars,'" he says, with an oddly quiet, near-feral intensity to his tone. "'A contract to honor.'"

A beat-- and a long one-- before Jack says simply,

"The contract was mine. Made a bargain with the devil to get back me treasure."

Cutler Beckett, whatever else he may be, is not the devil.

'For what once was promised, and what was relinquished.' Quietly, still with the same unyielding seriousness. 'And you were in search of...leverage?'

"No reason to fight, if you can negotiate."

He shrugs, rather eloquently.

'Negotiations can only achieve so much when one is staring down the barrel of a loaded pistol,' Merriman mutters. 'Nevertheless, I take your point. One treasure in exchange for another, both parties declare the outstanding contract null and void and part on terms that one might hope to describe as business-like.'

He tilts his head back, looking up at the ceiling of the cabin.

'Or so it might have been, had not other factors interfered.'

There's no humor at all in his dark, knowing smile.

"Now you're catching on."

He doesn't need to nod, or even really reply. Which is why the silence stretches between them for a long moment before he says, softly:

'And the Lady?'

This time, Jack grins.

"No worries, mate. We go way back, she and I."

The look he gives to Jack then is more than a little guarded.

'Her realm is not a place that most would willingly dare to enter. And her favour is not easily gained.'

"Amazing what a man will dare when he's lost everything already, aye?"

There's something grim about him as he says this, and Jack pushes up his sleeve to show the brand.

"You never asked how I got this, mate. Never mattered to you, did it?"

'Should it have mattered to me?' Merriman counters, swiftly and sharply. 'You would not be the first nor the last man to have been given sufficient rope with which to hang himself.'

Without realising it, he has taken hold of his own left wrist, running the edge of his thumb over the skin just below where wrist joins arm in an unconscious near-imitation of Jack's gesture.

'You, at least, had a chance to let your voice be heard and heeded. Any of my colleagues -- your former colleagues -- would not have been so likely to listen. Am I wholly wrong in that assessment?'

"My voice?"

Jack stares at him in surprise, and then throws back his head in a shout of laughter.

"Wasn't my voice that sent Beckett off naming me pirate, mate. Was the fact I set free the cargo he ordered me to carry, savvy?"

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