Vexed

A/n: I did it! I wrote a one-shot! I am ridiculously proud of myself! lol.

This could be considered a prequel to my fic Her Match. Or, not.

Rating: T, I think. Some adult themes, etc, though nothing spelled out too explicitly, for me anyway. If anyone objects let me know.

Length:3600 words.

Disclaimer: Duh. Do I look like a mouse in big yellow shoes? Don't own it, mate. Make no money either. Just enjoying the scenery, as it were…


I.

Giselle regarded herself in the cracked looking glass of her vanity, re-pinning a stray blonde curl. Sparrow had always been a hair-puller, she was used to that.

She thought she was used to all of Jack's quirks.

He'd never been a man to bring another woman's name to bed with him though. That one was new.

With long fingers Giselle pressed her cheeks. Still supple, she reckoned. The years hadn't been as hard on her as some in her profession. She was still beautiful, she determined with an appraising eye. Then why…

Why?

"So who is she?" Giselle spat, rather more acerbic than she originally intended. It was a foolish whore who let her emotions get the best of her, but she supposed she'd crossed that line with Jack a long time ago.

Jack looked up from pulling on his boots, distraction upon his handsome visage. "Whut?"

"Elizabeth," Giselle huffed. "Lizzy. You said her name three times. Who is she?"

"Hmmph," he grunted, stomping his other foot into his boot. Something vexed her pirate captain, without a doubt. Or more like, someone.

Jack had the grace to look embarrassed, but he did not apologize or offer explanation. Did not flash that gold-glinting smile and charm away her fears with a few well-worded if not insincere placations. Giselle knew that Jack thrived on mischief, and so her continual act of gentle disapproval was a game they had always played. But this –this felt like a slap in the face, and Jack had never been so callous before. She was a woman who fancied she'd seen it all by now, but she found herself uncertain what to do.

Jack continued dressing, wrapping that faded red sash about his waist, clipping on all his various effects with those dexterous fingers she so adored. He buckled his belts and tucked in his pistol—a wise man never went unarmed on Tortuga, even in the company of friends. He swept on his long coat and slipped his baldric with cutlass over his shoulder.

The act of watching Jack Sparrow dress was a thing that had always moved Giselle in a way she could hardly put a finger upon. She took pleasure in watching his movements, in the way she did not with most of her other customers. She supposed it was the closest she would ever get to something even slightly resembling domesticity between them. And then there was the fear—always that little cold ball of dread locked at the base of her throat—that he would not return from whatever adventure he set out upon next.

The most recent one had been a close one, she'd heard, with a noose around his neck in Port Royal up till the last minute, though the complete details eluded her as of yet. There was always Gibbs for that. No one spun a yarn like Joshamee Gibbs, especially when you bought him a drink.

Fully adorned with accoutrements, Jack withdrew a gold coin from his purse, placing it on the edge of her vanity with a click that somehow struck Giselle's heart like a lead ball. When he had the coin, Jack always paid too much. When he didn't, well, she was happy to give it for free. His silver-tongued promises, his oddball kindness, his generosity between the sheets—that had always been more than enough compensation.

She'd known Jack since she was a very young woman, fresh off the boat and so naïve, just run away from England. She'd fled an aunt who treated her like a slave and an uncle who liked to diddle her behind the barn. She and Jack had been friends and lovers from the start. They had learned so many lessons about life's sharp edges together. Later, in her darkest hours, only the thought that Jack would come to her again, would laugh with her again—would love with her again—had kept her from slitting her wrists, disgusted with the thought of one more man putting his hands on her for money.

She had been the first to paint Jack's eyes with kohl, one playful rum-soaked evening when they'd stayed up all night together, talking about where they'd been in life and where they wanted to go, telling jokes, sharing their hopes and fears, and of course fucking like rabbits like only the hopelessly young can do. He'd liked the fierce edge the black stained eyes added to his almost feminine beauty. He'd been teased as a younger man for being pretty, and pestered on long voyages for it night he'd told her of the treasure of the Isle de Muerte, and how he was going to be rich as a king and he would bring some of it back for her too. It was a common theme for Jack, something he always said no matter what treasure he pursued. She took comfort in that consistency, even if it never came true.

Now she sensed everything had changed somehow. He had changed. They had changed. She didn't understand why.

"I should charge you double for saying another woman's name," she let slip, and immediately she looked away, unable to bear his dark eyes upon her. An incredible weight pressed down upon her shoulders, a darkness she had somehow kept at bay all her adult life, until that moment. All her illusions suddenly seemed cracked and broken as the old mirror before her. She wasn't exactly young anymore, and without Jack as he'd always been before—she was all out of dreams.

An unbidden single tear slipped out of the corner of her eye, and angrily she swiped it away. Really, Giselle, she chided herself. Crying? She hadn't cried since she was sixteen, still fresh as a lily. It was a useless exercise, and exhausting too.

There was a long pause before Jack answered, "Aye, ye should."

There was the clink of two more coins on the dresser table, and a wretched sob ambushed Giselle, shaking her body like an earthquake. She tried to hold it back, but found she couldn't.

She simply couldn't, anymore.

Amidst the maelstrom there were hands upon her, firm but gentle, strong arms that scooped her up and held her. Giselle tried to push Jack away, but he wouldn't let her, holding her wordlessly like rigging secures a sail in a storm. In the end she relented, and Jack let her weep upon his chest, his hand upon her head as though he comforted a child.

He knew what it was like to love someone you could never have.

Maybe he was a pirate and a scoundrel too, but deep down Jack Sparrow had a tender heart. It was something Giselle had always known.

II.

A few nights later, Jack found Giselle upon the balcony of the brothel overlooking the street. She was supposed to be flaunting her wares, playfully calling out to the inebriated passersby to drum up some business inside. However, she cut a solemn picture, her kohl smudged already, as though she'd not taken the pains to re-do it for the evening.

Giselle had tracked down Gibbs the night before, and plied the whole story of the Black Pearl/Barbossa/Isle de Muerte affaire from Jack's first mate with a few flagons of grog.

"So, a Governor's daughter, Jack? That's a lofty dream, even for you."

Jack paid her a crooked smile that didn't quite meet his eyes. For some reason it pulled at Giselle's heart-strings, when he simply answered without his usual round-about embellishments, "I know."

She could hardly believe herself, when she pried further, "What's she like?"

The pirate captain pressed his lips, oddly taciturn for what Giselle was used to from him. It echoed the way he'd been after Barbossa's mutiny. Jack Sparrow was on guard, she realized, and she supposed his heart was the treasure he stood vigil for.

She never thought she'd live to see the day.

There was a very long pause, so long she felt certain he would decline to reply. But finally, in an almost reverent tone she had never heard from Jack when speaking of anything, he answered, "She's smart. Clever. Infuriating. Wildly beautiful." Suddenly he smiled, and it was like the flash of the sun through a break in the storm clouds. She sensed him opening up, a rare thing indeed for Captain Sparrow, especially after the mutiny. He expounded, "Saucy chit got me drunk and burned all me rum."

So, this Elizabeth had outfoxed the fox.

Finally, Giselle thought that maybe she understood a little of what could appeal to Jack in a woman like that. Though she didn't know how a man could sleep soundly, beside a woman who he knew to be that devious. Giselle found it interesting that the first quality Jack named of this Elizabeth was her smarts. Usually a man starts with a woman's beauty, and goes on from there.

There was another long silence between them, though not so uncomfortable as before. Before she could stop herself Giselle found herself offering, "You know, Jack, I can be anything you want me to be." Once, she'd fancied taking up acting, before it all slipped away. She reckoned she could still play a part. Didn't she do that every day, anyway? Giselle thought of the lady she had kept house for, what felt like a lifetime ago, in London. How the woman had spoken, how she had held herself. Giselle lifted her chin to a haughty angle, straightening her spine. Her dockside cockney slur took on a crisp upper-crust diction as she said, "If it's a lady you want, Captain, you needn't go all the way to Jamaica to find one."

Out the corner of his narrowed eyes Jack regarded her, almost with suspicion. She watched his ringed hands upon the worn railing as he considered her offer, how they clenched at first, then relaxed to caress the wood with his usual light-fingered finesse. Giselle dared meet his eyes again, and for as well as she knew him she could clearly see that Jack was intrigued. She read like a line in a book that he knew this would hurt her, but he just might do it anyway. He was that lost to this girl, Elizabeth, the stuck-up little bitch.

Giselle pushed down a sharp stab of jealousy. Fuck it, she thought. If this was the only way she could have Jack now, really have him—well, so be it.

At last he admitted, "I might like that."

She canted her head, finding that she enjoyed this part, even if it stung. "It will cost you, of course."

A smirk curled Jack's perfect mouth, the twinkle returned to his obsidian eyes, that rogue's half smile that twisted the knife even further in her heart with longing. "It always does, darlin'."

With a nod Giselle inclined her head towards the French doors that led to her room. "Then would it please you to come inside, Captain?"

He offered a sweeping bow while doffing his tricorn hat, kissing her hand before holding the door for her. "After you, my lady."

Oh, no one could play a part like Captain Jack Sparrow. He was the master, well and truly.

As they walked inside Giselle quickly ran through her options. What next? She couldn't bloody well serve him tea, now could she? She thought of what she knew of his recent adventure, between what Gibbs had revealed, and the small pieces Jack himself had imparted. Gibbs too had explained Elizabeth's stunt with the rum, sending up a signal for the Royal Navy to follow, and subsequently lead Jack off in shackles. Selfish chit.

What the fuck did Jack see in that?

Only then did it dawn on Giselle. Elizabeth was like him, that was what he saw. She would do what was necessary to move forward, and deal with the aftermath later. Live to fight another day. In the end Jack had been freed, and she could marry her blacksmith, instead of the Commodore, yet another inexplicable turn in the plot, an obstacle for Jack that maybe he didn't care to even try to hurdle. He would rather lick his wounds and pine for what might have been. Sometimes, it was just easier to lose. The winners have to keep on going, and that can be more terrifying than actually losing the girl.

Maybe she made her living spreading her legs, but that didn't make Giselle stupid. Suddenly, she felt she understood it all, all too well.

Giselle took a moment to go to the basin, washing her face off all her smudged makeup. A lady wouldn't be caught dead painted up as she was every night, and it felt good to just wear her own skin. She glanced back at Jack to see his expression soften a little, his keen eyes missing nothing.

"Please, Captain, won't you sit?" she invited. "May I offer you a drink?" She had no glasses, they were all downstairs in the bar, but Giselle never failed to keep a bottle of something handy for the worst and the best nights. She rummaged in her trunk, removing the false bottom to reveal a bottle of cognac relieved from a French merchant ship not so long ago. One never knew what one might find in the markets of Tortuga.

Giselle ruminated on how to proceed. Did Jack want alady in general, or her. Elizabeth Swann. A Governor's daughter, which may as well have been a princess in the backwater of the Caribbee. She knew the answer to her question as soon as she asked it of herself.

It would be her.

She turned to find Jack seated in the only chair in the room, his long legs extended before him, those midnight-black eyes fixed upon her. The bottle dangling from her fingertips, she made her way to him with a hip-swaying walk, her steps slow and deliberate. She uncorked the bottle, offering it to Jack. He accepted, taking a single swig, before placing it upon her little side table.

So he wanted to be alert, she observed, rather than lost to oblivion.

She lowered herself to sit upon his lap, her posture still ram-rod straight. "Captain Sparrow, how glad I am that you have come to visit me."

An amused smile curled the side of his mouth, but the Captain said nothing in reply, simply watched.

Delicately she reached up to remove his hat, setting it beside the bottle upon her table. She traced the line of his bandana with a single finger, down to the sharp line of his jaw. God but he was handsome. It simply wasn't fair, for such a scoundrel to have been blessed with such a face.

"I do hope you're not too cross with me for burning all the rum," she teased, her pulse quickening as his gaze sharpened upon her. "Perhaps you'd hoped that we might stay on that island indefinitely, together." She caressed the braids of his beard, tugging at the beads a little. "What you must understand, Captain, is that I am a Lady, and you are just a dirty rum-swilling pirate. It's just not done."

Jack caught her wrist in his hand, his grip just this side of too hard. Her breath caught in her throat, her lips parted with excitement or even a tad of fear. Had she gone too far?

She realized she didn't know how to read this new side of Jack. The new uncertainty was exciting and terrifying, all at once.

The fingers of his other hand slipped into her hair, pulling her head back. His touch was firm, but not painful. Her bosom heaved as she took a shaky breath, her titillation no longer an act. "There is something to be said, love, on the subject of What Is Not Done."

Gently he traced her lips with his thumb, his touch feather light in contrast to the immovable hand in her hair. Lightly she trembled beneath his hands. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so affected by a customer, even Jack. That this would be the thing to stoke her fire…she didn't know. She just didn't know what to make of it anymore.

"What it all really boils down to is what a man can do, and what he can't do."

With hands on either side of her face Jack pulled her into a kiss, his mouth hard and demanding, yet somehow his lips so sensual and soft, his tongue gliding over hers. She melted beneath the onslaught, head spinning as though she'd just whirled a furious jig and drank a whole bottle of rum. Through his kiss she felt…oh god. She felt something profound, something she'd always tried like hell not to acknowledge the existence of in this hard world.

So had Jack, always, before.

She remembered asking him once, in a seemingly casual way, if he thought he could ever fall in love. Oh how he'd laughed at her, gold teeth shining in the candlelight. A fool's errand, darlin', he'd said. A mistake even Jack Sparrow knows better than to make.

Indeed.

Maybe he'd never say it, but Giselle knew just by the way he kissed her that Jack loved Elizabeth Swann.

The poor bastard.

The lucky chit.

Jack stood from the chair, hoisting Giselle in his arms as though she weighed nothing, carrying her to the bed. His hands upon her lacings were urgent, his mouth scalding upon her skin. He took her without another word, not a whispered false name or even an oath. He made her come with clever hands and wicked mouth and his taut sailor's body inside hers, every caress and kiss and thrust like a love letter burned into her skin. When at last he'd finished Giselle lay exhausted in his arms, certain that somehow he'd left a mark upon her for all to see. This belongs to Jack Sparrow.

Ah, but it wasn't her, Giselle, he made love to tonight, was it? she reminded herself, and with her face buried in his shoulder she felt the urge to cry again.

Sometime later, through the haze of sleep she felt his gentle kiss upon her cheek, before the pirate extricated himself to dress again. Giselle watched him through the curtain of her hair, her heart adrift.

"Will you go to Port Royal?" she found herself asking as he pulled on his boots.

He paused in his actions, masticating upon the thought before dismissing it with a shake of the head, his ropey hair swinging. "Nay, darlin'. Nothing but a hangman's noose for me there."

"I wouldn't be so sure." Jack frowned, looking up to meet Giselle's eyes. "And, if that's so then she's a silly little bitch who don't deserve you."

Jack tried to suppress a smile, but in the end those kissable lips twisted in a smirk. "I'll be sure to make that my opening argument."

"Jack," Giselle admonished.

Jack went on quietly, returning to his boots, "She has everything, darlin'. How could I ask her to come away with me. To this?" He made a sweeping gesture, including the whole of Tortuga in his statement.

Giselle pulled a pillow close, propping herself up. "Maybe she does. Then again, maybe she doesn't. Life's too short to let someone you love slip away."

She knew, all too well.

Jack shook his head again, but Giselle could see that glittering light in his eyes which meant he was considering an idea with some sincerity. He crossed the room to her, hooking her chin with a finger. "You're a wise woman, Giselle." It meant worlds to her that he chose to complement her smarts. She'd never given their merit much thought, before. "And, lovely without all that paint on. Should wear your own face more often."

That he would say such a thing to her after what they'd just pretended…Giselle felt her heart swell and simultaneously crack in two. Her lip quivered, but before she could speak Jack drew a small bag from his belt, placing it on the mattress beside her. "I came to bring you this, before we…got distracted."

Giselle weighed the small bag in her hand, raising eyebrows as its heft. "Jack?"

He offered no explanation, just a crooked smile before kissing her cheek once more. On quick feet he doffed his hat and exited the room, before she could rise and demand further explanation.

Heart pounding, she opened the bag, expecting maybe a few pieces of silver, or even lead for what the bloody thing weighed.

What spilled out on the counterpane shined like the sun.

Like Jack's smile.

Speechless, she stared with mouth agape.

She was still staring, when ten minutes later Scarlette came into her room, glancing around suspiciously for their Madam. She locked Giselle's door before kneeling by the bed. "Look what I found on my bedside table," she whispered, eyes alight with excitement, revealing a similar leather bag.

One glance amidst the bedclothes, and Scarlette saw that Giselle had received the same.

"Jack," was the only word Giselle could utter.

It was more gold than either of them had ever seen in their entire lifetime.

They exchanged wide eyed looks, eyes sparkling with possibilities.

It could be anything to them. Anything at all. Food. Clothing. Travel.A new life, a new identity. A cottage by the sea. A place of business of their own. A husband, a family. Anything, but what they were.

It was the keeping of a thousand gilded promises, long in the making.

In short, Jack's gift to them was freedom.

THE END

A note from the author: For those who might think our usually chatty Jack was too taciturn here…I thought maybe so too, but it just felt right as I was writing it, so I went with it. First instincts, all that. THEN I found a thing on the nets where Johnny Depp said something like if Jack was to ever really fall in love it would be a silent movie, he would be so freaked out. So, I stand by it. :)