Author: Laura H fried_flamingo
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Pairing: J/E, some W/E
Category: angst, AU
Disclaimer: The Mouse owns all.
Previous chapters here
Only three more to go. We're nearly there, ladies and gentlemen :)
For the better part of an hour neither of them had spoken. Will stood at the window, silent but alert, and Elizabeth knew that he was waiting. She wondered how he would know. Did their voices call to him? The voices of the dead? Or was it the ocean herself that spoke, telling him that she had claimed another. Reluctant to break his reverie, she curled herself on her bunk and closed her eyes.
Seldom did Elizabeth let herself fall asleep sober, for it was then that the dream would return, it’s ending always the same. Now though, sleep came to her through a fog of exhaustion and doubt and the dream was different. In it, the Caribbean was a haze of vibrant greens and blues and yellows and life felt like a fire in her belly. The dream brought visions of a time when a voice had called her pirate for the first time and set her soul aflame, when the sugared burn of rum passed her lips but rarely and tasted all the sweeter for it. Suddenly, the colours of both sky and sea were washed to pewter grey and the voice she heard was Will’s, saying her name, asking her why she had left him…
Will leaned over her on the bunk, his hands gripping her shoulders, shaking her awake. As she opened her eyes, he smiled at her. Relief overcame her at his presence, at the knowledge he hadn’t died that day, and she pulled him to her, holding on tightly. Not a lover’s embrace, not anymore, but an expression of happiness that this good man had not perished upon the blade of the Devil. Her hands gripped the back of his shirt and he gently kissed the top of her head.
The door was thrown open and Jack burst in. “Lizzie! Oh… I… I didn‘t…” He frowned and his gaze dropped to the floor, fingers scratching awkwardly at his beard.
“Jack…” She trailed off not knowing how to explain this, unsure why she even felt the need for explanation. The awkwardness of the moment was cut short, however, by Will.
“It’s time,” he said, rising from the bed. “I know where she is.”
Passage to the Flying Dutchman was achieved by means of longboat rather than the strange method of travel usually employed by Will. Elizabeth suspected that this was on account of the unease already evident in many of the crew. It didn’t surprise her. All sailors, be they pirate, fisherman or naval officer had a strange relationship with their folklore; it held for them both fascination and fear. Many of her crew had balked at the prospect of accepting transport on Death’s galleon and, for a time, Elizabeth had half expected them to refuse to leave the Valioso.
Sense and curiosity had won out however and now they stood, awestruck, on the deck of the colossal vessel. How different the ship was from the last time she had been on board, how beautiful she had become. Gnarled, blackened wood had become rich oak, paled almost to the colour of ivory. The gargoyle faces, that once concealed the triple guns, had gone and in their place were carved angels with filigree wings. At the bow the Dutchman no longer snarled in a toothed sneer, but instead was adorned by fine wooden tendrils, scrolled in the shape of a wave’s crest. Elizabeth could not imagine a finer way to complete one’s final voyage.
“Well, young Turner, you’ve spruced the place up a treat, mate,” said a voice and she turned to look at its owner.
Jack was by her side, as he had been since they’d followed Will from the cabin. He’d ordered Ragetti into the second longboat so that he himself may sit next to her for the short journey and had seemed reluctant to be further than two feet from her at any time. She didn’t understand it and wasn’t sure she wanted to.
As she caught his gaze, he stepped toward her and seemed inclined to speak, but the moment was lost in the flurry of activity around them as the Dutchman’s crew prepared to make sail. They had spoken barely a word to each other since their encounter below deck on the Valioso. Now it seemed words were beyond either of them and Elizabeth was unsure whether she was still angry at him or whether… but that was too complicated for either of them to contemplate right now.
She turned to walk away, but before she could take a step Jack reached out and caught hold of her sleeve. “Need to speak with you, Lizzie,” he said, softly. “When this is over. There’re things… there are things that must be said.” Elizabeth’s brow furrowed in confusion, but she simply nodded her acquiescence, for she could think of nothing else to say. It seemed to satisfy him and he walked off, plucking a rum bottle from Ragetti’s hands as he went.
The atmosphere on board was strange, she thought. The crew laboured industriously, on the rigging, at the capstan, but there was none of the familiar frenzy or energy to which she was accustomed. Will issued his orders calmly and the crew obeyed, gliding around one another in silence. These were men who knew without words what was asked of them and needed little guidance in their endeavours; theirs was a duty that no earthly man or woman could comprehend. As much as her restless fingers longed for some task to occupy them, she left them to it.
Walking to the rail she sought solace in the only thing that remained constant, no matter what other troubles plagued her. The ocean moved as it always did, its water the same since time began and in it she found balance. Elizabeth closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
“He seems loathe to let you from his sight.” Jumping at the voice, she turned to find Bootstrap standing next to her. “Sorry, Captain Swann. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
This is my father-in-law, she thought, and he calls me Captain Swann. A laugh escaped her at the absurdity of it all, but Bootstrap appeared not to notice. “I’m not sure I know what you mean, Mr. Turner.”
“Bootstrap, please.” Elizabeth smiled, then raised her eyebrows in query. “Barely taken his eyes from you since you came aboard,” he said and jerked his head toward the quarterdeck. Elizabeth looked up and found Jack in conversation, it seemed, with one of her crew. His stance was casual, one hand leaning on the bulkhead, the other clutching his rum, yet not once did his eyes leave her. She felt a shiver course through her and, for a moment, the desire to go to him was overwhelming. Then she remembered the man standing next to her.
“We had a row earlier,” she said, turning away from Jack’s gaze. “I expect he’s devising some vile insult to hurl or a trick, perhaps, with which to punish me.”
“I don’t think it’s trickery that plays upon Jack’s mind. I’ve known the man a long time, remember. Knew him before I even knew me own son. I’ve seen that look but once before. When an East Indiaman sent his ship to the bottom of the briny and t’ain’t no secret the lengths he went to just to bring her back.” Bootstrap leaned towards her and clasped a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t underestimate what love’ll make a man do, Captain Swann.” He was gone before Elizabeth could form a reply, his words leaving her unbalanced once more. Her eyes again sought Jack’s, as a navigator seeks a familiar star in the night sky and, finding him absent, she tried in vain to ignore the feeling that she was utterly, hopelessly lost.
“Do you have a moment, Jack?”
“Got a million of ‘em, mate, or so I would hope. But then you‘d be a better authority on that than I,” replied Jack, forcing himself to hide his annoyance at being distracted from the object of his attention. Already he could feel his mind fog as a result of the rum he had consumed and, as he'd always done, knew it was time to stop. Part of the myth he’d created for the Captain Jack Sparrow of old was the idea that he journeyed through life in a perpetual stupor. It was useful, having them think he was a witless drunk, when the truth was he’d always known when enough was enough. Let them drink themselves into unconsciousness, while you eyed up the silver. It had always worked that way.
Apart from that one occasion, when intoxication hadn’t come from fermented sugar cane alone and, in a haze of song and fire, Jack Sparrow had let himself be fooled. Now he realised that, if given the chance, he’d let her do it all over again.
Jack corked the bottle, but didn’t set it down; it felt too comfortable in his hands, now, to let go. “What can I do for you, young Turner?”
“You know, Jack, most men I encounter would recoil in horror to hear you call me that. They’d think I’d have you marked as my next passenger for your impudence.”
“Most men don’t remember the whelp you once were. Ten years isn’t quite long enough for me to forget stockings and buckle shoes and I daresay you’re still prone to the odd ‘Avast’ or two.”
Will grinned and Jack returned the expression with genuine warmth. “I do need to talk to you, Jack,” he said, his tone sober.
“Then out with it, lad.”
“Not here,” said Will. “In my quarters.” With that he set off for the main deck and, giving one last look to where Elizabeth stood in conversation with Bootstrap, Jack had no choice but to follow.
Jack had set foot inside the captain’s quarters of the Flying Dutchman but once before, so his recollection of its appearance was somewhat hazy. He did, however, recall that it had been very different from this. It was vast for a start, larger than he would’ve thought possible looking at it from the outside. The walls were white, but glistened, like coral, and all around them was aglow. For the briefest of instants Jack recalled a moment from his early youth, he’d been perhaps fourteen or so. It was during one of his brief stays in Shipwreck Cove, when Teague had taken him diving amongst the labyrinthine caves of the island. They had spent the day in relative silence, exploring the dark caverns of strange plants and exotic fish, Jack feeling strange and awkward in the intimidating presence of his father.
As the day drew to a close, they sat upon a rock, drying themselves in the sun, but then Teague turned and seemed to consider his son carefully before saying, “Come, boy. I have something to you may yet wish to see.”
He plunged back into the water and, in an instant, disappeared from sight. Curious and also slightly anxious not to be left alone, Jack had dived in after him, having to swim with all the energy left in his body in an attempt to keep up. His lungs burned and, just when he thought his next breath would be a mouthful of saltwater, he saw a light ahead. Jack swam towards it, bursting through the surface, sucking in air with huge choking coughs.
“Are you trying to drown me, you old fool?” he shouted, through shuddering breaths, but Teague had merely chuckled. Then Jack had opened his eyes and realised why his father had brought him here. Around him the cavern shone. Crystalline coral, as white as angels wings, glittered upon every surface. The entire room was alight with a glow that young Jack knew could not be of this earth and upon the walls, the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean shimmered.
“Your mother’s cavern,” said Teague and gave no further explanation. “Remember it well, Jackie, for ye’ll see naught like it again on this earth.” And he never had. Until now.
“It’s beautiful, Will,” he breathed, all artifice forgotten for just a moment.
“I didn’t make it so,” replied Will, but smiled with pride all the same. “It just… changed. Over time.”
“Changed to befit it’s present owner, eh?”
“I don’t own the Dutchman, Jack. I think we both know that.”
“No,” Jack conceded, before his eye was drawn by the huge object, which sat at the opposite end of the room. “You play?” he asked, though he could not imagine the whelp as being the musical type, despite the assertions he’d made in the past about his singing voice.
Will turned towards the enormous pipe organ and shook his head. “No, that was Jones’. It’s always there, no matter how much the ship changes.”
Jack walked over to it and ran his fingers across the keys. This close, he could see how they had become encrusted with the silvery coral and how branches of it had woven themselves through the holes in the pipes. “Why’s it still here, d’you think?” he asked, not really addressing the question to Will. The boy answered, nevertheless.
“Who knows? Perhaps to warn of the dangers posed by the fairer sex?”
“Aye,” said Jack, nodding, “but they’re dangers we welcome all the same, eh?” Will’s expression grew serious at the turn of the conversation and Jack pulled his attention away from the neglected instrument, ready to face what the boy had to say to him. “And I’d hazard a guess that’s why I currently find myself at your leisure, so to speak. Am I right, mate?”
Will bowed his head and then said, “Don’t let her wait for me.”
“Don’t let her wait for me, Jack,” Will repeated, looking him in the eye this time. “I have a month left until my day upon land and I know she feels duty bound to honour the vow. But you can’t let her.”
Jack was thrown by Will’s request and could find no adequate reply. “Not entirely sure I’m following this, mate.” Will said nothing. “I have to confess, I’d expected to be hauled down here so that you might warn me off your woman.”
“Would you have conceded if I had?”
Jack considered this for a moment, not because he didn’t know the answer - it was the one thing now of which he was surest in this world - but because he wasn’t certain it was right for Will to know the truth of it. “No, I wouldn’t,” he said eventually, and Will nodded, apparently unsurprised by the revelation. “Calypso give you second sight as well as the skill for reaping souls, has she?”
“I don’t need to be Ferryman to know that you love her, Jack. There’s nothing mystical about reading what’s written on a man‘s face.”
Jack gave a quiet laugh. “So Captain Jack Sparrow is not the closed book he always hoped to be.” He frowned, considering the implications of the matter. “She must know then.”
But Will shook his head, a wry grin on his face. “Elizabeth is headstrong, but not foolish enough to fight a battle she thinks has no prize at the end. None so blind, Jack.”
“So I tell her then?”
“Not yet. There’s a way to go on this journey before you both reach the same destination.”
“Never thought I’d be taking advice on matters of the heart from the boy who once spent three hours a day playing with his swords. The roads we travel, eh?”
“Never thought I’d end up captain of this vessel, but such are the hands Fate deals.”
“Aye,” said Jack with a grimace, “but perhaps ‘twas a hand other than Fate’s what brought you here, mate.”
“No guilt, Jack. You didn’t condemn me. Know that. I’ve found fulfilment upon this ship and ’tis a better end than dying at the hand of Jones. A touch of Destiny I recall someone saying once, and I believe I am where I was always meant to be.”
Jack nodded. It didn’t seem right to argue. “So what about me? What about my destiny?” he asked with a grin. “You think a scoundrel like me has the right to one?”
Reaching into his pocket, Will laughed. “Not looking like that, you don’t.” He threw him a tiny object, which Jack expertly plucked from the air. When he opened his palm, he grinned at the little jade pot, ready to ask where on earth Will had found it, before deciding it wasn’t important. He flipped open the gold inlaid lid, but then realised there was one thing left to say.
“She’ll not wait for you, mate. I promise you that.”
“Good,” replied Will, solemnly, “for I shall never return. Thank you, Jack.”
Jack swallowed and blinked. The pungent smell of the pot‘s contents, he told himself, stinging his eyes no doubt. But it didn’t stop him from dipping the tip of his finger into the dark ayurvedic balm and smearing the thick black lines across his eyelids.
Let the ocean shine, he thought, let it try and dazzle me, for it will try and it will fail. I’m Captain Jack Sparrow and I’m back, and this time I’ll not be blinded.