'Pirates of the Caribbean' belongs to Disney.

This piece may be regarded as an addendum to 'Jack To The Future', since it's concerned with events described in Chapter Ten.

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Captain Sparrow watched his navigational map being traced by the long finger, knobby with age-swollen joints. A rarity, to be sure- very few pirates lasted long enough to be troubled by rheumatoid arthritis. But of course, his father always had been unusual. The fierce old seahawk had outlived his ability to wield a sword, or the supposedly mightier pen, or to make a guitar sing. Though it hadn't been said, Jack strongly suspected it was that last loss which had moved Teague to this decision.

The storied finger tapped a set of serpentine marks beyond an inked headland. "Here's the opportune rendezvous point. The current here will suffice to take the Star out to sea with no further maneuvering of the sails, but isn't fast enough to prohibit your setting a gangplank. I'm no Inca king, requiring plentiful company- willing or non- at my burial site. So take care not to be late."

"I won't," Sparrow affirmed. He'd made no attempt to dissuade his father from this plan, mostly because he understood the motive behind it. He did feel compelled to add, "If you decide to abandon ship too, I shan't think any less of you."

"I won't," Teague replied, in the very same tone.

There was mutually uncomfortable silence. Both men were aware this was their last chance to say anything in private, yet the decades-old habit of holding back from each other was difficult to shake off.

Teague spoke first. "I assume you still have your Mum's head."

"I thought you might want a gander at that." Sparrow moved to the largest cabinet in his cabin and opened a square drawer, from which he lifted a red velvet bundle. He set this on the map table, where Teague carefully unwrapped the fabric, revealing a familiar object. Jack felt a twinge of chagrin- the shrunken head had acquired some scratches and dings during it's time in his possession. But the Keeper simply took the object into his palm, tenderly stroking back the gray hair. The younger man was pained to realize, his father's aged eyes were probably incapable of discerning the new flaws.

"Would you be wantin' ta take her along?"

Teague shook his henna-scented mane, like a weary lion. "This isn't her, Jackie. If the tribesmen are right, it's her spyhole at most. And she may still prefer to have the entertainment. Years and years of that to come, eh?"

Jack looked away. He'd not told his Da about finding the Fountain of Youth; the blighter had figured it out for himself. It was a subject they hadn't discussed since Teague's prescient warning; that Jack's real challenge would be "living with yourself forever."

Sparrow said quietly, "She really did love you, you know."

"I do know. Though I could never figure out why." Teague's fingertips stroked the leathery face. "Not like she ever got much benefit out of marrying me."

It was as close as the old pirate had ever come to admitting being ashamed of anything- at least within his son's hearing. Jack wondered whether he ought to make some kind of absolving statement, but decided it wasn't his place. If the diligent Captain Will Turner was tending to his job- which seemed likely- Teague might be talking with Chakori very soon. She was the one who should say... whatever needed saying.

The Keeper gently twirled the head on it's string. Out of nowhere, he asked, "Do you recall the occasion when I snatched you out of that Lisbon hospice?"

Sparrow nearly flinched. Even in a biography punctuated with nadirs, that interval- being laid up in an understaffed pesthouse with his life slowly ebbing from two bullet wounds- was so abysmal he preferred to regard it as a bad dream. Not for the first time, he wondered whether Teague was aware how he'd come to be ambushed by a pistol-wielding blaggard secreted under a bed. Jack had never asked him, because he didn't want to know.

/ But what bloody choice did I have? A ragged vagabond, trapped in port by a military blockade- no honest work ta be had, the food merchants all on guard against loitering sailors, no safe place ta sleep on the streets. And all those lonely, monied widows an' wives of at-sea officers, patrolling those certain roads in fine carriages, knowing what they liked the look of. I just did what was needed to keep meself alive... until I chanced to be taken home by that featherbrained chit whose husband weren't as absent as she'd thought. /

"Aye, I remember." It took effort to keep his tone neutral. "A much appreciated intervention. Even if I weren't inclined to say so at the time."

Teague carefully set the head down on the velvet square. "You should know that your mother was largely responsible for it. During our last voyage together, she made me promise that I'd keep track of you, at least from a distance. And that I'd try to help if you ever truly needed it. That was why I built my network of informers- them as told me you were stranded in Lisbon. I was on my way to snake you out of there, even before you were shot."

"Hence your timely arrival." Sparrow's hand moved to his upper right chest, fingering the linen over the two circular scars there. "Just out of curiosity, how'd you get past the blockade?"

"I picked the right captain to bribe."

"William may need to do something similar, to deliver you to the same shore as Mum. If he manages, please tell her for me... it ain't to avoid her that I'm takin' the waters."

The Keeper eyed him intently. "You are quite sure about this course, Jackie?"

"I am resolved to try an' evade that which you are preparing to embrace, yes." Jack spoke with determination, even as he gave the head an apologetic glance. "Was theer any distribution of effects you'd like me ta see to?"

"Already taken care of." Teague glowered out the casement window, at the piled derelicts of Shipwreck Cove. "In this den of thieves, delivering the items meself was the only way ta make sure they'd end up where I wanted 'em. There's just one such remaining." He delved into the pocket of his red frock coat, extracting a smooth palm-sized object. "I believe my late First would've liked you to have this."

Jack took the offered whale's tooth, studying the artfully etched lines of the rampaging kraken. "Thank you- I always admired that. An' wondered at the coincidence. Do ya suppose Lionfish had a touch of the prophet in him?"

"I wouldn't rule it out. We've both lived long enough, and seen enough, to know better. 'More things in heaven and earth.'"

Sparrow nodded gravely. For a long moment, he and Teague regarded each other in somewhat easier silence.

"I will miss you, ya blamed old rotter."

"I can't imagine you will much, Jackie. I was never around long enough to leave a noticeable void."

"I will miss knowin' yer raisin' hell someplace on the planet."

Teague leaned forward in his chair, joints cracking. "It's been a while now, since I've been able to do much of that. Ain't as grand as it looks from a distance."

"So... is theer anythin' else?"

"One more thing." The Keeper stood up slowly, leaning hard on his shiny mahogany cane. Jack also arose, and Teague crossed the distance between them. The old man set gnarled hands on both his son's shoulders, feeling the usual pang over their height difference- aware it was probably due to Jack's undernourished early years. But he pushed the bad feeling aside. This was a moment to accentuate the positive.

"You are your mother's son, Jackie. I don't think you've ever realized how much so. Just about everything good in you is from her. Through you, there's some trace of Chakori left in this world, and the world needs it sore.

"I can tell you now: much of my life wasn't that well spent. But bringing you about... that's one deed of mine I've never come close to regretting. Remember that much about me, Jonathan."

Jack found himself unable to reply- no words seemed adequate. But their locked gazes probably conveyed enough.

Teague let his fingers slide down Jack's arms, briefly gripping his elbows before releasing him. "I'll be getting back to the Star, now. I want her looking her best when she disembarks tomorrow. See you then, Jackie." The old man turned and left the cabin, his cane-assisted gait retaining a certain stateliness.

Sparrow watched until his cabin door closed. Then he carried the head and whale's tooth to the cabinet, carefully packing them into the same padded compartment. For some reason, when he shut the drawer it felt like he was closing a coffin. He slouched a few steps over to the bed, flopping down heavily.

It seemed incredible, on the face of it, that on the morrow he'd watch that overwhelming presence sail out of his life for the last time. Painful though it might be, he knew he'd follow Teague's instructions to the letter. Once the Star of Madagascar's Captain had his course set, there was no gainsaying him. Even if his son would pay a stiff price for it later.

Jack turned on his side, curling tightly. A hitched breath escaped him, followed by two whispered words.

"Goodbye, Father."

If he found it necessary to remain secluded in his cabin for the next half hour, giving his crew no explanation as to why... that was the Captain's prerogative.

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FINIS