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Started by Welsh Wench, December 23, 2008, 01:48:03 PM

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Welsh Wench

This is a closed story by Welsh Wench and Mad Jack Wolfe.
©2009 by the respective authors. All Rights Reserved.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Hampshire, Near Portsmouth - 1639

"Damn it, Jack, you're just being unreasonable now!"

John Michael Wolfe was stuffing whatever belongings he could into a sea bag. His older brother, Royal Navy Lieutenant Thomas Wolfe, was standing over him, desperately trying to talk his younger brother out of becoming a merchant marine.
"Define 'reasonable'," Jack shot back.
Thomas looked at the ceiling in frustration. "Fine. 'Reasonable' would be you stopping this nonsense and going back to Oxford where you belong."
Jack shook his head. "No, you just defined 'unreasonable'. Try again."
"Jack, you have a bright future as a professor! No fewer than three deans have come here begging to talk with you in hopes of changing your mind! Yet you insist on shipping out on a merchantman tomorrow? THAT is what I'd call unreasonable."
Jack turned and faced his brother. "Our father is dead, Tom. Mum isn't getting a penny now that he's gone. How much of your salary can you spare to keep bread on her table? Not one damned farthing, because the Navy can't afford to pay you! I can send back most of my money once we're under way, because I'll get paid regular. And I live cheap. Being at university has taught me to be frugal."

"It's not what Father would have wanted," said Thomas.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and Dad is dead. I say he doesn't get a bloody vote. He took it upon himself to bugger off to the great beyond and leave us to tend to the mess. Well, I'm doing that, the best I can."
"Being angry at Father isn't going to help anything. It's not his fault he died."
Jack continued ramming whatever he could into his sea bag. "I'm not so dim as to think he planned it, Tom. But it doesn't change the fact that he did, and left us holding the bag."
Thomas shook his head. "I want you to think this through, Jackie..."
"Don't call me that!!" Jack erupted. "'Jackie' sounds like a little boy with an all-day lollipop. How would you like it if I started calling you Tommy again?"
"I'm sorry. You're right. I wouldn't like it much. But please, give it a few days before you commit to this choice."
"No time. The Laura Anne sails tomorrow. And I shall be on her when she does."
"There are other ships, Jack. You don't have to sail on that one."
Jack shook his head as he cinched up the sack. "I gave Captain Pritchard my word. You know how Father felt about men who don't keep their word."
"So now you invoke him, since it suits your purpose?"
"Something like that."

Thomas went to the chair across from Jack's bed and sat heavily. "Are you really doing this for Mum, or is it something else?"
"I don't know what you mean," said Jack.
"There's more to this than an overdeveloped sense of responsibility." Thomas leaned forward and looked at his brother. "This is about Rose, isn't it?"
Jack stiffened. "It's got nothing to do with her."
"Oh, the hell it doesn't. She hurt you, and badly. I remember the night she rejected your proposal. It was the first time you'd had anything to drink. I've never seen anyone hold their liquor so poorly."
"Rose wanted status," said Jack bitterly. "Like she said, I'm just the son of a shipwright. What status could I give her?"
"She's missing the point," Thomas said gently. "Everyone knows how much you love her. Rose is throwing away everything, for what? A meaningless title? Land? Will those things keep her warm at night?"
Jack's stomach was steadily tying itself in knots. Yes, Rose had hurt him badly. He had saved for months to buy her an engagement ring. Jack had worshiped the very ground she walked on, and she had never rebuked any profession of love he had given, no matter how bold. That made her laughing rejection of his proposal that much more cruel. He had been nothing more than an entertaining diversion to her.

"Tom, I really don't want to talk about this right now."
"When do you want to talk about it, Jack?"
"How about... never?"
Thomas stood and took his brother by the shoulders. "I know I can't talk you out of this. But keep this with you; I will do everything I can to keep tabs on you so I know you are safe."
"What, are you afraid I'll fall in with pirates?"
"Something like that."
Jack gave his brother a wicked grin. "Then I swear an oath that if I ever do fall in with pirates, I shall become the more feared pirate the world has ever seen!"
Thomas bit his lip and nodded. "That is what I'm most afraid of. You have a terrible habit of attaining whatever goal you set for yourself."
Jack shook his head. "There's no danger of that happening, Tom. I feel the same about pirates as you do. They are a vile and cancerous blight. I'd rather die than become one of them."
"Let's hope it never comes to that." Thomas looked hard into Jack's eyes. "Promise me you'll be careful?"
"I promise," smiled Jack. "Frankly, I feel better knowing you'll be out there keeping an eye on me."
The bothers hugged, and Thomas mussed Jack's hair. "Be careful. And for God's sake, get a bloody haircut!"
"Spoken like a true Navy man!" laughed Jack.

He watched as his brother left and closed the door. After a few moments, he reached under the bed and pulled out a bottle of Jamaican rum he has purchased a few days before on the docks at Portsmouth. Jack pulled out the cork and took a couple of swallows of the amber liquid. A violent shudder ran through him as the rum scorched its way down his throat, and he had to fight back the urge to retch. Finally, he unclenched his eyes and shoved the cork back into the bottle.

"Maybe Tom is right," he said quietly. "Maybe I'm doing the wrong thing. Maybe I'm not cut out for the sea. But I just don't care any more."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

The morning sun broke clear and bright over the harbour town of Portsmouth, bringing with it the promise of new beginnings.  Jack climbed off the back of the wagon he had hitched a ride on and gave the farmer a couple shillings for his kindness.  Slinging his overstuffed sea bag over his shoulder, he scanned the ships docked there.  A myriad of vessels lay before him; merchantmen, warships, mail runners, and a host of others.  Jack knew the Laura Anne was a two-masted brigantine, which helped to significantly narrow his search.  Being the son of a shipwright proved to be an advantage in situations like this.  He could tell at a glance what type of ship each one was, and usually where it had been built.

At the end of one dock laid a stoutly built ship, deep drafted, with two masts.  The foremast was square-rigged, and the mainsail was set fore and aft of the mainmast.  She wasn't a large ship, but it was apparent she could carry quite a bit of cargo.  Jack was fairly confident she was the Laura Anne, but he didn't feel like walking all the way down the long dock to find out.  A man was sitting on the dock near the stern of a large weathered sloop, repairing one of the lines with a marlinespike.  Jack decided the grizzled tar was as good a person to ask as any.
"Pardon me, sir," he began.
"'Sir'?!" the man asked incredulously.  He spat on the deck and gave Jack an amused look.  "Ain't no 'sirs' here, boy.  All of us, we work for a livin'."

Jack could feel his face getting red.  He knew full well how sailors addressed one another, and he knew a lot of their vernacular, too.  But he never dreamt that one day he would be a sailor.
"Sorry," he said with a smile.  "No offence intended, mate.  That brigantine down there, is she the Laura Anne?"
"I suppose it could be," the man replied.  "Who wants to know?"
"I ship out on her today.  I was hoping you'd save a bloke a long walk if you know it's her."
The man shook his head.  "Sonny, after a month of nothin' but blue water and rollin' decks, you'll wish you had enjoyed the walk.  But I figure it's somethin' you'll have to learn the hard way.  Yeah, she be the Laura Anne.  Pritchard's a good master.  Tough but fair."
"Thanks, mate," said Jack, and he turned to leave.
"Hey, sonny!" the man called.  "This is your first time on blue water, ain't it?"
Jack bit his lip.  "Yes, it is."
"You'll need a sure-fire seasick remedy then.  I got one, but it'll cost you a sixpence."
Jack thought about it, and how queasy he got when a skiff he was in got caught in a heavy chop.  He dug in his pocket and put the coin in the man's hand.  The man pocketed the coin and waved younger man closer.
"The best cure for seasickness?" he said mysteriously.
"Sit under a tree."
Jack gave him a dumbfounded look, and the man let loose an ear-splitting cackle.  Knowing he'd been taken and rightly so, Jack laughed and started down the dock to his new home, and the future.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

A few minutes later, Jack found himself tenuously setting foot onto the deck of the Laura Anne.  He found it strange that no one challenged him.  Undeterred, he looked around until he spotted the quartermaster who had signed him on.  Jack walked up to the man and cleared his throat.
"Excuse me, Mr. Graves?  Jack Wolfe.  We met two days ago at the Crown and Rose.  I'm reporting for duty."
Graves looked the lad over and sniffed.  "You look skinnier in the daylight.  Can you climb?"
"Yes, sir.  I even know a thing or two about working the lines.  My father..."
"Is not a member of this crew, boy," interrupted Graves.  "We'll teach you how to properly work the lines, as well as other duties about the ship.  Now, follow me.  I'll show you where you'll bunk down."

Graves told Jack about the ship and the captain, and explained how they carried textiles and other manufactured goods from England and Wales to the colonies on Nevis and Antigua, and brought back sugar cane, rum, and other exotic goods.
"I'm a little confused," said Jack.  "If the normal run takes you to Beaumaris and Liverpool, what is the ship doing in Portsmouth?  Isn't that a bit out of the way?"
"It's for the captain," Graves explained.  "Every year at this time, we make port here so he can visit his wife."
"He only visits her once a year?  Mrs. Pritchard is a very understanding woman."
"No, Mrs. Pritchard is dead.  The captain pays his respects on their anniversary."
"Oh, my God," Jack stammered.  "I didn't know..."
"Well, now you do," said Graves, with the slightest hint of a smirk.  "Here.  Here's where you'll spend your time not on watch."
They were on the gun deck.  It was cramped, hot, and smelled of pitch, sweat, and a hint of spent gunpowder.  Hammocks were slung from the overhead, and a few of them were filled with sleeping men.
"Get your kit secured and settle in, boy.  We sail with the evening tide."  Without waiting for acknowledgement, Graves turned and left the gun deck.

Jack looked around, trying to see where he could put his sea bag.  He found that tied to each deck support was a net, and some of the men had stowed their belongings that way.  He shrugged, and stuffed his bag into one of the emptier nets.  Jack leaned against the support and let out a loud sigh.  A knot the size of a grapefruit was forming in his stomach.  What was he doing there?  He wasn't a sailor.  He was a philosophy and literature student at university.  At least he had been, before walking away from that life.
"Who are you fooling, Jack?" he asked himself quietly.
A low chuckle from one of the hammocks startled him.  He turned to find a bearded man with shaggy light brown hair, a few years older than himself, looking at him with a mocking smile.
"Well, well," the man laughed.  "Looks like we got us a fish out of water, we do."
Jack knew he would encounter razzing for being a "guppy", a new sailor.  He just hadn't expected it to start within the first half hour.  "Yeah, I'm new.  What of it?"
"Oh, hold on there, laddie buck!  Ye best be belayin' that tone.  If ye want a fight, there's plenty of men here what'll give ye one."
"Sorry," said Jack.  "I'm a little jumpy."
"Nah," the man replied.  "You're a lot jumpy.  Ye don't have much to worry for, mate.  This here's a good ship, with a good crew.  What be yer name?"
"Jack.  Jack Wolfe."  He extended his hand.  "What's yours?"
The older fellow gave Jack's hand a firm shake.  His palm felt like an odd combination of leather and sandpaper.  "Pleased to meet ye, Jack Wolfe.  My name's Josiah Briggs."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

"I'd like to say it's a pleasure, Josiah, but I'm not even sure I'm doing the right thing by being here," said Jack.
Briggs gave him a thoughtful look and nodded. "Aye, then ye be like nearly ever other man who takes to the sea. I suppose it's a matter of whether you're runnin' from somethin', or runnin' to somethin'."
Jack thought about it for a moment. "I guess a little of both."
"Glad to hear ye ain't over-thought it," Briggs laughed. "Once we set sail, ye'll know if this is the right life for ye."
"And if I find it's not?"
"Then it's goin' to be a very long trip to Nevis for ye."
Jack rolled his eyes and sagged against the support again. "That's not much encouragement."
"Ye'll be fine, Jack. Ye seem like a bit of all right to me. Green as grass, but that's nothin' new. Tell ye what; stick close to ol' Briggs. I'll take good care of ye. Teach ye the ropes good and proper."

"If you don't mind my asking, just how old is 'ol' Briggs'?" Jack asked.
"Twenty-four, last Thursday. How old are ye?"
"Nineteen, this past July."
"About what I figured," chuckled Briggs. "Just a pup. But ye got a sharp look in your eyes."
"It's very kind of you to take me under your wing like this, Josiah. It's intimidating walking into a new life feeling like you don't have a friend to your name."
"Everybody needs a friend. Might as well be me!" Briggs hopped out of his hammock and pulled Jack's bag from the net. "Let's start with teachin' ye how to stow your gear the right way. Listen sharp to me, Jack, and ye'll make captain in no time."
"And I suppose by the time that happens, you'll be an admiral?"
Briggs gave a hearty laugh. "Hell, yes! We may be mates now, but I'll not be taking orders from you if'n I can help it!"

That evening, the Laura Anne slipped silently out of Portsmouth harbour and into the English Channel, on her way to the deep blue waters of the Atlantic. Jack and Briggs were aloft working the mainsail lines. Briggs was pleasantly surprised with Jack's knowledge, though the younger man's fearlessness worried him. The last thing he wanted was for his new friend to end up on the deck below with a broken neck. He genuinely liked Jack. He could see a fire in the lad's eyes that spoke of intelligence and ambition. This was a man headed for something big, even though neither could guess what that might be.

Jack finally paused in his work and looked back toward Portsmouth. The sun was setting, bathing the town in a soft orange glow.
"Beautiful, ain't it?" said Briggs.
Jack nodded. "Yes, it is." He shook his head and rechecked the sail stay he had just secured. "I'll get back to work..."
"Nay, laddie. Ye'll do nothin' of the sort. I'll finish up. Go ahead and take a good long look. Get it out of your system now, or ye'll regret it."
Jack smiled his thanks and looked back at Portsmouth. He felt a twinge of regret for leaving, but he knew this was something he had to do. In a way, this was his way of honouring his father's memory in addition to providing for his mother. As the port shrank in the ship's wake, Jack hoped that other things would dwindle into nothingness with it. His utter disillusionment with Oxford's petty politics that sabotaged any chance of his becoming a professor there, for one. The other, deeper wound would take longer, but it helped that he no longer would hear her name spoken ever again. His best friend's sister, and the woman who had broken his heart.

Rose Gander.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Beaumaris, Wales---1641

Daddy? You called for me?"
The imposing figure towered over her. "Yes. Sit down."
She sat on the edge of the chair, her feet never touching the floor. He stood there and cleared his throat. "I have made some new arrangements, child. You are being sent away to a convent."
"Daddy? I am to go away? Please! I'll be good. I promise!"
"You are beyond control. You have the house servants wrapped around your finger to the point where they are covering over for the mischief and mayhem you are causing. I shall not have this house in a constant uproar due to your shenanigans. We have already gone through five governesses in the last year."
Her lower lip trembled at the thought of not being in her home with her sisters. But she put on a false bravado.
"And where am I to go?"
"To the Order of St Brigid. They are expecting you there in the next few days."
Her father walked over to her and said, "I have Nanny Greyson packing your things now. Tomorrow she will be taking you to the convent."
She stood up and said defiantly, "I shall go but I am taking Muir with me."
She left the room, her little head held high but inside she was quaking with fear of the unknown.

The teacher, known affectionately to the little girls as Master Scholar, stood in the doorway and asked, "Do you think that was necessary?"
Her father turned around and said, "She's six years old! Do you know what she just did this morning? She demanded of Parry the head stablemaster that she will ride Goliath instead of her pony. Goliath! That horse stands 17 hands and is raw power! She told him that she had my permission. Parry knew I would never let her ride Goliath so when his back was turned, she opened the stall, climbed on the rails and hopped on the horse. She held onto his mane and the last Parry saw of her, she was galloping off towards the open meadow and into the woods. He tried to ride off to catch her but she was gone. He was frantic. And do you know where she was?"
The teacher shook his head.
"She went swimming in the pond in the middle of the clearing. Quicksand all around. Then she decided she was going berry-picking. She picked berries alright. She came home...BLUE! Seems she squished them in her pockets. Those were the ones she didn't eat."
The teacher said, "I admit that was a little extreme..."
The father interrupted him with, "Oh, that's her on one of her GOOD days."

The teacher said, "Mayhaps you have had the wrong servants watching her. She has a quick mind. If you would allow me to..."
"No! She is going. That is final. Let the order educate her."
"And what order is that, if I may be so bold as to ask?"

"That is not your concern. And if you continue to pry, you shall be out of a position."
The teacher finished his rum in one gulp and said, "Don't bother. Anyone that would turn such a little girl away from the only home she has known....I'll be moving on."
He turned and walked out of the study.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

From the stairways, the little girl had been listening to the entire conversation. The teacher was in his room, gathering his belongings. She hesitated at the door and then said in a small voice, "Master Scholar?"
He turned at the sound of her and smiled gently. "Yes, child?"
"I wanted you to know that I learned to read and write while listening to you."
She showed him a slate where she had written some words. She stood there and waited for his reaction.
The teacher took the slate and said, "That is excellent! You far outpass your sisters."
She took her slate back and said "Thank you. I sat outside the door and listened and copied everything you said."
He put his hands on her shoulders and said, "Remember this, child. Knowledge is power. You have that and you can rule the world!"
She looked up at him and tried to put on a brave face. "I shall be leaving tomorrow. I am taking my dog with me. He will protect me. And I shall fear nothing."
The teacher gave her a smile. "Perhaps some day our paths will cross, little one. Until then, keep safe."
Her wolf-dog came into the room and stood by her side. "We shall. Thank you, Master Scholar. I shall not forget that I owe my desire for learning to you."
He was amazed at her sharpness of mind and the adult way she had of speaking. It had touched his heart and he gathered his bag.
"God be with you, young one."
"And you, too, Master Scholar."
She offered her hand to him and he took it. On impulse she gave him a hug and then quickly ran out the door.
The teacher gave a sigh, grabbed his bag and walked out, looking back just once.
Then he walked away.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

She walked down to the docks of her coastal town in Wales.
'So what if I took Goliath out riding? It's not like I hurt him. No reason to send me away.'
Her wolf-dog Muir jumped along beside her. Suddenly the dog ran ahead and saw a young man looking over the port.
Muir jumped up on him. The man laughed and rubbed the dog behind the ears. "Good dog!"
The little girl ran after her dog and panted, "I'm so sorry, Mister. My dog means no harm."

The young man stood up, running his hands through his unruly brown hair and smiled at her. She was quite the sight. Her light blonde hair hung down her back in a tangle. There was a streak of dirt on her face and her hands were stained with blueberry juice.
"Well, what on earth have YOU been into, little girl?"
She looked down at her chemise that was covered in blueberry juice and the grass stains on the back of her skirt.
" down."
"Really? How many times?"
She laughed. "Quite a few!"
"And blue hands?"
"I had blueberries." She pulled a handful out of her pocket. "I'd offer you some but they are a little squished...oh bother!"
"What, little lass?"
"My dress. I keep getting the laces all knotted. Nanny Greyson said it means I am trouble. With a capital T."

Muir was running excitedly up and down the docks. She frowned. "He never acts like that at home. I think he would like to be on the ships. His name is Irish for 'Sea' "
"Ah--you are Irish?"
"No--I am Welsh. Where do you think you are, anyways? Are you lost?"
He was taken aback by her forthrightness.
"Not at all. I just made port this morning.

She looked over the harbor, her finger on her lips, deep in thought as her eyes searched the newly arrived vessels.
"Which is your ship?"
He pointed to a large vessel with impressive sails."That one."
She looked over the harbor and said, " L-A-U-R-A..A-N-N-E."
She looked at him with pride. "The Laura Anne!"
"You can read? A little thing like you?"
She drew herself up and said, "Of course I can read! I'm already six years old!"
A grin crossed his face. She obviously was a lass who knew her own mind.

"So who is this Laura Anne and what did she do to deserve her own ship?"
"Well, um...I don't really know..."
She interrupted him. "Well, I think you should! After all, she is letting you sail on her ship. Can I meet her?"
The young man hesitated. There didn't seem to be any reasoning with a little lady who had her mind made up on certain things.
"I think she is indisposed right now."
The little girl tossed her blonde mane and said with a dignity that spoke of breeding, "Well, maybe some day Laura Anne's path and mine will cross. Until then, please give her my regards."

She looked at her blueberries and threw them in the water. "I should have planned better. I'm hungry now."
The young man took an apple out of his pocket.
"Will this help?"
She smiled at him and said, "Thank you!"
She bit into the apple, the juice running down her chin. She took her fingers and wiped her chin with them.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

She sighed. "I won't be here long. I am to go away to some sort of school. Father said so."
"Oh? And why is that?" he asked.
"Just because I took Goliath out for a ride, and other things that seem to upset my father."
"Really! He sounds like an impressive beast for one as small as you."
She said with a imperial air, "Oh, it's not the first time. I've taken him out lots of times! And I am NOT so small. I keep telling you--I'm six years old!"
He tried to keep from laughing. "Yes, I can see you are quite the young lady. So..when are you leaving?"

Sadly, she said, "I shall be leaving tomorrow."
She looked over the harbor and her face brightened.
"But I would so love to see your ship!"
He laughed and said, "Why not, little missy!"
She stamped her foot and said, "I am NOT little! I already told you that I am six years old."
He gallantly swept his cap off his head and dipped low into a bow. "And I am at your command, mademoiselle!"

She looked up at the sails.
"Those look different than the others."
She ran her little hands over the captain's door. "Oooh! Smooth! Why don't you carve your initials in the door? That way you will know which one is yours!"
He said, "I'm sorry but they are not mine. No one marks this door. The captain--and Laura Ann--are very particular about it. It is teakwood."

She looked over to the sun setting and sighed. "I guess I should be going back home. Why I don't know. They are already sending me away so what more can they do to punish me?"
She pointed to another ship. "See that one? That one belongs to Captain Henry Morgan. His ship is the Neptune Rising. Someday I should like to meet him. Maybe even sail with him! But he's an old man."
"Really! How old is he?"
She wrinkled her brow in thought and said, "I'm not sure. But he's probably as old as you are!"
The young man winced. He had just passed his twenty-first birthday and really didn't think of himself as 'aged.'

She turned to the young man and held out her hand. "I want to thank you for a wonderful time, Sir. Perhaps I'll see you again."
He took her little hand and kissed it. "I should be honored. My name is John Michael Wolfe. And you would be........?"
She smiled and said, "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers let alone tell them my name."
She then cupped her hand to her mouth and motioned him towards her. Conspiratorially she whispered, "But my name is Rhiannon!"
He smiled back at her, "I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Rhiannon."

Looking at the sun dipping in the sky, she sighed and said, "I really must be going."
He took her hand and kissed it again and said, "Good day, Miss Rhiannon. It was a pleasure to meet you."
She waved and ran off the docks, her dog trotting alongside her.

What a precocious child, he thought. And for sure she will grow up to be trouble for any man.......
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Four months later, off the coast of Antigua...

"Get off me, damn you!" Jack cursed.  The pirate kept a firm grip on the collar of Jack's shirt as he dragged the young man toward the cell.  Jack struggled and tore at the big man's hand, to no avail.  Finally, the cell door swung open, and Jack was thrust inside.
He whirled and lunged at his assailant.  "I'll do you for that, you bastard!"  As he dove forward, a heavy fist caught his chin and sent him spilling to the deck.  Jack saw stars, and could feel the world caving in on him.  He shook his head and fought off unconsciousness.  A minute or two passed with him on his hands and knees, trying desperately to grasp what was going on.  The taste of iron became more than he could take, and he spat a mouthful of blood  onto the deck.  He ran his tongue over his teeth, and found them to all be in place.
"Ain't no use in fightin', Jack," said a weary Briggs.  "The Laura Anne be theirs, no matter what we think about it."
Jack dropped to the deck and rolled onto his back.  "You saw what they did."
"I saw a hell of a lot, Jack.  You're gonna have to narrow it down a bit."
"Captain Pritchard!" spat Jack.  "They murdered him, right before our eyes!"
Briggs shook his head sadly.  "Cap'n Pritchard had been lookin' for a way to die ever since his wife passed on six years ago.  He found it today, tryin' to save his ship.  An honourable way to go, no matter how ye look at it."
Jack stared at the overhead as he listened to his friend.  He kept running his tongue over his teeth, and was unhappy to find that the left canine and surrounding teeth were somewhat loose.  "I never knew the captain was so despondent."
"Aye, he hid it well enough," said Briggs.  "Buried himself in work, he did.  But we knew why.  And not a one of us could blame him."
"And this is supposed to make me feel better?" asked Jack.  "What's next?  Tea and crumpets with our new pirate master?"

Briggs laughed darkly.  "Yeah, somethin' like that.  They'll be wantin' to press us into service, seein' as we're the skilled ones.  Same with the cooper and sailin' master."
"I won't turn pirate," said Jack sternly.
"Then you're gonna find yerself dead, Jack.  Harkness ain't known for playin' around.  Best ye drop yer high-minded ideals and look to what keeps ye drawin' a breath."
Jack thought about his friend's words.  William Harkness was notorious for disposing of anyone or anything he didn't find useful.  But what did he have to offer?  Briggs was obvious.    Ten years on the sea had made Briggs an expert sailor and a fierce warrior.  Jack had two and a half years.  What use was he?

Heavy footsteps on the deck caught their attention.  Jack rolled over to see two formidable looking men approach the cell and unlock it.
"You," one of them said as they pointed at Jack.  "Come with us."
Jack dragged himself to his feet, with a balled a fist behind his back.
"Jack!" called Briggs.  "Don't do anything stupid!  I'll never forgive ye if'n ye get yerself killed for no good reason.  Think!  You're good at that!  We'll get out of this alive, I swear."
Jack looked back at his friend, and uncurled his fingers.  With a nod, he turned and went with the two pirates.

They led Jack up one deck, and down a long companionway to a room with an ornate teakwood door.  The largest of the two men rapped three times on the door.
"Come!" came a voice from within.
The door was opened, and Jack was shoved roughly inside.  He struggled back to his feet and tried to get his bearings.  He was standing near the middle of the ship's great cabin.  Behind him, to either side of the door, were bookcases stuffed full of books, journals, and charts.  A large, four-poster bed was to his left, and a heavy table that could easily seat six lay before him.  To his right was a simple desk, covered in charts.  The setting was more what Jack expected to find in a governor's mansion, not a pirate ship.  Everything was orderly and clean, with just the right amount of opulence to let anyone entering know they were in the presence of a wealthy and powerful man.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Harkness himself sat at the table, with a full spread of cheeses, bread, and claret.  He was not a large man, but imposing nonetheless.  Jack guessed his age at about thirty.  His clothing was much like the cabin; understated elegance.  Over a simple white silk shirt, Harkness wore a waistcoat of emerald and black brocade.  His shoulder-length mane of jet black hair was loose, but neatly kept.
"Ah!  Mister Wolfe.  Welcome aboard the Raven's Pride.  How good of you to join me," he said, flashing a warm yet unsettling smile.  "Please!  Have a seat.  No doubt you're hungry."
Jack sat warily, and tried to mask his desire for the food in front of him.
Harkness filled a glass with claret and offered it to Jack.  Jack sat it down on the table, and without a word, pushed it back at him.
Harkness chuckled.  "Imbido non per vestri hostilis.  But the Bible teaches us that if your enemy hungers, feed him.  If he is thirsty, give him drink."
"And in doing so, you heap burning coals upon his head.  Romans, 12:20.  I've read it too, a number of times.  You'll have to do better, Captain Harkness."
"My, my, my," said Harkness.  "You're going to make this difficult, aren't you, Mister Wolfe?  And you've heard of me!  I'm flattered."
"Everyone has heard of William 'Iron Will' Harkness.  You're the most vile, wicked pirate to every terrorize these waters."

The toothy smile flashed again, but Jack detected and edge of annoyance showing through the pirate's smug façade.  "You're forgetting 'ruthless', Mr. Wolfe.  Always remember 'ruthless'."  Harkness took a sip of wine.  "Yes, I've enjoyed a modicum of success plying my trade.  One might say that business has been good."
"Robbery and murder?  That's a business to you?" Jack fired back.
"I could have gone into politics and done exactly the same things, Mr. Wolfe, and been hailed as a noble public servant.  But I prefer things this way.  More open, more honest.  If you're expecting me to justify myself to you, you're sorely mistaken."
"It's not me I'd be worried about, Captain.  You'll have to answer for your crimes one day.  In one court or another."
"First you try to insult me, now you moralise.  If your intent is to annoy me, you're off to a good start."
"Fine, then.  If I'm an annoyance, then let me go.  My friend as well.  We'll cause you no trouble," said Jack as he got up to leave.

"SIT DOWN, Mr. Wolfe!"
Jack froze, then slowly retook his seat.
Harkness shook his head slowly, his ready smile not nearly as bright this time.  "I can't tell if you're brazen, or stupid.  You're certainly dancing on either side of that dangerous line."  He leaned back in his chair and popped a piece of cheese in his mouth.  "Let me explain to you how this works, Jack.  Isn't that what your shipmates call you?  Do you mind if I call you that?"
Jack looked around the cabin feigning boredom.  "Your ship, your choice."
"Let me make this perfectly clear to you, Jack," Harkness began deliberately.  "My reputation for discarding that which is of no service to me is well deserved.  I'm offering you a chance to continue drawing a breath.  Cooperate, and you'll have an opportunity to join my crew.  Continue to be a flippant, disrespectful pain in the arse, and you'll find yourself swimming for your life as this ship fades into the distance.  Am... I... CLEAR?"
"Crystalline," replied Jack.  What was most clear to him was that Harkness wasn't like the other sailors he had encountered.  When other men got angry, they got loud and made mistakes.  Not William Harkness.  When he got mad, he got cold.  It was a trait the pirate captain shared with Jack's father, and the realisation left Jack feeling unsure of himself.

"There, that's more like it," smiled Harkness.  "I brought you here for a reason, Jack.  Care to venture what it is?"
"My sparkling personality?"
Harkness' eyes hardened.  "Hardly.  Word amongst your shipmates is that you're the son of a shipwright.  Is this true?"
Jack fidgeted.  "Yes," he answered quietly.
The broad smile returned.  "Excellent.  A bit of honesty at last.  And what would you make of the Pride, Jack?"
"She looks fast enough.  Certainly fast enough to overtake freighters and merchantmen."
Harkness sat forward and leaned on the table.  "I want her faster."
Jack thought for a moment, an decided that Josiah was right.  He could stick to his principles and die, or live and find a chance to escape.  "With adjustments to the forecastle and stern, maybe some other alterations with the masts, I think it's possible to make her much faster," he answered.
"Can you make that happen?"
"What if I can?  What do I get out of it?"
"You become part of my crew, and I reward you handsomely.  I suppose now you want to know what happens if you don't, or worse, try to deceive me?"
"I have an idea..."
"I make good on my promise to throw you overboard to drown," said Harkness quietly.  "You, and your friend."
Jack's mouth fell open.  "Leave Josiah out of this."
Harkness grinned.  "Consider it an incentive to perform."  He poured more wine in his glass, and pushed the glass Jack had refused earlier back to the young man.  "Now, do we have a pact?"
Jack lifted his glass from the table and stared into the blood red wine.  He swore he would never fall in with pirates, but he couldn't let his stubbornness be the cause of his best friend's death.  With the words tasting like ash in his mouth, Jack replied "Yes.  We do."
Harkness' smile became one of self-satisfaction.  "I knew you'd see reason, Jack.  You know, in a way you remind me of myself at your age.  We're going to become good friends, you and I."

Jack forced a smile and sipped his wine, and tried to ignore the feeling he had just sold his soul.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Two weeks later, somewhere off Antigua...

Reluctantly, Jack kept his bargain with Captain William Harkess.  He would draw up plans to make the Raven's Pride even faster and deadlier, under one condition; that Josiah Briggs be allowed to assist him.  To his surprise, Harkness agreed.  Over the next two weeks, the men made a painstaking assessment of the Pride's superstructure, with Jack making detailed notes and drawings as he crawled about within her.  At first, Harkness made sure a guard was with the pair at all times.  This impeded Jack's ability to get to know the vessel he was expected to improve, and improve significantly.  Finally, after much debate, they were allowed full and almost unrestricted access to the innards of the ship.

Though Jack never formally apprenticed under his father as Thomas had, Charles Wolfe nevertheless managed to impart much of his 35 years of ship construction knowledge to his inquisitive younger son.  While other children played with watercolours and chalk, young Jack learned the skill of drafting.  He went with his father one day each week to the shipyard to see oak and birch shaped into sleek, imagination-inspiring vessels.  Every moment was a teaching opportunity in Charles' eyes.  He relished that, though his sons could not have been more different in their natures, they were bright and eager to learn.

One particular night, as he had done so many nights during this ordeal, Jack asked his late father for guidance as he poured over his notes and roughed out a few preliminary drafts.  He knew his father would never approve of the situation he was in now, but he took comfort in knowing his father's love had always transcended mistakes.
"Forgive me, Papa," he said prayerfully, "but I need all the skills you taught me to stay alive now."

On this night, he got an answer.
"How many times must I remind you, Jackie?  There is almost always more than one solution to a given problem.  Start over, and look at it with different eyes."
Jack could hear his father's voice as if here were there in the room.  Memories of the lessons and advice his father gave him often came back to him in this fashion.  In a way, it helped ease his sense of loss.  As Jack looked over his raw notes again, a desperate plan began to form in his head.  Instead of looking for ways to strengthen the Pride, he began to map out her weaknesses.  He knew every ship had fundamental flaws in either design or construction.  If he were clever enough, it would be possible to use the proposed improvements to weaken the Pride sufficiently such that she would not survive her next battle or heavy storm.  It was a terrible risk.  Jack knew he could be planning his own suicide and the death of many good men.  Though he felt an odd admiration for the pirate, he felt in his heart that Harkness must be stopped, whatever the cost.  Each night, he would stay up until the wee hours working on two sets of plans.  One correct set that he could use to demonstrate his progress to Harkness and others, and another set that slyly called for considerable weakening of the ship that would prove fatal for them all.  These plans he kept hidden, even from Josiah.  If anything went wrong, he wanted his friend to be blameless.  But when the time came and Harkness approved the plans, would Jack would be able to make the swap?  It would mean condemning every last man, including Josiah, to an almost certain death.

"Your pappy taught ye well, Jack!" admired Briggs.  "These drawin's would make any shipwright proud to call his own work.  How come ye never went into the trade yerself, with such a fine eye and hand?"
Jack moved around the drafting table to better check a set of angles.  "My father was a good shipwright, and proud of his work.  But he wanted more for me and my brother.  Hand me that protractor there, would you?  The half-circle with a flat side."
"Here ye be."  Briggs handed over the instrument and frowned.  "Somehow, I don't see you quittin' Oxford and puttin' out to sea figurin' into his plans for ye."
Jack sighed.  "No.  No, it didn't.  Nor did his dying of consumption figure into mine."
"That ain't why ye threw your hook.  Two year's I've known ye, and ye ain't never once mentioned her name."
Jack chuckled.  "That's what I like about you, Josiah.  When most people get around someone who's taught at university, they get tongue-tied worrying about their grammar and diction.  But not you."
"I don't see much point in usin' a two-shillin' word when a ha'penny will do.  And what irks the hell out of me is the way ye change the subject whenever we start talkin' about why ye left a promisin' life on dry land."
"What makes you so certain it was a woman that drove me out to sea?"
Briggs chuckled and shook his head.  "It's always one of two things what makes a man like you up and trade his life for one on blue water; a woman, or runnin' from the law.  Ye ain't the law breakin' type, so that leaves just one thing."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.  After a few seconds, his shoulders sagged in defeat.  "Your grammar may be atrocious, but your logic is indisputable."
"Ha!  My guess was right!" said Briggs as he turned a chair around backwards and sat down.  "Now, spill it."
"Your guess?" asked Jack indignantly.  "You were bluffing?"
"Aye," Briggs smiled in satisfaction.  "That's why I never play ye in cards.  You're a smart man, Jack Wolfe, but there be priests what can lie better than ye!"
Jack sat against the table.  "All right, I know when I'm beaten!" he chuckled.  "Rose.  Her name is Rose.  My best friend's sister."
"Broke your heart that bad, did she?"
"It took my asking her to marry me to find out my blood wasn't blue enough for her taste."
Briggs winced.  "Damn.  That's rough.  I'm sorry, Jack.  Did ye lose your friend in the deal?"
"No, thank God.  Duckie sat with me most of that night, bless his soul.  He was completely mortified by his sister's behaviour.  Kept apologising for her, for what it was worth."
"I'm sorry, but did I hear ye right?  His name is 'Duckie'?"
"That's his nickname," laughed Jack.  "His real name is Drake."
"Oh, I see know," nodded Briggs.  "Drake, like the male duck, so's ye called him Duckie."
"Actually, that had nothing to do with it."
"Come again?  Ye lost me."
"Whenever anyone asked Drake how he was, his invariable reply was 'just ducky!'  So it stuck."
Briggs gave a hearty laugh.  "I'll remember to watch what I say around ye from now on!"

"No worries of that, my friend.  I can't see any other name suiting you," smiled Jack.
"And don't ye be worryin' none, neither.  Another lass will come along and turn your head.  You'll forget all about that Rose."
"Not bloody likely."
"Jack, me boy, I have a feeling some day the right one will show up when ye least expect it.  And then heaven help ye!"
Jack looked off in the distance, his mouth a firm line.  "I don't have time for that sentimental hearts-and-flowers, Josiah.  There's only one thing women are good for. And after that, it is on to the next.  Women are a smorgasbord and I'm a hungry man.  But I know when to push away from the table."
Briggs gave his friend a concerned look.  "Suit yerself, mate.  But ye can't stay angry forever."

Jack ignored Briggs' statement and turned his attention back to the drawings.  "I can't believe I'm actually going through with this, Josiah."
"We do what we must to live another day, Jack.  It may leave a sour taste in your mouth now, but it beats the alternative.  But I gotta say, you're a more honourable man than I."
"How so?"
Briggs moved one of the drawings around on the table.  "If I knew ships like ye do, I'd be powerful tempted to weaken her up.  Hide the lot of it amidst all the changes.  Then wait and hope for the next storm or battle to come along and send Harkness straight to Hell."
Trying not to fidget, Jack said, "I have to admit, it crossed my mind."
"Ah," said Briggs, "but there be the difference 'tween ye and me.  With ye knowin' all that philosophy and such, it probably crossed your mind as well that doin' somethin' like that would make ye no better than that devil Harkness.  That is, if ye were actually inclined to try such a thing."
Jack's eyes narrowed.  "How long have you known?"
"A couple of days now.  Remember when ye asked me to fetch some paper?  I ran across the other set of plans then.  Purely by accident, mind ye.  What in God's sweet name were ye thinkin'?"
Crossing his arms defensively, Jack said, "It's just as you said.  I thought that if I could trick Harkness into weakening his own ship, his reign of terror would be ended."
"Aye, along with the rest of us."  Briggs shook his head.  "Jack, Jack...  Harkness will get his.  Men like him, they burn bright and fast.  And they know it.  Piracy ain't exactly known for long careers."

Jack pulled a chair over and sat heavily.  "I'm sorry, Josiah.  The last thing I would want to do is put you in danger.  It was a foolish idea."
"Foolish, I'll give ye," said Briggs.  "Your heart was in the right place, Jack.  Like I said, I'd  have considered it too.  But your head weren't anywhere close."  He went to the cubbyhole where the alternate plans were hidden among sheaves of drawing paper.  Josiah retrieved them, and went to the porthole.  "I think this here would be a better place to hide these plans."  He swung open the porthole and shoved the papers through, and they fluttered silently into the ship's wake.
"What now?" asked Jack.
"We finish the plans, just like ye promised."
"And make the Pride that much more deadly."
"Aye, and we stay alive.  Think about it, Jack.  Harkness has taken a likin' to ye.  You can use that."
Jack shook his head.  "I don't understand."
Briggs put a reassuring hand on his younger friend's shoulder.  "There's an old saying; "keep yer friends close, and yer enemies closer.'  Heard it before?"
"Yes, I have."
"Harkness be one ye need to keep very, very close.  Let him think you're his friend.  That way ye'll know just what he's up to, and it'll give ye a measure of protection.  Those plans are what ye call a good faith gesture.  Then we'll bide our time and hope fate decides to smile on us."
"You really think it will work?"
Briggs laughed ruefully.  "Ain't like we've got anything else workin' in our favour!  These are the cards we're given, Jack.  Let's play 'em, and play 'em well."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Harkness' brow furrowed as he went over the plans Jack had drawn up for the refit of his Raven's Pride.  He had Jack's drawings laid out on the large table in his cabin, side by side with the ship's original construction draughts.  Harkness had surprised Jack by producing a full set of brass and ivory drafting instruments with which to examine the work and the knowledge to use them.  Jack breathed a sigh of relief that Josiah has destroyed the alternate set of plans.  There was no way his scheme would have worked.  Harkness would have spotted the sabotage easily.  Jack would not underestimate this pirate captain again.

"Interesting.  Most interesting," hummed Harkness in a soft baritone.  He made a few more comparisons, transposing measurements between the drawings via compass and scale with practised efficiency.  "You think cutting down the fo'c'sle almost flush with the main deck will gain us that much more speed?"
"I'm certain of it," replied Jack confidently.  "And you'll gain four more forward guns, with significant reinforcement of the ship's prow.  See?  Here, and here."
"What of the quarterdeck, Mr. Wolfe?" Harkness asked with a hint of testiness in his voice.  "You've reduced it to a mere six feet above the weather deck.  Why?"
"You wanted more speed, did you not?  Dropping the quarterdeck by four feet will give you that.  If your ego can stand the loss of rarefied air, that is."
Harkness flashed his quick, enigmatic smile.  "Jack," he said, tapping the drafting compass on the table, "have I told you how damned annoying I find you?"
Jack gave a thoughtful look.  "Only twice today.  You're slipping."

The captain laughed heartily and leaned back in his chair.  Jack broke into a broad smile and joined in the laughter.  He had spent  considerable effort getting to know Harkness over the past month, in hopes of gaining the captain's confidence.  But something unexpected happened.  Jack began to genuinely respect and admire the man.  William Harkness was a far cry from the bloodthirsty madman of tavern lore.  Quite the contrary.  He was a charismatic leader of men, intelligent and articulate.  Someone Jack could identify with.  The crew followed Harkness out of respect, not fear.  "Firm but fair" was the common consensus.

"This is good work, Jack!" applauded Harkness.  "Very good, indeed!  You'll not only make the Pride faster, but much stronger.  I dare say she'll be the most formidable ship in the entire Caribbean."
Jack couldn't help but smile with pride.  "I'm glad you're pleased."
"Pleased?!  To put it mildly!  Of course I'm pleased!  Even with all the changes you propose, there is no loss of cargo capacity.  That pleases me even more.  You're assuring my continued dominance in these waters, against pirates or patriots."
"As if that was ever in question, captain."
"Oh, please, Jack," Harkness chided.  "Fate and fortune are fickle mistresses.  Whatever lifted you up one day will bring you crashing down another.  Mark my words, lad.  Treat every success as a gift.  There is nothing more humiliating than your next engagement."
Much like Jack's own father, Harkness never passed up a teaching moment.

The captain glanced at the plans again, then fetched two glasses which he filled with rum.  Thought the dark liquid burned his throat, Jack was beginning to develop a taste for the stuff.
"We'll be putting in at St. Thomas in a few days," Harkness announced.  "It's a friendly port, one I think you'll enjoy.  I'll order that work begin immediately on the refit."
Jack nearly choked on his drink.  "Just like that?
"Of course!  No reason to tarry.  Unless my eyes deceive me, and they don't, these draughts are complete and ready for the shipyard."
"I'm just a bit surprised that you trust me, is all."
Harkness smiled broadly.  "I do trust you.  To a point.  But I trust the shipwright at Charlotte Amalie more.  He'll catch anything I missed.  If he finds more than honest mistakes, then I'll revisit the matter.  Most unpleasantly."
"He shouldn't find any mistakes at all," countered Jack defensively.
"Well then, there's nothing to worry about, is there?"  Jack's reaction told Harkness everything he needed to know.  The young man was more concerned about the quality of his work than whether or not Harkness believed him.  The ruse with the drafting instruments had worked perfectly.  Navigation charts were one thing, but ship's schematics were hardly his speciality.

The captain regarded the younger man with a measured gaze.  He was a bit of a puzzle, this Jack Wolfe.  He had every reason in the world to be anywhere but on a ship in the Caribbean, yet here he was.  The lad was intelligent, learned even, but incredibly angry at the world.  Not at all unlike William Harkness at that age.  If Harkness could only find a way to help Jack channel that anger, that intensity...  It could well be that in Jack Wolfe, Harkness had found what he had been searching for these past few years.

A protégé.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack strode the deck of the ship, keeping a close eye on the crew as they went about their assigned tasks.  Every now and again he would lean in to check on a team's progress or better explain what it was he wanted them to do.  If necessary, he would roll up his sleeves and pitch in to ensure everything was done just as he had envisioned.  The men had been slow to warm up to Jack at first, unsure as to how they felt about taking orders from this young upstart.  Jack himself was surprised at first that they listened to him at all.  He hadn't sought out the chance to lead these men.  It had been thrust upon him most unexpectedly.

By William Harkness himself.

The night was a chilled and rainy one as the Raven's Pride rode at anchor just outside the harbour of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  With the water choppy and night falling, they had to hold position until the next morning before attempting the circuitous route among the islets and shoals that littered the approach to the Virgin Islands port.  Jack had just finished his duty watch when one of the men brought word Captain Harkness wanted to see him.  The captain had made a habit of calling Jack to his quarters over the recent weeks to discuss the refit and banter about philosophy.  Harkness seemed almost starved for intellectual conversation, and Jack was happy to oblige.  As he spent more time with the man, Jack's appreciation for Harkness' intellect and sophistication grew.  It became harder and harder for Jack to see him a pirate any more.  William Harkness wasn't anything like the murderous animals he had read about and learned to despise.  Far from it.  He was worldly, yes, but refined.  Perhaps it was Jack's sudden immersion into a frightening, alien world that coloured his perceptions, but he had come to count his captain among the noblest men he had ever known.

"Have you ever been to this island before, Jack?"  Harkness asked.
"No, I haven't,"  replied Jack. " It was never on the Laura Anne's run."
"Truly a jewel, this place.  Hilly, like the north country back in England.  And the women here!  You're in for a treat, my lad.  Dusky diamonds, every last one of them."
"Do you ever miss them?"
"What?  The women?  Every hour of the day, until I've had my fill of them.  Then I can't get back to sea fast enough," said Harkness with a mischievous smile.
"No, I meant the hills," laughed Jack.  "Do you ever get homesick?"
Harkness' eyebrows went up in surprise a the question.  "For England?  Hell no.  This, " he said with a sweeping gesture of his hand, "this is my home now. This wooden world is all mine, and it gives me everything I need.  I can't say as much for Mother England."
Jack couldn't imagine never returning to where he was born.  He missed his sisters, Jacqueline and Victoria, and even his priggish brother Tom.  He wondered how his mother was getting along.  She had put on a brave face the last time he saw her, but he knew she missed his father terribly.

"Have you heard a word I've said?"
Jack snapped out of his reverie.  "I'm sorry, William!  I was lost in thought."
"I asked how you've adjusted to life at sea, and if you were homesick.  I got my answer.  No matter, really.  It takes a few years for some people."
"A few years for what?"
Harkness leaned on the table and smiled knowingly, light dancing in his eyes.  "To realise this is where they belong, Jack.  In a life on blue water.  You'll figure it out soon enough.  The sea is in your blood.  Always has been.  You were simply headed in the wrong direction."
"And where are you from?  You've never said."
"I'm from here.  The sea."
"Then why do you sound like you're from the north?"
"Every place has a north, Jack," Harkness snickered.
"Is prevarication part of being an effective pirate?"
"Now you're catching on!  Admit nothing, deny everything, and lie through the rest of it.  You'll learn the proper balance.  It's an acquired skill."
"I've the feeling I'm learning from a master."
"That you are, my boy!" Harkness said with pride.  "I'll have you manufacturing truth easier than the Commonwealth prints money."
"And both equally meaningless!" Jack said with a raise of his glass.

"That's the spirit!" laughed Harkness.  He sat back and regarded Jack with a critical eye.  "You know, I haven't decided who I'll have oversee the refit of the Pride."
Jack cocked his head quizzically.  "Really?  I thought you'd task Phillips, the carpenter, with that duty."
Harkness shook his head.  "Phillips' head is as full of sawdust as his projects.  I had someone else in mind."
"Daniels?  He's an able hand."
"Sycophant.  Out for himself and any woman he can seduce.  Try again."
"Tompkins?  He was helpful enough."
Harkness looked balefully at the overhead.  "Jack, Jack!  What am I going to do with you?"
"Not killing me would be a good starter."
That drew a belly laugh from the captain.  "The answer is literally right under your nose."
Jack thought for a moment.  "Oh, yeah!  Briggs!  He'd be perfect--"
"Ah!  No," interrupted Harkness.  He took a swig from his glass and pointed directly at his young charge.  Jack's eyes went wide.
"What?  Me?!  You want me in charge of the refit?"
"Yes," beamed Harkness.  "You.  I want you to oversee it all."
Jack could scarcely close his mouth.  "But, why me?"
"What, you don't think you're up to it?"
"It's not that," Jack stammered.  "I thought you'd want someone, oh, I don't know...  more experienced?"
"I need someone knowledgeable, Jack.  And you're that man."
"But I've never lead men before."
Harkness grinned reassuringly at Jack's naivete.  "Despite everything you've been taught, leadership is learned.  Some are born with the raw materials, but they have to be forged.  You have those materials, Jack Wolfe.  You were born to be a leader of men.  Now it's your chance to man up and exercise the talents God Jehovah gave you."

Jack sat back in his chair, gobsmacked.  "I... I don't know..."
"Yeah you do," chuckled Harkness.  "We will make port tomorrow, and I shall step off this ship and leave you in command.  How long will the refit take?"
Jack shook his head and tried to think.  He was so overwhelmed that his thoughts came molasses slow.  "Um... ten days?"
Harkness slapped the desk.  "You have fourteen.  There's a certain establishment I'm part owner in, and I need to thoroughly inspect the inventory.  Womanly inventory.  I like to take my time, if you get my meaning."
Jack thought for a moment, and burst out laughing.  "Aye, I can see why!"
Harkness refilled their glasses.  "Make me proud, Jack Wolfe.  Make the Pride the most fearsome vessel the world has ever seen.  My trust is in you.  Don't fail me."
Jack swallowed hard and forced a smile.  "I won't fail you, William.  I swear it."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus