Summary: A look at Bootstrap's thoughts as he is forced to whip Will.
Bootstrap stared at the man before him. William...It can't be... "No," he whispered in shock, his hands involuntarily letting go of the slippery line. The cannon they had been lifting crashed to the deck instantly, but he was too wrapped up in his thoughts to notice.
"Haul that weevil to his feet!" the Bo'sun shouted, drawing Bootstrap's focus back to the scene before him. Will hadn't had the right leverage on the line to hold it down, and the second Bill had let go, the boy had flown forward with the rope. Now the Bo'sun was angrily approaching him, whip in hand. "Five from the lash'll remind you to stay on ‘em!"
"No." Bootstrap moved instinctively between the angry Bo'sun and his son and grabbed the crewman's wrist. He couldn't let William take the fall for his mistake.
"Impedin' me in my
duties!" the Bo'sun snarled furiously. "Ye'll share the punishment!"
"I'll take it all," Bootstrap informed him resolutely.
"Will ye, now?" Jones interrupted. He had heard the commotion on deck and was now watching the proceedings with interest. "An' what might prompt such an act of charity?"
Bootstrap swallowed hard and looked tearfully at Will, who was eyeing him curiously. He doesn't even recognize me... "My son," he managed to choke out.
Bill Turner sat out on the porch, smoking his pipe and watching the rain fall. He was drawn out of his thoughts by slender arms encircling him from behind and long hair tickling his cheek. "What's the matter, love?" he asked quietly, kissing the back of his wife's hand lightly.
"Bill, I think you need to have a talk with your son."
He frowned slightly and looked up at her. "What'd he do?"
"I'll let him tell you that," she replied, removing her arms. "He's in his room."
Sighing, Bill stood up and went inside. He paused outside the closed door to Will's bedroom and knocked gently. "William?" No answer. "...Mind if I come in, lad?" After still receiving no response, Bill gripped the doorknob and gently opened the door. Will was sitting despondently on the edge of his bed with his back to the doorway. In the silence, the boy's quiet sobs could still be heard. Rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, Bill walked over and sat silently next to his son. Five years of experience, and he still felt inept at this parenting business. Why it was so difficult to sit down and talk to a five-year-old boy was beyond him, but clearly it was no easy task. Clearing his throat nervously, he finally spoke. "Ye doin' alright, William?"
Will simply nodded and sniffed a bit. "I'm fine."
"Good t' hear..." Bill replied quietly, shifting his weight a bit. "So, Will...yer mother tells me there was a bit of a problem earlier...Mind sharin' what happened?"
Will turned away slightly and continued to sit in silence.
Bill hesitated, then put a comforting arm around the boy's thin shoulders. "C'mon, Will, ye can tell yer old man anything. I'd much rather find out from you than have to go ask yer mother."
"I-I didn't mean to do it," Will muttered.
"Do what?" Bill asked, frowning slightly in confusion. Then he remembered that afternoon's events. "Ye mean the vase?"
Will nodded again. "Y-you saw it. It was an accident."
"Aye, that I did, lad. I also seem to recall telling you to tell yer
mother before she found out herself. Did ye do that?"
In response, Will just pulled away from his father's arm and turned his face the other way.
"Ah...She didn't happen to find it on her own, did she?"
This time Will nodded sheepishly, but he still remained facing the other way.
"An' what did ye say when she found it on her own?"
"I-I told her...I told her it was a bird," Will muttered.
"A bird," Bill repeated. If nothing else, you could give the kid points for creativity. "Ye told her a bird broke her vase?"
"Uh-huh..." the boy whispered, starting to sob again. "Mama gets mad when I break her stuff, a-an' then I get in trouble. I jus' didn't want trouble..."
Bill sighed and rubbed his forehead wearily. He always felt so hypocritical
when he lectured Will about these things. It wasn't as though he hadn't done his own fair share of lying and cheating and stealing and who-knows-what-else in his lifetime. But everyone he talked to said that a boy's father was his strongest influence in his life, and so it was up to him to give the lad some sort of moral center. "Will, it doesn't matter why ye did it. The fact is, ye lied to your mother. No getting around it."
"B-but I just didn't want to get in trouble!" the boy sobbed. "She found out anyway."
"Aye, but now she trusts you just a little bit less, lad," Bill replied quietly. "Yer mother and I want to trust ye, Will. We really do. Nothin' hurts us more than to have to think that ye might not be tellin' us the truth. But if ye lie to us like that, we can't really trust ye, see? We'll never know whether yer lyin' or not, an' then none of us get to have any fun. Remember last time? Yer mother was so
upset by that...Do ye want to make her sad like that again?"
"Good lad," Bill said with a slight grin. He hesitated slightly, then continued soberly, "Will, ye remember what else happened last time?"
That got the boy's attention. He turned and looked at his father with wide eyes. "I-I got whipped with your belt."
"An' what do ye think is goin' to happen this time?"
Will stared at him, then stood up and started backing away. "Please no, Papa. I'll be good!"
"William, we all must face consequences for our actions. Otherwise people would just keep on doin' the wrong thing over an' over without gettin' punished. Ye wouldn't want that, would ye?" Bill fought back a wry smile at how utterly hypocritical he was being at the moment.
"But I promise I'll be
"That's what ye said last time, Will, an' it happened again," Bill pointed out. Seeing the boy's terrified expression, he softened a bit. "Five, lad, that's all. Take your punishment like a man, aye? No messy tears."
But at this point tears seemed inevitable, and they were already starting to flow down Will's cheeks. "No, Papa! No! I promise I'll be good forever, Papa! Please don't!"
Bill stared at his son, his own eyes beginning to water a bit. Why was the boy so utterly terrified of getting a whipping? He knew he didn't hit too hard. It certainly wasn't as thorough as the lashings he'd received as a lad for his own various misdemeanors. Why Will was so strongly opposed was beyond him, but nonetheless the boy was clearly terrified.
Will's sobbing had now subsided to sniffling and an occasional weak cough. "Please no, Papa," he whispered.
Bill shook his head slightly. He was never going to hear the end of this..."Will, come ‘ere...I won't hurt ye." Reluctantly, the boy came over and looked down at the ground. Sighing, Bill picked him up and put him on his lap. "Now Will, listen," he said firmly. "I'm goin' to let you off one time, and one time only, an' that's only because it hurts me even more than it hurts you. The next time you lie to either one of us, you will be punished, understood?"
Will nodded fervently. "Yes, Papa. I'll be good; I promise."
"Good man," Bill said with a slight grin, clasping Will‘s tiny hand in his own rough one. "Let's shake on it, hmm?"
Will shook his hand firmly and grinned. "And spit to seal the deal."
"Ah...let's skip that part, hmm?" Bill replied mildly as he picked Will up. "Now, what say we go tell yer mother how sorry ye are an' help her clean it up,
aye?...Oh, an' if she asks...I whipped ye so hard, ye won't be able to sit for a week. Deal?"
Will grinned even bigger and nodded. "Deal."
Bootstrap wrenched himself back to the present and looked again at his now-grown son. "He's my son."
Jones laughed out loud at this news and looked calculatingly at the two men. "What a fortuitous circumstance be this!" he roared. "Five lashes be owed, I believe it was." Still laughing, he held the whip out in front of Bootstrap.
"Please no, Papa!"
"No..." Bootstrap protested desperately. "No, I won't!" He couldn't imagine a worse fate than to have to lash his own son. He'd had enough trouble with a leather belt that only bruised, but the cat-o'-nine-tails had enough power to literally cleave flesh from bone...even enough to kill.
"The cat's out of the bag, Mr. Turner!" Jones argued. "Your issue will taste its sting, be it by the Bo'sun's hand...or yer own."
Bootstrap looked wordlessly at Will, who was now staring at him with a mixture of shock and recognition. "No," he continued to plead.
"I promise I'll be good!"
"Bo'sun!" Jones cried.
The Bo'sun stepped forward and started to take the whip, but Bootstrap pushed him away. "No!" He grasped it firmly in his own hand and stared down at it, willing himself to do what was necessary.
"No, Papa! No!"
He could see the muscles in Will's bare back tensing in anticipation.
"I promise I'll be good forever, Papa!"
Slowly, he drew the whip back and prepared himself to strike.
"Five, lad, that's all. Take your punishment like a man, aye?"
It took every ounce of strength left in his body to swing the whip forward. Red, bloody lines immediately appeared where the whip made contact. He saw Will's whole body go stiff from the pain, but the boy -man, he corrected himself- didn't scream.
"...No messy tears."
But this time, it wasn't his son he was talking to...it was himself. And as he stood there on the deck of the Flying Dutchman, the hot tears streaming down his face concealed by the heavy rain, he felt no more capable of stopping them than five-year-old William had been.