Author: Laura H fried_flamingo
Chapter Rating: NC17
Category: angst, romance, AU
Disclaimer: The Mouse owns all.
Previous chapters here
Every night she makes the same wish. That when she wakes there could be a moment of blissful ignorance; a brief, but beautiful, second of oblivion when she doesn‘t remember the events that have led her here. She thinks she deserves that at the very least. But God, it seems, is not so kind that He sees fit to grant this wish. Realisation dawns the moment she opens her eyes and she thinks maybe it’s the light that hastens it. At home there was always an ocean glow that rippled on the ceiling; a strange brightness that could only be the reflection of sunlight on water. Here the light is different; sometimes golden, but mostly grey and the only time she notices any difference is the December morning when the first snow falls.
She wakes, immediately aware of the muted stillness; a cushioned lack of noise like someone has stuffed cotton in her ears during the night. That morning she opens her eyes and for a fleeting moment she’s not in England; not in the tiny cottage in this anonymous little Yorkshire town, but not quite in the Caribbean either. She’s somewhere else, somewhere in between the here and there, and for a second she fools herself into thinking he might be waiting outside.
The hastily opened curtains, however, reveal the same garden, the same path leading to the same little cobbled street, only now they’re draped in a white powdered shroud. Both the garden and the street are empty, bled of all colour, and she feels, with renewed sadness, the deep sense of loss that has hung low in her chest this past year since World‘s End.
Elizabeth Turner is a lifetime away from home and she is alone.
She hears a familiar tinny rattling, drawing closer to her cottage. Usually this noise is accompanied by the slow clop-clop of the farmer’s horse and the weary creak of wheels on cobbles, but today the snow muffles these sounds and all she can hear is the low clang and clank of the milk urns as they rattle together in the cart. Oddly, this noise goes some way to lift her mood and dispel a little of the melancholy that had begun to take hold. After a year spent in this town, where suspicion looks out from behind every curtain and broad smiles give way to narrowed eyes, the twice weekly conversations with Mr Pettigrew have become her only link to the world around her; a sail on the horizon when she feels marooned in this tiny village, with its grey stones and granite faces.
Elizabeth endured the polite interrogations when she first arrived here; a woman alone with means enough to rent a cottage would always raise eyebrows and so she let them ask their questions.
An inheritance from her father who was in trade in London. Widowed, sadly, her husband lost in the service of King and country. No children. No family. So the smiles would tighten and Elizabeth could see the judgments being made behind cold eyes.
Pettigrew, though, bears no such ill will. People are a mystery to him, she’s learned, regardless of their stories.
“There’s none can judge save the Almighty alone, Mrs. Turner,” he’d said before, though their conversation related to something other than the narrow minded opinions of the townsfolk. “Tha can do what tha likes behind tha’s own front door, ah care nowt for it. Ah knows kye and me concern stops there.”
In this grey, lonely little town, Pettigrew is the closest thing Elizabeth has to a friend.
She pulls her nightgown over her head and runs naked and shivering to the washstand, where the ice cold water makes her breath draw in sharply. Dressing hurriedly, she catches her hair back into a loose bun, tendrils flying free in a way that she knows will generate much chatter should anyone see her. She wonders what they would’ve said if they’d seen her as she was on the deck of the Pearl, dressed in men’s clothing, hair hanging brazenly around her shoulders, calling on her brothers and sisters to hoist the colours and wage war on tyranny. The thought brings a sly grin to her face as she throws her shawl around her shoulders.
Grabbing the milk pail from the pantry, she opens the front door, just as Pettigrew approaches the gate.
“Good morning, Mr. Pettigrew. Quite a flurry we‘ve had, eh?” Her boots crunch on the thick, white carpet and the sound seems foreign, like nothing she’s ever heard before, though she’s sure she must have done, as a child.
“‘Ow do, Mrs Turner.” The old man greets her with a slight nod and no smile, though his eyes twinkle, belying his dour demeanour. “Aye, quite a morning, but no good for us best milkers. The cowd gets the beasts mardy and loathe to yield. Though tha’ll find thy provisions well chilled this morn. Hand me thy bucket and ah‘ll teem thee some.”
He hauls an urn from the back of his cart and spins open the metal cap with practised ease, sloshing some of its contents into her pail. There are slivers of ice floating in the milk and for a moment she’s taken back to a strange mirrored sea where the cold slashed at faces and hands, and where the stars were spread out in a glassy blanket below.
The loud clatter of the urn against its neighbour rouses her and she glances over to where Pettigrew is hoisting the can back onto the cart. He’s watching her, this strange girl staring into a pail of milk like a seer trying to divine the future, but his expression holds no mistrust, only curiosity.
“There’s ice in it,” she says, for want of something better to say.
“Aye, lass.” Tiny white flakes have begun to fall again, settling gently on their hair and shoulders. It’s a strange sight, as if the sky is falling; here lies yet another forgotten piece of her childhood. A few flakes cling to the old man’s beard.
Elizabeth smiles as she looks around. “I don’t remember snow. We only ever had sunshine. Or rain if it was the season.”
“Tha dun’t get snow in London?”
Her heart stops for a moment. A stupid mistake; a careless slip of the tongue. She looks at Pettigrew but there is no surprise on his face and she realises that he knows far more about people than he likes to let on. Her smile broadens in reply and, for a second, there’s a glimmer beneath that thick greying beard and moustache; a glimpse of something that may just be the smallest of grins. But then it’s gone and the gruff expression falls back into place.
“Well, lass, ‘appen ah best be off. Ah‘ll sithee.” He tugs gently on the reins of his horse and the cart shudders into motion, but it’s only moved a few feet before it stops again and Pettigrew turns, reaching into the pocket of his battered greatcoat.
“Ah near forgot. A message were left for thee at farm t’other day.”
Elizabeth frowns, a vague tang of panic rising at the back of her throat. Someone has found her. She grips the gate post for fear she may turn and start running.
“A message?” Her voice is a whisper.
“Aye, a man came looking for thee.” He looks up at her with a frown, hand still rummaging in his huge pockets. “Strange thing though, when he asked if ah knew thee, thy name clear slipped me mind. Must be getting poorly up here in me old age, eh?” He taps the side of his head and this time the grin is definitely visible.
Thank you, Elizabeth wants to say, but instead she smiles back and nods.
“He did leave tha summat, though.” Pettigrew’s hand finally emerges from his pocket and in it is clutched a grubby roll of pale leather tied with something dark and frayed. She lifts it from his outstretched palm and her breath catches when she realises that the binding is a strip of red patterned fabric, tattered and faded. Her cold fingers are suddenly numb, like they belong to someone else, and the scroll falls noiselessly onto the snow at her feet. The rag cuts a slash of crimson across the white surface.
“Careful, lass,” says Pettigrew, gently and bends to pick up the piece of leather. “A boggart can only scare thee if tha let’s it.”
“This man,” whispers Elizabeth, “what was he like?”
“A queer ‘un, true enough. Blathered a lot in some strange manner. Not from these parts, I tell thee that much.” His sharp eyes flit to Elizabeth as he hands the scroll over once more. “Sounded as he‘d been suppin‘ on a few ales, even though ‘twere barely past sun up. From London, mebbes?”
“Yes, maybe,” she replies, her lips and mouth suddenly dry in the cold air. “What did… what did he look like?”
Pettigrew shrugs at the question. “One man looks much like t’other in my eye, Mrs Turner. I can’t recall how he looked.”
Frustration begins to claw at Elizabeth’s chest, but the farmer’s next words forestall the sensation.
“Gave a name, right enough, though ‘appen it were a falsehood. ‘Twould be a queer chap would name hissen after a spuggy.”
Elizabeth searches her mind for the few colloquial words she’s picked up during her year spent in the Dales. Seeing her expression Pettigrew chuckles and she thinks perhaps it’s the first time she’s ever heard him laugh.
“A spuggy, lass.” Hooking his two thumbs together, he flaps his hands, sketching an imitation of a bird’s wings. “Like yon little bird, tha knows. Like a sparrow.”
With shaking hands, Elizabeth pulls at the tiny strip of red cloth and unfurls the scrap of leather. Her hand flies to her mouth at what is written upon it. A vague but recognisable outline of the Yorkshire coast has been drawn and at the edge of a tiny cove the letter J has been scrawled. Next to this, words have been scratched in a fine, spidery hand. The hand is unfamiliar for she has never looked upon it before, but his voice practically leaps from the map’s thin grimy surface.
Here be Treasure, savvy?
“’appen tha’ll be gettin’ agate soon enough, Mrs Turner eh?” asks the farmer, a touch of knowing in his tone.
“Happen I will, Mr Pettigrew. Happen I will.”
Pettigrew takes her as far as Skipton, where she purchases a seat on the stagecoach to Scarborough. A tatty duffel holds the few possessions she saw fit to bring with her. Among them are the shirt, breeches and waistcoat that she hasn’t worn since the day she stepped onto the dock at Portsmouth a year ago, battle weary and alone; that was the last day she saw the ocean.
There’s another outfit in her bag, crushed at the bottom, hidden from sight. She’s unsure why she’s kept it so long; the black brocade and Chinese silk do not belong to her anymore. Those are the clothes of the Pirate King and would look strange on Mrs Elizabeth Turner, but if she reaches far enough into her bag her fingers may brush that fine material and she might close her eyes and imagine that if she were to clench her fist, her hand would close upon the hilt of a sword.
There is no sword though. No pirates anymore, nor battles. Yet here she is sitting in a cramped coach on her way to meet with a ghost.
“There’s a wark about thee, lass. A pain in thy gut, like kye wi’t twisted belly. See that tha cure it soon, eh?”
Pettigrew’s parting words echo in her ears and she thinks how much she’ll miss him. Elizabeth realises then that she has prepared herself never to return to the village; the refuge which had become her prison.
Do you think he’s come to rescue you? Do you think he’ll take you with him when he wouldn’t before?
Her normal instinct would have been to silence this inner voice that enjoyed tormenting her in whispers, but that was before he’d sent the map. He has come for me, she tells herself, he’s come to take me home. There’s another voice though, that reminds her of the name she bears and the promise she made. Guilt jolts through her with every lurch of the carriage, but Elizabeth knows that it won’t halt her journey.
On the second day of travel she lets her eyes drift closed and sleeps fitfully until the sea-tang scent rouses her and she feels she might weep from the comfort of it. The coach arrives in Scarborough and the passengers disembark. It’s market day and she buys cooked haddock wrapped in oiled paper from one of the many fish stalls on Nether Westgate. The hot, white flesh crumbles in soft flakes on her tongue and she closes her eyes as it slips down her throat, reluctant to give up the flavour in her mouth so easily, yet eager to take the next bite. There was no taste, she remembered, like that of fresh fish which had, that very morning, been swimming in the briny.
The coachman she finds supping on a mug of ale in one of the local taverns, ready to spend his earnings from the trip, but after a few words and coins are exchanged, he agrees to take Elizabeth further down the coast, closer to the cove. She has already begun to think of it as Jack’s Cove.
The low winter sun has skirted the horizon all day and by the time she reaches the spot marked on the map, most of it has already fallen below the world‘s edge. From her place on the cliff top Elizabeth strains her eyes in the failing light, desperate to catch a glimpse of black sails, but the dark waters offer nothing in return and she feels a despair like none she has suffered before. Then she sees it; a glint of yellow just off the coast. A lantern! It stutters once and then glows, bright as ever and Elizabeth fancies that the Black Pearl has just winked at her. She utters a choked sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sob and sets off down the cliff, slipping on loose rock and gull droppings, determined to reach the shingle beach.
Once there, however, she realises she has no way of alerting him to her presence. A fire perhaps, but she remembers that she neglected to bring a flint. A biting wind lashes at her, sharp as the cat, and tears run down her face as she scans the length of the beach for dry driftwood. But tide and weather have left all wood sodden. Desperation builds and she’s crying freely now. The Pearl could sail at any moment and he’d never know that she was here, never know that she’d come to him.
Elizabeth sinks to her knees, sobs choking in her throat and beats the coarse sand in helpless fury. “Jack!” she screams into the gathering dark, knowing that the Pearl is too far out for him to hear. “Jack!”
“Right here, love.”
She falls back onto the sand, at the sound of the voice. For a moment, she wonders if the half light has fooled her and the figure before her is a phantom. Then he walks over and pulls her to her feet and into his arms and he’s solid and real. Elizabeth holds on tight, her face buried in the warm, dark skin at the curve of his shoulder and neck, knowing that if she opened her lips she could taste the salt of him.
Gently, he pulls her from him, hands smoothing the loose hair from her face and she wonders if he thinks she’s changed. He’s very much the same she decides, when her wits begin to return to her. Wild and beautiful; a Caravaggio in vibrant oils against this twilight landscape. He is Jack Sparrow, come back to her.
“Now tell old Jackie, what wrong did this beach do you that you should pummel it so?”
“Oh Jack,” she says and laughs, before she’s seized by a shiver that sets her teeth chattering. He pulls off his coat and swings it round her shoulders, over the finer wool of her own coat.
“Looks like it’s pneumonia I’m saving you from this time, love. Come on.” He gestures with his head along the beach and there Elizabeth sees a tiny shack with the glow of a fire emanating from within. The very sight warms her.
“Current owner said he didn’t mind me using it for as long as takes me fancy,” says Jack as they head towards it. “Or, at least, I’m sure he would say that were I ever to meet him.”
The shack is mostly bare save a chair, a table and a small bed but the fire in the grate makes it cheery and inviting. Fishing tackle and nets hang from the walls, but they are strewn with cobwebs and dust. Elizabeth smiles as Jack wedges the chair up against the door to keep it shut, the broken wooden latch no longer serving its purpose.
“Take what you can, eh Jack?”
“Only when necessary, love, only when necessary.”
“Your idea of necessity would, perhaps, be slightly at odds with that of most law abiding citizens.”
“Law is a filthy word, Miss Swann. People like you and I should not be subject to it.”
“Our actions cannot always be governed by inclination alone.”
Their eyes catch then, their gazes lock and Elizabeth wonders what happens next. Should she tell him that she’s ready to go? To stand on the deck of the Pearl again? To stand with him? Her nerve fails her though and she decides she’ll wait a little longer and let him broach the subject. Jack clears his throat, scratching his cheek and a faint smile draws Elizabeth’s lips up at the corners. He’s nervous she realises. Captain Jack Sparrow is acting like a suitor in her father’s parlour and the idea amuses her greatly.
“Sit down, love,” he says. “You must be dog-tired after that trip. The chair‘s serving another purpose at the moment, but I daresay the bed would be more comfortable anyway.” Elizabeth willingly follows his instruction and its only when she sinks into the surprisingly soft mattress that she realises just how tired she is. She pulls off both Jack’s coat and her own, before drawing the former over her like a blanket. Cold and travel weariness notwithstanding though, sleep is the furthest thing from her thoughts. There is too much to say; too much to discover.
Rather than joining her on the bed Jack sits on the floor, leaning his back against the wall, arms resting on his knees.
“So tell me, Lizzie,” he says and her heart leaps at the name. No one has called her that for over a year and even before that, no one but him. “What offence has befallen you that you should take it out upon the defenceless sand?”
Elizabeth’s eyes drop and her cheeks flush at the state in which he’d found her.
“I… I thought you’d think I hadn’t come. That you’d sail without me.”
When he replies Jack’s tone is soft but incredulous. “You thought I’d leave without seeing you? After two days you thought I’d leave?”
"Truth be told, I didn't think to see you here at all." She smiles, hesitantly, and summons the courage to broach the reason for his return. "So what does bring Jack Sparrow to England? What treasure is there to be found on these shores?"
She shifts on the bed, moving hopefully towards him, but he drops back and looks away, his face clouding as if thinking on something. "The seas are empty, love. No treasure left anywhere… At least, none that I dare claim as me own."
Disappointed and confused by his reply, Elizabeth leans back on the bed and closes her eyes, letting the hush-hush of the waves soothe her.
“I didn’t think I would ever hear it again,” she whispers, as much to herself as to Jack.
“How could you ever say goodbye to it?” asks Jack, not having to question what she’s talking about.
“I didn’t have a choice. I’d lost…” She pauses, looks down at her hands, her voice on the verge of breaking, and takes a breath before continuing. “I’d lost too much. It was never the life I‘d asked for anyway.”
“No one asks to be a pirate, Lizzie. The briny calls and you have no choice but to listen.” Jack’s forehead creases and he turns to stare into the fire. The light glints on his beads and turns the black kohl around his eyes a molten brown. “Will wouldn’t have wanted you to stop living. He wouldn‘t want you to deny who you are.”
“I didn’t. I’m not.”
Elizabeth recoils at the note of judgment she’s convinced she hears in his tone and she feels the need to defend her choices. “I was never a pirate, Jack, remember that. I was a governor’s daughter whose fate was determined by circumstance. The sea isn’t where I belong.”
“You keep tellin’ yourself that, darlin’” His voice holds a trace of bitterness and Elizabeth finds it difficult to look him in the eye, so she turns to picking at the loose threads on the sleeve of his coat. “You think you are who you are because of Will? Hah! Your husband was a blacksmith, love, and if things had gone according to his plan then you’d be living in Port Royal churning out brats while he played with his swords all day.”
Anger flares inside her suddenly. How dare he judge? How could he know what she has endured when he, just like everyone else, abandoned her? She doesn‘t have to answer to him for the life she leads now. Suddenly the idea of setting sail with Jack Sparrow seems a silly, childish notion, born of boredom or loneliness; after a year of being suppressed, her anger, fear and frustration burst forth in a surge of temper.
“Don’t say those things! Don’t ever speak of Will like that! You‘ll never be the man he was!” she spits in anger, regretting her words even before they pass her lips, but Elizabeth knows her ire comes, partly, from the truth Jack spoke. Will had never been a pirate and this fact makes his fate all the harder to bear.
Jack slumps against the wall and doesn’t argue back and she knows it’s because he believes her last sentence to be true, even though she doesn’t. She wants to say sorry, that she didn’t mean any of it, but the apology stutters in her throat as the air in the shack turns icy despite the warmth from the fire. This isn’t how it was supposed to be, and suddenly she’s gripped by the fear again that he’ll leave without her. The thought makes his next words all the more unexpected.
“I want you to take the Pearl.”
He turns to look at her, his expression more earnest than she’s ever seen it before.
“You’re a captain in need of a ship, Lizzie. I’d like to offer mine.”
“You’re not making any sense, Jack.”
He leaps, suddenly, to his feet, springing across the dusty wooden floor to crouch on one knee in front of her.
“What are you doing here, Lizzie? In England? In this place? You’re a pirate! A Pirate King and a warrior! I should fall at your feet! I should…” He shakes his head as if in outrage. “Instead you’re landlocked and miserable and waiting on bloody Will!”
“He’s my husband, Jack,” she says, quietly, though she doesn’t quite know for whose benefit the words are uttered.
Jack sighs and nods, the fervour gone from him suddenly. “Then you should be with him,” he says and there is a strange but terrible finality to his voice. “Take the Pearl, Elizabeth and find your lad. He may not be able to come to you but you might still find him.”
“But you…” Jack meets her gaze once more and it’s only then that Elizabeth understands and curses herself for a fool. He hasn’t come for her; hasn’t come to take her home. He’s here to give her his ship, to salve his guilt, perhaps, for his part in Will’s fate, and then say goodbye once more. How could he imagine her heart would bear it?
“No!” she spits, jumping to her feet and throwing his coat from her shoulders. “Damn you and damn your ship for I want neither! I‘ll wait for Will as I promised him and I‘ll not allow you to drag me back to the bloody ocean just to sooth your conscience!”
She rushes to the door and kicks the chair across the room. Outside darkness has fallen completely and an angry wind has blown in from the sea. It pushes the ramshackle door open and Elizabeth rushes into the black night. Moonlight picks out the shape of the rocks in blue outline and she darts across the shingle.
“Lizzie!” Jacks voice is faint, almost swept away in the howl of the wind, but she doesn’t slow her pace. The sound of his footsteps draw closer and she tries to run faster, but the pebbles of the beach shift and slide beneath her feet and suddenly she loses her footing altogether and tumbles. An arm encircles her waist before her fall is complete and he’s pulling her back, his hand gripping tightly at the material of her dress.
“I won’t go, Jack!” she sobs. “I won’t go! Not without you!”
Jack spins her around to face him. He is a silhouette in the moonlight, his expression inscrutable in the darkness, but she can hear his breath, low and ragged in his throat. His arm is fixed tight around her waist and he’s pushing her backward until she feels her body slam into the hard rock of the cliff face and then his mouth is upon hers.
No chaste kiss is this, as he pushes his tongue into her mouth, lips moving frantically across hers. This is hunger and desire and need and she knows she should stop for fear of losing herself, but his hand is pulling at her skirts and his mouth has found her neck and her body no longer answers to the commands of her brain; it responds only to his touch. The night air chills her bare legs as Jack pushes the folds of her dress up around her waist. He hooks his hand under her knee, roughly pulling her leg up to encircle his hip and she can feel the hardness in his breeches as he grinds against her. Further down the beach the waves crash, pounding themselves into the rock.
“Oh!” At her gasp, Jack grins against the skin of her neck.
“Not even the half of it, love.” And then his hand is between her legs, and he’s touching her where only one man has touched her before but, oh god, not like this! Though she has little experience, she recalls giggled conversations of her maids in Port Royal and knows where she should stroke him. Reaching out, her hand finds where he strains against his breeches and she pushes with the ball of her palm, running it down the thick, hard ridge she feels there.
Jack groans, his mouth opening, teeth almost biting the skin at her shoulder. “Elizabeth…”
But this isn’t right, she realises suddenly, and pushes him away. “No,” she chokes, through laboured breaths. Jack staggers back, mouth still open, hands still reaching for her before he shakes his head, seeming to snap out of a daze.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, running a hand over his face. “I’m sorry, Lizzie.”
Elizabeth steps towards him, knowing that he has misunderstood, and smiles. “Like you said, Jack, I’m sure the owner of that shack wouldn’t mind us using it for as long as takes our fancy.” He raises his eyes as understanding dawns and grins before grabbing her hand and pulling her back along the beach towards the tiny hut where the fire still glows.
He’s already kissing her again by the time they reach the door and they fall through, landing heavily on the floor. Jack hooks the fallen chair with his foot and sends it sliding towards the door, wedging it shut again. The buttons are torn from her dress under his hands and he pulls it from her shoulders, casting his eyes over the thin petticoat below.
“You’re not wearing it,” he says with eyebrows raised. Elizabeth smiles and shakes her head.
“There are some bindings I refused to tie myself back into.”
“Shame,” says Jack with a leer. “I had almost looked forward to cutting it from you again.”
“Then you shall have to make do with…” His mouth crushes against hers, silencing her and she returns the kiss, fiercely. Soon the rest of her clothing has been thrown across the hut and she gasps as Jack smoothes his hands along the length of her naked body, before returning to that hot, wet spot between her thighs. Her flesh trembles beneath his touch and she grabs his shirt, pulling it open viciously and letting her lips and tongue caress his chest. The material rips apart and Jack sits back pulling off the remnants, followed by his breeches and boots. Elizabeth waits for him to lie atop her once again, but instead he pulls her from the floor and sits her astride him, his hands clutching at her back.
“Look at me, Elizabeth,” he whispers, urgently and when she does it seems that time has stopped, the moment crystallising between them. All artifice and ego are absent from his gaze and she knows in that moment that he is completely and utterly hers.
And I yours, Jack.
The thought leaves her unanchored, drifting and she clings to him, fingers weaving through his thick hair, drawing him, desperately, to her breast, for fear that he might float away.
He enters her, then, pulling her down onto him until his full length is inside her. Outside the waves crash against the cliffs, millennia of water moulding the hard rock according to its will. The noise fills her ears as she moves on top of him and it seems that the sea itself will crash over them as they thrust, fast and wild, into each other. She leans back, bracing herself on the floor, Jack’s hand on the back of her neck, as their pace quickens and he gasps her name over and over again. The waves are so loud now, their fury building and suddenly she is the sea. She is each wave and current. She is the ebb and flow of the tide as it rushes to and from the shore. She is the maelstrom; she is Calypso, her power and her freedom knowing no bounds. And then she’s falling, like a gull, diving down towards that ever moving landscape; down into Jack’s arms and they sink together under the water. No breath need fill her lungs, for as long as she is with him, she is alive.
The shadows grow long in the hut as the fire begins to die and they lie entwined on the bed, still naked and uncovered, her back pressed to his chest. Elizabeth watches, mesmerised, as Jack’s fingers slowly stroke the inside of her forearm, the embers glinting on the gems of his rings. A tiny pinpoint of light shines on the dark opal and for a moment it looks like an ink black eye watching her.
“Elizabeth?” he breathes in her ear and a shiver runs through her despite her weariness.
“You will take the Pearl, won’t you?”
She’s too tired to repeat the argument and, though she has no intention of accepting his gift, for tonight she’ll concede. “Yes, Jack, I’ll take the Pearl.” She feels him press a kiss to the nape of her neck, feels his breath shake in his chest and for a moment it seems…
She turns to face him, but his eyes are closed and his features indistinct in the dying light, so she kisses each of his eyelids and curls herself into his chest. His breath steadies and she feels herself fall into a slumber, but Jack speaks once more.
“Beckett was right, you know.”
Elizabeth doesn’t reply but a frown creases her brow.
“The time of the Pirates has come to an end. We’re part of a dying breed, you and I.”
“Shhh Jack,” she murmurs. “World’s End was long ago. It’s over and Cutler Beckett is a long time dead. We won, remember?”
“‘Twas but a battle we won, love, and even then it was a heavy price we paid. The war was lost before a flag had been raised. Even before the day I plucked you from the deep blue sea.”
“There will always be pirates, Jack. That’s the nature of it. Never shall we die, eh?”
He leans over her suddenly, his stare intense, whites of his eyes fierce in the gloom. The fading fire edges him in gold. “Do you mean that, Lizzie?”
“Jack, I…” Elizabeth laughs, softly, perplexed by his demeanour, by the passion in his words.
“You’re a pirate, love! Remember that, remember it for me! They might cut you or burn you, but don’t ever let them steal your soul!”
“Jack, I don’t understand.”
“Promise me, Lizzie! Promise me that much!”
She lifts her hand to caress his cheek, puzzled and frightened by his words, as if there’s a message there that she can’t understand; a portent that she’s unable to read. “I promise, Jack.”
He quietens at that as if taking comfort in her vow and sinks back onto the pillow, pulling her gently toward him and resuming the tender stroking of her arm. The fire has finally died and the room has chilled so he pulls the rough blanket over their bodies as they lie, board and board.
“You’re like a song, Elizabeth, with the music half written. Listen,” whispers Jack and brushes his fingers over her tired eyes, tenderly closing them. She hears the waves again as they caress the sand, the soft hush matching the rhythm of her breath. “That’s your music, my Lizzie. Never be without it again.”
No Jack, I won’t, she wants to say, but she’s too exhausted to move her lips, and so her last words to him go unspoken before sleep takes her.
In the morning, he is gone.
His clothes, his boots, his greatcoat are all absent and only her dress and petticoat lie strewn on the floor where he had thrown them the night before. Elizabeth pulls the blanket around her and rushes to the door. The Black Pearl is still at anchor, but she knows he is not aboard. He was saying goodbye last night and all she could do was fall asleep.
I should cry, she thinks, but knows that if she were to let her heart break now then the rest of her would shatter with it. She steps back from the door and something shifts under her heel. A folded piece of yellowed parchment lies on the floor, and on the front, in the hand that she now recognises as Jack's, is written her name. Her true name.
Captain Elizabeth Swann.
Inside the words, A ship can’t sail without its captain.
She turns back towards the door, to the beach and the sea beyond. The Black Pearl sits as if in wait.
“So you’re mine now,” she murmurs, but then mentally checks herself. Not hers. No matter who captains her, the Black Pearl will be never be anyone’s ship but Jack Sparrow’s. Custodian alone she would be, and she would take care of her hull and her deck and her sails in readiness for the day he would return.
Elizabeth picks her duffel bag from the floor and empties its contents onto the bed until she finds what she’s looking for. It seems only fitting for Captain Elizabeth Swann to dress the part, and her torn frock hardly seems appropriate.
If there had been another soul in the cove that day, they would have been surprised by the strange sight of a woman, clad in the black silks of an Eastern warrior, stepping determinedly from a ramshackle fisherman’s hut. They would’ve watched her as she strode down the beach to a waiting long boat, hair floating free around her shoulders, and wondered perhaps, at the meaning behind her song, carried by the breeze along the beach.
“…thieves and beggars, never shall we die.”