Author: Laura H fried_flamingo
Rating: R (for adult themes and bad language)
Pairing: Jack/Elizabeth, Jack/Other
Category: Elizabeth PoV
Author's note: Ok, so this is the result of a little experiment salr323 and I cooked up in chat the other night. The challenge involved a random Word of the Day Generator, a limit of 500 words and a time limit of half an hour. The word we found was 'privilege', the word count for my story came in at more than double that and it took us both about an hour and a half ;D. Here's the link to Sal's fab Jack/Elizabeth two-hander Captain's Privilege.
It was the whore’s dress that first caught her attention. Elizabeth was sure she recognised the lush velvet and the cut of the bodice and, for a while, her mug of ale sat abandoned as she wracked her brain trying to remember why it was familiar. The memory proved elusive however, and soon Elizabeth found her thoughts more occupied by the owner of the garment than the garment itself. The woman wove back and forth, between the tavern’s tables, drawing the attention of almost every patron, entrancing them with the sway of her hips, the curve of her waist, the swell of her breasts. She was a whore, a body for hire; a body that would go hungry unless she could entice men to fuck her and pay for the service. The inn was her hunting ground and every male, or indeed female, was fair game.
Yet, by the stroke of a fingernail down a bearded cheek or a coquettish laugh thrown back over a shoulder, this woman had men believing that to lie with her would be a hard-won privilege; she whispered in their ears and turned away, and each man believed himself the predator with a quarry in his sights. Elizabeth had been witness to marvels outwith the ken of most men and she knew this to be magic, just as sure as the spells woven by Tia Dalma in her tiny shack.
To her chagrin, Elizabeth felt a pang of envy at the way the woman held these men in her thrall and she frowned, annoyed that such trivial matters should still concern her. What need had she now for pretty dresses and ribboned hair? She was a sailor, a pirate, a bloody King! Why should she covet the trappings of a dockside hussy? Nevertheless, Elizabeth found herself crossing her sinewed arms defensively across her skinny chest and slid further down in her chair. Across the room, the whore leaned towards one of the tavern’s drunken customers, displaying her own ample décolletage, which spilled from the low neckline of her gown.
That gown. Too fine, too rich for a whore plying her wares in this squalid tavern. Where had Elizabeth seen it before?
The drunken man made a clumsy grab for the whore’s backside, but her arm shot out, fingers gripping his wrist, and slammed his hand back down onto the table. The bright smile never left her face. The drunk blinked in confusion, as if trying to fathom what had happened in those seconds, but by then the woman was gone, sashaying across the tavern towards another admirer whom she might allow to part with coin, in exchange for a few frenzied moments of thrusting and grunting.
She was graceful, thought Elizabeth, feline, too elegant and refined for such a profession. The red dress notwithstanding, something in her poise belied her present circumstance and Elizabeth was struck by the notion that perhaps this woman’s journey through life had not begun in this stinking harbour town, that she was not born of poverty and had not always known hunger. She wondered if, perhaps, she’d had a lady’s maid in the past, if she had reached the age of sixteen without ever having to comb her own hair. Had she gowns aplenty once, reduced now to this single remnant of a once privileged life?
That gown. Why did it seem so familiar? Elizabeth’s arms itched in her rough hemp shirt, stained now with souvenirs of her life at sea; her feet seemed huge and clumsy in the sturdy boots that had served her well ever since that day had stowed away aboard the Edinburgh Trader.
Over the din of the tavern, heavy footfalls on the stairs drew her attention to the man on whom she’d been waiting for the better part of an hour. Business upstairs, love, he’d said, with folk whose lips tend to seal themselves in the presence of a stranger, ‘specially one so comely as yourself. She’d searched his tone for any trace of sarcasm, but was unsure whether she’d found any. Jack reached the bottom of the stairs and scanned the room, beckoning with a jewelled hand when his eyes found hers. Elizabeth pulled her tricorn low over her forehead, tucking sun-bleached strands of hair inside.
As she rose to leave, however, she caught sight of Jack standing in conversation with the subject of her recent contemplation. His head inclined towards the whore, lips whispering close to her ear, almost caressing the lobe. For the first time, since Elizabeth had begun watching her, the whore was still, her back pressed against the tavern wall. A smile fluttered, now and then, across her lips, but not the predatory smile she had flashed so frequently at the tavern drunks. This smile was something quite different and in the woman’s eyes Elizabeth saw something shine; an expression so raw and so sharp, the glimmer of a feeling so excruciatingly familiar. For the briefest of moments, Elizabeth felt her heart break for the woman. Then she moved towards the pair.
“Jack,” she said quietly, and his head turned towards her, trinkets jingling. The whore caught her gaze for a moment and then dropped her eyes. Elizabeth wondered what the woman had seen upon her own face. Jack turned back, murmured a few more words in the whore’s ear and then, with gentle fingers beneath her chin, tilted her face towards him. He pressed a kiss to the woman’s lips, so soft and yet so enticing that it made Elizabeth’s breath catch in her throat, and then stepped back with a sketched bow.
It was as he gathered her arm in his, that Elizabeth realised where the gown had come from; it was amongst the chest of fine dresses they had purloined just a few days before from a French merchant vessel, one of the garments that she had outwardly mocked along with the rest of the crew, all the while longing to savour the feel of the silks and velvets against her sea-roughened skin. She cast a glance back at the whore, saw her close her eyes, briefly, saw her breathe, deeply; then watched as she pushed herself from the wall and let the glamour fall back into place. The red velvet swished gracefully across the dusty floor, leaving men spellbound in its wake. Maybe tonight, it said. Maybe tonight you’ll be the lucky one.
Elizabeth felt Jack curl his gold-clad hand around hers and wondered if perhaps he had a penchant for young women, fallen from grace.