Author: Laura H fried_flamingo
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Pairing: J/E, W/E
Category: angst, romance, AU
Disclaimer: The Mouse owns all.
Previous chapters here
For a moment Elizabeth was rooted to the spot, confused by Jack’s sudden anger. Did he hold her accountable for this? And why did he demand they keep the dead men aboard? She watched him retreat towards the hatch, her own anger rising. What right had he to speak to her so, aboard her own ship!
Casting an eye around the deck to ensure all was in hand, she ran after him, unwilling to let him have the final say in this. Below decks, she followed him with a determined stride to the rear of the crews quarters. At first Jack seemed unaware of her presence and, as Elizabeth watched, he peeled his sodden shirt from his back, pulling it over his head and throwing it in fury onto the floor where it landed with a hard slapping noise.
Her footsteps faltered and she collided with an upturned barrel, knocking a lantern to the floor where it smashed noisily. Jack whirled at the sound and the look on his face made Elizabeth want to turn and run. Not anger alone - oh, if it were only anger - but something so much worse, something that looked like pain. For a moment her gaze was drawn to the familiar blackened circles on his shoulder, marks that she hadn’t seen for so long, yet, if ever asked, she could have described every ridge on their surface. Suddenly she wanted so much to tell him; to reveal everything and set down, at last, the burden she had carried for the past two years.
I know, Jack. I know what it feels like. I know the things they can do to you.
“Come to add old Jack to today’s tally, Captain Swann? Give young Will a worthwhile cargo, eh?”
The words she had been ready to utter stalled in her throat and instead a surge of irritation pushed its way to the fore. “Do you think I planned this, Captain Sparrow?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time you’ve traded a man’s life for the whelp. Best get yourself above deck and await the arrival of your beloved, eh?. Would hardly do to have his devoted wife beneath decks with a scallywag such as myself. Would hardly be seemly.”
Jack’s tone dripped with scorn and Elizabeth felt her ire build into a slow rage. That he should think her indifferent to the loss of her men…
“Men die at sea, Jack! You know that better than any! Or is it different now on the illustrious vessels of the East India Company?”
“Those men died needlessly, Elizabeth! Died because of your foolish whim!” cried Jack, muscles tensing, his hands curling into fists. “You want your boy back and that’s why we’re here. You failed to find him nine years ago and so you’ve decided to try again. Let’s drop the charade of us finding the Pearl, shall we?”
Elizabeth reeled. He thought that’s why she had brought them out here? To find Will? “Then why are you here, Jack, if that’s truly the purpose of my quest? Why did you come? You may have changed in appearance since last we met but I’m unconvinced that you’ve changed in essentials; you’d never be selfless enough to help me find my lost love. There’s no profit in it for you.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed at that and he walked forward. “A means to an end, love. The Pearl’s what I want and, by the end of this little jaunt, that’s what I’ll have.” A grin spread itself across his face, a vicious slash of white and gold. “So have your day in the sun with the boy, for a day is all it will be. Let him soothe the ache between your legs.” He drew his gaze, contemptuously, over the length of her body. “Or indeed let him witness what you’ve become. See if he doesn’t sicken at the spectacle!”
Each word he uttered was like a nail struck with a sound blow through her heart. Never had she thought he could be so intentionally cruel. Burning inside, but unwilling to let it show, Elizabeth retaliated the only way she knew how; by lashing out with equal malice.
“You’re right, Jack. It is Will I want. He’s all I’ve craved for these ten years. My love, my husband. And as for you?” Elizabeth gave a laugh laced with what she hoped sounded like spite, but to her ears it verged on hysteria. “You’re simply the maggot whose cowardice robbed him from me. Perhaps your hope on this voyage, Captain Sparrow, was that you might be the one to soothe my ache? Well, I‘ve been there, love, and done that! I’m not quite so desperate that I’d submit myself to a repeat performance.”
Turning on her heel, Elizabeth stormed back to the hatch, breath shaking in her chest, hoping Jack didn’t notice the tremors that had gripped her. Her stomach churned at the lies she’d uttered, but she refused to let remorse take hold. She had just reached the ladder, when she heard the thud of running boots behind her. There was no time to turn before a hand gripped the neck of her shirt, pulling her away violently from the steps and back into the crew’s quarters. Elizabeth flew across the low-ceilinged room and crashed into the sacks of flour that lay stacked against the wall, bursting one and spewing its contents everywhere. Her forehead smacked into the wood of the inner hull and she felt something wet ooze into her hair.
She turned quickly, ready to strike, and saw Jack standing with his hands braced on a beam above his head, the rapid rise and fall of his naked chest and the look of rage on his face, belied his casual stance. His eyes darted to the trickle of blood on her head and, seeing that, his forehead creased, face settling into an expression resembling concern or remorse. That just made it worse.
With a roar Elizabeth flew forward, through the cloud of flour, unable to control the surge of emotions now and not knowing which of them fuelled her fury. She barrelled into Jack’s chest and he fell backwards, landing with a heavy thump on the deck.
Driven by rage, humiliation and grief, Elizabeth drew back her foot and kicked Jack heavily in the side. He yelled in pain and rolled over, flour dust settling on his back, clinging there. Before she had a chance to land another blow, he had jumped spryly to his feet, lashing out and catching her with a backhanded punch to her chin. She spun with the blow, a full circle, and sunk her own punch into the solid flesh of Jack’s stomach, leaving a dusty white imprint on his skin. He bent double, but as she drew her arm back for another blow, his hand shot out and caught her fist.
In a flash his leg hooked behind her knees, pulling her feet from under her and, she landed flat on the floor with such a thud that the wind was knocked clean from her. She tried to move but Jack was on top of her, chest pressed flat against her, his legs on either side pinioning her to the deck. She twisted furiously, coughing on flour, trying to break free. But it was for naught.
“Let me go,” she hissed, her head to the side, refusing to look at him.
“No,” he said in a low, rough voice.
“Set me free, Captain Sparrow!” she yelled and turned to look him in the eye. She wished she hadn’t.
In an instant everything changed. This was no longer the clinch of two foes wrestling in anger. It was something else entirely; she was being swept along in a current, powerless to swim against it, unsure if she even wanted to. With her free hand she found Jack’s forearm, her thumb tracing the maze of scars on it’s underside as she slid her fingers up and onto his shoulder, gripping him tightly. Her nails dug deep and he grimaced, an expression that walked a line between pain and rapture.
Only when she felt his fingers push their way under her loose shirt did she realise that her other hand was now free. Elizabeth reached up to caress the side of his face feeling it damp with either sweat or sea water, and the flour from her fingers clung to the moisture, a pale blemish against the tan of his skin. His eyes closed as her fingers slid into his hair, grazing the skin at the nape of his neck. She felt his hand move higher under her shirt and then stop. His eyes opened, a look of sorrow and questioning within them and it was then she realised that he touched the thin scar that ran between her first and second rib. Jack’s fingers ran lightly over the ugly ridge, so gently, that she could barely feel his touch on the flesh that was as good as dead.
A cough and a shuffle of boots on wood caught the attention of them both and Elizabeth sat up hurriedly, pushing Jack away. A groan escaped him and he fell onto his back, one leg crooked, arm slung across his eyes.
Elizabeth pushed herself to her feet and turned to face Ragetti who had his back to them and was squirming in embarrassment. “Beggin’ your pardon, Cap’n, but I thought you’d want to know.”
“Yes, Ragetti?” asked Elizabeth, trying to quickly tuck her shirt back into her breeches.
“It’s the Dutchman, Cap’n. She’s just surfaced five miles off the port bow.”
He was here. Ten years of waiting, of not knowing and he was here - within rowing distance.
“Thank you, Ragetti,” she whispered and he scampered away up the ladder. What do I do? Elizabeth thought. How do I act? Suddenly she was at a loss and completely unprepared, unsure how this reunion was supposed to go.
Then she heard the slow footsteps on the deck above, clear and distinct over the myriad other sounds, and she knew that it was him. It was at that moment Elizabeth realised she couldn’t remember the last time she had pictured his face. She thought of him often, it was true; remembered moments they had shared, things they had said to one another, but she couldn’t recall when she had last seen the clear image of his face in her mind. Now, try as she might, the image would not be summoned and all she could see was a hazy, indistinct impression; eyes, hair, a mouth that flickered in her memory but was quickly replaced by that of another.
Elizabeth turned to look at Jack, searching for some guidance from him, something that could tell her what she was supposed to do now. He stared back at her intently, a frown furrowing his brow, eyes deep and black and inscrutable. He parted his lips as if to speak but then stopped, swallowed and turned away.
On her own, then.
It’s Will, just Will, she told herself and strode resolutely towards the ladder to go and greet her husband.
His back was the first thing she saw as he stood, looking down at the four shrouded bodies at his feet. He seemed taller than she remembered, and somehow more solid, more real than her crewmen, who stood at a distance from him, afraid to approach. The black of his shirt was stark against his surroundings and Elizabeth suddenly felt faded and insubstantial in his presence.
“Will?” She was almost afraid to have him turn round, but turn he did and a thick sob burst forth from her. How could she have ever forgotten his face? It was just the same. Unlined, unaffected by ten years at the helm of the ship of the dead. He was Will. How could she ever have forgotten him?
I can save her for you, Miss Swann.
“Oh Will!” Elizabeth ran forward, closing the distance between them in an instant. She threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder, tears coming freely now. “It’s you. I can’t believe it’s you.”
“Elizabeth,” Will breathed into her hair. His arms wrapped around her, strong and warm, holding her tightly, without guile or restraint. She could feel his heart beat strongly and steadily in his chest, so unlike the ugly, empty chasm of Davy Jones. It had been so long since anyone had held her like this and, for one blissful moment, she felt completely safe.
Then she remembered her dishevelled appearance and the blood and flour that covered her face and hands. Reluctantly, she pushed herself away from him and laughed, self-consciously. “I’m sorry. I’m getting you all…” But the sentence trailed away when she looked at his shirt and saw that it remained clean.
“You’re bleeding,” said Will with concern and raised his hand to her forehead. Instinctively, Elizabeth pulled back from the touch and then cursed herself when she saw the look that passed over his face.
“It’s nothing,” she replied, wiping her forehead and trying to make light of the moment. “Just hit my head during the storm.” But Will wasn’t listening anymore; his gaze was focused over her shoulder and she followed the line of his sight.
Jack was walking towards them, shrugging himself into a dry shirt. Flour still clung to his skin and on his cheek Elizabeth could see the white line that her thumb had traced. She flushed at the memory of what had almost happened not five minutes before.
“Hello, Jack,” said Will, his eyes darting between the two of them as if in query.
“Uh, some of our supplies were damaged. Jack was just… just helping me…”
“Let it go, love,” said Jack, without looking at her. “I don’t think your husband is here to listen to stories about our petty vexations.” He came to a stand next to her and, after a pause, said, “Hello, William.”
“Captain Turner,” said a voice behind Will, “it’s time.”
With a glance at Elizabeth, Will nodded and turned back to the corpses at his feet. His men gathered next to him and it was then that Elizabeth first noticed Bootstrap who stood close by his son’s shoulder. Silence fell on the deck of the Valioso as, to a man, they waited in wonder at what was to come next. Will crouched on one knee next to the first body. He placed his hand on the shroud-covered head and spoke.
“Do not fear death,” he said softly and stood back. Elizabeth gasped when she saw the corpse was gone. In its place stood a man; O’Sullivan, who’d been with her crew barely a year and had breathed his last that very morning. Yet here he was looking around in bewilderment as if unsure of his surroundings.
“Now, that is interesting,” murmured Jack. They watched as Will repeated the ritual with the three other bodies until all four of the dead men stood on the deck.
“Captain?” said O’Sullivan, uncertainly, turning towards her. “What’s happening?” But Elizabeth couldn’t answer and was glad when Will grasped the man by the shoulder.
“Come with me,” he said, his voice soothing.
“I’m afraid,” said O’Sullivan.
With the help of his crewmen, Will guided the souls of the dead to the side of the ship. He turned back to Elizabeth and smiled. “I’ll come back,” he said. “Don’t leave.” And then he stepped through the solid rail and vanished. Elizabeth ran forward, a strange sense of despair settling upon her at Will’s departure, like she was lost again, adrift.
…I won’t leave you…
“Will!” she called, desperately, clinging to the rail of her ship.
“Let me be, Jack! He can’t leave me again. Will!” But the Dutchman was too far off and she doubted that he could hear.
“Elizabeth,” said Jack, more firmly this time and she felt his hand on her arm, turning her gently towards him. His eyes held that same solemnity as on the night she had last seen her father.
“The moment‘s not yours, love.” As Jack spoke, something flared in the corner of her vision. Upon the deck of the Dutchman a light was growing. It was golden, turning the faded and broken wood of the Valioso into precious metal, filling the sky with such brightness that she and Jack had to shield their eyes.
“Oh,” sighed Elizabeth and for the briefest of moments she was seized by a strange longing. The light grew, blinding her, filling her vision until it was all she could see. And it seemed at that moment that the Dutchman had vanished from the ocean. Then it faded; the sky was blue again, the Dutchman sat at anchor across the water and Will stood at her shoulder.
“What was that?” she asked, but Will only smiled. It was then that Elizabeth realised she’d been wrong to think him unchanged. This was no longer the shy Will Turner she’d known for most of her life; not even the headstrong pirate at whom she’d so impetuously hurled her hurried wedding vows all those years ago on the deck of the Pearl. Before her stood the Captain of the Flying Dutchman, Custodian of Lost Souls, the last face dead sailors would look upon before their final voyage. This man was a stranger and Elizabeth knew then that her husband was lost to her forever.
There’s no one left to save you…
“We have a lot to talk about,” said Will.
Elizabeth nodded wondering how much she would tell him; and how much she would have to conceal.