Still the Beating Heart
All rights belong to their respective owners. I do not own Pirates of the Caribbean. I am aware that there is some controversy over whether Will is eternally bound to the Flying Dutchman or if he is allowed to live the rest of his life with Elizabeth and their son/sons(?) after ten years of duty on the ship. For this story, he is eternally bound to the ship as its immortal captain.
She gazed up at heavy, dark drapes that enclosed her bed like a slowly suffocating hand around a butterfly. The insect's wings were tarnished, bent out of shape, and she could no longer fly. If the hand meant to squash her, she wished it would come faster. She had been wishing that for three years. Why could death not take her soon, instead of letting her endure this unending suffering?
It had all begun with a sickness that rattled her skeleton a few winters back, and she had never been able to return to a healthy physical state. Her two sons and their families – all seafarers and blacksmiths, with the stray politician somewhere in the United States – had made sure she was never alone, and welcomed her into their homes, aiding her as she had once taken care of all of them.
It was hard on all of them to see the spirited woman reduced to a frail being where she had always been so strong. From young William's earliest memory to the first great-grandchild's birth, she had changed in appearance, but not in personality. In one fell swoop, that brave, determined woman was gone, and it had been especially difficult when her husband made his usual visit every ten years to find a much weaker, ancient person than he remembered.
As an immortal Captain of a fabled ship, he had remained the same from when he had left her on that sunlit beach for the first time sixty years earlier. Somehow, no matter how their outward appearance depicted them, they were not so far different from each other, and they enjoyed every visit he made to the fullest. But on that last visit three years prior, there was hurt on each other's faces, and no kind words to numb the inevitable fate that they knew was drawing near at hand. They had visited alone; no one else went to speak with them, even William and Henry only saw their father on the beach just before sunset.
As she laid in bed, she could still recall every word he had said that day. They had spoken on a great many things, mainly about her life with their two sons, born ten years apart, but who had formed an incredibly close bond with one another and their mother. They also plotted, but the key figure to their scheme – Jack – had not been seen in decades and was probably dead, though her husband said he had not seen the pirate in the Netherworld, and swore he would find Jack someday because there was no one else they could bind to such a fate.
His voice was so distinct in her head, it felt like he was right there, urging her to enact upon the scheme this very night. Her bones aching, she climbed from the bed and stepped into the kitchen. She moved jerkily toward the outside door and, bracing herself against it, opened it. The cool night air seeped into her body as she stood there, looking onto the road, waiting for the first passer-by.
She was met with a person quite soon. A man older than dirt was straggling along, smelling of rum. She had her doubts about him being captain material, but she was not going to be choosy. The time had come.
She beckoned him, to which he complied, studying her as she asked him; "Do you want to live forever?"
"I alridy 'ave, my lady." He grinned. "But I'll keep a'goin' if I can."
She led him into the parlor, and with shaking hands, lifted the small chest out of the cabinet. Setting it on the table with the man's help, she said, "Open it."
He did so and stared at the pulsing organ that lay in the corner of the container, his eyes wide. She expected for him to make a feeble attempt to run out of the house, though she would not be able to stop him, and then there would be some noise to wake up the household. Once all was made clear to her family, she knew Henry would not waste a second to give his mother her desire, sealing his fate forever. (He was so much like his father that way.) But she could not put one of her children through that – this stranger on the other hand…
Nevertheless, he did not escape and he did not question why she had a living heart in a box. In fact, he seemed eager, picking up a letter opener from the desk without the elderly woman's direction. She stared at him with sudden curiosity and confusion.
He slowly turned his white dreadlocked head toward her, and there was a look in his eyes that stirred up the oldest of memories within her. "Tell Willie I kept me word, and good bye," he said, plunging the knife into the heart. Before the woman could blink, the old pirate before her was gone, only the letter opener vibrated in its new home as the sole evidence of someone having been standing there.
She began to make for the kitchen, shuffling her feet slowly. She could barely drag them another step. She hardly felt her body give way under her or feel the wooden floor where she landed.
. . .
She peeked her eyes open against the bright Caribbean sun that warmed her body and the sand she was lying on. She gingerly sat up, not knowing where she was. She was surprised to find that her fragile bones did not protest as she moved, and she saw at once that she had smooth arms and hands – the like of which she had not seen on herself since early adulthood.
She got to her feet, blinking against the sun to see over the golden strand. The place was familiar, and as she walked barefoot across the warm sand – it was not blistering hot, and somehow it never would be – she found the swords stuck in the beach, as if they had just been thrust there, despite that her blade had been gifted to her sons years ago.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were going to get here."
She turned to the voice, and she ran. She had forgotten what it was like to move her legs that much, to crash-land into someone with strong arms, and wrap her own arms around him. She had never forgotten the feeling of his lips on hers, but it felt all the better for having them both be young again.
He pulled back at length to look at her. There was the face he had gazed up at in the Royal Governor's mansion as she came down the stairs; the face of the Pirate King that he had looked up at as she stood on the rail of a ship; the face that had pressed against his forehead the first time he had left her for the Dutchman.
"Yes," Elizabeth replied.